Health Yikes

This blog is very off-topic considering what I usually blog about and even weirder since I haven’t blogged in awhile.  Been working on a big secret (that I will tell to anybody willing to listen).  Hope to unveil soon.

But okay, here’s the off-topic subject:  I’ve been looking up online whether certain foods and supplements are healthy.  Of course, the results have been very confusing.  I didn’t know what to believe or who to trust after a while.  Bacon is good for you???  Mango — the fruit that is REAALLY sweet and full of carbs doesn’t harm blood sugar levels???  However, I did come across this one article that I wanted to share because I’ve been taking this multi-vitamin for YEARS.  There seems to be a lot of talk backing the writer’s claims and it’s just something to think about if you take this vitamin as well.

Check it out: The Truth Behind Centrum: Supplement Or Chemical Cocktail? 

I would also like to share that I spoke to a lovely store clerk at a shop that specializes in dried herbs and vitamins today.  She said something that made so much sense it was like she rang a huge gong in front of me.  She told me I shouldn’t be taking anything without a very specific reason — for example: I NEED something for blood sugar levels or I NEED something for my bones or hypertension. ‘NEED’ meaning I received a diagnosis from a professional (doctor, nutritionist, etc.), or did some good research in a library (not Google) and aren’t just haphazardly self-diagnosing or self-prescribing with very little research involved.  Essentially, she revealed the truth that I take supplements for the emotional assurance that I am doing something good towards my overall health without knowing what is in that pill or how it works.  When you put it like that, I guess it does sound kinda stupid.  She didn’t call me stupid.  I did. 

Even a daily multi-vitamin should not be self-prescribed without doing thorough research.  You may be eating enough daily nutrition OR you may be ABLE to eat enough nutrition to not need a multi-vitamin OR the multi-vitamin you chose is suspect. 

Clearly, when looking to buy supplements, it also helps to look into who you are buying these products from for their trustworthiness as well as expertise.

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a tantric guide

Slide1a tantric guide is a funny poem about a woman’s introduction to tantric yoga in her pursuit of personal wisdom while living in an urban, middle-class society.

Yoga has been a popular form of exercise in almost every major Western city for decades.  Not only is it great exercise, it helps the body prevent and heal from injury – and some argue, from sickness.  The physical practice also calms the mind and relaxes stress.

Yoga is more than just physical exercise, however, since the physical is enough to cover the above benefits, most of us don’t look further.  In the twenty years that I have practiced yoga, I satisfied myself mainly with just the physical study and a little meditation.

The focus of this poem surrounds my attempt to go a little further out there into tantric yoga — with as open a mind as I could possibly manage.  I started with a book.  I took from it what wisdom I could but had to leave a lot of it behind.

Tantric yoga is a fascinating study that makes the asanas (physical exercises) of yoga seem like child’s play in comparison.  Though there is wisdom in this study, I am glad that I had enough self-awareness to decide what was or was not for me.  I’m also glad that I didn’t close myself completely at the first sign of ‘I ain’t doing that’, for I would have lost the opportunity to find what beauty and wisdom that I did in tantric yoga.  I didn’t forcefully reject anything.  I put aside what wasn’t for me, kept what seemed good for further consideration and continued to the end of the book.

Slide2One needs the courage to be vulnerable to accept life lessons. However, one also needs the self-confidence to know when something is not right for him or her. This may seem difficult if one is trying to learn that self-confidence.  I think your heart will always tell you, regardless, if you listen carefully.  I hope so, anyway.

You know what I think is my saving grace in life lessons?  I never take myself too seriously.  Lessons, I absorb as earnestly as I can but I remind myself that I am an absurd little human and I learn wisdom very slowly and because I am uniquely absurd, somebody else’s mantra is not necessarily my own.

I have wondered if this mindset prevents me from taking the greater wisdom from life lessons.  This has been suggested a few times in my personal and literary studies as much as the opposite.  I do take some things very seriously but this is an exclusive list.  And even then, I think there is room for a little humour.

I hope you enjoy this funny poem despite being a little out there.

© lyw

 

A Reoccurring Knock at my Door

Image: Hungry-for-Change-Cover.jpgI want to take a break from this blog’s current poetry campaign to share a compelling and resounding note that has randomly repeated itself several times over the past few years and did so twice over this past weekend: the debate about how our individual bodies and the body of this planet need us to adopt a more plant-based diet.

This note has reoccurred in documentary films that I or my partner have randomly picked to pass an evening.  It has been suggested from various different angles: one documentary followed one man’s journey to be healthier and thinner, another documentary followed various modern day farmers and their daily struggles, to another man’s journey to live up https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/5f/Fat%2C_Sick_and_Nearly_Dead_%28film%29.jpgto Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth.

In terms of poetry, it does seem awfully poetic that the planet’s environmental and ecological problems can be paralleled to the health and fitness of one average human diet.

Of course there are other sides to the arguments and these documentaries tend to present heavily on the side of the more plant-based diet and food industry.  I have provided Wikipedia web-links that summarize these documentaries as well as provide counter-argument links.

However, after watching Forks over Knives last Sunday, and having watched Cowspiracy the night before that, I am convinced enough to try the more plant-based diet.

undefinedI can’t just give up all meat and junk completely!  I love food.  I love dessert!  Food is something I experience with all of my senses and therefore I compare it to a passion for life.  It is considerable for me to venture towards a life with less butter and fewer warm, comforting stews — even letting go of my childhood affection for Chef Boyardee is a loss to me.  However, with my own body and energy levels lagging so much in the past few years, I don’t want my passion for food to affect my ability to enjoy my other passions for life – or anybody else’s — or that of any future generation.  If the food that is my passion is no longer being produced sustainably and is damaging to my body and planet than it sounds more
like a vice.  I cannot see myself becoming completely vegetarian or anti-junk food — yet.  I File:Forks Over Knives movie poster.pngwill never stop hoping that chocolate cake and chips become healthy and nutritious one day but, until then, I think beautifully grown fruits and vegetables can be sexy too.

Please consider watching / listening to one or two of these films, that are cited below, and being part of this conversation.

All of these films are now currently available on Netflix.

Here is the growing list.

1. Hungry for Change – Hungry for Change exposes shocking secrets the diet, weight loss and food industry don’t want you to know about: deceptive strategies designed to keep you coming back for more. [ http://docuwiki.net/index.php?title=Hungry_for_Change ]

2. Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead’ is the easiest of this list of films to get into because it’s personal and funny though there are some strong and good arguments against exclusive juice dieting or long-term ‘cleansing’.

“Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead – a 2010 American documentary film which follows the 60-day journey of Australian Joe Cross across the United States as he follows a juice fast to regain his health under the care of Dr. Joel Fuhrman.”[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fat,_Sick_and_Nearly_Dead]

3. Farmland – though this film seems to have been done to support animal farming traditions and modernized efforts, I finished the film with a stronger preference towards the two organic vegetable farmers featured in this film.  [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farmland_(film)]

4. Cowspiracy – The film explores the devastating impact of animal agriculture on the environment, and investigates the policies of environmental organizations on this issue. Environmental organizations investigated in the film include Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, Rainforest Action Network, and many more. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cowspiracy]

5. Forks Over Knives (2011) is an American advocacy film that advocates a low-fat, whole-food, plant-based diet as a way to avoid or reverse several chronic diseases.[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forks_Over_Knives]

undefined6. The film ‘Vanishing of the Bees‘ indirectly advocates this message. The story is centered on the sudden disappearance of honey bees from beehives around the world. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanishing_of_the_Bees]

 

written by lyw

 

 

 

Image Information:

Hungry for Change http://docuwiki.net/index.php?title=Hungry_for_Change

“Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (film)” by http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1227378/. Via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fat,_Sick_and_Nearly_Dead_(film).jpg#/media/File:Fat,_Sick_and_Nearly_Dead_(film).jpg

“Cowspiracy poster” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cowspiracy_poster.jpg#/media/File:Cowspiracy_poster.jpg

Forks over Knives: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Forks_Over_Knives_movie_poster.png

“Vanishing-of-the-bees” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Vanishing-of-the-bees.jpg#/media/File:Vanishing-of-the-bees.jpg

the Search for Feng Shui

Feng shui is a style of design that can be applied to the furniture of your business, house and mind.  It’s fun to think that the art of design can be applied that widely.  Leaves one with the feeling of being well-covered.

When I got my first apartment in my twenties, I did a little feng shui research and applied what suited me to the space.  I didn’t go overboard despite promises of immeasurable fortune or misfortune if I put or didn’t put this or that in my place because from all those rules there seemed to be a general gist that was the main wise to get: feng shui is the cultivation of flow, harmony and balance in any space I choose to occupy, though usually referring to a physical space, feng shui is also applicable to virtual, mental and artistic spaces.

And, I thought to myself, if that’s the case, I should be able to rely — at least a little bit – on my own heart and mind to tell me what gives me a sense of harmony and balance.  If not, how can anybody else?

A random Internet search on this subject leads to a lot of dubious websites and consultants that imply my life and luck is dependent on what sofa I have and how I place it.  Feng shui is very old.  Along the way it shouldn’t be surprising that some people have profited by stimulating this practice with our deepest fears and insecurities.

However, there is a lot of good wisdom to be found in feng shui.  It sticks out like a nice piece of solid oak.

For example:

Don’t place things in your way: Good idea.  Yet, who has not seen or been guilty of blocking a doorway or staircase with stuff?  How many written reports have taken several paragraphs to get to the real story?  How many websites are weighed down by graphics, blings or text that don’t help direct traffic or information to the purpose of the site?

Don’t have pointy or sharp edges facing your body: (ie table corners).  Some call this superstition; others would say it’s just good safety.

Balance your elements:  Dark/light; soft/hard; water/fire (go easy on the fire elements); earth/air.

Cut clutter: What we bring into a space, changes the energy of that space.  Be conscious of the things that you let into your space and really consider their necessity and purpose.  Clutter has a way of finding itself in our path and requires regular maintenance.

I don’t think I would ever pay somebody to apply feng shui to my lifestyle.  The information online, feng shui or not, is full of dark omens and good fortune.   I trust my own heart to know what wise is or isn’t.   What does it say about a consultant if their information on how to create flow and harmony, leaves the client feeling trapped, rigid and afraid to make choices on his/her own?

The process of exploring feng shui can also be a practice in self-discovery.  I become my own consultant and personal designer to my sense of peace and harmony.  Wouldn’t it be nice if the idea of letting somebody else design that kind of space becomes the truly foreign concept?

Some links on feng shui:

Qi Gong and Bellydancing

I am amused by the similarities I have discovered between qi gong and bellydancing as they might, at first, seem polar opposites.

Bellydancing is a Middle Eastern dance form that primarily celebrates the female body.  Qi Gong is a Chinese form of health care that harmonizes the mind, body and spirit.  One seems a physical aesthetic while the other seems an esoteric practice.

Many of the moves in bellydancing are used in qi gong such as hip circles, joint isolations, candle arms vs tea cups (balancing tea lights or tea cups in the hands and winding them behind and around the body).  The vibrations from the various shimmies, in bellydancing, are a direct stimulation to the middle and lower dantians, which are key energy sources according to qi gong.

Many of the movements in qi gong are designed to stimulate optimal circulation as well various organs and systems throughout the body.  This often involves twisting, compression, stretching, and specialized mental focus.  Bellydance figure eights and body rolls/waves massage all the body organs and systems.

The mental focus may not be optimal health in bellydancing but the dancer embodies and projects beauty, emotion and light.  The bellydancer celebrates her (or his) body, as do qi gong practitioners.

The similarities are so uncanny that it is amazing to think that the movements in bellydancing evolved merely for their aesthetic and creative appeal.  Or did they?  Perhaps there was some deliberation in the dance towards holistic health?

Apparently, I’m not the only bellydance student who has thought so.  Here’s a Google search of various compliments of bellydancing with qi gong practice: GOOGLE LINK

More than a Fighting Spirit @ Krudar’s Muay Thai Gym

This past summer has shown Toronto much more than a fighting spirit from the gym founder of Krudar’s Muay Thai Gym, Kru Darwin, and the fighters, trainers, students and supporters who love him.

There’s definitely more than a mind for self-defense and fitness in all those Facebook posts of students and trainers rallying behind Darwin, as he completed the arduous task of moving from the smaller Spadina Ave. / College St. location to 152 Augusta Ave., Kensington Market.  They managed to continue to run classes during the final phases, and last minute surprises, of the renovation.  They trained outdoors, they painted, they constructed, they unloaded heavy supplies and we also followed Darwin as he dealt with the inspectors.

Krudar’s Muay Thai gym started in Toronto in 2002 becoming one of the most recognizable schools for Muay Thai boxing.  The class structures, trainers and fighters continue a legacy handed down from Darwin’s training and instruction in a very proud and ancient fighting art.  As well, the technique and training is very attractive to any fitness monkey looking for a good burn and outlet for aggression.  Krudar’s Muay Thai gym also trains and supports many competitive fighters in the world of Muay Thai, some who fight on an international playing field.


My own experience with the gym began two years ago at their Spadina Ave. / College St. location.  The beginner class is no joke.  I am happy to stay just there and continue to learn and refine both technique and physical conditioning at my own pace.  For more ambitious students, the intermediate and sparring levels require rigorous testing prior to admission.

More importantly, the staff and the rules of the gym all instill respect for the space, each other and the art.  Darwin is often seen walking through the gym and observing the classes.  Every once in a while the beginners will get a treat and Darwin will instruct the group class.

When I learned of the new gym location earlier this year, I was at first nostalgic towards those old funky hairy mats which really encouraged you to NOT fail during the push-up rounds.  I still remember that day that I face-planted.

This is a gym that’s easy to follow and rally behind.  Darwin included his students, staff and peers in his process and showed, with much passion and conviction, that this new gym was more than just a new gym to him.  Not many head coaches or gym founders can communicate to their students the way he can.  Not many head coaches or gym founders can generate community the way he can.

On October 15th, the location at 152 Augusta Ave opened its doors.  All new mats! There’s a lot of new stuff but I noticed that the most.

The first class brought out over 120 people.  Darwin let his own master lead the first class, as he had done at the opening of the old gym at Spadina Ave. / College St.  We barely had enough room to move, never mind kick, but the energy was high and we all had it in us to work hard.

This Saturday, classes will be closed for their grand opening party.  http://www.krudar.com/grandopening/

Yin Yoga: Something about Emptiness

hangin’ out yin yoga

Last blog, I talked about what was really Yang about the Yoga Sanctuary on the Danforth, so let’s finish off with what is really Yin.  After Sue Ravazzolo’s yin yoga class, I feel as empty as I can possibly be without being dead.  Or sometimes, I feel more intensely moody than I started.  You might be thinking that neither sound like a good thing.

great yin yoga image c/o http://dakinisbliss.wordpress.com/

She is my first yin yoga instructor.  However, I was immediately loyal to her after walking out of my first class like a zombie.  I’m not opposed to trying other yin classes or instructors.  Simply, I honestly feel no need to look further.

I accept that I can (not always) be one helluva moody girl and if I’m going to let that out, it may be quite intense and draining.  A large part of me can be very negative.  This part of me is whiny and bitchy and certainly not pretty.  Sue’s yin yoga class is that safe and non-judgmental place to let that side come to the surface and have its moment, which, very slowly, makes it easier to let it go.  When this side is empty, then I am ready to be filled again with positive, rejuvenating energy.

Yin gets easier, like all things, with practice.  It’s not as intense as the body becomes accustomed to letting that side come out.

Sue starts her Monday class with a long heart-opening stretch on wooden blocks.  With the heart pressing up to the ceiling and the muscles melting down over the edges, all the emotions of the — day, week, month — well up to the surface.  The series of stretches that happen afterwards are held for longer times than other yoga classes to reach the deeper connective tissues in our bodies.  Another great difference in yin yoga compared to other types of yoga is all the poses use gravity, so once I reach the proper position in each pose, I relax and let my body find its own way deeper into the stretch; just hangin’ out yoga or the Raggedy Ann of yoga.  (For those of you too young to know, Raggedy Ann and Andy are children’s fictional characters created by Johnny Gruelle)

What makes Sue’s yin yoga class particularly special is her calming, as well as informative, voice which helps to maintain the stretches for the 3 – 5 minute durations.  I am unable to hold the poses for the same amount of time on my own.  Again, a quality of all good instructors is the ability to get that little extra from their students.

Zen Stretch: Some Yang with that Peace

Due to a personal loss two years ago, I found the Zen Stretch class at the Yoga Sanctuary on the Danforth when I was on the hunt for something/anything that could help me release a lot of pent up aggression, chill a manic tangle of memories, as well as bring my collapsing physical body back to life.   A 3-for-1 deal with Zen Stretch or I’m still mad with grief and despair.

Aside from the meditative and healing qualities of the class, it’s a fitness monkey’s dream.  There is a lot of power and focus in the stretches to bring one back to NOW. The intensity of the class is as crazy as one needs it to be with constant muscle engagement.  All this is balanced by slow and focused deep-breathing.

The class is available in person or by DVD, however, if in the Toronto area, I would recommend the live class, at least, for the initial introduction.  The instructor and mastermind behind the class, Bodhi Battista, leads the class.  He is himself a very dynamic yet calming person.  While the class allows one to choose the intensity level, Bodhi always encourages the students to push themselves right into the next day.  He has that presence that makes one want to try.  Such is the way with all good teachers.  And if all that breathing and stretching and grunting fails to keep the mind present, Bodhi will perplex us by naming strange parts of the anatomy that are benefiting from the exercise.

Extra oxygen and good instructors make going out to any kind of yoga or stretch class worthwhile.  Otherwise, why don’t I just workout at home in the comfort of whatever I want or don’t want to wear.  Good instructors can get those extra few seconds out of any exercise and any person.  Especially in terms of yoga instructors, they also help to reintroduce me to my body and get us on better speaking terms.

While some yoga sequences can leave one feeling drained (sometimes in a good way), the Zen Stretch class is definitely an upper, in a very peaceful way, by DVD or by class and after two years of regular practice, I still say it’s a keeper.  Or I’m still mad with grief and despair.