NPR Yoga

I’m an NPR fanatic. I’m a book lover, former bookseller and used to commute hundreds of miles a week. It was inevitable. When I started driving a lot someone suggested listening to an audiobooks. This was the era of Nokia 3210s and iPods were just gaining popularity. As a reader it sort of went against my nature to ‘listen’ to a book, it felt like cheating. When I mentioned this, ‘Well you’re not going to listen to the abridged version, silly.’

No, uh-of course not. Quickly, my ear tuned in to the world of audio books. It’s a delight if you spend many hours in a car or if you just enjoy storytelling. The key? The actor reading the book. Some are naturals. Ken Howard narrated Nelson DeMille’s Up Country and I swear it was like going to the movies.

One afternoon as I was driving between locations for work I turned on NPR and caught The Brian Lehrer show.

NPR has actually coined a term for that moment when you must sit in the car to hear the end of a segment end. Sometimes it’s because you are laughing so hard you have to collect yourself.

This happened when I discovered David Sedaris years ago (his books had the same effect. I’d laugh so hard people would move away from me on the subway. Trying to calm down only made it worse.) It’s called a Driveway Moment…For those of you that are already fully entrenched in the NPR world, I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. More than likely you’ve fallen victim.

What is a Driveway MomentSM?

Maybe it’s happened to you as it has to countless others…

You’re driving home, listening to a story on NPR. Suddenly, you find yourself in your driveway (or parking space or parking garage). Rather than turn the radio off, you stay in your car to hear the piece to the end. It’s a Driveway Moment. (from NPR.org)

Radiolab clip from ‘Mapping the Origins of Tic-Tac-Toe dom’

Radiolab

Credit: MarcoAntonio.com

Radiolab takes a particular topic and researches it in ways you never could have imagined. The sound effects and editing make this show a treat for your ears. Once the show ends I’m always astounded at what I’ve learned and for some who loves to suck information up like a Hoover™, that’s quite a feat. If you love to dive deep into a specific subject this is the show for you.

StoryCorps

photo credit storycorps.org

Every voice matters. That’s the motto of StoryCorps. StoryCorps is a project that encourages people to record the stories of friends and family. These recordings are then documented and logged by the Library of Congress. Weekly, the show’s producers play a story. You laugh, you cry, you sit on the edge of your seat as everyday Americans share what makes them who they are. The best way to find out more is to listen. Check out

StoryCorps #137 Walking With Hope

I didn’t have satellite radio in my car. In retrospect this was a  good thing because I would find places to drive so I could listen to each and every story of every NPR channel.

I could have easily turned on the surround sound at home and listen online to my heart’s content. But there was something about driving and having the car filled with the sound of a story. My mind always makes connections with the words I’m hearing and my environment. Driving home on a rainy night seems a little more omnious (and movie theater thrilling) when you listen to Robert and Jad talk about the nature of being bad. And on the other side of that I swear the sun got brigher when I heard Ann Druyan tell the story of when she fell in love with the legendary Carl Sagan (because it isn’t just enough that he opened our eyes to the universe, he was a romantic too). With radio we have to use our own imagination to see the whole story.

Maybe it’s the dreamer in me. Imagination leads to inspiration and in the end, isn’t that what it is all about?

Namaste y’all.

Advertisements

Sleep Yoga

photo credit freehouseinteriordesigns.com

We’ve all had those nights. The Sandman is elusive and you watch the clock change minute after minute, knowing that with each one that passes it’s one less that you have to get some rest. So many things can interfere with sleep. However, there is nothing better that you can do for yourself than to get some shut-eye. Sleep helps with metabolism, stress reduction, immunity and memory retention. And let’s face it- it just feels good to wake up refreshed. What can you do to make sure that you’re up and at ‘em?

Tip 1: Keep a Sleep Journal

A good place to start if you think you are not getting enough hours or quality of sleep at night, is to keep a sleep journal noting things like hours of sleep, ease or difficulty of falling asleep, when you exercise, when you drink alcohol and caffeine, how refreshed you feel, and then look for patterns between quality and length of sleep and what you do during the day and when you go to bed. This is often the first thing that a clinician will ask you to do.

For instance, after two weeks, you might find a pattern between exercise and sleep quality, or between caffeinated drink consumption late at night and the number of times you get up to go to the bathroom or difficulty falling asleep.

Tip 2: Stick to a Routine

Try to go to bed and get up at around the same time every day. Even at the weekend.

Keeping to a routine reinforces the body’s sleep-wake cycle and helps you fall asleep more easily at night, say experts at the Mayo Clinic in the US.

If you need an alarm clock to wake you up on time, you should consider going to bed earlier.

Tip 3: Control Napping and Drowsiness

A cat-nap during the day can be a great refresher, especially for older people. But be careful about sleeping during the day: a refreshing nap may be useful occasionally for paying off your sleep debt, and is better than sleeping late because this disrupts your sleep-wake rhythm, but if you have insomnia and nap regularly, consider eliminating the daytime nap.

If you must have a nap, restrict it to 20 minutes and do it early afternoon and not later.

Drowsiness often happens after big meals. Avoid the temptation to let this drift into sleep. Get off the couch and get active: do the dishes, go for a walk, do some chores, or call a friend. The killer is the TV dinner: eat, fall asleep on the couch, wake up hours later, and then you can’t get to sleep when you go to bed properly. We’ve all been there.

Tip 4: Avoid Lots of Drink and Food Before Bedtime

Keep in mind the saying: “breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dine like a pauper”. Eating or drinking large amounts before bedtime can result in indigestion, and night-time toilet visits to empty a bursting bladder. Try to eat a light meal at least two hours before bedtime, and if fatty or spicy foods give you heartburn, try to avoid them in your evening meal.

Be careful with coffee and tea, and other caffeinated drinks. Caffeine is a well-known stimulant that lingers in the body and if you drink it in the evening, it will not help you sleep. Try replacing that after-dinner coffee with chamomile tea, a traditional sleep inducing remedy that soothes.

Tip 5: Avoid Alcohol in the Evening

Although it is often thought of as a sedative, alcohol actually disrupts sleep. Even in small doses, it can impair quality of sleep, especially in the second half of the night.

Alcohol disrupts chemical messengers in the brain and the balance between REM sleep and non-REM sleep. The right balance in sleep patterns and brain waves, what scientists call “sleep architecture”, helps us feel refreshed in the morning, as Jessica Alexander, of the UK’s Sleep Council told the Times newspaper in an interview:

“Alcohol can mean that sleep is no longer refreshing, because the brain can’t perform the normal restorative job it does during the night.”

Tip 6: Make Your Bedroom Sleep-Friendly

Keep your bedroom dark, cool, quiet and comfortable. This is the ideal environment for sleeping. Consider carefully each item in your bedroom, especially gadgets. If you have to keep them there, then be strict about switching them off, or even put them away in a cupboard. Switch off the cell phone or turn it to silent mode.

Many people watch TV in bed and claim it helps them get to sleep. Try doing without it for two weeks, and see what effect it has on your quality of sleep. It could be that the light from the screen disturbs the natural sleep-wake rhythm, and stimulating content like violence, advertisements, sudden loudness, raises your adrenaline and has the opposite effect from that which eases your body into sleep.

If you can’t lessen disturbing noises such as dogs barking, sirens, birds singing in the morning, then consider masking the sound with a fan or white noise generator, or wearing earplugs.

An eye mask that blocks out the light can also help if you wake up easily when a light goes on, or the early sun comes through the curtains.

Tip 7: Exercise in the Morning

Exercise is a great way to help us relax and consolidate sleep. However, when we exercise can affect our quality of sleep.

Researchers say that morning exercise is best, and that exercising too close to bedtime delays the time the body starts to unwind because it increases chemicals that are associated with wakefulness.

In a study published earlier this year, Dr Scott Collier, assistant professor at Appalachian State University, found that aerobic exercise at 7 am was linked to higher improvements in sleep quality than exercising at 1 pm and 7 pm.

Tip 8: Yoga of course

Follow these tips and see the Sandman every night.

 

Namaste y’all. 

Open Letter to a Yoga Teacher

Yoga to the People Standing Bow

Dear Katherine-

When I realized that you were teaching class today I got nervous first and choked up, second. Your standing bow pose looks at me every time I walk into the locker room. But taking class with the person on the poster wasn’t the reason for the lump.

It’s funny, the day before another amazing teacher asked if we adjust our expectations based on who is teaching, when instead we should look internally when it comes to our practice.

Several months have passed since I took a class with you. Since then, life has changed exponentially.

I’ve started teaching yoga.

Your classes played a big part in that decision.

A year and a half ago I walked into your 6:30 pm class. I had never been so far away from myself- emotionally or physically. That class ripped me apart. 90 minutes in the heat.

Your voice was firm, focused and freeing.

Work hard but rest when you need to.

Find limits and grow but be intelligent about choices you make.

You can be comfortable or change, but you can’t have both. 

I know it’s yoga but it is also life. I didn’t know back then that I’d end up teaching- but that night was the flicker.  It was a spark that had to light from a puddle of sweat and tears.

Class was so f*cking hard. But I’d never been more grateful.

That night, I picked up my towel and soul off the mat.

I’d wash the towel. My soul was another story. It was shaky. And tired. You are never more lost until you are found.

At home, I crumbled. Cried until my eyes were puffy. No more hiding. No more running. It was time to start my life over, again.

I’m sure you’ve heard this a thousand times. Trying to articulate this after class would have resulted in me crying- not because I was embarrassed but until being confronted with seeing you- I didn’t actually realize how much I have changed. Or changed back to who I was before the fall.

In this day and age of the over share- the whys, whats and wheres aren’t important, but thanking people is a lost art.

So thank you, Katherine.

Your class makes me tap into something deeper and lighter. I have become my own best teacher.

Namaste.

Sugar Yoga- Is it Toxic?

 

 

60 Minutes and Dr. Sanjay Gupta from CNN aired a controversial interview with Dr. Robert Lustig. The question, ‘Is sugar toxic?’. Lustig says yes. It makes sense that for a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight we should eat high-calorie foods in moderation, especially sugar. Too much of anything is not a good thing. But can sugar actually cause health issues? Lustig says yes.

 

Who is Dr. Robert Lustig?

A nationally-recognized authority in the field of neuroendocrinology, Dr. Robert Lustig has been researching obesity and its effects on the human body for years. For many of those years it seemed as if he was railing into the wind about sugar and its danger. In a world that was covered in butter, sugar with its no fat content was the lesser of two evils.  The thought process was, as Americans got fatter we needed to eat less. In order to get healthy and stay that way we also needed to eat less fat.

 

Low-fat diet food revolution

In 1982 The American Heart Association made recommendations about reducing our fat intake in order to cut our chances of a heart attack. Since fat makes most things taste good, to make foods without fat more palatable, sugar was added. The food market was flooded with low-fat food options that had lots of sugar. This is when according to Lustig everything went wrong. The majority of calories we eat now come from foods containing sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

 

The Bitter Truth

Lustig’s findings were presented in a lecture that you can watch on YouTube. His premise was that sugar more specifically, fructose has links to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. His claim is sugar gets broken down in a similar fashion to protein but takes another path in a way that makes a sugar calorie different. ‘A calorie is a calorie is a calorie’ has been the weight loss refrain from nutritionists and doctors for years, this idea changes all of that thinking.

 

photo credit msn.com

 

What is the danger and where is it?

Yearly, the average person eats 130 pounds of sugar. That’s about 1/3 lb a day. This isn’t just sugar in it’s sweet form but also as high fructose corn syrup. This can be found in more  foods than you may imagine. Foods breads, ketchup, store barbeque sauces, pasta sauces, snack chips, processed cheese, deli meats, bacon, fruit yogurt, hot dogs all contain sugar. Is there a difference between ‘regular’ sugar and high fructose corn syrup? In Dr. Lustig’s words, “No, they’re both bad”. Studies show those who consume too much sugar sends the liver into overdrive. As a result, the body turns some of this sugar into fat. After only two weeks of eating a diet that had slightly higher levels of sugar LDL levels were raised. High levels of LDL cholesterol and low levels of HDL cholesterol are risk factors for atherosclerosis.

 

Sugar addiction just like drugs?

One of the segments of the interview showed that even a teaspoon of sugar sets off the pleasure centers in our brains. When dopamine is released, we feel good and tend to do what made us feel good again, and again and again. What’s more concerning is that the tolerance levels of participants increased, thus requiring more sugar to get the same response. This is what happens to people with addictions.

 

New recommendations 

Dr. Lustig authored a paper that was published by the American Heart Association with new recommendations for sugar intake. They state:

“This study adds to the growing evidence that sugary beverages are detrimental to cardiovascular health,” said Frank B. Hu, M.D., Ph.D., study lead author and professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, MA. “Certainly, it provides strong justification for reducing sugary beverage consumption among patients, and more importantly, in the general population.”
  • The AHA suggests that men should not have more than 150 calories from sugar per day
  • The AHA suggests that women should not have more than 100 calories from sugar per day

The AHA doesn’t say that all sugars are bad. But sugars add calories and zero nutrients to food. Adding a limited amount of sugars to foods that provide important nutrients—such as whole-grain cereal, flavored milk or yogurt—to improve their taste, especially for children, is a better use of added sugars than nutrient-poor, highly sweetened foods.

 

 

 

The research will continue but it does seem clear that people who are eating too much sugar aren’t doing themselves any good and potentially increasing their risk for many diseases.  If you are having issues with too much sugar in your diet, here are some steps that can help you cut down:

1. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Shopping the perimeter of a grocery store means that the items contributing to weight loss  or a healthy lifestyle are along the perimeter of the store. About 1/2 of your groceries should be from produce. The inner aisles contain many of the processed items that should be avoided.

2. Read labels. Check the sugar and carbohydrate content to ensure that they aren’t too high.

3. Start and maintain a food journal. No need to get fancy- grab a notebook and write down what you eat each day. This helps you stay accountable and leads to better decisions.

 

Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks about more ways to cut sugar from your diet.  It takes 21 days to form and break a habit. Stay focused and take pride in the fact that you are taking control of your health and life. You’ll look and feel inspired.

 

Namaste y’all!!!