Continuing with stress relief, let’s get onto eliminating a stressor.
Wrong muscles used and overworked cause chronic stress. The little aches and pains in the shoulder, base of your neck as well as base of your skull. Those small muscles were never meant to do so much work.
Full deep breaths should be 2/3 in lower belly, 1/3 in lungs. In reality, it all goes in your lungs, it just feels as if you were breathing into your lower belly or upper chest.
The easiest way to practice is to:
– Lie on your back, knees bent, one hand on your tummy
– Fill up your stomach first, feel it rising up
– push the air down as far as possible
– Exhale ALL the air as you feel your tummy go down
Practice this for 3 days, best time is at the end of your day in bed, just before you fall asleep. It helps wind you down.
On Day 4, at the end of each of your inhale to your belly, begin increasing the air intake into your upper chest. You’ll notice you can take in quite a bit more air with just one deep breath.
Remember children breathing before they’re self conscious. All the air goes into their belly.
What if I have trouble with breathing into my belly? It’s impossible.
It is definitely frustrating in the beginning to overcome the millions of breaths you’ve taken the “wrong way”. If you persist and continue practicing, you will make it through. You’ll notice you’ll be a lot more patient the deeper you’re able to breathe.
One thing to be mindful of is if you take in more air than you usually do, you may get light headed but the additional oxygen. This is a good thing, you just need to work up to it slowly.
Go ahead and give this a try for the next week and comment below this post on what improvements you notice, if any.
Before I get into ways you can reduce your stress, let me emphasize the need for stress. It is imperative we have some sort of stress. It can be life saving. We need it.
If there was no stress we’d accomplish nothing. Someone’s internal drive is a form of stress. It’s used for innovation, exploration as well as preservation. The key is to have a balance of stress and relaxation. If you’re going to play hard you must rest just as hard to keep things in equilibrium.
Luckily in today’s society, we rarely have to concern ourselves with having too little stress. Heck, stress comes from everywhere. Your mobile phone, the weather (too hot or too cold, rain, snow, hail, humidity), exhaust fumes from cars along with other pollutants in the air especially if you’re in a big enough city. Rain adds stress to most people’s lives, so does traffic or crowds in public transportation. Lack of money is a big one and so is work and most types of relationships too.
The curious thing is your body has little concern for the source of your stress. It’s pretty much all the same to it. It needs to release some hormones to save your life, then once the danger is gone, other hormones to relax you and get you back to where you were.
The problem these days is, before you could relax, another stressor hits you and your stress hormone levels never get to settle down. This puts you in “over-stressed” mode for most of the day. Always in survival mode without a break. It’s the vicious cycle, which I’m sure you’ve heard of. If you’re in this mode for a prolonged period of time, your body adapts and sees this as normal so it uses up more nutrients in your system to combat the oxidation your body is going through. So you tend to deplete your anti oxidant stores quicker and without additional (or even adequate) nutrition, you start wearing your body down. You become more susceptible to catching the common cold, you feel more worn down, you increase your chances of injuring yourself, be it doing regular daily activities or maybe something more strenuous. Your energy levels drop and it’s a chore just to get out of bed to face the day.
At this point, you’ve “spent more of your life force than you have in the bank”. The balance is literally like a bank account. Stress is withdrawing money, rest is depositing money. Ideally you would deposit more than you withdraw so you build up a reserve for times of unforeseen stress (for whatever reason they tend to happen frequently enough.)
I started writing this post to give you some ideas on how you can fill up that “health bank account” and become more resilient to the daily onslaught of stressors, of which there’s never a shortage.
I can read your mind from a distance saying something like “Oh crap, now he’s going to tell me to do something MORE”. Partially, that voice inside is right. The surprise is, you may even enjoy some of these.
Let’s start with
You can start with 1 minute of solitude a day where you’re alone with no one you know around or even if they are, you block them out (it’s easier to be alone at first, just a heads up) You can sit on a park bench and close your eyes or in your car, with your engine off in a park or even just by the curb before you get home. You can do it in your bedroom or even bathroom (sadly that seems to be the only time we’re alone these days – as long as you go in their without your cell phone!)
This is great if you’re a bit more adventurous. It’s a sensory deprivation “chamber” where you lie in warm salt water for roughly an hour at a time.
The simplest explanation is it’s a type of moving meditation. You have specific movements, breathing and visualization all at once to build up your life force.
You do this daily anyway, so doing it purposefully to reduce stress involves only a few modifications, then practice.
This is a big one. Meaning it has a massive impact on some stressors. The causes of your lack of energy could be your food choices. Maybe even one or two things that create additional stress for you.
Avoid pro inflammatory foods
Drinking too little (and sometimes too much) water can be stressful. Although I’ve only come across people who drink too little and therefore get dehydrated.
This one self explanatory, sounds simple and easy yet it has a massive return on investment. If you live in a large city, this is a really good “reset” for the daily hustle and bustle.
Imagine carving out a part of your day to do what you love. Doing it just for yourself for the pure enjoyment of it. How would that make your day feel?
Reading can be very relaxing (especially if you’re reading something you’re interested in and want to.)
This is where I tell you to do less. Go on a news-diet. Avoiding bad news (since that’s all news seems to be these days) will actually help you feel better.
As “relaxing” alcohol feels, it’s the opposite in reality. It wreaks havoc on your system. Avoiding it for a period of time will lessen the stress on your body.
This seems hard at first except you get to choose your pace. You can meditate any which way you like for as long as YOU are comfortable with. 1 minute is a good start. Just sit somewhere comfortable, close your eyes, breathe deeply and visualize your stress leaving your body.
What’s your favourite way to relieve stress? Comment below.
The stress levels we have today are at least 100 times the stress levels of our grandparents. We get it from every angle as I’ve written about in another post (How Stress Hinders Your Weight Loss Efforts) Here I’ll outline 3 simple breathing exercises you can practice before going to sleep to help you unwind and have a deeper and higher quality of sleep.
1) Leg Tucks
Lie in bed or anywhere, really. Bend your knees, close your eyes and grab the back of your thighs right by your knees (to avoid compressing the knees). Take a deep breath into your belly and start pulling your knees towards your chest. Begin exhaling as soon as you start pulling your legs. Exhale very slowly and match the movement of pulling your legs to your breath. Time it so by the time your legs reach your chest, you completely exhale all the air from your lungs. Now slowly begin inhaling as you lower your legs. You can stop short of actually resting your legs on the bed (or floor) and begin exhaling and tucking your legs. The slower you do this the more relaxed you will become.
Do as many as you feel are beneficial (aiming for 12 or more, up to 100)
2) Deep Belly Breathing
For this, you will also need to get in the same position as above (lying on your back with knees bent) but keep your feet on the bed/ground. Close your eyes and take a deep breath into your belly, while imagining that you’re trying to touch your belly to the ceiling. Take as deep of a breath as you possibly can without elevating your rib cage. Work at keeping it contained all the air in your tummy. Exhale just as slowly expelling all the used air from your system. In your mind’s eye, imagine that your tummy sinks down towards your spine leaving no air behind.
Perform as many deep breaths as needed but aim for 12+.
3) Left Nostril Breathing
If you’re still awake after doing the above exercises, take your right thumb and place it at the opening of your right nostril, completely blocking it. Continue doing the Deep Belly Breathing through your left nostril only. This will target and activate your parasympathetic nervous system more effectively, signalling your body to produce more relaxation hormones.
Alternatively, if you’re at work or somewhere else where you feel “worked up”, you can do this sitting in a chair, in your car (make sure you’re parked!) or anywhere else. You’ll still get benefits as long as you stop before you actually pass out and hurt yourself falling down.
What other techniques do you use to help you feel relaxed?
A week ago I visited NYC and Southhampton for a much needed vacation. I was pleased to find each restaurant we visited was very helpful in modifying their menu to fit our (mainly my) nutritional needs and wants. In the Hampton’s, there was a whole foods like I’ve never seen. It was a farmer’s stand turned into a Whole Foods. It had a large selection, yet for my picky standards it had slim pickings. It was also far out east. Hampton Bays, on the other hand, has an amazing market called wild by nature, which reminds me a lot of southern California’s jimbo’s, my all time favorite grocery store chain. I was very surprised to find such a great gem after being somewhat disappointed by whole foods.
We stayed at the Atlantic Hotel which is where we were recommended wild by nature as well as a Greek restaurant across the street from them. Both turned out to be outstanding choices. Atlantic hotel!
After we got back to NYC we found better whole food markets and met up with a big part of the NYC CHEK crew, where else but at the union square farmer’s market! We ran into Antonio, Rafael, Jackie, danyelle. It was great to see the gang again. Tomi came to the green square tavern with his all grown up son tj, where we had a hearty dinner. Hoping to run into Gigi and John, the owners. Unfortunately they were both out of town. The RFID was great only to be topped by the company, Tomi, tj, Rafael and antonio. We leach had the amazing flour less chocolate cake. Yummy!!!!
Sunday morning we woke up to 4th avenue being closed off to traffic and being populated by vendors as far as the eye could see. We ventured into having “street meat” which turned out to be quite good. It definitely counted towards the 20% allowance of less than ideal quality foods.
Sunday night’s dinner was at a cute French restaurant near Columbus circle. I liked the restaurant but the selection for me was dim. When I asked what they had that was gluten free, I got a weird look and an option of 2 types of fish. At the end, our bill included a 20% automatic gratuity.
What are your experiences of food availability on vacation or travel?
We get over 100 times more stress in our lives than our grandparents did and they’re only a generation before us. We have cellphone towers everywhere for a massive and constant dose of EMF, our e-mails come in on our phones, texts beeping. You must be available whether for family or work, for “emergencies”. 20 years ago, wireless communication was rare. Car phones were only for the select few who felt important. Heck, computers were hard to find in offices, let alone in people’s homes. Watch a movie made before 1990 and you’ll notice how computers are missing from desks in offices.
On top of technology, we have added pollution to deal with. More and more chemicals are being added to our drinking water to make it “safe”. Safe from what? You guessed it, safe from the debris and waste, companies pour into our waters. Our human waste also goes right back into our waters which needs to be treated with more chemicals. Sadly our drug (also called medicine) consumption has gone through the roof, just in the last 40 – 60 years. Studies show birth control pills, antibiotics and other drugs showing up in our already treated and filtered waters. Then there are the agricultural chemicals that grow our vegetables and fruits in record times for higher yields. Sadly these fruits and vegetables can only contain minerals that they were given rather than the myriad of minerals and trace minerals they would get from a healthy soil.
The point of the above paragraphs is merely to illustrate what extra stressors our generation is dealing with. I could write pages and pages of examples but I’m sure the above will suffice (and some of you have already stopped reading.)
Our central nervous system has no idea whether stress comes from an angry, big, muscular and salivating tiger chasing us, scorching heat with no shade in sight, a hacked website which is our livelihood, a realistic horror movie, lack of adequate and regenerative sleep or the foods we eat to which we’re sensitive without us even knowing. To our system, it’s all the same, it needs to produce more stress hormones to deal with it all and our bodies go into self preservation mode. Ok so you must be asking, what does all this have to do with weight loss????! Let me tell you.
We all have our own “comfort zone”. Where our body feels safe because it’s been there for a long time. It’s become the norm. If you’ve been overweight for a few months/years, your comfort zone is being overweight, if you’ve been underweight, your comfort zone is there. When we have an over abundance of stress, our bodies gravitate towards that which it knows. If you drastically cut your food intake, your body will initially react by dropping a few pounds, then it adapts and slows down those initial gains. If you increase the amount of exercise you do, you’ll get the same initial drop and your body adapts to that as well and becomes more and more efficient at using energy (becoming a very efficient furnace) and keeps everything it can. This is why doing endless hours of cardio rarely gets people lean unless the lifestyle factors also match the efforts.
If there’s anything our bodies need is optimal stimulus for the desired outcome. Too much will backfire on us and too little will produce abysmal results. So the answer is balance. If you have a stressful day, adding more stress to it by pushing your body beyond its limits will shut down progress. Same goes for the opposite (which rarely happens in our western culture) if you sleep all day and fail to give your body enough stimulus to make progress, it will also stagnate.
Awareness plays a really big role in finding the right balance for each of us. Knowing when we’re doing too much or doing too little is priceless. The good news is most of us already aware of the signals our bodies give us except we choose to either ignore them or misunderstand them. For example when you hit the wall between 2 – 4 pm, the first thing you’re probably thinking is you need coffee (or a coke/pepsi, or a red bull or a muffin, or a donut…) because in the past when you had one, you got a jolt of energy and could go on. Rarely do we think to investigate the preceding events and the cause of that slump. Could what we had (or forgot to have) for lunch caused the low energy? How about going a little further back in time, breakfast? Maybe our sleep the night before (too little, too much, too restless or maybe we woke up to go to the bathroom…) All of the above could cause low energy and when you combine and stack them, you’re almost asking for it. The problem is, we often know at first and will only do it this once, then the next time comes around and the third and before you know it, it becomes a habit.
OK, I can hear you thinking, “Enough about the doom and gloom! What can I actually do to maximize my weight loss efforts?!?!”
The first step is always getting honest with yourself. Are you doing everything possible to reach your goals?
Here are 8 tips you can do daily (consistency is KEY) to reach your goals:
1) Get to bed early – the biggest bang for your buck is to be sleeping by 10:00pm (latest 10:30pm) every night
2) Get your bedroom to be as dark as possible – this helps lower stress hormones that cause restless sleep
3) Remove all electronics, lamps, cell phones and so on from at least 3 feet from your bed in all directions (unplugging everything) – to lessen the electromagnetic radiation (stress) you get while you sleep. This will allow deeper and more restful rest as well
4) Get hydrated! – The best source of hydration is through your food (raw foods contain easily absorbable fluids) the next best thing are broths that are full of minerals that allow the absorption of water, freshly juiced vegetables are also great to keep you hydrated and aid your digestion. Drinking straight water is my least favourite way of getting hydrated, simply because water on its own, without proper electrolytes just goes right through the body. When you drink water, make sure you put a pinch of sea salt or squeeze some lemon juice or lime juice in it to make it more absorbable. Dehydration is another form of stress that prevents you from losing weight.
5) Exercise the appropriate amount for your daily stress levels. If you had a really stressful day, projects were due, big presentation, calls, meetings or what have you, the last thing you want to do is beat yourself up physically at the gym. This would be a great opportunity to do some gentle restorative yoga, Tai Chi or meditation. Practicing slowing down your breathing and allowing your body to catch up with the stresses of the day. It will thank you by shedding the unwanted storage (fat.)
6) Avoid eating grains – Unfortunately today’s grains are far from grains from our grandparents’ grains. They’ve been crossbred, genetically modified, sprayed, grown with harsh chemicals, washed with acid and fumigated all in the disguise of our benefit. The truth is, they are done to improve yield and extend shelf life. Regardless, the human body has no natural way of processing grains, they’re very hard and time consuming to digest, therefore it becomes more of a stressor in the body
7) Eat at least 50 grams of protein by noon and avoid carbs in the mornings – 50 grams of protein is roughly 8 oz of meat (beef, chicken, fish) or you can have a 4oz piece of meat with 4 eggs. Avoiding carbohydrates (yes, even fruit and fruit juices) in the morning and having mostly meat and fat (fat being old fashioned butter or coconut oil) will ensure a steady level of energy throughout the day
8) Supplement with high quality fish oils – Due to the media hyping low fat diets for the last 40+ years, we’ve been getting less and less high quality omega 3 in our diets. This is essential in keeping our weight stable and our cells strong and able to withstand the daily stress they’re dealt.
The more of the above you can implement, the faster and healthier you’ll reach your weight goals.
What other tips do you have that have worked for you? Share them below in the comments.
On December 4th, 2006 while completing HLC 2 in Vista California at the CHEK Institute, Paul Chek challenged us to a Tai Chi Gong. Which meant doing a specific Tai Chi movement for at least 10 minutes with a Tai Chi Ruler for 100 consecutive days. He warned us to only accept the challenge if we were serious about it, at which point, he would seal our commitment by signing and dating our Tai Chi Rulers. It took me a bit to convince myself through some self talk but decided to accept it. He then signed and dated my Tai Chi ruler and the challenge was on!
I was really curious whether I could make it to 100 consecutive days. The rules were, if you missed a day, you’d start all over from day 1, even if you completed 99 days up to that point. Well, according to the trusty date to date calculator on timeanddate.com, today marks day 2000 since the first day of the challenge and at 6:16am this morning, I completed my 2000th consecutive daily Tai Chi Ruler active meditation.
A few friends coaxed me to make an announcement of it and celebrate it (oh and I so easily give into peer pressure, as those of you who know me well will attest to how sarcastic that statement is.) But this time I gave in so here it is. I did it!
I learned quite a bit about myself through these 2000 days (or 5 years, 5 moths and 22 days for a different perspective.) Whether I had discipline and resolve to begin with or built them through this process is up for debate. I do want to thank Paul for introducing me to such a cool and easy way to get into a meditative state consistently.
I calmed down mentally, emotionally and in general. I take things a lot lighter now and have a much broader perspective on things.
I am more aware of pretty much everything around me. I can feel myself get triggered and shift it before I make a mountain out of a mole hill. I can also take the cues from my intuition a lot easier than I was able to beforehand. I often find myself making decisions without knowing why but they ended up being a great choice. (like on a warm sunny day before going into a store, I decided to fully roll up my windows on a whim – rather than leave them open a tad for the circulation like I normally would – then, when I came out there was a torrential downpour out of nothing.)
I learned to connect with my breath and can now breathe MUCH deeper, slower and easier.
With clients, somehow, I just know the right questions to ask at the right time that seem to make a major shift in that moment.
I wish I could pinpoint that this all suddenly happened right after day 47 when I saw a flash of light in my mind’s eye, or on day 897 when I slipped in my friend’s bathroom in Connecticut and hit my head on the toilet bowl causing me to see an image of what I now call the flux capacitor or on day 1562 when I stood on the beach of Mazatlan and a seagull descended on my shoulder (this is straight from my imagination btw). The boring truth is, I likely got these “super powers” through the accumulation of my daily Tai Chi Ruler practice.
I’ve done this movement at all hours of the day in many cities, countries, and continents, hotel bathrooms, cruise ship decks, on beaches, on rocks, in hotel stairwells at 5am while everyone else was still sleeping in the room, in forests, while as a guest in friends’ homes. All over the United States, from California to New York and New Hampshire, lots of times here in Toronto, Canada, in Mexico on both the east and west coasts, on the CHEK Cruise in 2007, in Croatia by the Adriatic Sea, in Hungary while visiting and I’m sure I’m forgetting other places. I only shared day 1000 with my good friend Kyle Shay (whom I incidentally met at that HLC 2 class in Vista back in 2006.) I happened to be in Krka National Park in Croatia when I sent a txt to Kyle, to let him know day 1000 was conquered. It was August 29th, 2009., 9:32am local time (yes I did just go through my txt history to find that exact date/time.)
Long story short, 2000 days of active meditation have come and gone. Where did time fly?
What have you learned about yourself while completing your Gong?