Nature is all around us. The air, the earth, the sea and the creatures that depend on it all. There are so many beautiful reasons for us to connect with nature. Nature is so complete in it’s function. Nature, naturally fulfills us; fresh air to breath, water to drink, warmth of the sun, cool breeze from the wind. If the great outdoors is so excellent, why do we find ourselves so disconnected from it on a regular basis?
Our lives are so bombarded by unnatural chaos and technology that we forget to literally stop and smell the roses. As I was driving down the Coquihalla Highway in British Columbia, surrounded by towering mountains which were covered top to bottom in majestic evergreen trees, I stopped to take in the fresh air and immediately felt the difference between this and the toxin-filled, suburban air at home. Being stuck indoors all day cannot be good for your health. Taking the time to enjoy the outdoors is extremely beneficial for yourself and the planet.
Nature can help de-stress you
In our everyday busy lives, it is completely normal to feel stress, however too much of stress can lead to so many everyday illnesses. Taking a little time out of your day to focus on nature can help that unsettled part of your brain find rest. Taking time to breath in fresh oxygen can help lower anxiety and help refresh yourself and help you regain energy.
Finding love for nature will help you protect it
It is no secret that the urbanization of our planet is only slowly killing it. Spending a little extra time in nature can help you regain an appreciation for it’s function and beauty. This can lead to you making “greener”, more sustainable choices in your everyday life, whether that’s composting, using an energy efficient vehicle, using local produce or recycling.
So, how can we begin to reacquaint ourselves with nature?
Try going for a hike or walk in your local park.
Get an indoor plant for your house.
Practise your yoga or other exercises outside.
Grab a blanket, lie down and watch the clouds go by, or at night look at the stars.
Arrange for you and your friends to meet outside instead of a shopping mall.
Eat as natural and environmentally responsible as you can.
Enjoy all seasons;
Be in awe, humble yourself, connect.
“Come forth into the light of things. Let nature be your teacher.” The Tables Turned –William Wordsworth
People have preconceived ideas about yoga from what they’ve seen in the media or heard through word of mouth. Yoga unites the mind, body and spirit, and can impact your life in many ways if you allow it. Here are 5 false statements often thought about yoga!
1) Yoga is only for those who are flexible and have good balance
Yoga is a great way to improve your flexibility and balance. You don’t need to be flexible or have great balance to start yoga. There’s a starting point for everybody. If you focus on yourself during the class instead of comparing yourself to others, your mind set becomes about your personal improvements and victories.
2) Yoga is not a good workout
Different varieties of yoga will offer you a different level of exercise. It will also depend on your skill level as well. For example, Ashtanga or Vinyasa Yoga will offer more of a cardiovascular or strength workout. Whereas a gentler Hatha Yoga class could be less challenging, depending on the sequence of postures. The poses and postures performed in yoga work to improve your balance, breathing, flexibility and strength no matter what kind of class you are taking part in.
3) I can’t practise yoga with my injuries
Talk to your studio or instructor ahead of time, there are many variations of poses that can help you not only practice yoga while you are injured but help heal your injury. Yoga is great for strengthening the smaller muscles responsible for supporting your ligaments and joints.
4) Yoga is religion based
Although yoga is known to have originated from Hinduism, other opinions today suggest yoga predates Hinduism. Yoga can be a spiritual practise for some, but perhaps not for others, where it is strictly physical.
5) Yoga is only a series of poses and breathing techniques
Yoga is frequently generalized as a fitness routine where people get together and practice different postures and breathing techniques. What many people don’t know is that Postures (also known as asanas) and Breathing Techniques (also known as pranayama) are 2 of Eight Limbs of Yoga in the Sanskrit scripture Yoga Sutra. These include Yama (being honest, non-violent, simple, humble and moderate), Niyama (being self-disciplined and dedicated to one’s spirituality), Asana (what most people are familiar with – physical postures), Pranayama (breathing exercises), Pratyahara (withdrawing from the 5 sesnse to tune into ones mind), Dharana (concentration – creating a still, non-distracted mind), Dyhana (meditation), and finally, Samadhi (the goal of yoga, pure consciousness).
Thinspiration provides images of women with “thin” figures. The purpose is to motivate women to become thin; the consequence of this however is often disordered eating, which is why social networks like Instagram have blocked tags such as #thinspo, etc. But could Thinspo’s new counterpart Fitspo be just as dangerous and damaging to women’s health?
There is no doubt fitspo is paved with good intentions. Women with fit bodies, flat stomachs, six-pack abs, well-shaped butts and arms are seen in images often with a catch phrase such as “strong is the new skinny” or “Complaining won’t burn calories”. And I will be the first to admit that I spent countless nights looking at this “fitspiration”, thinking that if I only worked a little harder in the gym I would have the perfect body, but was I really inspired?
I am a huge advocate for clean eating and exercising. However when it comes to women’s body image, I believe every woman should feel great in her own skin as long as she is healthy. I pass no judgment to my friends, and those I don’t know, who are followers of fitspo and I admire the dedication and passion it takes to build a fit physique. That being said, a person should not feel unhappy about their appearance because they don’t lift weights, practise yoga, or go for runs every week.
A part of me recognized that I wasn’t being inspired, in fact I realized I was only fixated on what I believed to be my flaws and became extremely critical of my body. It was the shame I felt that got me into the gym everyday, and I am confident that others have the same reaction as they go through their long feed of “fitspiration”.
How have we let images that promote low self-esteem be confused with inspiration? Although fitspo is suppose to be conducive to good health, all it has become is a hub for women to compare their bodies. It creates a new standard of what they believe they should look like to be happy, as if magazines, movies and television weren’t enough. Images of anorexic women can undoubtedly be defined as unhealthy; but it’s my opinion that constantly comparing your body to any shape or size negatively affects your self-esteem. The only standard any person should hold for their body is healthy and happy. Women need to properly educate themselves on nutrition and exercise to make decisions based what is best for their personal health and not base their well-being by a series of images we call “fitspiration”.
So, where do I find my fitness inspiration now?
- My parents. Between my dad waking up before 5 A.M. to get in his workout (-word on the street is that he is back to the weight of his football playing years) and my mom’s holistic approach to controlling her chronic pain, they both show serious commitment to their health.
- Professional bodybuilders. Angelica Kathleen, Bella Falconi, Karina Baymiller, Terica Messmer to name a few. They all show extreme dedication and diligence towards their fitness goals. And I enjoy watching their journeys unfold.
- Most importantly, myself. Practising yoga has helped me to remember how strong, capable and beautiful my body is. I remind myself constantly that I go to the gym not only to benefit my health but because I thoroughly enjoy it. I set goals for myself, and I look back at my accomplishments with pride.
Our bodies are continuously losing water everyday through sweating and other bodily functions. It is even more important during the summer months to probably hydrate ourselves in order to restore the water we are losing naturally; especially if you are engaging in physical activities. The amount fluid needed to keep your body hydrated varies from person to person. Try an infused water as a great alternative to plain water, vitamin waters or juices. Below I combined lemon, cucumber, strawberries and plums. After letting it sit for a few minutes it is ready to drink.
Check out this article from MindBodyGreen to learn about the benefits of lemon water.
Fueling up for yoga this morning on the deck. Chocolate & banana protein pancakes and spearmint tea. Pranayama in the fresh oxygen before the hot yoga studio.
1/2 cup of Wheat Free oats
3 eggs whites
Small teaspoon of stevia powder to taste (Krisda is my favourite)
Small teaspoon of organic cacao powder to taste
Any liquid you like to desired pancake batter consistency (I use coconut milk or h2O)
Topped with unsweetened shredded coconut and bananas
Add any protein powder you like to your pancakes, I’m not taking any supplements right now but adding a scoop of protein to your pancakes would suffice 🙂 you would probably need to add less stevia if your protein powder already comes sweetened
Investing in a heart rate monitor is one of the best things that happened to my fitness routine. Originally, it was the count of calories burned that appealed to me. Becoming aware of my heart rate helped me develop a new realization of my body and my cardiovascular health.
Mine is the Polar FT4. It’s functions are basic; it records my heart rate through a waist band (seen below). I can look at my wrist at any point during my workout to see what my heart rate is at and how many calories I’ve burned. Each time I workout with my Polar FT4 it records my workout and I can look back at previous workouts as well. I can also set a “heart rate zone” and at the end of my workout see how much time I spent in that specific zone. At first, the waist band was uncomfortable to wear but after the first few workouts it wasn’t a problem.
Why has my Polar HRM improved my workouts?
Whether you are looking to burn fat or improve your cardio, knowing your heart rate while working out is extremely important. Personally, I like to do interval training at the gym so being able to look at my heart rate at any point is vital. Discovering the heart rate zones specific to your body can help you achieve any fitness goal you have in mind. Try this link to learn about the heart rate zones specific to your body and needs.
Cardio Equipment Vs. Polar HRM
Today’s cardio equipment will calculate how many calories you burn however, this number is frequently false. There are many factors such as height, weight, and heart rate that will affect the amount of calories you burn. My polar watch uses all those factors to give me an accurate number of calories I burn. For example, the elliptical told me I burned 78 calories in 9 minutes, whereas my polar watch gives me the correct number, which was 60 calories.
Polar HRM for Strength Training
Aside from cardio, my HRM also tells me my heart rate during any strength training exercises. Before my polar watch it was always a mystery to know how many calories I burned, or what my heart rate was during strength training exercises. By knowing your heart rate during strength training you can establish interval workouts and learn how your body responds to certain stress.
The Only Negative
Learning about your body’s heart rate and calorie expenditure is a great advantage to achieving any fitness goals you have in mind. However, it’s easy to become obsessed with the amount of calories you burn. Use the watch with healthy goals in mind. Remember that calories are energy and obsessing over the calories in and out of your body can not only lead to stress but unhealthy habits.
Yoga can be a beautiful, challenging practise; both mentally and physically. Western practises of yoga include, but are not limited to, Hatha, Yin, Bikram, Vinyasa (Flow), Ashtanga (Power). The many benefits gained from consistent yoga practise can be the perfect compliment to the different activities that are a part of your lifestyle.
Weight training, a variety of strength training, uses weights (i.e. dumbbells, barbells) to strengthen the muscles. The stress put on your muscles through weight training eventually allows your muscles to adapt, therefore making you stronger. The benefits of weight training include, but are not limited to, muscle strength, muscle endurance and improved muscle tone.
Weight training has been part of my workout routine for the past year. And although I have only been practising yoga for 2 short months I am already reaping the many benefits yoga has bestowed on my weight training routine.
1) Posture: position of the spine
The backbone is extremely vital to human well-being. Not only does the spine protect the central nervous system but also acts as a support to many muscles and organs. Yoga emphasizes the importance of the human backbone by not only strengthening the spine but lightly stretching it. It is easy to forget the significance of a strong spine during weight training. Bad posture while weight training can cause serious injury and decrease the benefits your body derives during weight training. The yoga studio should not be the only place where you practise good posture.
2) Body Awareness: letting go of unnecessary tension
In yoga it is easy to hold tension in places where it is unnecessary and avoidable. Holding an awkward tension in your jaw, shoulders, or anywhere it is not needed can actually afflict the posture or pose you are trying to hold. It is only necessary to keep stress in the areas being worked. This completely applies to weight training. An awkward tension being held in your neck, jaw or anywhere else can take away from the exercise you are performing. Become aware of any muscle tension that isn’t associated to the muscle you are trying to work. For example, if you are attempting bent-row dumbbell rows, keep the tension in your back and arm and not on the leg or knee that is supporting you. Let you face, jaw or tongue be soft.
3) Focus on your own capability – be self focused not self conscious
If others are weight training around you, focus on yourself. You hold your own capabilities. In yoga, just because the person in front of you extends their leg higher in dancer’s pose does not mean that your practise is any less valid. Everyone has their own beginning and their own practise. Time should be spent exploring what you can do instead of comparing yourself to the people around you. That being said, believe in your capability. Don’t push yourself to injury but stepping outside of your comfort zone can help you achieve what you didn’t think was possible.
4) A sense of community
One of my favourite aspects of yoga is the strong energy and community among the people that are practising. Initially I didn’t think that weight training could also have a sense of community. However, community is really there. Everyone around you is dedicating a portion of there day to gain some sort of benefit to achieve a common goal.
5) Moment of rest are just as important as moments of movement
Savasana is easily the most favoured pose in yoga. Savasana relaxes the body and relieves stress. Relaxing the body is just as important as moments of stress. Moments of rest between sets during weight training is essential inorder to not fatigue your muscles. It is just as important to allow time between training the same muscle group. Experts say 2-3 days would suffice to allow your muscles to repair. For example, it wouldn’t be wise to train your quadriceps two days in a row. Just as savasana relieves stress, giving your muscles time to rest allow them to repair and become stronger.
6) Not everyday is the same
Some days when I practise yoga my balance is flawless, other days it could use some work. Other factors could be the cause of this, such as a specific thing I ate, the amount of rest I’ve had, or internal stress, etc. This also applies to weight training. Not everyday is going to be the same. You may be able to lift more or less, longer or shorter depending on other factors. And this is okay. Work to your best ability and accept your body for what it can do in that moment.
It is the beginning of July and this summer has been completely different than my summer’s in the past. It’s distinct for a couple of reasons.
- I’m unemployed, and not taking any school courses
- I’m practising yoga
- Discovering that free time is not always spent wisely
- And wanting/attempting to start writing
It’s been two full months since my spring semester at school ended and I’ve learnt that as much I would like to use that free time wisely, that is not always the case. However, I’m depending on this blog to perhaps hold me accountable. I’m not sure what I will be writing about or who will be reading but I know that blogging will not only help me improve my own writing skills but give me some valuable experience in the social media/writing/journalism world. I’m hoping that I will post everyday and eventually develop a focus. I’m a 20 year old english student, with a strong passion for fitness, learning about the body-mind connection, and trying to grow up as gracefully as I can.