As a reformed corporate warrior and athlete turned yogi, Pete Guinosso stands out as a teacher with a unique background. We talked about his classes at Yoga Tree Valencia and the concept of ahimsa – doing less harm and having more compassion for yourself and others.
Deb Burkman has been teaching yoga for 11 years and currently teaches at The Mindful Body yoga studio in San Francisco. She’s the person who first introduced me to the term “urban wellness” (she does an annual Urban Yoga and Wellness initiative in San Francisco). We got together to talk about what that means and how to find optimal health in an urban setting.
It’s easy to go on a retreat or a vacation and develop a sense of well being only to come right back into your hectic city life and lose it. The reality is that most people lead really busy lives. You have deadlines to meet, children to take care of, relationships to attend to, and constant interruptions on Facebook, your cellphone, and email. Urban Wellness is about having optimal health in an urban environment – trying to feel physically, mentally, and emotionally stable in a city.
Three ways to do that are:
1) Exercise more
Many people complain that they don’t have enough time to exercise, but exercising can actually help you optimize your time. By clearing your mind you’ll get more efficient at what you do and better able to manage your time.
Yoga is a great way to both bring exercise into your life and cultivate mental clarity. As a regular practice, it helps you refine your capacity to know yourself. It gives you a concentrated environment to directly experience everything that arises within you as you deal with the challenge of holding a posture and focusing your attention on your breath. You start to notice when you get frustrated with your instructor or when you push yourself too far or not far enough. You notice all the emotions that arise as a result.
Think about the last time someone cut you off in traffic and aggravated you. Did you take that negative state and carry it with you all day, projecting it on friends and family? Through yoga you start to be more aware of negative emotional responses and you can choose to observe them without reacting.
2) Eat whole foods
A whole food is as close to the way nature originally created it as possible. Generally you want to avoid packaged foods with ingredients that you don’t recognize. If you’re shopping on a budget then start by avoiding foods that are known to be particularly prone to pesticide residue, such as the “dirty dozen”: peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes, spinach, lettuce, potatoes.
Meditation can be a little tricky because, unlike yoga, it can be much harder to see the benefits right away. It can take a while to understand that just sitting and being passive for a period each day cultivates a psychological strength to be with yourself and see yourself with more clarity. This state of calm helps you approach your day objectively, giving you a clear compass for what’s important to you and what isn’t.
If you’re new to meditation, a good place to start is to find a meditation group. In San Francisco, both the Zen Center and the Buddhist Center have introductory sessions. Of you can try the SF Insight website to join a meditation community. Alternatively find 10 – 15 minutes to just sit and focus on your breath. As your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breath. You’ll find it does wonders for your sense of well being.
Deb’s classes are fun and playful. She teaches an Ashtanga Based Hatha Flow and tries to meet students where they’re at. Expect her to pay careful attention to your level of comfort. As you get more experienced, she’ll encourage you to try harder postures to advance your practice. You can find her at The Mindful Body. Also, check out her upcoming retreat at the Maya Talum Retreat in Mexico.
TJ Burleigh has been teaching yoga for over 10 years. She currently teaches regular classes and workshops at Bernal Yoga as well as yoga therapy at UCSF. We sat down to talk about her class and simple ways to live better.
We live roller coaster lives with honking cars and ringing cellphones (even the audio on this video has cellphone interference!). Find some inner sanctuary with TJ’s class as she takes you inward and beyond. Close your eyes, take a moment for yourself, and lend an ear to you inner being.
TJ will help you carry this connection with yourself on and off the mat. That means that next time someone cuts you off and you start to feel your blood boiling, you might just smile and let it go. Isn’t that much better?
If you do just one thing…. remember to breathe. If you’re tired, focus on the inhalation, the uplifting sensation as the breath rushes into your lungs and belly.
If you’re feeling tense and stressed out, focus on the exhalation. Take a minute by yourself and bow your head slightly. As you inhale, really let the breath come deep into the belly – it into the sides and back of the belly, feel the whole body grow. Then just let it all out. Release the breath and exhale completely. Enjoy blissful peace of mind.
TJ has an upcoming workshop on Yoga for Carpal Tunnel, Shoulder and Wrist Health on April 17.
Jillian Love is a Bay Area raw food chef who’s been eating raw for almost 15 years. She decided to go raw in 1997 after having an amazing experience doing a two week raw cleanse that changed her life. We got together to talk about the benefits of raw food and practical ways to add raw to your life.
THE QUICK NOTES
- Food takes energy to process
- You want to optimize your performance by eating food that your body can easily digest
- Processed food has lots of toxins and leaves you feeling sluggish after meals
- Eating raw gives you consistent energy throughout the day – no crazy highs and lows
- Take baby steps – drink more water, have salad one meal a day
- Symptoms that your body is over loaded with toxins: irritable, start getting colds more often, reduced sex drive, distractible, trouble sleeping, rings under your eyes bad skin (rashes, breaking out)
JILLIAN’S AWESOME RAW FRESH BASIL GARLIC PESTO
(Jump to 11 minutes in the video to watch her make it)
- 2 cups fresh basil
- 2 cloves fresh garlic
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp Non GMO miso
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- ½ pine nuts soaked and dehydrated
Add all ingredients to food processor and pulse with “S” blade till desired consistency. You can also use a blender if a food processor is not available. This will make a more saucy smooth pesto and you may need to add additional oil for there to be enough liquid for the blender to work properly.
Pesto sauce is great served over Kelp noodles (rinse well and drain before eating). You can also enjoy raw pesto sauce on spiralized zucchini noodles, spread on raw crackers, or as a dip for raw veggies.
THE WHOLE STORY
Food is energy and food takes energy to process. You want to optimize your fuel by expending the least amount of energy for the highest return. Raw and organic food isn’t processed. It’s not made up of sugar, it’s not fried, and doesn’t contain all sorts of chemicals you can’t pronounce. When you’re eating raw, you’re consuming lots of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and sprouted grains.
As a result, your body is able to process meals more efficiently. After a big meal you’re not bogged down on a couch trying to process all that food. When you need less energy to deal with digestion, you have more energy to be active and do fun things like running, yoga, shopping, and taking care of kids.
Your body also has more energy to heal itself. Processed food contains toxins and leaves you feeling sluggish after eating. Symptoms that you might be eating too much junk food include: being irritable, getting sick more often, having a reduced sex drive, having trouble focusing, trouble sleeping, rings under your eyes and bad skin.
A good way to think about healthy eating is as a type of continuum of food choices. On one side you have Twinkies, McDonalds, and Coca Cola representing terrible food choices. On the other side you have green juices and organic salads. The further you move yourself along the continuum in big or little steps, the better you will feel. The important thing is that you always try to make positive progress along the continuum.
Small changes can go a long way. Just drinking more water throughout the day will improve the way you feel. Try drinking 4 cups of water as soon as you wake up – your body cleanses first thing in the morning and this will flush out all the toxins in your system.
Make one meal a day a salad. Dinner makes for a great salad meal because lighter food is easier to process when you’re sleeping. Throw in all your favorite vegetables, add some fruit and nuts, go all out on the greens. You will sleep better because your body won’t have to deal with digesting a heavy meal and you’ll wake up feeling great.
Other great ways to get started with raw are:
- Take a raw food workshop or go on a retreat. You can do a one day retreat and learn how to make some new dishes to add to your diet.
- Try eating one raw meal a day (the recipe below is a delicious way to start!)
- Get a raw food cook book and try a new recipe each week. Jillian recommends I Am Grateful: Recipes and Lifestyle of Cafe Gratitude and Raw Food / Real World: 100 Recipes to Get the Glow
Check out Jillian’s upcoming three day spring raw yoga retreat.
Darren has been teaching yoga for over 22 years. He’s the author of numerous books, including “Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic,” an excellent book about how to balance the demands of modern life with a solid spiritual foundation. He sat down with me to talk about his upcoming Desert Spirit yoga retreat and share his thoughts on urban living. I try to keep my videos under 10 minutes but this one went WAY over as we got deep into the nature of negative habits and how to break them. Darren would know: as a kid, Darren found his “God” in drugs and sex only to hit rock bottom and confront life or death. Yoga helped him embrace his natural impulses and manage them in a healthy way.
- Negative behaviors are often the result of bad habits
- Habitual behaviors arise form childhood, from traumatic experiences, and from day to day interactions
- Your behavior is a product of your ego validating your subconscious belief systems
- To change the way you feel, you must change the way you think by bringing awareness to the root cause of your actions
- Yoga lets you practice interrupting thought patterns in the classroom so that you can apply that discipline outside the classroom
- Yoga gives you freedom to engage in behavior based on conscious choice
Negative behaviors are often the result of habit. Habitual beliefs can come from your childhood, traumatic experiences, or general interactions (driving your car is a habit). Your experiences generate reactions which may be appropriate for the experience but grow into unhealthy habits. Unless you identify the root cause of these behaviors, the underlying thought patterns, it can be almost impossible to break free.
This can take an almost counter intuitive perspective. For example, you might eat a greasy hamburger and say, “I feel terrible because I ate a hamburger.” A yogi might say, “You ate the hamburger because you feel terrible.” In that sense, we seek out experiences to validate our underlying beliefs, whether it’s relationships, diet choices, who we have sex with, or the jobs we have.
You feel terrible first on an subconscious level, then you seek out choices that reflect that belief. Your ego mind takes your natural need for habit and turns it into something negative based on your beliefs. If you have a subconscious belief that you’re not worthy of feeling good you’ll find habitual ways to manifest that negativity in your life to validate that belief because your ego wants you, and your beliefs, to be right. You think you’re in control of your choices, but really your choices a product of your habitual thinking. Ultimately, there’s nothing good or bad about doing something like eating a greasy hamburger. It’s about whether that action is part of a free choice or a choice directed by habit.
To change the way you feel, you must change the way you think. A regular yoga practice can help you become aware of your underlying thought patterns. As you struggle through a class your brain starts kicking up habitual responses – how the instructor is torturing you, how good someone else looks, wondering if you look good or if your gut is hanging out. These are recurring thoughts that take you away from the present moment. A skilled yoga instructor will bring your awareness back to your breath, back to the pose. That interrupts your thought pattern. Each time you do that you learn to become aware of your thinking and you develop a practice of breaking habits.
This practice gently erases your old patterns and replaces them with (hopefully) healthier patterns. Yoga gives you the awareness to have a choice. In this way, it’s not about breaking a habit, it’s about being able to decide whether or not you really want to do something on a conscious level.
This will be Darren’s 12th year doing the Desert Sprit yoga retreat. It started 12 years ago when Darren was on a camping trip in Joshua Tree. Hiking and doing yoga on the rocks was frigging amazing so he decided to share this gift with the rest of the world by organizing this annual retreat. You’re going to be climbing rocks, sitting in hot springs, eating healthy food, having deep meaningful conversation, meditating, waking up with the sun, going to bed when it gets dark, sitting around camp fires and looking up at the stars. All I can say is: VERY AWESOME. Check out the details here.
Ariel Howland spent 25 years as a dancer but the practice of yoga helped her build a true relationship with her body. Dance was using her body as a form of expression, yoga was actually getting inside her and getting in touch with her body.
She’s been teaching yoga for 10 years and has a degree in somatics which enables her to to help people work with their emotional and physical bodies.
How does what we experience emotionally manifest itself in a physical capacity? Our bodies acquire stories as a result of our day to day experiences. There’s a relationship between our emotional body and our physical body.
Many people live in such a fast paced culture that they don’t have time to breathe. We’re over stimulated, always moving forward, moving to the next thing, trying to get more. We get separated from our friends and families. This experience can lead to a natural fight or flight response. Your body reflects this by tensing up and sinking down inside as you hide from all the stress. Bringing awareness to what’s going on can help change your emotional and physical state in a positive way.
Yoga helps us to breathe and to inhabit our bodies more which helps our nervous system
To inhabit your body means that your structural system (your bones) are going to be straighter, your tissues around your bones are going to be more aligned and you’re going to be breathing properly
Her upcoming inversion workshop is called, “Practicing Right Side Up and Upside Down,” and focuses on how to actually do an inverted Vinyassa, go upside down and then flowing upside down. You’ll learn lots of yogi party tricks including scissors pose, crippled sage, and chin press.
Watch the end of the video for Ariel’s impressive demonstration.
As I’ve become increasingly passionate about fitness over the past decade, I’ve gone through A LOT of supplements. I’ve tried everything from vitamins to protein powders to nitric oxide at all sorts of different price ranges and quality levels. If your first reaction is “that’s disgusting,” you’re absolutely right.
And the truth is, despite thousands of dollars invested into pills and powders I’m still relatively clueless as to whether or not any of this stuff actually works.
Apparently the guys at Information is Beautiful had the same frustration as me and took the matter into their own hands. David McCandless and Andy Perkins looked at abstracts of over 1500 public studies to compile an interactive graph of supplements and their effectiveness to treat particular conditions. Check it out.
As I mentioned in my last post, keeping on top of all my tracking has been really hard the last few days. I finally pulled my self together today and got everything down. One of the most challenging aspects of life tracking is actually planning. If I don’t do a good job of planning everything I eat and all my workouts in advance, it becomes much harder to properly track everything.
Calories out: 3349, Calories in: 2716, Protein: 260g, Carbs: 305g, Fat: 42g