What’s good for the heart is good for the brain

I picked out some gems from a Terry Gross interview with British neuroscientist Joseph Jebelli first set out to study Alzheimer’s because of his grandfather died of the disease. It’s worth a listen.

What’s good for the heart is good for the brain. When we exercise, the brain releases a protein called Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, also known as BDNF. BDNF acts as a fertilizer for the mind and can aid the growth of new neurons and new synapses. Next time you work out you are doing some gardening on your brain.

A Mediterranean diet lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s. So eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. Cook with olive oil and cut back on the red meat.

The spice turmeric has been seen to be a super good for brain health. Get going with the turmeric lattes and learn to cook with the spice. It pops up in a lot of Indian food staples. Another natural reason to eat more Indian food.

The soft claw

People tend to slump over when they meditate. The head drops and shoulders slump. This posture closes the chest and throat in a moment where you want maximum airflow.

Here’s a quick tip:

Halfway through the session take a moment to check in with your posture and body position. After the check-in, if you are feeling constricted then imagine a soft claw coming down from the ceiling. It’s the same kind of claw that you see in the arcade machine that grabs toys, but the grip is so delicate that the toys end up falling.

Imagine the claw slowly grabs your head and starts lifting you up. Your neck extends, your chest opens up, and your spine straightens. Just like in the arcade the claw slips off your head and retracts away. Your posture is now open, upright and relaxed.

Breathing breaks

The breaks between yoga poses are as important as the poses themselves.

Surfing is like this too. The first paddle out takes a lot of energy. Especially if it’s a beach break, and timing between the sets is the difference between flailing in the inside section and a fun surf session. There’s a magical moment right after paddling out, when I sit up on my board and look out to sea. The breakers are behind me, and I’m breathing deeply. The adrenalin subsides and it’s quiet. All it takes is a few strokes for me to get over the incoming set waves. That pause gives me time to recharge, get my bearing and work out where I want to be when the next set rolls in.

It’s like the breaks between notes in a musical composition. The notes and the breaks makes the melody.

Toe breathing

Toe breathing? Yup, your toes breath if you concentrate on them. Ready to try?

Okay. Take a pause. Relax your shoulders, eyes, and jaw. Feel the ground on your feet and wiggle your toes, so you know they are there. Take a deep breath through your nose and feel the air enter your body. Imagine the same fresh air coming your lungs, tummy, legs, feet and finally your toes. Feel the body expanding. It’s like blowing up a balloon. Imagine the clean oxygenated air reaching the very tips of your toes and that everything it touches on the way down is cleansed.

Now exhale slowly. As you exhale, imagine your body deflating slowing and breathing out the stale air. All of the aches, pains, anxiety leave the body with that exhalation.

Is like rinse and repeat. Try it 3 times. Concentrating on the toes will make you breath deeper and slow down the exercise. Remember to the breath through your nose and relax the shoulders and face.

Stay grounded today and enjoy.

Yoga is a Practice

Yoga is a Practice. You practice by listening to and learning from fellow students & teachers. Everyone in the room is your teacher. Daily practice results in small corrections every day.

Practice life the same way.

Fill the vessel 

Here’s a tip on breathing.

Try this the next time you take a couple of deep breaths to relax or wind down from exercising.

As you exhale, imagine you are filling a vessel. Inhale deeply into your diaphragm and then slowly exhale. Relax your jaw and shoulders. Feel the floor holding you up. Wriggle your toes. Relax.

The room. The first exhale fills the room. Imagine your breath as a white mist filling every nook and cranny of the room

The house. The second exhale fills all the rooms of the house. Bedroom, bathroom and kitchen touched and infused by the mist.

The neighborhood. The third exhale fills the neighborhood. Down alleys and into back gardens.

The city. The fourth exhale fills the city. Imagine it happening on a map. Imagine the mist swirling through the city streets, between buildings and under cars.

The exercise will slow down your breathing and it’ll turn the practice into something more than exhaling carbon dioxide.

No Mind Left Behind

Whether it’s a morning run, an evening yoga session or a walk around the block to ‘clear your head’ – remember to bring your mind with you. We have a tendency to leave it behind thinking about money, relationships, plans, the past day and all the things we have to do.

You know the look, you are talking to someone but their eyes are somewhere else, they aren’t engaged because their mind isn’t there…it’s somewhere else thinking through other stuff.

When your mind is with you and in the moment then it’s ‘all in’ and engaged.

Next time you walk out the house and grab your keys, remember to take everything – including your mind.

Be Real

It isn’t how you are made. It’s a thing that happens to you.

Being Real hurts sometimes, but when you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.

It takes a long time, and you got to be tough and persevere.

When you are real, you are beautiful.

* * *

It’s said best in The Velveteen Rabbit:

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

Sometimes you only miss it when you do it

The less I do something, the less I miss it.

Paddling out for a surf on a winter’s day.  The water is dark blue and cold. I’m warm in my car sipping some coffee. I fight the urge to drive away. Only after the first duck dive and feeling the salt water hit my face do I miss the feeling of being in the water

Waking up early for a morning run. The first few minutes out in the wild are the hardest. I’m talking myself into turning around and heading home. Then something magical happens after the first mile. I started to look forward and forget about what’s behind me. My body loosens up and I start to smell the morning.

Yoga first thing in the morning. I’d rather be sleeping or getting a jump start on the day. My body resists the first stretch and the inner dialogue comes up with reasons why I should rather cut it short, shower and check my phone. Only after the first three stretches do I get into the groove and am grateful that I overcame the initial inertia.

Leaving my phone at home when I go for a hike. Initially I have phantom phone syndrome. Even though I don’t have my phone I can still feel it vibrating in my pocket. Only once I’m far away from the roads and deep in the trails do I disconnect and am reminded of how good it feels to be free from the likes, hearts, pings, retweets and favorites.

The ego is crafty and will seduce you into the path of least resistance. Feelings fade the longer you are away from something. Overcome the inertia and all resistance crumbles.