Tag Archives: health

The Difference A Year Makes

One year ago, to the day, I posted the Top 10 listed above on Facebook. In some ways, I cannot believe that it has been a year since I wrote this, and yet in other ways I absolutely can because of all the conscious changes I have made. A few of the things listed here were written in a tongue-in-cheek manner, but were really bugging me, and it was because of that that I stopped thinking or writing about them and actually let them be the catalysts for positive change.

1) I still keep a keen eye on the price of allergy pills when I’m overseas, but I don’t need them nearly as much as I used to (I’ll explain why at the bottom of this post).

2) I got rid of cable tv and have not regretted it once since I did it.

3) The words “selfie” and “lit” still rub me the wrong way, but the word “excretions” have now taken their place in eliciting visceral, negative responses from me.

4) I no longer feel daily aches and pains, but I did one year ago to the day, and it scared the hell out of me. (I’ll explain why I no longer have them at the bottom of this post).

5) I stand by this one and will until the day this body dies. Grammar matters. (I think I just came up with a future book title).

6) I’ve softened in the last year and am not as judgemental or critical as I was. I find myself feeling much more compassion these days than I used to, but trust me, the judgement is still there, and I actually find it entertaining when it rears its head.

7) I have stopped eating refined sugars and most foods that contain them. (I’ll elaborate at the bottom of this post).

8) I’m fine with emojis now. Language is changing. I get it. (The middle finger and the vomiting emojis have become dear friends to me).

9) I’m paying less attention to my blood pressure. (More on this after #10).

10) My face has changed. Here’s why, and this also ties into #1, 4, 7 & 9.

I have spent years studying spirituality and energy, honing my spiritual intelligence and focusing on what lies beyond the obvious and apparent. In doing so, I seriously neglected this body I live in. Yes, I practiced yoga and meditated, but that was it, and that was all I believed was necessary.

Cut to July 2017. I was looking at myself in the mirror and not liking what was reflected back at me. I felt puffy. I felt like my body was inflamed, which was a word I was reticent to use because it had become trendy in articles posted online, but nonetheless, I felt inflamed. My body was aging. I was experiencing weird aches and pains every day, and each day was a new one that I had never experienced before, which somewhat scared me because I felt like my body was aging in a “this is out of my control” kind of way. I remember telling myself that if I didn’t do anything to help myself feel better, it was only going to continue to go in one direction, and it wasn’t the one I wanted for myself.

I had also become used to getting sick every couple of months. Strep throat here, sinus infection there, slight cold around the changing of the seasons, etc… I had created all kinds of stories around my facility to fall ill. “I’m in contact with so many people every week”, or “it starts with allergies that then triggers the infection”, or “the antibiotics didn’t really kill the infection, which is why it’s happening again”. Allll kinds of stories.

So I decided to face one of my aversions and signed up for a membership to the gym that is, without exaggeration, forty footsteps from the front door of my home. I decided I would start doing some cardio exercises two to three times a week. And I did. I started to feel proud of myself that I was doing it, because I stopped going to the gym in 1999 when I couldn’t deal with the posturing I saw there from others, and I felt like the gym environment was completely artificial and unpleasant. It was because I stopped working out that I started looking for a yoga teacher to see if the asana practice could replace the gym for my physical exercise (so I guess I should be grateful to all those gym posers I saw in the late 90’s). I also started feeling better. So I kept going.

I went to Paros in September 2017 and stopped the cardio while I was away, then came back home and picked right up where I left off. I then decided to meet with a personal trainer at the gym to see if she could give me insight into some exercises I could pair with the cardio, but arranged to delay the meeting until December, as my schedule was packed until then.

Come December, I met with Julie, a kinesthesiologist and personal trainer at the gym I was going to. We sat, talked, and I was honest with her that I really just wanted some cardio and a couple of light exercises. She asked me how long I wanted to be at the gym for when I came to exercise, and I told her an hour at the most. She put together a program for me, we went through it once together, and then I spent the next month doing it on my own three times a week. That is how I ended 2017 and began 2018. I then made another appointment with her at the end of the first month and she designed another program for me to follow for February. And we kept at it. Every month, a new program. And I quickly fell in love with exercising.

I wasn’t expecting to become that gym guy I found so annoying in 1999, but I did. I fell in love with the exercises, as well as with the time I had at the gym that was almost meditative in its intensity. I have never sweat more in my life, and I have never worked harder, on a physical level, at anything like I have done, and am doing, with my workouts. And I love it.

I have been so hesitant to publicly talk about this, because I really don’t want to be one more person sharing his exercise regimen on social media with a photo of some weights accompanied by a #gymday or #justdoit hashtag. It doesn’t sit well with me, and I didn’t want to launch more of that into the world. However, I have been told by people that I trust that I should talk about it, that I should share this part of my story, because the effects have been dramatic and that they find it inspiring.

When I started working out and feeling better, I stopped eating all foods with refined sugars because I knew that they lowered my immune system. Doing that along with the working out has resulted in my immune system being stronger than ever before in my lifetime. Without wanting to jinx it, I have had two barely-there, light-sniffles colds in the last 10 months. My aches and pains are gone. Totally. I have lost twenty pounds of fat without compromising my lean muscle mass, and because I wasn’t a really overweight guy a year ago, it has changed my body and my face. I am leaner and am seeing the body that I knew was under the excess weight all that time, but which I accepted as being a thing of the past, not available to me in my forties. My posture is better because of the exercises Julie gives me to strengthen certain muscles in my back that need it, and paired with monthly visits to my osteopath Keshia, who gives me more information to bring back to Julie, my body is stronger and more functional. And oh yeah – a few months after I stopped eating refined sugars, I decided to have dessert after a meal and I found that the sugary stuff I had once loved no longer tasted as good as it used to. If it didn’t taste as good, then there was no point in eating it, and I found myself losing my appetite for sugar and shifting over to being more appreciative of the savoury foods. This was a big deal for me, because I have always had a sweet tooth. A serious one.

One thing about this whole journey that has really opened my eyes to how weight-obsessed we are as a culture and as a species is other people’s reactions to my weight loss. I’ve had people ask me if I’m sick. I’ve had people get angry with me after they ask me how I lost the weight and I tell them that I’m working my ass off (literally) on a consistent basis (I have kept the workouts going even when I’m working overseas), and have changed how much sugar I eat. I’ve had people tell me not to lose more weight. I’ve had people tell me that I look fit. I’ve had people tell me that I look healthy, less inflamed. I’ve had people tell me that they can’t believe how good I look. I’ve gotten all of it, and because not much has changed in my head (or my wardrobe) throughout the physical transformation, the reactions have really surprised me. I’ve learned that getting my body into shape has taken weight off my face and my neck, and I look older. I couldn’t give two shits about it. I feel incredible. I feel better than I ever have in my almost 45 years in this body. I am well. I am in better shape, mentally, energetically and physically, then I ever have been, and I am so, so grateful to Julie, Keshia, and Caroline, who has replaced Keshia while she takes maternity leave. With their help I have changed the quality of my life, I have improved the quality of my life. I have spent money on doing it, have been disciplined and put in the hours and energy to do it (which hasn’t been difficult, considering I love going to the gym), and have been relatively quiet about it, because, honestly, I didn’t think it was anyone’s business aside from mine and those in my inner circles. But I suppose if this somehow inspires or educates someone, and motivates them to make a positive change in a similar fashion, then it’s worth sharing.

Making a change this significant in my life motivated my to make others. I got rid of my cable tv subscription. I don’t weigh myself unless I’m at the doctor’s office for my annual checkup or at the gym getting the updated statistics on where my body is at. I don’t need the allergy pills as much, and am happy to report that I shopped at record stores when I was in Paris last week 🙂

DM me if you’d like to get in touch with Julie or Caroline (I’ll let Keisha have her full maternity leave before unleashing new clients her way). I hope the events of the last year somehow affect you in a positive way, and feel free to share your thoughts on it all with me by commenting on this post or through a private message.

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Lucky 13

I am in Paros once again, giving the annual yoga vacation that, as of this year, has morphed into the now-annual yoga and meditation vacation. Once again I feel my soul land here. Once again I find myself at home, this time with a very rudimentary grasp of the basics of the Greek language. Once again the group that has assembled is beyond beautiful, as a micro community as well on an individual basis. Once again our senses are oversaturated by the air, water, sun and sand that feel like nowhere else…by the food that never tastes as good elsewhere in the world…by the smells of oregano, salty air, cooking food and sun-soaked skin…by the sounds of the wind propelled by the Anemoi, the crash of the waves, the fizzle of salty water bubbling when one’s head goes under the water in the sea…by the spectrum of blues that beg us to reconsider the color wheel and the soft pink that illuminates the horizon as Eos opens the gates of heaven for Helios to begin the process of streaking the sun through the sky.

This trip is the 13th I have given, marked today, the 13th of September, and reinforced by the endless signs, graffiti tags and digital readouts of “13” that are all over the island. The fifth journey to Paros, the thirteenth overall. It’s a milestone. One borne of luck, good choices and hard work, and which was described to me today by someone here with us as, “the trip of my lifetime.”

Here’s to the years and years to come, replete with more lovely people filled with shared intention, traveling across the world to experience these events that can barely be described, but leave us speechless once living them. And thank you, to every one of you who has been a part of our jaunts, is here in Greece now, and will be with us on future travels.

Start Your Next Chapter Now Weekend Workshop Aug 11-12

For the vast majority of my career, I have worked on projects and endeavors on my own because I a) felt that what I wanted to convey was deeply personal and had to be expressed as my own unique expression, and b) needed to feel a deep connection with whoever I collaborated with, because without it, I would lose connection to the inspiration that motivated me to share my offerings. I can count on one hand the people I have collaborated with over the past nine years, and it has been a while since the last time. I’m happy to announce that it will happen again in a few months, and I’m beyond thrilled to be working with one of my closest, most inspiring friends, Christelle Franca.

I have known Christelle for almost 15 years, and in that time I have seen her incarnations as sound artist, DJ, healer, Masters student, and so many more that words would only diminish. She has worked in Lebanon teaching students how to express, contextualize, externalize and shift the energies of trauma from living with/in war on a day-to-day basis. She has grown into a woman who shares my belief that there is no greater purpose for any of us than to accompany others through their suffering, through their moments of stuckness. And so it only makes sense that I would team up with my true soul-sister for a weekend workshop of transformation, movement, contemplation, discussion, creation and actualization.

Start Your Next Chapter is a co-creation that Christelle and I have worked on to facilitate whatever changes you may be aching to incorporate but feel too paralyzed to initiate, while also being an opportunity to be exposed to tools that can alleviate the suffering of dealing with changes occurring that are not self-imposed or chosen. Bringing psychotherapeutic tools together with movement, meditation, energy work, writing, discussion and deep contemplation, this weekend is truly going to be the most brilliantly beautiful opportunity to get the ball of change rolling with certainty and clarity. Christelle referred to us both, months ago, as “les gardiens du passage” (the guardians of transition, of change), and this weekend workshop will be exactly that for all in attendance.

This event will take place at Equilibrium Yoga (4812 blvd St-Laurent, suite #101) over the Aug 11-12 weekend, 9h-16h30 both days with a one-hour break for lunch. Space will be limited to 22 people so that we can properly give appropriate time and attention to everyone, and registration is now open, all payment types accepted. See you there!

Start Your Next Chapter Weekend Workshop

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Key Principles To Remember in Times of Darkness

There is no moment in time that is not rife with turmoil, with difficulty, with fear or with obstacles. And there is no moment in time in which peace, ease, faith and trust are not accessible, even when their opposites seem unstoppable. I believe humanity needs to remember a few key principles as we navigate our way through the highs and the lows. Here are those principles:

1) How we choose to respond to life is the most important choice we will make. Any form of discrimination, depression or oppression is unacceptable. To meet discrimination, racism, homophobia, misogyny or any act of hate and intolerance with more hate and intolerance simply feeds the energies that we are objecting to so vehemently. To end negative behavioural cycles, we must be conscious of how we may be inadvertently perpetuating them under the guise of moral indignation.

2) It is not helpful to throw around opinions and judgement. We may feel that in doing so we are disseminating wisdom and the way forward, but we must remember that it is not the subjective understanding of any one circumstance that will help heal what is wounded. Only expressing and sharing our humanity will accomplish that. The former highlights what keeps us separate. The latter highlights what brings us together.

3) We are meant to spend our time cultivating the seeds that will flourish into lasting happiness. We are meant to embody and emanate the vibration of joy. We are meant to have fun with this time we are offered. Getting stuck in that which leaves us resentful, disappointed, ashamed, afraid or sad propels us away from happiness and joy. It is our responsibility to seek out light when darkness smothers, to take action to touch happiness when sadness overwhelms. Our natural state is one of joy, and so we must remember to do whatever it takes to experience the sensations of joy when they seem the furthest away.

4) Setting an intention to make this moment in time better by infusing it with compassion, generosity, kindness and goodness so we can all stand side by side with unfailing support for each other can only end well. We are social animals which thrive on unity and togetherness. We must remember to prioritize this, especially with those who look, sound and act differently than we do. Appearances will always deceive. Don’t allow yourself to fall for that old trick.

5) We must do better than our predecessors did. We must learn from their efforts, their sacrifices, their defeats and their mistakes. We must do better. It starts with every single one of us. Don’t rise to the bait. Deprogram initial response and come back to your intention. This is how we will awaken to the next chapter in history. Not by repeating what has proven to be harmful or useless, but by standing in our own power and ability to effect positive change when it most matters.

6) There is a fraction of a second that exists between stimulus and response, between what instigates fear, sadness or anger and the emotional reaction that it elicits. In that fraction of a second we must remember to breathe deeply. A deep breath not only helps release the existing tensions the body is carrying, but it helps deflect new ones from landing. Breathe deeply to stay in action and avoid falling into emotional reaction.

7) We must remember that “This too shall pass.” Life as we know it is simply a series of moments. Some of them will be pleasant, others unpleasant, but they are moments, pure and simple. We must continually remind ourselves that this moment will pass. Doing so will allow us to hold on when events get rocky, and will also allow us to appreciate the good while it presents itself.

8) Depersonalizing the narrative that is unfolding and affecting us is essential to seeing events as they are and not how we fear they may be. Look at the facts, imagine you were reading an article about them occurring to someone else, and ask yourself what advice you would give to the people affected. Taking ourselves out of the equation, even momentarily, allows us to step out of the emotional stranglehold fear can instill in us so that we can keep a level head and proceed with clarity.

The time is now. Use it wisely.

This One For Matty

The past couple of weeks have been interesting for me in that I have found myself practicing yoga more frequently than I typically do. If I can get 2-3 classes in a week, I’m happy, but over the past few weeks I’ve found myself practicing 4-5 times a week, and what it has brought me is beautifully informative. With more practice has come more strength, more awareness as to when in each individual practice I feel my body begin to respond, open and warm up. I have found myself in a new phase of relationship with my practice and my body, and as a result of the observations I’ve made, I have also found myself compelled to pay more attention to what I’m eating, when I’m eating, if I’m eating. The same applies for rest: I find myself resting when I need to, saying no to things that will interrupt that rest, and being active when typically I could just keep on resting. I am in awe of my body, how it works and responds and, ultimately, the relationship I have with it.

Last week I was notified by a friend that an old friend of ours with whom we worked years ago had been hospitalized and was currently in the Intensive Care Unit. Mathieu Leroux is the epitome of an artist: he is an actor, an author, an avid fan of music and has staged his own one-man shows. He is a creator, taking the intangibility of thought and inspiration and making it manifest into his art that he shares with the rest of the world. This man who uses his body, his movement and his words to continue to give to the world has been rendered physically immobile by a syndrome that goes by the name of Guillain-Barré syndrome. Now, I don’t know what brought it on in Mathieu’s case, but at this point it doesn’t matter. What matters is what is, and what is is an almost-total state of paralysis. Guillain-Barré syndrome occurs when the immune system recognizes the cells found in the sheaths surrounding the nerves in the body as threatening, and then targets them. This is a very rare syndrome that, in some cases, occurs after one has recovered from a viral infection. Regardless of what causes it, all I know is that I went to visit Matty in the hospital this past week and found him asleep, intubated and in a state that I want him to recover from quickly. The good news is that he will recover, as the recovery statistics with this ailment are great. But it’s going to be a long road, one full of highs and lows. I know, however, that Matty has what it takes to come back from this and let it inform the rest of his life.

I teach yoga and meditation and write the books I write because I am firmly convinced that we all need more education in mindfulness. We need to have more conversations about what the nature of the mind is by default and how it, in many cases, does us a disservice by honing in on that which is most extreme. If yoga and meditation, in certain traditions, are about deprogramming initial response, then we need to work on being present enough to recognize when the mind is focusing on, obsessing over, something that is not helpful, that is allowing tensions to wriggle their way into the body’s musculature and make themselves at home. One of the key Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (from the Ashtanga Yoga System) is Vitarka Badhane Pratipaksha Bhavanam, which translates to “in the presence of negative thoughts, think of opposite ones.” An almost childishly simple piece of advice, but wiser and more effective than you can imagine. The root of this teaching stems from the knowledge that in any given moment, we have a say in what we point our mind to. In the most extreme of circumstances, we have the ability to not fall victim to them and be at their mercy. We have the ability to focus on areas of least or pleasant sensation when there is physical discomfort or pain. We have the ability to point the mind to a hope, a dream, to faith. We have the ability to direct our thoughts to that which is useful and serves us, especially when our thoughts would get pulled into the chaotic and unpleasant, which is usually what happens. We typically spend our time mulling over what brings us pain and suffering, and so in these moments it is our duty to deprogram initial response and re-point our mind to that which allows us to maintain calm, stay in action and not succumb to fear or pain. That is yoga.

Mathieu is currentFullSizeRenderly in a situation where he has two choices: to either succumb to fear, visualizing how all of this could go even more horribly, or he could re-point his mind to healing, to faith in that healing, to the community of family, friends and loved ones who have gathered around him like protective parents, to getting through this and emerging stronger, more informed and more galvanized than ever to bring this experience with him as he continues to spoil us with his art. His situation is an extreme version of what I discuss in my teachings: moments that we wish would pass quicker than they do and what tools to use to navigate the passage of those moments wisely, in action instead of in reaction. We breath deeply when that’s available, but more importantly we take control of what the mind is focusing on and we refocus it. To light. To faith. To healing. This is his yoga practice.

I have spoken to my students this week about what’s going on with Mathieu so we could dedicate our movement, breath and intentions to not only him, but to others in our lives who could use a little infusion of light, of love, of energy, patience and resilience. I hope and pray that a fraction of all that love has landed with those to whom it was directed.

Matty’s recovery will no doubt be longer than any of us would like it to be, and despite his community having banded together over the past week to raise money for him to not have to worry about living expenses as he gradually makes his way out of this moment, any and all donations will not only be appreciated, they’ll be essential. The only thing we want him to expend energy on is coming back to a fully mobile state, and so I’m including the link to the crowdfunding site where all donations are going. Visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/soutenir-mathieu-leroux#/story to donate whatever you can. Think of Mathieu, even if you don’t know him, and send him your thoughts and good energy. Be grateful for that which we typically take for granted in the pursuit of our goals and dreams: these bodies that allow us to make our way through life, these voices that allow us to express ourselves, this community that we are blessed to be a part of.

Think of Matty and join me and all his network support in gunning for his recovery. We love you Mathieu. You will get through this. We will be here to make sure that happens.