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Archive | December 2011

It’s definitely getting HOT in here…

Driving around most major towns, you will come across a wide array of signs, buildings and advertisements.  There was one place that stuck out in my mind; this place is called “HOT”BIKRAM YOGA. Over the years, I must have passed by this building a million times without even batting an eye. I’m starting to think the reason I became more aware of this particular yoga spot was because of my martial arts training. I’m also starting to think that because I already had the tai chi, kung-fu, qigong, meditation; there really wasn’t any valid reason for me to pay any extra money if I didn’t have to.  Not only would it have been an added expense, to sign up for classes, but I wouldn’t have the time to dedicate myself to it either.

I was getting the complete package, so to speak, with my martial arts training already. I had somewhat of an idea of the basic premise of what yoga was all about…stretching. I           already stretch, before any kind of workout, to get the muscles all warmed up. My thinking was why would I go there to stretch even more than I already do? When I thought about that question, I remembered something very valuable that my martial arts instructors told me; my techniques are getting better but I’m still lacking in the overall flexibility department. To be successful in any martial art training, you need to be flexible and limber and I needed that added boost.

So, I got to thinking and I decided to take my first “hot” yoga class, at the place I passed by for the past ten years or so. I went on a Saturday morning and I luckily had a friend that was willing to try it out with me. When we got inside of the place, we were told that one class was ten dollars; which included a mat, water and a towel. We took our shoes off and walked right into the “HOT” room, where the class was going to take place. I do not lie when I tell you that the room felt like going right from Antarctica, the outside, to the Sahara Desert, the inside, within a matter of seconds. I’ve been to Florida in August, at its hottest level, and never felt anything quite like the heat that was developing in the room.

After a few minutes of getting used to the transition in temperature, my friend and I started to stretch on our mats before the class officially began. I have to say that I was a little intimidated, initially, because the other students were putting their legs around their head and just lounging. I was lucky if I touched my toes and held it for a second or two. I kept telling myself that this person probably didn’t start out wrapping their legs around their head at first; they were probably in the same boat as my friend and I were when they started out. Like Bill Murray said in, “What About Bob?”, it’s all about taking baby steps!!!

At this point, the class had just begun and the teacher walked in the room. Before I got started in the various poses, I was a little distracted on what the instructor was wearing; he had on beach flip flops and a classic, B.U.M. Equipment tank top. As you can plainly see, it was hard for my friend and I to stay focused while the teacher’s wardrobe choice was actually taking place in real life. After about ten minutes or so, I finally started to focus on what I was there for in the first place. It wasn’t too bad for me, at least initially, because I’m used to hardcore, rigorous training at my martial arts school anyway. The more the class went on, my friend and I looked at each other like we were about to pass out, right on the floor. We kept stopping for sips of water and to get rid of the river of sweat coming down our faces.

After an hour and a half class, it was finally over. The teacher really put on a great class and kept us motivated throughout. No joke, it took about ten minutes for my friend and me to finally get up off the floor from pure exhaustion. I got back home and took a shower and felt very, very, I repeat, very relaxed afterwards. I will now do Hot Yoga from time to time, to get a great workout and most importantly, a quality stretch. It has also helped with my Martials arts training as well and I actually see how flexible I’m becoming, little by little. I definitely suggest anyone and everyone to get out there and checkout your local Yoga spots. You never know, you’re teacher might be wearing similar clothing as my instructor was. That is all the more reason to get out there and do some yoga.

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An allergy-free cereal is one bowl away.

I never thought that I would be devoting a weekly blog post to pay homage to a cereal brand, but here I am. Who would have thought? There are many reasons why I can’t get enough of this particular cereal brand; the taste is amazing, it’s filling, and it’s clutch for any time of the day. The brand, that I can’t keep my hands away from, is Kashi’s new line of organic cereal.

Sure, there are a number of cereals that have the organic label on them but this one is a little different. I found out the hard way, when I nearly scratched my face and neck off, that just because it says organic on it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s allergy-free. What makes  it different is for the fact that this line of Kashi is made in a totally separate factory that “doesn’t” operate with tree nuts, peanuts, walnuts, and any other nut for that matter. After I read the back of the label, I just wanted to be on the safe side so I gave the company a ring on the phone to clarify.

The representative there had verified for me that the organic line operates in a totally separate facility. They went on to tell me that they have two factories; one that is allergy-free and the other not so much. After I hung up the phone, I was so ecstatic that I attempted to do a back flip  right there in my kitchen. I’m glad that I thought this one through and I decided to just jump up and down in joyous bliss. This was definitely a safer alternative, not only for me but also for everything that was in the kitchen.

Going down the cereal aisle  in the supermarket had become somewhat of a dread for me. I would see all these nutritious, tasty looking cereals and I couldn’t wait to get back home and go to town on them. The only obstacle in my way now is what the dreaded “label” has to say on the side of the box. Once I find a cereal that I like, I almost have to cross my fingers and hope for the best. Nine out of ten times, I will see the worse group of words for people with severe allergies could possibly come across…”made in a factory that handles all kinds of nuts.”

If you have food allergies, like I do, it becomes a hardship when you have to go shopping for cereal, and food all around. That has changed for the better now and we have the option to munch on something without breaking out into an itching spell. Another reason to attempt some backflips, or jump for joy, is that the Kashi Organics line has finally arrived in all major supermarkets. You no longer have to shop online and have your cereal delivered to your front door several days later. You can go right down the road now, whenever you want.

Another added bonus is that the line of Kashi Organics has so many different choices to choose from; Island Vanilla (All-time favorite of mine), Autumn Harvest, Cinnamon Harvest and Strawberry Fields to just name a few. If you suffer from severe allergies, give it a whirl if you’re looking for a change of pace and a top notch taste:))

Enjoy your time this weekend with your family and friends!!! Until next week,

Jon Waters

 

 

Meditation made the easy way!!

When people  first think of meditating, they usually associate it with having to sit upright with your legs crossed over one another. That is then followed by us taking our middle finger and connecting it with our thumb, as our hands rest on our knees. We will then start chanting something along the lines of, hummmmmmmmmmm, for several minutes. That is what most of us perceive as the “proper” way to meditate.

That is exactly what I thought meditation was before I started my Shaolin Arts training. I have started to learn, over the past five and a half years, that there is much more to meditating than just sitting Indian style on the floor. Shi Gung Gregg Zilb, my head martial arts instructor, has taught me that there are a number of ways to truly meditate. Believe it or not, you can actually meditate by just lying flat on the ground, in your bed or on the floor. The position almost resembles a snow angel that you make outside when you’re younger . Nine out of ten times, I will  meditate right before bed in the lying flat position. It is one of my favorite ways to center myself before catching up on some zzzz’s.

In Tai Chi/Qigong classes, we also do what My teacher refers to as moving meditations. The main premise is to work on building chi, or energy, throughout the body while we are moving forward. My Shi Gung has also shown me how to even meditate while I’m standing straight up. After a few times of doing it standing, I went through some natural healing books that I have and they all say the same thing ,as what my teacher always says, that standing meditations are one of the best ways to meditate. Not only are you training your mind and spirit but your body is getting quite a workout and I can totally attest to that. After just ten minutes of standing, I will start to feel my legs and shoulders shaking like I’m doing some awkward dance maneuver or something.

There are other ways to meditate and focus your minds without having to technically sit and “meditate”, so to speak. Sometimes when I’m writing, especially at the current moment, I get so focused on what I’m doing  that I feel I can write for days on end without stopping even for a second. Nothing distracts me and I just keep going and going. I also started to see the connection musicians make with their instruments they’re playing.  They become so connected, and in tune, with that they’re doing that nothing can deter them. A good example of that is when Jimi Hendrix was doing his set at Woodstock ’69, also one of the most memorable performances in rock n’ roll history, where it seemed like he was so preoccupied with what he was doing that nothing could take his concentration away from his guitar during his entire set.

So, all in all, there are a slew of ways to feel connected and relaxed without having to be a so-called, avid “meditator.” In the case that you’re looking for a quality top notch caliber school in the Long Island area, then check out, http://www.shaolinlohan.com. You will not be disappointed and it will hopefully become addictive like a drug but a good, healthy one of course. I guarantee you will want to keep coming back for more and more 🙂

Nothing quite like a hike!!!

I’ve been going hiking, whenever I can find an hour or two, for the past few years. Initially, I looked at hiking as an extra calorie burn to my already intensive, daily kung-fu training. After a couple times of going to the various spots around me, I started to realize that hiking was more than just another physical exercise. The first thing I noticed is how inviting and peaceful everyone is that I come across when I’m walking by. The sad thing is that I only see people smiling at one another, being somewhat civil , when I’m out doing some hiking.

Throughout my entire twenty-eight years of living, I think I’ve seen more hellos, smiles, and friendly gestures in the past couple years hiking than I have ever seen at any restaurant, store, shopping center, movie theater etc. That is why I love hiking so much because, for me and most of my friends that hike as well, it’s an escape for us in one way or another. An escape from the everyday struggles, hardships and things like monetary stress, relationship issues or anything else that your mind is seemingly consumed by. I can remember once walking through some trails, with two of my good  friends, and telling them to stand still for a minute. I told them to just listen and hear what is happening around us. After about twenty seconds or so, my one friend said he couldn’t hear anything at all. I responded by saying you’re exactly right, that is the point. All you could hear is the leaves blowing around and birds chirping in the distance. The rest of what you could hear was absolute stillness, nature at its finest. That is why I say there is nothing quite like a hike….

Food really does matter!

Over the past few years, there has been an abundance of documentaries focusing on what humans are putting inside their bodies. Thanks to the help of the internet, I have come across a slew of these kinds of films. There was none more informative than, “Food Matters”, that was released back in 2008. What I think puts this film apart from the others, especially for me, is that it focuses on the need to stop relying on pills, shots and creams for every problem. It was good to hear that because the Western culture has become a tad bit pill happy as of late. There seems to be pills for just about everything imaginable, even for things like having fun and laughing too much. There is a definitely a time and place for those kinds of approaches but not for chronic, lifelong issues.  Throughout the roughly hour and a half movie, you start to see that all the interviewees come to the same conclusions…proper nutrition and exercise is the key to a healthy life. It seems like a rather simplistic notion but how many people truly understand what that really means?

The other parts of the film went on to talk about how our food is being cultivated.  How many people are aware that a good portion of the fruits and vegetables, in all the major supermarkets, are being sprayed with synthetic chemicals, pesticides and herbicides. I didn’t realize that until I saw this movie and I’m glad that I found out now and not later.

According to the Organic Valley website,  a good number of  pesticides are known to pose significant, acknowledged health risks to people—including birth defects, damage to the nervous system; disruption of hormones and endocrine systems; respiratory disorders; skin and eye irritations; and various types of cancers.

  • Exposure to persistent organic pollutants through diet has been linked to breast and other types of cancer, immune system suppression, nervous system disorders, reproductive damage, and disruption of hormonal systems.1
  • Male Reproductive Development: Hormone-disrupting chemicals in commercial pesticides have been linked to testicular cancer and low sperm counts in men, and to birth defects in baby boys.2
  • Public health costs associated with pesticide-related acute poisonings and cancer alone, add up to an estimated $1.1 billion dollars per year.3
  • Parkinson’s disease has been linked to pesticide exposure. 4

Organic Valley goes on to state that organic growers use biological and cultural practices to handle pests, including  crop rotation, the selection of resistant varieties, nutrient and water management, the provision of habitat for the natural enemies of pests, and release of beneficial organisms to protect crops from damage. A few years back, when I first saw this amazing documentary, I started to shop at specific grocery stores and only looked for the organic labels. They might cost a little more but my thinking is that I would rather put something in my body that does more good than harm.

All in all, I highly recommend this film for anyone and everyone. Even making minor changes in your diet might be all you need to feel better in the long run. I leave you with this timeless quote,

“Isn’t it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do “practice”?”
George Carlin

References

  1. “Nowhere to Hide: Persistent Toxic Chemicals in the U.S. Food Supply,” by Kristin Schafer, Pesticide Action Network North America, 2000 (www.panna.org).
  2. Sharpe, Richard. “Men under threat: The decline in male reproductive health and the potential role of exposure to chemicals during in-utero development.” Briefing by ChemTrust: http://www.chemtrust.org.uk/Press_and_Media.php
  3. “Promoting Sustainable Food Systems through Organic Agriculture: Past, Present and Future,” Christine McCullum-Gomez, C., and Riddle, J. HEN Post: Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Practice Group of the American Dietetic Association, Spring 2009. www.hendpg.org
  4. Costello, et al., “Parkinson’s Disease and Residential Exposure to Maneb and Paraquat From Agricultural Applications in the Central Valley of California,” AMerican Journal of Epidemiology, published January
  5. http://www.organicvalley.coop/why-organic/pesticides

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