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Marisa Lue Chee Lip

Is Exercise Making You Fat?

By How To, Motivation, News, Students, Teachers No Comments

We all hear it. Losing weight is as simple as eating less and moving more. However, obesity rates continue to skyrocket and people are exercising themselves insane, thinking they are doing everything right with no results. More heath obsessed than ever, we are a nation paradoxically burdened with the highest levels of chronic disease. What gives?

We’ve created an abusive relationship with exercise, like a punishment used to torture the extra calories out of people who lacked the self-control or willpower to say no to that second cupcake. Not only is this a terrible way to connect to movement, but is far from the truth; forcing yourself on a 5 mile run to “burn off” those extra cookies is insane, and not at all intuitive. It doesn’t make sense to say that a piece of bread is the same as walking for 30 minutes, just because of the number of calories (defined as the amount of heat needed to raise 1 gram of water 1˚C ) are equivalent. Besides, we are meant to move, and move with pleasure. Just ask the children galloping around the playground, laughing and chasing each other, climbing trees and running up slides: our bodies were made to move.

 Although your 40 minute treadmill run inevitably burns some extra calories, it is such a small factor in overall weight loss. You could technically eat back those calories, and more, with one muffin. The stress that exercise creates within your system has been shown to tell your body to hold on to any excess weight. Intense, excessive exercise can negatively affect the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, and lead to hypothyroidism, which is known to cause depression, weight gain, and digestive dysfunction.  If it thinks that you are running from a saber tooth tiger every morning, why would it wait to let go of your protective fat? Besides, calories are hardly the most important factor in weight balance. The “calories in, calories out” mantra is oversimplified and outdated. It is now clear that hormones are far more important in the storage and distribution of fat. All growth is primarily hormonal, even horizontal growth.

 However, this is not to say that you should not take up a sport, join a gym, or neglect your body, thinking that your hormones are completely out of your control. Exercise is important in many aspects, and can greatly improve all aspects of your health. However, instead of feeling like you need to guilt yourself into doing those 30 squats, find an activity that you love and find joy in. Lose the mindset that crossfit is better than weight lifting, that sprinting is better than jogging, that soccer is better than Frisbee, that one is better than the other. All types of movement will benefit your sanity, as long as you stay away from the highly toxic mindset that you MUST run every morning to keep off the excess fat. Take your recovery days, switch it up, and remember that it is not necessary to push your body to its absolute limits every single day. Less is more, and attitude is everything. Exercise smarter, not longer.

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The World Doesn’t Revolve Around You (and that’s okay!)

By Featured No Comments

Headphones in, world out, I stood on the subway platform and stared mindlessly at the tracks. Something moved in the shadows, scurrying through the darkness.

I did a double take. What was that?

 

A mouse.

 

Of course, I was in an underground tunnel in the middle of the city. A second look over showed me that it was not alone; there were seven others in my direct view, weaving their way through the tracks. I stared in awe, looking around to see if anyone else was noticing these creatures. Blank stares and iPhone glued eyes told me that I was the only one. In the countless times I had taken the subway, I had never once realized that mice so visibly inhabited the station.

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But that’s life, isn’t it? As lovely as it seems to think that there will always be someone to catch you when you fall, it is the face-slapping truth that ultimately, you are the person most responsible for yourself. Of course you can be there and support your friends and family, but no one will care for you as much as you. The strangers on the street do not care if you’re wearing your navy or grey suit, your kids hardly notice the new way that you styled your hair. You are not the only one that stood in front of the mirror mentally debating which t-shirt will help you make the best impression at your first Broga class, but rest assured you are the only one that cared. Everyone else was just focused on their own t-shirt choice, along with their own personal awareness. I can guarantee that there is nobody who lives their life simply to make you miserable.

 

Just like those mice, we are usually overlooked. But this is not meant to bring you down; in fact, quite the opposite. Realizing that you are not the center of the universe can free your soul. You realize that you can be that crazy person singing and dancing to the music in their head, because no one is putting you on a pedestal. You can let go of that anger you had towards that bus driver who didn’t wait the extra 15 seconds to let you on the bus. He was just doing his job, and would likely be a great person to grab coffee with.

Everyone else is too busy getting their boots to make sure that you brought your umbrella, so get out in the rain and dance. When you realize that self-interest is just that, you’ll learn to find delight in the mice on the subway.

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The Hunt For Your Yoga

By Classes, Featured, How To, News, Students, Teachers No Comments

Mention the word “Yoga” and your mind (unless you’re a Broga student) may conjure that classic Western misconception: rows of women stretching in colorful spandex while an instructor floats around the room, gently instructing the students to breathe, and open their hearts, and radiate positive energy. While this is accurate for some Yoga, there are many different types, varying from the cold (snowga), to the hot (Bikram), to the esoteric, to the spiritual, to the novel (laughter yoga), to the accessible (Broga), to the athletic. Seek information about “Yoga”, online or off, and you’ll be catapulted into this vast world of options with no map and no compass.

So, with new yoga teachers opening new yoga studios and offering new yoga styles all around the world, everyday, how do we, the students, find the yoga that will be best for us?  I mean, how do we efficiently sift through the websites and Yelp reviews and Facebook pages to find the right style, with the right teacher, at the right location, at the right time?

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Kidding Around Yoga

 

Alex Klein, Alex Jaton, and Sven Ernst decided to answer these questions for all of us, by making the world of yoga more transparent and easier to navigate. They founded a site called YogaTrail, a site where yogis are able to “share their experiences and opinions, whether they’re looking for places to practice, people to practice with, teachers, resources to learn from, or just information.”

 

I took some time to check out the website for myself, and was not disappointed. The YogaTrail team has done a beautiful job of displaying information: looking up a yoga studio nearby in Toronto, I was given a small excerpt about the studio, along with a clear display of the prices of classes, amenities, class styles available, and the level of classes that are taught. I was able to glance at the checklist and see if I needed to bring my own mat, if they offered a Mysore class, and find out how much it would be for a drop-in class.

Teachers are rated on their articulation, friendliness, attentiveness, experience, personalization, and spirituality, so I was also able to make an informed decision about which teacher’s class to attend based on my preferences.

Body to Bliss Yoga

Body to Bliss Yoga

 

 

YogaTrail’s one minor shortcoming, if it has one, is simply its relative nascency. While they’ve done an impressive job aggregating tons and tons of information on Yoga Studios and classes around the world, the site’s major value for users will lie in the reviews and ratings provided by others. We all know that power of reviews as we make online shopping/purchasing/planning decisions, so in honor of the phenomenal work being done by the YogaTrail team and as an investment into the future usefulness of the site, review, review, review! If you have an experience, good or bad, share it (with honesty and equanimity of course), on YogaTrail.

 

Overall, YogaTrail is a brilliant idea (that I wish I’d thought of!), a tremendous tool that I’ll be sure to use in the years to come, and a great collection of information and ideas.

 

Oh, there is also a great subsection on yoga retreats, teacher trainings, and events, all of which are neatly presented and well organized you should be sure to check out.

ajalila-gardens

Ajalila Gardens

Make Your Own Medicine

By How To, News No Comments

Staying healthy seems to get more expensive each day. We are constantly bombarded with a new Amazonian superfood, green tea metabolism booster, or immune system gold star power drink that promises to improve our lives twofold. And if marketing wasn’t enough, these dietary supplements, because not regulated by the FDA are able to make various weakly (or not at all!) supported claims, just to get them off the shelves.

 

 

Probiotics fall into this category. Amongst the cloud of consumerism and capitalism, the benefits of taking probiotics are through the roof, as the healthy bowel is home to 100 trillion microorganisms, all of which work together to keep your gut in check: controlling pathogens, aiding in nutrient absorption, and stabilizing immune function. So how can we fuel our bodies with these wonderful microflora, without having to sift through the shelves of expensive health food stores?

 

Photo Courtesy of HealthGaugeEven cats can get weighed down by the supplement market.

Photo Courtesy of HealthGauge
Even cats can get weighed down by the supplement market.

 

Grow your own!

 

Lactobacillus is easier grown than said. With a head of cabbage, a spoonful of salt, and some patience, you can easily make your own probiotics. Fresh cabbage is already full of the bacteria needed for lactofermentation to occur. Fermentation allows the cabbage to be preserved for months (the staple scurvy preventer for sailors and explorers!), making it easier to eat seasonally. In addition, the cabbage becomes more digestible than it was previously, eliminating the naturally occurring goitrogens, which tend to block the production of thyroid hormone and ultimately slow metabolism. Fermented cabbage is also higher in B12, making it ideal for those of us who stay away from animal products. Save money, increase nutrition, and give your taste buds a treat, in four easy steps.

1. Wash your cabbage and grab a knife. Slice the cabbage into small pieces, trimming out the core. Smaller pieces are ideal, as an increase in surface area will help make the process more efficient. Throw this all in a big mixing bowl.

2. For every liter of cabbage, add a teaspoon of salt. My cabbage worked out to be about two liters, but vegetables come in many different sizes! Mix in any variety of onions, carrots, greens, spices (fennel, dill, coriander, dill). Just try to keep it under 20 percent of the total.

3. Start massaging the vegetables. Really get into it, and knead it like dough. It should start getting soft, as the salt draws out the water through osmosis.

4. Wait about 30 minutes, and massage again. The juices should really be flowing now. Pack it into a mason jar, about ¾ of the way full. Make sure the shreds are completely submerged in the liquid, but don’t pack it to the brim, or the expanding gases will crack the jar.

5. Cover the jar tightly and let it sit, room temperature, for 3 days. You may have to push the cabbage back under the liquid to aid in preservation and prevent the growth of mold. After that, move it to the refrigerator or a cellar. In four more days, it should be ready to eat.

 

Keep in mind that due to variables in temperature, altitude, humidity, and ingredients, none of these instructions are set in stone. The best way to figure out times is to simply taste your fermenting cabbage. No worries, not much can go wrong. Bubbling, foam, and white scum are all part of the process, and it is still safe to eat, as the sauerkraut is preserved by lactic acid. Any mold can simply be scooped off. However, use your best judgment.

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Don’t skimp on quality! Fresh, organic cabbage is worth the extra few dollars. Head out to the farmer’s market, and get your cabbage seasonally, all the while supporting your local farmer and making connection with your food. Enjoy the process, and feel free to ask questions, and let me know how your sauerkraut turns out!

Your Four-Minute Mile

By Events, How To, Motivation, News, Students, Teachers No Comments

In April 1954, it was said that it was impossible to run a mile in under four minutes. Scientists and doctors said that the human body could not physically achieve such a feat; it would be too much stress on the body, and one would die trying. And so formed a public consensus that it could not be done.

 

To this day, there have been 20,000 athletes who have done just that, running 5280 feet in less than four minutes. What changed?

 

May 6th, 1954. Meet Roger Bannister, Englishman. He sharpens his racing spikes and rubs them with graphite, waiting for the wind to calm, waiting to run his race. At 6pm, the race begins. 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds later, it is over. Rodger Bannister has crossed the finish line, becoming the first athlete to break the four minute barrier.

It was hardly a matter of physical training that set him apart. His biggest difference was in his mindset, not scared of the professionals that said he couldn’t. He knew that possibilities are limitless, and that thoughts become beliefs. He believed in himself, put his mind to it, and achieved.

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Photo Credit: addedentry

 

Just to prove how powerful the mind is, let’s look at Bannister’s second record: the record for holding a record for the shortest amount of time. In just 42 days, John Landly completed a 3:57.9 mile. Roger got the ball rolling, and pushed the world to believe that the sub-4 minute mile is completely possible.

 

Looking at this athletic feat in a broader sense, we find that the common denominator of success is mindset.

 

My coach always put it like this. Calling us into a huddle, he would instruct one of us to try to pick up the volleyball. When the ball was easily lifted into the air, he would pick it up and set it back on the floor, instructing again that we must try to pick up the ball; that there is a huge difference between attempt and success. You cannot aim for mediocrity, your eye must always be on the prize.

 

That prize is worth it, and its journey is unique to everyone. Your four minute mile is far from impossible, if you just start with your mind.

Photo Credit: The World According to Marty

Photo Credit: The World According to Marty

 

“The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win” – Roger Bannister

 

Vegetarian meat?

By Events, Featured, Uncategorized 2 Comments

While we know there is not one perfect way to eat, the paleolithic diet is becoming more prominent throughout the health and fitness world. While this type of eating is very plant based, we know that its basic outline includes good sources of animal protein. Those that follow this mindset may find the benefits in the B12, zinc, magnesium, iron, and vitamin D (among others) found in such high quantities in meat, but perhaps do not see the ethical or very political side of the meat industry.

 

Andras Forgacs has proposed a solution. Or, the answer, depending on how you see it.

Image Courtesy of James Duncan Davidson

 

In his TED talk found here, Forgacs explains the idea of biofabrication, where cells can be used to grow biological products, like tissue. This process started with the desire to 3D print human organs, and has since been successful in culturing and planting skin, ears, windpipes, blood vessels, and bone into the human body. He was then asked, why not meat?

 

As he explains in his talk, the biofabrication of meat would be a humane and sustainable way of feeding the world.  Currently, livestock uses 33 percent of our ice free land, 8 percent of our global water, and 18 percent of our greenhouse gases, not to mention the mindless slaughter of
“complex and sentient animals” that are so much more than just raw materials, Andres continues. Growing the meat would be similar to that of brewing beer. The cells would be sourced from the animals, and grown in meat breweries, in which he presents the idea of “touring this facility, learning about how the leather or meat is cultured, seeing the process from beginning to end, and even trying some”. With studies measuring the net lifecycle impact of the cultured meat show that it requires 99 percent less land, 96 percent less water, and 96 percent less greenhouse gas emissions. Along with a clean conscience, the biofabrication of meat is nothing from perfect.

What if this was grown in a lab?
Image Courtesy of www.freeimages.co.uk

 

Not so fast.

 

Ever since World War II, we have moved into the industrial side of agriculture. War making industries needed somewhere to sell their products, so they made tanks into tractors and poison gases into pesticides. We began to turn to monocultures and genetic engineering, making wheat, rice, and corn that were resistant to disease and caused the death of any pest that dared a taste. Knowledge of farming, like knowing crop rotation and cover cropping was irrelevant, as the fertilizer NPK became popular, because all our produce needs to be beautiful and lush are the elements nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

 

But we now see the effect of efficiency; we see that plants need over 21 elements to thrive, providing us with the proper nutrition. Honeybees are disappearing, unable to find pollen from the weeds that no longer grow. As crops are scarcely grown seasonally, mother birds struggle getting past the thick stalks of corn to the soil and finding earthworms for their hungry chicks in the spring. Allergies and food sensitivities are on the rise, and studies have been pointing to the way that the DNA of many common crops today has been manipulated and crossed with countless species that were never supposed to mate. Animals are being injected with antibiotics before they are even sick, given growth hormones to produce more meat. Small towns that used to center around their family farms have turned been abandoned, run out by huge businesses like Monsanto.

 

With all the efficiency of industry, we have gained quantity, but lost so much quality. While not much is known yet about the culturing of meat, the history that humans have with attempting to manipulate and improve nature is not outstanding. We seem to overestimate the simplicity of the abundance that the earth has to offer. We don’t just need the protein of meat, or the carbs of wheat. Food is so much more than micro and macronutrients, offering vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, polyphenols, antioxidants, and so much more that we cannot even begin to understand. The production of meat (and food in general) does not, and should not, be linear. Look back to your 3rd grade food chain: the sun feeds the grass which feed the cow which feeds the human, the waste of all of these are decomposed and made into nutritious humus that plants are able to absorb and start the cycle all over again. Livestock do not have to be this ticking time bomb of disease, but of course if they are injected with toxins, then they will be toxic.

 

Image Courtesy of www.freeimages.co.uk

Image Courtesy of www.freeimages.co.uk

While this does not directly correlate with the biofabrication of meat, it is proof that our disconnection from nature is incredibly damaging. Instead of further stressing this relationship, we should move towards engaging with our food and supporting the local farms that can provide us with high quality meat and produce that have based their energy in the sun and soil, and are able to bring eating back full circle.

 

However, culturing meat could be the future. What do you think?

The Health Benefits of Bacon and Butter

By News, Students, Teachers, Uncategorized No Comments

It’s most highly concentrated in coconut oil, and its health benefits are through the roof. However, its reputation is terribly negative, second only to that of trans fats. Can you guess what it is?

 

The answer: Saturated fat

 

Moving past the dogma of low fat, high carbohydrate fad, many of us now realize that low-fat just means high sugar, and high sugar equals more insulin, and more insulin leads to stored fat. You are likely familiar with the health benefits and necessity of unsaturated fatty acids like EPA and DHA found in cold water fish, but saturated fat also proves just as essential. But in what ways can butter, coconut oil, lard, and rib-eye steaks improve your health?

Image Courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

1. Lower cardiovascular risk

Saturated fat reduces the levels of lipoprotein (a), a substance found to be strongly correlated with the risk of heart disease. It also increases your level of HDL (good cholesterol).

 

2. Bone strength

The fat within these foods also contribute to bone strength, as your body cannot effectively incorporate calcium into your bones without it. For this reason, Mary Enig, Ph.D, recommends that 50 percent of your fats should be saturated.

 

3. Liver cleanliness

A fatty liver is damaging to your health and can eventually lead to cirrhosis.  However, the saturated fat that you eat does not directly convert to fat in your liver. On the contrary, adding saturated fat into your diet encourages the liver cells to dump their fat content, additionally protecting the liver from the toxicity of alcohol. The liver’s key role in a healthy metabolism connects the consumption of saturated fat to fat loss.

 

4. Strong lungs

Saturated fatty acids make up 100 percent of your lung’s airspace coating, essential for the function of the lungs. The absence of these fats will lead to the collapse of these airspaces and breathing will become difficult. In fact, some researchers theorize that the rise in asthma is linked to the fact that children have replaced saturated fats with hydrogenated fats, which do not correctly support the structure of the lungs.

 

5. Brain building

Did you know that your brain is made largely of fat and cholesterol? EPA and DHA are still important, but the fat found in butter, coconut oil, lard, and meat is more so, as a majority of the fatty acids in your brain are saturated. Without the proper materials, it is impossible for your body to put together the best functioning brain.

 

Image Courtesy of cooldesign / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Courtesy of cooldesign / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

6. Fat loss

To get your metabolism cranking, eat more saturated fat! This type of fat directly signals the nerve signals that influence metabolism, leveling out the release of insulin and keeping fat storage to a minimum.

 

7. Strong immune system

The myristic and lauric acid in butter and coconut oil keep the immune system healthy, helping your white blood cells identify and destroy viruses, bacteria, and fungi. To prove the wholesomeness of saturated fat, it may be important to note that human breast milk is rich in both myristic and lauric acid, killing germs and protecting the immune system of an infant, and is needed throughout the lifetime in order to keep an immune system alert and attentive against cancer development and infections.

 

Give saturated fat a chance. Your body (and taste buds) will thank you.

 

 

What’s simplest thing you can do to improve your health, happiness, and sanity?

By How To, Students, Teachers No Comments

Sleep. 

Since we were little, chances are that our parents have always bugged us about getting more sleep. From 7pm bedtimes to afternoon naps, they knew that getting their toddlers and children to sleep would result in their better overall mood, preventing crankiness and tantrums in the grocery store when refused a chocolate bar. However, resistance was usually strong, especially as we grew older; not wanting to miss out on what was happening after our parents sent us to bed.

This is perhaps the biggest reason that 60 percent of adults do not get enough sleep: we do not think it’s worth it. Why sleep when we have 30 more hours of work to do? Why sleep when we could go out partying and having fun with our friends? Why sleep and be judged for being lazy, and miss out on life?

The answer is simple. A lack of rest leads to a compromised conscious life. When we sleep, both our bodies and minds are rejuvenated, reducing chronic inflammation and reducing stress. Only during the late, deep stages of sleep can our bodies relax and prepare to grow and repair our tissue. Our memories replay and our thoughts consolidate, boosting our memory. It is here when hormones like ghrelin and leptin are released, which help us feel hunger and fullness. Because of this, an off balance of these hormones can lead to weight gain. Factoring into this that our late nights are often connected to unhealthy snacking, and it spells out disaster, and studies show that sleeping for only five hours a night increases your risk of being overweight by 73 percent.

These likely look way more appealing late at night.

These likely look way more appealing late at night.

However, just being scared of sleep deprivation isn’t enough. There’s a reason that most adults spend 7.5 hours in bed, but only 6.1 hours asleep. Here are a few techniques to fall asleep quickly and get a better nights rest.

 

 

1. Step away from the screen.

As loud as that latest episode of Breaking Bad is calling your name, it should wait. Researchers are finding that the artificial light from electronic devices lower levels of the hormone melatonin by an average of 22 percent, disrupting our internal clocks and messing with our natural sleep cycles. At least an hour before bed, stay away from all electronic screens.

2. Grab some almonds.

If you’re hungry, eat! However, shy away from high sugar or very processed foods, which will give you a short energy high and then a crash. Nuts are perfect bedtime snacks, the magnesium will help your muscles relax, and Omega 3s and healthy fats will digest slowly and keep your blood sugar levels stable.

3.  Drink some tea.

The warmth of the drink will calm and relax both your body and mind. Make sure you’re staying away from caffeine, instead brewing herbal teas like chamomile, sage, or valerian lemon balm. Herbal teas are theorized to have anti-anxiety and calming effects because of its flavonoid compound, apidenin.

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4. Increased sunlight exposure in the daytime.

Especially if you’ve been traveling, it helps to establish a routine, and get your body in time with the sun. Wake up at a reasonable time Increasing your daytime exposure to the sun will regulate the release of melatonin, both a hormone and a powerful antioxidant released when the retina senses the light is low and it is time to sleep.

5. Get comfortable.

This likely goes without saying, but falling asleep when you’re hot, stressed, and hungry is almost impossible. Create an environment that will promote your slumber. A cool, dark, and quiet room is best. Grab that handful of almonds, calm your internal stressors, and avoid staring at the clock, doing the constant math to find the hours of sleep you will get “if I fall asleep in the next five minutes…”

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6. Exercise.

Getting active will help you fall asleep faster and more deeply, simply because you will be more tired. However, because exercise causes the body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol, causing the brain to go on alert, so it helps to keep the exercise to at least three hours before bed. However, a very mellow yoga or meditation practice right before bed will calm and relax your body. Just stay away from the chaturangas!

7. If you can’t sleep, nap.

Embrace your inner toddler. Instead of being tired and cranky for the rest of the day, take a nap in the morning or right after lunch, to avoid the deep and slow-wave sleep in the late afternoon caused by human circadian rhythms. The original 20 minute power nap has proven to be the most effective, improving muscle memory and clearing the brain of useless information, strengthening the long-term memory, and helping you remember your co-workers names.

 

Commit to sleeping more. You’ll look better, feel better, and be more productive.

As this baby proves, you can sleep anywhere.

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