3 Keys to Healing

 In All, Alvin Tam, Balance, Healing Advice, Health, Meditation, Miscellaneous, Yoga

by Alvin

My focus this last week is to focus on the physical body. Often, the solutions for health are the simplest ones, the foundational things that really matter. Here are three things I’ve begun to concentrate on in the last 7 days: sleep, diet and yoga.

SLEEPING ADEQUATELY

In addition to my life as a yoga studio owner, I’m also a freelance filmmaker. This means that I’m also sitting in front of a computer, sometimes late into the night. Once I get going on my edits or learning a new video tutorial, I can lose track of time.

Jada, my wife and Herb Yogi, is encouraging me to sleep earlier, getting to bed at around 10:00pm. It feels early to me, when I’m used to burning the midnight oil on projects until 1:00am but truthfully, nobody can sustain a healthy lifestyle without good sleeping habits.

I’ve noticed that good sleep is influenced by three factors: duration of sleep, when you go to sleep and what you do before you sleep.

Jada recommends 7-8 hours of sleep for adults, and for us, going to bed at around 10:00pm works for our schedule. We have a 4-year old son and his internal alarm clock rings at 7:00am so there’s no option for us to sleep late. Ever. 🙂

As for what you do before sleep, I notice a huge difference between using technology and not using technology before sleeping. On the nights that I meditate or sit in silence to reflect on my day, my sleep is more restful. There are even studies that show that light-emitting screens decrease your ability to rest well by suppressing melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep cycles.

I love to watch movies or read my e-books before sleep, so I might consider getting a non-light emitting Kindle or go back to old-fashioned paper books.

ADJUSTING DIET

There are thousands and thousands of recommendations for diet. I’ve experimented with quite a few, from gluten-free, to high protein, to no protein, to eating whatever I feel like eating. I think I’ve found a pretty good balance for me although I’m constantly learning by reading and integrating elements of nutritional research into my lifestyle.

I used to enjoy starting the day with a tall blender of a green smoothie. I would throw every fruit into the blender, add greens and fill it up with rice milk. It was filling and delicious, and then I would get to work on my computer to take care of daily tasks.

I noticed that while the ingredients were healthy, I was firing up my body with a high dose of natural sugars – and then sitting at a computer for my administrative and marketing work. It wasn’t a good combination.

I’m experimenting now with grains and proteins to start the day. I’ve observed that a bowl of oatmeal or quinoa keeps me full without being heavy but I don’t experience the sugar spike of a smoothie.

DIET AND EMOTIONS

The most important element to diet however isn’t as much the type of food as it is the intake amount and when I eat – and why. Prior to my accident, eating voraciously wasn’t really an issue, since I knew I would be moving and exercising. After my accident however, moving wasn’t an option but my intake habits didn’t change and I ended up gaining around 15 pounds. My approach to eating also needed to change.

I’m balancing the need to eat for sustainability and the desire to eat for pleasure. As I eat, I’m trying to bring conscious awareness to the emotions I experience. When I teach my Conscious Meditation class, I ask my students to become aware of their emotions. It’s a pathway to presence and an essential process to flush the psyche of negative energy and open the doorway to experience joy and love. The emotions behind why we eat are equally as important because the physical act of trying to just stop eating too much often fails.

I’ve observed that an emotion that arises when I eat too much is the sense of guilt – but not guilt for eating too much. It’s the sense of guilt for wasting food or leaving food on the table, so in turn, I eat even if I’ve had enough. It’s my way of not contributing to the waste on the planet.

The key to emotional release is constant surrender. I will continue to practice emotional surrender by releasing feelings of guilt as I eat to see how it affects my natural desire for food intake. We already know that mental self-battery for overeating is ineffective because it doesn’t uncover the root of the action. Emotional awareness is always the first step in behavioral change.

YOGA

I’m blessed to be working with some of the best yoga teachers in Las Vegas. I attended Astrid’s Expressive Yoga class last week, and am discovering more about my body’s current capacities. For example, any kind of twisting is extremely challenging for me and rolling on a mat is out of the question. These were very easy movements for me prior to my accident, so I’m experiencing yoga from a completely new perspective.

The emotional journey for recovery is vastly different from the experience of someone who is beginning for the first time. A newcomer may find a class difficult but be challenged by the experience. A person who is recovering from an accident or from years of physical neglect, is constantly comparing his or her performance against past standards.

While physical improvement is simply a matter of time, the actual challenge is the surrender of the comparative attitude, which is experienced as the emotion of shame. Shame, relative to all other human emotions, is the emotion with the least amount of energy for change and is what you feel when you feel inferior to others in comparison. By contrast, when you feel superior to others in comparison, it is experienced as the emotion of pride. Both emotions require surrender in order to evolve.

My challenge on the mat is to surrender sensations of shame. My thoughts sound like “I used to be able to hold this pose” or “I can’t believe my back hurts this much when I do this move”. They are echos of a shameful state, which requires me to surrender constantly, especially during yoga.

Astrid’s classes are phenomenal and open to me to move at my own pace. For me however the full benefit of her class came at end in the form of a spiritual realization that detachment and present moment is our true reality, when she read these words to us:

We are so powerful, yet so fragile
So excellent and yet so imperfect
So miraculous and yet so mundane

These strengths give us hope and determination
These weaknesses give us humility and humanity
When fullness comes, enjoy it
When emptiness comes, accept that too

Namaste,
Alvin.

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