Intro to Biohacking

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I am always on the hunt for ways to improve my health and wellness. I like to stay up to date on recent research and studies done in the field of health and wellness. When I came across Biohacking I immediately thought “This makes sense” and I wanted to find out all I could on Biohacking. So what the heck is Biohacking?

Now I am just a newbie to the Biohacking community, but in the simplest terms, Biohacking is using science backed tools or “hacks” to improve our overall wellbeing. Biohacking combines the words “Biology” with “hacking” meaning a Biohacker “hacks” their bodies to improve their health and become the best versions of themselves possible.

These “hacks” include using medical, nutritional, physical and electronic tools or techniques to improve the quality of certain areas of our health. These areas include our physical condition, sleep, and nutrition among others. Biohacking is a powerful way to achieve your health and wellness goals and make some major changes in your life.

Biohackers use tools to track the different areas of their health and wellness. For instance, a simple tool would be using a fitness tracker such as a Fitbit. You can track your water intake, nutrition, fitness and activity levels as well as sleep. Then use this data to find ways to work to improve your over health and wellbeing.

Some easy ways to begin Biohacking are as follows:

  • Eat the Right Nutrition – most hackers follow the Bulletproof, Paleo or Primal Diets
  • Add Bulletproof coffee to your morning routine
  • Spend more time outside – playing in nature, breathing fresh air, expose yourself to sunlight, etc.
  • Meditate – to raise awareness and improve stress levels, memory function and more
  • Track Your Sleep – and find ways to improve it such as going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, avoiding electronics for at least an hour before bed, and using binaural beats or meditation to help you fall asleep faster
  • Try Cold Therapy – this can include cryotherapy, ice baths or simply finishing your shower with a blast of cold water for a few seconds

As I dig deeper into the Biohacking community and work to hack my own health, fitness and wellness I will be sharing my journey and discoveries here on my blog. I’d love to hear from you if you have any Biohacking tips or tools I should try out.

Pilates vs. Yoga

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When I meet people and tell them I teach Yoga and Pilates, the number one question I get is always “Isn’t Pilates just stretching like Yoga?” That would be a big “NO!” If you have ever taken both a Yoga and Pilates mat class you might notice some similarities. In fact Joseph Pilates, the creator of Pilates, was inspired by Yoga and practiced Yoga himself.

But the two are very different in many ways. It really is like apple to oranges.

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The Origin –

Yoga is thousands of years old and was created in India. Yoga was initially created as a spiritual practice, it’s only now in the modern, Western world that is become more about the physical fitness practice of yoga; with the focus being more on the postures and the physical practice.

Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates in the 20th century as a form of strengthening and rehabilitation. It is first and foremost a physical fitness practice. Pilates focuses on a practice that brings together the mind and the body. Yoga adds in the element of spirituality and  focuses on unifying the body, mind and spirit.

The Benefits –

Both practices offer many great benefits including strength, flexibility, stress relief and awareness of the body and breath. Pilates focuses more on building strength, particularly in the core area.

Yoga benefits include relaxation, focus on breathing, and the addition of meditation.

Pilates benefits also include the guiding Principals: control, centering, concentration, precision, breath, and flow. Pilates also puts a great focus on building better posture and muscular balance.

A Typical Class – 

This is really where the two begin to differ. Yoga now has many different styles, so how the class is structured is based on the style of the teacher. Classes will focus on a flowing series of yoga poses, sometimes the poses may be held for a few breaths. Often the moment is coordinated with the breath, particularly in the Vinyasa style of Yoga.

Most classes will begin with some mediation and maybe even chanting. Pretty much every Yoga class will end in Savasana, a final resting pose. Yoga combines standing postures, seated postures, supine and prone postures.

In Pilates you can take mat or equipment classes. Mat Pilates classes most often feature the traditional order of exercises that Joseph Pilates created. When taking a Mat class with a traditional teacher, you can expect the same order of exercises and a structured class. This helps the student to learn the order and focus on working on proper alignment and progressing the exercises. The focus of the class is a great all over body workout, but mainly the work is on building a stronger core or Powerhouse.

In a Pilates class you will move the whole time. The Pilates exercises are not static, meaning you don’t hold poses like you would in Yoga. You are meant to keep the body moving both during the exercises as well as from one exercise to the next. Most of the Pilates exercises are done on a mat, in a supine (on the back) position.

So Which One is Right For You?

So which one is right for you? It really depends on your goal for starting your practice. As you can see there are some overlapping qualities of both. Give both a try and see which one you connect with the most. I highly recommend a practice that includes both and no I’m not talking about Yogalates or PiYo (which are neither Yoga or Pilates), but add both to your fitness routine. I recommend to my students 1 – 2 classes a week of both.

Some people will connect with one over the other. Maybe you want a kick ass workout that focuses on strength. Then Pilates might be for you. Maybe you need a calming class with time to just sit and silence and learn to breath again. Then Yoga is for you. Give each a try and see which one you resonate with the most. Yoga isn’t for everyone and Pilates isn’t for everyone. You’ll only know once you’ve tried both.

As one of my friends said “I’m more interested in learning Pilates, because Yoga doesn’t appeal to me. I have no desire to stand around like a tree” Personally, I love standing around like a tree.

Client Spotlight: Marianne

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If you follow this blog or follow me on any social media platform, you may have seen the quote above. It truly is my mission to share the message that both Yoga and Pilates are indeed for everybody, regardless of your age, body type, fitness level, and any injuries or medical conditions you may have.

I’m very passionate about what I do, so I am always talking to people about the benefits of Yoga and Pilates (as well as good nutrition and meditation). I’ve heard every excuse in the book too…”I’m not thin enough”, “I’m not flexible enough”, “I have _____ problem with _____”.  First, I kindly call BS to all of these excuses. Then I educate them on how they can make a Yoga or Pilates practice accessible to themselves, and how I can help.

If you are working with a certified and trained teacher, there are modifications and other ways we can help you to find an accessible and fulfilling practice. In fact I’ve worked with MANY different injuries and conditions, but I find a way to make the client feel safe and still get a good workout in. In this day and age, there are very few “PERFECT” bodies. We are all “broken” in some way. I’ve personally found my Yoga and Pilates practices to be very healing not just physicalyl but also mentally and emotionally.

All this had me thinking. I can preach the benefits of a regular practice, and give you an insight into my own practice, but does that help you? Hmmmm maybe, maybe not. A few weeks I had a small epiphany though. I can share some of my clients with you! What are they struggling with in terms of their bodies? What brought them to try Yoga or Pilates? What benefits have they seen from their practice? So without further ado…meet Marianne.

Marianne is one of my regular clients and also probably my biggest cheerleader! Marianne is an enthusiastic Proofreader for BJ’s Wholesale Club by day and a professional illustrator by night. She spent two years at Tufts University, another two at UMass Amherst and three years at the University of Michigan grad school of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning. Trained as a classical violinist, she moved on to perform in a bluegrass band and eventually wound up on stage singing, acting and dancing in Gilbert and Sullivan and Broadway musicals. She has illustrated three books and has been drawing since the age of four. You can visit her Facebook page, Marianne Orlando Illustrations: https://www.facebook.com/moillustrations/

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What brought you to try a Yoga or Pilates class?

I happen to have an artificial hip, and I’d always wanted to try yoga, but was afraid my range of motion would be too limited for the poses. Turns out I was wrong. I went to an orthopedic specialist to find out if it’d be OK to do yoga, and she said, “That’s about the best thing you could do for yourself.” That was good news because I like to be active. Back in the day, I had a boss who encouraged me to take up running, and I used to run 3 miles a day on my (extended) lunch hour. So originally, I went to yoga because my boss went and I figured it would be a good use of my lunch hour. So I have to thank her for that tip.

After I’d been doing yoga for 3 years with great benefits, I decided to add Pilates. I’ve been doing that for a year now and I can see real improvement.

What are some of the benefits you’ve found from your Yoga and Pilates practice?

Well, I sleep a lot better for one thing. I don’t get as stressed as I used to at other jobs. Can’t say I have any backaches, and I used to have a really bad back. I’ve also become more flexible (After all, I am 62 and I can lean over and touch my hands flat on the floor before me, and that’s a great benefit), and with the Pilates I’ve gained a lot of strength in my core. I also find my ability to focus on my work during the day is greatly enhanced. Yoga sweeps away any tension you might have had during the morning, and when you get back to your desk, it’s with a fresh, new outlook. As a side benefit, it’s much easier to manage my weight because I’m more aware of my body and what kind of foods I put into it. So I would say yoga has made me more focused and relaxed, and Pilates has made me stronger. And both yoga and Pilates help me with my balance.

How would you describe Pilates and Yoga to a friend or coworker who wasn’t familiar with them?

Yoga is a series of poses that are held for different lengths of time that make you more limber and flexible than when you started. You do the poses slowly and you can feel your joints and muscles loosening up. There is a pose called “Child’s Pose” that is kind of uncomfortable when you first do it, but by the time a couple of poses and a few minutes go by, you do it again and you can really relax into it. That’s a great feeling. And the music is soothing and contemplative – the entire experience is a nice break from the day that clears your head.

Pilates is more fast-paced than yoga: You’re doing quick, athletic routines that work from the abdominal muscles or “core”.  The exercises are also harder to do. But the time goes by much quicker than in yoga. You even do pushups – LOL.

What do you like most about Pilates and Yoga?   

I like getting a break from work for an hour as opposed to eating lunch at my desk with no break.* I especially like the bounce I have in my step afterwards, carrying my yoga mat under my arm while I’m walking back to my desk after class. It makes me happy and I feel like I’ve really accomplished something.

The best part about yoga *and* Pilates is that with Chris as the teacher you don’t have to do the poses or exercises perfectly or be a size 2. He will tailor the exercises to what you can physically do, which is especially helpful when you have an artificial hip or any other kind of limitation.

Last, but not least, I treasure the friendships I’ve made with my fellow students and my teacher Christopher R. Students come and go, but I’ve always enjoyed their company. Waiting for yoga to begin we often talk about movies to see, the latest video on Facebook, good books to read. But when it’s time for class to start, Chris is all business. And people who take yoga tend to be upbeat and positive, which puts a great spin on my day.

*Marianne is one of the students who comes to classes at one of my corporate clients. I go in three times a week to teach Yoga and Pilates during the lunch hour.

Miracle Mornings Day 1

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I just discovered and finished reading in less than 24 hours Hal Erod’s amazing book  “The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed To Transform Your Life… (Before 8AM)”

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Hal sums up the book in one chapter by saying “The purpose of The Miracle Morning is more about waking up with purpose – combining the benefits of early rising and personal development- and isn’t so much concerned with the activities you do, as long as the activities you choose are proactive and help you improve your inner world (yourself) and your outer world (your life).”

The book has many tools and tips on how you can live the life you have always dreamed of, and one that you can also live with purpose. The main tool in the book is creating a morning ritual that centers around self development and improvement, by focusing on the areas of your life that you want to be the most successful and well…happy. Hal calls these tips Life S.A.V.E.R.S. 

  • S = Silence
  • A = Affirmations
  • V = Visualizations
  • E = Exercise
  • R = Reading
  • S = Scribe – Writing or Journaling

The idea is to wake up an hour or so earlier than you normally would to take this time to focus on these areas that then puts you in a more productive and happier mindset for the rest of your day. I was so fascinated by this process that I just couldn’t put the book down last night while reading and finished it in less than a day. The first two areas are ones that I was already doing as part of my morning ritual, albeit not consistently.

So I’ve decided to take Hal’s 30 day challenge using his technique of The Miracle Morning to create a lifelong habit around this. Today was my first day. When I got to the part of “Scribe” I was like “What do I write about?”, “Do I work on my next book?” or “What can I journal about in the morning?”, but then I had another thought “I should write this as a blog post and share this experience with others”.  So welcome to Day One of my Miracle Morning

Here is what my Miracle Morning will look like, which coincidentally is pretty close to what Hal outlines in the book, although you can adjust and customize to this fit your needs and desires for improving your life.

  • Wake an hour earlier than normally – somewhere between 5-6 AM depending on the day’s schedule
  • Silence = 5-10 minutes of meditation
  • Affirmations = 5 minutes of repeating affirmations with my eyes closed – focusing these on the areas where I feel a need to be stronger, etc.
  • Visualization = 5 minutes on visualizing myself achieving and being successful in the goals I have set for myself over the coming year and areas of my life that I am working to improve. These will be the ones I have on my vision board. Spending time in silence, visualizing myself achieving these goals.
  • Exercise = 15 minutes of Yoga practice
  • Reading = 10-15 minutes of reading a book in the area of self improvement or focused on my industry (yoga, Pilates, wellness books).
  • Scribe = 10-15 minutes of writing in my journal or working on my book

Today was my first day of practicing this,and I was up before my alarm clock as I was so excited to get this started. I’m looking forward to following this over the next 30 days and seeing how these areas of my life begin to shift. I highly recommend picking up this book and joining in creating your Miracle Morning with me.

Like Bamboo

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The recent Lunar Eclipse for me was a time for reflection. I sat in mediation and really thought about what I want to let go of and what I want to bring into my life. What is the area I want to focus on for the remainder of the year? The one thing that came up for me was to come into my power, to focus on being stronger (physically, mentally and emotionally). I’m a pretty laid back and flexible guy (again physically and mentally). Strength is something I am lacking however.

I thought “I need to become like bamboo, strong but flexible”. You really can’t have one without the other. One must know when to stand their ground and also when to bend and give. So in my life I must become like bamboo. I have the flexibility but now I need to find my source of strength and power.

So I have to be transparent here and say I’m not always as positive as I come across. We all have moments of fear or self-doubt. Last week we talked about negative self talk and how saying and hearing these negative thoughts in our heads can be counter productive to achieving our goals.

When I go to practice Pilates with my teacher she kicks my ass. She gives me some very challenging exercises to do. When I’m first presented with an unfamiliar exercise my first thought is fear based. I often find myself saying to her “I can’t do that”. I’ve decided that “STRENGTH” is my word du jour for the rest of the year. I need to focus on being stronger (physically and mentally). When I told my teacher that she said “Then you have to stop saying ‘can’t’. You have to say “I’ll try it” and at least try it before quitting”. Saying “I can’t” or not believing in yourself is just as bad as all the other negative self-talk going on in our heads.

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Remember that your mind believes whatever you say. Your thoughts and words become your reality. You have to start thinking in terms of positive language, even if it’s only to trick your mind/body into believing it. What phrases do you need to stop saying to yourself and what can you say in it’s place?

What characteristic do you need to bring into your life right? What are some ways that you can find and create that characteristic in your life?

Spring Cleaning

20130318_spring_buds_91Today is the first day where the temperatures are on the rise, the sun is shining brightly, and the snow is starting to melt. After our snowiest winter on record (over 7 feet of snow in one month if you are following) every little peek of the sun and clear blue skies are a welcome sight. I might be a just a tad over hopeful here, but it’s starting feel like maybe Spring is on it’s way.

Spring in my house, always means “spring cleaning”. You know, clearing out the closets, getting rid of the old to make room for the new. So my focus for this week is “spring cleaning”, but not of the house (although that will happen as well), but of my life: body and soul.

Over the past two weeks we’ve talked about finding “Balance” and “Inner Peace”. Now is really the time to get to the physical part of the work. We’ve determined where we need balance, where we need to let go and learn to say “NO”. Now is the time to let go of what is no longer serving us, to make room for the things we want to manifest into our lives that take us one step closer to living our dream life, one step closer to having and being in balance, and one step closer to finding and maintain Inner Peace.

Just as Spring is the time to plant seeds and watch life grow, it is also a time to plant the seeds of what we want in our lives, to tend to them, and watch them grow into the beauty of the life we yearn for. Now is the time to plant the seed and begin to manifest. As the days get longer, the sun shines ever more bright, we must also learn to let the light into our lives to dispel the darkness of the winter.

Learning to Say No

balancepostWe are continuing on this week’s theme of “balance”. Do you have a hard time saying no? Trust me when I say this, most of us do! Finding that balance you seek in your life is about saying NO to the things that don’t get you a step closer to the life you want to live.

As I mentioned in the last post on “balance” finding that balance in your life is about making the right decisions. Look at the life you are living and think about what areas you need to focus on and which ones are taking up your precious time. Have a deep think on the life you want to be living and only make decisions that will get you to that life. Learn to say NO to the things that don’t get you on the path to living your dream life.

Focus your time and energy on the things you enjoy doing and that will help you achieve your goals, and say a firm NO to the things that you do out of a feeling of commitment to or pressure from others.