Tag Archives: take back my health

Forgiving the world

We sit on the floor in criss-cross applesauce at the beginning of yoga class, and Jane instructs us to close our eyes and remember a time during childhood when we were hurt or scared, in order to find if there are areas in which we need to release and to forgive. Her soothing voice and evocative words take each of us back to address our own personal boogeymen, troubles that loomed large because we were so small.

This won’t work, says my inner voice.  I’ve already exorcised all my demons.

I open my eyes and peek around the room, surprised that my fellow classmates are going crimson in the face as strong emotions rise from their bellies. Something powerful is going on, and if I can surrender my thoughts to my emotions, I may have the chance to release something I’ve carried for a very long time.

Hah, that’s what you think! – comes a reply, also inside my head.

With an exhale I allow my hips and tailbone to feel heavy, to sink into the earth. With an inhale I lift my spine, filling the space between my vertebrae with, well, more space. In an instant

xray childI see Mommy and Daddy walking away. I see them through the droplets of the dank and cold prison they’re leaving me in, the plastic walls and ceiling I’m sealed inside, where I’m having trouble breathing. Don’t leave me! I’ll be good! I won’t scare you any more please just don’t leave me here! I scream and still they walk away. AGAIN. Every night they leave me here. EVERY SINGLE NIGHT! They leave me here in the care of my torturers who stab me with sharp things and make me bleed and hurt me over and over again. They leave me here in a wet and cold bed. They leave me here in a place where I get only icky food. They put masks over my face  thirteen times a day and it smells bad. I am suffocating. I am so afraid and uncomfortable and….ANGRY. I am so angry at all of them for putting me here, for leaving me here.

I hate this oxygen tent. I hate the nurse who give me shots. I hate the doctor who keeps adding days and nights I have to stay here. I hate all the white, and the smell of someone they call Auntie Septy. I hate my lungs for getting New Monya again. I’m mad at my parents for leaving me behind again. I’m mad that I’m so small and powerless still. I’m mad at my body. I hate my life. HATE HATE HATE HATE!

I am shocked to meet my hate-fueled (and scared) 5 year-old self. I am amazed that I could uncover all that in about 5 mindful breaths.

Now what?

We begin our sun salutations, stretching the sides and back parts of our bodies with forward folds and crescent moons, strengthening our cores with plank pose and chaturrangas, then simultaneously grounding and lifting in downward dog. Yoga is a practice of alternating currents, of balancing opposites to bring about wholeness: right/left, upper/lower, front/back, sun/moon, rising/melting, strength/stretch, inhale/exhale, tension/release.

Antao brownd, apparently, my past and my present.

As I move through the rest of the practice, I focus on my breath. With the inhales, I abide with that scared little girl I once was. I am acutely aware of the tension in her body, the balls of wadded up anger, of densely packed fear. With my exhales, I mindfully aim to dissolve those balls of heavy energy, some still residing in my body — mainly in my lungs and hips — using my breath and intention.

The oxygen tent is where I began laying victim patterns that would serve as my template for 30+ years. It was in that cold, wet, lonely place that I realized I was at the mercy of others, that I did not control my circumstances, that I was not the subject in my life but rather an object in others’. The doctors made me endure procedures that hurt, my parents made me swallow icky medicines and stay in fearsome places, my body continually disappointed me by not functioning as it should.

I do my thing: I look at this childhood scene through a rational lens. Of course my parents weren’t persecuting me. Of course it was as hard for them to leave me each night as it was for me to be left. Of course the doctors and nurses weren’t trying to hurt me; they were trying to heal me. Of course I wasn’t abandoned; people were there to make sure I was going to be okay. Of course my body wasn’t malfunctioning on purpose; it was doing the best it could.

But the 5 year-old on my yoga mat with me is not a rational being. I have carried her emotional energy of being scared, alone, abandoned, bereft, unwell. She’s pissed. Mad at those who left her, mad at those who poked her, mad at the body that put her in her predicament. She’s been having tantrums ever since, not having an outlet for her fear and anger.

With my teacher’s invitation to dig deep and excavate what lurks beneath my awareness, I am able to give the girl a voice. I feel my face turn crimson as the anger rises from my belly. Now that I know such a well of fear and anger is there, I can access it, breathe through it, release it.

And forgive. One breath at a time.

Image courtesy of Praisaeng / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Unhealthy Truth (with giveaway) and why I’m on alert for frankenfood

Along with some other writers, I was invited to lunch one day in July with a woman named Robyn O’Brien, founder of AllergyKids, for an event sponsored by Stonyfield Yogurt  — which, to its credit, seemed mostly interested in getting Robyn’s word out and not so much in promoting its product.

I had no idea who Robyn was, but I can tell you that she rocked my world.

If you’ve read my last two food-related posts, you know that I was ripe for Robyn’s message. I had already decided to eat for my ayurvedic dosha and eat cleaner food (meaning reduce my intake of processed/refined foods). But what I learned that day gave my efforts some urgency — not just for my own health but for that of my children, my parents, and my loved ones (you included!).

The invitees were given Robyn’s book, The Unhealthy Truth, and many of us are participating in this blog hop, probably with differing views. So after you’re finished here, please hop around for others’ perspectives (links at bottom). Thanks to Stonyfield, there is a giveaway basket being offered on each participating blog.

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Mom and oThe Unhealthy Truthverachiever Robyn O’Brien unleashed her inner Erin Brockovich several years ago when a routine breakfast served to her four children (toasted waffles with syrup, tubes of blueberry yogurt and some scrambled egg) ended with her youngest, in a high chair, enduring full-blown anaphylactic shock.

Once the crisis was over (the daughter is fine but has some severe food allergies), Robyn, trained as an equity analyst,  put her research skills to work. She found that from 1997-2002, the number of children with peanut allergies doubled. She explains that food allergies happen when a person’s immune system sees a protein as something foreign and it launches an inflammatory response to drive out the foreign matter.

Her next question was, is there something foreign in our food that wasn’t there when we were kids? She learned that yes, beginning in the 199os new proteins were engineered into our food supply.

Robyn found that in 1994, scientists created a synthetic growth hormone that helped cows make more milk. No problem there — societies have always tried to get more output for the input, especially when it comes to keeping their people fed. Unfortunately the growth hormone also mad the cows sick, which required the use of antibiotics.

Robyn O'BrienWhen faced with imports of engineered US milk products, governments around the world erred on the side of caution. Because the new science had not yet been proven SAFE, these governments would not allow US dairy products into their food supplies. The US, on the other hand, said that since it hadn’t yet been proven DANGEROUS, well, belly on up to the frankendairy, everyone.

“How many sippy cups have I filled with this milk?” thought Robyn. “How many bowls of cereal have I poured it on for my husband, not knowing that Canada, the UK, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and all 27 countries in Europe didn’t allow it?”

Other tidbits Robyn shared:

  • Scientists engineered soy in 1996, used primarily to fatten livestock. This engineering allowed soy to withstand higher doses of weed-killer. Once again, other governments decided that safety had not been proven so our soy products were banned. And once again the US agencies responsible for keeping our food supply safe took the approach, “We don’t need no stinkin’ proof it’s safe!” Not yet having proof of danger was sufficient.
  • Scientists then engineered into the DNA of corn its own insecticide. Consequently, that corn is now regulated by the EPA. Big Ag found a loophole, pioneered by the tobacco industry, that allowed such foods to be deemed safe even though no human trials were ever done. We are all guinea pigs in this experiment.
  • One of the concerns about these growth hormones, these  synthetic proteins, is that they also elevate hormone levels that are linked to breast, prostate and colon cancer. Sure enough, the US has the highest rates of cancer in the world.
  • Robyn wondered how major US food companies like Kraft and WalMart were able to export their products if other countries don’t allow such engineered ingredients. She found that these companies offer  formulations that DON’T include frankenfoods. The shelves of our supermarkets, though, have hidden and scary toxins in them that wreak havoc on our digestion and health.

Find 18 minutes in the coming week to watch and listen to Robyn on your own. Here is her TEDxAustin speech earlier this year.

While I was alarmed about what I’ve been feeding myself and my children, I also had reservations about making changes.

But healthy eating is SO expensive!

Robyn put is this way: You can manage your health at the grocery store or you can manage your disease at the hospital.

Or, in the words of that old oil filter commercial, Pay me now or pay me later.

Later is almost always more expensive. I vote for paying more at the grocery store (or farmer’s market). The costs of working it out at the hospital go beyond the financial.

It’s just too much to take on.

Robyn said repeatedly, Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.

Some of you have mentioned the discipline and willpower I must have in abundance regarding my new eating habits. Really, I have neither. What I do have is mindfulness. I’m paying more attention to what nourishes me.

And Robyn’s quote above rings true. At one time, the Perfectionist Lori would never have undertaken such a dramatic set of changes because, well, taken together they are simply too dramatic.

But as any athlete will tell you (and it’s only been 3 years that I consider myself any sort of athlete, of the yoga variety) a steady force will bring change. Water droplets will carve a canyon. Poses that were impossible to me just a year ago are now in my practice. All because I finally realized that steady effort and aim is so much more effective than all-or-nothing.

So what can I do?

If you’re called to action, as I am, consider these ideas.

  • Become aware of what you feed yourself and your family. Begin reading labels and ask, “Do I want that in our systems?” Beware of rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), GMO (genetically modified organisms) and “artificial,” as in flavors and colors (oh, not, not the fluorescent mac & cheese!).
  • Begin shopping at markets that offer organic food. The more demand we create for healthy food, especially at the expense of frankenfood, the more available and cheaper healthy food will become.
  • Every time you go to the grocery store, ask the grocer and the butcher to show you the organic section. If you’re snarky like me, pooh-pooh how few offerings they have and ask if they intend to get more soon.
  • Watch for bills that would require labeling of foods. (I’ll report here if one comes to life.) At that time, mobilize to get your representative and senators to vote for such a measure. Ask your representatives to stop subsidizing frankenfood. If anything is to be subsidized, it should be healthy food.
  • For a demonstration on just how much trusted food companies rely on you  to NOT read labels, see this video from the non-profit Consumer Wellness Center. You’ll never buy blueberry products the same way again.
  • Do one thing.

To see what other bloggers thought of our lunch with Robyn, check out the entries on LinkyTools, below.

Comments here are to discuss this post. If you’d like to enter a giveaway (Stonyfield is offering a package that includes The Unhealthy Truth, The Stonyfield Yogurt Cookbook, 5 coupons for Stonyfield Oikos Greek yogurt and 5 coupons for Stonyfield YoBaby yogurt) click over to my giveaway blog, AllThumbsReviews.

 

Ayurveda 2: Pitta, Kapha, ama and a bit of time travel

In my last post on the subject, I explained what Ayurveda means, what doshas are, and gave you a link to determine what your primary dosha might be. I mentioned some dietary considerations for my type, Vata.

I want to even things out and give you some dietary consideration for the other two doshas because many of the comments were from people deemed Pitta and Kapha.

Pittas, typically the mesomorphs or athletically-built people, are fiery. In balance, they are achievers and accomplishers. Out of balance, they are hyper-critical and hyper-competitive, putting others down and winning for the sake of winning (not just finding a personal best). They are prone to heartburn, acne, and other flare-ups. To tone down the fire, Pittas should minimize spicy or fried foods, caffeine, alcohol and competitive sports. They would do well to embrace instead cooler foods such as milk (ice cream!) grains, vegetables and fully-ripe fruits, and participate in inward-turning activities like Tai Chi or yoga.

Kaphas are sturdy, blessed with naturally good health and calmness of mind. The elements are Water and Earth. In balance Kaphas are solid and reliable. When experiencing imbalance, they can be seen as immovable objects: couch potatoes and lazy bones.  Though well-suited for rugged life prior to the 20th century, excess Kapha (stagnant fluids and solids) is connected with the rise of obesity and heart disease in modern times. Unlike Vatas (Ether/Air), Kaphas are already moist, dense and grounded, so their diets should counter that with less density and more dryness. Fewer fats, sweets, dairy and beef; choosing instead and drier foods like salads, crisp veggies, dried fruit, cereals, grains, beans and poultry. Movement/exercise  is important to keep fluids flowing.

Source: Eat-Taste-Heal

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So why does ayurveda encourage us to balance our inherent nature with complementary elements?

Because when we go all lopsided (for example, airy Vatas choosing popcorn and a carbonated beverage, fiery Pittas opting for a spicy burrito and tequila, earthy Kaphas munching on a burger and fried potatoes) we create ama in our bodies.

From Eat-Taste-Heal:

If water and blood are the sweet nectars of the body, ama is the rotten sludge. Ama is undigested food residue that lodges itself within the organs and channels of the body. With the consistency of a sticky paste, ama is whitish-yellow in color and has a putrid smell.

When our ability to digest food becomes impaired, the body can no longer absorb essential nutrients. Undigested and partially digested food lingers in the body, leading to the formation of ama. Ayurveda views ama as one of the most threatening opponents to good health, linking the majority of health disorders in some way to the presence of this substance. Simply stated, ama is undigested food that begins to eat you!

So besides beginning to eat for our type, what can we do to get rid of accumulated ama? Deep breathing is one way, sweating, too, and cleansing fasts are yet another. The granddaddy of detox is called panchakarma, and it can include any combination of five treatments (a few, such as “therapeutic vomiting,” are too harsh for me to consider).

The concept of ama makes me wonder if Grandma Marshmallow‘s seemingly unexplainable disease and death might be understandable if reframed. Western medicine couldn’t make any sense of it — in spite of her healthy lifestyle she got lung cancer that spread to her liver. But perhaps ayurvedic medicine does — she was a Kapha-Pitta whose healthy* western dietary choices imbalanced and eventually overwhelmed her system. She died of an accumulation of ama, which manifested as cancer once it reached a tipping point.

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In July Dr Desai said my digestion had calmed down and we could go to the next step: detoxifying my lungs. She believes that I have had low-level inflammation in both my digestive and my respiratory systems for most of my life, and once we  drastically reduce the ama, I will be on my way to greater health and higher energy levels.

She gave me ayurvedic powders and potions (St Elsewhere is helping me decipher the ingredients on the Hindi labels) to clear my lungs, and — boy! Three weeks of these concoctions did as much clearing as 9 months on prednisone and a second potent drug did in 2009. Only without the liver and kidney toxicity.

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Watching Grandma Lisa’s decline and observing her children caring for her during her decline caused me to time travel (How do I get frequent flyer miles for doing so?).

Someday *I* might receive a death-knell diagnosis. Someday Tessa and Reed might be charged with taking care of an increasingly withering me. Some day *I* might be faced with dying of an avoidable system failure.

My queendom for a chance to go back and make different decisions! What I wouldn’t do to go back to, say, 2011 and begin detoxifying from my past choices and nourishing my body and soul from then on! If only I could go back back back…

And here I am.

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* I am convinced that many “healthy” food choices are really not so much. More on that in a bloghop post I’m now researching that will appear here next week.