I've never much been into yoga. I know it can be good for your health, but it's never been something I've been passionate about. Yes, I've dabbled in and out of it to try to understand what people love about it, but it's just never been my thing.
I can see how it would be good for flexibility, strengthening, toning, and stretching. It can also supposedly be relaxing as you follow your breath. I've never mastered inhaling and exhaling comfortably while flowing in and out of the yoga poses. I find myself having to take two inhale/exhale cycles to every one that I'm instructed to have. It's also supposed to be meditative, but if I'm going to meditate, I'd rather be sitting still and not working so hard getting in and out of poses. Many people say it's even spiritual for them. I have a friend who said it helped her get through the loss of her husband. I don't yet see how that happens.
There are so many different types of yoga: Bikram, Yin (or Deep), Hatha, Iyengar, Kundalini, and Power, to name a few. I've tried Bikram from a Groupon offer. After the first few times, I had zero desire to finish the remaining classes. There are way too many people crowded into a very small, hot (105+ degrees!) space with a lot of flinging sweat and sweat pools in too-near proximity for my taste. It's also the same routine every time, and I like variety. For me, Bikram is just not a lot of fun and I'm all about doing things that are fun!
I've also tried Yin Yoga which is my favorite. With this style yoga, you hold one position for 3-5 minutes and use a lot of equipment (bolsters, sand bags) to deepen the stretch. It feels calming and restorative. I went to this class somewhat regularly, but unfortunately it was cancelled, so now I don't do any yoga.
I do have a few yoga DVDs at home that I've bought over the years trying to get into a practice. This week my husband and I are on vacation in Hawaii and he decided to bring one of our DVDs to try to do it every morning. He has even less of a practice than I do, but he thought perhaps we'd have more success doing it without the time demands we have at home. Personally, I'd rather just get up and run in the morning, but my husband wanted us to do yoga first and then run. He thinks it helps his runs because it loosens him up. As much as I'd be fine not doing it, I hate to miss out on anything, so I've been doing the yoga with him.
While I've been on vacation (and a few days before we left), I've been a little under the weather. I've had a hoarse voice and nagging cough that flares up at night. I don't feel sick (maybe just a little more tired than usual), but my voice was practically non-existent for a few days and every night my cough has been waking me up around 2am. I have to get up for an hour (it seemed better if I was upright) and take a few lozenges before trying to go back to sleep.
Yesterday morning, my husband decides to play a different yoga routine than we've been doing. Midway through, I am doing a certain pose and I begin to cough uncontrollably. I'm not sure what the position is called that causes this attack. For those in the know, you might be able to understand if I describe it.
I started in Warrior pose (a lunge with my left leg forward and my left arm out in front and right one in back). I then twist to the right, put my left arm to the ground, and my right arm high in the air (see photo). During the session, but particularly in this position, It was hard for me to breathe because of the congestion in my chest. I'm trying to do the inhale and exhale as instructed but I can't get enough air in to last long enough.
I'm coughing so bad that I have to get out of my pose and run to get a lozenge. I'm wondering what the heck is this yoga doing to me—it's making me worse! At this point, I have the sudden need to grab a tissue because my nose is running. After about a minute of bodily mayhem, the episode is done and I head back to the yoga video.
Fast forward a few hours later and I realize that my voice is no longer hoarse. I feel like I have more energy. My throat feels clear. The true test, I know, will be nighttime.
Well, it's morning now and I did not have one cough through the night. Considering how bad my cough has been for the past few nights, this is a big deal and feels quite miraculous. I feel completely well. I am absolutely convinced that there was something about that yoga pose (and possibly the flow leading up to it) that cured me. I don't know how it happened physiologically, but it happened.
My husband is still sleeping now, but as soon as he wakes up, I'm ready to put in the DVD and see what other health benefits I can get from this thing called yoga. I will definitely be turning to yoga rather than throat lozenges the next time I have a cough!
Many of my friends, clients, and Four Quadrant Living readers are strong advocates and practicers of yoga. I'd love to hear from you. Do you have a yoga practice? What motivates you to do yoga? What is your favorite style of yoga? How regularly do you practice? What health benefits does it give you? Chime in below and help this new yoga believer see what's possible.
Please share your comments and questions below.
Update: I have heard from several people on what pose I was doing when the coughing fit happened. They say it was Utthita Parsvakonasana (extended side angle pose).
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Do you have a mental or physical illness that has become all consuming to the point where it has taken over your mind, body, relationships, and environment? If so, the good news is that having an illness does not automatically mean you are unhealthy. It can be if you let it be, but it doesn't have to be if you focus on creating health in the areas you can control.
In this blog, I highlight my client, Susan, to illustrate the point, but Susan is not alone. I have seen this happen with many of my clients which is what inspired me to write this blog. Susan, has let her physical illness define her. It completely consumes who she is. She is no longer a mother, wife, friend, cook, or runner. She is her illness. In our last session together, she said, "I am an invalid." This is how she sees herself.
There is no question that Susan's physical situation is very difficult. She has had multiple surgeries in the past year to fix her knee, all to no avail. She uses a walker to get around and cannot stand for long periods of time. She tires easily. She has another surgery slated for April that will hopefully help to repair her knee. Without a doubt, this would get anyone down!
When Susan talks to her family and friends, it's all about her illness. I suggested sitting outside in the warm sun that we had last week and her immediate response was to comment on how hard it would be to get down the two steps to get outside. Yes, it is no longer as easy to sit outside, but she can do it. She chooses not to. I ask her about the theater show and dinner she went to recently with a friend and she tells me about how tiring it was for her to sit for that long of a time. She doesn't tell me whether or not she enjoyed the show. Susan has put her life on hold until her next surgery which is still months away. Until then, it's all about the illness.
Susan has let her illness impact all four quadrants of her life. In the Body quadrant where the illness resides (physical pain and immobility), she has let it impact her diet and movement. She eats a lot of packaged and fast foods. She doesn't get as much movement as she could, even with her physical limitations. In the Mind quadrant, she has lost her light. She sees herself as an invalid. In the Relationships quadrant, she brings illness energy to her relationships. Her husband, Tom, is working on improving his diet for his own health concerns. He is now the cook in the household because Susan is unable to stand long enough to cook. When Tom tries new healthy recipes, Susan typically has a negative response that they don't taste that good. This is discouraging to Tom who is trying to help her and himself. In the Environment quadrant, her world has become very small.
It is important to remember that health is in all four quadrants. Susan may not have control over some of what is happening in the Body quadrant, but she does have control over health in many others areas of her life. Susan is unhealthy right now, but she doesn't have to be. She can have the same physical ailment and be a lot healthier than she is now by taking control and getting her health back in the areas she can. I have complete and total empathy for Susan because she is in pain and has definite physical limitations, but I also see that she is allowing the illness to define her.
For her Body, Susan can eat healthier foods which will bring her energy level up and keep her weight down. She can exercise those parts of her body that are not physically impaired like her upper body. For her Mind, she can do visualizations or repeat mantras to help get her fire back. She can reframe how she looks at things. For example, instead of seeing herself as an invalid with so many limitations, she can see all that she still can do like going to the theater with her friends. It may wipe her out for the day, but she can build up her strength and stamina little by little. She can still enjoy cooking by inviting a friend over while they do the cooking and she guides the way. She may not be able to do some of the things that she used to do like run, but she can find new areas of interest that fit her more (temporary) sedentary lifestyle such as joining a book club, watching documentaries, building puzzles, or knitting.
For her Relationships, Susan can focus on others rather than on herself. I challenged Susan for the week to not talk about her illness when she was with her friends and family. If they asked her how she was doing, she could say that she was feeling better. Even if her immobility and pain level are the same, she could be feeling better because of her improvement in diet, increase in movement, and change in mind. By doing things that she can do, like those ideas mentioned above, she will have other topics to talk about with her loved ones. She will begin to feel better by not focusing on her illness 24/7. For the Environment, Susan could sit outside and enjoy nature. Even if she can't make it outside, sitting by a window and looking out is a great option.
Your illness, mental or physical, does not need to define you. You have it in your control to be healthy, no matter what is happening in your mind or body. Even if you have cancer, you can still be healthy. Even if you just suffered a heart attack, you can still be healthy. Even if you are heavy with grief, you can still be healthy. You don't have to wait until your cancer treatments are over or your next surgery fixes you, you can make changes today. You are not a cancer patient or an invalid, you are YOU. Focus on the quadrants where you do have control and figure out how to increase health there. Don't let your illness invade your whole life when it does not have to.
Do you have an illness that defines you? If so, what changes can you make to get YOU back by not giving your illness more power than it needs?
Be sure to get your free 47 page Getting Started Guide: Taking Your First Step on the 4QL Journey by signing up for our newsletter at the top right of this page. It is filled with a 4 quadrant health assessment as well as health tips for each quadrant including 5 Steps to Mindfulness, 12 Tips for Fad-Free Eating, 6 Ways to Closer Connections, and 9 Ideas to Detox Your Home.
Dina Colman, MA, MBA is an author, healthy living coach, and founder of Four Quadrant Living. Dina has a private practice helping clients live healthier and happier lives. Her book, Four Quadrant Living: Making Healthy Living Your New Way of Life, guides readers to make healthy living a part of their daily lives, leading to greater health, vitality, and happiness. Contact Dina at
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There is no doubt that the stress of the holidays and the availability of unhealthy food can be a challenge to our healthy eating plan. Cookies, cakes, and candy are everywhere we go. Dinner tables are filled with dishes high in sugar, fat, and carbs. By all means, enjoy! Just do so in moderation so that your waist line doesn't expand too much as you enter the New Year.
Here are seven ideas for not overeating during the holidays.
1. Eat before you go. Headed to a holiday party? Eat a healthy meal before you go so hunger will not drive the temptation to overeat when you are at the party. Be sure to have a meal with protein (lean meats, eggs, beans) and long-acting carbs (brown rice, sweet potato, oatmeal) to fill you up. If you don't have time for a full meal, even just eating a handful of nuts before you can help you eat less while you are there.
2. Go small. Use smaller serving plates to keep portions under control. We consume an average of 92% of what we put on our plate, so it is worth paying attention to what we feed ourselves. A two inch difference in plate diameter—from 12" to 10" plates—results in 22% fewer calories being served. Assuming a typical dinner has 800 calories, a smaller plate would lead to weight loss of approximately 18 pounds per year for an average size adult. If it is a buffet and you have the choice, opt for a smaller plate to put your food on.
3. Switch it up. Eat with your non-dominant hand to slow down your eating. If you are too uncoordinated to do this successfully at the dinner table with others, just pay attention to the rate at which you are consuming food and slow it down. (Or perhaps it could be something that you get the entire table to do so you all dine slowly, with a few laughs to boot).
4. Leave it. Decide that it is okay to leave food on your plate if you are full. Believe me, I am one of those people that cleans my plate regardless of my fullness meter, but this is an important one for not overeating.
5. Wait before you get seconds. If you are still hungry after finishing your first plate of food, allow a few minutes before reaching for seconds. It takes 20 minutes for the fullness in our stomach to reach our brains which is why we can reach the point of being stuffed. Waiting before you go in for seconds may give you enough time to realize that you are not hungry anymore.
6. Stay sober. By all means, have a drink and be merry, if you choose. Just recognize that the more you drink, the more you lose your resolve to eat well. The drinks add up the calories too.
7. Eat mindfully and enjoy. Part of health is pleasure. If we deprive ourselves of our favorite foods or feel we cannot (or should not) join in with special meal sharing with our friends and family, it affects our health in other ways. Stressing about eating is counterproductive to our health. Give yourself permission to enjoy the holiday meals. Just enjoy them fully and mindfully.
The holidays do not need to mean the choice between weight gain or deprivation. Find the middle ground and enjoy your favorite foods this holiday season.
What are your tips and tricks for healthy eating during the holiday season?
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What would you do if you were told you had an 87% chance of getting cancer?
a. fear it
b. ignore it
c. beat the odds!
When I was told this by doctors 14 years ago, I did "a" and then "b" until I decided it was time to do "c". I chose to replace the fear and denial with empowerment. I left my sexy and lucrative high-tech job and went back to school to study health. I wondered whether how I lived my life could impact how my genes expressed themselves. In learning about the science of epigenetics, I discovered that yes, how we live our life (diet, stress, relationships, environment, etc) does impact our health. Inspired by what I learned, I founded Four Quadrant Living. My mission is to inspire and inform others that we do have control over our health.
Do you worry about getting cancer, diabetes, autoimmune disease, Alzheimer's disease, or heart disease because it "runs in the family"? Do you think you have high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol because it's "in the genes"? If so, it's time to get empowered and create your new health destiny.
Yes, family history is important and it is a factor in our health—but it is by no means the only factor. It is estimated that over 30 percent of cancers and 80 percent of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes can be prevented. This means that you have the power to create health in your life! Every day you make choices that impact your health—the foods you eat, the products you use, the exercise you get, the stress you allow, the people you surround yourself with, and the environment you live in.
Scientists used to believe that it was our genotype (DNA) that determined our health. Our DNA is certainly a part of the equation, but it is not the entire equation as once believed. Now scientists believe it is our phenotype that determines our health, which is our genotype plus our environment (where environment is diet, lifestyle, emotions, stress, and so on).
This new science of epigenetics tells us that our genes are not our destiny. The word epigenetics literally means “control above genetics.” The genes by themselves do not cause disease; it is how we live our life that affects how our genes express. And this gene expression is what ultimately results in health or disease. Genes can be turned on by injuries, diet, stresses, hormones, emotions, and infections. The bottom line is that health is in our hands; it is not simply in our genes.
Knowing our genetic code is certainly important because it allows us to change our environment accordingly. We may be susceptible to a hereditary disease, but we can do something about it. For example, if you feel you are at high risk for breast cancer because of family history, there are certain foods you can eat (e.g. the brassica family of vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower contain the phytochemical sulforaphane shown to have anti-cancer properties), supplements you can take, and lifestyle changes you can make.
Similarly, if you have the celiac gene, knowing your genetic predisposition to the disease arms you with the information to remove gluten from your diet for your best chance at health. And so on. Our genotype (DNA) is important because it is a part of the equation—having knowledge about our DNA helps us take action for health. But, it is not the full equation. Our environment is also a part of the equation.
There are no guarantees in life, but by living a Four Quadrant Life you are proactively doing your best to beat the odds. For me, it's 14 years later and I'm still beating the odds.
If you have a particular health issue you are concerned about, contact Four Quadrant Living to discuss what things can be done specifically to reduce your risk. And, if you have not yet signed up for our newsletter, be sure to subscribe to get your free 47 page Getting Started Guide: Taking Your First Step on the 4QL Journey.
If you are living in fear about a certain health issue, it's time to choose empowerment instead!
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The phone rings. In the blink of an eye, life, as you know it, is gone. I've gotten that call a few times in my life. In 1998, I was walking the streets of San Francisco after a business meeting when my sister called to tell me she was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. In 2000, my sister-in-law left a frantic and disturbing message about my father-in-law being dead at the bottom of the pool. Three years later we got a call from my mother-in-law going to the hospital with stomach pains. She was dead a week later from pancreatic cancer. This past Friday, I got a call from a close friend who is vacationing in Hawaii with a friend. He called to say that the friend he is traveling with suffered a brain aneurism. This vibrant, 40-something woman was enjoying her vacation one day, and the next, she is in a coma fighting for her life.
Everyone has their story of someone they know who ________ (fill in the blank) — was diagnosed with cancer, died from a heart attack suddenly, has Alzheimer's. Sometimes the person is young, sometimes they are old. It's tragic and it shakes us to the core. It jolts us into a very present awareness of life and our fleeting time here. We vow to live healthier, live in the moment, appreciate life. Yet, invariably the daily grind of life (with its drama, politics, pressures, expectations) resumes control and takes us away from what is important. We are back to sweating the small stuff, holding grudges, spending too much time on the unimportant. It's not realistic to "live every day like it's our last" because we have very real responsibilities that might prevent us from doing so. However, death can give us the gift of life if we have a healthy relationship with it.
I have definitely changed my life because of all of the illness and death that have happened in my life. I am hyper-aware of our limited time on this earth. Up until my sister was diagnosed with cancer, I lived for the future. What I did in the present was typically focused on what it would bring me in the future. Watching my 33-year-old sister go through chemotherapy, stem cell transplant, surgery, and radiation is etched in my brain. My sister is 13 years cancer-free (yay!), but I carry her tough fight with me always. Because of it, I changed my career path to do something I'm passionate about. I make time for the important people in my life and tell them I love them. I care about my health. I am kind to myself and others. I (try to) live in the moment.
While I think this is all a positive side of these sad happenings, there is a dark side. I worry a lot. I worry about the phone ringing and my life changing in an instant. I worry about losing my dad, my mom, my sister, my husband, my friends, my pets. I worry about them getting cancer, dying, having a stroke. I can be having an amazing holiday dinner with my family and instead of relishing in the joyous moment, I'm truly, physically sad because I know that some day I won't be able to celebrate this occasion with all of them. The reality of life is that we die. Yes, this awareness makes me appreciate the moment—which is a good thing. However, I'm so worried about the uncertain certain future that it also has the opposite effect of taking me out of the present moment—which is not a good thing.
There has to be a balance. Death gives us the gift of life. It is a reminder that our time is finite. But fearing it does us no good because it takes us out of the present. We have no control over when illness or death will arrive for us or our loved ones, but we do have control over how we choose to live our lives.
Have you found life through death? If it has been a while and some of those life lessons have been lost, try not to wait for the phone to ring to be a reminder of who and what is important to you. You've got one life. Take control and make it the life you want.