10 Tips for Success in the Holistic Fitness Lifestyle
1. Breath Awareness: throughout your day, periodically put your hand on your belly and take slow, deep breaths in and out through your nose while expanding your belly on the inhale and pulling your belly in toward your spine on the exhale.
This will stimulate your Vagus nerve (http://m.mentalfloss.com/article.php?id=6571) through your diaphragm dropping low enough in this deep breathing technique and using your nose to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. It’s the part of the nervous system that is active during deep sleep, meditation, a relaxed meal, feelings of love and happiness, and will allow for your higher brain function to be active in the learning new habits and patterns.
2. Drink enough clean water daily, and eat foods that nourish you on all levels. Have fresh, clean water available in key places you are throughout your day. Drink a glass of water before going to bed, and leave a full glass of water on your nightstand to drink upon waking. Keep a full container of water available in your car for when you are traveling, and especially if you travel for a living. Have water available where you work, and a clean source of water at home for drinking throughout your leisure activities at home. If drinking water throughout the day is tedious, boring, or does not appeal to you, add a drop of pure, essential oil (http://doterra.com/US/en/), which is a great way to liven up your experience of drinking water.
Water is used in just about every cellular process in the body. Our body is made up of about 60-80% water. Your organs, muscles, lymph system, circulatory system, and your skin require water to be healthy, vibrant, and to function properly. Gradually increasing your strength is an essential part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle. So the activities you do can be effortless and fun rather than stressful and taxing through proper hydration. Staying hydrated with adequate water intake is essential for your muscles to function optimally. (http://greatist.com/health/reasons-to-drink-water)
How and what you eat can be a contentious subject in this society because we are educated to moralistically judge what the “right way” to eat is rather than choosing what works for you. Generally, more fresh, unprocessed foods will have a more positive physical effect on the body. However, there is another aspect of eating that is seldom addressed, which lies outside the realm of right and wrong. This aspect is enjoyment of your eating process. As you prepare your food, allow a celebratory gratitude of the nourishment you are about to enjoy to permeate your consciousness. Allow the smell, sight, and texture of your food to enliven your senses and nourish your spirit. Even a food that is not top quality in physical nourishment can nourish your emotional state with the delight of the experience. Savor those moments, breathe deeply, and allow a deeper awareness of your food experience to energize your being. As your awareness of your food experience on all levels deepens, your choices will naturally gravitate toward the ones that nourish you on as many levels of your being as possible.
Allow food and water to be a tool for experiencing life on a more sophisticated and enriching level through a celebration of life through nourishment. Say a prayer, look within at your current emotional state, and perhaps even allow the loving look of the person sitting in front of you during mealtime awaken your deepest awareness of the joy of being human.
3. Find a physical activity that is fun and/or you are passionate about! Regular cardiovascular exercise improves your mood, circulation, sex life, and muscle tone, among many other benefits. If the activity you choose is fun, you will not think about how hard it is, but rather about the joy you are experiencing. This could be walking with friends, tennis, hiking, tai chi or other martial arts, yoga, skateboarding, biking, or whatever allows your heart to sing while learning the mastery of your chosen art form or activity.
As children we play out of the joy in our hearts. As we grow into adults, however, we seem to buy into the idea that play is only for children. This is not only untrue, it is a major cause of resignation, depression, weight gain, and chronic pain from a sedentary lifestyle. Reawaken your inner child and play to allow your body’s resiliency to return with that childlike, playful energy!
4. Explore the boundaries and limits of your body with appropriate flexibility and alignment awareness. As you bend and move into different positions, explore where your range of motion is within comfort. Determine deeper levels of subtle comfort through breath awareness. As you reach your limits, breathe and notice your body sensations. For example, if you are sitting and reaching toward your toes, notice when your back or hamstrings experience gentle discomfort. Use that discomfort as well as interruptions in your smooth breathing as signals to back off and honor your body’s current limitations. Over-stretching can cause damage and instability in your joints, and so it must be entered into gently with proper alignment and awareness of your body’s signals. Seek the support of a fitness professional for details to fine-tune the art of flexibility.
5. Strive to gradually improve your strength levels, progressively over time. Again, seek the support of a trained, fitness professional to support your growth in strength to build your body’s power and ease in healthy movement. All your activities become easier when you are stronger, and movement becomes more fun!
A wonderful added benefit of building strength is that added muscle mass increases your metabolism, so you burn more calories at rest. You can eat more foods you enjoy, deepening the quality of life you enjoy most. Keep in mind that muscle takes up 1/5 the space that fat does. So if you add 10lbs of muscle through strength work, you will actually be thinner because your increased calorie-burning muscle will replace the fat you are now burning in a smaller, more efficient space! So let go of the myth that building muscle creates bulk or girth on your body…the opposite is true! Just ask any body builder how hard it is to build large muscles. They typically exercise several hours per day! A balanced Holistic Fitness Lifestyle requires less time commitment because your fun activities and alignment are integrated into your life as YOU CHOOSE! Remember to ingest adequate protein sources to aid this process of building strength with added lean muscle.
6. Practice Emotional Awareness: Use the core breathing method mentioned above while practicing writing down or verbalizing your current emotional state. You are always experiencing emotions, and taking the time to externalize them through writing or talking creates more ability to process intense negative emotions, and appreciate the positive emotions that enhance our daily living experience.
Emotions can control you, or you can control your emotions through the way you communicate them with yourself and others. If you experience anger, phrase it like this, “I am experiencing anger,” rather than the way we typically express it through identifying with the emotion such as, “I am angry.” This distinction is subtle, yet vital to learning from and processing emotions as a tool for vitality instead of a source of stress. To take this a step further, notice your body sensations that accompany that emotional experience. This will open up deeper awareness about how your body affects your emotions, and likewise how your emotions affect your body.
7. Practice communicating with your heart rather than with your head. Using the words, “I think,” can be disempowering when used without reference to your vulnerable feelings connected with your needs as a human being. The act of judging yourself or others, evaluating what is right or wrong, or trying to fix or change yourself or others only creates resistance in life and defensiveness in others. This isolates us from our true heart-centered nature and from others. Instead, connect with needs and feelings to access your human empathy and the empathy of others in your life. This will deepen and enrich the love in your relationships.
This process must begin within your own mind in how you communicate with yourself. It is only once we have taken this step within of cultivating inner awareness that we can see others clearly. As the mystical poet William Blake said, you must “cleanse the doors of perception” in order to effectively see those around you without reference to your own issues. When your inner awareness is left unaddressed, it will color your perception of what others say or do.
This art form of compassionate acceptance of life as it is (including yourself and others) cultivates a connection to what is alive in us as human beings. The expression of life in us is communicated through our needs. “Nonviolent Communication” (aka compassion communication”) by Marshall Rosenberg is an excellent system to learn this way of connecting to the life energy within us as human beings. I highly recommend reading the book, looking up YouTube videos on the subject, and/or joining an NVC practice group. HFL hosts one of these NVC practice groups monthly in Bucks County, PA. Although there are many tools that support the process of connecting to the heart with empathy, this particular tool interweaves a beautiful pathway to release our damaging subconsciously conditioned beliefs to reveal or true nature of love.
8. Practice writing or speaking about gratitude daily. Life can be pretty amazing when we pay attention to all the things we have co-created through support of people and circumstances in our lives. What are some talents, conveniences, games, or life-tools that you have developed that you did not have a year ago? 5 years ago? 10 years ago? 20 years ago? Whose day did you brighten with kind words, or deeds, or who brightened yours? What material comforts, loving relationships, fun activities, life-lessons, and delicious food have you enjoyed recently? With practice and directed intention, we can cultivate awareness of the infinite blessings in our lives that make life more wonderful to live. We all grow and learn in ways that have added value to our own lives and the lives of others. The more conscious you are of these gifts in your life and choose to celebrate them, the more you will attract wonderful things into your life.
I write daily about celebratory gratitude in my journal that I share on the “Spiritual Warriors” Facebook page, and with my community. Not only does it brighten and energize my day to practice and share gratitude, I also receive feedback daily about how it has inspired gratitude among my community…which further energizes us all in unity as we share how wonderful life is with one another. Even more powerful is that this gratitude practice alerts our subconscious minds to become more aware of new things to be grateful for, and details that were previously invisible to us emerge as if from magic! This is essentially how we attract spirit energy into our lives to share with one another.
9. Meditate daily, throughout your day. This may bring up images of monks sitting in half lotus position, but I assure you this is only one way of approaching this valuable tool. You must find the approach that suits your disposition and lifestyle. I first accessed this tool effectively using moving meditation in tai chi chuan. This worked best at the time, as my mind was far too active with unprocessed trauma and my body too restless to sit still for long. What works best for you will become clear after you have tried a few types for yourself.
Meditation is essentially mindfulness with attention on your breath. So it can include static and seated contemplation, visualization, walking, tai chi, yoga, or even an activity that allows mindful breathing to take place. Regardless of the type of meditation you engage in, it is an essential step to accessing peace of mind, clarity, and optimization of your brain’s capacity to function well. If you are experiencing stress in your day, meditation will greatly aid you in rebalancing your mental self. A daily meditation practice, especially upon waking, has changed my life in so many positive ways, that it’s difficult to think about going back to the way my life occurred before this practice. My mind is clearer, I am inspired daily to engage in my life’s purpose of empowering human greatness, my body is more fine-tuned and powerful (yes, meditation helps that too, through increased body-awareness), and my ability to engage with a mastery of my emotions allows commutation in relationships to be effective and connecting with love. For this reason, going to sleep in time to rise early for this practice is something I hold highly valuable.
There are growing amounts of studies that tout the value of meditation in a healthy and balanced lifestyle. I suggest starting with what I refer to as a “beauty meditation.” Look up a video on YouTube with peaceful, calming music accompanying video content of beautiful scenes in nature. You can simply imagine these nature scenes, which is even better to exercise the power of your imagination.
Sit comfortably, allow your conscious mind to absorb the images and hold your attention while also paying attention to your relaxed, deep nose-breathing. Notice your body sensations with acceptance, and allow a simple observation of your body’s experience to awaken awareness of your hidden self. Your subconscious and unconscious mind and thoughts will begin to arise. The act of being in the process of observation of your body and mind cultivates a processing of deeper, repressed emotions to renew your state with rejuvenated energy. A new awareness of your recurring thoughts, and the beliefs in which they are rooted will slowly surface to empower you in owning your mental state rather than be controlled by it. A new consciousness will appear within to empower your deepest self to reveal your greatest inspirations, purpose, and fulfillment in this life.
Whatever form of meditation suits you is perfect exactly as it is. There is no right or wrong way to meditate anymore than a flowing river is right or wrong for the direction it channels the water. Allow your mindfulness and breath awareness throughout your day to create a meditative state in any situation or activity you choose.
10. Rest, rejuvenate, and recharge with proper sleep, recovery periods, and inspiring activities and people in your life. Adequate sleep every night is essential for your body to reset the mind, cleanse the body, and rejuvenate emotionally from the day of interactions. Your spirit communicates with your subconscious self constantly. During deep sleep you increase the strength of that connection through your receptive state and the processing that happens when dreaming.
Recovery periods from exercise when your energy is low and/or you are sore from activity is essential for your body to become strong as possible. Play hard to stimulate the process for gaining strength, but rest enough to complete the process. I used to think that the harder I exercised, the stronger I would get. I have gained tremendous wisdom and results in physical fitness from focusing in on awareness of my body’s needs with a gentle approach rather than a blind aggression toward my body. “Work smarter, not harder” for the best results. Of course, this is a science that is best learned and practiced with the aid of a qualified fitness professional.
Let’s not forget the most essential part of rejuvenation, and that’s inspiration. Whether you listen to music that psychs you up or aids you in achieving a peaceful state throughout the day, watch a movie that inspires you, converse compassionately and passionately with loved ones or strangers, inspiration is fuel for the spirit, from spirit. If something inspires you, pay attention and heed that call as best you can. Inspiration is your spirit giving you clues and fuel to connect to your life’s purpose. Inspiration connected to your life’s purpose will unfold slowly over time, or you might have known it since you were a young child. Either way, inspiration is the life that fuels us from a higher source. Seize the day and fuel your spirit with inspiration that resonates with you as an individual.
The English word for spirit comes from the Latin root word, Spiritus, meaning “breath, spirit, courage, or vigor.” Essentially, breath and spirit are from the same word and are the same energy in different forms. Going back to the first tip, breath awareness allows all levels of self to unite and breathe life into our existence. Your inspiration in life is quite literally the life force of your spirit, and without it you will never truly live. This life we all share is rooted in the commonalities of being inspired in different ways as individuals that contributes life back into the unified whole. We are all truly One, and when we choose to awaken to that truth, we are empowered through that knowledge and thrive together in applying it as wisdom. Together, we create a better world.
Know Yourself and Be Empowered,
Mike Thomas, NSCA-CPT
Creator, Co-owner, and Innovator of
“Holistic Fitness Lifestyle, LLC”