The Art of Alignment and Balance

The Art of Alignment and Balance

Your attention is your most valuable asset.

Everyone wants a piece of it. We live in a dopamine producing stimulating society and it can become overwhelming, distracting, and pull you out of alignment and off balance at times...if you allow it.

The fifth of the eight limbs of yoga is pratayhara- the art of withdrawing the senses. It's the ability to pull your energy inward which leads to focus, flow, and self knowledge. Understanding how to regulate your energy and give attention to what matters most is essential. 

When everything matters nothing matters. 


Companies have values, goals, metrics, and systems and procedures for operation and so should you as an individual. 

If you are not living in alignment with what matters most to you, you will feel it energetically and it may unconsciously undermine your work, motivation, actions, and relationships. 

Keep Your Thoughts and Your Mouth Neutral

At the dentist last week I was left with a very important message with layers of meaning. I was telling the hygienist how I started fasting once per week for 24-36 hours and oil pulling as well. I’ve read how both are great for your oral health.

Sipping on drinks other than water and snacking often means more chances for bacteria in your mouth to feast. Acidic foods and particularly sugar alter the pH balance in your mouth and create an ideal environment for tooth decay and other oral diseases.

Your oral hygiene has a huge impact on your overall health affecting healthy gut microbiome and risk of heart disease. (Source)

“Keep your mouth neutral.” she said.

More alkaline foods like mineral rich vegetables, low sugar fruits, plenty of water, and less snacking help keep you mouth neutral and healthy.

When I think about a healthy mouth and good oral hygiene I can’t help but reflect on my inner self-talk.

Just as it’s important to keep your mouth neutral it’s critical to keep your mind neutral- neither negative or lost in magical thinking.

I think of tartar build up being just as much from negative things I’ve said (mostly to myself) under my breath. My first ah-ha moment of this came in 2017 when I wrote this blog post.

I know my inner critics voice well these days. I see how she likes to pop up during times I’m about to make a step to grow, create, be my most authentic Self, break down barriers, or try something outside of my comfort zone.

You have to pay careful attention to the many different ways your inner critic manipulates you. Sometimes it’s not a thought/voice that says, “who do you think you are? You can’t do that!”

Sometimes it’s a thought that says, “You need more time and preparation. You’re just not ready yet.” Sometimes she may say, “Oh, let’s work on that passion project later, you need to do laundry and clean the counters!”

When I’m not being mindful or physically or mentally tired it’s easy to succumb to that voice.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right…”

But, when I’m empowered and on top of my game taking care of myself on every level by practicing a healthy and mindful lifestyle I can catch her deceptive ways immediately.

I come face to face with her (She hates that by the way. She would rather have me run and follow the fear) and ask “IS THAT TRUE?”

That single question makes her shrivel and shrink!

tenor.gif

Of course it’s not true!

The deeper I dig and the more I inquire I discover that it can’t be true, because everything returns to LOVE.

Our thoughts do not define us. They are not real.

YOU HAVE THE POWER TO CHOOSE YOUR THOUGHTS!

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
— E.E.Cummings

You can listen to the voice that speaks in no words. You can follow the thoughts that feel like a river of joy flowing through you or you can choose to be frozen in fear. That’s how powerful you are!

PRACTICE:

  1. When you’re doing your oral hygiene, brushing, flossing, rinsing, tongue scraping, etc. morning and night reflect on how you speak to yourself. What stories have you been telling yourself? Ask, “is that true?”

  2. Do a negative self-talk fast. For 24-36 hours be hyper aware of when you speak poorly or have negative thoughts towards yourself or others.

  3. Rewire your inner self-talk with positive affirmations. Say these in the mirror to yourself. It may seem silly, but when you do you are literally re-wiring your subconscious mind! If you’ve been going down a trail of negatives you can re-wire your body and brain to experience positive thoughts through practice.

giphy.gif

How to Discover Your Higher Purpose

Comment

How to Discover Your Higher Purpose

Ever since I was a kid I’ve had this feeling I was meant to do something really BIG one day. I would go after “goals” thinking accomplishing that goal would feed that burning question in my soul.

I remember writing my ideal one mile time on the bathroom mirror when I was thirteen. I had quotes and posters I looked at daily reminding me that life requires hard work, tenacity, and discipline. I didn’t take these messages lightly. They became my world.

How fast could I run from the bus stop to our front door which was about 1.25 miles down a dusty gravel road? How many times could I hit the top left corner of the lacrosse goal perfectly? How many books could I read in one month? How many A+ could I get on my report card? I would set goals and not stop until I got there.

It didn’t feel like work or torture. I really loved it!

The problem was the satisfaction was fleeting. I had to keep pushing the limits and “winning” in order to be happy, because I tied the two together. It was cause and effect. I do this. I get the outcome I want and I’m happy. If I don’t, I’m unhappy. It was a journey of constant peaks and valleys.

The shift came when I realized that my happiness is not tied to an external goal or circumstance. It comes from living in alignment with my higher purpose.

Your higher purpose is bigger than a single outcome like winning a competition or anything that can be destroyed or decay over time. You can have all the greatest worldly things, but if you are out of alignment with your higher purpose and lack meaning in your life you constantly feel an emptiness within.

Your higher purpose supports you like a strong and steady foundation. It makes you light up and come alive. You do it because you love it and no matter what the outcome you’re happy you took the time and energy to allow it to come through you.

It is only when you live in alignment with your higher purpose that you feel truly fulfilled.

It’s important to note that your higher purpose doesn’t have to be your vocation/career. You don’t have to drop everything you’re currently doing to align with your higher purpose, but you do need to find outlets for it; preferably daily. For example, if making art is what fulfills you, you can paint or play music in the evenings after work or on the weekends. If you love to write you can attend writing workshops and even self-publish books. If you can align your higher purpose with your business and earn a living then go for it, but just know it’s not all or nothing. It’s balance.

Get to know yourself and create your life. You will never be happy living someone else’s life.
— Kelly Gonzalez

Reflection Questions to Discover Your Higher Purpose:

  1. What are my core values and beliefs?

  2. What do I do everyday no matter what?

  3. What life experiences have shaped and molded me?

  4. What struggles have I overcome?

  5. What do I love to do?

  6. What do I need to do? And is that really true?

  7. What are my strengths?

  8. What are my weaknesses?

  9. What worldly issues matter most to me?

  10. How can I be service to the whole?

Download a free writing page for free from my shop or write in your Daily Tracker Journal. Head outside or a quiet and serene place to breathe, be, and reflect. Jot down your answers to these questions without overthinking it.

Know that we are constantly evolving and what you consider to be your higher purpose now is subject to change. It may and it may not. It’s different for everyone.

YOU are the big thing- the miraculous instrument and what flows through you as your higher purpose on this planet is your music.

For me, I absolutely love experiencing and sharing personal development, growth, inspirational stories, life lessons, and guiding people on a journey of self-discovery towards health, vitality, fulfillment, and purpose. There’s a variety of ways I do this- from coaching, fitness, movement classes, outdoor adventures, wellness in the workplace, to writing this blog and the heart of practice newsletter. Within the actions lives the core; the higher purpose.

Now, it’s your turn!

Feel free to message me or comment below with what you discover about yourself and your higher purpose today!

Comment

The Art of Non-Doing

We are like snowflakes, all different in our own beautiful way.-3.png

“To know the way, 
we go the way, 
we do the way.
The way we do,
the things we do,
it's all there in front of you.
But if you try too hard to see it,
you'll only become confused.
I am me and you are you.
As you can see; 
but when you do 
the things that you can do, 
you will find the way.
The way will follow you.” 

- Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

LISTEN TO A RECORDING TIME OF THIS NEWSLETTER HERE
Listening time: 5min. 10sec. 

Are you happy to say Adios to April?

I am welcoming May with open arms. April was just one of those months when I spent way too much time in my head and not enough time in heart. It was full of thinking, trying, and striving, and not enough being and receiving all the abundance life grants us every single day. 

When that happens, it never ends well. Towards the end of the month I felt physically exhausted and emotionally drained.

One of my favorite practices I use every month around the new moon is the new moon detox. I get off social media by deleting the apps from my phone. I take time to slow down for at least a day or two to practice deep listening, journaling, and clearing out negative thoughts and impressions from the weeks prior that are taking up unnecessary space in my mind, body, and heart. It's an opportunity to reflect and reset. 

Truth be told, I don't excel at this home practice. It's easier to do when you go to a meditation or yoga retreat or take a vacation, but slowing down in your normal day to day life can be a real struggle.  

But, let's face it, the reason we go on retreat is to learn how to apply the practices to modern and daily life. That's the real practice! 

Even though it's challenging, I know the only way to truly receive the wisdom that is trying to bestow itself upon me is by slowing down and surrendering my agenda for what is trying to come through.

Our breath, bodies, and minds are always giving us hints when we are out of alignment and out of the natural flow of life. Whether we listen and make adjustments or not is our responsibility.  

There’s a concept in Taoism called Wu Wei. It means non-interference or without exertion.

Benjamin Hoff writes in The Tao of Pooh, “When we learn to work with our own inner nature and the natural laws around us we reach the level of wu wei. Then we work with the natural order of things and operate on the principle of minimal effort. Since the natural world follows that principle, it does not make mistakes. Mistakes are made- or imagined- by man the creature with the overloaded brain who separates himself from the supporting network of natural laws by interfering and trying too hard.”

Do you flow or do you force?

I have discovered forcing comes when we do not allow ourselves to feel emotions fully. We stifle them down and cover them up. Anxiety builds up like water in a dam. It only wants out. When you flow with the current of your emotions you resist nothing. You just observe and it passes. You may feel like you will sink but that is not the natural law- you may exert unnecessary energy treading the water when you could just float. If you can float you can flow. You just have to quiet your mind and trust the natural law. This takes practice. 

The Practice:

Take time everyday to move and open up your body and then be still and just breathe for at least 5 minutes.  

Inquiry: 

Where in your life are you forcing an outcome? When was the first time you felt the need to do that? How can you trust life more fully?

Love, 
Kelly 
 

How to Tame a Wild Horse

Blame it or praise it, there is no denying the wild horse in us. 

- Virginia Woolf

LISTEN TO A RECORDING TIME OF THIS NEWSLETTER HERE
Listening time: 6min. 11sec. 

As a kid I was a major horse lover. I couldn't wait for Saturday mornings when my parents would drop me off at the stables and I would spend the whole day there riding, feeding the horses, and mucking stalls. I spent my entire Summer, week after week at horse camp. 

When I was about eight years old I remember my parents walking in the door with a smile on their faces. They sat me down on the couch and delivered the best news ever. They had gotten me my very own horse. 
I screamed and jumped on the sofa in enthusiasm. 

But, there was one catch...this horse was only two years old. It had never had a saddle nonetheless an eight year old on it's back. 

Despite, all my enthusiasm I remember feeling a bit scared and thinking, this is going to be a lot of work, and it was. 

That summer a rugged and mouthy teenager named Jen worked with me on training PJ. Despite her gangly limbs Jen was strong and stern. PJ would buck and attempt to take off, but Jen had the strength to rein him in. Myself on the hand was not so lucky. 

PJ would take off on the trails with me. I remember being frozen in terror as I crouched down low dodging tree branches and would often times wind up with dirty knees and a few scratches when I took the unpleasant escape route of tumbling to the ground. 

At that age, I was much better at bringing PJ carrots and molasses, grooming him, and adoring him than training him, but one day I had to step up and take charge. 

I was leading PJ in from the pasture when I felt a pain on my shoulder. "Ow PJ! Why did you bite me?"

We continued to walk a few more steps, "OUCH!" He nipped me again. 

Third times a charm. I swung around so fast his eyes grew wide. In that moment it was like I grew 10 feet taller. "NO, YOU DO NOT BITE ME!" 

I stood my ground and PJ took a few steps back. It was not out of anger or control that I had to scold PJ, it was out of love so we could live in harmony together. 

In that moment I came into my power and PJ respected it. Sure enough, he never bit me again.

TRAINING THE MIND IS A LOT LIKE TAMING A WILD HORSE

I see the mind being a lot like a wild horse and I often think back to those days of horse training. 

You aim to guide the mind in the direction you want to go, but sometimes it takes off with you and leads you into the past or future. You get swept away with imagination or stuck in a well drowning in emotions. Before long you're a few miles or a few hundred miles away from what you set out to do. 

Meditation is the means to train the mind. 

In meditation you train the mind to remain present. It tries to wander, it may try to bite you, or take off with you, but you keep reining it in and guiding it back to the present moment.

It takes practice. 

In time you may find that your attention span has grown, you can stay on track for hours at a time. Sure, things may pop up like thoughts of what you're going to make for dinner or why your neighbor said what they did, but you don't react to these thoughts. They are in the background.

If it is really important you can jot it down to get back to later, but doesn't take precedent over your current task or take away your sense of peace. 

Here are some things to help your practice: 

1. Exercise and Mobilize: The body will cry out in sensation if it lacks alignment, strength, and flexibility. Whether you are sitting on a meditation cushion or at your desk you must train your body to sit in a way that is comfortable with joints stacked so your muscles don't have to strain. 

TRY OUT THESE 3 STEPS TO FEEL GOOD IN BODY AND DO ANYTHING

2. Understand the Nature of the Mind: The mind is like water in the ocean. A thought is a ripple. You cannot control the ocean; thoughts keep coming, sometimes in gigantic waves that stir the emotional body. The aim of meditation is not to stop the thoughts, but to learn to surf or swim. 

The way you surf or swim is by having a technique. You must give the mind a task. Think of the mind as an excited little helper. It always wants to create and give you information. It's like a child coming home from school who wants to tell you everything that happened and show you their artwork. You wouldn't dismiss this child or tell it to stop doing that. Instead you might help direct them by asking questions about one topic, but the nature of the child is to eventually get bored of talking to you and then they want to go play outside. 

A technique is very similar- you stay with the technique until the mind settles down, then it's like the internal waters have settled and you can simply feel the wind of your breath as if it is a gentle wind over the ocean itself. 

HERE IS A BREATH FOCUSED MEDITATION TO TRY

3. Make Focus Fun: Here is a poem about focusing the mind for your enjoyment. 

FOCUS THE MIND (A POEM) 

PRACTICE:

Try out the practices above and let me know how it goes.

If you're interested in building healthy habits, learning a sustainable movement practice to build a strong foundation for all the activities you love and start a meditation/mindfulness practice for self-knowledge please contact me for coaching. 

Love, 
Kelly 

Focus the Mind (A Poem)

Limit noise and distractions.

See this world is made of particles and fractals.

Shimmering shiny things here and there trying to pull you into their lair.

Stick to your path keep your eyes steady.

Trust your gut. It will tell you when you’re ready.

Choose what is important and what to put to the side.

Only you can decide.

Now, ask your mind to quiet down.

Curl the sides of your mouth up and reverse that frown.

Keep your body strong and spine erect.

Release unnecessary tension, no need to protect.

Slowly breath in and out for a count of 5.

Feel the sensations move up and down your spine.

Some are cool while others are hot like coals burning.

Just be with the sensations, what lessons are you learning?

Sometimes your body, particularly your back may ache.

No one said focusing the mind is a piece of cake.

Be sure you do yoga and strengthening exercises too,

With practice you’ll feel brand new.

In time, focusing the mind will get better, you may encounter moments you feel light as a feather.

Maintain your practice even if it seems like a waste of time.

How valuable it is to release me and mine.

Eventually you’ll be doing other tasks but your mind will remain like an empty flask.

Not disturbing you or trying to rob your inner peace.

For moments at a time the minds fluctuations will cease.

#wordsbykellyg

Breathing Room

LISTEN TO A RECORDING OF THIS POST HERE

Listening time: 4 minutes. 

Every morning at 6AM for longer than I have been on planet earth my yoga teacher Tim Miller has led Pranayama (breath control) at his Encinitas, California shala. 

I was drawn to Tim's energy the moment I found about him. The 90+ minute drive to Encinitas from Los Angeles couldn't deter me. In my heart I knew there was something I was meant to learn from him. I loved the physical practice, but what transformed my experience in practice was the hour long Pranayama session Tim led just before I got on my mat. 

At 6AM just a few students gather in a circle with a small candle lit in the center. Tim strolls in and doesn't say a word. He sits down in lotus position and takes off his watch placing it down in front of him. With no words exchanged, no instructions given, we begin. 

Tim's breath sounds like ocean waves along the shoreline. The pauses are effortless for him, but for me feel like an eternity. Sometimes I can't pause for the whole duration, but nonetheless, the calmness I feel in those moments is undeniable. 

In the pause between the inhalation and exhalation the mind stops. There is no thought, no imagery. It is pure silence and stillness. The only way I can describe it is like standing on top of a mountain. The air is crisp and cool. There is nothing but blue sky above you and solid earth beneath your feet. The physical body feels like a bridge between heaven and earth and within you is a spark of divinity that creates warmth on a frigid winter day.

When I first began practicing Pranayama on my own at home I would get to a point in the practice where it felt like waves were welling up within me. 

When water hits the dam it only wants out. 

I would feel intermittent tears rolling down my cheek unaware of their source. 

One day when visiting Tim at his shala I asked him why breath work sometimes makes me cry. 

In his stoic way he stared off into the distance for a moment to ponder my question. He looked at me, shrugged his shoulders, and with a big grin on his face said, "Well, better out than in!" 

Then he turned and walked away. 

This past winter I went a step further into my investigation. I studied Pranayama with a teacher in Mysore, India. My teacher was 92 years old and has been practicing and teaching yoga, Pranayama, yogic philosophy, and mudras since he was in his teens. 

Some of the lessons were painstakingly slow. We would stand at a chalk board and repeat over and over again, "Pranayama is inhalation and exhalation with retention." Then we would say it about 10 more times with eyes closed. 

One day the teacher called me out as a slow learner compared to the other student in my cohort, a woman of the same age from China. So he demanded I come to private lessons with him so he could ensure I was grasping the technique. 

By the end of my month long training in India I felt radiant. I felt strong within and the chaos of the streets in India didn't jar my nervous system as the tiny tuk tuk darted down busy streets dodging collisions and cows. 

I went onto Bali where I experienced other forms of breath work training. In some sessions I cried and sewed up old wounds, in some sessions I felt the strength of a warrior, and in others I laughed like a joyful Buddha. 

I still do not know what it is about the breath that brings tears to my eyes or a huge smile to my face, but what I know for sure from my experience is the breath is a gateway to freedom and both inner and outer strength. 

Once something changes you from the inside out it feels like a responsibility to offer it to others. 

I will be holding a breath and movement class in Hermosa Beach every Friday evening. For more information please see details on the events page. 


I hope to breathe with you soon. 

Love, 
Kelly 

Restore Body + Mind

Training and physical activity alone is not the only thing that can wear you out. All activity- physical, mental, emotional when in excess can wear you down and burn you out. 

Processing is Power

If you're like me, one of the hardest things in life can be to slow down and do nothing.

I remember my first time sitting a 10-day silent meditation retreat- there was no reading, writing, no internet, no cell phones, no talking, no exercising besides walking, and no talking...for 10 days.

It was such a struggle in the beginning. I squirmed during the hours of meditation. I would go into the bathroom just to jump up and down and try to release pent up energy. I walked  every chance I got, and I even made up games to occupy myself like only using my non-dominant hand for a day.

After a few days my mind finally let go of the idea of trying to do something. I discovered that a lot of the actions we take, the words we speak, and the thoughts we think are unnecessary. Often times, it's just a filler. But, just like fillers in processed food, they do nothing for you. They actually inhibit you and block your ability to absorb real food or in this case, the present moment. 

When I finally let go of trying to control the moment and just be with it I was filled with energy. When I got back home I had sustainable energy and laser like focus for the things that really mattered. I felt stronger in my workouts and more connected. 

Brain Restoration

Your brain is taking in loads of information non-stop.

When you decrease stimulation and give yourself time to process and regenerate it's like unlocking doors within your own being. You get bursts of creativity, stamina, increased willpower, and clarity. 

Studies have shown that a regular meditation practice may increase cortical thickness and slow age-related thinning of the frontal cortex, the area of the brain associated with problem solving. (For more see this blog post)

If you can take 10 days for a meditation retreat and then maintain a practice I highly recommend it. It's life changing, but even just 20 minutes a day, done consistently, can bring life changing results. 

Body Restoration- Train Smarter Not Harder

To increase strength and size connective tissue must experience stress. With recovery your body heals from that stress, adapts and gets stronger. Recovery is critical and it's so often overlooked. Taking one solid day off per week from tough training is useful for your physique, performance, and mindset.

Within the training week it is essential to vary your intensity and train different muscle groups and energy systems. 

I believe everyone needs a training program at any stage in their life for any goal. With a training program your rest and active recovery is programmed in. You work smarter not harder by implementing periodization so you can reach new peaks and achieve new fitness gains in a systematic and mindful way versus just sweating buckets, risking injury, and spending precious time, just hoping what you want to happen magically appears.

Progress isn't everything, but it sure can bring a smile to people's faces and boost their mood and confidence.  When you are aware of what you are doing and why you are doing it you not only build muscle, strength, and endurance, you build self-awareness and knowledge.

If you're interested in a training program please see my coaching page. 

In Conclusion

Taking 20 minutes per day, 1 day per week, 1 week per quarter, 1 month per year to simply take time to just be, do less, consume less, and process can help you accomplish EVERYTHING with more ease and enthusiasm.

For more check out this article I wrote for Livestrong.com to recover and thrive. 

10 yoga poses to speed up your workout recovery

7 Steps to Your Best Day Ever

When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.
— Marcus Aurelius

1. The moment you open your eyes in the morning train your mind to do 2 things. 

A. Express Gratitude: List 3 things you are grateful for right when you wake up and before you go to bed. Gratitude is like a muscle. It must be strengthened on a regular basis. 

B. Body and Energy Scan: Close your eyes (but don't fall back asleep!) and breathe into every part of your body. Breathe down to your toes, up your legs, along your spine, into the chest cavity, down the arms, around the head and face. Mentally connect and feel each part of your body to tune in. 

Assess how you feel. Are there any parts of your that feel rigid and tight, dull or numb, open and spacious? Without judgment be aware and simply feel. 

Next Level: Perform Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs) as a daily morning joint mobility routine. The joints don't have a direct blood supply like our tissues. They rely on movement through the full range of motion to get nutrients. 

2. Have a Morning Routine

Save your decision making power for the novel and important things. Have a morning routine that flows and supports your health and creativity. 

Below are a few ideas of how you can craft your own morning ritual. 

Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 8.33.20 AM.png

3. Keep Your WHY in Mind

When you have a busy schedule and start to feel drained how do you ignite the inner fire and raise your energy? 

CONNECT TO YOUR WHY

Go deep. Go beyond surface level. Make it personal. 

Why did you start in the first place?

When you get tired remember that feeling of excitement, passion, and drive. Go to that place and keep it open! Wear it in your gestures, let it roll off your tongue in every conversation, feel it pulsate through you. 

Write your WHY down somewhere you see it everyday. Paint a picture in your mind of your why and connect to it everyday; multiple times per day until it sticks!  

4. Move More

Exercise is just as much for your brain and mind as it is for your body. 

Biologist and educator Carla Hannaford, Ph.D., writes in her book “Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All in Your Head,” “The more you use the body-mind system, the more it will grow.” Think of movement as a way to code your nerve networks. A variety of exercises that present unique challenges will code your body and brain for high-level functionality. Which means that by providing your body and brain with new information, you’re upgrading yourself!

More movement throughout the day keeps your joints healthy, spurs creativity, elevates mood, and decreases cravings.

Instead of one lengthy workout try to get in short to moderate sessions multiple times per day. 

For example, in the morning perform mobility and calisthenics. Mid-day walk, stretch, take the stairs, get outside for some fresh air.  In the late afternoon hit the gym for strength and cardio.

It may seem like exercise will take time away from business matters, but truthfully more movement throughout the day can make you more efficient, creative, and happier.  

Here are a few of my favorite mobility moves

5. Fuel Up Right

Eat mindfully and intelligently. As the saying goes, "You are what you eat." 

Here's a post with a list of recommended foods. 

Here's a post discussing how to optimize your focus with nutrition

6. BREATHE! 

Give yourself just 5 minutes to do absolutely nothing but simply breathe everyday. 

Here's an exercise to try: 

Prone Diaphragmatic Breathing

Lie on your stomach with your arms crossed out in front and your forehead resting on the back of your hands. Breathe into each segment of the spine, starting with three to five breaths into the chest and upper rib cage, middle of back and, finally, into the low back. With each inhalation, fill and lift the torso off the ground as if you’re on hydraulics. With the exhalation, feel the abs pulling away from the ground.

7. Reflection

Setting aside 15 minutes to reflect and write at the end of your workday can improve performance. In one study, participants wrote what went well that day and what didn’t. The employees who recorded their thoughts reported 23 percent higher performance.

At the end of the workday or before going to sleep, record what went well that day and where there’s room for improvement. Perhaps record a few action steps you’d like to implement the next day and see if you get different results.

Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 9.59.31 AM 2.png

The Art of Transformation

LISTEN TO A RECORDING OF THIS POST HERE

Listening time 6m 50s

I remember when I first moved to Los Angeles and I would get calls for various fitness auditions. My first one ended up landing me a spot as a background talent in P90X2, others were for fitness equipment, but some were to represent a diet or workout system to show a body transformation. 

Kelly+P90X+Back+and+Balance-1.jpg

The problem was the companies would fake the transformation photos. They would hire two different people for the before and after photo and pretend like the system worked in no time. Being young and naive at the time I found this to be such a shock and so disheartening.  

It's no wonder so many people try these quick fix systems and are left disappointed and frustrated. They may keep looking for a different route to take, but the problem is the map they are relying on is false and the compass they have been given is broken. 

What I know for sure is that there are no shortcuts when it comes to body transformations, breaking through plateaus, or achieving any sincere heartfelt goal or desire.

What I learned on my pilgrimage abroad is that transformation is an inside out process. Even though you can't see it on the outside, change is happening on the inside in each of us all the time. 

It's like when seeds are planted in the earth. For weeks you may see no changes as all the growth is happening beneath the surface, but with the right conditions eventually the seedling breaks through the earth and blooms in all its glory.

That seedling has an innate intelligence all it's own for growth, and we too obtain that same intelligence. 

I find the most difficult part of any new journey to be trust in the process. Once you plant the seeds and start taking actions to nourish the seedlings you can't keep digging them up to see if it's working yet or they will never take root. 

Transformation Begins at a Cellular Level

The trillions of cells in our body are constantly in a cycle of death and birth. The health of these cells depends on what you do, what you eat, the environment you hang out in, the people you interact with, and mostly what you think.

These experiences shape us and transform us on every level. 

Do you ever wonder what you would be like if you grew up in a completely different culture and environment? How would your values be different, your body and abilities, your preferences and aversions? 

IMG_5082.jpg

Above: A young boy and his Grandmother in Sri Lanka taken this past March.

Transformation is Only Possible if You Think It's Possible

There's an old fable about a lion cub who lost it's mother and was adopted by a herd of sheep. The lion cub grew up just as if it were a baby lamb. One day a grown lion looked out over the field and was bewildered to see this young lion acting like a sheep. When the lion approached the youth he tried to remind him that he was king of the jungle, not a wee little lamb. The cub was in denial. He truly believed he was one of the sheep. With much training the cub eventually realized his strength and joined the pack of lions. 

The takeaway from this story is that sometimes we don't know our own strengths until someone pulls it out of us or reminds us who we really are. 

It's like the 4-minute mile story. Once Richard Banister broke the 4 minute mile barrier in 1954 others began to do the same. The limitation was not in the physical body. It was in the mind. First, we must believe it's possible to make the shift. The body will follow what the mind believes. 

See It. 

The mind is a fabulous cinematographer. Sometimes the mind movies are romantic comedies, sometimes melancholy, other times frightful and they have you sitting on the edge of your seat. The images we see in our minds can motivate us or crush our dreams...if we believe them and react to them. Spend time observing what movies your mind is creating on a daily basis. Are they useful or just a distraction? 

Feel It. 

When you are calling in a goal, a dream, a transformation it's not just helpful, but essential that you feel it (and express gratitude for it) as if it's already happened.

About 10 years ago I first read Arnold Schwarzenegger's memoir The Education of a Bodybuilder. What I have never forgotten is what he said about the way he felt when he would touch iron. It was like an energy that ran through him. He knew from a young age what his goals were and he never stopped the pursuit until his goals were accomplished. Everyday he trained he didn't do it because he felt like he had to. He wanted to, he loved the journey even more than the destination, and that's what makes all the difference in the world. 

For more on how to reprogram your mind for results see this article I wrote. 

Alignment

Once you have your mind right it's essential to align all the variables. 

There's a different way to train and eat for building muscle and losing fat versus performance goals like running a marathon or competing in an iron man triathlon. There are different elements you will need for certain skills like the pistol squat or handstand. Each person is built differently and requires different methods and techniques. There are unique challenges you will face whether you are a busy Mom or Dad or an executive with a full on travel schedule. 

The key is align what you do, how you eat, and how you think towards your goals. 

If you need help with this it's my specialty! Check out my coaching page.

But, Don't Forget to Build Your Foundation First

Often times we want to jump ahead to the complex, the fun stuff, the things we read about in magazines or see on fitness videos, but ignore the fact that each of our bodies have been so kind to carry us through this life up to now and may need some maintenance work before you can get back on the course going full speed. Mobility, a balance of strength and flexibility, is the precursor to high level training. 

Practice, Practice, Practice

There is absolutely no substitute for practice. This is the law of specificity. If you want to get better at a skill and induce changes you must practice (correctly) to induce neurological changes. Through practice you rewire yourself and become your vision. 


To get moving towards your goals today contact me. I would love to hear from you! 





 

Springtime Rejuvenation: Move Energy + Get Ready for a New Season of Growth

Listen to a recording of this post here  

Listening time: 15 minutes

Are You Ready to Grow this Spring? 

Our bodies naturally seek balance, healing, and wholeness. The hard part is quieting the mind down enough and filtering out impressions from the external world to let the body do it's thing. 

Your body is always giving you signals. 

It will tell you when it's time to change your diet, your workouts, and even your relationships or career. 

When I speak of cleansing and rejuvenation I am not just speaking about the physical body. Our mind, emotions, and spirits need cleansing and rejuvenation, too. Often times symptoms that pop up in the physical body are deeply rooted in the mind and emotions first and eventually make their up to the surface. 

Here are some ways the mind/body tries to get your attention and tell you it's trying to cleanse, recalibrate, and heal itself: 

- Constant fatigue

- Bloating 

- Constipation

- Breakouts and rashes

- Dullness and sense of heaviness

- Irritability 

- Fast weight gain or weight loss

- Insomnia

- Frequent colds and viruses 

How to Rejuvenate Mind, Body, and Spirit

1. Align Yourself with Natural Cycles and Rhythms

If we look to the natural cycles and rhythms of Mother Nature we see that winter is a slower time. The leaves fall away from the trees, the flowers are not in bloom, the bears hibernate. But, by Springtime nature is blossoming! 

We too, rely on cycles and rhythms. Unfortunately, modern humans do not "cycle" well. We are in go mode 24/7.  

Luckily, our bodies demand us to incorporate a healthy cycle of activity and recovery during sleep. The key to good sleep (much like everything) is consistency. 

Get Tips for High Quality Sleep Here. 

2. Drink More Water and Less Caffeine

If you are constantly waking up fatigued and sluggish do not reach for a cup of coffee/caffeine. Acknowledge the fatigue. That's the first step. When you drink caffeine or eat high sugar foods you feel fired up for a short time. This is what I call "false fire." It makes you feel like and believe you are fired up and ready to tackle the day or a workout, but in reality it's overriding your body's natural signals of fatigue. Continue with this for long enough and you will eventually burnout. 

 The key is to have and enjoy caffeine if you like it, but not to rely on it.

I have seen this over and over again with athletes and the ultra busy person. In my own experience I have been there too. As an athlete we would drink coffee, energy drinks, take simple sugars and freaky supplements that turned neon blue when mixed with water before training or practice, blare some heart pumping music, train hard, and then crash mid-day. Then, you reach for more caffeine to get through the rest of day. Sleep is compromised and it becomes a vicious cycle that leaves no space for recovery as the sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive. 

You do not get stronger during the workout. You get stronger with recovery when the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest mode) gets a chance to be in charge, heal, and prepare your body to endure a greater load of stress. 

The Fix:

Start your day with drinking a big glass of water. Preferably warm water to warm up the digestive system. You can also add fresh squeezed lemon and ginger as well for the alkaline and anti-inflammatory properties. 

To assist your liver in it's function of detoxification you can take lemon water with a punch of astringent apple cider vinegar.

I call this the DDD- DAILY DETOX DRINK. Click the link for more. 

3. Move Energy + FLOW

Albert Einstein said it simply, "Everything is energy, and that's all there is to it..."

I have always been a kinesthetic learner and physical person I believe that this is mainly because I love to MOVE energy. Thoughts, emotions, impressions we take in from the external world accumulate and stick to us and float around unless we filter it and move it out.

Think of your body like a body of water (we are over 70% water after all). Then think of your mind like a filtration system. Unfortunately garbage gets dumped into the body of water, toxins, and chemicals flow from within as a result of internal stress, and the water gets murky. The filtration system (the mind) can get clogged...hello brain fog...or you get hot headed, overheated and dried out. Either way, the result is STAGNATION.

 

7Yq5FF34mHo3-uXnzkb8C43b-rvMV042Tx_712ap2Vc.jpg

Don't let your body become a swamp. Keep the energy flowing freely. Here are a few ways to do so...

 1. Dry Brush: Dry brushing is an excellent way to keep the lymphatic system healthy. The lymphatic system helps move toxins in the interstitial fluid out of the body. You can purchase a dry brush at a holistic health store or online. When dry brushing use long sweeping strokes moving towards your heart. 

2. Cold Water Therapy: After dry brushing jump in the shower for a cold rinse. Switching from cold to hot water constricts and then opens the blood vessels and improves circulation to get energy flowing and aids in recovery of tissues as it accelerates blood, oxygen, and nutrient flow throughout the body. 

3. Massage + Self-Myofascial Release

Like dry brushing, massage and self-myofascial release helps stimulate the lymphatic system and improves circulation, but the main benefit is it works on the fascia. Fascia is like a gigantic cobweb material that encases each individual muscle and wraps around your frame as a whole. 

One time, I woke up in the middle of the night with the word TENSEGRITY on my mind. I didn't know what it meant, but when I researched it I found it to be the perfect way to explain the fascial system. 

"Tensegrity or tensional integrity also known as floating compression is a structural principle based on the use of isolated components in compression inside a net of continuous tension." 

So when we think of the fascial system think of it like a tensegrity structure. Compression or a "knot" in one place will cause tension throughout the entire system. Often times in the training world we talk about "muscle imbalances" it may not be the muscles are imbalanced, but instead that there is a knot in the fascial system that is causing the body to be out of alignment. 

I see self-myofascial release as both a mindfulness practice and physical therapeutic practice. It brings awareness to where you hold tension and makes one more cognizant to stay relaxed and not grip those areas under times of stress. By holding pressure on the tight knot you activate the mechanoreceptors within the tissue and tell it to release. 

Here is a video to get started with self-mysofascial release. 

4. Breathe Fully and Deeply

The breath is our bodies main detoxification system. Every time we take a breath we massage the inner organs and deliver fresh oxygen, blood, and nutrients to assist those organs in performing their function. Often times energy becomes stuck and stagnant when we cannot access a part of the body with our breath. If tissues lack oxygen, awareness, and energy the cells die and the tissue becomes dull, dry, and lack neurological drive. Keep the energy and electricity flowing throughout your body. 

Try these breathing exercises to breathe fully and deeply

5. Sweat, Tears + Salt Water

Bring a glow to your skin by heating up from within. Move, sweat, burn calories, even eat spicy food to get stagnant energy up and out when feeling dull and sluggish. 

Springtime is a great time to get moving with some elemental core and cardio workouts. Perform core work like planks, bridges, isometric holds to get the fire revved up and shining brightly. But, don't forget to lubricate the joints and get primed with mobility first. 

Here are some core moves to try. 

Then head outdoors to walk, run, bike, swim.

Here's a video for safely getting started and progressing with a cardio routine. 

Tears: Let's talk about cleansing the emotions. Now, I have found that this topic may make some people feel uncomfortable, but mental/emotional health is just as important as physical health and it's all interconnected. Crying is as natural as sweating, breathing, swallowing, and blinking. 

Sometimes stress builds up and it just wants out...

Unknown.jpeg

I think of a toddler throwing a temper tantrum when they are in need of nap. Or a rabbit shaking and quivering fear out of it's nervous system after escaping from a hungry fox. As adults we are conditioned to hold back these primal urges. We stuff down our emotions. Eat them or let them burn within us until they come out in a fit of rage long after we forgot the initial infraction which is the root of the combustion. 

A few years back a little while after my breaking free movement began all the heartache, stress, and anxiety I tried to stuff down and ignore regarding that situation came to the surface every single morning around 4-6AM. I was going through A Course in Miracles at the time and during the meditations I would cry not even knowing why I was crying.

Looking back, I see it was just suppressed emotions. No story is needed for why we feel the way we do, because it is purely stored up energy that needs to be moved out to create space for lightness of being and present moment awareness so we can move forward with grace and ease. 

These days I like to the keep the tear ducts well maintained and not let energy well up against an internal dam so if I have not been on point with maintaining balance in my life I feel it, stretch with some long holds, and get very still to feel. Then I may lay down and just let myself cry out the stress. Just like a wave in the ocean the energy builds, peaks, and then releases. Then, not thinking anything about it or judging it I smile and go about my day. Normally, I have to shift the energy with some upbeat music and joyful movement. It is one of the most liberating practices I have ever done. 

Salt water: Sticking with the theme of emotional cleansing; salt water is extremely healing. Placing your feet in the ocean, a body of water, or even a tub with warm water and sea salts can wash away toxic thoughts and emotions when performed with intention.

Ionic foot baths claim to literally pull toxins out of the body, but studies have shown this to be false...

But, the power of mind is immensely powerful so think of the water washing away anything that no longer serves you. 

6. Fasting and Clean Eating

"The best of all medicines is resting and fasting." - Benjamin Franklin

I remember when I first started implementing fasting. I had just started seeing a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Santa Monica, California. My healing regimen consisted of yoga everyday, meditation for an hour per day, fasting once per week drinking just water for 36 hours, and chanting Om mani padme hum daily. 

I hated fasting, because I didn't have energy to do all the things I wanted to do. I think that was the greatest benefit received. I learned how to rest and that everything I wanted to do like save the world didn't have to be accomplished in a single day. 

Fasting allows the digestive system to rest. The cells clean themselves out with a process called autophagy when we go about 12-14 hours without food, and the emotional body gets a deep cleanse as you let go of to-dos and outdated belief systems. 

Keep in mind, a 24-36 hour water fast is not right for everyone all the time. But, it's right for some people some of the time. ;-) 

Other options are intermittent fasting. Closing the eating window to about 8 hours or so and fasting the rest of the day. Skipping breakfast is a popular form of intermittent fasting- only eating between 1PM-8PM or the like. I prefer the Buddhist monk and nun way of intermittent fasting though- not eating after the noon meal. At Vipasssana meditation, a 10 day silent meditation retreat, we eat a simple breakfast of oats and prunes at 6:30AM and robust lunch at 11:30AM and fast for the rest of the day. I find this form of intermittent more sustainable for me, but each person has to access their lifestyle, goals, and needs as intermittent fasting can be a lifestyle or done for a short period of time to facilitate cleansing. 

For more on the benefits of fasting and how to get started read this post. 

Fasting is an opportune time to reset eating habits and plan a healthy menu for the coming weeks.

Follow these clean eating tips to optimize your reset. 

7. Meditation

One of the best ways to cleanse your Spirit and every cell in your body is through meditation. Our brains filter input all day long. Meditation not only gives your brain a chance to recoup and process, but also realigns your energy with the power of God. 

Click here for more information about how meditation changes your brain. 

8. Step into the Unknown, Shake Things Up, and Trust the Process

If you're like me, you love to make plans. But, sometimes the best thing we can do is release control, step into the unknown, do something out of character, and let things unfold.

If you are someone who loves rituals and routines, maybe book a weekend trip and just go with the flow planning your itinerary moment to moment. If you are someone who is always taking care of others treats yourself to a spa day and let yourself be pampered for a change. 

Reflection + Free Writing  Download your free writing page for FREE in my Shop

How am I blooming this Spring? How do I choose to grow? What do I need to let go of in order to grow? What actions do I need to take and what support do I need to move into this next season of personal growth? 

IMG_3436.JPG

Take the Reins (A Poem About Practicing Meditation)

I wrote this poem after a 20 minute meditation sitting on a  park bench in Mysore, India. Prior to meditation I was feeling overwhelmed, sticky and hot (it was about 82 degrees out), and my mind felt like a wild horse taking off running loose without any sense of direction.

I had many ideas that I wanted to put into action, but didn't know how to get my mind to cooperate. Even during the meditation it took a good 17 of the 20 minutes for me to settle down, release tension, and stop resisting.  

When time was up I felt relieved. It felt like I just an intense workout although the movement was all in my mind. My body finally relaxed. I stopped trying to force something to be created out of the ether. I opened up the notepad on my phone and said "Write something. What do YOU want to write right now?" 

Well this was it....

Take the Reins

There's a tug of war going on inside. Do I fight or run away and hide? 

The loudspeakers are blasting music I cannot understand. I waver to and fro searching for stable land. 

I try not to move, not to blink or rustle my feet. But, it's pumping and thumping shaking me right out of my seat. 

My mind wants to reach into the ether and grasp hold of familiar thoughts. It knows no other way that's how it has been conditioned and taught. 

On and on it goes in a monotonous tone. "Isn't time up yet?" I say as I look down at my phone. 

Seven more minutes. Do not move. Do not shudder. Do not complain. This is the process and what you must do if you want to remain sane. 

But what if I lost it. What if I spun out of control. Fell into a dark hole like a crippled foal. 

Who would save me and put the pieces back together? I guess you would just have to learn to float and be light as a feather. 

Okay I get it, right here right now I will do the work. After all I am borrowing this experience from you, I am your earthly store clerk. 

What would you like? How may I serve you?

Can you please speak up I can barely hear you. 

Take the reins and guide this wild horse, this mind of mine. Teach it to be patient. Teach it to be kind. 

Oh what's that you say? I thought you said something truly profound like in the books I have read. But, maybe I am just confusing your words with what others have said. 

I can't tell the difference. The impressions run deep. Who are you and what secrets do you keep? 

My mind keeps chattering away to fill in the gaps. I suppose that is the alluring trap. 

Take the reins. I give you permission. This wild horse is strong and full of ambition. 

Okay, alright, you can be silent if you wish. Ride through the night like a watchman until this journey is finished. 

Oh wait, what's happening. The struggle is fading. Into the river we go... just wading. 

I can no longer resist or clench my jaw and fists. 

Silence flows into my pores. Into every nook and morsel. 

Deeper into the depths we go. Quietly, patiently, nice and slow. 

In this space...

I can hear you loud and clear. 

 

 

 

Reflecting Back on 2017

At this time of year I always like to carve out time to reflect on what went well throughout the year and what needs improvement. 

This past year was a year of many firsts for me-- I made my first television show appearance on Great Day Washington in D.C. speaking about intrinsic motivation and workouts you can do at home to jumpstart your day. I presented a 12 week seminar series covering topics in movement, healthy eating, and mindfulness for an amazing company and group of people in Venice, California in addition to continuing classes and seminars at other companies. I took my coaching business completely online, and on top of my services I also hosted people from around the world as an Airbnb host.

z life pic.jpg

It's been an exciting year! Every endeavor has pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me grow on all levels.  

The duality of so many exciting new beginnings at once was trying to stay focused, organized, and avoid burn out. At times, I found myself losing focus and becoming overwhelmed mainly because I wanted everything to be PERFECT. 

I encountered some personal health challenges in the Spring that added to anxiety and emotional ups and downs. But, geez am I grateful for that experience too as it taught me the importance of patience, balance, and harmony. I took time to restore myself in nature, meditation, yoga, and indulge in personal development at points throughout the year to keep the harmony. 

19895123_10101390756734205_174390205362081220_n.jpg


In 2018 I  am committed to being extremely focused and maintain balance in all areas of my life not just business. I am consciously choosing to not follow my usual pattern of typing up a lengthy list of goals and then berating myself if I do not exceed them. I am so much more concerned with  savoring moments in 2018. Presence and enjoyment are my keywords this year. 

As I was working through my new approach for goal-setting to maintain I came up with a little acronym to help discern what goals are most meaningful and useful to myself, others, and the world at large and which ones to save for later or let go of completely. 

CHECK OUT THE VIDEO BELOW TO GAIN TEMPO (with a double E) in 2018. 
 

This year I choose to create balance and harmony in all areas of my life.
— Kelly Gonzalez Affirmation

Forming New Trails

images-3.jpeg

When you embark on a journey of learning something new whether it's learning how to perform a push-up, meditate, or play the violin, just the act of trying makes a big impact. 

That awkwardness, hesitation, and shakiness you may encounter when trying something new is truly your body upgrading itself. As we interact with the world through our senses we take in information and form new neural pathways.

In the beginning it can be like walking through a dense forest, but as we continue to trek the path consistently a trail begins to form.

It gets easier as specific neurons are used over and over again and they begin to lay down a thick covering called myelin.

Think of myelin like pouring down concrete on that path. Now you have a road. Traffic flows freely. Nerve transmission gets faster and before you know it you have gone from a bumpy road to smooth cruising. 

The more you learn and practice the more neural networks light up! This is why my motto is "shine bright!" Through practice, you are shining from the inside out and radiating life itself. 

Here's something to ponder about: 

"The human nervous system is thought to consist of 10 (to the 11th power) neurons, about the same number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy. No two neurons are identical." - Smart Moves by Carla Hannaford, Ph.D. 
 

milky-way-2.adapt.945.1.jpg

Learning, not just using our minds, but by using our bodies is key for intelligence and a dynamic life. And, if you really want to be next level, put your heart into it. Backing your practice with positive emotion will keep you coming back for more.

Focus is Your Golden Ticket

Just doing an action is not the same as embodying the action.   

"Neural connections can be altered and grown only if there is full attention, focused interest on what we do."
 (Merzenich, Taub and Greenough. Neural Plasticity)

Therefore, it's not just WHAT you do. It's HOW you do it. 

My bottom line is you have the ability to wire and re-wire yourself based on what you practice. Keep moving and challenging yourself. Be mindful throughout the process. Starting and trying is the most important thing. 

 

Mindfulness Changes Your Brain

Just as physical exercise can make your body stronger and more mobile, MRI studies suggest meditation may make your brain stronger, more resilient, and promote longevity. 

Studies have shown that a regular meditation practice may increase cortical thickness and slow age-related thinning of the frontal cortex, the area of the brain associated with problem solving. 

MRI Studies Report Thickening in 4 Regions of the Brain: 

  • Posterior cingulate: mind wandering + self relevance

  • Left hippocampus: learning, cognition, memory, emotional regulation

  • Temporo parietal junction TPJ: empathy, compassion, perspective

  • Pons (area of brain stem): production of regulatory neurotransmitters

Reduction in size of: 

Amygdala: fight or flight- fear, stress, anxiety

Writing as a Meditation Practice

A Daily Writing Practice
Benefits: May reduce stress, promote productivity and problem solving capabilities, and enhance creativity. 

1. Write three pages longhand in a journal or set a timer for 5-10 minutes. Don't think, just write whatever is on your mind. 
2. When you've written three pages or when time is up, stop, take a few deep breaths, and underline anything that stands out to you that may be useful. 
3. Take note of how you feel after writing.
4. Repeat daily. 

See the full article , 10 Ways Journaling Will Transform Your Life, I wrote for Livestrong.com HERE

 

Sleep Well

 

Here are a few warning signs you may not be getting enough sleep:

You feel tired all the time

This one seems like it would be a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how many people talk themselves into thinking that it’s normal to feel tired, worn down, and drained all the time. It’s as if it’s part of being an adult in the working world. Here’s the catch though, there’s a big difference between being an adult in the working world and going through the motions haphazardly and having energy, vitality, and creativity for life itself. More consistent restful sleep can make a huge difference.

You have cravings for sweets, carbs, and tend to overeat

The two primary hormones that control appetite are leptin and ghrelin.  Leptin tells us that we are “full,” and signals us to put the fork down and stop eating.  Ghrelin is the “hunger hormone,” it sends a message to our brain that tells us we are hungry and need to eat for energy. Lack of sleep can alter these hormones causing a decrease in leptin and increase in ghrelin.  A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine discovered that sleep restriction was associated with an 18% decrease in leptin and 28% increase in ghrelin in 12 healthy male subjects.  Hunger and appetite for high calorie dense foods containing high amounts of carbohydrates increased 33-45%.  

You feel stressed and frazzled and get sick often

Lack of sleep increases the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses immune function and makes you feel anxious and jittery. It’s like your body is running at top speed internally, and it may help you meet that deadline, but soon enough you crash and burn, and the aftermath isn’t pretty. 

You workout, but can’t seem to gain lean muscle

Restful sleep resets hormones. One of these key hormones is  human growth hormone, which helps build fat burning lean muscle mass, assists in energy and metabolism, and rebuilds cells and tissues for a youthful appearance.

You eat well and workout, but can’t seem to lose weight

Studies show that lack of sleep decreases the body’s ability to use calories, negatively impacts glucose metabolism (body’s ability to use sugars for energy instead of storing it as fat), and throws key hormones that assist weight loss like cortisol, growth hormone, leptin, and ghrelin out of whack.

You can’t seem to focus

One study found that 17 hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.05%.  This is equivalent to about 2 glasses of wine.  The blood alcohol concentration for drivers is 0.08%. This means that sleep deprivation nearly leaves you legally drunk; better not get pulled over!

So, if you can relate to any of the above, here a few tips to sleep well from sleep researcher Dr. Michael Breus’ new book The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan. I had the pleasure of attending his sleep seminar a while back and loved these helpful tips.

TIPS TO SLEEP WELL

1. Create a sleep schedule

Your body runs on circadian rhythms. The more consistent you can be to get your body in a regular flow the better! Aim to wake up and go to bed at approximately the same time each night. (Yes, even on weekends).

2. Eliminate caffeine by 2PM

It takes 6-8 hours for caffeine to evacuate your system. Caffeine can interfere with REM sleep, that’s the mentally restoring sleep that helps you think clearly.

3. No alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime

According to Dr. Breus, alcohol leads to fragmented sleep and the closer you drink alcohol before bedtime the more disturbed your sleep will be.

4. Stop exercising within 4 hours of bedtime

Exercise is a positive stress, but it’s also a stimulant. In order to wind down and signal to your body it’s time to rest your core body temperature lowers. Aim to workout earlier and do more restorative exercises like stretching and foam rolling or meditating before bed.

5. Get outside in the morning

Sunshine in the peak hours of the morning helps regulate the sleep hormone melatonin and resets your biological clock.

TIPS FOR CREATING A ZEN SLEEPING (HABIT)AT

It’s not just about how many hours you sleep; it’s about how WELL you sleep.
— KG
  • Unplug: Turn off all electronics at least an hour before bed. Studies have shown that artificial light from electronics impairs melatonin production and sleep cycles.

  • Clear the clutter: Our external environment can play a huge role in our ability to slow down the mind. Make your sleeping environment cozy and ideal, free of clutter.

  • Eat & Drink Smart: Aim for decaffeinated beverages like chamomile tea or warm lemon and ginger water. Eat tryptophan-rich foods. Foods like raw nuts, eggs, and turkey help to produce serotonin aiding in the relaxation response.

  • Supplement Accordingly: Magnesium is an essential mineral that aids in muscle function, nerve impulse, and relaxation. Supplementing with magnesium can help you release tension and relax. One of my favorite magnesium supplements is CALM.

  • RELAX: Wind down, breathe, and slow down the mind by reading, journaling, or meditating.

  • Turn EVERY light off: Melatonin, a hormone that is part of the natural entrainment of sleep/wake cycle aka circadian rhythms, is triggered by darkness. Try to sleep in pitch black and use a sleep mask if necessary.

  • Firm mattress and a single pillow: Some of those chronic aches and pains like the pain in your neck or hip may be due to tossing and turning in your sleep and your sleep position. Personally, I find that I sleep my very best when camping and sleeping on a thin sleeping pad.