Month: April 2018

Treat Your Body (& Your Microbiome) Like a Temple

Your body is an ecosystem to itself, host to trillions of microorganisms residing within the environmental niche of your human self.

Several hundred different species of bacteria, fungi, yeast, viruses and other cellular organisms live in your gastrointestinal tract, mouth, vagina and skin. They are collectively referred to as your microbiome and you plus them compose a single ecological unit that has co-evolved synergistically since the beginning of time.

The cells of your microbiome outnumber your own cells ten to one and account for a 100x greater fold in gene expression than what your human genome is capable of. While DNA is 99.9% similar between every person, our microbiomes are incredibly diverse and scientists are correlating specific microbiome patterns with certain disease states and behaviors, and is accounting for more than what genetics alone can predict.

A thriving microbiome serves vital immunologic, anti-inflammatory, metabolic and homeostatic functions. It helps us digest food, produce vitamins, educate our immune system, pull nutrients in, push toxins out, protect from disease, fight off harmful microorganisms, and even regulate mood.

Studies have linked changes in the microbiome to obesity, heart disease, arthritis, IBS, allergies, diminished response to cancer immunotherapies, and neurological disorders like Parkinson’s, pain sensitivity, eating behaviors, stress responses, emotional dysregulation, and even social interacting. We are thus on the verge of a new health revolution that’s asking “If we damage our microbiome, what other health problems are we causing?”.

The process of building your microbiome starts immediately after birth. We’re born sterile inside. Passage through the birth canal introduces both gut and skin microorganisms from your mother. Breast milk introduces more bacteria from all over the body. Food from dirt takes over and the microbiome fully matures by age three. It’s a process of symbiotic co-evolution where our microbiomes are as much a part of our human landscape as the person themselves.

When things go wrong with the microbiome, from stress or diet, it becomes depleted, thinned, and overrun by pathogens. This eliminates the protective effect and the gut lining becomes exposed. Direct effects of inflammation cause the gut to erode (leading to poor nutrient absorption and food sensitivities) and even fall apart (leading to leaky gut and direct input of toxins to the bloodstream).

So what’s the #1 way to treat your body and microbiome like a shrine? Remove toxins and pathogens from your body while focusing on what goes in through diet. Agricultural and pharmacologic antibiotics kill off the microbiome, so do food pesticides. GMOs, food irradiation, microwaving, overcooking and over-utilized sterilization processes deplete the microbiome before food even hits the plate. Replacing good ingredients with refined sugars, processed flours, fillers, etc. serves to support yeast and parasite growth that competes with and replaces the microbiome. Finally, modern world stress weakens and inflames our microbiome, which in turn sends out the immune-mediated biological markers that augment self-fulfilling cycles that spiral us towards autoimmune disorders, chronic fatigue and pain.

  • Recommendations suggest getting the most probiotic diversity from diet by eating probiotic foods ranging from kombucha to sauerkraut and yogurt.
  • Prebiotic diets utilize natural forms of fiber that increase GI motility and bacterial turnover, which encourages low populations to flourish. Inulin and oligoscaharides make the best prebiotic fibers and are found in foods like onions, garlic, asparagus, green bananas, and whole grains.
  • Fruits and vegetables are #1 source or probiotic and prebiotic foods. Modern diets lack sufficient fiber. Fiber not only feeds the microbiome, it aids stool transit times. Digestion is a time-sensitive process by which we want to absorb the good before things begin to putrefy.
  • Removing toxins from your diet and body is tough no matter how carefully you choose food. According to David Sandoval, pesticides are found in >75% of the food we eat and every American tested has been shown to have it in their bodies. Chelation is a difficult process by which we use substances to bind and remove toxins/metals from our body. Chlorella is a normal microbiome organism that produces glutahione, the major natural chelator in humans. Other products like Biome Medic ® are being marketed as pesticide chelators.
  • Avoid antacids in leu of having natural stomach acidity that kills harmful bacteria.
  • Chew food well. Saliva has many semi-dormant probiotic bacteria that get mixed into and activated with food, and can literally make a scoby out of each meal.
  • Processed sugars and corn syrup inflame your cells and serve as superfood for yeast and candida mold species that take over and replace the normal microbiome. Yeast is not probiotic. It produces large amounts of gases CO2 and ethanol which further irritate and compete for your body’s use of oxygen.
  • Meat protein is hard to digest, which not only slows transit time, its byproducts of metabolism (ammonia, sulfites, methane and ethanol) could be comparable to the main ingredients in household cleaners, explosives, and gasoline.

Once our food was as pure as the earth, water ran clean and dirt was full of minerals. We lived by our gut instincts. We woke by the sun, slept by the stars, and a real circadian rhythm vs. go-go modern day challenges. We did not eat coloring, flavoring, added sugar, binding agents, fillers, hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, radiated ingredients, and GMOs.

The microbiome is not well understood yet is receiving a lot of recent attention, this may be because our modern world has made it almost impossible to care for it. Evolutionarily, microbial symbiosis of the intestinal tract started in the ocean when we were primitive wormlike ingestive tubes, and we have since evolved into a complex single ecological unit. We know the microbiome has widespread physiologic roles that are positive for us, that we use the same chemical messengers, share DNA, low numbers correlate with different disease conditions, and while it cannot speak, it has mastered unique ways of signaling the entire body. All together it raises a very esoteric question of whom exists for who. It’s like the alien invasion never left, they still reside inside and are desperately trying to tell us something about both our environments… so what is your gut telling you?

By Dr. Jonathan Bloch, Blissology 300-hr YTT graduate
Check out Jonathan’s teacher profile to learn more.  

Drop a Pin {Earth Day Poem}

earth day poem

When the glow in the mountains lights your soul
When you find yourself looking at the splendor of the clouds or a bird in flight

Pause and Drop a Pin

When the movement of wind on the water lulls you into a timeless peace
When the setting sun holds you in its golden light

Pause and Drop a Pin

When life shrinks you down
When you lose your way and cold winds make you pull your jacket over tightly over your chest
When you feel darkness enter your mind and hope seems out of reach

Remember all the sacred places that invited you into yourself
Remember the vast expanse of all those pins
A little piece of you lives in those corners

Don’t let your heart shrink or your world grow small.
Relax into your expansive and most radiant heart
We don’t end at our own skin, we will always exist everywhere we have dropped a pin.

By,

Eoin Finn.

Blissology Nature Appreciation Mandalas

What is a ritual? To me, a ritual is a consciously performed act meant to connect us to a belief system. In every class lead by a Blissology Inspired Teacher around the world, we make a Nature Appreciation Mandala because it is a ritual that connects us to both Nature and Community.

This is important because, as the name suggests, Blissology is the Art and Science of happiness. What makes us happy? Our belief is that there are two foundations to happiness: One is a deep connection to Nature and the other is a connection to the Community.

A Nature Appreciation moment is a few minutes of quiet observation of Nature with a quiet mind and open heart. Step one is to find something beautiful in nature: a rock, a shell, the clouds, the stars, a sunset or raindrops in a pond. Then we “relax and breathe, then observe and receive.”

To make a Blissology Nature Appreciation Mandala we ask each person attending the class to find something beautiful in nature that speaks to them, which they then fuse with their positive wishes and gratitude. At the start of class, each item is placed in the center of the yoga space and assembled in a Mandala.

At the end of practice we gather together as a collective in what we call the “Circle of Light.” The beauty of the objects is the touchstone to the beauty in our hearts and the awe and wonder that we need to restore in this busy life of ours. It is all too easy to forget our connection to nature but these mandalas help us remember.

One thing I know for sure is that the more I blur the line between where I end and Nature begins, the happier I am.  Let’s live a life of reverence for all living things. Here is a link to a few of the Nature Appreciation Mandalas from Blissology classes around the world

Let Love Rule.

Here is a collection of Nature Appreciation Mandalas from years past:

 

The Beautiful Parallel between Poetry & Yoga

Here in the States, April is National Poetry Month. I love it for the inspiration to re-visit my favorite poems, the encouragement to discover new ones, and the excuse to share them in my yoga classes.

There’s such a beautiful parallel between poetry and yoga. One of the things that Eoin said during my teacher training that stayed with me is that teaching yoga is like poetry: the idea is to encourage people to slow down and feel.

When I read a poem, I feel a difference in my approach compared to my more typical tendency to skim. My time in law school with its endless required reading of case law made me a champion skimmer. And if I’m not careful, I find that skimming skill transforming into habit. Maybe it’s the same for many of us. How often do we skim the news, our email, our Facebook feeds, just trying to sift through and determine what really requires our attention?

This is where poetry is so good for me. It forces me not to skim. What would be the point of skimming a poem, after all? So much of the pleasure of reading a poem is appreciating each word, noticing how it relates to the next, much like our poses and movements flow together on our mats.

I love the way poet Naomi Shihab Nye explains it, in her lovely 2016 interview on the podcast On Being:

“…when you think, when you’re in a very quiet place, when you’re remembering, when you’re savoring an image, when you’re allowing your mind calmly to leap from one thought to another, that’s a poem. That’s what a poem does.” 

And at its best, isn’t that also what a yoga/meditation practice does? It provides us the same opportunity to get quiet, to savor, to make some space to notice how we feel. And like a poem, our practice is most powerful when we allow it to evoke feeling, emotion.

Shihab Nye, again, says it beautifully:

“…and after you read a poem just knowing you can hold it, you can be in that space of the poem. And it can hold you in its space. And you don’t have to explain it. You don’t have to paraphrase it. You just hold it, and it allows you to see differently.”

More and more I notice our collective need for this space, and I see that the enemy of it is “skimming.” When we rush—whether through texts and images on a screen, or through movements on our mat—we’re not letting ourselves slow down and feel. With poetry as my remedy, I’m committing to skim less, and savor more.

I’d love for you to join me. Let’s make more space for poetry, for practice, for presence.

It seems only appropriate to share a poem to close. It’s so hard to choose just one of my favorites, but this one echoes a lot of Blissology principles for me. It’s from fellow Oregonian William Stafford:

Why I Am Happy

Now has come, an easy time. I let it 
roll. There is a lake somewhere 
so blue and far nobody owns it. 
A wind comes by and a willow listens 
gracefully. 
I hear all this, every summer. I laugh 
and cry for every turn of the world, 
its terribly cold, innocent spin. 
That lake stays blue and free; it goes 
on and on. 
And I know where it is. 

By Victoria Williams, Blissology 200-hr YTT
Check out Victoria’s teacher profile to learn more.