Physical Wellness: Your Body is Your Vehicle
Our physical wellness is perhaps the one we hear about most, or at least tends to be the obvious one we think of when we think about being healthy. From gym memberships to all of the ads and fads for diets or exercise gear, it seems everywhere you turn we are being told that it's important. What we do, however, need to realize is that there is a lot more to our physical wellness than just exercise and diet. Our bodies are complex machines, the vehicles we've been given as we navigate this physical lifetime. And each and every body is different- a different set of genetics, molecules, energy from person to person that is affected by the environments we are surrounded by. Even our thoughts and feelings can affect our physical wellness. So while there are some general guidelines for everyone to follow, keep this in mind and make sure to take time to both learn from and listen to your body. That is when you will begin to truly embrace physical wellness fully.
Let's take a look at some of the basics to physical wellness:
- Activity & Movement: Moving our bodies helps maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints. It also helps reduce the risk of many health problems, especially as you age. It has the effect of improving your mood, releasing feel good hormones like serotonin and other endorphins that counteract stress, cortisol and anxiety. The recommendation is to do 30 minutes of activity each day, 5 days /week at a moderate level. The activity you chose can vary depending on your body type, health status and available resources. Something as simple as walking can be a perfect activity for this, getting you outdoors and also away from the hustle and bustle of work and other obligations. What's most important here is to do activities/ movements that you enjoy, so that it not only shakes things up a bit it gives your body variety but also honours your body and creates healthy habits that you will stick with.
- Sleep: Sleep is critical to overall good health. Not only does it support your mental and emotional health, sleep also helps your body rest and repair. This in turn protects you from illness by supporting a strong immune system, and helps to regulate your weight through hormonal balancing. Getting a good night of sleep fosters productivity, mental agility and creativity during waking hours. A solid 8-10 hours is a good goal for sleep, although this may decrease with age. How do you set yourself up for success in reaching this? Some simple practices can help - No technology or TV for 30 minutes before bedtime. Instead opt for snuggling with your partner or reading a book (not a digital one). Avoid caffeine in the afternoons and evenings. Block out any noise and light in your sleeping space, keep the temperature cooler and refrain from exercising for at least an hour before bedtime. If you struggle with good sleep, ask a naturopath about natural supplements that can help, like melatonin. And don't discount how helpful a cup of chamomile tea can be as well!
- Nutrition- Eating for Health: We've all seen the Food Guide and commercials about fibre and vitamins and on and on. Bottom line is the food we eat is literally fuel for our bodies. If you put the sludge gas into the car, the car is not going to run very well. Put in good quality fuel and it will run smoothly and optimally. That's not to say you can't indulge once in a while, just don't make it a daily habit or you will gunk up the systems. How do you eat for health then? Aiming to eat a variety of foods each day, including a rainbow of fruits and vegetables at each meal. Take time to relax and enjoy your meals instead of eating on the go (which causes us to overeat), paying attention to the flavours and textures so you can make it an experience. Healthy proteins and fats will keep your body fueled all day long and curb hangry mood swings and snacking. eating a varied diet also ensures you get a balance of all of the vitamins and minerals your body requires for all of its functions. Lastly, choose minimally processed, or "slow" food. This means foods that are as close to the way they are supposed to be in their natural state as possible. Many of the foods you can buy in stores or fast food lanes nowadays are overly processed and as a result have little to no nutritional value.
- Lifestyle Choices: along with the information above, it's important to consider other lifestyle choices and habits you have and how they may be impacting your physical health long term. If you smoke, consider quitting. It not only raises your risk for diseases but reduces your body's ability to process waste, take in oxygen and tolerate stress. Stress management is crucial to overall wellness and your physical wellness is included in this. If your body cannot manage the stress properly the result is increased cortisol which can increase strain on the heart and a number of other systems within the body, in turn leading the way to a whole host of health problems. And while one glass of wine is nice to relax with after a busy day, its important to limit our consumption of alcohol because it can also put our bodies at risk for increased health problems in large amounts.
These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to physical wellness. It would be easy to dive deeper into each of these areas and talk more about how it all works but that would take many more blogs and we will save that for another time. If you are interested in learning more though, you have a vast amount of resources within our community to guide you. Within the yoga studio you will find trained teachers who are very familiar with the body's anatomy and muscle functions, who also can speak to the value of exercise. We have an on staff physiotherapist as well. Some of our students and staff are holistic nutritionists and personal trainers, even naturopaths and practitioners of other forms of medicine. They can work with you to go further into the mechanics of your body, the gut connection in your diet, healing from injury, eating for weight loss, and on and on. Not to mention the selection of classes and programming to suit every age, skill level and body type.
Looking out for your physical wellness is one of the best things you can do to love yourself, and Midtown Yoga and its community are always here to cheer you on!