Rami's Blog

Like the Yin-Yang, Eastern Martial Arts and Western medicine are two halves of a whole. My mission is to preserve the ancient mind-body tools, and pass them on to you.

 

Want to Get More Work Done? Take a Break.

Welcome back mind-body students! I hope you enjoyed the Greatest Hits Workout last week. This week, we have more of a mind lesson.

If you are like me, you like to get things done. You are very industrious. More likely than not you are zipping around every day with all kinds of plans on your to-do list. Many times, you catch yourself thinking about how you could be doing more stuff in the same amount of time.

People like this are often very successful, but they live in danger of burning out.

"Burnout" is when your mind is still trying to accomplish the tasks at hand, but your body is not rested enough to do so. From a medical standpoint, pushing yourself to the point of burnout can be dangerous. It might include high levels of stress hormones than increase your risk of heart attack, or very low blood sugar that could send your body into shock.

Working yourself to that extent may sound crazy, but people have done it.

Most people will just find that they feel "off their game" or really tired for several days, even a month or two. This isn't medically dangerous unless you begin abusing stimulants like caffeine to make up for the low energy. The worst result will probably be that your quality of work declines, perhaps for a significant amount of time.

So how do people who have busy schedules and high-stress careers avoid burnout, and even accomplish more than before?

Take regular breaks.

In Judaism, we have the ancient idea of the "shabbat" which is a practice of rest one day a week. One day each week may not be enough for a high-profile worker, however. Some people work up more stress than a single day can get rid of, so they need less frequent, but longer breaks. Maybe a 4-day weekend every month (assuming you work most weekends).

This resting phase allows your body and mind to heal and incorporate everything you have learned and exercised since your last break. By relaxing down to a healthy baseline regularly, your metabolic systems can reset and prepare for more work later.

And that's how you can do more work by working slight fewer days each month. Instead of working at 70% productivity every day for a month, you come back to work at 100% productivity (after your mini vacation) and that productivity slowly decreases until you take your next break. Each day that you are working at more than 70% productivity makes up for (and eventually more than compensates for) the few days you took off.

I know, for high-functioning professionals, taking four days off seems like a crazy move. But if you can get more work done, and have a nice vacation each month, and enjoy your life more, and spend more time with your family, the only crazy choice here would be not to try.

Happy Stretching!

Can't Meditate? Clean Your Room!

People ask me some variation of this question all the time: "Are there any tips you have for how to meditate? I just can't get my mind to sit still no matter what I try."

And the answer is "Of course I have tips for how to meditate!" I've written about them on the blog before. I've written about them so much, in fact, that I have a whole category of posts dedicated to meditation tips.

But all those tips are about how you meditate, or what you should do while meditating. What if I told you that you could do something before meditating that could improve your meditation practice? It might seem strange, but this really works.

Clean your room. Or even better, clean your whole house.

You might be thinking, "What? I close my eyes when I meditate. I can't even see if my house is messy or not." But that's not completely true. Your mind internalizes the area that you live in. Even if you aren't paying attention to the mess, when you are in a messy house your mind functions differently (and not in a good way).

In fact, there are several studies now showing that a cleaner home can lower your risk of heart disease, reduce stress hormone levels, and improve sleep. How interesting that all of these benefits are also benefits of regular meditation.

The reality is that your mind worries about the mess in your home. That mess makes you stressed and scatter-brained, which leads to an even messier house. It is a vicious cycle.

Luckily, most people find cleaning their living space to be very easy. A chore, yes, but an easy one. It isn't like meditation, which takes a while to become proficient in. Nearly everyone knows how to clean a space up.

As soon as your local landscape is more organized and orderly, you will find that your mind is more focused and relaxed. And one of the secrets to meditation is that relaxed and focused minds are better at it than messy and scattered ones. That's why many people find meditation so difficult at first. It's a lot like exercise in that way: it's difficult at first because you haven't done any, but the only way to improve is to keep practicing.

But hey, if you can get a boost just by cleaning up your house, that's good too.

Happy Stretching!

Surgery-Specific Exercise Routine: Complete Series

Welcome back, mind-body students! This week we synthesize the entire surgery-specific exercise routine into one blog post. Doing these exercises diligently before and after upper-body surgery will prepare your body for minimal down-time and the most complete recovery.

So here it is! Enjoy.


Surgery-Specific Exercise Routine

Part 1: Four Stretches for Surgery & Xena Stretches the Spring

These first two exercises open up the shoulder girdle, preparing the body for more activity and oxygenating the important areas. Go nice and slow on these techniques. Hold the stretches for 2-3 minutes each if possible. Also, if you have frozen shoulder or other stiffness, stretch VERY gently. Better to slowly release the tension rather than hurt yourself before (or after) surgery.

Part 2: Xena Pushes the Tablets & The 'M' and the 'T' Stretches

These stretches extend the arms out straight at the elbows, putting a little more weight on the shoulder and increasing the stretch. It also incorporates some turning of the trunk, which stretches the muscles of the abdomen and lower back.

Part 3: The 'T' and the 'Y' Stretches & Turn and Twist

These exercises get the body into its most extended stretches, with the arms straight up and straight out, and the torso turned repeatedly to each side.

Part 4: White Ape Picks the Peach & Training the Yang Circle

Lastly, we complete the set of exercises with circular motions with really exercise the shoulder joint and all of the muscles of the upper body. These motions incorporate each and every movement from before into very graceful techniques.

And that's it! Come back next week for exciting news from the Mind-body world.

Happy Stretching!

Surgery-Specific Exercise Routine: Part 4

Hey mind-body students! Good to have you back.

This week is the final new installment in our surgery-specific routine, where we introduce the two final exercises for you to do. Next week, we will combine all these exercises into a single post for you to bookmark for future reference.

Preparing for surgery, even just surgery on the upper body, is a whole-body task. Our exercises so far have been relatively isolated to upper body movements, but to fully prepare for the operation, your whole body should be as healthy as possible. So without further to do, here are the two most full-body movements you'll be doing as preparation (and recovery).

White-ape Picks Up the Peach: This beautiful movement from Qi Gong is a great technique to do outside in the (hopefully soon to be) spring weather. Take special note of the "energy ball rotation" movement in between each part of the technique. This part of the movement massages the internal organs, which should be in peak health before you get surgery.

Also, take note of how to breath in this technique, because oxygenating the body is key to surgery prep as well.

Training the Yang Circle: The motion involved with this technique is similar to that of the last technique, with the swooping arm circles and forearm rotation. Having a partner isn't completely necessary (you can do this technique solo against a wall like I show in the video), but there is a lot to be said for having a companion with you while you prepare and recover. Emotional support is also important when it comes to overall health!

Next week we synthesize all the exercises into one post. See you then!

And Happy Stretching!

Surgery-Specific Exercise Routines: Part 3

In the next part of our preparing and recovering from surgery series, we will learn the second pair of alphabet stretches (the Y and the I), as well as a unique and relaxing movement that loosens the chest, abdomen, and shoulders very well.

As you continue to stretch the muscles and soft tissue in the shoulders and chest, and are able to lean into the doorway you are using while performing the M and the T stretches, you can advance to the Y and the I stretches.

The Y and I stretches are more intense, especially on the shoulders and the upper back. If you can't do them yet (especially if you are in recovery, rather than preparation for surgery) then stick to the M and the T. Hold each stretch for 2-3 minutes. And remember, breathe deep!

Next, we'll do the Turn and Twist motion, which I teach to my patients with frozen shoulder, rotator cuff issues, and any other shoulder or chest issues. While you are performing the motion, gradually work your way up. When you reach the point where your arms are at the same height as when doing the T stretch from before, complete 10-20 repetitions, and then slowly work your way down. Use the movement like a Tai Chi form, breathing deeply and emptying the mind.

In the next installment, I'll show you two beautiful exercises that come directly from Tai Chi and Qi Gong, one of which you do with a friend. Stay tuned!

And Happy Stretching!