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.

 

The 3 Things You Need to Lose Weight

No, this isn't a miracle cure or secret recipe. The answer isn't "olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic." The three things you need to lose weight are more abstract than that. In fact, they are all mental things, not material things.

The three things you need to lose weight are: knowledge, willpower, and a routine.

Knowledge of the Food You Do and Do Not Eat

To get knowledge, you need some experts or databases on your side. Recently, a blog-reader sent me their website nutrition calculator called CalorieQuality.com. It has a huge amount of information on the nutritional value of foods, even simplifying each food's healthiness down to a score out of 100.

If you want to expand your knowledge of what foods you shouldn't eat, and more importantly, what new and healthy foods you should pick up at the supermarket, CalorieQuality is a great tool. If you want to turn those healthy foods into unique and tasty recipes (that might even fight cancer) then head over to CancerWellness TV, the website I helped to co-found and fill with content.

If you don't know what food is healthy and what food isn't, it will be almost impossible to maintain a healthy weight.

Willpower to Control Your Automatic Behaviors

When you eat chocolate cake, the sweet and savory taste and high fat content are recognized as "rewards" by your brain. But we all know that not everything we crave is truly rewarding in the long-run. To develop the strength of willpower required to say no to that extra piece of chocolate cake, or that pizza, or that fried chicken dinner, we need to exercise our brain with meditation

You know when you are making a mental difference when there is a brief moment of hesitation before reaching for that food. That little space between feeling the craving and reaching for the food is your willpower trying to keep you in control. Focus on that space between your automatic thoughts when you meditate, so that you can open up the space when you are faced with an unhealthy food choice.

Train yourself to be a deliberate and disciplined thinker. That's key to becoming a deliberate and disciplined actor

A Routine You Can Realistically Keep

People are not good at changing how they behave. That's why willpower is the #2 thing you need to lose weight. But part of the reason why people struggle to start healthy habits is because they bite off more than they can chew (no pun intended).

How many people, after New Years, resolve to go to the gym for an hour a day, and only go once or twice? Somehow, by day three, their fatigue from the new gym routine is enough of an excuse to "take a day off," which becomes a week off, and then they realize they simply aren't exercising anymore. In fact, they don't want to exercise, they just want to be in good shape.

What you need to do is start with a routine so easy and simple that it seems like you aren't doing any work at all. Maybe you decide to do five sit-ups as soon as you wake up in the morning, or ten jumping-jacks. Something so quick and easy that it's easier to do it than to think up an excuse not to. You can think of excuses to avoid the gym all day, but taking 20 seconds to do five sit-ups isn't as easy to explain away by saying "I'm too busy." 

Obviously, five sit-ups isn't going to burn any body-fat, but if you normally don't exercise at all, five sit-ups will feel like an accomplishment. Each day that you do five sit-ups, you'll experience positive feelings from accomplishing your short-term goal. Eventually, you will want to do more sit-ups, because you will have trained yourself to be rewarded by the immediate outcome of the exercise (the feeling of accomplishment you get after), rather than the long-term goal of losing weight.

You can even apply this to healthy eating. Buy a bag of fresh bell peppers when you go shopping, and resolve to eat one pepper each day. No cutting calories yet, no avoiding donuts. Just set a tiny goal to eat a healthy thing, and experience the satisfaction of achieving that tiny goal. After a while you'll be eating lots of vegetables because you enjoy it, and you won't be as hungry for the junk food. You accomplish your long-term goal by getting satisfaction out of completing tiny little short-term goals. That's thing #3 you need to lose weight.

And that's it for this week. Happy Stretching!

Why am I SAD during the holidays?

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you have had a relaxing and fulfilling holiday season, and are making a commitment again this year to be healthy and happy.

As the delicious leftovers begin to run out, and the relatives and friends all head back home, you may very likely realize a few things. First, is that you probably gained a few pounds thanks to all those treats! But not to worry, the blog has many resources to help you get back to a healthy weight. The other thing many of you may experience is that your mood has not been as positive as usual. This can be particularly bad right after the holidays, as you say goodbye to many people for another year, and work begins to pile up again.

If you feel this way, then you may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder, or "SAD" for short. This disorder is characterized by a drop in mood, or even the development of depression symptoms, often beginning in the fall and continuing until the end of winter.

Experts are not entirely sure what causes SAD, but there seems to be a common theme found across the United States: the more sun your state gets, the lower the prevalence of SAD. So for sunny states like Florida, SAD affects less than 2% of the population. Whereas in states with a very long winter, like Alaska, SAD affects upwards of 10% of the population.

Doctors are beginning to use light therapy to help people with their SAD symptoms, but I think everyone who suffers from SAD should also make sure they exercise on a very regular schedule. As you all know, I am a huge proponent of treating mood issues with exercise. I always suggest adding one of my Mind-Body Prescriptions to complement the doctor's orders.

So to start this year off, I am going to put together a Mind-Body Prescription to help treat SAD symptoms and improve your mood this winter (and maybe even shed those holiday pounds).

Check it out! (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3).

Stay tuned to the blog, and Happy Stretching!


P.S. Our schedule for posting on the blog is going to be more relaxed going forward, so that my team and I can focus on other projects, including my new venture with Jeff Sirlin over at Cancer Wellness TV. If you aren't getting enough mind-body tips and exercises here on the blog, please make a free account over there and you will have access to many more of my Tai Chi and exercise videos. 

Mind-over-Matter: The Yin Yang Weight Loss System

Well, it's been a long journey, but we have finally completed all parts of my Yin Yang weight loss system. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done! The purpose of this blog is simply to collect all the exercises in one place, so that you don't have to go searching through all the blogs to find them.

If you are wondering how long you should continue this routine to get the best results, the answer is: forever! Maintaining a healthy weight after losing weight doesn't require as much exercise, but it does still require exercise. So, if you were pushing yourself hard while you still had weight to lose, you can dial that effort back to 80% when you're goal is changes to simply maintaining your current weight.

Okay! That's it. On to something new next week. Happy Stretching!


Yang - Strength of Body

Walk like a Warrior: Warm up with this exercise. It integrates body, mind, and spirit. Even better, you can walk like a warrior anywhere: in your house, outside, in place facing the window, around a lake, etc. You can do it year-round. This video demonstrates the exercise at home, in place, near a window. When walking, keep the toes facing forward, and roll from the heal to the ball of the foot. Start with 1-3 minutes. 

Up and Down: I go into great detail in this video about the many ways to do this exercise to get your heart pumping, build muscle, and burn fat. Be sure to start at the level that is appropriate for your ability, and work your way up.

Push-ups: Begin with 5-15 of each type (elbows-in and elbows-out), and work your way up to 30-50 of each, 3-5 times a week. Make sure you integrate deep breathing, emptying the mind, and evoking the spirit by putting the mind in the three forces: human, heaven, and earth.

Sit-ups: For people who are restricted and cannot do sit-ups from the floor, start from the chair. Slide to the edge of the chair with your butt, straighten your trunk, and hold it straight like a plank throughout the exercise. In the video, we show the three arm positions, as well as the three levels of difficulty on the floor. Again, choose what is challenging, but not painful for you, and work your way through each stage.

Counting Breath Cool Down: Finally, we cool down from all of the cardio and strength training with a simple method for slowing the breath and the mind. This facilitates relaxation and healing by bringing oxygen into the tired muscles and rebuilding them, regulating hormone production, and reducing stress.

Yin - Strength of Mind

Candle Meditation: This is the easiest of the self-guided meditations, so you want to begin here. To make things even easier, make sure to check the Fire Breathing and Tip-of-the-Tongue tips that I give down below the first video. If you don't have any candles lying around, you can always download an app on your smartphone, or use a candle meditation Youtube video to help guide you. Remember: make sure you are sitting comfortably, and begin with short sessions. Work your way up to 5, then 10, then 15 minutes.

Iron on the Wall with Fire Breath: Now that you've got that Fire Breathing down, you can utilize it during a gentle stretch. This will relax your entire shoulder girdle, neck, and upper back. You may even find that it helps relieve migraines and other forms of headaches. Remember to visualize the skeleton moving up, and the fascia, muscles, skin, and ligaments moving down. We don't do western style-stretching here! So don't do this for only 30 seconds and think you're done. Go for as long as you can, ideally holding the stretch for 2-3 minutes at a time. Breath deep and loud while you do this stretch, and imagine your soft tissues like ice, melting to water, and then evaporating like steam.

Water Breath: Well, now that you've mastered fire breathing, it is time in the workout for a more challenging task: water breathing. Slow, silent, and steady. That is what you should be thinking while you do water breath. If you can hear your own breathing, even that's too loud! Just like the candle meditation, work your way up to 15 or 20 minutes while doing this meditation in a workout. If you wish to only meditate by itself, not as part of a workout, you can go up to 45 minutes, but then make sure to walk around and stretch your legs for at least 15 minutes before sitting again.

Vitamin H with Water Breath: The same rules apply for this stretch as for the Iron on the Wall Stretch. You may not be as able to visualize the ice melting here, but make sure to keep your toes pointed forward, your legs straight, and tilt your hip bones toward the floor (you can think of it as tilting your butt up to the ceiling too, if that helps). This hip tilt makes sure that you put the maximum amount of stretch on your hamstrings as possible. Breath deep!

Embrace the Tree: This is a standing meditation, and some people may find it a bit tiring in the legs, but that is good. Practice it like you practice the other two meditations, working up to about 20 minutes. With this meditation, don't forget to picture the lower energy center. You can even hold a tai chi ball or something similar two inches below the navel if that helps you visualize.

Cloud Hands: Last but not least, you will put a slow, moving meditation to work for you by doing the cloud hands movement in addition to the lower energy center visualization and water breath. This exercise seems pretty simple on the surface, but when you combine everything we've done in this Yin routine do far, it actually requires a lot of concentration and control to do it correctly. Improve with this exercise in steps: first just do the motion, then incorporate the breathing, then the visualization. This is where your willpower and decision-making center really come into play and get a full workout.

Bonus Exercise - Add to either half of the routine

Lying Down Relaxation: Get comfortable on the floor, using a mat or blanket to protect your spine, and keep your hands and feet relaxed using sandbags or other weights if necessary. Empty your mind of any thoughts, and put your attention in your toes. Breath in and out, visualizing the energy enter your body through your nose, with your breath, and traveling all the way to your toes. Now move your attention up to include your whole feet. Next your lower legs. Now your knees. Are you asleep yet? It's okay if you are! This exercise is a great way to reduce stress, which can have a negative effect on our self-esteem, self-control, eating habits, and much more. Shed weight by shedding that excess stress!

Mind-over-Matter Weight Loss - Yin Routine

Welcome back everybody. Today, we're consolidating the second half of my Mind-over-Matter weight loss system into one workout post. This half is the Yin routine, which focuses on meditation and stretching. Don't forget about this half of the strategy. Just doing the heart-pumping Yang workout will only get you so far. You need to exercise your decision making center as much as you exercise your muscles.

Next week, I'll throw in one bonus exercise that you can add to both the Yin and Yang halves of the workout. But you'll have to wait to see what that exercise is. Good luck with the Yin workout!


Candle Meditation: This is the easiest of the self-guided meditations, so you want to begin here. To make things even easier, make sure to check the Fire Breathing and Tip-of-the-Tongue tips that I give down below the first video. If you don't have any candles lying around, you can always download an app on your smartphone, or use a candle meditation Youtube video to help guide you. Remember: make sure you are sitting comfortably, and begin with short sessions. Work your way up to 5, then 10, then 15 minutes.

Iron on the Wall with Fire Breath: Now that you've got that Fire Breathing down, you can utilize it during a gentle stretch. This will relax your entire shoulder girdle, neck, and upper back. You may even find that it helps relieve migraines and other forms of headaches. Remember to visualize the skeleton moving up, and the fascia, muscles, skin, and ligaments moving down. We don't do western style-stretching here! So don't do this for only 30 seconds and think you're done. Go for as long as you can, ideally holding the stretch for 2-3 minutes at a time. Breath deep and loud while you do this stretch, and imagine your soft tissues like ice, melting to water, and then evaporating like steam.

Water Breath: Well, now that you've mastered fire breathing, it is time in the workout for a more challenging task: water breathing. Slow, silent, and steady. That is what you should be thinking while you do water breath. If you can hear your own breathing, even that's too loud! Just like the candle meditation, work your way up to 15 or 20 minutes while doing this meditation in a workout. If you wish to only meditate by itself, not as part of a workout, you can go up to 45 minutes, but then make sure to walk around and stretch your legs for at least 15 minutes before sitting again.

Vitamin H with Water Breath: The same rules apply for this stretch as for the Iron on the Wall Stretch. You may not be as able to visualize the ice melting here, but make sure to keep your toes pointed forward, your legs straight, and tilt your hip bones toward the floor (you can think of it as tilting your butt up to the ceiling too, if that helps). This hip tilt makes sure that you put the maximum amount of stretch on your hamstrings as possible. Breath deep!

Embrace the Tree: This is a standing meditation, and some people may find it a bit tiring in the legs, but that is good. Practice it like you practice the other two meditations, working up to about 20 minutes. With this meditation, don't forget to picture the lower energy center. You can even hold a tai chi ball or something similar two inches below the navel if that helps you visualize.

Cloud Hands: Last but not least, you will put a slow, moving meditation to work for you by doing the cloud hands movement in addition to the lower energy center visualization and water breath. This exercise seems pretty simple on the surface, but when you combine everything we've done in this Yin routine do far, it actually requires a lot of concentration and control to do it correctly. Improve with this exercise in steps: first just do the motion, then incorporate the breathing, then the visualization. This is where your willpower and decision-making center really come into play and get a full workout.

Good luck and Happy Stretching!