A Real Health Manifesto
Developing the Backdrop of Our Life
“Vitality”. Vitality represents strength, vibrancy, alertness, and energy. Vitality means “Life force”! Vitality doesn’t look a certain way as one would not expect a vital 25-year-old to look or be like a vital 85-year-old. In other words, Vitality doesn’t mean you stay young or maintain a youthful prowess. Vitality doesn’t mean you have more energy or better complexion or bigger muscles than you had in your youth, or the next person has because all our genetic make-up is different. Vitality just means your strength and energy are exceptional for the stage of life you are in.
Another word I might use when describing health is “homeostasis”. Homeostasis which connotates an internal balance among all the parts and systems within us. Many imbalances can be hidden from immediate sight. Youth can camouflage many percolating issues. So, there could be the presence of dis-ease and the appearance of vitality simultaneously. Homeostasis basically connotates the lack of dis-ease.
So, I would say the definition of health is homeostatic vitality. Homeostatic vitality is a personal experience that is a natural by-product of healthy choices and being tuned into one’s needs and maybe a little helpful karma. Although there are many general practices and concepts that contribute to everyone’s homeostatic vitality like enough sunlight, exercise, hydration, nutrients etc…all of that and so much more needs to be modified and personalized to the individual needs that are constantly changing. Thus “being in tune with one’s needs”.
Without a doubt, unhealthy conditions can bring about an early demise yet even the healthiest conditions with complete homeostasis and extraordinary vitality does not guarantee you will live super long in comparison with others. It does guarantee (barring outside events) you will live your genetic disposition fully. Longevity is not a legitimate measure of health. Lifestyle and plain old genetics play immense roles in longevity. So yes, a long life may be optimal, yet it is not the best measure of health. The best measure would be feeling homeostatic vitality for as long as you are alive. How to have this?
Impetus for this article
The impetus for this article was the mind-boggling amount of information out there on health.
So many talking heads (I know now I am one of them), articles, books, etc. I just wanted to attempt to cut through it all and get to the meat of it all so to speak. I am 56 years old and started my journey in health at the age of 14 when I started exercising and practicing yoga as well as experimenting with diet. So, for what it is worth, you are about to get over 40 years of experience.
There might be too much information pertaining to diet, exercise, and lifestyle and much of it can be confusing, contradictory, and misleading. The very first and obvious reason is as you all know not one size fits all. The diet plans, exercise regimens, vitamins, herbs, gadgets, and gimmicks. The podcasts and videos hosted by fitness gurus, scientists, doctors, and experts are all over the place. Propagating diets as extremely different as Keto and fat free, from five meals a day to fasting, from brown rice being the ultimate food to saturated fat being ultimate. Mushrooms, herbs, tonics, and super foods. Take these they’ll change your life! Each one promoting something different with the science to back it up. The supplements and fad diets that a few years later have disappeared give way to the new concepts, discoveries, or science. I have witnessed hundreds of diets and supplements throughout my life being promoted as the best, the ultimate missing ingredient to the healthiest life. The crazy thing is each one has a doctor or scientist or expert explaining the cold facts of why us people need to get with their program. Many of the experts promoting these diets don’t stick with them themselves as they make new discoveries and move on forgetting to inform all of us. I’m not saying that all these opinions, ideas and concepts don’t have any value, many do have value. Yet it doesn’t mean the program is optimal for everyone and the program could be harmful. For example, you could become an organic vegan as veganism has loads of scientific support and yet unwittingly be irritating or even inflaming your intestines with all the grains and depriving your body of much needed saturated fats and proteins. Or maybe you’re an athlete attempting to eat a macrobiotic diet that’s not getting you the nutrients in the quantities you need. That happened to me.
In my youth I was an intense athlete not great at any sport although I played many and loved them. It's just that my fitness regime was off the charts and at that time being a strict macrobiotic I honestly believe that I was not getting the nutrients that I needed. My belief stems from the fact that my hair was falling out and I would get spontaneous nosebleeds all the time. As soon as I switched up my diet the symptoms disappeared. So yeah, these diets are cleaner, less toxic and yield many other benefits. Yet, that doesn’t mean they are optimal for all. By the way, just because a diet or food or supplement has value doesn’t mean it’s needed or that it’s not detrimental to you in some way.
The Role of Science
Basically, as we do with almost everything, we mess things up with the help of science. We take a good thing, and we mess it up due to our lack of awareness (which is the goal of yoga). Refusing to understand that not one size fits all. Just because something works for you doesn't mean it will work for others it doesn't even mean it will work for you at some other point in your life. There are many things that we believe to be true today that we eventually discover tomorrow, or some other day are false or harmful. Science is not inherently harmful though, what’s that old saying: Fear not the science, but fear the scientist. Science doesn’t ask you to stop trusting your intuition in favor of a scientific conclusion. But scientists and their followers may. Science is a process of discovery which means it’s always incomplete. Please don’t ever confuse science with fact and don’t confuse fact with truth. The only thing science can say to us is “this is what we know now”. We all got to witness this with the ever-changing pandemic protocols and the ever-changing message from our scientific community or how about the 30% of all prescription medication that’s scientifically approved for human use that’s eventually recalled due to unforeseen harm they caused. In my view most scientific discoveries are canceled out by all the harm science has caused. Certainly, we have benefited from science yet that science that does no harm is most likely the science that's not motivated by profit.
Where We Are At
We have become way too busy, complicated, and stressed. Stressed to a degree that it has become the largest factor in our health! We have no idea what’s been sprayed on our food and its effects, what all the ingredients are in the foods we eat. Food labels are almost a foreign language and why does a loaf of bread or a jar of olives have so many different chemicals in there? The answer is not goodness the answer is cheaper to produce, longer shelf life, in other words “more profit”. Profit supersedes health as fear is our strongest emotion and people fear not meeting our societies definition of success. Even to the point where corners are cut, and ethics sacrificed. Profit has importance BUT it should never supersede our health, ethics, and morality! Most everyone has some intuitive sense of the high level of man-made (by scientist) toxins within our environment which is becoming more and more of a problem for our health and the health of our planet. This doesn’t even address the stress and anxiety epidemic caused by technology (more science) and information overload that has horrendous effects on our health. Instead of eradicating this issue (which may not be profitable) science gives us a drug, chemical or solution (which is highly profitable) to camouflage the issue whose side effects and toxicity create more issues and possibly the need for more drugs (more profit). This is a sick cycle that removes us further and further from homeostatic-vitality and the cause of our disease and digs us deeper and deeper into dependency on science which honestly can’t handle that responsibility.
The Healthiest Diet
Diet, exercise, and lifestyle does not need a gadget, calculator, machine, or need to be complicated. It doesn’t include starvation or exhaustion and it doesn’t require too much money. Why do we think we need a machine or pill or a complicated plan? Things have become so convoluted and complicated it’s almost just as complicated to try to un-complicate things! Geez! You must find special stores that sell basic products that are uncomplicated where science hasn’t left an unnecessary mark. This means local, organic, untainted, unprocessed, untreated, unsprayed, humane, and non-GMO.
Can you imagine the healthiest diet is the simplest diet, the healthiest exercise is the simplest exercise, and the healthiest lifestyle is the simplest lifestyle? Our forefathers Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, John Adams lived into their eighties and even nineties without prescription drugs, gym memberships and supplements. Pollution was minimal and the planetary biology teeming with life and vibrancy. Why? Because science hadn’t evolved. Our personal health is directly connected with planetary health and mother earth is dying. Some of you may say it’s unrealistic to go back to the quality of our forefathers but the truth is it isn’t. It’s not unrealistic to find a balance based on what’s sustainable! After all we landed a space craft on an asteroid that was traveling over 40,000 MPH 300,000,000.00 miles away! What’s unrealistic is not our ability to heal, to undo much of the tremendous damage we have done, but for people to want to make the effort. For people to give up their toys and attachments. What’s the old saying? “The right path is never the easy one”. Who would suffer (the discomfort associated with releasing attachments) for a greater good, for health and spiritual satisfaction, for future generations, for their true mother?
I remember growing up in Hawaii on the island of Maui. I was living in a remote town and was told this story by a local. This town was at the base of a 10,000-foot mountain where there was no television reception. Each evening the community members would gather and socialize. Women would chatter and men would drink Budweiser and the kids would run and play. This was their entertainment, this was a community, a symbiotic intertwining of all people and personalities. Then at one point they brought over the mountain cable television. Those community evenings instantly disappeared. The families would all isolate in their homes watching their shows and movies. Those community evenings are long gone. Replaced by the internet and now it’s all day long on screens. Obesity, anxiety, and drugs are the norm and those community connections long gone. This is called progress but is this progress? Are we happier? If health and happiness is the endgame, profit cannot be the motive, greed has to be recognized and not tolerated (within ourselves). There is nothing inherently wrong with science, innovation, capitalism and all isms. What’s wrong is they are missing their sacred partners morality, compassion, generosity, humility, gentleness, kindness, virtue, moderation, or simply benevolence.
Well, you know that old saying “be the change you want to see” (Gandhi). All we can do for our wellness and others’ wellness and this planet’s is to make a shift in our own lives so let’s take a look at things.
We are seeing calorie restriction as a huge factor in living a long and healthy life. This most likely means eating less than you are currently eating, yet it doesn’t mean you are not eating enough! It may initially feel that way as you deal with those initial withdraw symptoms emanating from your previous eating habits. Experiment with eating one less meal per day (unless you are already only eating one or two meals a day) and completely eradicate snacking (these are unnecessary calories). Eat only organic (when possible), wild caught, pasture raised, grass fed, non-GMO this is a more natural form of food and more readily absorbed and complete. It’s better for you, your family, and the planet. Eat local and get in rhythm with your environment, in other words eat what is in season in your city when possible. Almost overly simple right? Not easy but simple!
With food it’s important to remember to always be honest with yourself about how you feel. Sometimes we can get emotionally or ethically attached to a diet and be in a kind of denial about any issues we’re experiencing. Sometimes the diet you are on can be physically harmful yet emotionally placating. For example: Way back in my youth I was a vegetarian not only for health reasons but for ethical reasons as well. Not long after becoming a vegetarian I began suffering intestinally from gas, bloating, low energy, sugar cravings and overall discomfort. The food that I was eating—beans and grains--which is where I derived my protein were the cause of all these problems. Yet, because I had learned in a nutrition class that everything I was eating was incredibly healthy, I did not consider that the brown rice and tofu was actually poisoning me. I thought that there was something wrong with me (not my diet)! Maybe I had a parasite from India, maybe it was something else. I was emotionally attached to my diet which prevented me to even consider the obvious that it was my diet that was the problem. The health and nutrition information I had been reading which had scientific validation was inappropriate for me. If your body is talking to you in the form of discomfort, disease, lethargy etc…keep reading, learning and experimenting. I did not grow into my current diet in one day. It’s been a constant refinement.
So basically, eat clean and moderate then try to figure out the right kinds of food and the right combinations that suit you. Have an amazing journey! Oh yeah don’t forget to drink plenty of clean water!
As with most other items here this is very personal. What is desired and needed is different for each person. The objective is Homeostatic vitality. Which means living as long as possible feeling as amazing as possible. Since the universal law states “the harder you are on anything the faster you wear it out” whichever means of exercise you choose, don’t beat yourself up! Be moderate (just like diet). Walk don’t run. Yes, you could push harder and do more but don’t. Be gentle (unless your objective is something other than homeostatic vitality). From my research it seems walking is considered the healthiest exercise with swimming not far behind. Both activities are nonimpact, gentle activities. Although this approach to exercise is not common, it is full of common sense (Check out this blog on the Absurdity of Western Fitness!). No relationships in your life including the one you have with your body responds optimal to force or aggression and all relationships do respond optimally to gentleness including the one you have with your body.
Something else to consider: My understanding is that the slowest breathing animals live the longest. So, although a small and moderate amount of cardio may be appropriate to prevent atrophy, keep it small and moderate. Keep that breath rate slow by staying relaxed. Staying relaxed will be addressed next.
Remember all exercises can be beneficial if performed moderately or gently and no exercise is truly beneficial if performed aggressively, forcefully, or violently. So, pick an exercise you like and be gentle.
Include meditation. Meditation is mental exercise. It strengthens benevolent mental muscles and seriously helps release stress. Allowing you to breath slower. Knowing what we know now about stress being the dominant factor in most disease it would be irresponsible not to address our mind state if wellness is the objective. Poweryoga.com has many meditation tools and techniques, so dip your toes in and start to explore the full and rich world of meditation.
Here’s an odd twist when addressing lifestyle. I want to start with addressing our mind state.
When it comes to lifestyle, and it pertains to health, the priority should be “stress free”. This means our lifestyle needs to facilitate peace, it needs to be a place we can relax. Remember from above my understanding is that the slowest breathing animals live the longest. You are breathing your slowest when you are relaxed and peaceful as opposed to stressed!
There are possibly an infinite number of “healthy lifestyles” yet what they all must facilitate is peace. Regardless of the environment you are in, your mind state is key to this peace and wellness. The term “dark thoughts” might seem overly sinister and although it would include evil thoughts it also includes the everyday mundane thought patterns that for the most part are negative or stress inducing such as: angry thoughts, aggressive thoughts, worry or regretful thoughts, sick thoughts, vengeful thoughts, fearful thoughts, competitive thoughts, gossipy or vain thoughts etc. The dark path just defines a lack of awareness (a lack of light). This is where one is unwittingly rolling in a malevolent mentality. It’s not easy to get out of this ignorance because one doesn’t know they are in it. Sometimes one may be aware to at least some of the harm one is doing to themselves yet the task of removing these harmful tendencies seems too daunting, so the awareness is brushed aside. It would not be daunting at all if this was our cultural objective and “peace” was our definition of “success”. Yet for some sick reason our culture defines “success” by something other than “peace” even though that’s what we all truly want.
The technique given too slowly rid ourselves of our malevolent thought patterns or tendencies is meditation which develops awareness (enlightenment). Having awareness allows us to see how we our creating our own problems and issues. For example: The heart disease is stress induced and the stress is coming from our mind-state. Once we acknowledge that we are the source of our own suffering we now have a choice to pull our mind and/or actions away from this harmful place. No longer rolling in (and strengthening) harmful tendencies and liberated from their effects. Then, if so desired, we could redirect our mind state into a benevolent place. These are simple and time-tested concepts, yet this is not an easy process and generally unsupported by our culture. But if our goal is wellness, then we have no choice but to cultivate awareness. This is Power Yoga’s true aim.
Now that our minds are more at ease and less reactive to all the noise, what else should be happening? 1) Minimize screen time to the essentials. 2) Our bodies and mind should be active. I don’t mean “working out” per se, but rather engaged. This engagement will change throughout the years as our metabolism, energy and interests shift, yet we should remain somehow engaged. What’s that old saying? “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop”. An idle body as well.
The Definition of Success
From a very young age we have been presented with imagery of success and told that success looks a “certain way”. For example: Maybe there was a fancy wine commercial played repeatedly throughout our youth of young, good-looking people, casually clad in stylish robes, sipping their wine, on a yacht, everyone is smiling on a sunny day with seemingly endless amounts of free time. If this image of success is portrayed to you repeatedly (which they are) then you start to believe success is full of sexuality, youth, materialism, leisure, and expensive activities. Psychological law "the more you see something the more you believe it”, even if it's insane! It’s no coincidence that what most of us want is wealth, beauty, youth, thinness, and plenty of leisure.
Are you successful if you’re unhappy and unhealthy? Our culture has programmed us through incessant imagery of a false image of success. Instead of success meaning contentment, satisfaction, or fulfillment we have been told success lies in materialism, leisure-ism and even extraordinary-ism. Thus, you have people trying to get young looking, slim, rich, and powerful as a means toward the success they’ve been sold instead of trying to get happy. Instead of following their bliss, they are following the program implanted in their mind by the media and all those commercials.
Once you have acquired enough materialistic wealth to lift you from poverty there is no link between happiness and monetary or materialistic wealth. Don’t be fooled by your cultural program and the incessant imagery that’s ubiquitous. You’ve been programed since the time you could open your eyes. Remember "the more you see something the more you believe it" even if it's insane!
Do whatever you have to do so you can do what it is you love to do. Move to where you want to live, work in the field of your passion. You may at one point change, your passions shift, that’s fine but whatever you’re passionate about continue to pursue your passion. This is what I meant when I said, “stay engaged”. Don’t let challenges and obstacles dissuade you, know they are components of your success as they are necessary for strength, wisdom, and creativity.
Many of us are held back by our fears. Fears of things not working out and fears about what others will think about us. If you are fearful then I would assume the fear of failure would be second to the fear of living your whole life with the knowledge that you were too afraid to give something a try. So, give it a go! What if things do work out! Just remember the path toward your destination will probably be full of unintended or unwanted obstacles. These obstacles are important and necessary challenges you must experience to become the wise strong person that persevering through obstacles creates.
If you are wanting to be supported in all the above, you will always be welcome in our poweryoga.com community!
Sincerely, bryan kest