Give Your Body More Credit

Adaptable – sums up the abilities of the human body to respond to the ever-changing environment.

I recently read an article on Strengtheory.com labelling the body as a messy, non-linear system. Greg Nuckols, the writer, hit the nail on the head with this summation.

We often compare the brain to a computer and the body to a machine. These analogies are sloppy and don’t give due respect. Look around you. If we were mechanised, would obesity be rampant? No, we would be programmed to eat for optimal function.

Athletes offer further evidence of our ability to adjust.

Lifting heavy things, the body builds muscle and improves neural connections to make it more efficient at…lifting heavy things. A man can become a mountain. Meanwhile, endurance athletes, like the Iron Cowboy, are able to run mile after mile – far in excess to what we once thought possible – by training their body and mind.

Too often we’re looking for optimal, whether a faultless training program or a perfectly calibrated nutrition plan.

We don’t allow for inevitable speed bumps like illness or birthday cake. Our palms sweat when the cake is handed out while we scramble for a sturdy excuse.

Allow for chaos – your body will adapt. Unshackle from the machine mindset and eat some cake.

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Boost your mental power with yoga

Yoga has the ability to fight stress, increase flexibility and improve self-awareness. Better Yoga wants you to experience these benefits by offering a 30-day money back trial – plus a free yoga mat.

The ultimate goal of yoga

Yoga means ‘to unify’ and is an ancient exercise borne out of India. The practice is centred on binding the body with the mind. As yoga expert David Surrenda points out, it is beyond physical exercise.

By combining challenging postures with awareness of where the body is in space, a state of mindfulness is developed. The importance of being present blocks worrying about the future and regretting the past.

Yoga versus Pilates

Both practices have their merits though yoga and Pilates are distinct from one another. Pilates is a physical practice that aims to strengthen the core. But yoga trains the mind and body together through postures, stances and movements.

Yoga and the mind

It might seem odd that a form of exercise could benefit the mind but research supports this. While yoga improves the physical being, it’s in its ability to positively affect the brain that separates it from most forms of physical exercise.

Abigail Wise notes some of the mental benefits to include:

  • Fighting stress and lowering anxiety – Studies have shown yoga decreases the inflammatory response of the immune system combating illnesses like depression.
  • Improved brain function – Focus and information retention are enhanced.
  • Increased happiness – By living in the moment, the mind is not given the chance to dwell or grow anxious but instead focus on the present moment.

Yoga and the body

There are physical rewards to be gained from a regular yoga practice too, according to Timothy McCall:

  • Improved flexibility – Becoming ‘stretchy’ is commonly linked with yoga – we’ve all seen yogis with the ability to contort their bodies like Gumby. But what’s less well-known is that pliable muscles mean less pain. Achieving a balanced muscle length restores alignment reducing aches and lessening the chance of injury.
  • Improved joint health – Everyday movement is limited but yoga practice demands movement through a full range of motion. Joints thrive on movement as they are supplied with fresh nutrients.
  • Increased strength – The challenging stances and movements build functional strength. As flexibility improves, the yoga postures force muscles to adapt and become strong in the newly unlocked range of movement.

Yoga for life

Yoga is a rewarding lifelong practice with the benefits increasing with age. At Better Yoga Life, we want to help you begin your yoga journey with a 30-day money back trial – you’ll receive a free yoga mat too.

To get started contact or for more details contact Louise King (L.King@betteryogalife.com.au or 0435 078 355).

References

McCall, T (2007), ’38 Health Benefits of Yoga’, Yoga Journal, viewed 24 February 2017, http://www.yogajournal.com/article/health/count-yoga-38-ways-yoga-keeps-fit/

Old Fire Station Backpackers (2016) Yoga Classes, online image, viewed 25 February 2017, http://oldfirestation.com.au/event/yoga-classes/

Surrenda, D (2012), ‘The Purpose of Yoga’, The New York Times, viewed 24 February 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/01/12/is-yoga-for-narcissists/the-purpose-of-yoga

Wise, A (2015), ‘How Yoga Helps to Keep Your Brain Healthy’, Real Simple, viewed 24 February 2017, http://www.realsimple.com/health/fitness-exercise/stretching-yoga/yoga-brain

 

Playground Update – Yardley Park and Barnes Park

A sample of my work from my Certificate IV in Professional Writing and Editing

Summary

The aim of this report was to; investigate problems with existing playground equipment at Yardley Park and Barnes Park, to determine what equipment the community wants when the parks’ are upgraded, and to ensure the new equipment complies with Australian standards.

Results indicate the main problems are; exposed nails, rusty equipment and slippery surfaces. The community want; a slide, monkey bars and a non-slip surface when the facilities are upgraded.

It is recommended that Green Ponds Council upgrade the playgrounds to include a slide, monkey bars and non-slip surface. To comply with Australian standards; equipment should be made of plastic, bolts must be sealed with a cap, and there should be non-slip playing surfaces.

Reasons for research

The research was warranted due to; recent injuries to children playing on the equipment, a growing number of complaints from locals, negative press coverage, poor condition of the current equipment, and lack of compliance with Australian standards.

Research methods

Research included:

  • Observation and photographing of the playgrounds for analysis and records
  • Review of the playground equipment guidelines on the Australian Standards website
  • Interviewing locals to get their perspective on problems with equipment and what equipment they’d like when the parks’ are upgraded
  • Questionnaires to collect a larger data sample from the wider community.

No personal information was collected; interviews and questionnaires were voluntary and anonymous. Stan Dards, an expert in playground equipment guidelines, was subcontracted to conduct research on the Australian Standards website.

20 phone interviews were carried out while 200 questionnaires were distributed in the mail with a prepaid return envelope.

Results

There was a 90% response rate to the questionnaire – a breakdown of the responses is listed in Tables 1 and 2.

From the results; exposed nails, rusted equipment and slippery playground surfaces were considered the main problems. The community requests; a slide, monkey bars and non-slip surfaces, when the parks are upgraded.

Table 1

Main equipment problem %
Exposed nails 35
Rusted equipment 30
Unstable flying fox 5
Slippery playground surfaces 25
Faded swing seats 5

Table 2

Desired equipment %
Slide 30
Monkey bars 30
Sandpit 5
Climbing wall 5
Non-slip surfaces 30

Review of the Australian standards revealed; equipment needs to be made from plastic, bolts must be sealed with a cap, and there should be non-slip playing surfaces, to comply with regulations.

Conclusions

An upgrade of equipment at Yardley Park and Barnes Park is required as the current setup is unsafe and fails to meet Australian standards. Locals agreed that the most pressing problems were; exposed nails, rusted equipment and slippery playground surfaces, and would like to see a slide, monkey bars and non-slip surfaces when the parks are refurbished.

Recommendations

It is recommended that Green Ponds Council:

  • Remove all exposed nails and rusted equipment
  • Replace the slippery playing surfaces with a non-slip surface
  • Cover bolts with a cap
  • Include a slide and monkey bars when upgrading the parks’
  • Ensure all equipment is made from plastic

Further research is required to:

  • Select equipment which is sustainable and environmentally friendly
  • Determine ways to increase the longevity of the upgraded playgrounds, such as a shade sail cover

Think Big

Pareto’s Principle – 20% of investments generate 80% of income  – was a concept put forward by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. Some argue the ratio is even more skewed, distribution of the world’s wealth being an example. Recently it was claimed that 62 people hold half the world’s wealth.

Pareto’s principle can be extrapolated to building strength and improving health.

We are often caught up in the details – putting too much currency into small things that give only a small benefit –  instead of focusing on the basics.

Supplements are a good example of investing in the trivial.

Unplug your headphones and walk a lap of the gym. Talk of whey protein, creatine and pre-workouts will soon clog your ear holes.

Are you looking to build muscle or lose weight? Protein powder will do the trick.

And your car’s faulty gearbox – a scoop of whey will fix that too.

This ‘magic bullet’ phenomenon needs to stop. It may not be harming us but it’s certainly not having the benefits claimed by the supplement companies. And throwing money at this industry will only increase their influence.

Slip your wallet back in your pocket and focus on the basics.

Take nutrition. If most of what you eat is wholesome food, you’re on the right track. The same applies to training. Compound movements should be the focus of each session.

If you’re an elite athlete or believe you have everything in place, and I mean everything, then consider the finer points like supplements. For the rest of us keeping it simple is the best and easiest way to ensure consistent progress.

Interlude

What did you think of Joma’s journey?

His tale was my first attempt at writing fiction in years. I enjoyed the experience and learned about the fictional writing process along the way.

I learned the value of planning. Preparation provides a framework to build a story – like drawing the outline of a sketch before adding the detail and colour. Having a better understanding of each character, for example, would have allowed me to make them more distinct, allowing their thoughts, actions and words to flow naturally.

I pulled ideas from personal experiences as well as from books I have read and movies I have watched. What we take in from our environment shapes us and influences what we return. I avoid the news for this reason. The negativity on display, for the sake of ratings, would only increase my own negativity.

“Ain’t nothing but the blues on the news”.

Joma’s Journey draws to a close the second instalment of my 90-day blog post challenge. What comes next?

I have toyed with the idea of ending the challenge. The strict timeline curtails my ability to do the research required to write in-depth. But this is not the essence of the challenge. Writing daily helps to create the habit of…writing daily. It allows for imperfection and helps me experiment with different styles and voices.

I will forge on.

I look forward to your opinions and feedback – what have you liked and disliked? How can I become a better writer? Don’t be shy.

If you think a friend or family member would enjoy my writing, feel free to share my blog.

Chapter Twenty Three

The day was a blur filled with eating, drinking and reconnecting with friends and family. As the sun set, he had told his story dozens of times, but he didn’t mind.

He had caught up with his mother earlier in the day but had been whisked away by the good intention of others. She too had been busy coordinating the food for the festival. It was late when they finally got a chance to talk.

“You’re different Joma. There is an air of surety about you,” she said. The two sat side-by-side overlooking the sea. Around them, villagers had settled into small groups and were talking among themselves.

“You’ve always been able to read me like a book,” he joked before taking a sip of his drink.

“I hope it’s not temporary, but it feels like I have a much better grasp on things now. My perspective and views have changed – I understand that life is cumulative. I don’t need to know all the answers, that’s part of the mystery. And I don’t need to achieve certain things to be worthy,” he reflected.

“Spoken like a true sage,” his mother said with a wink.

“So tell me, what follows Joma’s Journey?”

“Joma’s Journey has just begun! I haven’t decided what I want to pursue. Instead, I’ll contribute as best I can in every way I can, building my skills. Maybe one day I’ll focus on something but for now, I want to learn as much as I can and get lost in the process,” he replied.

“If you catch me taking life too seriously or falling into old habits, tell me. Maybe we can have a secret word like…milkfish, for times when you notice me slipping up,” Joma said light-heartedly.

“That, I can do,” his mother managed, containing her laughter.

“So,” she said, gathering herself. “Tell me about your adventure”.

And so he did.

Chapter Twenty Two

The rest of the day’s fishing was called off and the flotilla made its way to shore. The chief declared a festival. Word spread through the village and preparations began in earnest.

The day felt like a dream. As he looked at his home town, it was with fresh eyes. The community had organised a festival in such a short time  – a sign of their love and respect for Joma.

“Either my eyes have failed me, which is possible, or that’s a completely different boat!” Mariusz exclaimed as he rigorously shook the boy’s hand.

“Err, our boat was redesigned somewhat…to kindling that is,” Joma replied sheepishly.

“Ha ha! As long as it played its part in your trip then it did its job,” Marius said, holding Joma at arm’s length.

“I better leave you to it,” Mariusz whispered as he hinted toward Maria moving through the crowd.

“Thanks. For everything Mariusz,” the boy said meaningfully.

He left his old friend and was soon engulfed by Maria. “Joma,” she said holding him tight.

“Maria…” he squeezed out.

“Sorry,” she laughed, loosening her grip.

“I made it back only to be crushed by the Mighty Maria!” Joma joked and the two burst into laughter.

“Maria, I’m sorry I took you for granted. You have always been there for me. From now on, I’ll always be there for you,” he said not caring how cliché he sounded.

The two hugged once more and made their way to the village centre.

Chapter Twenty One

It was dawn when he recognised the familiar beaches of his village. In the distance, he could make out the fishing fleet going about their business.

He beamed when he caught sight of a burly man moving about one of the larger boats conducting his crew with the utmost efficiency. Joma headed toward the chief.

The fishermen noticed Joma’s craft. At first, there was confusion – his boat looked foreign compared to the skiffs of his village. Though, upon recognising the young man on board, cheers rung out on the open waters.

Men blew their signal horns, usually reserved for a sighting – like a pod of dolphins. Boats closed in and shepherded Joma toward his father’s larger craft.

“Good to see you lad! It hasn’t been the same without you,” Manny called excitedly.

“Good to see you too Manny!” Joma replied, adjusting his sails one last time.

His father, recognising the commotion, called a stop to proceedings on his boat. The crew threw a rope to Joma, allowing him to secure his boat. Joma clambered across and was met with a barrage of handshakes and slaps on the back.

“My boy!” his father exclaimed, wiping away tears.

“Father…” Joma said as he was swept up in a bear hug. He tried to say more but the chief squeezed the remaining air from his lungs.

Chapter Twenty

Babo’s prediction of good sailing conditions was accurate. Apart from a few passing showers, the seas were smooth.

Joma navigated the waters using nature’s compass – the behaviour of birds, the position of the sun, and most importantly the stars, guided his journey.

The idyllic conditions coupled with ample supplies left Joma with time to reflect. He recognised the irony of his trip – shipwrecking on a village much like his own and realising the treasures of life lie in the simple things – contribution, community and a strong sense of self-worth. He understood that value came in the process, like building a skill, not the final outcome.

He felt foolish – it had been a dangerous learning experience and placed an unfair burden on his family.

Though, the journey produced the result. Perhaps he wouldn’t have reached these conclusions otherwise. This alone was worth the perils of his adventure.

He couldn’t wait to get back and apply what he had discovered.

Chapter Nineteen

Building the new boat didn’t take long. Joma and the villagers worked tirelessly in their spare time.

The locals knowledge of the region proved invaluable as Babo had predicted. Joma doubted his craft would have been seaworthy, had he built it alone.

For once, Joma trusted Babo completely when told it was time to set sail.

“Joma, my friend, it has been a pleasure,” the big man beamed.

“You are a great man. The way you have adapted to your plight is remarkable. You possess many good qualities and I hope you have begun to recognise this,” he said seriously.

“Thank you for everything Babo. Please thank the rest of the village too; I don’t know what I would have done without you all. I have learned a lot, I just hope the lessons stick,” Joma replied candidly.

“You’re a clever boy, I’m sure what you have gathered will stay with you. The village thanks you in return. Just as you’ve learned from us, we’ve learned from you. Passing on your own unique knowledge will help us move forward as a community. Here is a token of our appreciation and something to remember us by,” Babo said as he handed Joma a finely crafted knife.

It was beautiful.

“Thank you,” Joma managed, hugging his friend. Joma realised it was the first time he had initiated a hug and it felt good.