Child obesity is a serious problem

This morning I read an enlightening article about the growing concern of California residents that believe childhood obesity is not only a serious problem, but one that nearly 60% of those polled statewide believe has become an epidemic.  I would have to agree.  Not only is childhood obesity a serious problem – the inability of parents to be excellent roll models is one that I consider even more alarming.  I should know.  One of the key reasons I created my 15 Minute Fat Burning Workouts is due in part to my charity, The Boulevard Zen Foundation.  As you know, we teach yoga to children and their moms living in domestic violence shelters.  Every time I’ve entered a new shelter to introduce our program to everyone the first question I’m asked by the moms is will yoga help them lose weight.  An interesting question for those of us who are dedicated to this 6,000 year old practice.  Because most of us didn’t start practicing yoga to lose weight.  We did so for its overall mental, physical and spiritual benefits.  Thus, I created a complete set of full body, yoga-based exercises that are brief in nature – only 15 minutes per workout- are easy to follow, affordable, attainable and available for ANYONE of any age, size, weight or gender.  Including children.  Just ask my niece who’s 11 years old.  And if you don’t believe me – try it out yourself.  And if you can’t afford the $1.99 per workout, write me a letter with your sincere interest and I’ll forward you Monday’s workout.  Because who doesn’t have 15 minutes a day to respect themselves?

 

Welcome to the Year of the Rabbit

Year of the Rabbit

Today starts the Chinese New Year and the Year of the Rabbit.  If you were born in the year 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, or 1999, then it’s your year. I was born in 1963, so it’s also my year. People born in the Year of the Rabbit are considered to be articulate, talented, and ambitious. They are virtuous, reserved, and have excellent taste. Rabbit people are admired, trusted, and are often financially lucky. They are fond of gossip but are tactful and generally kind. It is also believed that Rabbit people seldom lose their temper. They are clever at business, are known for being conscientious, and never back out of a contract. They would make good gamblers for they have the uncanny gift of choosing the right thing. However, Rabbit people seldom gamble, as they are conservative and wise.  So for all you fellow Rabbits out there…Happy New Year!  R

 

Yoga for low back pain

I woke up today with pain in my low back, specifically on my right side.  It wasn’t there yesterday so perhaps it occurred during the night, or maybe negative energy or tension came to reside there as a result of stress or something I did yesterday.  No matter the cause, I went to the gym this morning and wasn’t able to work it out with my usual stretching so I decided to focus on it with 15 minutes of yoga and meditation when I got home.  First I laid on my back and quieted my mind with the meditative breathing technique called Ujjayi Pranayama.  In yoga terms (or Sanskrit) it means upwardly victorious or skull shining breath which is a three part yogic breath moving from the low belly into the upper chest and throat.  Inhalation and exhalation are done through the nose – with your mouth closed – and the resulting sound is much like the sound of the ocean.  Next I hugged my knees into my chest while rounding then elongating my spine which is call Apanasana.  All the while I kept with my meditation and Ujjayi breath while sending thoughts of relief specifically to the point of low back pain.  Next I slowly rocked back and forth and side to side massaging my low back into the ground.  Next I reached for the sides of my feet moving into Happy Baby pose.  I also teach this pose in Zoo Yoga from my Yoga Survival Guide as well as Apanasana in Comfort Yoga and Ujjayi Pranayama in the very first lesson, Mountain Pose.   Next I straightened my legs best I could while holding onto my big toes – much like Paschimottanasana on your back (also taught in Park Yoga).  Next I spread my legs wide into a big V, all the while keeping my spine elongated best I could.  Finally I hugged my knees into my chest for another Apanasana, then slowly moved into my final resting pose, Savasana.  Viola!  No more pain.  Although everyone’s body is different with varying degrees of pain, give this sequence a try the next time your low back is bothering you.  It just might do the trick.  R

 

Excellent teaching moments

You may already know that my charity, The Boulevard Zen Foundation, teaches yoga to kids and moms living in domestic violence shelters (www.BoulevardZen.com).  I was inspired to start the nonprofit after visiting a shelter upon completion of my film, Boulevard Zen.   My experience with domestic violence comes via the domino affect abuse has on families as my father was a victim of child abuse until the age of 12 when his father left for good.  I have also befriended women in my lifetime that have experienced some of the most heinous crimes imaginable.  Domestic violence and child abuse unjustly robs its victims of self-confidence and oftentimes prevents kids from experiencing what we at the foundation call excellent teaching moments.  So when our yoga teachers find a unique opportunity during class to go beyond an actual yoga pose and teach meaningful life lessons, we all succeed.  And the kids remember those lessons and bring that knowledge into their lives while impacting the lives of everyone around them.  Which is why I get excited every time one of our teachers writes to me about an excellent teaching moment. Like today from Carolyn in our San Diego shelter.  It’s what we strive for and are committed to doing:  to be more than just yoga teachers and to impact lives forever. Because those lives are the future of our Nation and of our World.  Namaste – R

 

It gets in your head

Yesterday I spoke with an old college buddy and former baseball player like me at the University of Pennsylvania.  He recently started the 15 Minute Fat Burning Workouts and simply stated he really liked them because “It gets in your head”.  What does that mean you might ask?  Well it means that each 15 minute workout not only incorporates detailed instruction on how to maximize the efficiency of the exercises you are doing, but also has a short intro and outro that reinforces the concept that fat burning doesn’t end on the mat.  Quite frankly, it gets in your head.  It’s something you take out into the world as you consciously – and subconsciously – make good choices about the foods you eat, the liquids you drink, the movements you make, and the thoughts you chose to fill your mind with throughout your daily life.  Just like the great Jack LaLanne believed it’s all about self-control, there’s no question that once you ingrain the concept of healthy choices into your subconscious you’ll be well on your way to burning fat every single day.  As long as you accompany those healthy choices with some sort of physical fitness – everyday – you will see results.  Enjoy your workout – R

 

Thank you Jack LaLanne

Jack LaLanne

My first memories of this pioneer and King of daily exercise and good nutrition were in my Aunt Tina & Concetta’s living room.  My “right off the boat” Sicilian aunts were fascinated by this exuberant dynamo who preached the gospel of health and fitness.  Thus, I became fascinated with an American icon who would impact my life for the next 40 years.  Thank you Jack LaLanne.  For being ‘born again’ after meeting Paul Bragg when you were 15;  for starting a rudimentary gym for police officers and firefighters when everyone thought you were a crackpot;  for opening the first real gym in 1936 – LaLanne’s Physical Culture Studio in downtown Oakland, CA;  for starting the first morning TV show dedicated to health and fitness that encouraged kids to wake-up their moms for their morning workout;  for your multitude of daring feats to get people to believe in you – like towing 76 kids across the Long Beach Harbor while being handcuffed and shackled;  for inciting a national craze of weight rooms, exercise classes and fancy health clubs;  for always accepting people for who they were – like your 300 pound best friend who was a chain-smoker and a boozer;  for all the exercise machines and health related products you created;  and most importantly, for inspiring me to embrace a daily fitness routine since that fateful day I felt your unparalleled fervor.  You’re a true and inspirational legend the world will never forget.  Rest in Peace – R

 

Making Progress with a Pass-Fail Approach

About a month ago I gave my 15 Minute Fat Burning Workouts to a friend in New York City.  He was actually one of my “prototype” users when I was customizing the full body low-impact exercises.  Think Tony Soprano but shorter.  He’s also late 40’s with amazing abilities in the kitchen.  Albeit, his love of food has certainly helped sustain his 70 lbs. of extra weight.  And since he’s never been much of a gym person – nor would he be caught dead in a yoga studio – the 1% or 15 minutes of your life routine works great. It’s also one that anybody can complement with power walks or abdominals & stretching.  And in my friend’s case, I’ve encouraged him to take my Pass-Fail Approach.  It goes as follows:  At the end of each day you write a P or F into your calendar, P for pass if you worked out that day (15 minutes or more) and F if you did not;  at the end of 7 days you’ll grade each week with a P or F, Pass if you have more Ps than Fs, and Fail if vice versa;  and at the end of the year or 52 weeks later, if you have 26 or more Ps, you PASSED for the entire year.  Which means you worked out at least one hour a week for at least half the year – 26 hours – which is excellent if you really don’t workout.  Like my friend who says he’s making excellent progress.  Progress with his personal Pass-Fail Approach, and progress with all the challenging yoga and balancing I’ve got him doing as he gets stronger and more confident with each workout.  So take a Pass-Fail Approach and keep on progressing.  I’ll see you tomorrow – R

Triceps anyone?

Triceps with Rich Tola

Sometimes you just don’t have the time or just don’t feel like changing into workout clothes just to workout, right?  Well who says you have to find time or wear something workout-ish?  Do one thing for a couple of minutes and you’ll get your workout in – at least part of it.  Like when you’re waiting for that email, or that phone call, or your girlfriend to get ready, or that client to show up.  Check out me working triceps here on my favorite reading chair (dining room and office chairs are even better).  Apply “yoga principles” as you plant your feet slightly apart with knees at right angles pressing together.  Keep your chin parallel to the floor, your spine straight and dip slowly until your elbows reach right angles (no need to go further), pointing your elbows toward each other.  Do not to jerk your head or neck.  Note: always be sensitive to any tweaks or pains in your neck as well as your shoulders, elbows and wrists.  Move with slow and deliberate movements.  Nothing fancy and make sure the chair is properly weighted to support this exercise.  Strengthen your arms and build stamina with these simple dips using whatever’s available to you.   Do as many repetitions as you can per set, and as many sets as you can – with short breaks in between until you feel the burn and can’t do any more.  It’ll happen quick.  And always maintain good posture, close your mouth and breathe slowly and quietly like the sound of the ocean, and pick a point of focus to wipe your mind clear.  Enjoy – R

 

Point of no return

I just visited my thirty-something year old friend who was speaking about her weight when she said, “I know what it’s like to be past the point of no return”.  She spoke with such conviction about how everyone struggling with weight loss reaches a specific point of no return.   Last week I gave her my 15 Minute Fat Burning Workouts and stopped by today to check in on her and to drop one off for her girlfriend.  She hasn’t started the workouts, but said she would today – after much cajoling on my part. When I asked her why not, she said it was “mental”.  Actually she’s doing quite well, mentally and physically, considering she weighed 218 lbs. two years ago.  She also said her exact “point of no return” was 180 lbs, and that once she reached that point she pretty much gave up hope – and desire – of getting the weight off and skipped right past 200 until her final stop at 218.  And can you believe this adorably funny gal started college weighing 106 lbs? The good news is when she finally reached 218 she started with a well-known weight loss program that helped get her down to today’s weight of 180.  Hmmm.  I suppose now it’s the “point of return”.  Next stop 140.  So she says.  And so I believe – as long as she believes and continues to make good choices.  Because with a daily fitness program complemented by a positive mindset and positive lifestyle choices, anything is possible.  Enjoy your workout – R

 

Based on yoga principles

Utkatasana
Bicep Curl

When I refer to exercises being based on yoga principles, I’m referring to the how you do the exercise as compared to what you do and how often you do it.  In the gym this morning I overheard this twenty-something guy ask Mr. Adonis (check out my earlier blog “External Motivation”) what he should do for his biceps and how often he should do it. He also said he only read about it on the internet and found many different opinions.  That’s correct.  When it comes to asking any weightlifter or certified personal trainer their opinions about weightlifting, they all vary.  Just like yoga teachers are like snowflakes – they’re all different – so are opinions of what you should do in the gym.  But here’s something that I’ve brought into my workouts – and you can too – where you can’t go wrong:  think yoga principles in everything you do.  Like biceps.  Take a look at my posture and balance in the left picture – much like my posture and balance in the right picture.  In yoga terms that’s chair pose or Utkatasana (in Sanskrit).  Make sure the energy is radiating straight down through the crown like a steel rod going all the way through your spine down to the middle of your heels planted firmly on the ground.  Relax your toes and try not to swing or alter your posture when curling.  And curl slowly and deliberately for a better burn.  This way is more challenging than the usual swinging people do to get the dumbbells or bar up.  It’s also much more focused and effective.  And for specific lessons on bringing yoga principles into your everyday life – and the weight room – check out my Yoga Survival Guide.  There’s expert instruction on 100 key yoga poses filmed throughout the streets of Hollywood, Venice Beach and the LA Zoo!  There’s even Baking Yoga, Traffic Yoga and Prison Yoga – made especially for Lindsay Lohan.  So think yoga principles and enjoy your workout – R