Awesome Health Practices for a Better, Longer Life
There's only one thing we're guaranteed to have until the end of our life – our body. If you don't take good care of your body now, you may regret it in your elder years. By making my body a top priority and committing to the below health practices even when I'm really busy, I have no doubt my body will serve me well until a ripe old age.
If you don't currently have good health practices, there's no time to start like now – no matter how old you are. Experiment with different exercises until you find ones that you enjoy. If you don't enjoy what you're doing, you will not likely continue.
If you set aside just 15 minutes a day and find health practices that you enjoy, I guarantee you will soon feel the benefits both physically and emotionally, and you will almost certainly live a longer, healthier life. A healthy body supports a clear mind and heart, which then allows you to more easily create the life you envision and to serve as a powerful force for transformation in your life and our world.
I am fortunate at age 56 to have a very healthy, strong body which rarely gets sick. I have no doubt that the main reason for my good health is my many regular health practices, most of which I've been doing for decades. Some of them may seem unusual, yet they work for me. I offer them here to you as food for thought. May we all find beautiful ways to take care of our bodies and health.
General Health Practices
- Go barefoot: I go barefoot as much as possible and practical, including on many runs and hikes. It's natural acupressure! For more on this, see http://earthinginstitute.net. Evidence shows the one or two bee stings I get on my feet every year are good for my health.
- Cold deluge: I end my showers by turning off all the hot water and turning up the cold. I love the cold, refreshing hit which leaves me feeling warm and tingly afterward. Sometimes I turn it as hot as I can take it before doing the cold deluge. Read here seven reasons why cold showers are good for your health. Another good article on this can be found here.
- Germ-positive: I welcome germs in moderate amounts and even small amounts of mold. I see them as friends that help to build my immune system. Excessive avoidance of germs weakens the immune system, thereby increasing the likelihood of disease. See a Washington Post article and a Newsweek article showing that germs can be good for your health.
- Healthy food: I eat organic as much as possible and avoid all genetically modified and processed food (see many great reasons for this). I eat vegetarian at home, though will eat meat when I'm out. I don't eat any candy, soda, or junk foods at home, though do occasionally when out. I don't like being too strict. I also never consume artificial sweeteners (see this webpage for why). I will eat almost any natural food that still smells and looks good, including some far past the expiration dates, which I find are often bogus.
- Avoid medicine: I very rarely get sick, yet when I do, I avoid all medicines – even alternative ones. I let my body's innate wisdom deal with whatever comes up. The exception is when I will be in close contact with others and I feel a cold coming on. I then take vitamins and alternative medicine (Emergen-C and Yin Chiao) to nip the cold in the bud and avoid infecting others. If there is little risk of infecting others, I prefer to let colds run their course so that my immune system gets a good work out. Note that if something serious happens (like a bone break or bad infection), I will use Western medicine that has a proven track record, though I've only taken antibiotics once in my life. For evidence supporting this health practice, see this article and this summary of great news articles on the topic.
- Natural: I don't use soap to wash my body or wash dishes, unless they are really greasy. No deodorant or other artificial skin products either. I prefer to be as natural as possible.
Daily Health Practices
- Life intentions: Each morning on awakening, I review my main life intentions, breathe sacred love, and set intentions for the day even before I get out of bed.
- Skin rub: As soon as I get out of bed, I splash my face with cold water, and then briefly rub/massage all of my skin from head to toes. Great way to awaken the body in the morning.
- Memory exercise: Next I cross my arms, grab my ear lobes with the opposite thumb and index finger, then do 12 deep knee bends while holding this position. This is said to be a good brain memory exercise. For more, see this inspiring CBS News video and this article. In the several years I've been doing this, I'm thrilled to have seen much improvement in my memory.
- Yoga: I do 15 minutes of yoga in the morning plus five minutes at the end of my daily run. The yoga is back focused (five intense Bikram yoga poses which stretch the back in all directions). I also lie on my back and do upside down splits with my legs, stretching them both to the sides and forward and back for each leg as far as I can. I place 15 pounds of weights on each foot and do this once or twice a day. I can almost do the splits all the way now. Yea!!!
- Languages: While doing yoga, I listen to a 15-minute BBC news broadcast in Indonesian Mon - Fri and listen to a Mandarin news broadcast on Sat and Sun when I'm home. I have near total comprehension on the Indonesian (I used to interpret for the US State Dept. and occasionally still work private gigs as an Indonesian Interpreter) and about 60% on the Chinese (I also interpreted in Mandarin for the US State Dept. for a few years).
- Reading: Each morning I like to do inspirational reading for 20 to 40 minutes, occasionally in Spanish or Indonesian.
- 30 to 45 minutes at the park: Almost every day, I go to a nearby park when I run about a mile (including a 150 meter full-speed sprint), do 10 L-seat pull-ups, 12 bar dips, balance walk on a bar (forward and backward with turns), do two yoga stretches, then eye massage and eye exercises while balancing first on one foot, then the other. I also do gymnastics: cartwheels, front handsprings, back flips off rocks, front and back hip circles on a bar, ending with practicing handstands at least three times. Going upside down is very healthy. I usually take one or two days off a week from all this, and don't do it on days where I go dancing or do a long run or bicycle ride.
- Teeth brushing: I floss and brush my teeth only once a day, yet do it very thoroughly, taking a full three minutes. I use an electronic rotating brush Mon to Fri and a manual brush on weekends for variety. I have only been to the dentist six times in my adult life and, when I do go, they are consistently astonished at how healthy my teeth are considering I very rarely visit a dentist or get my teeth cleaned.
- Diary: Before going to bed, I write key significant experiences from the day in a daily diary limited to five to ten minutes of writing. I use a weekly engagement calendar to purposely limit how much I write. I found when I wrote longer entries in the past, I began to dread doing it every day. I enjoy reading through the entire diary at the end of the year and use it to write a summary of my life each year that is very fulfilling for me.
- Gratitude: Before going to sleep, I give gratitude for at least three things from the day.
Weekly Health Practices
- Long run and ride: Once a week, I start with 25 minutes of intense uphill bicycle riding (700 foot rise in three miles) from my home in the flats of Berkeley, California up to beautiful Tilden Park. After locking my bike there, I run a six-mile loop on dirt trails through the hills, taking in the panoramic views of Wildcat Peak. I stop in a few places to relax, meditate, and take in the beautiful scenery. After the run, I hop back on my bike and fly back home in 11 minutes.
- Dance: I love to dance my heart out once a week at one of many dances in the area, usually 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.
- Silence: I relax once a week into two hours of silence and contemplation, usually on a weekday evening.
- Sun gazing: I go up onto our roof at sunset to gaze directly at the sun, usually the last five to 10 minutes before it sets. Sometimes I do this several times a week, and sometimes I go a few weeks without it when I'm out of town, when it's cloudy or raining, or when I forget. I've been doing this since about 2004 without any negative effects and have found it to be quite profound. Important note: Don't do this more than an hour before sunset or an hour after sunrise or you may hurt your eyes. For more, see this webpage.
Monthly Health Practices
- Bikram yoga: I had really bad back problems in 2003. When I then started doing Bikram yoga daily in December of that year, my back healed 50% within one month and 90% by three months. I eventually cut back to doing the full 90-minute session once a month and doing five of the poses on my own at home daily. Now my back is as strong as in my early 20s. Yea!!! And I sometimes have profound realizations as a result of these intense yoga sessions.
- Swim: One hour swim (about 1 1/2 miles). 15 min each of breast stroke, free style, side stroke, and back stroke. I usually end with 100 yards of butterfly (two back and forth laps at our local pool) and an underwater swim of 50 yards after hyperventilating 50 breaths or so. I don't recommend hyperventilating unless you are experienced with it.
- Fasting and silence: I enjoy two different kinds of fasts. Every other month I do one or two days of silence and food fasting. I do drink water, but no food during these fasts. On the alternate months, I do a sleep fast – missing a full night's sleep. And once a year I skip two nights in a row of sleep. On the nights of my sleep fast, I have to keep myself busy and find that I'm generally very productive. Both types of fasting nourish my soul.
- Unicycle basketball: I generally play unicycle basketball with the champion Berkeley Revolution team once or twice a month on Tuesday evenings. They have ranked second or third in the world for several years, though I'm usually the oldest and the least talented player. I don't participate in competitions. I just do it for fun.
Just Do It!
My father, my sister, my two brothers and myself all enjoyed some kind of regular exercise as I was growing up. My mom was the only one who didn't really exercise. And interestingly enough, she was the one who got irritated most easily and had the most complaints. She eventually decided she wanted to start exercising. She tried running and swimming, but didn't really enjoy it.
Then, at age 45, mom found bicycle riding. She started with just five miles a day. Then about a year later she upped it to 12 miles a day and even started climbing some steep hills on her bike. And amazingly, mom became much more relaxed and joyful almost as soon as she started biking.
Mom went on to become a top bicycle rider, doing lots of 100-mile rides and almost always coming in first for her age group on public rides. She even completed the Davis Double (200 miles in one day) ten times! I joined her on a tandem for her 10th Davis Double when she was 67 years old. Now at 83 years old and with poor eyesight, mom can't ride as much as she used to, but several times a year, we still go out on rides of between 24 and 48 miles together. She also cycles with another friend as much as she can. If my mom found a healthy exercise that worked for her, so can you.
If you are new to all this, I can't stress enough the importance of moving gradually into whatever health practices you choose. If you start trying handstands when you've never even done a headstand, you just might end up smashing your face. Yet the important thing is that you do start. Choose something more than just a leisurely walk, which doesn't get your heart working much (but is better than nothing). Speed walking counts. Swimming is great and very gentle on the body. Find something you enjoy doing that gets your heart pumping for at least 15 minutes.
Whatever you choose, make a commitment to do it at least three times a week and preferably five or six. Do take one or two days of rest a week, as I believe it's good to give your body an occasional rest. By committing to whatever health practices you choose, you are showing yourself that you really care about yourself. I invite you to take the challenge, to make the commitment, and to then watch as the months and years pass how much better you feel in your body, and even how much better you end up feeling about yourself. I wish you all the best, and have fun with it!
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