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Cut down on drinking! Time for a post-holiday detox

Cut down on drinking! Time for a post-holiday detox

It is all too easy to overindulge during the holidays, one too many toasts over Thanksgiving, an excess of eggnog at Christmas and far too much Champagne to see in the New Year. It is something that most of us are guilty of, for example in a recent survey by Harris Interactive it was found that 96% of people surveyed returned to work hungover after a holiday party and that 40% of us use the holidays as an excuse to drink.

So what can you do once the holidays are over? You may feel that the time is right for a post-holiday detox to rid your system of all the excess.

The Effects of Alcohol

There is no real issue with the consumption of alcohol, in moderation, however as we increase intake over the holidays we can start to see some of the negative effects.

Drinks glasses

    Alcohol can affect how you look through dehydration. In particular, your skin becomes dehydrated, depriving it of nutrients it needs. This can lead to wrinkles and aging as well as unsightly spots.

    Alcohol also contains a lot of calories, there are 7 calories per gram of alcohol which is almost the same caloric value as butter. To put this into perspective, a pint of beer has as many calories as a chocolate bar and a glass of wine is equivalent to an ice cream cone. You can soon find that the extra calories show themselves as unwelcome weight which, along with increased cellulite and bloating, is enough to make most of us want to think twice about having another drink.

    Over time, if you increase your drinking or regularly drink in excess, you can cause permanent damage to your body which can lead to infertility, sexual dysfunction or serious conditions such as liver disease.

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    Your liver is responsible for breaking down harmful substances in your body and when you drink this includes alcohol. Excessive drinking can lead to alcoholic hepatitis, jaundice and scarring of the liver which can cause the liver fail at breaking down harmful substances. These then build up in your body and it can be fatal. Moderate drinking will not do any permanent harm, but you can still help your body and make yourself feel great by giving yourself a break from booze!

    Taking a Break From Drinking

    Something which is popular in Europe is the idea of a ‘dry’ month, this was an idea which was first created in Finland when the government created ‘Sober January’ in 1942 as part of its war effort. Today in the United Kingdom the charity Alcohol Concern runs a campaign called ‘Dry January’ where people are encouraged to give up alcohol for a month.

    There are people who doubt that this is effective, however, the University of Sussex found that six months following January 2014, 72% out of 900 surveyed participants had “kept harmful drinking episodes down” and 4% were still not drinking. It may be a good way to break the habit after all if you feel that it is time for you to review your intake.

    Of course, you don’t have to go for a full month, you will start to notice effects after a 7-10 day detox. After which an ongoing reduction of your drinking will have a major benefit on your health.

    If you have been a little excessive over the holiday period you can plan a short detox to help your body recover from the effects of alcohol.

    The One Week Detox

    Here is a simple set of steps you can take to undergo a short detox program.

    What is detox?

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    A detox – is a process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances. It is a time when you will remove alcohol from your diet, in this case for one week. It will give your body time to flush any toxic substances from your body and allow organs such as your liver to recover. It can be especially good following a time like the holidays when you may have indulged just a little too much!

    There are a number of detox programs you can follow and lots of products to help you if you wish. This is a very simple method. You should, of course, seek medical advice before you detox if you are pregnant or unwell.

    Lemon water - great for detox
      1. Set aside a week when you will carry out your detox – make sure your friends and family are aware that you are trying to stop drinking for a week so that they do not encourage you to break your program!
      2. You will be avoiding all alcohol – if you slip and have a drink, make sure it is just one and then carry on. Remember, you are only cheating yourself!
      3. Eat healthy – boost your diet with lots of fruit and vegetables which will supercharge your body with essential vitamins and minerals. You can enjoy raw foods and salads and avoid heavily processed foods. For just one week forgo the takeaways and processed foods, fresh fruit and veg will kick start your immune system.
      4. Drink lots – but ensure it is water or juice! Alcohol will dehydrate your body so look to replace your lost fluid with lots of fresh water or juice. It will help you flush toxins from your body and plump up your skin making you look great! Try slicing a lemon and adding it to a water bottle in your fridge. You will have delicious flavored water to sip all day. Try it with any of your favorite fruit or even cucumber which makes a delicious drink. Avoid coffee and caffeinated drinks where you can.
      5. Enjoy exercise – if you don’t regularly exercise you should start to move your body. If you do exercise, see if you can extend what you are doing. Go slow, if you are unused to physical exercise take it easy at first, a gentle walk or swim is a good start, just slowly start to build up what you are doing to get your body moving.
      6. Try a mental detox too – take time to clear your mind, there are lots of meditation programs you can follow for example, 5 Minutes to find happiness. At least ensure you find some ‘me’ time for you during your detox week. Read a book, enjoy some music, do whatever helps you relax and clear your mind.

      There may be times when you will struggle but if you persevere you will find that the benefits will be worth the effort. Even a short period of detox will make you feel better, your skin should be brighter, and you may have more energy. Your body and especially your liver will certainly thank you!

      The best thing you can do is, keep it simple. Think of a detox as a treat to yourself and your body.

      Keeping the Good Times Flowing

      Once you have completed your detox (and no doubt feel great!) don’t use it as an excuse to immediately open a bottle of champagne and celebrate. Why not build on the good practice and use this, instead, as a great excuse to build on your good practice.

      There is nothing wrong in a social drink, however, try to consider what you are drinking and if you can cut down. It doesn’t have to be hard work. For example, if only for your waistline, why not drink a spritzer instead of a full glass of wine? A 5 oz glass of dry white wine contains approximately 105 calories whereas a 5 oz spritzer made with soda water is just 50 calories – less than half! Importantly you have a longer drink and therefore more time between alcoholic drinks – fewer units per night!

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      Remember that beer has calories not only from the alcohol but also the carbohydrates, a light beer could save approximately 50 calories per bottle. Reduced strength need not affect the flavor of a well-chilled beer!

      Avoid drinks such as coolers made from sugary flavors mixed with vodka or rum. Most contain at least 250 calories and may contain more than 300 calories, plus more than 8 teaspoons of sugar in each serving.  Try a rum and Diet Coke instead.

      If you enjoy a cocktail, why not enjoy some delicious alcohol-free cocktails. You can still be the life and soul of the party even without lots of alcohol.

      Alcohol free cocktail - part of a great detox

        When is a Detox Not Right?

        For most people, a short detox where you abstain from alcohol will be a positive move and it will help you greatly. However, you need to be aware if you are alcohol dependent you should not suddenly stop drinking.

        If you are a regular and heavy drinker your body will be compensating for the depressive effect of alcohol by increasing production of hormones and brain chemicals such as serotonin, epinephrine, and dopamine. If you were to suddenly stop drinking alcohol, your body would become flooded with abnormally high levels of these chemicals, causing your brain to undergo rapid changes in an attempt to maintain normal function. Severe complications include dehydration, vomiting, abnormal heart rhythms.

        How do I Know if I am Alcohol Dependent?

        Sadly, it has never been easier to become alcohol dependent, there is a wide range of alcohol available and social drinking is seen to be more acceptable than ever. Coming home after a hard day at work and reaching for a ‘glass of wine’ can rapidly turn into regularly ‘finishing the bottle’. If you feel that you may be struggling with alcohol, ask yourself some questions:

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        • Do I need to have a drink? – you need alcohol, your desire for a drink has become a powerful need for alcohol.
        • You need to drink more to get the same buzz – having a glass of wine of a bottle of beer just doesn’t ‘hit the spot’ and you need more and more to get the same effect. It is showing that your body is becoming more tolerant of alcohol.
        • You are drinking most days – your drinking has become regular, this could show the signs of an addiction forming
        • You drink alone – whereas there is nothing wrong with enjoying a drink alone if this becomes the norm you should take notice.

        Alcohol consumption is measured in ‘units.’ One unit is equivalent to a measure of spirits (a bar measure as opposed to a home measure), half a pint of lager or a small glass of wine.

        When you are drinking you should take note of how many units you are consuming in one session:

        • 1 – 2 units are referred to as moderate
        • 8 – 9 units is heavy drinking
        • 10+ units is considered to be excessive

        The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that men should not exceed 4 drinks per day or a total of 14 per week and women should not exceed 3 drinks a day or a total of 7 per week. The American Heart Association suggest even lower levels.

        If you find that you are at risk of being alcohol dependent you should take professional advice before you attempt to cut down on your alcohol intake to avoid alcohol withdrawal symptoms which can include anxiety, visual and auditory hallucinations, convulsions, whole body tremor, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, profuse sweating, shakiness, convulsions, DTs, hypertension and even heart failure.  Approximately 50% of people with alcohol dependence experience withdrawal symptoms.

        Featured Photo Credit: Feature ImageDrinking GlassesLemon Water, Cocktail via Pixabay

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        Published on January 17, 2020

        How to Learn Yoga (The Beginner’s Guide)

        How to Learn Yoga (The Beginner’s Guide)

        If you think yoga can be learned on the mat, you’re wrong! To learn yoga is to learn yourself, your life and the world around you, which happens mostly off the mat.

        Since 2000, I study, practice, teach and live yoga – I grow with it from year to year – hence life becomes more interesting and more meaningful from year to year, too. Through all these years, I observe the evolution of yoga in the western culture and see, how (mostly) wrongly, has been interpreted, taught and practiced. Little is known about how to learn yoga – about its practice, its effect and its application. Yoga is all about finding the simplicity and the meaning in the complexity of life.

        But when we look around us, it doesn’t seem so simple, even for those who practice it, and for the most who teach it. Everything about yoga begins in its definition from the original yogic scripture Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.[1]

        And the value for how to learn yoga, is in this article – showing the value of the above definition and how to practice it in the simplest way, effectively and efficiently.

        What is Yoga?

        Yoga-Citta-Vrtti-Hirodhah — and its translation is: Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations arising within consciousness.

        The 195 Sutras, that the original yoga scripture consists of, are written in a strongly compressed manner with the idea to deliver a profound meaning and a lot of space for interpretation. However, the interpreter must be highly serious and competent, otherwise the interpretation will drastically deviate from what the message conveys.

        When the definition about yoga is interpreted and applied the right way, it tells us how yoga is to be practiced and explored. To start the right way, we must know the right destination of yoga, which is Kaivalya:[2] The union between you, the other and the world.

        Let’s see how to do that:

        Beginning with the famous mainstream slogan “Union of Body, Mind and Soul”, brings up the question, “How to reunite the body, mind and soul?”

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        Your feelings – created by outside stimuli result in the creation of thoughts, hence there’s connection between your body and mind. That’s easy to understand, right?

        Now this connection and the thoughts must serve and improve the mind, making it capable to 1) understand the soul and 2) to unite it with the body and mind. That’s where our journey towards the goal of yoga (Samadhi) is interrupted – making the main part of the union not easy to understand, even less so to accomplish.

        Yoga is More Spiritual than Physical

        This is what makes yoga more spiritual than physical. To put it in numbers, yoga is 97% of psychological, philosophical and spiritual nature and only some 3% of physiological, considering that there are only seven out of 195 Sutras referring physiologically to sitting and breathing, of which I talked in my earlier post on Yoga For men.

        But before experiencing any spirituality from yoga, there is the mental (emotional) part that needs to be mastered and that part is to establish a connection between the body and mind. How?

        The simple thought and realization that you are conscious of how you feel within your body (cold, warm, relaxed, depressed, anxious, happy and so on), means that you have made the union between your body and mind. (below the step by step exercise for that).

        But to establish a connection to your soul – to the finest part of yourself – the Self:

        You must find out (through thinking) what is the subtlest thing that drives your body and mind – yourself as an individual and use that driver to go pass beyond your physicality and mentality.

        It is right here that you use the definition about yoga and the realization – the moment, where you are not analyzing any thoughts or feelings. This is a state of Yoga – a state of union between body, mind and soul, in which your consciousness has ceased to identify with its fluctuations.

        Yoga as Creativity and Expertise of the Individual

        In such a case, there is no specific (like beginners, intermediate or advanced) technique for learning yoga. The moment of the state of yoga arises for everyone of us in an individual way as everybody’s physique and mental content are different. You might be very well advanced in performing the most difficult asanas for decades but still unable and incompetent to be in a state of union with your body, mind and soul. Whereas, if you are a beginner and possess the grace and other virtues, than it’s easier and quicker to establish that connection.

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        As yoga is an inherent part of the human being, firstly, in order to pave the yoga path successfully and effectively, you must understand that yoga is not a technique for performance, but rather a creativity and expertise of yourself.

        Your learning process cannot be focused on, nor conditioned by a certain handbook, someone’s instructions or some specific school.

        Learning yoga requires your creativity to look within yourself and learn from yourself, become the expert of your feelings, emotions and desires. You, as a beginner might already possess many qualities and prerequisites for creating the union between your body, mind and soul, but your knowledge requires creativity for your growth to reach the state of union and then reap the fruits of that union. Once this happens there is no turning back – you’ll be pulled by the beauty and energy of your on being.

        Be Fast Mentally and Slow Physically

        As already mentioned, you don’t need to do physical performances like the split or the headstand to be able to immerse in a deep meditation or Samadhi. But you do need enough creativity for your self-inquiry.

        Many of my students start working directly with meditation – attending the complexities of the mind, because that’s where the hindrances lie. There, the meditator is able to work on the cessation of identifying with the fluctuations of the consciousness – where intelligence expands, adversity ends and the individual is ready to pass through its physicality and mentality in order to reach the union with the soul.

        But if you’re really a beginner and cannot start with that, then you can start enhancing your creativity on the body-mind level. The exercise follows in the next paragraph.

        The greater your creativity, the better your expertise about yourself – the deeper your competence to inquire further into the union with your soul. Sure enough that a more pliable and healthy physical body has some advantages and better preconditions for that, but don’t get discouraged because your body-mind union will open up the way.

        So here we are, you are at the moment to enhance your creativity upon that union. Please, take this as a very serious part of the practice as it is crucial for learning yoga – for learning yourself.

        The Beginner’s Exercise – Creativity upon Body-Mind Union

        The first and most important element to learn and practice yoga is of physiological and psychological nature: Stillness:

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        1. Make sure your body is still and comfortable.
        2. Focus on breathing to initiate observing.
        3. Observe your body and identify the first feeling that occurs to you.
        4. Keep identifying feelings and emotions, but without getting involved with them.
        5. Now create feelings and emotions as you please and let them go.

        That’s it! That’s the creativity upon the body-mind union. The validity of this creativity lies in the stillness and observance of that union. In this practice you can learn to understand and catch the moment – the main ingredient of life.

        Life is a sequence of moments and knowing that you’re able to manage that sequence is a new level of living life, called dharma – the practical and skillful way of living. An essential character develops as a result of practicing this discipline.

        However, be aware that we are still talking about outward elements of yoga – the gross levels (from Yama to Pratyahara) whereas the subtle, inward elements (Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi) are yet to be approached, learned and implemented. It is on these subtle levels that you can realize the depth of spirituality and the essence of yoga.

        It is remarkable how the science of yoga can take you in such heights and depths of exploring life and being. Little is known about the essence and the right practice of yoga in the west. There is a huge knowledge gap between how yoga should be learned and how it is practiced today in the west. You can bridge this gap by practicing the above exercise.

        Know that yoga is of a very subtle nature – operating on a subtle energetic level – the level of your mental energies, your thoughts. That means that it is to be learned at that level and not on any other. A body posture alone cannot take you to that level if you don’t apply your creativity and self-inquiry.

        Prerequisite for Yogic Success – Union between You and the Other

        Yoga is nothing, if our relationships with others are not managed harmonically.

        Learning yoga is also learning connecting with the other – with the stranger who’s not you but carries the same “core”, the same heart as you. We as individuals, possess the inborn feature of Ego – the “I-consciousness” that makes us feel separate from the rest of what makes the wholeness.

        This separation is the second of the the five “klesah” afflictions[3] – that stand as major hindrance against the union (Yoga) – called “asmita” or I-am-ness / Egoism (Y.S. II.6.), and has to be cultivated and brought to a level of discernment that will lessen our disturbance that comes out the fragmentation between the “I-am-ness” and the “Other-ness”.

        This is a crucial concept in Yoga and it is inevitable to be worked upon this hindrance in order to reach the inner “psychological” freedom or the ultimate liberation “Kaivalya” for which Yoga stands for. But, again, if you are beginner in this part, you want to know how to start dealing with all this. Here is the exercise:

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        1. Practice observance from the first exercise.
        2. Realize that the structure of your feelings, emotions, etc. is identical with the one of the other individuals.
        3. Practice witnessing, tolerating and gradually accepting the diversity between yourself and the other individuals.
        4. Observe for so long with equanimity, until you see the uniformity in that diversity.

        This is one of the greatest accomplishments a human being can achieve. To be, means, to be in relationship – internally, as well as externally.

        Yogic Lifestyle – Union Between You, The Other and The World

        Here comes the last piece of the puzzle – the union – on the highest level of worldly existence – between you, the other and the world. This means that Yoga is also worthless if practiced only on the mat. So when learning yoga, especially when practicing the body-mind union, consider if:

        You speak the language of nature and how you’re connected to nature and its basic elements? Do you complicate your existence by thinking that you are in the center of the world and require extra attention and acknowledgement?

        Thinking this way interferes with the practice of yoga. And surely, you might wonder, what should be done here in order to create that harmony in union? You’d be amazed to know that there is one important yogic movement that needs to be done. That is:

        The action of not doing anything but contemplating! Then yoga happens.

        Yes, this goes beyond the physicality and mentality of your being. As our bodies play just a tiny part of the evolution of existence, we must not attach to the world in that sense – clinging to worldly life with that insatiable urge that generates worries and anxiety – but rather grow through life with detachment and the attitude that life has been gifted to us with the purpose to realize that gift and attain the wisdom of life.

        Go Beyond Your Physicality and Mentality

        Attaining greatness like connecting to the world and to your soul, we must pass beyond the thoughts, feelings and emotions, and the influence they have on us. Hence we want to make the mental fluctuations to cease and let yoga shine its light through this yogic movement:

        The stillness and the watching within.

        Can yoga be understood and achieved in one single session and then practiced continuously, productively and effectively? Of course it can. Your union within yourself, the other and the world is lot simpler and easier than you think. Practice these simple yogic movements diligently, seriously but also effortlessly and your yoga will be flourishing and fruitful. I salute the spirit in you!

        More About Yoga

        Featured photo credit: Avrielle Suleiman via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
        [2] Wikipedia: Kaivalya
        [3] Plato Stanford: Klesah

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