Mindful awareness

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sweat Equity

I feel great when I work my body hard. It just feels good to build muscle strength and cardiovascular endurance through resistance and cardio training. My yoga practice complements my weight training as resistance training and I feel stronger each day I practice. I personally don’t think that sweating feels good, but that seems to be a trend. Many people seem to want to sweat in the gym and in yoga class. I keep hearing people in the gym and yoga studio express how good they think sweating is for them, that sweating will get rid of toxins. I understand that some people may have a personal preference for feeling good to sweat, but I’m not sure why people want to believe the myth that sweating is good as “detox”.

Truth is that sweat is 99% water. There is a trace of salt, urea, proteins, and carbohydrates in sweat. But mostly sweat is water. The trace salt, urea, proteins, and carbohydrates are organic products that occur naturally in the body. They are not toxic, they are not environmental toxins. One cannot sweat out too much alcohol, a rich dessert, or a carbohydrate-heavy meal ingested the evening before.

Sweat does not contain pesticides, environmental pollutions, or food preservatives. Toxins that we ingest or come in contact with through the environment including mercury, alcohol and fatty foods are metabolized and digested in the liver, intestines and kidneys, and excreted as feces and urine.

Sweat glands are located in the skin and serve to regulate temperature. They do not function in metabolism, digestion, or filtering byproducts of metabolism. Sweating is an important physiological function. Is sweating good? Of course, to the extent that it helps to cool the body and prevent heat exhaustion. Sweat is overwhelmingly water. The body is designed to produce sweat. The water in that sweat evaporates from the skin as a cooling mechanism to maintain a consistent body temperature (98.6 degrees F). Sweating more means one of two things: either the environment is hot or the body’s core temperature is rising probably as a function of muscle activity. Sweating more does not expel preservatives, chemicals, or alcohol. Sweating expels water. That water will need to be replaced by drinking fluids to help the kidneys function in their role of eliminating toxins from the blood.

Can someone sweat too much? Absolutely. Heavy sweating with a rapid pulse can be a sign of heat exhaustion, or overheating. Heat exhaustion can result from being exposed to high environmental temperatures and strenuous activity. When people feel dizzy, fatigued, or faint (particularly when the pulse is faint and rapid) during a workout in a heated room they could be experiencing heat exhaustion. Nausea, headache and muscle cramps are additional signs that indicate the person may be overheating and needs to stop the activity, find a cooler room and drink water. Medical attention is necessary if the symptoms don’t subside.

Excessive sweating during a workout is a personal preference. It doesn’t mean that toxins are shed. The best way to “detox” is to avoid environmental impurities, food preservatives, and household chemicals. Sweating in the gym or studio will help cool you down but won’t be effective in eliminating toxins.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Finding Courage and Joy in the Same Breath

Happy Valentine’s day to all! February 14 is reserved for the celebration of love and relationship. It also is a day to recognize that many additional emotions are associated with love. Love is sandwiched between courage and joy. It takes courage to love another. Opening one’s heart to love another and enter a committed, intimate relationship makes both people vulnerable. Entering a loving relationship opens one up to the potential for rejection, pain, and loss. One does need courage to make the leap with all this at stake.

Oh, but once one does commit, the resulting joy that extends from the loving relationship is phenomenal! Partnership, support, acceptance, and warm fuzzy feelings all are joys that extend from loving another. A loving partner is a number-one fan and who doesn’t find joy in having a number-one fan? The support that a loving relationship provides may even generate more courage. The rewards are well worth the risk. If they weren’t then we wouldn’t have a day on the calendar devoted for this joyful emotion.

In celebration of Valentine’s day this week, I’m honoring courage and joy by practicing adho mukha vrksasana (handstand).  It takes courage to go upside down, supporting one’s weight on the hands. Some of my students haven’t experienced this sensation in decades. But we will work up to the pose, starting with an accepting, loving environment. We will begin by finding courage from our breath and arm strength. We will begin with breath of fire and poses that approximate adho mukha vrksasana, further developing courage and love for our bodies. Some students will find themselves in the full expression of the pose and some may even hold the pose for several breaths. Other students will use props and modifications to find their own expressions of the pose. But everyone will develop courage to take himself/herself upside down, even a little bit, and in that pose will find exhilaration and joy.  

Yes, it takes courage to come into adho mukha vrksasana, just as it takes courage to love another, but the resulting joy of both experiences is worth it!