Avocados, Oatmeal, and Hot Yoga— Bikram Style

Hiking for better health

You may wonder, what do these three things have in common?

Five years ago, after a physical, I was told my cholesterol was too high.  I went on statins which helped to reduce the bad Cholesterol. Later, a good friend of mine suggested a book, “Cholesterol Down” which I’m staring at now. It remains unread. He also suggested that I eat an apple a day, almonds, avocados, and oatmeal, to reduce my cholesterol and get off the statins. I didn’t ask or read the book to find out why.  Instead, I ate an apple, once. I even made avocado toast for a couple days, and had oatmeal once or twice but it gave me gas, so I stopped.  Frankly, the convenience of popping a pill once a day, just seemed easier, far less embarrassing, and the proper protocol to avoid public pollution.

  Three years later my doctor retired, I changed jobs, and had to find a new doc, which also meant another physical. I told my new doc about my high cholesterol and asked her what her thoughts were on statins. “Oatmeal.” She said. “Eat oatmeal. As much as possible. And add flax seed oil to your diet. How much exercise are you getting?” She then asked. Sheepishly, I replied, not much.  “You should exercise at least a half an hour a day, 3-5 days a week,” she said directly.

From that point forward, mostly on weekends over the past five years, I have hiked 70-75% of the Point Reyes National seashore from the Tule Elk Preserve at Pierce Point Ranch, to Alamere Falls, and miles of shoreline between and further south to Tennessee Valley in Mill Valley. Nature is where I connect with my inner spirit and fill my lungs with healing salty air. I also joined a gym and have been playing basketball regularly (2-3x a week) for the past 2 years. All have helped improve my health, lower my cholesterol, and made me feel better about myself.

Fast forward to today. I’ve heard of hot yoga and have had several friends who swore by it. I frequently pass a place called Bikram Yoga Petaluma aka Yoga Hell that was calling my name like a siren at sea. That and the fact that my wife had recently started doing yoga from home again and was extolling how much better it made her feel, led me to go to my first Hot Yoga class.

I could’ve saved a few bucks and tried it at home, watching a video on our TV, but, for me, this coming year is about resilience and stretching my own comfort zone. I needed to feel the HEAT; Hot Yoga was the perfect ticket.

I showed up somewhat apprehensive. The place smelled like the inside of a teenage sneaker and the yoga room was sweaty hot. I found a spot in the back of the room and waited.  Looking around I was one of the oldest guys in the class except for the instructor, who looked to be in his 60’s, but to me, age didn’t seem to matter. I was there to get flexible and increase my lung capacity and maybe help keep my cholesterol down.  Inside, thirty or so men and women, most fit, many young and limber seemed to stretch and breathe with ease. I, along with a few others likely in their 40’s and 50’s seemed to keep pace and do their best.

Sure, I wanted to be able to have perfect form and flexibility but that comes with time. Everything and everyone start at the same place—the beginning. Not once did I feel shamed or judged. I was there. Sweating my ass off and doing it. I wasn’t on my ass in bed watching Netflix and that felt great.

Here’s to you and your healthy goals for 2020. To you becoming willing to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Whatever it is that motivates I encourage you to, at the very least, do something new in 2020. You will be glad you did. It’s been 3 years since I gave up statins.

I recently started eating more avocados, and oatmeal and now, I’m trying out hot sweaty yoga. My cholesterol is back in the safe zone and I feel terrific.

Happy New Year. Happy New You.

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