As a YogaGuide, I help people struggling with pain, tiredness and feeling at home in their bodies. Clients come to me after they’ve been routed through several specialists by their primary care professional, including many tests and imaging studies, often without meaningful improvement or even understanding and sometimes after actually feeling worse for their trouble.
I’m sharing with you the template I use during their initial evaluation to identify the lifestyle changes likely to make the most impact in the shortest period of time. If you’re looking for a way to improve your relationship to your body, feel better, have more energy or rise out of pain, use this to identify the first three things you can do to improve how you feel and get back to living your life and sharing your awesome. Come back later and choose another three, after your first three have become habit.
If you want support for making these changes, more detailed or personalized advice, book yourself a private YogaGuide Session for one on one evaluation and personalized recommendations, complete with recipes, recordings and tailored yoga pose, breath and meditation practices to accelerate your path to total well being.
Go through the entire evaluation - these areas are interrelated, even when the intersections aren’t obvious. You may not have even been aware of some of the things you’ll be asked to reflect on. That’s okay. By considering your total wellbeing, you are addressing root causes - often remote from what we think caused the pain or illness. Root causes often go back years before we start feeling less than well.
The good news is that by changing some very basic habits you can begin to feel notably better very rapidly, sometimes immediately.
Most people notice improvement in under 2 weeks, experience another leap in wellbeing at about 6 weeks. You may experience continued improvement for up to 2 years. These holistic changes reinforce each other and compound with regularity and time, so you are committing to changing your basic habits for good. Usually the improvement clients experience in the first several weeks are enough to inspire consistency for a long time. Your efforts will snowball and make you want different things, so that what feels like a big change now becomes a welcome habit within 6 weeks, laying the ground work for even more supportive habits in the future.
Are you willing to make changes in your most basic self-care functions, like eating, waking up, going to sleep, moving, walking, skin care and breathing?
Are you willing to change how you eat?
When you eat?
How you shop?
Are you willing to change what you do when you wake up in the morning?
Are you willing to change what you do in the hour before you go to bed at night?
Are you willing to spend 15 minutes a day moving your body in ways that are accessible with your current state of well being?
Are you willing to spend 5 minutes a day focused on your breathing patterns?
Are you willing to change your TV/video/screen habits?
Are you willing to make your shower/bath time part of your self-care?
Have you had pain in your body in the last month?
Constant or variable?
How would you describe it?
Has it prevented or changed how you do anything you want or need to do?
Do you know what happened when it started? Do you think it was an injury or illness?
What have you done to address it before?
Did it help?
For how long?
Ideal: no pain or some transient, almost pleasant, soreness after working particularly hard at something you enjoy like yoga, hiking, biking &c.
Almost ideal: some, but easily addressed with lifestyle changes I’ve already identified and implement with ease
How many times per day (or week) do you have a bowel movement?
How long was the poo?
Was it uniform or were there undigested bits?
Did it float?
Was it watery?
Was it hard?
Did you have to strain?
Did you have to rush to the bathroom?
Was it a surprise?
Ideal: 2-3 times in the morning, beginning shortly after waking, cardboard colored, about 8 inches long, uniform and clean, easy and predictable.
Nearly ideal: sometimes disordered (other times in day or night, different colors, shapes or consistency) but recovers when lifestyle is reset.
How many times do you urinate a day?
what color is it?
is it regular?
is it painful?
is it urgent?
how many times during your sleeping hours?
do you urinate soon after waking?
Do you wear a pad for accidents?
Can you laugh, cough, sneeze without fear of leaking?
Ideal: 4-8 times/day beginning right after waking, not during the night, straw colored, easy and not urgent.
Nearly ideal: Disordered, but recovers easily with lifestyle resets.
How often are you hungry?
Are you comfortable being hungry for a while?
What’s the longest window you usually go without eating?
How many 1/2 cup servings of plants do you eat each day (veg, fruit, seeds, nuts)?
Are you ever cookie monster hungry?
How often do you cook? or bake?
How often do you buy food in boxes with instructions on the back?
How often do you eat in restaurants?
How often do you drink alcoholic beverages? How much? What kind?
Can you go a day without eating bread or pasta?
Do you buy organic?
Ideal: I get hungry a couple of times a day and it’s a comfortable feeling for a while. I’m never cookie monster hungry (at least outside of vacation). I make most of my own meals and eat 10 servings of plants each day. I buy mostly unpackaged foods from known, hormone, pesticide and additive free sources. I leave the table feeling satisfied, energetic and at ease. I can go 24 hours without eating and feel energetic and clear.
Nearly ideal: I get hungry sometimes, but never cookie monster hungry and eat lots of plants, mostly in meals I prepare for myself. I eat three meals a day with at least 13 hours not eating over night.
How long do you usually sleep at night?
How often do you wake during the night?
What usually wakes you up?
How often do you go to the bathroom during your sleeping hours?
Do you fall asleep quickly most nights?
Do you remember your dreams?
Do you wake rested most mornings?
Do you wake near sunrise?
Do you snore?
Do you wear breathing aids to sleep (CPAP, nose or mouth tape, mouth guards &c)?
Are you restless?
Are you a light sleeper?
Do you go to bed and wake at regular times?
If you have a late night or early morning, is it easy to go back to your normal routine the next day?
Ideal: I fall asleep easily at about the same time every night and sleep 6-8 hours most nights waking once or not at all. I often remember my dreams and wake rested without an alarm within an hour of sunrise.
Nearly ideal: I fall asleep easily and sleep at least 6 hours most nights, going back to sleep easily when I do wake up. I wake up feeling energetic and ready to start my day. I’m aware of having dreamt. I may go back to sleep, but I usually wake around sunrise and go to the bathroom. I don’t often need to “catch up” on my sleep.
Do you have the energy to do things you want and need to do?
Do you wake up clear headed most mornings?
Do you have a mid day slump?
Does your mood fluctuate day to day?
Do you often feel hopeless or worthless?
Do you often think/say mean things to yourself?
Do you have a hard time knowing how you’ll feel or react to frustrations from day to day?
Do you often surprise yourself with your reactions to other people?
Do you often wish you had handled situations or interactions differently after a couple hours reflection?
Do you feel like you’re at the mercy of things you can’t control?
Do you feel like you can make effective changes in your life?
Ideal: I feel energetic and calm most of the time and find it easy to react with generosity to most frustrating situations and people. When I realize I’ve acted in a way outside my own values, I find it easy to acknowledge the problem and let it go. I feel like I can make changes whenever I realize a need and feel powerful to help others.
Nearly ideal: I feel energized and at ease most days and see how my eating, sleeping and moving impact my feelings, internal dialogue and interactions with others. I am mostly confident that I can make changes and treat myself gently when I fall down.
decrease or eliminate packaged food
go through your kitchen and throw out or donate all processed foods
increase your intake of plants: veg, fruit, seeds, nuts
cook and bake at home most of the time
decrease or eliminate dairy
8-32 oz of water first thing in the morning, all in one go
8 oz bone broth after first elimination
sip warm water all day
eat 2-3 meals a day in less than 11 hours, allowing your digestive tract to rest in between without snacking
carbs from non-processed sources
lots of high quality fat with high omega 3
intermittent fasting longer than 13 hours/day
one 24 hour fast/week
add in more organic, unrefined coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil
eliminate all refined, non-organic oils, esp canola
for some constitutions, daily honey
no caffeine after 3pm
15 or more minutes of yoga most mornings including sun salutations, twists, back bends
15 or more minutes of yoga most evenings, including yin, restorative, forward folds, legs up the wall, yoga nidra
20 minutes of walking out of doors, preferably in nature
breath observation and awareness 5 minutes each day
alternate nostril breath
High Intensity Interval Yoga using tabata timing in the context of a full yoga practice including savanna and inversions (might be legs up the wall).
Yin yoga: long holds with intense but not painful sensation that exert intelligent forces on the body with attention to the breath and mental formations
Restorative yoga: long enjoyments of maximally supported positions with light, gentle pressure on closed eyelids and across the whole body to invoke your relaxation response.
Belly compression in the form of forward folds, squats, hugging legs in or even belly massage with soft balls or blanket rolls. Aids digestion and releases serotonin, increases circulation and lymphatic return.
AM routine including rising near sunrise, getting sunlight directly on your eyeballs, movement, water
PM routine including no screens for an hour or more before bed, calming sounds, forward folds, supported inversions, no food for 3 hours before bed, except possibly spiced nut milk or in some cases full fat milk
applying organic, unrefined oils to all of your skin and sometimes hair/head before warm shower (be sure to maintain 3 points of contact and non-slippery surface), sometimes with 5-15 minutes of meditation with oil on before shower/bath.
daily or weekly fasting
yoga, walking, hiking at same time each day
going to bed at same time each night
waking/getting out of bed at same time each morning
leaving bed if awake for more than 20 minutes to do restorative or yin yoga, breathing or reading - no screens or blue light - with soothing sounds