When the brain receives pain signals, it will often try to protect the body by telling the area of the brain that controls movement to hold the muscles tight or stop the movement. Avoiding movements that hurt makes sense in the short term; it is good for injuries like a sprained ankle or a broken bone, but becomes a less useful instinct with pain that goes on after the body has healed. In the long term, the body needs to move to keep up strength, flexibility and mobility. When a person avoids movement too much, they often have a slow decline over time in movement, strength, stamina and flexibility. The "yo-yo"Many people want to get the benefits of exercise quickly, so they push themselves as hard as they can, even when it's very painful. They may push so hard that they go beyond their safe limits, have a pain flare-up, and then need to rest for days or weeks to recover. Later, they try again, pushing through the pain, but they've lost strength and flexibility while they were resting. Now it's even easier to push too hard, and another pain flare-up soon follows. The cycle continues, and each time they lose more strength and flexibility. This pattern is common among people who have very high expectations of themselves and are trying hard to get a sense of control of their situation. This "yo-yo" pattern is hard on the body and brain--not to mention very frustrating. That "yo-yo" pattern looks just like me! I try so hard, then it hurts so much and I get really discouraged. I guess it's nice to know I'm not alone and that there could be other ways to do exercise. The teacher here is disrupting the narrative and sense of self and shifting attention to the body. He focuses on being with the participant's experience, exploring, and conveying interest and curiosity about it. He is not interested in the content of thoughts per se because the danger there is to fall in to the story that thoughts often produce. He is embodying sensitivity to a nuanced inner world, helping the participant to trace the movement of sensations (impermanence) without personalizing them. We have discussed how the embodiment of aspects of Buddhist psychology, namely that life is imperfect, impermanent, and impersonal and the knowledge that suffering results from wanting things to be other than they are, supports a teacher's ability to express a mindful presence in his teaching. From this wisdom, the attitudinal foundations can flourish, particularly curiosity and compassion.

This will allow him to meet and follow his participants wherever they might lead. Together they discover the insight and wisdom afforded by the practice of mindfulness in their journey through the Yoga program. In the following chapter, we will address how the teacher expresses an embodied mindful presence through teaching and modeling bare attention, open-monitoring, and discernment. Watercress. Watercress decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality while promoting a healthy complexion, increased energy, and overall lower weight. Walnuts. Walnuts are high in protein, vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, trace minerals, lecithin, and oils. Walnuts are unique because the fats in them are primarily polyunsaturated fatty acids. Moreover, walnuts have insignificant amounts of sodium and are cholesterol-free. Garlic. Garlic protects against cell damage and aging, helps reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, and may help prevent Alzheimer's disease and dementia. A Yoga teacher who understands and resonates with the imperfect nature of experience, impermanence, and not-self comes to epitomize mindfulness. This is discernment and has little to do with intellectual knowing. Discernment and wisdom arise from meeting all experience in its various forms with a clear sense of recognition, kindness, and skillful action. This way of being, the heart of the practice, enhances a teacher's ability to embody and express compassion, to be present and responsive to his participants. You've seen some interesting research on factors such as exercise, relationships, alcohol, and caffeine. Now let's take a broader look at food. Numerous studies have found that a predominantly plant-based diet can help to decrease the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality. There is also quite a bit of evidence that there are superfoods that combat aging. I will be talking about diet extensively later in this book, but for now I want you to remember that good health starts in the kitchen because you are what you eat.

Here are seven superfoods to consider adding to your diet. Fish oil or cold water fish. These foods contain high levels of omega-3s, which improve the body's ability to convert fat to energy during exercise, reduce insulin levels, block fat storage in the body, and reduce cortisol, a stress-related hormone that causes fat storage in the body. Olive oil. Studies show that people eating two tablespoons of virgin, organic olive oil daily for one week show less oxidation of LDLs and higher levels of antioxidants in their blood.8 Avocados. Avocados contain twenty-five milligrams per ounce of a natural plant sterol called beta-sitosterol, which can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Half of an avocado provides approximately 25 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin K, which is essential for bone health. An avocado is actually high in fiber with approximately six to seven grams per half fruit. Blueberries. Blueberries are high in antioxidants, help fight cancer, amp up weight loss, boost brain health, alleviate inflammation, support digestion, and promote heart health. Research shows that willpower is actually rather like a kind of muscle; it can get tired if you overuse it. In a number of studies, Florida State University's Dr Roy Baumeister and colleagues have established that making decisions and choices, taking initiatives and suppressing impulses all seem to draw on the same well of mental energy. They found that straight after accomplishing a task that required them to use their willpower, people were far more likely to struggle with other willpower-related tasks. Baumeister and colleagues all come to the same conclusion: self-control and willpower can be used up. This has nothing to do with being physically tired. Your self-control decreases and you start to give in to temptation when you are mentally exhausted. Spend the afternoon filling out your tax form or a job application, for example, and even though you have every intention of going for a run, your brain doesn't have enough energy left and is too tired to motivate you. Your resolve goes out the window and you give in to eating chocolate in front of the TV for the rest of the evening. You've lost both your will and your power! So how can you get more willpower?

Although you may have limited willpower and self-control, it can be increased and strengthened through mental exercise. Just like exercising your muscles to build up your strength. By working on small tasks that you are reluctant or too lazy to do, you can gain inner strength and develop the ability to overcome your mind's resistance. You can actually train your mind to obey you! Set small daily goals which you would usually rather avoid doing and get them done no matter what. My friend Richard mentions a friend who uses the slogan, "Just get her done." That's a good slogan and a good example of using self-talk. What turns our focus center on? Personal interest. Novelty. Challenge. Heavy immediate deadline. So when faced with a task that doesn't fit one of these, sometimes I can use mind games to fool my focus center into turning on. Sometimes this works. This gives me more control over my life. Some of the mind games are tricks, some have to do with language, some with attitude. Language is powerful. It can strongly affect our emotions and our behavior. By being careful in our choice of language, we can have more control over how we feel and over our attitudes and our behavior. One example of a mind game: if I need to rake the leaves (which fortunately I don't have to do in Santa Fe), I can tell myself I'm in a leaf raking contest, and racing against the clock. Or I can come up with a new way to rake the leaves; maybe I'll see if I can rake them all into one huge pile, or I can divide the lawn into sectors so that I'll make the perfect bag size pile in the middle of each sector.

This not only makes the raking a challenge, but it gives me a novel way to do the job. Another great strategy is to use the new I-pod with ear plugs that my daughter gave me that I have my favorite music on. Then instead of saying I need to rake the leaves this afternoon (not "I have to" or "I should", but "I need to"), I'll say "Oh boy, this afternoon I have time to really listen to my music." ( That is also an example of reframing, which I'll discuss soon.) I do the same thing with exercise. I kind of enjoy the treadmill, partly because I've made it a challenge by setting goals - "Two miles last time, so can I do 2.25 this time?" But it's really the time I can watch a poker game or football game that I've taped. Also, watching those shows focuses my mind on them, and I can go much further than if I was just doing the treadmill by itself. So this isn't my exercise time, it's my poker or football time, and I look forward to it as a treat instead of dreading it as a chore. We can now turn our attention to building upon these foundations to see how they can be expressed by a teacher and encouraged in the participants. Our focus will be about how to best help participants cultivate the embodied mindful presence that the teacher, in the last chapter, has learned how to model. She does this by learning to embody and teach bare attention, open-monitoring (receptivity and tracking), and discernment (the insight that guides skillful responding) through a consistent present-moment orientation. We see these as central to the guiding of mindfulness practices and how this is reflected in the contemplative dialogue that we call inquiry. Entertaining the possibility that the teacher can always maintain and represent a present-moment focus is unrealistic. And yet, this is what we are asking of ourselves because it is what we invite our participants to practice and is what we attempt to embody from the beginning of each class. From the moment we enter the room where the class is being held, we are intentionally slowing down. By doing this, we are encouraging and supporting our intention as teachers to have a focus on regularly checking in (bare attention) and to attend to the experience of the moment, allowing us to discern what to do next, if anything. Slowing down also marks our movement into a period of teaching where we are inviting ourselves and our participants to enter a way of being that is different from our usual ways of interacting and relating. Practicing the items on this list on a daily basis requires discipline. It is very easy to get distracted from a self-care plan. In the next chapter, I will explore why discipline is so important. So keep on reading. What are your true feelings about aging?