Episode 72: What is the advantage of being a vegetarian?
In this Episode, You’ll Learn:
* More exercises for Trapeze
* Getting protein from vegetarian sources
* Exercises for fractured back
Q: I have a pinched nerve in my back. I have one hip replaced. It is a summit hip, no pins, screws or cement. It is a titanium metal-on-metal implant that allows the bone to grow in and around it. Can I still use the trapeze or will it dislodge my prosthetic? I’m also waiting on an operation to do the exact same thing on the other side, which should be done in January.
A: The thing about the yoga trapeze is it does require a fair amount of agility and ability and mobility to get in and out of, and also when you’re hanging it is for sure a strong device. That’s not to say that it’s dangerous or that it’s rough, but you’re hanging directly from your hips, in a lot of cases. For sure check with your doctor, but probably what I’m going to recommend for you is something like an inversion table.
An inversion table is a much, much bigger device. For that reason, I like the trapeze better. The inversion table takes up a whole bunch of your home, you need help getting in and out of it, but in your case with the hip replacement it’s probably better.
So how it works is, you lay in this big table and the table literally just goes like this. And it’s a way for you to get traction on your spine, get all the benefits of being inverted, but you won’t have to risk putting pressure on your hip at all. Again, it’s probably perfectly safe. I wouldn’t mess with it. Hips are a big deal.
Q: I fractured my back and I’m at a high risk for more fractures. I recently have a hernia. What kind of exercises would be good for me?
A: This is a challenging thing. What happens is people get injured and they go out looking for solutions, and it’s natural. Anytime you get sick, almost everybody who’s into health has had a health crisis. Almost everybody who’s into healing has been ill. It’s just kind of the way it works. If you fractured your back and if you’re prone to fractures, for sure you want to be extra cautious and for sure you want to work with your doctor. If you don’t feel like your doctor is your friend and your companion in your healing process, find another doctor. There’s somebody that can help you.
In terms of working with your spine, you just want to be really careful. I mean, for the most part yoga is low-impact, yoga is gentle, but it’s still a physical activity. People get hurt playing ping-pong and they get hurt playing badminton. You can for sure get hurt doing yoga and you can for sure overdo it. As activities go, it’s probably a fantastic choice for you, but I would want to get the okay from your doctor before you go ahead and do something. Probably focus on gentler styles of yoga. The classes might be called restorative, they might be called Yin, they might be called gravity yoga, they might be called Hatha yoga. You probably want to avoid the more aggressive athletic styles, especially like Bikrim or a hot or an absolute yoga. You probably want to avoid things like power yoga, Ashtanga yoga. Probably, I’m not sure, but at least in the short term that’s what I’d take a look at.
But with all of these things, for sure you find somebody that you trust. There are great osteopaths, great chiropractors and great just allopathic medical doctors. You do have to go looking, but you can find somebody who’s going to encourage you to stay active. What happens is, a lot of people get injured and their doctor just says, stop doing anything, lay flat. Which is not really a solution, because none of us are looking to spend the rest of our life inactive. We want to gain back our mobility, and in many cases we want to be more active than before.
So try to find somebody you can work with, start with some gentle classes, make sure you tell your teacher. It’s a big deal. Your teacher might think that you need help getting deeper into a pose. Make sure they know what’s going on.
Q: My question is, I’m having trouble getting adequate protein from vegetarian sources. What is the advantage of being vegetarian? For me, I don’t want to kill animals for my source of living, but I always think I have compromised my health in this conversion. Any thoughts?
A: Hira, this is an interesting thing. We have this really overly simplistic view of nutrition. And just to give you an idea, here’s how it goes. Carbohydrates give you energy, protein builds muscle, fat makes you fat. It doesn’t really work that way, right? Spinach gives you iron, builds muscle. All these kind of logical correlations that we have, some of it comes from advertising, some of it comes from cartoons like Popeye. Almost none of it is true. Like so many things in life, the paradox is abound when it comes to nutrition.
So for example, one of the easiest ways to lose weight is to eat a high-fat diet. For example, one of the easiest ways to burn your body’s muscle, meaning to lose muscles, is to eat purely protein. It will metabolize your muscle mass so quickly it will shock you. One of the easiest ways to gain fat is to eat sugar. This is all really, really confusing. It’s less complex than you’d think, but it’s counterintuitive and that’s why we get really stuck.
So, the challenge with a vegetarian diet, there’s very few challenges, but the challenges that are there are big ones. Here’s the biggest one: Sugar. When you cut out meat and perhaps eggs and fish and things like this, the natural tendency is to eat more sugar in the form of starches, carbs, I don’t care if they’re whole grains, whatever they are, it’s different forms of sugar. So, people tend to eat more and more sugars.
So, the long-term risks are really all the nervous system, all the blood sugar imbalances, all of the pre-diabetic diabetes stuff that can come from elevated blood sugar levels. It’s a disaster. It’s horrible, horrible, horrible, and if you look at the countries and the regions where people are vegetarian more than other places, rates of diabetes are extremely high. Like for example, India has one of the highest population of vegetarians in the world, and it’s number one or number two in terms of diabetes in the world. And a lot of that has to do with they’re eating so much starch, the rice, the beans and the bread, oftentimes all in one meal.
So, your biggest challenge as a vegetarian is reducing the amount of carbs, which means increasing your protein, but more importantly, increasing your fat. Because on a vegetarian diet, there just aren’t that many sources of protein, so you want to eat a high-fat diet. This scares the pants off a lot of people, but it’s perfectly safe. I’m going to recommend a book for you to take a look at. It’s called the Rosedale Diet. It’s by Dr. Ron Rosedale. It’s one of the least-known, most-informative, best books you’ll ever find on nutrition. It’s not hypie, it’s not sexy, it’s not exciting, but it’s right on the money and you’ll learn a lot about eating healthy, high-fat diet. And if you’re a vegetarian, you’ve got to eat high fat.
In terms of the animal and the ethical questions, these are all really, really valid concerns. I share those concerns. The thing I would keep in mind is, if you’re a vegetarian, like a lacta-ova vegetarian, let’s say you’re still eating milk and dairy, keep in mind that the moral and ethical implications of eating milk and dairy are exactly the same as eating meat. In my opinion, dairy cattle suffer more, in my opinion, in my research, than beef cattle. So I also think that if you don’t eat dairy but you eat meat, I still think you’re a vegetarian. My vegetarian friends get very mad at me for that, but like the Paleo people, for example, I consider them vegetarians. It’s actually, in my opinion, the largest insurgent vegetarian movement that’s happened in probably 50 years, maybe longer, because they’re cutting a huge chunk of animal products out of their diet. And so I’d look at it that way.
In terms of not getting enough protein, it’s not really a big thing. People talk about protein deficiency. It’s very, very rare. You need very little protein to be healthy. Now, all that said, depending on what you’re doing, you might need a lot more. So for example, if you’re a body builder, if you’re a professional athlete, depending on what you’re doing you might need a ton of protein. Depending on what you’re doing, you might not need much at all.
For example, I’ve eaten very, very high protein diets, 70 to 80 percent of my caloric intake from protein at different times, one time for a period of 2 ½ years. I felt terrible, I couldn’t keep any weight on me, I couldn’t build any muscle. So, different peoples’ bodies are different. But most people need very low protein. Very low protein is about 10 to 20 percent of your caloric intake from protein, which is pretty easy to get, pretty easy to get.
So if you’re a vegetarian, there is basically the sugar issue to watch out for, that’s number one. The number two thing is just some very simple nutrients that can be a problem. Things like B12, you should supplement. Things like omega-3 fats, you should supplement or take super foods. And then other things you might worry about are vitamin D and vitamin K, and you should get tested and consider supplementation. Those vitamin deficiencies are a very small issue and very easy to deal with. Anybody can take the supplements, anybody can keep track of their blood work, it’s not a big deal. Even people eating any other food, they have the same challenges so it’s not that big of a deal.
But, the sugar thing is no joke. It’s a big deal. It’s why when you go to these vegetarian conferences everybody looks terrible. All the people who have been doing it for 2 years look amazing; the people who have been doing it for 20 years, they look like they’re dying. The biggest part of this is they’re eating way too much sugar in their diet and the oxidative stress, the nervous system, all the damage that comes from having elevated blood sugar levels is a disaster long term.
I hope that’s helpful for you. I wouldn’t get too caught up on the protein issue. I’d focus on the fat issue. Where are you getting your fats and how can you reduce those sugars?
Q: The trapeze is amazing. (She’s talking about the yoga trapeze, our inversion device.) I just love it. Could you recommend some exercises especially for the neck?
A: Alice, neck is a really delicate area. One thing I love about the trapeze is you can invert, you can hang upside down and you can just hang there passively. One of the best things you can do for your neck is just to get that natural tension on your neck. In terms of other things for your neck, you’ve got to be really careful. People you have neck problems, a lot of them get into really aggressive stretching. My brother, for example, grew up with neck pain all the time. He would do these really aggressive snap cracks on his neck. I’d just be very, very careful. Your spine is very strong and very resilient, but it’s also — if it becomes injured and damaged, it can be a huge source of aggravation and pain.
So, in terms of what to do on the yoga trapeze, I like to do these 7-minute passive holds. You literally just invert, you lock your arms above your head, you just hang there for 7 minutes. That’s the best one I’ve ever found. Now keep in mind, a full-range yoga practice is also very beneficial for your neck as well. Very natural range of motions.
And there’s one more pose which a lot of people don’t talk about, which is a headstand. If you do a headstand properly and you do it in the middle of the room, not against the wall, and you do it very, very slowly, no bouncing, no jumping, no flopping about, you can build neck strength very, very quickly and very effectively to stabilize your neck.
Now in many cases, when I talk about headstand, when we’re teaching it people aren’t even going up into the full pose. They’re just staying in a half headstand pose on the ground, and that has the same benefits and the same muscle tone to support that neck.
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