My health journey into cannabis (CBD)

I’ve never taken much of an interest in drugs of any kind. Being a recovering “Type A” I just didn’t feel I had the time for that.  But, as I age, I keep on changing.  Many of my yogi friends use pot for a variety of reasons (relaxation, pain-relief, heightened sensory awareness, energy perception, quieting of the mind, etc.).

Being an avid gardener, I experimented with growing this legal plant in California from seed (two different Cannabis sativa varieties) with my friend Randy this past spring.  It was really satisfying to watch this vigorous plant come to life and it was easy to keep alive.  It was so easy to grow that I learned firsthand why it’s called “weed”!

Recently, my lovely friend Piper for invited me to listen to Erica Oberg ND speak on cannabis at the local garden club meeting.  I learned lots of interesting stuff and though I would share some if with you.   

Here are five of the most interesting things I learned this week about cannabis, and more specifically the component CBD in cannabis:

1. The endocannabinoid system in the body has something called "tone" and can be optimized with CBD to promote good health in many ways.

2. The endocannabinoid system runs in sync with one's nervous system and one's immune system. CBD resets CB2 receptors for optimal immune health and reduced inflammation as well as providing a powerful antioxidant to the body. CBD (and some small amounts of THC) can be a miracle for those who suffer from fibromyalgia, Parkinson's Disease (we watched a miraculous video where it took a man with noticeable dyskinesia spasms from Parkinson's disease only two minutes to stop all spasms) and osteoarthritis (me!)

3. CBD is a fatty acid like "good" fish oil or flax seed oil and adequate Omega-3 levels are required for a good CBD response. Furthermore, Dr. Oberg thinks B Vitamins also help this response.

4. Doses of CBD oil should be kept to 5 mg or lower and the active CBD best utilizes organic hemp as a carrier.  The best way to find the dosage optimal for you is to experiment. Perhaps you’ll try the non-psychoactive CBD first which might help deepen your connection to your experience, reduce pain and relax the mind as it does for me.  Perhaps you’ll add in a little THC to the mix to relieve chronic pain, deepen your sensory and energetic experience, but please no driving!   Studies show consistently that you won’t turn into a pot head, but you may in fact get the munchies.

5. www.cbdoilreview.org is a good place to research CBD products and many of these products can be ordered online and delivered to your door (so you don't have to dress incognito and skulk into a wacky local dispensary to be served by someone who may work “high”!)  After using the research on this site, I purchased Endoca Hemp Oil with one drop containing 5 mg of CBD.  (The stuff is expensive, but maybe I’ll get a discount for this plug?)

I’ve only been using daily 5 mg doses of organic CBD a short while now, but notice almost immediate results in relaxing my nervous system and reducing inflammation in my chronically inflamed knee (due to osteoarthritis). The dosage is strong and I’ve decided to use it right before I go to bed because frankly, I find it a bit too relaxing to use during the day.  I also think it might help my allergies by regulating my overly-active immune response to all the yellow Acacia pollen floating around this time of year. I plan on trying Endoca’s Hemp Balm next which is applied topically to specific areas of the body to directly target the inflammation in my knee.

Perhaps it’s time to release old stories we hold around cannabis and try CBD to feel well and maximize your health?    

What works for me...the top three reasons I feel great

Being in the "healthcare industry" now seems like a revelation.  And I truly mean HEALTH + CARE industry as opposed to the medical system.  But let's just gloss over that elephant in the room to something more hopeful and positive like how good I feel at 46! 

In fact, I can easily say I feel much better at 46 than I did at 40 or 41, or 42, or 43, or 44.  45 was pretty good, but I feel better now (see hormones). I don't feel perfect (knee still arthritic) or young or skinny or accomplished or successful to any quantifiable degree.  I just feel better.

I've been thinking about why that is and I wanted to share it to see if my path to feeling great might help some of my friends who may have stumbled onto this blog.  Here are some things that have helped me:

1.  Connection: 

Lately I feel more connection in my life with people, students,  ideas, and the garden. That's a lot more connection that I'd been making before this last year. My astute teacher Ashton Szabo helped me realize that the best yoga teachers personally connect and care for their students.   This approach to my own yoga instruction has blessed me way more than any of my students.  This skill requires greater receptivity and an acknowledgement that we are all deeply connected already and has opened me to way more people in general this year (not just students.) 

Here's another amazing thing that has improved my life this year.  I've been studying enough philosophy and yogic thought to start to see how one teaching connects with that of another school of thought and how that ancient school of thought is being reapplied by modern writers such as Alan Watts, Mark Nepo, Stephen Cope, Charlies Eistenstein, and Eckhart Tolle.  It's all connected and it's all pointing me to unity, acceptance and service and love. 

2.  Yoga, meditation, and fitness:

I'll lump all of my yoga and fitness pursuits together and put them just behind connection in making forty-six feel amazing. Because I work a lot less than I used to and have a wonderful sponsor and partner in Piet Aldrich, I'm still enjoying the privilege of strengthening and opening my body and mind almost every day.  Ahhhh and it feels amazing- downright fun for a kin-esthetic person like me whose favorite high (after instructing a yoga class) is feeling deeply into my own body. 

I'm also loving these meditation apps that are out there:  Insight Timer, Biofeedback, YouTube videos. They allow me to squeeze in a five to 20 minute meditation almost anywhere (like sitting in my car on the 101 in front of Rubios waiting to pick up a kid from Jr. Lifeguards).  It is truly an amazing world we live in where we have this kind of magic at our fingertips.

3.  Other Self-care: 

When I was working too much and into the wee hours of the morning designing landscapes in the cracks of space around familial obligations, I royally messed up my endocrine system.  My adrenals took the brunt of it, but I also messed up my sex hormones.  I can assure you it's something you want to avoid at all costs.  I felt exhausted all day, insomnia at night, no sex drive, anxiety, and brain fog.  I gained weight around my middle and didn't feel like going out or socializing.  It was rough. 

Luckily, a combination of efforts got me back on track towards wellness.  My research guided me to a ton of expensive supplements* (see full list below).  But, I'd be the first to admit that those supplements wouldn't mean much without the changes I made in my lifestyle. One of the most profound changes was just getting to sleep earlier. That means being asleep by 11:00 pm. Yes, your mom was right.  Nothing good happens after 11:00 pm. A quick Google search of "adrenals and sleep" will confirm what I'm saying a thousand times over.  I also took on less landscape design work and added a consistent and daily yoga practice. I ate better, more regularly, less, and improved my gut health.  I realize those are broad generalizations, but I'm afraid diet and gut health might be a whole separate blog by someone way more knowledgeable that me. 

One of the less obvious things that helped me was filling a prescription for testosterone from my OBGYN who confirmed through blood tests that I was well below any normal range.  After two years, I stopped taking the testosterone- thinking that I had been feeling well for a couple of years and didn't need it any more. I quickly regained the spare tire around my waist and got that late afternoon fogginess back. My last blood test confirmed that I still did need the testosterone even after everything else had recovered.  I have since learned that once you mess those sex hormones up, they hardly ever recover.  And mama, I assure you it feels better to have your hormones in their optimal ranges.  Here are the hormones you might want to check if you're a woman my age:  Testosterone Free and Total, DHEA, FSH, Estradiol, and Progesterone. Ask your OBGYN for a panel at your annual check up. 

I got things back on track over the course of a couple of YEARS.   Yes, it took years to feel like myself again. I hate to think that any other working mama could be out there feeling tired, fat, anxious, sleepless and irritable and feeling that that might be their new "normal".  It's not normal at all and you deserve better.  I wish you the best of luck on your journey to health and balance. We all deserve to feel great.

 *Supplements I take for maxed out adrenals:  Dr. Wilson's slow-release Vitamin C, DHEA (15 mg/day, but careful not to over-do this hormone precursor) Vitamin B5 or Pantothenic Acid.

Other Supplements I take that most could benefit from:  Vitamin D3 (I read somewhere that a majority of Americans are low in D3), Omega 3 fatty acids (my friend Dave who has a company that makes Omega 3's says we need over 3000 mg/day for optimal health), B12, Mega Food Blood Builder (iron and multivitamin) and Calcium with Magnesium. I know that's a ton of costly vitamins, and  I'd be the first to admit that those supplements wouldn't mean much without the changes I made in my lifestyle. 

 

Why Guru Nation?

So what’s the deal with my website’s name of Krista’s Guru Nation?  Am I touting myself as a great teacher ready to guide the nation? 

No.  Nope.  It’s more the opposite of that. 

The name came up in a conversation I had with Holden, my 13 year old son, about Fantasy Football.  (Many of our best conversations involve football these days.)  Our nuclear family plus my two brothers formed our own fantasy league this fall and Holden and I were throwing around catchy team names that suited each family member.  We were having fun and really getting the juices flowing when Holden suggested that my team name be “Guru Nation”.  It had a yoga twist, it was bad-ass, and it met my seemingly subconscious desire these days to be in good favor with my son.  It fit perfectly.

As I started building this website as a professional yoga instructor, I still found “Guru Nation” pithy and sassy (like me). But the name “Guru Nation” suggests the opposite of what I have surmised about yoga and what I have personally experienced in my own yoga practice.  Call me crazy, but my quirky old self likes the irony.

Here’s what I mean by suggesting that a nation led by me as a guru is the opposite of my experience with yoga and what I really need to share:

Every single one of us has everything we need right now to affect the changes we want to see in our lives. 

No guru required, but a little guidance from someone on the same path (maybe a yoga instructor like me?) never hurt.  Especially someone who just wants to share the benefits they have found in yoga.  And the practice of yoga gives us techniques we can use to know ourselves better. 

My consistent yoga practice has helped me build energy in my physical body, allowed me a way back to the awareness of my essential, unchanged self without the chatter of my mind obscuring the way.  It has helped me develop a connection between my body, mind and soul.  When I see things more clearly, I tend to make more skillful decisions about how I want to live my life and affect the people and world around me.   

I’m a sucker for a good yogi biography and one of my favorites has been Yoga and the Quest for the True Self by Stephen Cope (author, yogi, and psychologist). In it, the author writes about his experience living in a yoga hermitage for ten years.  This is what he discovers in the end: 

“Before yoga, before meditation… that grace had been with me all along.  It had always been there…. Whenever we relinquish our craving, clinging, and grasping; whenever we stop the war with reality, whenever we are totally present and undivided, we are immediately in union with our true nature…. You are everything you ever wanted.  I write this to myself as a reminder as much as to you, dear reader.” 

I love the idea of our whole diverse and divided country uniting in the pursuit of self-inquiry through yoga and discovering they have everything they need inside them already to live the lives they desire. 

If you haven’t seen the movie Kumare, I’d recommend it.  It’s a documentary about a man who searches for a guru in India to guide the development of his spiritual life.  He becomes disillusioned by the “gurus” he meets and decides to make a documentary about affecting spiritual growth in a group of people by becoming a false spiritual teacher.  He really does a great job of convincing people he’s the one to follow and many people begin to look to him for guidance.  He pays close attention to his followers, listens intently, and when they ask him for guidance, he skillfully puts the question right back on them. 

As Kumare builds up this community where he is the “guru”, he builds up the confidence in each of his students and strongly makes his point about the power of self-transformation.  Many of the students really start changing their lives for the better even though they are following someone who is literally making shit up as he goes along.   I won’t spoil the ending, but this social experiment really brings the point home about having everything we need to make the changes we want to see in our lives.    

Apparently Kumare’s followers and I are not the only ones who want to change.  According to the latest Yoga in America study produced by Yoga Journal Magazine, the number of yoga practitioners has increased by 30 percent in the past four years. Their 2008 survey accounted for 15.8 million yoga practitioners, but the latest figure shows that 20.4 million Americans are now practicing — about 8.7 percent of U.S. adults.

So here’s my little shout out for “Krista’s Guru Nation”.  It’s about my life and my yoga journey and my rise with the tide of so many other Americans looking for ways to improve our lives. Yoga offers me access to an effective and alternate life philosophy and gives an alternate way of thinking and being in the world.  Perhaps like me, other people feel sickened  (yes, literally ill) or merely disillusioned by mainstream American culture.  I have learned through my inquiry that I need:   

·         Substance over appearances

·         Sustainability over material over-consumption

·         Sharing over greed

·         Spaciousness and reflection over busy-ness and over-scheduling

·         Collaboration over zero-sum competition

·         Kindness and understanding over efficiency and marketing, and  

·         Meaningful, lasting connections over shallow, sensational “bucket list” experiences

Does this sound like you?  If you’ve landed here and found you’d like to become more skillful, more authentic, more “You”, then I look forward to walking this path with you. 

Dr. Kelly Flanagan, in his blog Untangled sums it up perfectly when he says, “I’m not here to prove myself.  I’m here to be myself…. the great calling upon your life is to find your way into the center of your heart, where the story is simply about being yourself—loving what you love, and living what you are here to live.” 

No guru required. 

Tapping into that New Year "Newness"

Ahh, it feels great to get a new year- a clean slate- a chance to hit that reset button on 2016. 

I survived the holidays with my family, which is no small feat. The new year feels like the calm after an emotional whirlwind whipping up the past, old patterns of interaction, and new sources pain with the joy and celebration of the occasion. But there were other more positive aspects of 2016 to reflect on.  I did meet some personal goals by deepening the craft of instructing yoga and my own practice.

In 2016, I started a course led by Christopher Wallis, author and Tantric scholar on Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. Wallis says that the very "first three Sutras are the essence of the whole text".  This first chapter gives advice on how to connect with one's inner most self and to me, the first three Sutras feels like a great way to start the new year.

Yoga Sutra 1.1:  "Now begins the inquiry" or "Now is taught yoga-the method that lets us see things as they really are." 

Wallis says that we do this by practicing awareness of reality without filtering everything through the our mind and thoughts and judgements.  We practice seeing reality with "the beginner's mind" or as things are without the mind's preconceived notions or patterns of thought.  

But do we really want to see reality? This will not always feel good because reality can be painful and awkward.  But Wallis says that this pain can bring an intimacy with reality. This truth and honesty with ourselves can bring us a deep sense of joy- a deep sense of true joy rather than the fleeting act of feeling better in the moment which is not necessarily yoga.

So what do i mean by "yoga"?  I will use Wallis's definition:

Yoga Sutra 1.2: "Yoga is the result of the process in which the mind becomes still- where thoughts and emotional fluctuations subside."  Wallis says this stillness is the key because when our minds are still, we can be aware of the parts inside of us that remain unchanged since our first memories in childhood; our fundamental selves.  When we turn off all the noise, we reside in our true nature, a state of profound inner stillness. 

And why would we want to reside in this stillness?  Wallis continues by noting the benefit of experiencing this profound state of inner stillness is that it grounds us.  "This grounding stillness helps us avoid overwhelm and despair.  Fullness of heart, presence and love are only available to those who know their true selves."  This leads us to Wallis's interpretation of Sutra 1.3...

Yoga Sutra 1.3:  " When yoga happens, then we, the perceiver, can abide in our own true nature."

Wallis notes that's one's true nature is not just another experience-not like the temporary and ever-changing states of the mind. When we become one with our center, we connect with the serenity and quiet joy that are naturally a part of our true nature.

Now doesn't that sound like a great way to start the new year? 

Try Christopher Wallis's three minute practice for connecting with one's true nature:

1.  In a comfortable seat, relax the body.  Start with the top of the head and work your way down the face, neck, body cavity, organs, arms, hands hips, legs and feet. (One minute)

2.  Focus the attention deeply within the heart space- at the back and base of the heart.  Keep focusing all attention in the heart space noticing how this feels.  If the attention drifts back to the head and mind, gently bring it back to the heart.  (Two minutes)

3.  Feel into the essence of your core, unfiltered by the fluctuating mind and deep in the body.

Namaste and a truly joyful new year to you all.

Krista