Social Eating in Ramadan: Pros and Cons

THE English and Korean may have been campaigning against loneliness, depression and unhappiness which have been too prevalent among them. Americans also complain about not eating together as often as they used to (read this).

Here in Indonesia, we have our best cure to the aforementioned global pandemics: having meals together on every occasion. Yes, indeed eating together has been proven as an effective method to get rid of a sense of being all alone and forlorn.

As Wikipedia says, social eating tradition has its root back in the Ancient Greek age. People cooked and enjoyed foods and drinks to join a commemoration of a special moment or day.

In Ramadan (the fasting month in Islamic calendar), social eating in iftar time has been also a norm. Even those who are not muslims join dinner and chat together as it is a perfect time to interact over good foods. That shows just how much people can mingle with each other irrespective of their faiths, races, tehnic groups, and other differences.

But things are not as ideal when we see it in reality. That includes the case of social eating. Here is why.

Pros

Social eating is certainly good when it comes to restrengthening social connections. Science proves it (read here). Conversations among individuals at dining tables can alleviate someone’s chronic stress. Talking about recent experience or life events is even more relieving with friends face-to-face, instead of telling them via chat applications or social media.

Maintaining social ties over foods at dining table also lowers down the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Being in the middle of family members, friends and neighbors can be intimidating for some introverted folks but it turns out that it helps people slow down the brain aging process as well.

Cons

We all have been familiar with the bright sides of social eating. So how about the dark, undiscussed side of it?

As pointed out here, social eating can be bad as it potentially unleashes most people’s unhealthy eating habits. People are encouraged to swallow more foods and drinks which later causes overeating. I have seen a coworker who was taken to a nearby hospital days after Idul Fitri just because he lost himself during the festivity season. He ate almost everything he saw on the table.

Overeating also means people tend to consume more and more calories, leading to accumulation of body fats. This is ironic because you have meal together after you refrain yourself from eating anything for 13-14 hours in daylight in Ramadan. In Idul Fitri, the tendency of overeating is even higher. Suddenly you can eat anytime you want again and that is not an opportunity to get wasted so people binge-eating and find themselves clogged inside after eating like the greedies pig ever born.

Science also proves that social influences on eating are powerful. Eating together can affect someone’s body weight. So if you have a weight-related health conditions, eating together very often especially with people who are more ‘promiscuous’ will definitely bring you more issues than benefits.

What to heed

Now, what should be paid attention to when you want to eat together without having to endure its negative effects? Remaining mindful throughout social eating rituals is needed so that you won’t get yourself stuffed with junk foods or overload the intestines with foods in enormous portions.

When you are mindful, chances are you will eat more controllably. You are aware of making choices, which food to pick and to avoid. And of course, trying to limit that comfort food as least as possible because you know once you chew it, you cannot stop.

On that note, also never forget the essence of social eating, i.e. uniting. Some people are trapped in making more enemies than refreshing their stale friendships or relationships here. They bully each other, show off their latest posessions, which is at the end totally against the aim of social eating itself.

And what matters most is that you know that social eating should not get in the way of observing your religious responsibilities (read: your essential daily rituals). For muslims especially, what is the point of eating out at malls if you miss your maghrib prayer? (*/)

The Problem of Favorite Poses

YOUR favorite postures can do you more harm than good – if done continuously in too long a period of time. Yin yoga guru Paul Grilley takes snail pose as one example. He loved this pose so much he did it frequently for 15 years and each practice he held the pose for a long time. “Then I have an upper spine and ilio sacral problems which I determined were caused by my favorite pose!” He wrote in his book “Yin Yoga: Principles and Practice”.

I too have similar issues back then. The difference was my favorite asanas were backbends. Until one day I felt a disturbing, stinging pain in my lower back. This didn’t feel good, I thought, so I left my deep backbend practice for weeks and lowered down the intensity. Now I still do backbending poses but with more awareness and less ambition of deepening only to impress people (ego really sucks). How about you? What favorite pose that got you injured?

How To Not Make Any Health Resolutions and Still Achieve Them in 2018

I read a magazine this afternoon. It was an edition of January 2018. My eyes hit a compilation of random people interviews. They’re from various walks of life apparently.

And I don’t know why but everytime they were asked to answer the question “Was there any unaccomplished resolution last year?”, their remarks were diverse but when I’m allowed to extract them all into one single phrase, it’d be: “FAILURE OF ACHIEVING A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE.

They blamed it all on the jobs they chose, the schedules they had, the families they love most.

They in fact blamed the failure of being healthier on whatever external factors they could find, just to feel “I’m innocent and I had worked hard towards that but they dragged me down. They didn’t allow me to get better healthwise.”

This is why I hate health resolutions. Not to mention making up ones. Not because I know I must fail after all but because I’m so convinced that this life always goes the way you never ever predict. With that belief in mind, I seem so zen to most of you.

But it’s not. I actually am too lazy to plan (in restrospect,  I saw myself as an anti-planner). Perhaps because planning almost always ends up with disappointment in various scales. So instead of ruminatively making meticulous plans on how I must live my life from now, I focus more on the what I can do best with anything I have in hand to begin my health-related undertaking.

The best trick I can pick to remind myself of my ‘goal’ and how I stay on the right track without being too halucinated by the daily grind is KEEPING A HEALTH JOURNAL.

I know, keeping a personal journal based on health-related activities seems so womanish but I’ve proved its efficiency.

For several recent years, I’ve been unintentionally jotting down my own exercise frequency and types of practice (not for public consumption though). The journal itself began as a general note on my daily activities and the ups and downs. And whenever I reread my notes, I can always find my documentation of yoga practice and calisthenics, which has never been my initial intention to start a journal. But because the notes were done casually, the details were not quite satisfactory.

So in this first week of the new year, I’m committed myself to taking notes on what I’m working on with my body and soul (because I want a wellbeing progress which goes beyond physical vigor and flexibility) on a single particular day.

How about you? Do you have any tips on how to get healthier without setting even a resolution? (*)

Health, Victory and Failure

“If you want to accomplish something, health should be your priority. The reason you lag towards behind, the reason you recover slowly from damage and the reason a mistake affects you for so long are all because your health is not at its best. When you’re unfit, you want to be comfortable and you lose patience. Then you become so tired. You don’t care about victories. If you want to win, your body should be able to withstand your challenges. Will power is nothing without your body health.” – Misaeng

#Yoga Is Not Your Hiding Place from Reality

‎”Some people might think that by practicing Yoga you’re running away from the world and are not going to enjoy anything. But yogis are the people who are going to enjoy everything. Because when you’re the master of your life, you’re not controlled by anything and you can enjoy everything. This is the aim of Yoga.” – Swami Satchidananda

I stumbled upon the gorgeously arranged string of words on a fellow yogi’s Instagram feed. So though some people think social media is full of prentention, it can be filled with true wisdom, too.

It reminded me of a friend who complained right after he was on board, flying to Jakarta after his amazing yoga retreat in Bali. “Back to the real world, guys! Wish I could stay longer there,” he blurted on Facebook, wanting us to know what he truly felt about being back to the hectic life and the daily grind that sucks most of the time.

Another friend of his noticed the escapism attitude in the complaint, criticizing:”So yoga is your way to flee the reality?”

That, however, did stun me in someway as well. There is a point, or some, in our life when things really don’t go the way we want. And if you’re a yogi/ni or familiar with yoga practice, yoga may help alleviate all or most or some of the pain.

I totally can relate to my friend’s complaint. Yoga — as far as I’m concerned — enables me to rest from the binding monotonous routines, study our Self more profoundly, solemnly, without any unnecessary external intervention. ‎Yoga provides me arare opportunities to be on my own, be my own master. I feel free, unchained, uncontrolled, let go by the norms and demands of the society and authority. What a sanctuary!

So when a yoga class is over, I suddenly turn miserable and forlorn again. ‎What’s wrong with this feeling and mind?

‎What Swami Satchidananda states indeed opens my eyes that what I feel after yoga classes is somewhat similar to what my escapist friend felt after his glorious yoga retreat.

Can we enjoy everything we go through in life just like what the Indian thinker suggests?

That, I suppose, is one of the most worth thinking subject matters a yogi/ni can have. ‎That could be our lifelong homework, too.

Hadiri YogFest 2015 di Taman Menteng 24-26 April Nanti!

‎Dengan misi mempersembahkan yoga ke masyarakat luas dengan harga yang tidak mencekik leher, YogFest kembali hadir tahun ini, sobat semuanya! Jangan lewatkan festival ini di akhir pekan terakhir bulan depan.

Tema festival tahun ini adalah Expand, yang artinya berekspansi, meluas, membesar. Jadi kami harap ajang ini mampu memberikan alternatif bagi para pegiat dan peminat yoga di sana. Akan tetapi di festival ini kami harapkan bukan cuma melulu beryoga dan berasana, atau bermeditasi dan menikmati healing, tetapi juga menjadi ajang bagi semua pegiat yoga tanpa pandang aliran untuk saling bertemu dan memperkaya. Warna-warni itu diharapkan bisa memperluas (expand) pengetahuan, wawasan sekaligus pertemanan atau jejaring.

Perlu diketahui, ini tahun kedua bagi Komunitas Yoga Gembira dalam penyelenggaraan YogFest. Berkat keberlimpahan doa dan dukungan yang akhirnya mengatasi segala keterbatasan yang ada, komunitas nirlaba ini akhirnya kembali ke Taman Menteng, tempat penyelenggaraan YogFest tahun lalu.

Bagi yang berminat untuk menjadi relawan YogFest, bisa menghubungi panitia di nomor-nomor di flyer digital yang ditampilkan di sini.

Salam Yogem, namaste…

Longevity is Not That 'Sexy'

‎As I saw this movie played on TV, I was desperately thinking what novel I could pick as an object of study. The end of my post graduate study was drawing nearer, which frustrated me in some way because nearly everytime I attended classes in the third semester, everyone else seemed to have chosen one piece of literary work they truly like and would spend much of their last semester for studying it. I didn’t particularly interested in any single novel. A loser was what I felt like.

But then I realized the movie was so rich in themes to analyze, study and write‎ a thesis based on. It turned out the movie was titled “The Green Mile”. Or sort of. A movie adaptation of a novel, a best-seller one I was sure. It told a story of a gigantic black man who happened to have a supernatural power. And there was a kind guy. I assumed he was a police officer, played mesmerizingly by Tom Hanks. To cut the story short, the officer lived on, even when his peers succumbed to the death angel’s calling. There was only this cute mouse who was as ‘immortal’ as he had become. Together they stayed in a small hut in the woods while everyone their age was at the brink of death or already gone for good. Apparently, that was a consequence of the ‘power’ the black man had passed (un)deliberately onto him, and the mouse.

This forlorn depiction of the good guy (good-natured, optimistic people are said to live longer, some say) and the rodent may ‎take us to a moment of contemplation. Because these days we all want to live longer, whatever it takes. Inasmuch as, living longer is closely associated with higher level of happiness, satisfaction in life. There have been efforts – either scientifically or pseudoscientifically – to discover ways to turn back the clock. Alas, that’s in vain!

An article I stumbled upon on the web recounted the similar sense, that longevity is not that fun actually. It is horrible to experience, not to mention depressing. So this article writer‎ shared her own story of living as a middle-aged woman. Suddenly she thought of living too long. “How if I stay alive still until my 100th birthday when everyone I knew, loved and used to talk with every day is dead and buried or cremated already? What is this longevity for eventually if all you can feel is loneliness and incessant pain in old age?”

‎Upon reading the latest edition of Time Magazine yesterday, I can get the sense once again. That scent of purposelessness in the quest of fountain of youth and immortality. It reads:”How old can we live to be? That remains to be seen but if a promising drug does to humans what it does to mice – a big if – the answer is 142. Mice have a median survival time of 27 months but with treatment, the longest-living mouse hit 48 months, a life 1.77 times longer. The median human lifespan is 80 years – so if the oldest person lived 1.77 times longer, he or she would reach 142.”

‎Apart from all these debates on how important to stay healthy and young in and out, all I want to remind myself of is the advice of a lecturer back then. What matters most is not how we die – or in this very topic, how old when we die. We do not even have to worry a tiny bit about that. It is beyond our complete and utter control. We will never know how, where and when we perish from this world. Yet, what we must be more concerned with is how we live this life. Whether it be long or brief, your life is not supposed to get wasted.

Study: e-Readers May Disturb Sleep, Circadian Timing

Another victory for physical, paper books that some people think ridiculously obsolete in this 21st century! This research done by Anne-Marie Changa, Daniel Aeschbacha, Jeanne F. Duffya, and Charles A. Czeislera indicated that e-readers like Kindles and tablet PCs might do harm to ypour healthy sleeping patterns and circadian rhythms, which is crucial to our overall health. How so? You may ask. Read on.

The scientists explained the use of light-emitting electronic devices for reading, communication, and entertainment before bedtime “prolongs the time it takes to fall asleep, delays the circadian clock, suppresses levels of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, reduces the amount and delays the timing of REM sleep, and reduces alertness the following morning”. Use of light-emitting devices immediately before bedtime also increases alertness at that time, which may lead users to delay bedtime at home. Overall, we found that the use of portable light-emitting devices immediately before bedtime has biological effects that may perpetuate sleep deficiency and disrupt circadian rhythms, both of which can have adverse impacts on performance, health, and safety.

And here is the abstract:
“In the past 50 years, there has been a decline in average sleep duration and quality, with adverse consequences on general health. A representative survey of 1,508 American adults recently revealed that 90% of Americans used some type of electronics at least a few nights per week within 1 h before bedtime. Mounting evidence from countries around the world shows the negative impact of such technology use on sleep. This negative impact on sleep may be due to the
short-wavelength-enriched light emitted by these electronic devices, given that artificial-light exposure has been shown experimentally to produce alerting effects, suppress melatonin, and phase-shift the biological clock. A few reports have shown that these devices suppress melatonin levels, but little is known about the effects on circadian phase or the following sleep episode, exposing a substantial gap in our knowledge of how this increasingly popular technology affects sleep. Here we compare the biological effects of reading an electronic book on a light-emitting device (LE-eBook) with reading a printed book in the hours before bedtime. Participants reading an LE-eBook took longer to fall asleep and had reduced evening sleepiness, reduced melatonin secretion, later timing of their circadian clock, and reduced next-morning alertness than when reading a printed book. These results demonstrate that evening exposure to an LE-eBook phase-delays the circadian clock, acutely suppresses melatonin, and has important implications for understanding the impact of such technologies on sleep, performance, health, and safety.”

Now are you considering trading your e-readers with paper books?

{Source: http://www.pnas.org/content/112/4/1232.abstract}

Yoga 'Escapism' and Dealing with Life Ordeals

A yogi friend claims yoga classes and retreats as a way to escape from unwanted facts, flee bitter reality. Yoga escapism, as I may call it, is the current trend. Most ancient yogis did yoga for the sake of religious and spiritual devotion. They shunned temporary worldly pleasure and traded that with internal peace, equinanimity of soul, mind and lastly body. Yet, urban yogis and most of the practitioners these days do not practice yoga for such unwavering devotion we might see in the past in India.

Is yoga escapism wrong? I am afraid I cannot tell you for sure if it is or is not wrong. Who am I to judge other people’s practice? As for me, I like yoga as a pastime, that diverts my mind and body from the mundane, monotonous corporate world full of workloads to a private kingdom of mine. It is much like my Narnia, a vast unknown world hidden in the closet, where I am on my own, undisturbed, unagitated.

Yoga though really helps some people deal with their own internal ordeals. I said internal because yoga mostly aids us to fix the intermingled thoughts, emotions and short and long-term memory. External issues cannot be fixed by yoga, but by strengthening and empowering your souls with yoga, overcoming external challenges and tasks feel a lot more smoother. No more crankiness, overwhelming anxiety, unpredecented fear or paranoia. Yoga may improve your quality of vision towards the world, inside out. And this is a lifelong practice, which involves not only asanas practices but also coming to deeper and better understanding of our Self, these souls. This is what sets yoga apart from other types of workout.

Today, a friend taught her class with this sort of spirit, to feel more what is happening inside rather than outside. I saw her change after losing her elder brother. She may not be as chatty or cheerful as before but certainly there is some better perspective towards her surroundings she is showing to us now. And I saw in her how yoga has helped her so much deal with the ordeals, the loss and the depression following the sudden loss.

Whatever I think yoga is to me – whether it be a confidential sanctuary to escape or a practice to fortify myself to cope with the cruel reality or a workout to help me restore my physical health and well being – one thing I believe is that yoga helps me feel more, think more only now with better clarity of mind, make sense how the universe works.

So while you are at that, switch off the gadgets, get on your mat, sit for a while and close your eyes. Breathe and feel the pain or joy or any feelings and thoughts appearing and vanishing inside your head.

Open your eyes and now get back to reality!

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Bukti Ilmiah Marah Pertinggi Risiko Stroke

Sering marah? Merasa temperamental tiap saat? Saatnya mengingat nasihat Nabi Muhammad tentang mengendalikan amarah agar tidak menjadi bumerang bagi kita.

Senada dengan saran Rosul, hasil sebuah studi ilmiah menyebutkan bahwa mereka yang sering marah-marah secara tiba-tiba berisiko lebih tinggi menderita serangan jantung atau stroke terutama dalam 2 jam pasca lepas kendali. Itulah pernyataan peneliti Elizabeth Mostofsky,seorang instruktur di Departemen Epidemiologi Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. Murray Mittleman, juga Harvard School of Public Health, dan para koleganya di Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center dan New York-Presbyterian
Hospital mengatakan mereka dengan penyakit kardiovaskuler memiliki risiko tersebut.

Para peneliti mencermati data dari 9 studi dari tahun 1966 sampai 2013 yang melibatkan ribuan orang dan menemukan bahwa risiko serangan jantung naik sampai sekitar 5 kali dalam 2 jam setelah kemarahan. Di samping itu, risiko stroke naik 3 kali lipat.

Studi yang dipublikasikan di European Heart Journal ini menemukan bahwa sekali meletupkan amarah dalam sebulan pada seseorang memiliki risiko penyakit jantung yang rendah berkaitan dengan satu serangan jantung ekstra per 10 ribu orang per tahun tetapi risiko ini meningkat menjadi 4 serangan per tahun per 10 ribu orang.

Lima kali marah tiap hari akan menghasilkan sekitar 158 serangan jantung tambahan per 10 ribu jiwa per tahun atau sekitar 657 serangan jantung ekstra per 10 ribu jiwa pada orang-orang dengan risiko tinggi, ujar peneliti.

Temuan ini memang tidak serta merta mengklaim bahwa kemarahan menimbulkan masalah peredaran darah dan jantung. Studi-studi lebih lanjut masih diperlukan untuk memahami kaitan dan menemukan jika strategi pengurangan stres seperti yoga (nah!) dapat membantu