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90 day natural fitness challenge: Day 2…Beginner Bikram lessons learned

Insomnia has been a painful issue with me for some time now.  I’m hoping that 90 straight days of exercise will help me fall asleep earlier and that I can experience deep rest.  Deepak Chopra says that dynamic activity begets deep rest which begets dynamic activity…

So this morning I crawled in bed at 3AM and lay there unable to fall asleep until about 4:30AM.  It was real TOUGH to get my ass up at 9 for yoga.  But that’s the great thing about a commitment to something bigger–like the 90 day challenge–I got up.

And I am really glad I did.  I was able to take Damon’s class (he is one of the owner’s of Bikram Yoga Palm Desert) for the first time.  Damon is hilarious and his class is fun while still being focused on max exertion.  When I used to practice on a regular basis I was always blown away when I learned something entirely new.  Today Damon taught me two things in class that I had never heard before:

  • In the balancing stick posture Damon actually did a breath count with us!  I’ve heard teachers simply say to make sure you breathe in this posture, but he literally guided us through 3 or 4 deep inhalations and exhalations.  It changed my entire perspective of this posture and what I could potentially do with it as I progress.

The man and the pose...Damon doing balancing stick pose

  • The other thing he said which blew me away has to do with a pose that’s almost at the end of class and that in the past I always payed little attention to and sort of treated like a “cool down” stretch.  It’s called janushirasana with paschimottanasana or “head to knee pose.”  But the last part of this poses name is “intense stretching posture.”  I had NEVER heard that before and a light bulb went on and I did stretch more “intensely” and it was amazing!  So thanks Damon.

The other thing I love about being a beginner with Bikram is that it’s actually easier as a beginner.  Sounds weird, but when you are new, just trying to breathe and stay in the heated room is an intense workout.  You get a little better and just doing all the postures is a big thing.  When I practiced every day and got a little more proficient is when it got really difficult.  Suddenly I was flooded with nuances that make the practice even more hard core.  So I’m going to relish being a beginner again!!!

One last observation about Bikram has to do with listening.  We all suck at it.  Seriously.  And Bikram is this place where you can practice listening, not just to the instructors voice, but your body too.

Today is a 100% raw food day for me

My plan is to continue eating a ton of raw fruits and veggies every day.  But several times a week I will eat 100% raw for the entire day.  It’s such a powerful way to not let food cravings get out of hand and I have a lot more energy when I go all the way…

Today so far:

  • Quart of water before yoga
  • Coconut water before yoga (only thing I like having before a Bikram class, a little natural sugar & tons of electrolytes)
  • Another quart of water during class
  • Shopped at Farmer’s Market
  • Made a delicious smoothie: Juice from 2 grapefruits & 2 oranges.  1 cup frozen blueberries.  Packed the remaining space in the blender w/ organic spinach.  Blended and drank down this perfectly flavor balanced combo!
  • A tropical tango smoothie from Luscious Lorraine’s Juice Bar in Palm Desert.  It’s packed with coconut water & coconut meat and tropical fruits!
  • Tonight when I get back from a late night working at the bar I will make raw nachos.  I top Leaf Organics  raw corn chips with heaps of fresh guacamole, cut up black olives, cilantro, and my favorite raw hot sauce made by Cafe Gratitude which I bought extra bottles of last time I was up in the Bay Area!
  • And then for desert I will have Uli Mana’s raw chocolate truffles with a glass of organic red wine!

I’m not sure yet what I will do tomorrow for the fitness part of this challenge.  But I’m looking forward to putting my body to work again tomorrow.

Cheers! And I hope you are enjoying this long New Years weekend.

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“Palm Springs man was eating too much of the wrong things…was drinking far too much.”

That’s the opening line in an article about me published in today’s Desert Sun newspaper.

Feels strange to have unattractive pics of yourself made public (even in my “after” picture I still have a ways to go).  But I am stoked to see raw food being made even a temporary subject here in the desert!

Being mentioned in the same piece as people like Sarma  Melngailis, owner of Pure Food & Wine in NYC, raw athlete Tim VanOrden, and the famous Juliano, owner of Planet Raw in Santa Monica, was more than flattering!

The paper also interviewed Laura Laffranchini, owner of Harvest Health Foods in Palm Desert.  Cool to hear her say, “We get a lot of customers who are either doing it or are curious about it [raw food].  It’s happening, and it’s happening on a large scale.”

Since some of you who are reading this are doing so because the link to my blog is in today’s paper, I thought I’d take a second to welcome you and extend my help in anyway I can give it if you are interested in trying out a raw foods diet.

Just leave a comment and I will get in touch with you!  I am looking for people  locally that I can work with to get raw classes and other resources available here in the Coachella Valley very soon.

If you read the piece, and thought, “what the hell is raw food?”, here is a list of some reasons to consider eating a diet that includes a lot of raw fruits, vegetables, nuts & seeds:

  • Eating more fruits and veggies is a no brainer.
  • Eating less hormone & antibiotic injected meat, that’s fed who knows what, while being treated very poorly, is also pretty obvious.
  • Filling your body with natural “good” fats (think avocados and viscous cold-pressed olive oil) not only feels and tastes great but also green lights your body to drop nasty stored fat.
  • Changing to a diet that actually helped me cut all manner of cravings was a life-saver.
  • Eating raw foods makes your skin glow radiantly and leaves you looking younger!
  • Feeling light and energized after every meal–instead of laden–is a big plus; especially for busy people.
  • Paying ZERO attention to how much you eat is one of the best parts of eating raw.  You never worry if you are eating too much, because EVERYTHING you eat is good for you, and your body is freed to naturally shut off your hunger when you are nutritionally satiated.
  • Knowing that the way you eat is contributing to a healthier planet and that you are no longer supporting an artificial approach to something as sacred as food feels really good too.
  • It’s also amazing to eat so good that you no longer stand in the vitamins & supplements aisle bewildered by all the potential deficiencies you might have.  Instead food is your cure.
  • And finally for me, eclipsing all that stuff, is a general sense of well-being, bordering on euphoria, that I hope I never take for granted…

Thank you Maggie Downs and the rest of the Desert Sun team for writing a cool & informative piece about people who eat raw!

P.S. One small correction.  The paper said it took me 6 weeks to lose 33 lbs.  It actually took seven.  That’s over 4.7 lbs. per week, and if you read previous posts you will see that didn’t include a lot of exercise…

More great stuff coming soon!

-Ken Gray


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60 day raw food log: Day 37 Am I in California? Why Palm Springs might surprise you…

No matter what brand of politics float your boat, you’d probably agree that California is “progressive.”  This is where the hippies, potheads, vegans, homosexuals, Scientologists, surfers, health nuts, and out of work actors roost.  Californians can’t wait to plug their cars in, or even trade them in for bamboo beach cruisers that they valet at the Farmers Market. Right?

NOT in Palm Springs.

There are a lot of gay men here…but other than that I feel like I’m anywhere BUT California.

Smoking–Rat Pack style

One example is smoking.  California is famous for leading the country with it’s tough public & workplace smoking bans.

I grew up in San Luis Obispo–one of the very first places to go smoke-free.  I remember as a kid all the restaurant and bar owners bitching about it, and wondering just how the hell they were going to stay in business if people couldn’t smoke in their establishments.  Go to San Luis Obispo today and you will find one of the nation’s few thriving economies, a beautiful downtown packed with pubs and bars that Cal Poly students frequent, and lots of people eating out in some great locally owned restaurants.

San Luis Obispo’s ridiculously vibrant Thur night Farmer’s Market!

Because of the smoking legislation, California is a different place today.  Less people smoke, and people who do, smoke less. Except here in Palm Springs.

Go to the downtown PS Starbucks, grab a frappucino and find a seat outside on the patio. Now start coughing.  Spastic coughing fits perhaps.  I can’t tell you how long it had been since I’d seen an ASHTRAY on a patio table in California.  Cigarette butts overflowing from the trash can top onto the ground almost everywhere I go…

GROSS!

Palm Springs seems to be emulating Euro-style around the clock smoke-athons. Maybe that’s not shocking where you live, but for me it was like  finding out the place I just moved to doesn’t have running water.

When I go to a house party, or am getting smashed with friends in Vegas, I really don’t care that people around me are smoking.  It truly is their prerogative.  Get me drunk enough, I might even ask for a puff or two.

One of my favorite things about hanging out in Tijuana is this famous little cigar shop on the main drag.  My buddy and I always start our day there (usually around 2pm) with some fresh espresso and a cigar chosen by one of the pretty and friendly shop girls.  But when I’m at a frickin’ Starbucks in GD California? Doesn’t make any sense.

Palm Springs is REALLY hurting financially.  This is a seasonal place that makes oodles of moolah IF the rest of the country (and Canada) is raking it in.  Business owners here are lamenting the lackluster tourist turnout so far this year (Palm Springs “High-Season” is roughly Halloween through April).  And the visitors who are making the trip are spending very little.  Pure speculation here–and YES I know there are other factors–but I can’t help wonder how this place would be different if they started promoting Palm Springs (a place that used to be a SPA destination) as a healthy vacation Mecca…

Hate bikes and people who ride them?

Then move to Palm Springs!  I’m exaggerating a tad, but compared to the the rest of SoCal, the Central Coast, and practically ALL of NorCal; Palm Springs is ass backwards when it comes to bikes.

There is a “bike trail” here that is supposed to loop bikers around town.  It’s 100% RECREATIONAL and it’s mostly on sidewalks.  That’s not biking.  Trying to ride my bike to Farmers Market this morning was a logistical mess.  The official “bike routes” don’t lead to anywhere I’m trying to get to (Sad considering the Farmers Market is in the MALL’S parking lot).

Routing bikes onto sidewalk routes is dangerous. Sidewalks and bikes just don’t mix.  Not only is it unsafe and unnerving for other pedestrians, the cyclist is in danger every time the sidewalk intersects with driveways and the road.  Any concept that bikes have the right of way is lost and instead bikes on sidewalks reinforces the idea that bicycles are marginal and even maligned transportation.

I’ve been in Palm Springs for a little over three months now and I have only seen one die-hard bike commuter.  She rides a bright pink 10-speed all over the place and even does so during the SUMMER!  Good on you whoever you are.

The newer and very popular ACE hotel in Palm Springs is one of the first signs of possible renaissance here.  They turned the old Denny’s into a hip organic gourmet diner, Wealthy Orange County Dad’s bring their families to hang out for a weekend, and young L.A. hipsters wear skinny jeans even by the pool.

And ACE bless their hearts thought it would be cool to offer groovy beach cruisers for their guests to ride around Palm Springs on.  I’m literally embarrassed when I see these poor tourist trying to make their way from the hotel to the downtown area.  You can see the terror in their eyes as they are forced onto sidewalks, almost run over by weaving snowbirds, and buffaloed by impatient locals.  It could be such a neat addition to this beautiful place where you can ride around in shorts on Christmas day. But instead it’s a joke and definitely not cool.

Like inferior produce?

You’re a match for Palm Springs!

Until I found the Farmers Market I was literally aghast at how bad the produce is here.  This is CALIFORNIA dammit.  A place overflowing with great food.  Order a salad in most Palm Springs eateries and prepare yourself for lackluster greens, tossed with inferior oily dressings, and topped with nearly translucent cherry tomatoes.  A travesty.

Vintage Los Angeles Farmer's Market...Very Sexy!

Walk into the grocery stores and find not ripe for another month citrus, sad little (or non-existent) organic sections with even less ripe avocados and fruit [it’s like the store manager says “if we’re gonna order this here expensive organic shit we best get it green as hell so it lasts till we sells it].  There is no Whole Foods in the entire extended area. My local health food store carries almost no produce, and when they do it’s only for 1/2 the year!  Even though the store OPERATES a cafe & juice bar requiring fresh organic produce–INSANITY.

And the worst part?  So much healthy-beautiful-delicious produce is grown right here and in the surrounding communities!

What Palm Springs needs

I’ve thought about this almost every day since moving here.  Writing about the negatives of Palm Springs isn’t meant to detract from what makes this place so cool.  But, it’s light years behind the rest of California, and I think I know why…

Palm Springs needs more young people.

Sinatra's Palm Springs House Which You Can Rent! See The Piano Shaped Pool!

The old rat pack crowd living here is awesome.  I find them endlessly fascinating.

The gay men who have turned Palm Springs into their own Mecca have done a lot to bolster Palm Springs economy and make it a better place to live.  The working class who live here (that’s me) are the glue for the whole thing.  Almost everyone I’ve met here is friendly, personable, and fun.  They are also attracted to this PLACE and want to be here. But…

There are VERY FEW young people.  The average age here is forty four.

A lot goes into making a place that attracts young artists and thinker types (jobs/venues/etc.), I know that.  But simple things like getting this place healthier, more progressive, and accessible would go a long way.

The best case scenario I could see for Palm Springs would be adding a University (UCR has an extension campus in Palm Desert and there is a sad dilapidated but very popular community college there as well–but Palm Desert is another world away from Palm Springs even though they are so close) .  Even a small college would really balance out Palm Springs culture and business.

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians own much of the Palm Springs area and operate profitable gaming establishments including a large casino smack in the middle of downtown.  It would be interesting to see them invest in the community (which they do in other ways) by investing in a totally new kind of University.  Think of the possibilities for tribal promotion, grants, scholarships, etc.

The Coachella Valley is loaded with the very rich.  It’s hard to convey how much wealth is hidden away in the canyons and country clubs here.  And a lot of those individuals would be eager to have some campus buildings named after them I’m sure.

Thanks for reading my unsubstantiated, pulled from my ass, and probably way too long rant about my new home town!  If you live in the Palm Springs area, or have visited, please share your take!

Tomorrow I’m going to share with you some new ideas I’m having about the best way for me to continue eating raw after I finish my 60 day 100% raw-food challenge.

I think it may be very helpful for a lot of other people too, who are trying to figure out a simple way to have more raw foods in their life, and maybe even eat mostly raw…