Eat Smart, Move More, Sleep Right and Breathe Deep

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Luke Coutinho Holistic Lifestyle Coach – Integrative Medicine, Luke Coutinho was in Dubai spreading the message of living a balanced lifestyle. He tells us more in this exclusive conversation with Yoga Life Middle East.

•   Luke, you are very welcome back to Dubai for Dhyanotsav. Please tell us about your association with Heartfulness?

I find that this is a very simplified kind of meditation. It’s based on simplicity, it’s based on the heart and the goal is for people to connect with themselves better. There are many kinds of meditations available today, and people choose what works best for them. With Heartfulness, I have seen the results on people around the world. I have witnessed significant changes in data – the blood pressure levels have balanced, and I know it’s making a difference. And when things makes a difference, I explore it further, to eventually share it with more and more people who can benefit from it. Moreover, the team works with my patients all over the world, teach them meditation and handhold them through difficult times, be in hospitals or at home.

I have come to believe that meditation is a big part of the healing process, whether you are looking at simple weight loss or managing a disease like diabetes or cancer. When the emotional self is not connected, we can bring on any possible disease. So you can’t say that this meditation is healing cancer or this one is for weight loss. Meditation is for the human body, the mind, and the heart. The heart connects everything together. And that is actually why I really like this process. It is easy to understand, to follow and to sustain the practice.

•   There are so many different approaches when it comes to lifestyle management. What are the guiding principles of your approach?

Eat smart, move more, sleep right and breathe deep. Our lives can get quite sedentary, it is important to get out there and move, walking is the vest exercise and it is free for everyone. Do yoga or dance or go to the gym. Do some kind of movement that you enjoy and do it every day. Eat clean and eat what works for your body. Sleep well, it is not the hours but the quality of sleep that matters. Your body heals when you sleep. And breathe deeply, your stress levels will come down.

•   You have worked with patients from all over the world. What according to you is the biggest health epidemic in today’s times?

It’s unhappiness. And unhappiness leads to disease. And that is common across the world. People are constantly looking for more and more ways to keep themselves entertained. That leads to a certain disconnection from the self. I am not saying entertainment is bad but when people start depending on these distractions to keep themselves happy, then it’s almost like an addiction. People “binge-watch” Netflix and then binge-eat chips, and its hard to stop. I have nothing against Netflix, I do enjoy a lot of shows there – its just when people mindlessly keep watching show after show without being able to stop, that there is a problem. I have travelled to lesser developed places and interacted with people and I find that they are way happier than people living a super busy life in urban cities. It tends to become a rut in big cities, with everyone leading very busy lives. Now slowly, people are taking notice of their health and lifestyle and trying to incorporate meditation and awareness in their lifestyle which is very good.

•   What do you feel is the awareness of fitness and a healthy lifestyle here in the UAE?

It is slowly starting here. Every country has its own dynamics and way of functioning and it’s good to see a start here too. It’s nice when people stop taking their health for granted, knowing that they are covered by health insurance, and instead focus on avoiding any disease in the first place. Not just UAE, but in general, our society is getting sicker and sicker. Something is missing and the gap is “lifestyle”. But any lifestyle change is hard, it requires discipline and effort. Everyone has the free will to make a few lifestyle changes every day.
Some people feel that they have to give up their social life and partying in order to have a good, healthy lifestyle. But that isn’t true. You don’t have to give up anything, as you don’t have to go to extremes. Not every person needs to go to extremes. When you make extreme changes, you are bound to slip back at some point. A healthy lifestyle has to be balanced into your regular lifestyle and only then will it be sustainable. Some of the fittest and healthiest people I know, have a little of everything – they go out with friends, they socialise, they eat and they know when to stop. That requires connection with yourself and a certain amount of discipline. You need to know a few little things that work for your body and do it every single day, like brushing your teeth.

•   But people are often able to identify what works for them, and they possibly would follow the biggest and seemingly most popular ‘health trends’. 

Exactly, people tend to keep comparing themselves with others and can get swayed by popular trends. This happens when you are disconnected from yourself. So in the process of doing what everyone else is doing, you may not realise that what your body needs is just a 30 minute walk or yoga. People go and punish their bodies with endless exercise and severe diets, when it might not be ideal for their body. That is lack of connection with the self. There is a lot of awareness about everything and people have access to all the information. But when there is no connection to self, you can make decisions that are not ideal for your body. That is why through meditation, we are getting people to reconnect with themselves so that they understand that the whole world may go with one particular type of diet, but I need to do this one – which may not be a popular choice for most. And that is fine.

•   So the trick is to find the ideal approach for your own body. How do you suggest we do that?

It’s actually very easy. It’s just overhyped that this is challenging and hard to do on your own. Everything in the world is built on discipline. You have to use the same analogy for your health and lifestyle. If you are disciplined and smart about it, even small consistent efforts will make a world of a difference.

•   How would you motivate teenagers to live a healthier life?

Firstly, parents need to be a role model. You cannot sit on your phone or laptop and expect your children not to copy you. Teens must understand that the world around them is exciting, the world of gaming and social media is built on dopamine. It pulls you right in. And then life seems very dull and boring with the internet. There is always something more exciting on your phone or your gadget or on Netflix. There is nothing wrong with enjoying all this. They can have all of that, but they must realize that there has to be a cut off. You cannot get lost in this and it does pull you in deeper and deeper and disconnect you more and more.
Some kids say that social media and gaming connects them more and makes them more social. But if you see world trends, there is an increasing rate of depression and suicides. So, it does not corelate.

Luke’s tips for a holistic lifestyle
There are 3-4 things, starting with nutrition. It does not need to be complicated, no fancy fad diets are needed. You just need to know what works for your body, and go with what nature has given you – fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meats if you are non-vegetarian. Don’t overeat, chew your food properly, eat mindfully and that is how you will be able to balance your quantities too. Eat your desserts once in a way but be mindful that it is sugar (in excess) that is causing most of the problems. It does not mean you go completely off sugar but be mindful and stay in check, stay in balance. So when it comes to nutrition do what suits your body type. Don’t blindly follow trends or don’t assume what has worked for your friends will work for you. Everyone is unique. Take the time to find out what works for you.
Secondly – activity. The more sedentary you are, the sicker you are going to be, The more fatigued you are going to be. So, make some time for activity. Even if it’s a 30 min walk, 15-minute workout, it can be anything that you like – dance, swimming, weightlifting, yoga. Do what you like but do it consistently.
Third is sleep. This is the most important and most underrated. If you are sleep deprived, you are more susceptible to disease, you will put on weight more easily and you won’t be recharged for the next day. Popular beliefs show people gaining success by compromising their sleep, but they don’t show that their health is compromised too. We need to understand that sleep is a natural phenomenon and magic happens when you sleep. Healing happens in your sleep. So, if you deprive yourself of that, there will be illness and other issues.
And lastly, don’t forget to look after your emotional health. The world is getting more and more complicated and therefore it is so important to ground yourself. A little bit of meditation every day will really help. And you don’t have to give up anything – you can have your fancy cars and everything but stay grounded so that it does not consume you. You are still in control of everything. And the power lies with you. Only then can big changes happen.
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Delna Mistry Anand teaches meditation for the modern mind, integrating techniques for 
mindfulness-based stress reduction, spiritual guidance and more. Using a combination of 
healing modalities along with traditional practices of meditation and pranayama (breathing techniques), she leads people to reconnect with their inner wisdom and bring about their own spiritual healing in a deep and profound way. Delna is a certified meditation teacher, sound healing practitioner, Reiki master, alternative healer and a gifted intuitive mentor. 

With a background in hospitality, Delna has worked in the fast paced PR industry in Dubai. She is a regular contributor for publications like Yoga Life Middle East, Masala! magazine and Khaleej Times’ Wknd. Delna is a volunteer at ‘Mawaheb For Beautiful People’, teaching meditation and stillness to adults with special needs. Delna is also a regular speaker at a local school, addressing various topics like body image, environment and the like.

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