Chris James is a yoga, health and well-being expert based in London although he travels extensively and is in demand internationally. I recently grabbed him (a not altogether unpleasant experience as you can imagine) to ask him for his top tips for health - and what we can be doing better for ourselves...
What are the 3 worst things you can do to your body?
1. Sitting for extended periods
We are a nation of sloths: Nearly seven in ten of us spend 20 hours a day seated or lying in bed.
People who are on their rear ends for more than four hours a day are at greater risk from hip replacements to chronic illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
While just over half of Britons believe they lead active lives, a recent report suggests that going to the gym or running up hills during the four hours you are not sitting or sleeping may not be enough to keep you healthy.
With many people in the West now spending at least half the time sitting, a significant shift in behaviour is required to make demonstrable improvements in life expectancy.
The message is clear – move more and sit less. Spend more time standing if you want to live longer!
2. Drink carbonated drinks
The fact is ALL carbonated soft drinks are bad for you. Science and medical research have found that the health effects of soda include everything from tooth decay, to hyperactivity, and diabetes to obesity.
Soda makes you age faster - All soda contains phosphates or phosphoric acid. This common food additive enhances shelf life, but according to new research accelerates signs of ageing, severe muscle and skin atrophy, and other age related problems.
Soda makes you fat - A 2011 study by the School of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Centre San Antonio found that artificial sweeteners have neuroexcitotoxic properties which will impact the hypothalamus of your brain. When the receptors on the hypothalamus are deregulated your body will perceive a state of famine and make you hungrier, slow your metabolism and store fat rather than burn fat!
Soda contributes to acidosis of the blood stream - Human beings have the same PH levels as sea water Ph7.3 / 7.4.
When we imbibe ‘acid bomb’ carbonated drinks (typically Ph2.2) the human body tries to rebalance itself and borrows from the most abundant source of alkalinity in the human body, which is found guess where? Exactly, you’ve guessed it – it’s the human skeleton! Maintaining acidic blood PH will have dire consequences for your health!
Today there are few people who do not know that smoking leads to a host of diseases, many of them fatal.
Ok so bearing all of that in mind - What are the 3 best things you can do to fix it/for maintenance?
1. Practice yoga
Yoga has proven powers to boost your energy and increase your flexibility, which helps prevent injury. Yoga also has an amazing ability to put you in a zen-like mood. Studies have shown it decreases your body's levels of cortisol, which is the stress-producing hormone that causes you to gain weight around your middle.
2. Consume vegetable juice and plenty of water
Consuming 300 / 600 mls of raw vegetable juice every day will maintain healthy and slightly alkaline levels in the bloodstream, promote health, boost immune function and make you live at your optimum levels of health and vitality. Drink at least two litres of water.
Raw Juice contains almost immediately accessible fuel for your body and is the best way to cleanse the body. Most people will absorb far more nutrients from juice than from eating foods, even raw foods, since you do not rely on your digestive system being in optimum condition (which typically it is not….).
3. Cleanse / Detox twice a year.
A cleanse (www.chrisjamescleanse.com) allows you to press the reset button on your health, and allows you to step back from your normal diet for a few days, to cleanse your palate and get back on the healthy eating track.
Typically you will find that by feeding yourself with juices for a short time instead of refined sugar and processed foods you will actually stop craving these foods. You will also become more aware of what you are putting into your body and attentive to which foods truly make you feel good rather than relying on food stimulants. This all means that healthier eating becomes easier when you finish your cleanse.
By the end of your juice Cleanse, you would have simply ditched the unhealthy old you!
Are there any particular foods that you recommend to optimise health?
Absolutely - my favourite superfoods are:
A half-cup supplies 50% of your daily bone-building vitamin K and a third of your day’s folate, it’s a natural diuretic so it banishes bloating, too. Plus, they are in season right now!
Lower cholesterol and dilate blood vessels while blocking artery-destroying toxicity. Avocados contain a nutrient called glutathione, which blocks at least 30 different carcinogens while helping the liver detoxify synthetic chemicals. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that elderly people who had high levels of glutathione were healthier and less likely to suffer from arthritis.
Altruistic Avocados – a personal favourite here! But just not too many. Their healthy fat keeps you satisfied and helps you absorb other nutrients.
For a new twist, brush a halved avocado (pit removed) with olive oil and grill 1 minute. Serve with red onion, sliced grapefruit and balsamic vinegar.
Seaweed could be the most underrated vegetable in the Western world. Studies at McGill University in Montreal showed that seaweeds bind to radioactive waste in the body so it can be removed. Radioactive waste can find its way into the body through some medical tests or through food that has been grown where water or soil is contaminated. Seaweed also binds to heavy metals to help eliminate them from the body. In addition, it is a powerhouse of minerals and trace minerals.
And there's no point in talking to one of the best yoga teachers in the world without asking:
3 best yoga poses for stress relief?
One of the quintessential resting poses of any yoga practice, Child's Pose -- which involves sitting on the knees and bending forward with arms forward or by your side -- can be very comforting and self-soothing.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
At the end of your practice -- or anytime you're feeling overwhelmed -- try lying down flat on your back, with your arms at your sides, and simply focusing on the breath for one to 10 minutes.
Corpse is the ultimate in terms of relaxation -- it really allows the body to sink down into the ground, and it's easier to tune into the breath when you're lying on the back and watching the belly rise up and down.
Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Forward bends are excellent for calming our nervous system, according to Brower. The posture provides a release of the upper body and soothes the mind through gentle inversion either when practiced on its own or between poses.
If you feel like giving your body a kick-start before the summer (assuming we are actually going to GET a summer) Chris James has offered one lucky reader a Mind & Body Cleanse set worth £120.00.
To enter simply like Chris's Facebook page here and leave your name below with a twitter handle or email where we can contact you. Giveaway closes Sunday 2nd June.