Health and Well-being

Keep on Walkin'

Walking 13.5
My favorite sport happens to be the worlds #1 fitness exercise, which does just as much for soul as it does for body. This is the only fitness activity that the whole family can participate in together, from 2-year-old toddler Mikey to 102-year-old great grandfather Morris. This is an activity that's joint-and-muscle friendly as well as fantastic for your heart and lungs. It's walking. If we add the technique of brisker strides and more vigorous hand and arm motion, we move up to the power walking category and burn all the more calories, just like we do in any other cardio exercise.

If you want to maximize the benefits of walking and prevent injuries, then your form and posture must be proper. Like in any other exercise, the better the form, the more beneficial the exercise. Use this form & posture checklist to evaluate yourself:

Proper Walking Form

1. Keep your head upright and eyes forward. Texting or looking at your smartphone destroys this important element of good walking form.

2. Engage your core by pulling your navel in as if you're trying to make it touch your spine.

3. Imagine that a string from heaven is linked to the crown of your skull pulling your head up and extending your neck. This method is a strong remedy to the kyphosis that people develop from sitting at a desk all day long.

4. Drop your shoulders and enable the back of your neck to touch the collar of your shirt. Your neck muscles should be relaxed.

5. Don't slump forward; if you feel like you are slumping, readjust your body position so that you conform to the above four points.

6. Swing your arms gently; the more you add arm motion, the faster you'll walk and the more calories you'll burn in a particular time period. Don't go crazy though - your hands shouldn't rise higher than your collarbone.

7. Walk with feet aligned in a straight manner rather than waddling from side to side. To do this, make sure your hips are moving forward rather than side to side.

8. Don't tiptoe; with every step, land on your heel and roll your foot forward. Comfortable shoes are a must!

Benefits of Walking

1. Great for burning belly fat.

2. Anyone can do it!

3. Lowers risk of hip fracture, especially with women.

4. Great for heart and lung health.

5. Wonderful for those who cannot or may not engage in more strenuous activities.

6. Fantastic for mental functioning, especially concentration, decision-making, self-composure and memory.

7. Wards off anxiety and depression while improving self-esteem.

8. Retards aging and increases longevity.

If we add personal prayer to our walking routine, and speak to the Almighty while sharing everything that's on our heart with Him, we have the greatest body-mind-soul health enhancer on earth. Try it; although we recommend 60-minutes a day, there are huge benefits for 30 minutes daily on up. KEEP ON WALKING - you'll love it. Every blessing, LB


The Key to Body-Soul Health

Thanks to everyone who forwarded the lovely feedback for our new "Brodybeams" series here at "Strength and Serenity," the blog of brodyhealth.com - in honor of our debut week, we've taped another "Brodybeam", which we're happy to post today.

Brodyhealth.com focuses on three main areas of interest: The first is health coaching, which includes fitness, nutrition and disease prevention. The second is spiritual guidance, which focuses on health of the soul, predominantly by way of emuna. The third is family and personal counseling, the bulk of which centers on marital relationships and parenting. We are seriously considering a series on successful relationships, if enough people express an interest. We'd be happy to hear your input.

Today's "Brodybeam" comes from our exquisite riviera in Ashdod. I wish I could share the lovely Mediterranean Sea salt-scented air with you - that would be quite an advance in video production. Meanwhile, we're delighted with the quality and service of our video host "Vimeo", where we pay for ad-and-popup free, wholesome viewing for our readers and viewers.

Here's the key to body-soul health. Enjoy it and have a lovely Shabbat. Every blessing, LB

The Key to Body-Soul Health from lazerbrody on Vimeo.


Daily Centering

Centering 29.4
Here's something I picked up from a health-and-fitness coach's manual from one of the recent health-coach refresher courses I took (the bold-letter emphases are mine):

"The very first way to combat stress is to have your clients begin the exercise of taking 10 minutes each day - to simply sit and center themselves with their thoughts. They can find a quiet room somewhere and as they do, they should simply clear their mind or let their thoughts take place and then release them. This is a form of meditation and it can do wonders for helping to restore central nervous system balance, reducing ongoing stress and helping them feel that much better on a day to day basis. If they can’t do this for 10 minutes, wonderful! At any rate, 5 minutes will suffice. Any amount of time done daily or as close to daily a possible will have a very positive influence on their stress levels."

I don't know how many other health-and-fitness coaches follow the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, but the author of the above manual is right on the money. If 10 minutes daily ("5 minutes will suffice") do so much good for a person's nervous system, stress levels and overall good feeling, then imagine what 30, 45 or even 60 minutes a day of secluded, intimate conversing and connecting with the Creator accomplish! This is quality time, alone with the Almighty, where you collect your thoughts, clarify issues and simply recharge body and soul. I like to do my daily sessions while walking, especially somewhere secluded and beautiful where heart and soul open wide up. It's the key to self-composure, happiness and sanity. Try it - you'll love it.


"Dayenu": The Key to Emotional Health

Dayenu 19.4
Our sages teach that a truly rich person is he or she who is happy with their lot in life. The main characteristic of happy people is gratitude -  they are grateful for their blessings in life, material and spiritual. One of my favorite expressions is that grateful people are never bitter, yet bitter people are never grateful. 

Passover, and particularly Seder Night, is a lovely way of expressing our gratitude to the Almighty. A prime example is the "Dayenu" sonnet, which shows our appreciation in the loveliest manner.

This year, let's stop and elaborate on Dayenu at our Seder table. The bold letters below is our translation of the original prayer; our explanation appears in the adjacent the normal letters. No numbers appear in the original sonnet, but we added numbers to show the cumulative effect - feel free to print this and attach it to your Haggadah:

How many cumulative favors has the Holy One bestowed upon us!

  1. If He had taken us out from Egypt, and had not executed judgments against them - Dayenu, it would have been enough for us! Sometimes people are saved from the hands of their oppressors but they don't get to see their downfall. Hashem not only enabled us to see the downfall of the Egyptians, but in executing severe punishments against them, He warns our subsequent oppressors that they will attain a similar fate; history shows that they always do.
  2. If He had executed judgments against them, and not against their idols - Dayenu, it would have been enough for us! The other pagans of the world may have maintained that Hashem was mighty against flesh-and-blood but powerless against their idols, Heaven forbid. By destroying them, Hashem showed otherwise. As our G-d, His might heightens the prestige of those who believe in Him.
  3. If He had demolished their idols, and had not killed their first-born - Dayenu, it would have been enough for us! The pagans and the heretics still had room to deny the concept of Divine providence. When Hashem smote the firstborn of Egypt, He demonstrated a doubly miraculous measure of Divine providence, differentiating between those who were firstborn to their fathers and those who were not, and between the differentiating between Jewish and non-Jewish firstborns.
  4. If He had killed their first-born, and had not given us their wealth - Dayenu, it would have been enough for us! As if it wasn't sufficient that Hashem freed us from slavery in Egypt, He gave us all the money retroactively that we should have been paid for our labors.
  5. If He had given us their wealth, and had not split the sea for us - Dayenu, it would have been enough for us! The weak believers might continue to maintain that our receiving the Egyptians' wealth was a simple matter of social justice and fate; splitting the sea showed the world how Hashem personally overrides nature, fate and logic to perform miraculous deeds for Israel.
  6. If He had split the sea for us, and had not taken us through it on dry land - Dayenu, it would have been enough for us! Here, Hashem shows us a miracle upon miracle. Sure, the sea split but the seabed should have been a muddy mess and most difficult to traverse. It was bone-dry for Israel.
  7. If He had taken us through the sea on dry land, and had not drowned our oppressors therein - Dayenu, it would have been enough for us! Even though the sea-bed was bone-dry for Israel, it returned to its natural muddy status once the Egyptians entered it. Immediately, their chariots were bogged down in the heavy mad and once they were trapped, the walls of the sea crashed down on their heads.
  8. If He had drowned our oppressors therein, and had not supplied our needs in the desert for forty years - Dayenu, it would have been enough for us! If it were not enough that Hashem rescued us from our oppressors, He continued to sustain us miraculously – not in Iowa or Switzerland, but in the desolate Sinai Desert!
  9. If He had supplied our needs in the desert for forty years, and had not fed us the manna - Dayenu, it would have been enough for us! Hashem could have fed us bread and water, but instead, He miraculously provided the sublime delicacy of manna, the Heaven-sent bread, which itself was miraculous in many ways. It tasted whatever you wanted it to taste like.
  10. If He had fed us the manna, and had not given us the Shabbat - Dayenu, it would have been enough for us! Hashem gave us a double portion of manna on Friday so that we would not have to worry about where our food will come from on Shabbat. Who can estimate the priceless gift of our weekly day of rest for body and soul, ever so conducive to getting close to Hashem.
  11. If He had given us the Shabbat, and had not brought us in proximity to Mount Sinai - Dayenu, it would have been enough for us! To bring us even closer, Hashem revealed Himself to our entire nation on Mount Sinai.
  12. If He had brought us in proximity to Mount Sinai, and had not given us the Torah - Dayenu, it would have been enough for us! If it wasn't enough that Hashem revealed Himself to us, He gave us the Holy Book that is the secret of our timelessness despite all that has befallen us.
  13. If He had given us the Torah, and had not brought us into the land of Israel - Dayenu, it would have been enough for us! As if the Torah wasn't the most precious gift that Hashem could give us, He brought us especially to the Land of Emuna and its inherent holiness, the ideal place on earth for fulfilling the Torah's commandments.
  14. If He had brought us into the land of Israel, and had not built for us the Holy Temple - Dayenu, it would have been enough for us! We now await for the imminant rebuilding of our third and final Holy Temple, may it be built soon in our days, amen!

Thus how much more so should we be grateful to the Omnipresent One for the doubled and redoubled goodness that He has bestowed upon us; for He has brought us out of Egypt, and carried out judgments against them, and against their idols, and smote their first-born, and gave us their wealth, and split the sea for us, and took us through it on dry land, and drowned our oppressors in it, and supplied our needs in the desert for forty years, and fed us the manna, and gave us the Shabbat, and brought us before Mount Sinai, and gave us the Torah, and brought us into the land of Israel and built for us the Beit Habechirah (Holy Temple) to atone for all our sins.

Rabbi Judah the Prince, who codified the Mishna and whom many consider the author of the Haggadah, listed fourteen particular favors, no more and no less. Why? He quotes the Torah and says that Hashem took us out of Egypt with “a strong hand and an outstretched arm”. “Hand” in Hebrew is yad, spelled yud-dalet. In Hebrew numerics, yud=10 and dalet=4, together the sum of fourteen. The Dayenu sonnet is therefore a hint that the Almighty's mighty hidden hand not only took us out of Egypt, but personally massages our hearts and sustains us each moment of the day.

To be truly happy, we should all sit down and compose our own list of Dayenus – once we open our eyes to all our blessings and thank Hashem for them, life becomes a Heaven on earth. Blessings for the very best Passover you ever had!


Body-Soul Harmony

Body-Soul Harmony
People who don't know me often say, "Hey, you don't look like a fitness trainer! Why don't you stick to being a rabbi?"

Two answers to the above comment: First, I'm not a YouTube trainer who wants to show his my six-pack abs and flaunt what he can do but what you can't. Second, what much of the rabbinical world either ignores, forgot, or never learned, coaching people in physical well-being is an integral part of spiritual leadership. Look at these prime examples from our sages:

  1. Our forefather Jacob out-wrestled an angel. He lifted boulders that ten shepherds together barely lifted.
  2. Each of Jacob's 12 sons was an expert in martial arts (see Malbim of Parshat Vayichi).
  3. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, who was both a juggler and a gymnast who could do pushups on his thumbs alone (see tractate Succa 53a)
  4. Rebbe Shimon ben Lakish (Reish Lakish) could broad jump the Jordan River; in addition, he was a former gladiator who was deadly in hand-to-hand combat.
  5. Maimonides was an expert in physical fitness who even codified the principles of health, nutrition and fitness within religious law. 

Brody Health and Wellness adheres to the timeless health advice of the Rambam, which promotes harmony of body and soul, in what we feel is true holistic health. What good is a perfect figure or 21" biceps if you suffer from anxiety and depression?

In my years of athletic experience, training in all different types of sports from running to weight training to wrestling and combat arts, I went through a vicious cycle of approaching what I thought was my peak fitness, then suffering a big setback of an injury or flu. I was repeatedly burning myself out rather than building myself up. Even while learning to become a fitness trainer and health coach, most of my teachers were teaching me the same methods that didn't lead to the results I was looking for.

With Hashem's help, I came to the conclusion that true fitness is the optimum state of body-soul well-being, when physical and emotional ills disappear and a person functions at his or her best. This is opposed to the person who wins the marathon, then spends the next two weeks recuperating in the hospital. With body-soul fitness, your goal is not to run the 42 kilometers, to build the massive triceps or to become the aerobic-dance queen who is so carbo-starved after her workout that she eats twice the carbs that she burned. Your goal is to feel good so that you can serve Hashem more efficiently and happily...

I came to the conclusion that genuine holistic fitness is functional fitness. Functional fitness means that you function effectively: despite your age, you can run, walk, climb and lift as you need to. It also means that your body is free of disease and your soul and emotions are free of their diseases - worry, anger, anxiety, worry, depression, jealousy and other negative emotions.

Our holistic approach addresses diet, disease prevention, exercise and lifestyle, is therefore the epitome of fitness, the true  balance of a healthy body in perfect harmony with a healthy soul. Do them both a favor and have a lovely Shabbat!


The Flashy Body or Functional Fitness

Functional Fitness
If you're carrying a full-load backpack on an uphill trail without huffing and puffing, you're functionally fit. The same goes for carrying two six-packs of 1.5 liter bottles of mineral water home from the grocery store...

Did you ever ask yourself, "Why did the Creator give me a body?" Surprisingly, most people don't know the answer.

* Craig has humongous biceps from the hundreds of heavyweight dumbbell curls he does every day. Yet, when his wife asked him to take down a can of tuna from the top shelf in her kitchen pantry, he couldn't do it because his shoulders were too tight. He simply couldn't raise his arms that high, despite his 6'1" frame. Frustrated, his 5'3" wife stood on a kitchen chair and took the can of tuna down herself.

* In her own words, Marianne "feels dead" if she misses a day of spin class. She spins for an hour a day, proud of her figure. She eats whatever she wants because she burns about 700 calories in one humongous, imho exaggerated session that's going to bring her to burnout, sooner or later. But, she's so into her peddling as the techno-background music pumps her up, that she slouches over the handlebars, which she grips tightly. Her figure isn't too slightly because she can't stand up straight. What's more, she can only carry her attaché case to work (weighs about 5 pounds, including laptop) in her right hand because she's developed lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) in her left arm. So now, in addition to her slouching, she walks with one shoulder higher than the other because she only lifts things with one hand.

* Abe, in his quest for six-pack abs, does over a thousand crunches a day. Sure, his stomach muscles are like iron but his hip flexors and lumbar spine are so tight that he can't touch his toes without deeply bending his knees. Abe looks good on the beach but he sorely lacks inner core strength and like Marianne, his posture is terrible.

* Naomi is the women's weightlifting champion of her gym. She can military press and bench press more than women twice her size. Yet, the other day, she bent over to pick up her baby and she pulled her back out.

What's wrong with Craig, Marianne, Abe and Naomi? They are into what you might call "cosmetic fitness", working out for the flashy body, the bulging biceps, the six-pack abs, the "Hey, look at me!" legs and the general Miss or Mister America body. Yet, they lack functional fitness. They can't perform basic functions in life. Their workouts are wrong and they oftentimes are detrimental to overall health rather than conducive to it. How?

The muscle/bikini beach crowd focus on isolated muscle groups rather than on multiple muscle groups working together in harmony. In the words of Greg Roskopf, MS, a biomechanics consultant with a company called Muscle Activation Techniques who has worked with athletes from the Denver Broncos, the Denver Nuggets, and the Utah Jazz, "Conventional weight training isolates muscle groups, but it doesn't teach the muscle groups you're isolating to work with others".

When we're functionally fit, we're quicker and more agile in our daily functions. Functional fitness exercises are designed to train and develop your muscles to make it easier and safer to perform everyday activities, such as carrying groceries or playing a game of hide-and-seek with your children.

You don't have to spend hours in a gym. Fifteen minutes a day of functional fitness exercises are sufficient to keep you feeling great. Although I love such total body kettlebell exercises as deadlifts, goblet squats and kettlebell swings because of all the muscles they involve, you don't need any apparatus. Such bodyweight exercises as pushups, front and side lunges, squats and planks will keep you fit from head-to-toe. Shlepping groceries up three flights of stairs works wonders too...

Never forget also that good dietary habits are twice as important as exercise. Sabbath and holidays are for delight, but not for eating into oblivion, especially grossly unhealthy things. All good diets tolerate, even encourage, one cheat-day a week but that doesn't mean alcohol-and-pastry suicide. Like our working out, our eating and drinking should be for the sake of maintaining a fit body, whose purpose is to capably house a serene soul that's connected to its Creator for 120 happy and healthy years, amen!