Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Mind-Body Connection: An Interview with Lisa Engles, Radio Host and Inspirational Leader

Inspiring leaders mean the difference between success and the status quo. Nowhere is that point more relevant than in issues concerning mind-body balance. Lisa Engles ( is such a leader: a radio host, wellness expert, entrepreneur and speaker -- she helps people begin the journey to health and happiness. Her knowledge is vast and her innovative teaching techniques deserve maximum praise. I recently had the good fortune to speak with Lisa, and the transcript our conversation is below. Please take a moment to read this interview, since Lisa is someone who can - literally - change your life for the better.

1. Why is mind-body balance so important?

It’s a known fact that the mind and body are not only inseparable, but that they’re interdependent. So to me, mind-body ‘balance’ isn’t important, it’s critical to experiencing the body and the health that we desire. How do we create balance? First, you have to understand that the mind and body can’t be separated. Although most of us now know this, there’s still a huge divide between what we now know to be a proven fact (mind and body work interdependently) and the predominant reductionist paradigm of our health care system which still seeks to ‘fix the broken parts’ through drugs and surgery: it deals with the symptoms, not the underlying cause… which always stems at the emotional level. Second, the paradigm has to shift, and it is. We need health and fitness coaches/experts who have the skills to heal both the mind and the body… physical/mental/emotional.

Without addressing both the mind and the body we continue along the path of being victims of our health, of our genetics of the circumstances that made our experience of our body and health the way it is. By addressing both mind and body we are empowered to consciously create positive and lasting change in our body and our health.

2. What are some common examples of the way stress exacts a toll physically?

Once again, since body and mind are both inseparable and interdependent, you can’t look at the physical with out also looking at the emotional/mental side of the picture as well. That being said, some of the ways that stress manifests itself physically,emotionally and mentally are:

Lack of energy
Chronic pain (back, chest, neck, headache)
GI problems (stomach ache, acid reflux)
Sleep disturbances
Emotional eating
Weight gain or loss
Social withdrawal
Lack of focus or motivation
Lack of creativity
Feeling insecure
Addictions (alcohol, drugs, gambling)

3. What are your suggestions concerning ways to prevent or alleviate this kind of stress?

Stress management is something we can all use in our lives. I’m a big proponent of using heart-based technologies to prevent and alleviate stress in our life. The Insitute of Heart Math based out of Boulder Creek, CA. has several great tools for managing stress, anxiety and overwhelm which are very simple to perform anywhere at anytime. One is called the Quick Coherence Technique which helps you to refocus your emotion and connect you with your heart’s energetic field in order to release stress and balance your emotions very quickly. Basically, this technique has you focus your attention to the area of your heart while imagining that you’re breathing slowly through your heart to a count of six. Then, while continuing to breathe through the heart you simply allow yourself to refocus on a positive feeling, attitude or memory which elicits a positive feeling or attitude like gratitude, compassion or caring.

I also find that there’s an epidemic of people who feel stressed out simply because they’ve committed to too much in their lives: Work responsibilities, family responsibilities and activities, social activities. Their schedules are so packed from the time they way up to the time they hit the pillow that they virtually have no downtime. Simplifying your life by cutting out unnecessary activities is a very simple way to reduce stress in your life.

Of course, we can’t discount exercise! Research shows that regular exercise is great for stress reduction. Anything from going to the gym, to walking the dog to hiking on a nature trail are all easy things to implement immediately for stress reduction.

Finally, adding in 10-20 minutes per day of meditation or centering prayer is probably the most valuable, long-term practice you can do to reduce stress and overwhelm. Over the years, I’ve found for myself that I can’t afford NOT to meditate daily. It’s an absolute must for me in my life because it grounds me, gives me direct access to my higher wisdom and Spirit, and helps me to move through my day with more grace and ease than if I don’t meditate.

4. How is your approach to these issues different or innovative?

My approach is a cross-pollination of many different healing and spiritual practices inspired by both Eastern and Western traditions, modern and ancient teachings.
I have spent my entire career as a health and fitness professional in an industry that has yet to integrate mind-body healing tools and techniques in a way that’s simple and accessible and most importantly, known to the general population.
A great example of this is that I teach very specific breathing techniques to my endurance sport athletes. These techniques are based on ancient practices from China and India, but have amazing application to peak performance in sport. Last week one of my athletes asked me ‘Why haven’t I ever read about this in any of the triathlon magazines or online on any of the popular multi-sport sites?’ ---- None of this is new stuff, but not many coaches/fitness professionals/health professionals are integrating tools and techniques from outside of their field into their coaching or healing practices yet.

I also use a form of ‘psychological acupuncture’ in my coaching practice as well. It’s known as meridian tapping or emotional freedom techniques. But you don’t read about it in any of the major health and fitness magazines either.
I believe that all of this will shift very soon, maybe even within the next five years. My mission is to teach other health and fitness professionals how to successfully integrate these tools into their work so that more and more people become familiar with them and are able to use them to consciously choose a different path for health and overall well being.

5. Nutrition is also a key component for physical and mental health. And yet, people self-sabotage with their eating habits. Why does this happen?

In my 20 years of working with people as an integrative wellness and fitness consultant, my experience has been that all self-sabotaging eating habits are symptoms of a deeper cause which lies at the emotional level. Why does this happen? Well, it almost always goes way back to early childhood when we become ‘programmed’ with beliefs about not being worthy, deserving, good enough etc. Food becomes the drug of choice to many people. It soothes the sadness, quells the anger, comforts the emptiness. There’s a lot of great information out there now on emotional eating. Anyone who notices a pattern within themselves of self-sabotage with food is probably dealing with emotional eating issues. I actually created a program called the 40-Day Mental Makeover: For Weight Loss and Body Image that directly addresses this problem of emotional eating. The truth is that no amount of dieting or exercise will ever work if the underlying cause of emotional eating isn’t addressed. Of course, practically everyone who has emotional eating problems also has body image or self-esteem issues to some degree as well. That’s why I cover both in my program.

6. What are your suggestions about ways to prevent self-sabotaging?

Preventing self sabotage first begins with recognizing your self sabotaging thoughts, beliefs, behaviors and habit patterns. After that, you need to take responsibility for changing. It’s about making choices that will empower you, not keep you in the vicious cycle of trying and failing. That’s really the only way. The biggest obstacle for most people when it comes to the issue of self-sabotage is that there’s a hidden benefit of the sabotage: you don’t have to take responsibility, you can blame someone else for your condition, it makes you feel safe, it’s your identity, you can remain a victim… there are other as well, but those are some off the top of my head. Truthfully, it’s challenging to tackle this stuff on your own when you’re just beginning because you can’t see your own blind spots. You need someone else to be your guide. . Getting a coach or counselor to help you or joining a support group is very beneficial as well. I believe that everyone needs support. You just can’t attempt to tackle a big issue like self-sabotage without a support team. In my experience, those clients that I work with who are surrounded by people who support them in their journey to health have a much easier time succeeding. I’ve also had clients who don’t have the support they need at home or even from close friends, and they often end up not being able to overcome their self-sabotage.

7. You also host a popular radio show. Please describe the show for our readers.
The show is called InnerState Radio, and it airs on Voice America Networks, 7th Wave Channel and Health and Wellness Channel weekly. The show is also syndicated on iTunes for easy download.

I interview leading authors, educators, experts and visionaries to explore cutting-edge research in emerging fields like energy psychology, neuro-science and consciousness. My focus is to bring this valuable information to listeners so that we can begin to shift the paradigm of health and well being from the inside-out. Once people are educated about this stuff, they can begin to make empowering choices that create lasting change. That’s really the whole purpose of my show. It’s also another way for me to get my message to more people free of charge giving them practical applications of how to bring the art of transformation into everyday life.

8. How do you define success when helping your own clients?

When I begin working with any client, I tell them that it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Of course, every client who comes to work with me has a goal, such as weight loss or to finish an Ironman distance triathlon. So I guide them in doing that. However, so often what motivates people to do something is a need for connection, a need to be seen or recognized as worthy and deserving, a need to create more meaning in their life, a need for autonomy. And at some level they believe that losing weight or crossing the finish line at an Ironman triathlon (as examples) will fulfill those needs. Success to me as a coach then, becomes two-fold: 1) to help my clients reach that outer goal 2) to be sure that the underlying motivator is also fulfilled in the process, that their psychological and emotional needs are being fulfilled as well. This can’t be accomplished in the traditional paradigm of fitness training or coaching. It requires that just as much ‘training’ or focus be placed on the clients inner-state of mind. The problem is that most coaches/personal trainers know this, but either don’t have the skills (qualifications) to work with the mental/emotional piece, or they don’t have the time.

In the new paradigm of health/fitness the coach will be skilled in training both the body and the mind.

9. What are some easy and immediate things we can all do to improve mind-body balance?

One of the most powerful resources we have is our breath. Not only is it powerful, it’s free and we already know how to use it…. Well, sort of. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing is an incredible way to merge our inner and outer worlds. This is a huge subject. A lot has been written about the benefits of breathing, but something that I’ve found is that we can combine this very specific type of breathing with exercise. Yoga is a great example. The ujjayi breath accompanies every movement and posture in a yoga practice. This type of breathing can be used as well, during walking, running, cycling, and almost any endurance type of exercise to both energize and relax the mind and body at the same time. Using the breath in this way stimulates the part of our nervous system called the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for lowering our heart rate and causing a relaxation response. At the same time, this type of breathing along with an extended period of rhythmic exercise like running or walking will induce a light trance state of mind. Our brain waves actually become more coherent, we enter into what’s called an alpha brain wave pattern and find what athletes refer to as ‘the zone’. This was an exciting discovery for me about ten years ago because I realized that I had tapped into something that wasn’t really known or at least wasn’t being taught in the world of endurance sport or even fitness. I found that I could kill two birds with one stone: I could get my daily meditation and exercise at the same time. Since then, I began to teach all of my clients and athletes this specific type of breathing. I’ve also just recently created some audio sessions to teach this technique and am currently working on creating a guided audio that people can listen to during their workouts to use this technique.

10. Since we're in the midst of summer, what are some seasonal warning signs we can spot that are triggers for stress or physical upheaval?

Common triggers for stress during the summer time include:

Vacations- even though we think vacations are about relaxation, they often bring with them the stress of traveling to new and unfamiliar places, dealing with time-zone differences and the sleep disturbances that come with it, scheduling lots of activities into a finite period of time, and dealing with travel partners (friends or family) who may have different agendas than you. Sometimes we need a vacation from our vacation!

Child-Care/Camps- for those who have kids, scheduling summer camps and day camps can be a logistical nightmare that adds a lot of stress both physically and financially. Shuttling more than one child around to various camps throughout the summer leaves many parents with less time for themselves than they have during the school year. Additionally, summer camps aren’t cheap. If you haven’t planned ahead, signing your child up for a few camps during the summer can easily surpass the $1500 mark.

Out of Town Visitors- summer is the time when family and friends like to come visit. Although it’s fun, there’s often the stress of trying to be the perfect host: making accommodations for guests like sleeping arrangements and eating meals together and a night or two of going out for entertainment can be exhausting. Again, sometimes we feel as if we need a vacation after our visitors have left!