Leah talks to her husband, yoga instructor Paul Teodo, about how moving your body can benefit your mind. Learn how even easy exercises can have a significant effect on your mood and overall well-being.
Find out more about Paul and Leah's Meditation Teacher Training at https://www.leahsantacruz.com/mtt
More about Paul:
Paul Teodo is a yoga and meditation teacher and musician. Named the #1 Yoga Teacher in Los Angeles in 2016 by the Culture Trip, he leads classes, workshops, and retreats around the world. Follow him on Instagram @teodoyogaguitar
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LEAH: Hey, I'm Leah Santa Cruz. I'm one of the meditation coaches on the balance app, along with Ofosu Jones-Quartey. And this is our weekly show, Well Balanced. So, Ofosu isn’t here. He's on a meditation retreat in France. I know it sounds awesome. I wish he could be there with him, but I thought this would be a great time to bring in a guy that I'm pretty close with for a chat.
Here's my husband, Paul Tiotto. [Hello!] Hey, we're actually sitting right next to each other and uh, we're talking in real life, uh, in this small medieval building in a beautiful town called Bomberg, Germany and our son, Luca, he's asleep in bed. It's like 10:30 PM at night for us. And we're just taking some quiet time to ourselves and we thought we'd jump in here and have a fun chat.
But first, for those of you that don't know, uh, I'm just going to introduce Paul here. He's a new, really incredible yoga instructor.
I might be biased, but I can say that he was one of the top, if not the top instructor in Los Angeles in 2016, right before we moved to Bali five years ago. And now, top instructor in Bali and he teaches classes all around the world in 15 different countries. He's taught retreats worldwide with me, uh, as well as yoga teacher training.
And he is an incredible husband and father. So, Paul, I want to use you being here as an opportunity to talk about moving your body. And how that can be good for your mind, too.
Well, living with you, it's really, really clear that there's a link between your physical activity and your mood and with you. It's pretty obvious because if you go for just a couple of days without practicing yoga, you get pretty grumpy.
PAUL: And that affects the whole family. Yeah.
LEAH: He's just got this totally different vibe.
Like typically you're very peppy and, um, happy and you have, you know, kind of a general skip in your step, but if you haven't been exercising, it's like somebody, who's a coffee addict that hasn't had their coffee today. You just don't want to mess with them. [It's true]. So, can you tell us more about this relationship that you have between your mood and how much you're moving around.
PAUL: Absolutely. Like you said, I exercise a lot. I meditate. Uh, and, uh, I practice yoga at least four to five times a week, except when I'm traveling. So right now, for traveling, practicing a little bit less, however I do try and move my body pretty much. Five or six times a week.
And if I go more than three or four days, I really start to notice myself. I am less patient. I become more irritable. I become grumpy. Um, I noticed myself not being as kind as I normally would be to you or to ourselves - or just to people in general. So I am one of those people that truly needs vigorous exercise a few times a week to really be at my best, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally.
And then ultimately spiritually too.
LEAH: This kind of sounds like me when I'm hungry.
PAUL: That is kind of what you're like.
LEAH: Wait, wait, are you describing me when I haven't eaten for six hours?
PAUL: That's what I'm like when I haven’t exercised for three days.
LEAH: Yeah, no, I think this is like, it's really obvious with you, but I, I think it can be maybe not so much.
For others, it's still just like eating is important. Movement is so important. And I can think about when I go for several days without exercising, I mean, I've taken longer breaks recently when I was pregnant, when I just had the baby where I went for a while without moving. And I wouldn't say I was so like, it wasn't an acute frustration and an obvious shift in my mood, but it was like this kind of subtle thing that kept growing and growing and growing. And I realized at some point feeling more lethargic and unmotivated and kind of just about myself. And I noticed the longer that I go without moving my body, the harder it is to get back into moving, but let's circle back.
So Paul and I met because Paul is a yoga instructor. And he was already teaching when we met and I was just getting into teaching meditation and we had met over this mutual interest and he wanted to teach yoga at a center that I was running in Los Angeles.
And then we went on to work together as well. We go hand in hand teaching yoga and meditation around the world, but I think for a lot of people, they don't maybe understand why yoga and meditation are so tied together and why they're talked about together so often. So I thought it'd be nice for you to share a little bit more about that.
PAUL: Absolutely. So when they talk about yoga, yoga is actually a philosophy and a system designed to create wellbeing in your body, your mind, and your emotions and the actual physical poses. It's just one tiny piece of yoga. So yoga actually includes meditation as part of the practice.
And the poses are just literally like the crust of the pizza. And I love to joke around with my students. And I say, you don't order a pizza, eat the crust, then throw the rest of the pizza in the garbage. Do you? No. You don’t. So yoga is this entire system that you do that involves moving and stretching.
And breathing, which naturally leads you into a meditative state. You don't have to practice yoga to enhance your meditation practice. You could go for a walk. You could go for a run, you could do some gardening. Um, I find playing my guitar - that's repetitive movements that allow me to move into a trance-like state.
So it doesn't just have to be yoga poses. However, those poses were designed over thousands of years to take the body and the mind and merge them together into a healthier, higher state of consciousness.
LEAH: When you're doing a yoga practice, you're inhaling, you're taking one pose.
You're exhaling, you're taking another pose. All of these movements are building strength and length and flexibility in the body, which are really, really good for the overall system. Just to be able to increase circulation, oxygen, blood flow. Muscular contraction, which just wakes you up. And I find it just, it just allows me to at the end of my practice have a really, really deep, relaxing state of consciousness at the end. Just for a few minutes, you don't need to sit there for 20 or 30 minutes, even 5, 6, 7 minutes is fantastic. [Yeah.]
Something I like to share, especially with beginners and especially for women, is that movement is such an incredible way.
And we call it a gateway into meditation. Like you were just speaking about how it actually kind of opens up the body and prepares the body. Um, but also can bring you through the rhythm of moving. It's the sort of kinesthetic awareness where you're feeling the consistent rhythm you're noticing the rhythm of your body is especially like swaying side to side.
That's something that I do often in my practice. And you can just be sitting. You don't have to be doing a rigorous movement where you're getting out of breath. It can just be simply sitting down and gently swaying side to side and letting your head sway side to side, this kind of repetitive motion. Has this sort of trance-like experience to it that can bring you through those brainwave states into more of that alpha and theta brainwave states into that deeper meditation.
I find it to be a really beautiful and easier way to meditate for most people. Absolutely. So I'm curious, do you find that for yourself personally? Is it the other way around sometimes where you can feel your mood influencing your ability to move your body?
PAUL: That's a really good question. And that's one thing I'm actually pretty proud of myself about, cause I am really disciplined. Uh, so if I'm in a bad mood, I will usually go exercise and I'm pretty good at exercising even when I don't feel like it. The only time I don't is when we're traveling basically, and we don't have time, doesn't allow time, just doesn't allow for it.
And that is part of it too, is the discipline is also saying like, I don't want to. I don't want to wake up and go for a run today. Those are the days sometimes when you need to go the most. Those are the days when you need to practice the most. So yes, you want your practice to be this beautiful ritualistic experience where you're loving it and flowing.
And then on the days when it's not, those are usually the days when I find that I need it the most and I am pretty disciplined about it. How do you develop discipline? I hold myself up to as high of a standard as possible without sacrificing my self esteem. I said, what is the absolute highest standard that I can hold myself to?
And I try to achieve that every day. And I've gotten to the point where I love myself enough, that I can be really hard on myself in a way that's still very loving.
LEAH: I think that's key, still very loving. Like you're not vicious and mean to yourself, but you're holding yourself up to a standard.
PAUL: I am vicious and mean to myself, but I do it in a way that's productive and positive and serves me.
That's not for everyone, but it's very much a, it comes from my childhood being an athlete and in football practice, there was, it wasn't love and light - it was do the work and shut up. Okay.
LEAH: So for those who didn't grow up doing athletics, maybe they struggle with their mood, preventing them from jumping in, or maybe they're just not really into yoga.
What would you give as advice that people can take away as far as, how can they move their bodies in a way that's going to improve their mental health, their mind and body?
PAUL: I think one of the best ways to do it is to start very simple. Uh, so just to figure out whatever type of exercise you like and just commit to doing it regularly, and then find somebody that you enjoy exercising with and having an accountability buddy.
So if you're really struggling to develop a routine, you want to have an accountability buddy, and you want that person to help you. You motivate each other to go consistently to the gym, to whatever type of practice you're doing, but to go there consistently. So consistency is everything.
And to go when you don't feel like it, it's really important. Those are the times when I really feel the most accomplished is after a really rigorous session when I didn't feel like it, or when it was difficult. When I still got there.
LEAH: I love that. If I haven't been exercising or moving my body much, I have to really be disciplined for the first week.
And once I get past that one week, mark, it's like, okay, it's much easier now. And it becomes more of a habit. It's like, oh, this is what I do. This is a part of my life. Whereas in the beginning, I really have to pull myself in like, ah, this is so hard. Cause you know, you lose the strength and that motivation and that urge.
PAUL: And you also have a friend that you were going with.
LEAH: Yeah, I like going and exercising and moving my body with other people because it gives me time and accountability and the people to show up with. And I also, you know, I'm thinking about this relationship between movement and mental health.
And I have myself personally in periods of my life, struggled with anxiety and depression. And then that's part of the reason why I came to meditation to begin with. And when I can think back to those times when it was really not, when I was really struggling. It was always a time when I wasn't moving my body much either.
Absolutely. not even like hardcore or anything crazy, but like, I can't think of a time when I was consistent with it where I was struggling intensely.
PAUL: Yeah. I've gone through periods of anxiety, myself, like really intense anxiety.
I was still exercising vigorously. However, the exercise was a huge component in me being less anxious. And I've seen therapists before and I have some friends that have seen therapists before and they almost always as part of their routine, they tell you, you need to be exercising particularly cardiovascularly.
Cause it really starts to break open - your cardiovascular system and it floods your body with oxygen. You get that runner's high. That's really, really good. And then also the breathing that you get from a power yoga or Vinyasa yoga practice could really have an impact on your mood. And I just think we're animals, you know, we're not meant to be sitting in houses 12, 15 hours a day sitting in desks.
We're not, we're not meant to be only using our brains. We're actually meant to be using our bodies seven, eight hours a day.
LEAH: That's what I love about traveling, um, in Europe because we've been walking everywhere so much more than we do. And we're in the states or when we're in Bali, even because it's just such nice, like cobblestone streets, everyone walks everywhere.
I think it's like that in certain cities in the United States, too, like New York, for example. But you know, it's very easy to just walk like 10 to 15,000 steps a day in Europe. And that kind of movement you were saying to me the other day, like this is actually one of the healthier forms of movement. It's low impact on your body.
Sometimes running is actually too hard on your body, or it's not helping some people who might suffer with PCFS for example, but walking is actually like, it's, it's a very accessible thing for most people, but, um, I think that's a great place to start. Yeah.
PAUL: Just go for a walk in nature. Like outside, no phone, no sun.
Get some sunlight. And I would even say no, no ear pods. Just pay attention to the world and go and do that for 20, 30 minutes a day, four or five times a week. It'll change your life. I really guarantee it.
LEAH: Bonus, you can make it a meditation by paying attention to the rhythms of your body. As you walk and move your body and feel the gravity beneath you and the sun above you, the air around you, the breath that's moving through your body.
And then you can just enjoy the sounds of nature. And you're fully in meditation.
PAUL: And if you're not enjoying the sounds of nature, you can at least enjoy the sound of Leah's voice and the Balance app.
LEAH: Yeah, that's true. Um, I think that's an important part of what we like when we offer training together.
Like our upcoming meditation teacher training movement is such a huge part of it. We were moving every day, whether it's yoga or dance or it's walking around, um, it's actively a part. Meditation is a one thing cure all, you know, I think it was like a spoke in a wheel, the wheel of wellness.
Yeah. And movement is another spoke and your nutrition is another spoke and sleep is another one and community supportive community, et cetera. Therapies, diet.I love this conversation because I think it's such an important one to have how much movement impacts our mood and our mental health and our ability to sleep well.
And all of the things that are also connected. [Absolutely.] So I think one of the things that we have to do while we're traveling besides walking is to remember - some yoga.
PAUL: And I know you're gonna have to leave me alone for a little bit and you can take the baby and you alone. I can't meditate with my son, crawling all over me.
LEAH: Well, thanks, Paul. Thank you. Yeah, it's nice having you here as always.
And literally always, he's always here with me forever.
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LEAH: Hey, if you like this show and you want to stay up to date with our discussions, just subscribe or follow us on your favorite podcast app. And please don't forget to rate and review us in that app. It helps us grow and spread the word. Also be sure to check out Paul on Instagram, he's at Teodoyogaguitaryoga. T E O D O yoga guitar.
We'll be back next Monday on our next episode, have a beautiful week.
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