Health VS Wellness

I woke up this AM and spilled coffee grounds all over the kitchen floor while trying to make a daily brew. I know it’s not spilled (expressed breast) milk and it shouldn’t cause me too many worries, but at 4 o’clock in the morning on a Monday, it started to go down an unpleasant path. With the coffee grounds spread all over the floor like termite droppings there was no other way around the mess. I had to walk through it to get to the broom which meant tracking little black crumbs all across the kitchen floor. And those little bits of caffeine seeds start poking into my feet, waking me up from the outside in rather than the inside out like they normally do. 

After I had finished sweeping up the entire kitchen and cleaning my feet, the situation became real. All of the coffee grounds were in the dustpan, along with tangled strands of hair, sand from Venice Beach, a green twisty-tie thing, red and brown acupuncture needle tabs from my lab coat, and an unidentified black substance, possibly food related.

I’m usually composed, and I’d like to think that the yoga is working in relation to my ability to decide what to get stressed about, but that’s after yoga. You understand?

After the morning yoga practice it’s ok for the coffee to spill. It’s ok to be stuck in traffic. It’s ok for the toothpaste to vomit down my shirt. It’s ok because I’ve had my leg behind my head, or I pressed myself up in a back bend that felt like my ribs were separating and my heart was exploding with light. The ‘noise’ of honking cars is muted after twisting my arms around my knee. It all seems a bit more trivial.

Here’s why.


Stress effects our health. Stress changes our blood pressure, causes headaches, muscle aches and pain, over time it can lead to menstrual irregularities, weight gain, insomnia, GERD, and mental health issues.* Just to name a few.

There is no denying stress and stressors are everywhere in our socially-connected, modern, urban lifestyle. It’s unavoidable. More importantly it’s irresponsible of us to avoid them as it places the responsibility upon someone else.

Avoiding stress would be me leaving the coffee grounds all over the floor for Stephanie to clean up when she wakes up 2 hours after I’ve left. That’s not fair to her. The coffee was my mess. She doesn’t even drink the black stuff, and now I’m stressing her out cleaning my mess and making here late to work where she has 35 teenagers (per class, LAUSD) who require an explanation of how gel electrophoresis works to separate DNA.

Avoiding stress and running into the woods or desert for a ‘spiritual experience’ where you burn; a man, your skin, and daddy’s money, leaves a trace of irresponsibility, and tasteless superiority. Effectively missing the entire point of actually doing yoga.

Health, as defined by WHO is a matter of physical, emotional, and social well-being. 

Stress can certainly effect any, and all of these 3 components of health; physical, emotional, and social well-being. Stress is also responsible for 43.8% of workplace illness.**

If I left the coffee grounds on the floor for Stephanie to clean up in the morning before going to work; adding to her pressure of teaching 250 teenagers per day, studying for the national board certification, compounded by sitting in LA traffic, she would certainly be ill by the end of the week. (and then I would have more a much larger mess on my hands to clean up)

Health is often misidentified as the absence of disease or illness. If you were at a clinic and the doctor asks if you are healthy, because you don’t have a rail spike sticking through your frontal lobe, and you are still pink and breathing, you say, “Yes!” But because you are at the doctor something is amiss. Chances are that either your physical, emotional, social well-being, or a combination of them are inadequate for you to function. 

But stress has little effect on our wellness.

Wellness is a state of being, a state of mind. This means that wellness is a matter of choice.

Stress as it relates to wellness can dampen your energy, negatively influence your potential for self-care, and your commitment to achieving your full-potential. But you get to make the decision on how it will affect your day.

This is why the traffic noise is quieter after your yoga class, and no, it’s not because everyone at yoga drives a Tesla.

Every moment is a choice we get to make determining what is best for us in regards to our physical, emotional, and social well-being. The yoga/meditation/pranayama practice can be a comparison level, a threshold from which to measure every other moment in our day. How does opening a door for someone who doesn’t say ‘thank you’ measure up to sitting still and holding your exhale for 1 minute 15 seconds? Which was harder? Which is going to make a difference in your tomorrow?

If I hold on to the ingratitude of a stranger and carry that lesson forward, I will stop opening doors for people. I will lock myself out of that energy so as not to get hurt by a stranger in the future. Emotionally I am locking something up inside and eventually that can effect my physical health.

If I choose to allow that strangers ingratitude to pass through me, because compared to holding the exhale out in pranayama, or twisting in Marichayasana D, it’s not worth holding onto, my wellness stays intact. My wellness is a choice. As that choice, I get to positively effect my health. I don’t have to hold on to what doesn’t serve me allowing it to pass through.

Understandably it’s not always that easy. It’s not always possible to carry the lessons of the yoga practice throughout the day. Thats when responsibly going into nature to process your stress and work through, grounding, or connecting to yourself IS an effective formula for your well-being. 

I live on a sailboat. The water restores, and rejuvenates me. When I go out past the break wall and cut the engine off and the only sounds I hear is the wind filling the sails, I know I can last a little longer in the city of ‘angels.’ I know I have done my part and cleaned up the spilled grounds.

I didn’t get to have a cup of coffee that morning until after practice. But I didn’t leave a potential stressor to antagonize anyone else, and because running away to nature wasn’t an option, I did my yoga practice.