Yoga & Fitness

By Kerry-Lee Jesson

Yoga can both prevent disease and help you recover from it.

If you are a passionate yoga practitioner, you’ve probably noticed the ways yoga works – maybe you are sleeping better or getting fewer colds or just feeling more relaxed and at ease. Western Science is starting to provide some concrete clues as to how yoga works to improve health, heal aches and pains, and keep sickness at bay.

Improved flexibility is one of the first and most obvious benefits of yoga. It is no coincidence that with practice aches and pains starts to disappear. Tight hips can strain the knee joint due to improper alignment of the thigh and shinbones. Tight hamstrings can lead to a flattening of the lumbar spine, which can cause back pain. And inflexibility in muscles and connective tissue, such as fascia and ligaments, can cause poor posture.

Strong muscles do more than just look good! When you build strength with flexibility, you protect the body from conditions such as arthritis and back pain, and help prevent falls in elderly people.

Poor posture can cause back, neck and other muscle and joint problems, which causes pain and degenerative arthritis of the spine. The head is like a big bowling ball, round and heavy and when it is balanced directly over an erect spine, it takes much less work for your back and neck muscles to support it.

Yoga practise takes your joints through a full range of motion, which lubricate the cartilage with fresh nutrients only when its fluid is squeezed out and a new supply can be soaked up. Without proper sustenance, neglected areas of cartilage eventually wear out and exposes the underlying bones like worn out brake pads.

Your spinal disks crave movement – they are the shock absorbers between your vertebrae that can herniated and compress nerves. If you practise a well balanced routine of asanas with plenty of backbends, forward bends and twists, you will keep your disks supple.

Many postures in yoga require that you lift your own weight, which strengthens bones and help ward off osteoarthritis. Yoga also reduces the stress hormone cortisol in the body , which in turn helps keep calcium in the bones.

Yoga gets more oxygen to your cells through its ability to get your blood flowing through your body – especially your hands and feet. Twists wring out venous blood from the internal organs and allow oxygenated blood to flow in once the twist is released. Inverted poses encourage venous blood from the legs and pelvis to flow back to the heart, where it can be pumped to the lungs to be freshly oxygenated. Yoga increases the haemoglobin and red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the tissues. Yoga also thins the blood and makes the platelets less sticky and cuts the level of clot promoting proteins in the blood. This results in lowered risk of heart attack and strokes.

Contracting and stretching muscles, moving organs around and coming in and out of yoga postures helps with lymph drainage. This helps the lymph system fight infection, destroy cancerous cells and disposes of waste products of cellular functioning.

Yoga practice lowers the resting heart; increases endurance and improves your maximum uptake of oxygen during exercise.

Consistent yoga practice improves depression and leads to increased serotonin levels and a decrease in monoamine oxidase (an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters) and cortisol.

Regular yoga practice gets you moving and burns calories, and the spiritual and emotional dimensions of your practice may encourage you to address any eating and weight problems on a deeper level. Yoga inspires you to be a more conscious eater.

Yoga lowers blood sugar and LDL (bad) cholesterol and boosts HDL (good cholesterol). This occurs due to : lowering cortisol and adrenaline levels, encouraging weight loss and improving sensitivity to the effects of insulin. Get your blood sugar levels down, and you decrease the risk of diabetic complications such as heart attack, kidney failure and blindness.

Stimulation is good, but too much of it taxes the nervous systems (central and peripheral). Yoga provides relief from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Restorative yoga, guided relaxation encourages a turning in of the senses, which provides down time for the nervous system.

Ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation – all can be exacerbated by stress. So if you stress less – you will suffer less! Yoga relieves constipation and theoretically reduces the risk of colon cancer, because moving the body facilitates more rapid transport of food and waste products through the bowels.

Yoga quells the fluctuations of the mind – it slows down the mental loops of frustration, regret, anger, fear, and desires that cause stress. And since stress is linked to so many health problems – from migraines to insomnia, lupus, MS, eczema, high blood pressure and heart attacks – if you learn to quiet your mind, you will be likely to live a longer healthier life. Yoga encourages you to experience feelings of gratitude, empathy, and forgiveness, as well as a sense that you are part of something bigger.

If your medicine cabinet looks like a pharmacy, maybe its time to try yoga – you will save money and are less likely to suffer the side effects and risks of dangerous drug interactions!

Yoga and meditation build awareness. Chronic anger and hostility are as strongly linked to heart attacks as are smoking, diabetes and elevated cholesterol. Yoga appears to reduce anger by increasing feelings of compassion and interconnection and by calming the nervous system and mind. It also increases your ability to step back from the drama of your own life, to remain steady in the face of bad news or unsettling events. You can still react quickly when you need to – and there is evidence that yoga speeds up reaction time- but you can take that split second to choose a more thoughtful approach, reducing suffering from yourself and others.

A good teacher can do wonders for your health. Exceptional ones do more than guide you through your postures. They can adjust your posture, gauge when you can go deeper in poses or back off, deliver hard truths with compassion, help you relax and enhance and personalise your practice.

A respectful relationship with your teacher goes a long way in promoting your health.

Love may not conquer all, but it certainly can aid in healing. Cultivating the emotional support of friends, family and community has been demonstrated repeatedly to improve health and healing.

A regular yoga practice helps develop friendliness, compassion and greater equanimity.

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Yoga for Veterans is Back in the News…

Yoga for Veterans is Back in the News…

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Lunchtime Yoga

Ten Minute Yoga Plan to Pep Up

Whether you might be staying home with a new baby or working too many hours at the office, anytime is a good time for yoga. You can do yoga stretches and postures in bed or even while driving to work.

Hundreds of fitness seekers use their lunch hour to squeeze in exercise and take off extra pounds.

I occasionally use my lunch hour for Yoga, said John Ray White, 35, who works at the Arkansas attorney general’s office. Downward facing dog and sun salutation are two of the postures he practices every day.

Practicing yoga in the middle of day some people think is the break that they need to face the afternoon, said Ray.

Lunch-hour fitness routines become more popular in warm weather.

Kick Back Log-on Pose

Interlace your fingers behind your head. Relax your elbows and shoulders. Smile, breathe and stretch your elbows back. Let the tightness release slowly.

E-mail Meditation

While reading your e-mail, remember to breathe slowly and focus your attention on your breath. Make the out-breath two times longer than the in-breath. This will immediately calm you.

Photocopier Stretch

Place your hands on the edge of the copier. Stand back with feet apart. Drop your head and chest. Breathe and relax your shoulders.

Close-the-deal Warrior Pose

Raise your arms to the side with fingers pointed. Take a big step to the side, with your right foot out and knee bent, your left foot planted, left leg straight. Keep the upper body straight and strong, shoulders relaxed. Relax into the stretch — don’t hold your breath. Return to a standing position, switch sides and repeat.

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Yoga’s Relationship to Children’s Health

By Bobbi-O

Yoga and it’s relation to children’s health is as follows: with all kinds of computer games, and many other electronic games in the market, kids these days don’t exercise that much anymore, and have very poor diets. Add this to the stress they get from school and how they go home after school and become couch potatoes. We have kids who slowly lose their flexibility, with no desire to leave their comfort zones; their homes. Kids slowly have lost flexibility because of all the sitting and no physical activities or exercise. Having stiff muscles can lead to injuries and other muscle pains.

Yoga for kids is an excellent alternative since it will help them increase their flexibilities. Yoga for kids is different from yoga for adults. Instructors would create a story based on the animals or a situation and incorporate yoga into it. Let’s say you pose like a frog, a snake, a cat or even like a tree. The kids don’t only get to do those poses but they’re also asked to imagine what it feels like to be like those great animals. They connect more to nature and divert their attention away from all the stress that they deal with everyday. As well as using their imaginations and creativity. In addition, they can easily adapt and cope with stressors. Let’s take having an exam as an example or even being harassed by other kids. The child may use meditation or breathing techniques to help him/her calm down and focus.

In yoga, the child is given different postures and told to breathe in a certain way. The child learns how to control him/herself to be able to achieve these techniques. They are their own masters and they learn more about themselves at a very young age. In addition, if they have that “I can do it” attitude then they will realize that when they learn them, they can control themselves, they can reach their dreams. Their self esteem improves and their mind set is in a positive mode making them feel good about themselves.

Yoga is proven to improve self-esteem, physical and mental health and grade point averages among children. In a Gaiam-funded study of kindergarten through 8th-grade students in an inner-city school, researchers from CSU examined the correlation between yoga and academic performance, discipline, attendance and self-esteem. The 2003 study showed a 20 percent increase in students who felt good about themselves — and a 6 percent increase in classroom discipline scores, indicating that students who had high participation in yoga class also had fewer referrals or discipline problems. In addition, while the increase in average GPA was not provided, the study showed a “statistically significant” link between yoga participation and better grades.

Yoga for kids is about having fun and not about competing with others, unlike soccer or football. It’s not about whether you are right or wrong in doing a pose. It’s about learning about yourself and how far you can take yourself.

Yoga develops physical fitness; it develops strength, flexibility and concentration, confidence, and movements that develop eye-hand coordination and motor skills.

Age appropriate yoga poses are vital, as well as breathing techniques, meditation, and relaxation will offer a child insight and knowledge to the physical and philosophical traditions of yoga. Kids learn that Yoga leads to creativity, self-acceptance, how to follow directions, interpersonal skills, and intrapersonal, positive thinking, personal & environmental awareness and a pocket full of fun.

Yoga offers many possibilities to exchange wisdom, share good times, and lay the foundation for a lifelong practice that will continue to deepen.

A study conducted by Dr. Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. Gardner, an author and professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, describes eight intelligences innate in all of us—linguistic, logical, visual, musical, kinesthetic, naturalistic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal—and emphasizes that children should be given the opportunity to develop and embody a Yoga can help counter all pressures. When children learn techniques for self-health, relaxation, and inner fulfillment, they can cope with life’s challenges with a little more strength. Yoga at an early age encourages self-esteem and body awareness with a physical activity that’s noncompetitive.

University of Michigan pediatrician Dolores Mendelow says yoga, if done properly, is a suitable alternative to tumbling and team sports for getting stressed-out, sedentary children socializing, exercising and building discipline.

“It requires practice, patience and accepting of self-limitations,” she said.

A preliminary study of pediatric health benefits of yoga, published in 2008, finds motor skills and concentration improvements, on top of better posture and breathing.

At Providence Hospital, yoga is integrated into strength-building exercises for children with Down syndrome and cerebral palsy, who often lack muscle tone and breathe weakly.

“The younger kids, with most yoga poses, we try to find a name that relates to the pose to make it fun,” she said.

Yoga stretching and body alignment can create a better athlete, said Michigan State University strength coach Mike Vorkapich. Players use back and arm movements to improve strokes and pitches, he said.

Listening improves too, said Jennifer Hayes, an MSU yoga teacher. She sometimes teaches without demonstrating postures. She hears this all the time: “Wow, this is harder than I thought.”

Inconclusion,Yoga incorporates storytelling, games, music, language, and other arts that engage the “whole child.” Yoga embraces ecology, anatomy, nutrition, and life lessons that echo yogic principles of interdependence, oneness, and lots of fun. Most of all, engages the entire mind, body, and spirit in a way that honors the child’s way of learning.

Yogis have always lived close to the natural world and used animals and plants for inspiration. When children imitate the movements and sounds of nature, they have a chance to get inside another being and imagine taking on its qualities. The physical movements introduce kids to yoga’s true meaning: union, expression, and honor for oneself and one’s part in the world. When they stretch like a dog, or balance like a tree, roar like a lion, or stand strong like a mountain, they are making a connection between the macrocosm of their environment and the microcosm of their bodies. The importance of reverence for all life and the principle of interdependence will become transparent.

Doing yoga, children exercise, play, and use their imagination; they connect more deeply with the inner self, and develop an intimate relationship with the nature and the world that surrounds them. Yoga brings that marvelous inner light that all children have out to a visible surface. Children need to discover the world on their own. There is no doubt that Yoga and it’s relation to health is boundless world of wonder and exploration. Yoga balances, harmonizes, purifies and strengthens the body, mind and soul of the practitioner. It shows the way to perfect health, perfect mind control and perfect peace of one’s self. If you start at an early age, you are far beyond years for a perfect blue print of a lifetime of good health.

What better gift to give a child, the greatest gift, is the one that I can give to a child, YOGA.

Bobbi-O has created a quiz on line for kids to take as well as adults.

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And you thought yoga was just stretching…

I was asked the other day, “Why don’t you just join a gym”? My answer was that along with the occasional walk outdoors, yoga is all that I need. His response was predictable: “Yoga…isn’t that just stretching?”

I smirked at the familiarity of the question and proceeded to explain to him the theme of this article. As I told him and for those who may not know otherwise: No, Yoga is way more than just stretching or getting into supposedly awkward looking poses and positions.

It is a combination of stretching, breathing exercises, meditation and perhaps the most overlooked limb, adherence to a proper diet.

The word yoga, from the Sanskrit word yuj means to yoke or bind and is often interpreted as a “union” or a method of discipline. Its ultimate goal is the union of man with God or the universe in one breath. Furthermore, it aims to liberate the spirit as the mind and spirit are equally involved in its practice.

Yoga is indeed the oldest existing physical-culture system in the world. Besides being a systematic and scientifically proven path to attaining physical fitness, it delays aging, rejuvenates and improves one’s appearance, maintains suppleness and increases vitality and the creative part of life.

With its core warm-up exercises known as the Sun Salutations, the inversion poses, forward and backward bending poses, balancing exercises for the arms and building focus, the average practitioner will attest to the fact that for attaining fitness, Yoga can stand its own.

Think Yoga can’t help with building strength? Think again. I challenge the most adept body-builder to hold the simple yet powerful peacock-pose for 90 seconds straight.

Yoga also offers unique breathing exercises which are wonderful for patients with respiratory disorders and even singers and public speakers, moreover with its unique relaxation pose, often times practiced during and after its execution, Yoga offers a systematic means of deeply relaxing the entire body perhaps the way no other exercise can. (Keep in mind of course that several of the poses give a deep body massage not unlike the ones received in salons…just thought I should throw that in.)

With countless classes being offered for all ages, levels of fitness and experience, I suggest you give it a trial and see for yourself what it can do.

One thing I promise you is this; you will walk out of your class and nod in agreement that indeed: “yoga is way more than just stretching.” It is THE exercise.

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