“Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth, “You owe Me.” Look what happens with a love like that. It lights up the Whole Sky.” — Hafiz Today, June 21, nature moves us through yet … Continue reading
FREE YOGA CLASS
Sponsored by DOOR and PattyYoga & meditation
Saturday, May 19, 2018 • 1:00 p.m.
Oak Ridge Public Library Conference Room • 1401 Oak Ridge Turnpike • Oak Ridge, TN 37830
Patricia Doughtery, RYT CYT – Clinical Therapeutic Practitioner, is the instructor.
Email your name to DOOR2opportunities@gmail.com or call 865-227-9123 to register to attend.
Please bring a yoga mat and full-size towel. Bottled water will be provided.
Eight Ways to Boost Your Vagal Tone Naturally
A few simple practices that everyone can do, could be the secret to relieving pain and inflammation. In her article Hacking the Nervous System, Gaia Vince, science journalist and editor of New Scientist, describes how a woman suffering from debilitating rheumatoid arthritis was successfully treated with a device that stimulated the vagus nerve. No pills, no morphine, no side-effects; just stimulating a nerve. Not only that, Gaia goes on to explain that by stimulating the vagus nerve we can find relief from inflammation, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and other ailments, and we don’t necessarily require a device to do so.
The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the body. It starts at the base of the brain and runs through the whole torso, through the neck via the vocal cords, then passes around the digestive system, liver, spleen, pancreas, heart and lungs. It is an integral nerve in the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our rest and digest capacities, a calming and soothing force in our bodies. As opposed to the sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for our ‘fight or flight’ responses.
The tone of the vagus nerve is important to our health and is key to how well our bodies adapt to stress and recover equilibrium after a stressful event. High vagal tone improves the functioning of many of the body’s systems. It reduces the risk of strokes and heart attacks and regulates blood sugar levels. It’s also associated with feeling calmer and more contented. Low vagal tone, however, is linked to cardiovascular diseases, strokes, diabetes, depression, chronic fatigue and other auto-immune disorders, and much higher rates of all inflammatory conditions including endometriosis, Crohn’s, lupus etc.
Restoring the Body’s Natural Balance
Kevin Tracey, a neurosurgeon based in New York, was the first in the West to discover the link between the vagus nerve, inflammation and overall health. In the late 1990s, while experimenting on a rat, Tracey was surprised to find that when an anti-inflammatory drug was present in the brain, it also blocked inflammation in the rest of the body, even though the amount injected was far too small to have got into the bloodstream and been transferred. He finally realised that the brain was using the vagus nerve to switch off inflammation everywhere.
Prior to Tracey’s discovery, communication between the immune system’s specialist cells in our organs and bloodstream and the electrical connections of the nervous system had been considered impossible. However, Tracey’s experiments proved that the two systems were intricately linked. After over a decade of experimentation, Tracey became convinced that by stimulating the vagus nerve he could block inflammation in the body. In 2011, Tracey, in collaboration with Paul-Peter Tak, professor of rheumatology at the University of Amsterdam, conducted a breakthrough experiment where they stimulated the vagus nerve in rheumatoid arthritis patients by implanting an electronic device, similar to a pace maker.
Patients on the trial showed significant improvement and around one-third are in remission–off medication and effectively cured. Measures of inflammation in their blood also went down, and even those who had not experienced clinically significant improvements insisted it helped them; nobody wanted it removed. When the vagal stimulation was discontinued, the symptoms flared up again. When it was restarted, the system normalised. Tak says that vagal nerve stimulation appears to restore the body’s natural balance. It reduces the over-production of inflammatory proteins that cause chronic inflammation but does not affect healthy immune function. A win for everyone.
However, the technology for vagal stimulation develops, the Western medical world’s understanding of how the body manages disease has changed forever. Tak says:
“It’s become increasingly clear that we can’t see organ systems in isolation, like we did in the past. It’s very clear that the human is one entity: mind and body are one… We didn’t have the science to agree with what may seem intuitive. Now we have new data and new insights.”
At last, science is catching up with what yogis and other mystic and healing traditions around the world have known for thousands of years.
Vagal Tone and Meditation
In 2010, Barbara Fredrickson and Bethany Kok, psychologists at the University of North Carolina, conducted an experiment to see if the relationship between vagal tone and well-being could be harnessed without the need for implants. Volunteers had to record the strength of emotions they felt every day and their vagal tone was measured at the beginning of the experiment and at the end, nine weeks later. Half of the participants were taught a meditation technique to promote feelings of goodwill towards themselves and others. Those who meditated showed a significant rise in vagal tone, which was associated with reported increases in positive emotions. Kok explains:
“That was the first experimental evidence that if you increased positive emotions and that led to increased social closeness, then vagal tone changed.”
Similarly, in 2010 at Nepal Medical College, Kathmandu, researchers Pramanik, Pudasaini and Prajapati, demonstrated the immediate beneficial effect of Humming breath (Bhramari pranayama) on blood pressure and heart rate, both linked to the functioning of the vagus nerve. The study proved that the breathing technique, even when done for only five minutes, stimulated the vagus nerve, activating the parasympathetic system which calmed the heart rate and lowered blood pressure.
The study was carried out to evaluate the immediate effect of Bhramari pranayama by recording the heart rate and blood pressure of volunteers before and after 5 minutes of this slow breathing exercise. The subject was directed to inhale slowly, up to the maximum of about 5 seconds, and then to exhale slowly, up to the maximum of about 15 seconds, while keeping each thumb on each external auditory canal, index and middle finger together on two closed eyes, and ring finger on the two sides of the nose.
During exhalation, the subject must chant the word “O-U-Mmmma” with a humming nasal sound mimicking the sound of a humming wasp, so that the laryngeal walls and the inner walls of the nostril mildly vibrate (Bhramari pranayama, respiratory rate 3/minute). After 5 minutes of this exercise, the blood pressure and heart rate were recorded again. Both the systolic and diastolic blood pressure were found to be decreased, with a slight fall in heart rate. Fall of diastolic pressure and mean pressure were significant. The result indicated that slow pace Bhramari pranayama, done for 5 minutes, stimulated the vagus nerve, activating the parasympathetic system, which calmed the heart rate and lowered blood pressure.
We can use this knowledge to boost our own health and reduce levels of inflammation by toning our vagus nerves with simple daily practices. In Yogic traditions, the vagus nerve is sometimes linked with the kundalini serpent, as it reaches all the way from the colon to the brain with upward pulsing neurons. As such, a number of yoga techniques can be effective in strengthening this vital nerve.
Vagal Toning Techniques
Simple ways to boost your vagal tone and reduce inflammation are:
Humming breathing (Bhramari pranayama)–the easiest way to do this is simply to breathe in through your nostrils then hum as you exhale slowly. There are many variations but this is a good way to start.
- Ujjayi breathing–breathing with the glottis partially closed, as this also stimulates the vocal cords which are intrinsically related to the vagus nerve.
- Alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhan Pranayama)
- Talking–anything that stimulates your vocal cords is going to help.
- Loving kindness-meditation
- Washing your face with icy water–cold water on your face stimulates the vagus nerve–remember this next time you’re feeling really stressed out.
There is a reason why we groan when we’re in pain, why birthing women moan deeply, instinctively we’re activating our vagus nerves by stimulating the vocal cords. Regular practice of the techniques mentioned above will raise your vagal tone, boosting your immune system, reducing any inflammation and contributing to feelings of well-being and contentment. No pills necessary!
A piece for Women’s Health outlines 14 simple ways you can boost your mood today.
Look after number one
Research suggests the happiest people in the world make their own contentment their first priority, which then allows them to give more to those around them.
Eat dark chocolate
A small square of dark chocolate causes the brain to release feel-good endorphins and boosts levels of the so-called ‘happy hormone’ serotonin.
Go for the darkest chocolate you can find; milk varieties are often very high in sugar.
Don’t assume you could be happier
Studies show thinking you will be more content if you were only thinner, richer or more intelligent is often incorrect.
People should also be aware they appreciate life’s pleasures less the more they experience them, hence the initial ‘honeymoon phase’ of relationships.
Drink green tea
According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who drink at least four cups of green tea a day are 44 per cent less likely to experience depression than those who consume just one serving.
Green tea’s amino acid theanine is thought to reduce anxiety and stimulate brain waves that make people feel relaxed, as well as altering feel-good hormone levels.
Exercise may be the last thing you feel like doing when you are down, however, research suggests it reduces sleep, eases insomnia, boosts productivity and improves overall health.
Appreciate the small stuff
Small bursts of joy make a big difference to people’s wellbeing.
A study by the University of Michigan had participants do some photocopying, with half discovering 7p on the machine.
That was enough to make them report greater higher life satisfaction when taking a later survey.
According to a study by the universities of California and Harvard, every happy friend a person has boosts their contentment by nine per cent.
Even hearing laughing triggers a response in the area of the brain that is activated when people smile, according to research from University College London.
Being thankful improves self-worth, diminishes negative feelings, reduces social comparisons, boosts resilience and build social bonds, according to psychologist Dr Sonja Lyubomirsky.
Writing a weekly list of things you are grateful for is more than effective than doing so every day, she adds.
De-clutter your desk
A study published in The Journal of Experimental Psychology found employees who are in control of their working areas are 40 per cent happier and 32 per cent more productive.
Give something back
People who volunteer regularly are less at risk of depression, research suggests.
Forty studies spanning 20 years found giving back lowers depression, boosts life satisfaction and reduces people’s risk of a premature death by 22 per cent.
According to the psychologist Norbert Schwarz: ‘Making £60,000 more in annual income has less of an effect on your daily happiness than getting one extra hour of sleep a night.’
Getting just six-and-a-half hours of shut eye is associated with a greater stress response, according to a University of Surrey study.
Being in nature lowers stress levels and boosts mental health, according to a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
Living near trees, grass and flowers reduces anxiety and depression more than residing in areas with less than 10 per cent tree canopy.
Meditation can change the brain’s structure.
A study by the The National Center for Biotechnology Information found people who meditate have stronger, thicker cortexes, which is the area of the brain that processes emotion.
Studies also suggest meditation makes people less lonely.
Spend money on others
A study published in Science had researchers given £3 or £12 to 46 people with the instruction to spend the money by 5pm.
Some were told to spend it on themselves and others to buy a gift for someone or donate it to charity.
Those who gave their money away were happier regardless of how much they had to start off with.
Originally published here: Jenreviews.com
Yoga is becoming more mainstream in western cultures as those who practice it realize the numerous physical, mental, and emotional benefits that come with the ancient art.
Science has proven that yoga can have a transformative effect on the body, resulting in everything from lowered blood pressure to disease prevention. Here are some of the many health benefits of yoga, as proven by science.
1. Regular Yoga Practice Relieves Stress and Anxiety
Almost every benefit that comes from regularly practicing yoga stems from the activity’s proven stress-reducing properties.
Stress has become the norm in our everyday society. With high-pressure careers, children’s demanding schedules, and little time to focus on self-care, more adults than ever are experiencing dangerously high levels of stress.
Those who experience frequent stress and anxiety are at a higher risk for clinical depression, high blood pressure, chronic disease, insomnia, and a host of other problems. When the body becomes regularly anxious or stressed, it may never get the signal to return to normal functioning.
This can lead to a prolonged ‘fight or flight’ response that is incredibly draining on the body and the mind.
Preliminary research shows that practicing yoga can have the same stress-reducing effects as exercise and relaxation techniques, which makes sense because it is essentially the combination of the two.
The controlled breathing that is inherent in practicing yoga is probably the biggest factor in reducing stress. When focused on breathing, participants have little room to engage in irrational fear, worry, or other obsessive thoughts, many of which are contributing to their stress levels.
Yoga also helps increase mindfulness and the focus on gratitude, both of which help to ease anxiety.
When we take the time to practice yoga, we are taking time to care for ourselves. This has taken a back seat in our current culture, and yoga can teach us to get back to basics.
Focusing just 20 to 30 minutes a day on the self-healing practice of yoga can then lead to other beneficial activities. It can be a gateway to a more calm, focused life.
Bottom Line: Yoga can help reduce stress and anxiety by focusing on breathing and increasing mindfulness and focus on gratitude.
2. Practicing Yoga Improves Cardiovascular Health
Heart health is crucial to our overall wellness. Hypertension and coronary blockage leads to hundreds of thousands of deaths every year.
Relaxation is incredibly helpful when it comes to heart health as it relaxes the blood vessels and reduces blood pressure while increasing blood flow to the heart. Because of its combination of breathing, meditation, and slow controlled movement, yoga is one of the most relaxing exercises on the planet.
Yoga, especially the more energetic forms, also increases the heart rate. This makes it as beneficial to your heart as any other form of exercise. In fact, yoga may actually lower the risk of heart disease as much as traditional exercise such as brisk walking.
Those who are interested in the cardio benefits of yoga should try out the more active forms such as ashtanga yoga, which provide more of a bump in heart rate than other forms. They might also consider pairing a vigorous form of yoga in the morning with a relaxing form in the evening to provide more stress-reducing and sleep benefits.
Individuals who have suffered a heart attack or are recovering from other heart-related issues also benefit from yoga. Because they are unable to perform more strenuous exercises such as jogging or bicycling, the low-key and less strenuous poses of yoga give them the exercise they need without taxing their already strained heart muscle.
In addition, those who have suffered a cardiac event also benefit from the stress-reducing effects of yoga. Having a life-threatening heart attack or stroke can induce acute emotional stress, which continues to have a negative effect on the heart even after the event is over.
Those who have heart-related illnesses often have to face the fact that they have a life-altering condition. This can often cause grief or depression, both of which are proven to be eased by yoga.
Bottom Line: Yoga improves cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure, offering relaxation benefits, and increasing blood flow to the heart. It’s also beneficial for those recovering from a heart attack.
3. Yoga Strengthens Brain Activity
As we age, our brains change. Certain parts, such as the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, shrink. Because these areas are crucial to our learning, memory, planning and other mental activities,
This can lead to frustrating memory lapses, inability to focus, and a struggle to retain new information. In extreme cases, in can even lead to neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Not surprisingly, yoga promotes a more focused, calmer mind through its controlled breathing and focus on relaxation. What may come as a surprise, though, is that yoga can actually change the physical makeup of your brain matter.
Using MRI scans, scientists have detected more cells in certain brain areas of those who practiced yoga regularly. Yoga practitioners had larger brain volume in their somatosensory cortex, visual cortex, hippocampus, precuneus and posterior cingulate cortex. These areas are in charge of visualization, concept of self, and directing attention.
Scientists attribute these benefits to the focused breathing in yoga, which maximizes oxygenation and blood flow to the brain. These benefits also led to fewer depressive symptoms and increased memory performance in practitioners.
The happier and more positive thoughts that flow from yoga can also help change the chemical composition of the brain and ‘rewire’ it to focus more on positive thoughts.
When we break the habit of reacting to stressful events with anxiety and negative thoughts, which yoga helps us do, we encourage the mind to embrace more beneficial thinking. This helps us embrace the present moment and let go of harmful anxiety.
Bottom Line: Yoga helps increase brain matter in various areas of the brain, leading to better memory, less depression and more focus. It also helps rewire the brain for positivity and promotes a calm mind.
4. Practicing Yoga Can Lower the Risk of Cancer
Cancer remains one of the leading causes of death in the United States. In fact, one of four deaths in the U.S. can be attributed to some form of cancer.
Practicing yoga may prevent the genetic mutation from expressing in those who have a family history of cancer. This means that it can have powerful cancer prevention properties. It can also help reduce fat stores in the body, which reduces the likelihood of cancer developing and spreading.
Chronic stress, which yoga helps to reduce, weakens your immune system and leaves you more susceptible to diseases like cancer. It can also enable cancer cells to grow and spread as it increases negative hormones and certain growth factors.
The stress-busting quality of yoga can boost your immune system and regulate hormones, both important cancer-fighting tools.
In addition to cancer prevention, a regular yoga practice with the soothing music from yoga DVDs can also help those who are battling cancer by lowering inflammation, boosting energy, and lifting the mood. One study showed that regularly practicing yoga for three months was effective in improving the negative moods of those undergoing treatment for breast cancer.
Cancer treatments can also cause fatigue and zap strength in those undergoing them. Yoga has proven beneficial in combating these symptoms and can improve range of motion in patients and help them stay limber and active.
Bottom Line: Yoga can help prevent cancer by reducing fat stores and preventing genetic mutation expression. It can also assist those undergoing cancer treatments by keeping them limber and boosting energy.
5. The Deep Breathing and Poses of Yoga Improve Digestion
Devotees of yoga believe that all health begins in the gut. If we are digesting food, air, water, and energy properly, every other part of the body and mind suffer.
Yoga improves our body’s internal rhythms, which assist in how we digest and detoxify. Even if you don’t currently suffer from any outward signs of impaired digestion, increasing our body’s ability to remove toxins is extremely beneficial.
Many people suffer from poor digestion and constipation. Not only is it uncomfortable, but it can also lead to colon cancer and other diseases.
Still others have developed chronic digestion disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease. These disorders can have a serious impact on our quality of life.
Relying on laxatives or other interventions is not a good way to combat digestive issues, and many find that a high fiber diet is not enough to resolve their issues. That’s where yoga can come in handy.
Deep breathing, the cornerstone of all yoga practices, is like a mild massage for the digestive tract. Breathing brings life force into the body, and helps cleanse it of dangerous toxins.
There are also a number of different poses, such as the peacock and nauli, that are designed specifically to get waste moving through and out of your body. Many of these are best done in the morning on an empty stomach and after a glass of warm water with lemon.
In addition to being helpful for improved digestion on its own, the practice of yoga also encourages individuals to take care of themselves with a healthier diet, more rest, and fewer processed foods and beverages.
The increase in self-care helps not only with digestion, but with feeling good as a whole.
Bottom Line: Yoga helps move toxins through the body with deep breathing and specific poses aimed at improving digestion.
6. Those Who Practice Yoga Are More Aware of What’s Going on in Their Bodies
The term ‘body awareness’ can take many forms, each of which can be enhanced by the practice of yoga.
As we grow into adults, most of us start losing touch with our bodies as matters of the mind take over. We focus so much on our thoughts and feelings, we forget about the mind-body connection and how powerful it is.
This can lead to a reduction in the enjoyment of simple pleasures such as the feel of the sun on our face, or the warm breeze across our skin.
It can also lead to a disconnection between ourselves and our bodies. As we age, this disconnection becomes more pronounced, which is why we often hear of seniors experiencing more falls and accidents than their younger counterparts.
When we’re aware of and connected to our bodies as we step into our yoga pants, we’re able to better enjoy the present moment and understand what impact it has on us both physically and mentally.
Yoga brings body awareness to the forefront. Each pose is focused on one or more body parts and as we breathe in and out, we are only only aware of that breath but also of the part of the body we are currently stretching.
Yoga is also based on being aware of what your body is and is not capable of. Because no pose should be forced, those who are practicing yoga must listen to their body and make adjustments based on what it is telling them.
Bottom Line: Yoga helps increase the mind-body connection. This enhances enjoyment of the present, and also encourages us to be more in tune with how our bodies move.
7. Yoga Practice Lowers Sugar Levels in the Blood, Decreasing Diabetes Symptoms
Diabetes is an epidemic that is becoming quite common in the United States. A condition that is triggered by high blood sugar, either due to lack of insulin production in the body or the body’s lack of response to insulin, diabetes can lead to a dependence on medication, amputations, or even death.
Type 1 diabetes tends to develop in childhood or early adulthood and is usually genetic while type 2 diabetes usually develops in adulthood and is often a product of an unhealthy lifestyle.
Along with lowering blood pressure and keeping weight in check, yoga helps with diabetes by reducing the levels of sugar in the blood, all of which help slow the rate of progression and lessen the severity of complications.
Though it’s a more gentle form of exercise than most people are used to, yoga still provides a workout. The boost in heart rate experienced by yoga practitioners can improve glucose metabolism and increase insulin sensitivity, both beneficial to diabetes sufferers.
Cravings for sweets is a common symptom of diabetes, and the ensuing consumption of sweets only aggravates the problem. Deep breathing, yoga positions, and meditation can help reduce these cravings.
When we become more aware of the mind-body connection through the practice of yoga, we can identify what our bodies really need and make healthy decisions about what we put in our body.
Bottom Line: Regular practice of yoga can decrease blood sugar levels, keep weight in check, and reduce stress, all of which help improve diabetes symptoms.
8. The Practice of Yoga Can Help Regulate Your Adrenal Glands
Adrenal fatigue syndrome can cause lack of energy, disrupted sleep, anxiety, and a number of other symptoms that are triggered by a sustained ‘fight or flight’ response in the body. This can result from prolonged levels of stress, a traumatic event, or a stressful living situation.
When your adrenal glands are not functioning correctly, too much cortisol is released into your body and it compromises your immune function. Those who have adrenal fatigue syndrome get sick more often and have a lowered level of energy to deal with the sickness. They are also more susceptible to osteoporosis and high blood pressure, and tend to gain more fat in the abdomen area.
Mastering the breathing that is the center of all yoga practices is a key element in managing stress levels. Because high stress is the main contributing factor to adrenal issues, it makes sense that this type of breathing will lower cortisol levels and lessen the symptoms of adrenal fatigue syndrome.
When we practice yoga, we also give our minds a chance to quiet down and take a break from any negative our repetitive thoughts that often take over when our adrenal glands are overwhelmed.
This can be a beneficial time to check in with ourselves and identify how we’re feeling. Those experiencing high stress often put themselves last, which only leads to more stress.
Yoga encourages us to to take some time for ourselves. When we look deep, breathe, and practice self-care, we can often deal with negative emotions and the situations that are causing them.
Bottom Line: The regular practice of yoga can reduce stress and lessen the release of cortisol, helping to combat the symptoms of adrenal fatigue syndrome.
9. Yoga Strengthens Bones
Weight-bearing activities have long been known to strengthen bones, which is why many of those who are at risk for osteoporosis are encouraged to begin a strength-training workout regimen. Yoga training, with its many positions that put pressure on different body parts, can be considered weight-bearing and has shown the ability to build bone mass in scientific studies.
In contrast to other, more intense cardio exercises like jogging or weight training, yoga does not damage cartilage or stress the joints. Instead, it lengthens and holds muscles, which creates tension on the bone. This helps to build bone strength.
The release of cortisol, the hormone triggered by stress, is another factor in osteoporosis. Yoga, with its relaxing and stress-calming nature, can reduce the amount of cortisol that is released and therefore lessen the impact it has on the bones.
As few as a dozen yoga poses held for 30 seconds each, if done on a daily basis, can be enough to ward off osteoporosis and strengthen bones in the spine, arms, and legs.
Bottom Line: Performing weight-bearing exercises, including various yoga poses, can reduce calcium-destroying cortisol and build bone density.
10. The Healing Powers of the Breath Aid in Improved Respiration
Yoga is all about harnessing the healing powers of the breath. Though all of us must breathe to live, most of us do not breathe efficiently.
Experts agree that to feel your best, you should breathe approximately 5 to 6 breaths per minute. However, most of us take anywhere from 14 to 20 breaths per minute, which is three times faster than what is healthy.
Breath changes depending on emotion, and vice versa. When we get panicked, upset, or angry, we tend to breath more shallowly and at a faster rate. When we get used to breathing this way because of chronic stress, our body gets used to it and we develop the habit of breathing quickly even in normal circumstances.
When we breathe at a slow and relaxed pace, we are signaling to the brain that it can rest and that no dangers are present. This reduces stress hormones, turns off danger warnings, and allows our body to recover.
Not only do we turn off the ‘fight or flight’ response of our nervous system when we breathe deeply, but we also increase chest wall expansion and lung volumes. This is beneficial to all who practice yoga, but can be especially important for those dealing with a respiratory illness or condition such as asthma.
Everything in yoga is based on the breath. Pranayamic breathing exercises can be performed anywhere when you are in need of stress relief or relaxation. Make sure the air quality in your practice environment is good, however – consider getting an air purifier if that is not the case.
All other forms of yoga, from the extremely gentle restorative yoga to the more intense vinyasa and ashtanga practices, also rely on a basis of breathing deeply and being aware of how your breathing affects every part of your body and mind.
Bottom Line: All forms of yoga are based on breathing. The regular practice of yoga teaches us how to pay attention to the breath and can improve lung volume and chest capacity, helping those who deal with respiratory issues.
11. Chronic Pain Can Often Be Managed Effectively with Yoga
Chronic pain, whether caused by a disease like fibromyalgia, an accident, or a side effect of treatments for other conditions, can easily impair quality of life. If bad enough, it can also trigger brain structure changes that are linked to impaired cognition, anxiety, and depression.
The regular practice of yoga can help those with chronic pain manage it on a number of levels. If pain is due to muscle or joint issues, such as the case with arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, or back pain, the simple act of regular stretching with a yoga ball chair and range of motion exercises can be enough to significantly reduce pain.
The increased flow of oxygen to brain and muscle tissues that results from the breathing and movement of yoga also help improve energy levels and general feelings of well-being, making it easier to deal with physical pain.
This breathing, combined with the physical movements of yoga, can help release muscle tension held in your body. This often decreases pain or, in some cases, relieves it entirely.
The benefits of yoga as it relates to pain management do not stop there, however, Yoga also appears to increase gray matter in your brain through a process called neurogenesis. There are also indications that it can strengthen white matter connectivity. Many researchers believe that reduction of gray matter and weak connectivity are the most significant factors in chronic pain.
Yogis dealing with pain can also benefit from the stress reduction and decrease in cortisol release the practice brings. This not only helps with tension, but can also help them cope with the anticipation of pain. Instead of having a ‘fight or flight’ reaction to pain, those who have practiced yoga may be able to form a more gentle reaction that does not trigger additional stress.
Bottom Line: The breathing and movement associated with yoga can help those suffering from muscle or joint pain. Regular yoga practice can also trigger changes in the brain that can help chronic pain sufferers deal with and lessen pain symptoms.
12. Those Who Practice Yoga See Fewer Allergy Symptoms
Do you deal with the misery of itchy eyes, scratchy throat, fatigue, and congestion that comes with allergies? Millions of people suffer from allergies brought on by pollen, grass, dust, pet dander, or other substances to the point that it affects their work, their social life, and their sleep.
How do allergies develop? Many scientists have studied the phenomenon and found that an allergic reaction occurs when your immune system over-responds to an otherwise harmless substance. Your body mistakenly treats this substance like a dangerous invader and releases histamines.
Histamines are a faulty immune response, and they can condition the body to display symptoms that start to resemble a disease. Many argue that, to be susceptible to allergies, sufferers may have a compromised immune system, weak digestive system or be experiencing toxic overload.
Yoga addresses many different levels of wellness that can lead to a reduction in allergy symptoms. Stress is a leading cause of a poor immune system and digestive problems, and can also be a toxin that makes the body weaker.
As we’ve already addressed many times in this article, the regular practice of yoga is one of the best stress reducers on the planet. Of the many benefits of stress reduction, an improvement in allergies is just one.
Kriyas, or cleansing practices, are another element of yoga that can help with allergies. These practices range from rapid breathing exercises to gentle cleansing of the nasal passages with salt water, which can remove viruses and pollen from the nose.
Studies have also found that regular yoga practice may reduce inflammation in the body. Another harmful effect of stress, inflammation can worsen allergies and cause attacks to be more severe.
Bottom Line: Those who practice traditional yoga or engage in cleansing kriyas can reduce their susceptibility to allergies and also improve the symptoms associated with them.
13. The Increased Blood Flow and Reduced Stress Associated with Yoga Can Increase Fertility
Couples who have struggled with conceiving a child often turn to fertility drugs or even more intensive measures of in vitro fertilization to realize their dreams of having a baby. Before turning to costly and sometimes side-effect laden treatments, couples should first explore the more gentle treatment of practicing yoga.
Yoga enhances fertility in the ways one might expect: by reducing stress that can often harm the chances of conceiving. Stress can lead to the release of an enzyme, called alpha amylase, which can impact a woman’s fertility. Many women who have problems conceiving are stressed to begin with, then become more stressed as they fail to conceive. This can lead to a vicious cycle where stress continues to increase each month, making it more and more difficult to get pregnant.
In addition to stress reduction, yoga can also increase blood flow to reproductive organs, which not only improves their function but also improves hormone function.
All regular yoga practices can help with fertility, but those who are actively trying to conceive may benefit from the more targeted fertility yoga practice. This is aimed specifically at nurturing, supporting, and strengthening the endocrine and reproductive system.
Fertility yoga incorporates specific poses that re-balances the system and strengthens muscles and organs that are used during pregnancy and childbirth. This helps make for a healthy pregnancy once a woman conceives.
Bottom Line: The stress reduction and rebalancing benefits of yoga can help women who want to conceive. Those struggling with fertility issues may want to practice targeted fertility yoga that helps with both conception and a healthy pregnancy.
14. A Consistent Yoga Practice Can Lead to a Balanced Metabolism
Your metabolism is the basic biochemical process that converts the food you eat into the energy you need to live. A sluggish metabolism can mean weight gain, low energy, and problems with regularity.
Though long thought to be a practice focused mostly on relaxation and stretching, yoga can actually be a moderately strenuous workout that increases muscle, increases heart rate, and revs up the fire of your metabolism.
In addition to increasing heart rate to boost metabolism, the practice of yoga also affects digestion, circulation, and muscle tone, all of which have an impact on how efficiently your body creates energy.
With the majority of your digestive tract located in your core, the yoga positions that engage the abdomen, especially those that involve twisting or bringing the knees to the chest, can wring out toxins and encourage waste to pass through your body.
Circulation is another factor important to your metabolism. If your body has poor circulation, your organs suffer from a lack of nutrients and oxygen, which slows metabolism. The deep breathing inherent in yoga helps open up arteries and release pressure, all of which help with proper circulation.
Many people make the mistake of thinking yoga is not strenuous enough to build muscle mass. However, the weight bearing features of many of the poses target large and small muscle groups, building them in size and density.
When we build muscle, we not only increase strength, but we also burn more calories. Muscle burns more than fat, and the more calories we burn, the more our metabolism rate increases.
Bottom Line: Yoga has an effect on digestion, circulation, and building muscle, all of which positively affect your metabolism.
15. Practicing Yoga at any Time of Day Helps You Sleep Better
Sleep is crucial to our energy levels, mood, concentration, and ability to be happy and successful in our everyday lives.
Those most sleep experts recommend that adults get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep per night, most of us get far less than this. Even if you are in bed for the necessary hours, inability to get to sleep, waking up frequently, or tossing and turning can turn those hours into less-than-quality rest.
Insomnia or reduced sleep quality can be the product of stress, underlying illness or disease, poor sleeping conditions, vitamin deficiency, or hundreds of other factors. This often makes it difficult to identify what issues are at play.
Though every person may have a different reason for not sleeping well, yoga can have a beneficial effect on everyone’s sleep quality. Because the nervous system is responsible for a restful sleep, yoga’s calming effects are especially helpful.
A calm mind leads to a calm body, both of which play a part in how easy it is to get to sleep and how restful that sleep is. Many people are bothered by a ‘busy mind’ that simply cannot shut off at the end of the day.
Yoga teaches us how to breathe deeply and disconnect from our worries and from those distracting thoughts that tend to keep us up at night. By giving ourselves the tools to put thoughts aside and instead focus on our breath, we give ourselves an excellent tool for the perfect night of sleep.
Although a regular yoga practice done consistently at any time of day will undoubtedly affect your sleep, those who really struggle may benefit from poses done at night that are specifically aimed at helping you sleep more soundly.
Others benefit more from a Kundalini yoga sequence before bed that incorporates long, slow breathing and meditation. It’s best to try out both methods to see what leads to a better night of sleep for you.
The Bottom Line: The stress-relieving benefits of a consistent yoga practice can help improve your sleep quality. Those with sleeping problems can also benefit from a bedtime routine that includes specific poses or deep breathing paired with meditation.
16. All Forms of Yoga Work Wonders on Your Range of Motion
Range of motion is important to our overall quality of life, and it decreases as we age. Important for injury prevention as well as as our ability to do daily tasks with minimal discomfort, range of motion can be increased with regular yoga.
Why does range of motion decrease as we age and how can yoga combat this? As we get older, the tissue around joints tend to thicken and cartilage decreases. The knees and hips are especially susceptible to these depletions, making them more prone to injury in older individuals.
As muscle mass decreases, this also affects our range of motion as we age. Our ease of movement decreases, and general fitness levels tend to drop.
When range of motion decreases, it often triggers a snowball effect. Movement becomes more difficult, so individuals tend to move less often. This, in turn, triggers more movement impairment.
Yoga is based on controlled, prolonged stretching. This type of movement is still comfortable for those who are experiencing a lack of flexibility or injury that restricts range of motion.
Not only is yoga a practical exercise for those in this situation, but it also tends to reverse the lack of flexibility that they experience.
A daily practice of prolonged stretching that is inherent in any yoga program elongates the muscles and enables joint flexibility.
The slow, deliberate process of gently stretching muscles over a long period of time is both beneficial and achievable for those of all ages. It can be done throughout the lifetime and rarely needs to be suspended due to injury or other ailments.
Bottom Line: The gentle and prolonged stretching that makes up the core of yoga helps increase range of motion and preserve it throughout the lifetime.
17. Practicing Yoga Can Help Treat Arthritis
Arthritis is an excruciating affliction that severely impacts quality of life. Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, can occur at any age, and is triggered by a faulty immune system. Osteoarthritis, or OA, is a degenerative disorder that usually takes place as a person ages. It’s estimated that there are over three million cases of OA in the United States per year.
While medication can greatly help both those suffering from RA and OA, exercise is always recommended as well. Because arthritis is characterized by painful swelling in the joints, many forms of traditional exercise may be unbearable.
Yoga is incredibly easy on the joints and is usually a comfortable activity for even the most severe arthritis sufferers. The gentle stretching of yoga can ease joint discomfort and the focused breathing can help those in pain distance deal with the chronic distress.
The muscle-building and energy-boosting effects of yoga can also help those with arthritis. OA and RA tend to zap energy, which leads to a sedentary lifestyle and muscle atrophy. Those who practice yoga tend to be more active, which lessens arthritis symptoms.
The psychological benefits of yoga on those suffering from arthritis are also to be noted. Those with arthritis who regularly practice yoga suffer from less depression, improved coping abilities, stress reduction and an enhanced sense of well-being.
Bottom Line: Yoga is a safe and effective form of exercise for those suffering from both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It helps ease joint discomfort and boosts energy and a sense of well-being.
18. Practicing Yoga Leads to a Healthy Lifestyle and Enhanced Self-Care
Bad choices lead to more bad choices. A lack of exercise can easily lead into bad eating habits, which leads to weight gain, which leads to even less exercise.
A sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle results in a depressed mood, low energy levels, and an overall pessimistic attitude.
Sometimes, it just takes one thing to start turning it all around. Yoga can be that one thing.
Because it can be practiced by individuals at any age and in any shape, yoga is a practice that can be adopted by virtually everyone.
Yoga increases our awareness, which often leads practitioners to start making changes in every part of their lives. As they develop more self-awareness, they often make changes that include healthier food choices, fewer toxic relationships, and more time to take care of themselves.
Over time, these choices add up to a much healthier and happier lifestyle. The increase in overall quality of life can even equal more years on your life.
Bottom Line: Yoga increases self-awareness, which leads to other healthy choices and overall increase in wellness and happiness.
Have you seen any recent posts on social media about experienced yoga teachers needing surgery to repair practice-related injuries? It’s not really actually news – yoga teachers have been injuring themselves for a long time.
What IS news is that famous teachers used to hide their injuries – but now, fortunately, transparency is de rigueur. This recent spate of revelations involves teachers disclosing their injuries and providing commentary on how they didn’t know they were injuring themselves, or that they had been taught that more is better, or that childhood trauma made them want to perform difficult poses.
And while I feel empathy for each of them individually, and am very grateful that the veil of yoga injuries is being lifted, the ubiquity of teaching styles that value challenging postures continues to be problematic.
Some of these injured teachers have achieved fame (and built wealth) by teaching risky, harmful practices to thousands of students. The problem is not confined to LA yoga, there are plenty of teachers across the country doing the same. What I hope is that these disclosures can prompt a collective foray into the worldview that glorifies and promotes difficult yoga postures as the highest goal.
I got into yoga way back because it gave me an alternative to a culture that told me I wasn’t good enough and I had to try harder to be more of something that I was never going to be anyway. For me, yoga was a relief from all that pressure. So when yoga got co-opted as a vehicle to propagate those values, it put my spandex in a twist – yoga was my way to rebel, not conform, and it pisses me off that people have used yoga to reify the status quo.
The bottom line is that famous or otherwise, athletic and hypermobile or not, yoga teachers have an ethical responsibility to keep students safe. Whether you are teaching these poses in class, or posting pictures of yourself in them on Instagram, you are not necessarily propagating or modeling safe practice.
Of course we can’t keep everyone safe all the time – people can get injured just getting out of bed in the morning. But I don’t want to contribute to the possibility of injury if I can avoid it. The first principle of yoga is ahimsa. Try not to harm – you can’t put it all on your students.
When I started teaching yoga in 1995, it was in a suburb of Philadelphia. I had just gotten back from living in Asia for four years, and the stone age analog news of the yoga fitness craze had not yet reached me. We just did it old style – like Lilias on TV, or the yoga that I learned from my hippie social studies teacher in middle school and the monks I studied with in India. It was slow, mindful, and breath centered. Definitely not Instagram material.
But in 2001 I moved to Asheville, despite the warning I’d been given that “you can’t throw a yoga teacher without hitting a massage therapist” there – and I was both. But I quickly got schooled. Yoga here was hot, fast, athletic and, woah, not what I was capable or interested in doing or teaching. I dabbled in vinyasa because, well, I wanted students to come to my classes, and, let’s face it, it’s not rocket science. But I often felt beaten down – I wasn’t particularly thin, athletic, hypermobile or dancer like, and that’s what people seemed to want.
In 2004 I reclaimed my practice, named it “Subtle Yoga” and slowly people started to realize that what I taught had some value – even if it wasn’t trendy. Now, with all the injuries of long time practitioners being reported, I think we’ll see an even greater surge of interest in slow, adaptive practices that help heal the nervous system and don’t blow out your joints.
I have to confess that there’s something simmering inside of me – a grumpy, menopausal mouthful of sputtering I-told-you-sos. But there’s also some flowering empathy and I choose to give that a bit more attention, because I know how to help people who want something more out of yoga than medical bills. I am happy to show you how to do this safely. Just ask.
I worry about the Instagram tribe – all the young, lithe, beautiful hypermobile women who post pictures of themselves defying gravity. You may end up needing surgery in 10 years because of your beautiful posts – but you can also choose to do things differently. You can learn how to leverage your athleticism for sustainability.
You are splendid just the way that you are – you don’t need to hyperextend your already hypermobile joints and obliterate the integrity of your structure.
You don’t have to destroy your body to prove your value. Check out our upcoming RYT200 training here.
Instagram Warning: Use at your own risk. Side effects may include: knee injuries, spondylolisthesis, herniated discs, labrum and rotator cuff tears, broken toes, wrist strains, wardrobe malfunctions, and bruised egos. Please be aware that surgery and/or therapy may be required in 10 years or so.
Relax, you can beat diabetes… by doing yoga: Ancient practice can lower blood sugar levels
- Some patients may even be able to cut down on the medication after yoga
- Study found one session of yoga led to a reduction in blood glucose levels
- Visible changes could be seen within ten days of continuous practice
People with diabetes should be encouraged to take up yoga to keep the condition under control, say experts.
Doing 45 minutes of the ancient relaxation practice for just ten days can have a dramatic impact on lowering blood sugar levels.
Some patients may even be able to cut down on the medication they take to treat their condition after regular sessions.
Dr Venugopal Vijayakumar of the S-VYASA yoga university, who carried out the study, said: ‘Even one session of yoga has led to a reduction in blood glucose levels.
‘In the current study, visible changes could be seen within ten days of continuous practice.
‘However, we recommend regular practice of yoga at least for three months to show an improvement in the glycaemic control of people with diabetes.’
The new study, published in the journal Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews, looked at 1,292 people diagnosed with either type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes, which is when someone has abnormally high blood sugars, but is not yet in the diabetic range.
The findings suggest that yoga could be used to help treat the condition and even prevent it from developing in those at risk.
Blood sugar levels of participants were measured both before they started yoga and after the sessions.
The results showed that fasting plasma glucose (FPG) – blood sugar levels – decreased by ten per cent in people who completed ten days of practical yoga sessions and lectures on diabetes and yogic concepts.
Dr Venugopal said: ‘Our research showed that yoga helps with better glycaemic control in people with type 2 diabetes.
‘This was a large-scale community-based study performed with more than 1,000 diabetes patients from different socio-economic statuses, education, cultural backgrounds and age groups.’
It is thought the blood sugar reduction induced by yoga is not just down to the physical movement. Dr Venugopal said: ‘Yoga has been shown to bring about a reduction in stress hormones, inflammation and oxidative stress, so reducing insulin resistance.’
According to Diabetes UK, there are more than 4.5 million people in Britain with the debilitating disease. Of these, more than a million have type 2 without realising because they have yet to be diagnosed.
A further 11.9 million are at increased risk of developing the condition.
It is thought that a ten per cent reduction in FPG levels would help reduce the risk of complications for diabetes patients.
Dr Venugopal advises that yoga should be practised every day as a way of life rather than just for exercise. But even doing a 45-minute session five times a week could have a huge impact.
Dr Emily Burns, research communications manager at Diabetes UK, said: ‘We know that exercise can help people with type 2 diabetes manage their condition better.
‘While some research suggests that yoga may help people lower their blood glucose levels, this study doesn’t tell us whether yoga is more beneficial than other types of physical activity.
‘We suggest people choose exercise they most enjoy, be it walking, cycling to work, yoga classes or any other type.’
A Weekend Workshop offered at Prama Institute & Wellness Center
It is amazing how only a couple days of silence can create a sense of self discovery and camaraderie. Our Slient Meditation and Yoga Retreats give participants the opportunity to connect with themselves and others at a deeper level beyond the usual discourse.
This weekend retreat will give you the opportunity to revitalize yourself, unclutter your mind, deepen your understanding of yourself and others, and discover sources of strength you may have only glimpsed but now can come to own. Silence allows you the time you always wanted to put things into perspective, find the balance, and recognize what the signs of your life are trying to tell you.
Silent Meditation and Yoga retreats at the Prama Institute are unique:
- We combine open periods of personal reflection with powerful meditations, both sitting and moving.
- Yoga classes that combine flow and restorative poses.
- The nature walks along the scenic trails of our land are ideal for experiencing the beauty and peace around you and within.
- The visualization exercises help you reflect on where you have been, where you are, and where you are going.
- Journaling lets you express your discoveries and remember them whenever you want to review them.
- And, of course, our legendary gourmet meals keep it all in perspective.
When: April 7 – 9, 2017
Location: Prama Institute
Program: Silent Yoga & Meditation Retreat
Faculty: Howard Nemon, Sid Jordan
COST & REGISTRATION
$350 (Till March 15), $395 (After March 15)
$450 (Till March 15), $495 (After March 15)
I’ll bet you have a best friend, a mother-in-law, a client, or someone in your life who you know would benefit so much from yoga practice but who doesn’t think he or she has the right…(fill in the blank – body, clothes, etc.) to do yoga.
So I created the Subtle Solutions to Soothe Anxiety and Stress Kit for your doubting, anxious, but really-in-need-of-yoga friend, relative, or client – but it’s also for you on those days when you need some stress relief but don’t feel like doing a strong practice.
Actually I’ve been working on this project for a few months. I shot the video with a professional videographer last summer, and it took a while for us to edit them and figure out what music to use (or not use!), and do the voiceover. And then I spent some time thinking about how the information in this video is so helpful and how could I best get it out to people who need it. So I asked a friend and she said, “Why not make a kit?”
A fine idea! So then I wrote an ebook and recorded a Yoga Relaxation (Yoga Nidra) script. And I’ve wrapped it all up in a nice package for you, your clients, and your stressed out relatives! Here’s a link to more information about the kit.
Please check it out!
I’m still posting, almost daily, short videos of breath centric asana variations on Instagram and Facebook. Lots of people have written to tell me how much these posts are helping them personally and several teachers have let me know how much the videos are helping them enliven their classes.
So check them out! Follow @subtleyoga on Instagram to access them. My 12 year old son is the director, producer (and occasional critic) of my Instagram career. 😉
Feeling a little stressed this season? Here’s a blog I wrote today about the necessity of utilizing yoga during times of increased stress. Hope it helps!
Hug everyone you love!
The chemical secrets of the Mediterranean diet: High levels of magnesium help to reduce risk of strokes, diabetes and heart disease
- Scientists have found magnesium reduces the risk of diseases such as diabetes
- This can be found in stalwarts of the Med diet such as leafy greens, nuts, fish
- The key is not eating just one of the above but a wide range of foods containing the mineral, the Chinese researchers say
A Mediterranean diet is famously good for you because it is high in fruit and vegetables, while keeping red meat and dairy to a minimum.
But scientists have found another reason why it is so beneficial – it is rich in magnesium.
This is found in leafy greens, nuts, whole grains, meats and fish, which help reduce the risk of preventable diseases. Spices, beans and cocoa are also rich sources of magnesium.
The key is not eating just one of the above but a wide range of foods containing the mineral, the researchers say.
Scientists have found magnesium reduces the risk of diseases such as diabetes This can be found in stalwarts of the Mediterranean diet such as leafy greens, nuts, fish
A magnesium-rich diet produced a 10 per cent lower risk of coronary heart disease, 12 per cent lower risk of stroke and a 26 per cent lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
The NHS recommends 300mg of magnesium a day for men and 270mg a day for women.
Yet 11 per cent of women and 16 per cent of men are magnesium deficient, while nearly half of teenagers do not have enough.
Dr Fudi Wang, lead author of the study at Zhejiang University in China, said: ‘Low levels of magnesium in the body have been associated with a range of diseases but no conclusive evidence has been put forward on the link between dietary magnesium and health risks.
Data show that even in developed countries such as the United States, many adults fail to meet the recommended daily intake of magnesium, Dr Wang explains.
That is despite the fact that studies have already demonstrated low levels of serum magnesium can increase the risk of a wide range of diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and cardiovascular disease.
It is therefore crucial to raise awareness about magnesium’s precise affect on the human body, he says.
‘Importantly, although these foods contain relatively high levels of magnesium, the daily requirement for magnesium is difficult to achieve through a single serving of any one food item,’ Dr Wang added.
‘Therefore, consuming a wide variety of magnesium-rich foods will help ensure adequate daily intake of magnesium.
‘Here, we focused our analysis on the association between dietary magnesium intake and the incidence of highly prevalent chronic diseases and all-cause mortality.’
The research, involving data from 40 studies covering 1999 to 2016, was published in BMC Medicine.