Boost Immunity, Reduce Stress and Fight Common Ailments with YOGA

Practicing yoga can help unite the mind and body in a way that fosters health and well-being.  Numerous studies have shown that yoga positively affects the body’s musculoskeletal, circulatory, endocrine and nervous systems.  Yoga can also increase muscular strength, balance , flexibility, precision of movement and tonicity while reducing the risk of injury commonly found in contact sports and high-impact exercise.

Additional good news!  Yoga’s influence on health is gaining increased recognition in mainstream medical circles.  Studies from the Harvard Medical School and University of Massachusetts Medical Center conclusively show that yoga and meditative relaxation boost immunity, reduce stress and aid in the healing of many chronic illnesses.  This is why many prestigious hospitals and wellness centers now offer yoga classes to their patients. Powerful proof that yoga is beneficial to our health!  Ready to give it a try?

Yoga for Immunity and the Common Cold – Downward Facing-Dog

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Yoga helps keep the immune system strong on a day-to-day basis using poses, asanas, to lower stress hormones that compromise the immune system.  It also strengthens your resistance to viral and bacterial intruders that lead to infection.  Recommended asanas (like Downward Facing-Dog, Camel Pose, Child’s Pose, Supported Bridge, Cobra Pose, Back Bends, Forward Bends and Twists) also condition the lungs and respiratory tract, stimulate the lymphatic system to release toxins and bring clean, oxygenated blood to the organs.

Yoga for Insomnia – Standing Forward Bend

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If you have difficulty falling asleep, stress is a likely culprit.  Regular asana practice can reduce tension and help you wind down when it is time for bed.  Calming asanas such as forward bends, twists, simple inversions, lying with your feet elevated or up on the wall and gentle breathing can all help with insomnia.

Yoga for Back Pain – Wide Leg Standing Forward Bend

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When it comes to back pain, consistent stretching of the low back and hamstrings are your best bet.  Backaches can result from injury, overuse or mis-use, but the prime culprit often lies in mis-alignment.  A constant tug-of-war between your abdominals pulling the pelvis forward and the hamstrings counter pulling the pelvis back.  Yoga poses like the Wide Leg Standing Forward Bend give the spine and opportunity to lengthen horizontally while the hamstrings and inner thigh muscles lengthen vertically, thus reducing pressure on the back.  Another good way to stretch the low back is to lie down while drawing your knees into the chest and lifting your nose toward your knees (like giving yourself a big hug).

Yoga for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Cobra Pose

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Mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) can be treated with asanas that facilitate wrist rejuvenation and counteract repetitive movements, stress and strain on the upper back, neck, shoulders, hands, arms and wrists.  A regular practice of yoga can strengthen these areas and reduce overall physical stress by teaching you how to be aware of your posture, alignment and breathing – how to sit, lift, stand and stretch – when performing activities that contribute to CTS.

Yoga for Strained Eyes and Blurry Vision – Corpse Pose

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Blurry vision, distorted vision and stinging dry eyes are common in individuals who sit at a computer or mobile device for more than three hours at a time.  It is also common in individuals who study, read or do paper work for extended periods without a break. The best remedy – dim the lights, lie down and take a break.  If you are in an office setting and you cannot lie down, force yourself to get up and stretch at least once for every hour spent at the computer.  Close your eyes, quiet your mind, practice deep breathing and let your mind relax!

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Boosting Brain Health For Seniors

strong-brainNeuroscientists are now convinced that the brain is capable of superior performance even into the 10th decade and beyond? If the brain remains healthy and free from disease, it can continue to function normally for as long as we live. Sustained brain health and enhanced lifelong learning are vital parts of aging and improve quality of life.

Terry Eckmann, PhD, an associate professor at Minot State University in North Dakota and an advisory board member of the International Council on Active Aging, shares what you can do for your mental and physical health to promote a healthy brain.

Exercise

Neuroscientists recommend swimming, dancing, gardening, knitting, more frequent use of the non-dominant hand and leg, and walking 10,000 steps on a daily basis (Nussbaum 2006). Small (2006) encourages regular physical activity that includes an adequate cardiovascular workout. Medina (2008) suggests that aerobic exercise is the key to lowering the odds of getting Alzheimer’s by 60%. A daily 20-minute walk can cut the risk of having a stroke, one of the leading causes of mental disability in the elderly, by 57%. Ratey (2008) calls aerobic exercise Miracle-Gro® food for the brain, “fertilizing” cells to keep them functioning and growing.

Mental Activity

It’s important to use the brain to keep it healthy. Nussbaum recommends activities like playing board games, doing crossword puzzles, learning a second language, taking a class, increasing exposure to classical music and acquiring new skills. Small (2006) reports that participating in such leisure activities as playing board games, reading books or doing crossword puzzles cuts the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by nearly a third.

A Healthy Diet

Balanced nutrition is essential for body and brain health. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture 2010) provides science-based advice on food choices for good health. The guidelines recommend a diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat milk; includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts; and is low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, salt and added sugar. Water is also essential for the electrical transmissions within the nervous system that make us sensing, learning, thinking and acting organisms.

ACSM Activity Guidelines For Older Adults

As part of a 2007 report titled Physical Activity & Public Health Guidelines, the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association published the following Activity Guidelines for Adults Over Age 65 (or adults 50–64 with chronic conditions, such as arthritis):

  • Do moderately intense aerobic exercise for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week or do vigorously intense exercise 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week.
  • Do 8–10 strength training exercises, performing 10–15 repetitions of each exercise 2–3 times a week. Strength training is important because it prevents loss of muscle mass and bone and is beneficial for functional health.
  • If you are at risk for falls, perform balance exercises.
  • Have a physical activity plan.

If you don’t already exercise, it’s important to get started—and seek help if necessary. The general recommendation is that older adults should meet or exceed 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week; however, it is also recognized that goals below this threshold may be necessary for older adults with physical impairments or functional limitations. However, if you can exceed the minimum amount of exercise, do it!

Flexibility is also important. For each day older adults perform aerobic or strength training activities, they should take an extra 10 minutes to stretch the major muscle and tendon groups, spending 10–30 seconds on each stretch and repeating stretches 3–4 times.

Published as a service of IDEA, the leading international membership association in the health and fitness industry, www.ideafit.com.

http://www.SusanIverson@IDEAConnect.com

 

Banish A Negative Mood

You wake up to the sound of an annoying alarm, you’re dead tired, and you just plain feel out of sorts. Ugh! How do you go out into the world—or even get out of bed!—when you are feeling so blah? April Durrett, IDEA contributing editor, and health, fitness and lifestyle writer shares mindful strategies that can help you shake off the blues.

Use Mind-Body Methods

What can you do if you wake up on the wrong side of the bed? Try these strategies.

Use Body Scanning. “When you wake up, get in the habit of scanning your body,” advocates Linda Moseley of the Coaching Gym in Hurley, England, and Torino, Italy. “See if there is tension in your body. [Feeling out of sorts is] negative energy held in the body. Recognize tension as negative energy, and start to know exactly the intensity of this by scoring it on a scale of 1–10 (with 1 being very low negative energy and 10 being major reactive negative energy). Then, do the following: remember a time when you were at your best (on a positive energy scale of 1–10, choose a time when you would give a high score of at least an 8), and visualize it, [making] the pictures intense in color and the feeling warm and peaceful. Notice your breathing, and start to inhale on six counts and exhale on six. Do this for the time that it takes you to get out of the bathroom and dressed. Smile and look up with your eyes to the ceiling, and keep them there with the smile for at least 30 seconds.”

Meditate. Mary E. Miriani, an ACSM health/fitness instructor at Reality Fitness Inc. in Naperville, Illinois, utilizes meditation to shift her mood. “I draw my attention to my breath, taking in positive energy with each inhalation and releasing negative energy with each exhalation,” she says. “Sometimes, doing this for 5 minutes is all it takes. If not, I picture a drawer, a closet and a window in my mind. I imagine putting small issues in the drawer, larger issues in the closet and things that are out of my control out the window, closing each in turn as I leave my problems to be dealt with either at a more appropriate time or by my higher power (those things I have no control over). I envision light pouring into the top of my head and down through my body, filling me with light that I will radiate out to the people I meet that day.”

Pay Attention To Nutrition

If you ignore your daily nutrition needs, you may find yourself in a bad mood more often than you want. “On my wrong-side-of-the-bed days, I am particularly careful about my food selection,” says Pat Massey Welter, a personal trainer who owns Suncoast Pilates & Personal Training Center in Palm Harbor, Florida. “I need the time every morning to sit down in the café near my studio, have a cup of tea or coffee, eat a balanced breakfast of carbohydrate, protein and some fat, read the newspaper and reflect on the upcoming day. If I miss this routine, I have a hard time getting into the proper mood.”

For A Consistent Positive Mood

You can proactively work to shift things in your life so that your bad moods occur less often. “The only way you can change your mood is to make active attempts to do so,” says Mary Bratcher, MA, DipLC, of The BioMechanics in San Diego. “Instead of dwelling on dark or angry feelings, decide to focus your thoughts on coming up with solutions. For example, if the sound of your alarm clock makes you feel like smashing it to bits, don’t continuously think about how much you hate your alarm clock. Instead, shift your thinking to what type of sound you would like to hear or the manner in which you would like to be awakened in the mornings. Then make a plan to get a new alarm clock or wake-up device.”

This handout is a service of IDEA, the leading international membership association in the health and fitness industry.  For more information, visit SusanIverson@IDEAFitnessConnect.com or www.ideafit.com