How YOGA Changes Your Body

After Class.

Improved Brain Function.
Just 20 minutes of Hatha yoga — an ancient form of the practice that emphasizes physical postures rather than flow or sequences — can improve cognitive function, boosting focus and working memory. In a University of Illinois study, participants performed significantly better on tests of brain functioning after yoga, as compared to their performance after 20 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise.

Lower Stress Levels.
Yoga’s stress-busting powers may come from its ability to lessen the activity of proteins that are known to play a role in inflammation, according to a study published last year from University of California, Los Angeles researchers.

Alter Gene Expression.
A small Norwegian study suggested that yoga’s many healthy benefits might come from its ability to alter gene expression in immune cells.

Increased Flexibility.
A recent Colorado State University study found that Bikram yoga — a form of yoga in which a series of 26 postures are performed for 90 minutes in a heated room — is linked with increased shoulder, lower back and hamstring flexibility, as well as greater deadlift strength and decreased body fat, compared with a control group.

After A Few Months.

Lower Blood Pressure.
People with mild to moderate hypertension might benefit from a yoga practice, as a study from University of Pennsylvania researchers found that it could help to lower their blood pressure levels. Researchers found that people who practiced yoga had greater drops in blood pressure compared with those who participated in a walking/nutrition/weight counseling program.

Improved Lung Capacity.
A small 2000 Ball State University study found that practicing Hatha yoga for 15 weeks could significantly increase vital lung capacity, which is the maximum amount of air exhaled after taking a deep breath. Vital lung capacity is one of the components of lung capacity.

Improved Sexual Function.
A 2009 Harvard study published in the The Journal of Sexual Medicine showed that yoga could boost arousal, desire, orgasm and general sexual satisfaction for women. Yoga can also improve women’s sex lives by helping them to become more familiar with their own bodies, according to a review of studies published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, as reported by CNN.

Reduced Chronic Neck Pain.
A German study published in The Journal of Pain showed that four weeks of practicing Iyengar yoga (a type of Hatha yoga that stresses proper alignment and the use of props) is effective in reducing pain intensity in adults suffering from chronic neck pain.

Anxiety Relief.
A 2010 Boston University study showed that 12 weeks of yoga could help to reduce anxiety and increase gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels in the brain (low levels of GABA have been linked with depression and anxiety disorders).

Relief from Chronic Back Pain.
Researchers at West Virginia University found Iyengar Yoga to be more effective in reducing pain and improving mood than standard medical treatment among those with chronic lower back problems.

Steady Blood Sugar Levels in People with Diabetes.
Adding yoga to a typical diabetes care regimen could result in steady blood sugar levels, according to a 2011 Diabetes Care study. Reuters reported that just three months of yoga in addition to diabetes care resulted in a decrease in body mass index, as well as no increases in blood sugar levels.

Improved Sense of Balance.
Practicing an Iyengar yoga program designed for older adults was found to improve balance and help prevent falls in women over 65, according to a 2008 Temple University study.

After Years.

Stronger Bones.
A 2009 pilot study by Dr. Loren Fishman showed that practicing yoga could improve bone density among older adults.

“We did a bone mineral density (DEXA) scan, then we taught half of them the yoga, waited two years, and did another scan,” Fishman previously told The Huffington Post. “And not only did these people not lose bone, they gained bone. The ones who didn’t do the yoga lost a little bone, as you would expect.”

Healthy Weight.
Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found an association between a regular yoga practice and decreased weight — or at least a maintained weight — among more than 15,000 healthy, middle-aged adults.

“Those practicing yoga who were overweight to start with lost about five pounds during the same time period those not practicing yoga gained 14 pounds,” study researcher Alan Kristal, DPH, MPH, told WebMD.

Lower Risk Of Heart Disease.
As part of a healthy lifestyle, yoga may lower cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, according to Harvard Health Publications.

***

From: Huffington Post

How to Deal with Depression

Depression can drain your energy, hope and drive, making it hard to do what you need to feel better.But while overcoming depression isn’t easy, there are plenty of little things that can help you on the way to recovery.Many people make the fundamental mistake of presuming that depression is sadness, but the two are entirely different things.

While sadness is a normal human emotion that comes and goes and is usually caused by certain events, depression is a constant feeling of sadness and hopelessness.

And while the mental illness, which can last for weeks, months or even years, can’t be overcome through willpower alone, there are ways to beat it.

Even if your depression is severe and persistent, small steps like avoiding isolation, exercising and learning relaxation techniques can help ease the symptoms.

Here, life coach and clinical hypnotherapist Sloan Sheridan-Williams reveals her top tips for dealing with depression:

1. BREAK TASKS DOWN INTO SMALL STEPS A common symptom of depression is the feeling of being overwhelmed even by ordinary day-to-day tasks.Even getting out of bed and getting dressed can feel like a huge hurdle and people become more withdrawn and less active as depression becomes more severe.

The best way to overcome feeling overwhelmed is to break down the activity in small, easier-to-achieve chunks.

This can either be in the form of writing a step-by-step list of everything that needs to be done or mentally visualising all the actions that would take place to complete a task and then doing those actions in sequence, slowly but surely.

2. AVOID ISOLATION BY CONNECTING WITH PEOPLE

Depression evokes behaviours in people which tend to cut them off from the outside world. As a result they can become more withdrawn and less talkative or sociable.

This develops into a vicious cycle where the less time the depressed person spends with others, the less time they want to spend with others.

Connection is one of the six basic emotional needs and when depression takes hold it is often the need that gets most neglected in favour of satisfying the need for comfort through isolation.

When the first signs of depression appear it is important to spend more time cultivating relationships with family, loved ones and friends, for these are the very people who will be there for the individual as their support network.

Being able to talk about your problems makes dealing with them easier and therefore it is very helpful to identify the people you can trust and rely on.

3. GO FOR A WALK The correlation between exercise and feeling good has long been established.And feel-good hormones such as dopamine and endorphins which are produced during exercise can improve mood in individuals with mild to moderate depression.

It can be difficult to stay motivated when depressed so vigorous exercise such as running or going to the gym can be tough to keep up.

However even moderate exercise like a brisk walk has been shown to improve mood.

I suggest to my clients a brisk walk for 30 minutes a day, five times a week as it has shown to have a significant positive influence on the symptoms of mild to moderate depression.

Even better is walking with someone you care about, as this will increase the level of love hormone oxytocin in the brain.

4. ACCEPT PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY

The power of the mind is an amazing thing, and although pharmaceutical intervention is certainly beneficial in cases of severe depression, individuals can work towards overcoming mild or moderate depression faster if they start to take personal responsibility for their actions and behaviours.

This advice is not about “pulling yourself together” but more about what decisions need to be made by the individual to make them feel more powerful and happy.

We have all the answers we need inside of us and the challenge is to find ways to access those answers to help improve our quality of life.

It is good to establish the fact that you are the one who can make things happen rather than have things happen to you.

5. LEARN SOME RELAXTION TECHNIQUES 

Deep breathing and relaxing the muscles are the basis of all relaxation techniques and these two physiological actions work very effectively to help the psychological aspects of depression.

Breathing should be slow and rhythmic, inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.

Deep muscle relaxation is an excellent technique for everyone to master – not just those with depression – as it can be used anywhere to help deeply relax the body.

Each part of the body is tensed for a few seconds and then relaxed moving from the toes to the head systematically.

Yoga and tai chi are also great ways to help relax the body, and can provide the individual with much needed connection if done in a class.

6. CHALLENGE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS Negative thinking and obsessing on unhelpful thoughts are two common symptoms of depression.Shifting the focus of the mind is key to getting perspective on the situation and reclaiming your power.

When you take responsibility for your thoughts and turn such focus towards gratitude you will start to feel comforted about the more positive aspects of yourself and your environment.

It is important for the individual to identify any warped thoughts, like negative filtering and over-generalisation that are not representative of reality, by getting perspective.

7. IMPROVE YOUR DIET 

Eating four to six small meals throughout the day rather than two to three large ones can help stabilise blood sugar, giving you more energy to deal with the day and avoiding sugar crashes and cravings that will sap what energy you do have.

Reducing the amount of simple carbohydrates like refined sugar and white flour in your diet can also help keep blood sugar levels stable and therefore help improve mood when depressed.

Although we head straight for the biscuit tin when we are feeling blue, eating processed carbohydrate-rich foods like sweets, biscuits, cakes and white bread will leave you feeling sluggish and heavy.

Swap these foods for healthier wholegrain or low GI alternatives which will have less impact on blood sugar and also keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Some of my clients find eating a high protein, low carbohydrate diet can also help. Seeking a nutritionist’s advice can play a huge part in helping you seek the balance you need, both nutritionally and mentally.

8. TAKE AN OMEGA-3 SUPPLEMENTOmega-3 is an Essential Fatty Acid (EFA) which has a positive effect on mood when taken in high enough doses as a supplement.It is present in fish, shellfish, flaxseed, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds so can easily be supplemented into a diet naturally should you so wish.

Alternatively, they are commonly taken as fish oil, krill oil or linseed oil supplements.

9. LIMIT ALCOHOL AND CAFFEINE 

Alcohol and caffeine in the form of coffee are used by many who are depressed to purportedly help them through the day.

This form of self medication may seem like a useful coping strategy to some, however it is far from helpful as both alcohol and caffeine are psychoactive drugs which cross the blood-brain barrier and affect brain function resulting in changes in mood, thinking, behaviour, perception and consciousness.

Alcohol is a commonly abused substance within the general population and in cases of depression sufferers often use alcohol for its depressant effects.

Caffeine is known to be a stimulant used to keep awake and more alert.

Such seeking of comfort or stimuli to just make it through the day shows that a fundamental human emotional need is not being met by other means and so we look for a short-term fix which is not only temporary but hollow.

The short-term effects of these psychoactive drugs may appear beneficial but in the long term brain chemistry is in fact being altered and mood ultimately becomes more unstable which can make the symptoms of depression worse.

10. HAVE A REGULAR SLEEP TIME

Getting a good night’s sleep is important for everyone but especially for those suffering from depression. Conversely too much sleep (over eight hours) can exacerbate depression.

As with most things it is about balance and everything in moderation.

Regular sleeping hours are essential in managing mood and having a regular bedtime and rise time is important too.

The depressed individual should be going to bed and waking up at the same time every day of the week including weekends.

Go back to basics, set alarms, create a routine and introduce calming rituals before bed.

Studies have shown that regular sleep routines have a positive effect on mood and actually reduce depressive symptoms over time.

Darkness and light are also very important in this. Other tricks that work for my clients include avoiding bright lights of TV, computers and overhead lights after 9pm as this allows you to get a better night’s sleep.

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From EXPRESS by Laura Mitchell

Travelling for Work & Discovering Yoga

Just got back from 5 days of work out of the office! I love being a lawyer and I enjoy helping people out, but let me tell you, the past few days have been INSANE! Normally, we are tasked to handle around 6 cases a month, give or take other assignments. But this time, we were tasked to finish our workload in 5 days! I swear I thought I was going to collapse any moment.

So what did I do to keep sane?

Luckily, the hotel we were staying at had a gym so I made sure I put in at least an hour each day while we were there. It’s such an amazing feeling to be able to do cardio past 30 minutes. I normally can’t last till 15 minutes! I’m really looking forward to getting better at it.

I also discovered amazing yoga exercises for my neck and back. The hotel bed was quite uncomfortable so I woke up with crazy neck cramps and back pain. I found the info photo below online and decided to try it. VOILA! No more neck pain! You know the stuff they tell you about yoga and its benefits? It’s REAL! I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if yoga can help cure major diseases.

Check out these yoga poses. Do them and hold each pose for around 5 to 10 breaths each. Meaning inhale exhale slowly around 5 to 10 times before you switch to another pose. Hope they work for you like they did for me.

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xoxo,

Cristine