Tag Archives: yoga

Sore back? Try yoga

I have written about yoga a number of times here. About a month ago I posted on a yoga study – yoga and back pain.

For the record, I dated a yoga teacher some years ago and practiced it religiously for the two years we were together and for several years afterward. So I am very familiar with its practice and results. I have certainly used the relaxation techniques available from yoga breathing virtually every day of my life.

I recently had some problems with my lower back. It was stiff and painful. It also felt like I was aggravating it riding the bike. So I went to the doctor. Upon examination, she told me that at my age, 77, I may have lost some of my flexibility, particularly in my spine. She recommended doing some yoga to see if it gave me relief.

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First, some back pain facts.

WebMD says, “Back pain includes lower back pain, middle back pain, upper back pain or low back pain with sciatica. Nerve and muscular problems, degenerative disc disease, and arthritis can result in back pain.”

More than three million cases per  year are reported in the U.S. alone. Continue reading

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Yoga helps low back pain – Study

I was lucky enough to encounter yoga over 30 years ago. While I still practice it for flexibility and strength training, I think the greatest benefit I got from it was the ability to relax myself through deep breathing.Over the course of their lives, about 80 percent of Americans will suffer from back pain at one time or another. A recent study found that more than a third of adults say that low back pain has affected their ability to perform the tasks of daily living, exercise, or sleep. Treating this pain remains a difficult problem, and for millions of people the pain is chronic.

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Now, a new study by scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) has concluded that yoga may be helpful for low back pain. The study appeared earlier this month in the online journal Cochrane Library.

“We found that the practice of yoga was linked to pain relief and improvement in function,” said the study’s lead author, L. Susan Wieland, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Family & Community Medicine at UM SOM, and Coordinator of the Cochrane Complementary Medicine Field at the Center for Integrative Medicine at UM SOM – an NIH grant-funded project that performs systematic reviews of various integrative medicine topics. “For some patients suffering from chronic non-specific low back pain, yoga may be worth considering as a form of treatment.”

Wieland and her co-authors reviewed 12 separate studies looking at yoga for low back pain. The trials, which included more than 1,000 participants, compared yoga to a non-exercise intervention, such as educational material given to a patient, or to an exercise intervention such as physical therapy. The researchers found that there was low to moderate certainty evidence that at three and six months, patients using yoga had small to moderate improvements in back-related function, as well as small improvements in pain.

Yoga performed about the same as non-yoga exercise in terms of improving back function at three and six months, although the researchers found few studies comparing yoga to other exercise and therefore considered the evidence to be very low certainty.

Yoga is a physical and spiritual practice that originated more than 2,000 years ago in India. Over the past several decades, it has become increasingly popular in the U.S. and other western countries. It typically involves a combination of physical movements, controlled breathing, and relaxation or meditation.

Most of the trials used Iyengar, Hatha, or Viniyoga forms of the practice. Because all study participants knew whether or not they were practicing yoga, and their reporting of changes in pain and functioning could have been affected by this knowledge, the study outcomes could only be graded with “moderate” certainty at best. The study also found that patients using yoga had more adverse effects than patients who did not use exercise, but had similar rates of adverse effects as patients who used non-yoga exercise. The adverse effects were mostly increases in back pain. Yoga was not associated with serious side effects.

The research team also included scientists from the University of Portsmouth in the UK and the University Hospital of Cologne in Germany.

Here are some further posts I have done on yoga;

Why should I do yoga?

Are there immediate benefits to doing yoga?

Yoga stretches for cyclists

If you want to read more type Y O G A into the search box at the right.

Tony

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Pilates For Weight Loss: Ten Tips on How, Exactly, Does This Work

I visited This blog to thank the blogger for liking something I had written. In the process, I ran across this post on Pilates and was so impressed with the quality of the information in it, that I thought I would share it with you.

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Tony

Wondering, whether your Pilates routine will help you to lose weight fast? Do Pilates benefits include weight loss effect or the slim and well-toned body promises are just encouraging words from Pilates instructors? Just recently, I heard from a CrossFit trainer that “while Pilates has definite benefits, its strongest suit is certainly not weight loss.” As the fitness enthusiast with more than 25 years in dancing, all kinds of fitness training and mind-body practices, I respectfully disagree.

Triggered by those words above, I have done some research through hundreds of fitness forums and gladly present its results, completed with my personal journey as the Pilates institutor and observation of my clients, in the article below. Hopefully, this post will help you clarify how effective are Pilates classes for losing weight and whether Pilates is the first choice for weight loss purposes. 

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6 ways to use your mind to control pain – Harvard

In an effort to keep as many foreign substances outside of my circulatory system, I take as few drugs as possible. Since I suffer from arthritis of the hands, I have to resist the temptation to get into painkillers daily. I fear the side effects more than my hands hurting.

The Harvard Health Publications offer  a number of techniques, some of them age old, that may reduce one’s need for pain medication.

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No respecter of age, arthritis pain can strike in numerous places.

The following techniques can help you take your mind off the pain and may help to override established pain signals.

1. Deep breathing. It’s central to all the techniques, so deep breathing is the one to learn first. Inhale deeply, hold for a few seconds, and exhale. To help you focus, you can use a word or phrase to guide you. For example, you may want to breathe in “peace” and breathe out “tension.” There are also several apps for smartphones and tablets that use sound and images to help you maintain breathing rhythms. Continue reading

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Pilates or Yoga? – Infographic

I dated a yoga teacher and practiced it for years. I think learning the breathing techniques alone are worth it. I am pretty ignorant about Pilates. I took one class, but had a bad teacher, so never went back. I do know that a lot of people I respect practice it. A trainer told me that if you want a longer, leaner line, go with Pilates; if you want to condition your mind and body, do yoga.

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Tony

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5 Yoga poses you can do anywhere – Infographic

I am not much of a health club person. They just make me feel like I am in prison, breathing stale air with a bunch of other inmates. One of the things I love about yoga is that you don’t have to go any place special to do it and it works wonderfully in the great outdoors or your living room floor.

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To read more on yoga, check out these posts:

Why should I do yoga?

8 Benefits of yoga – Infographic

What are two good yoga stretches for cyclists?

Yoga for arthritis; yoga for seniors

Are there immediate benefits to doing yoga?

Tony

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Filed under yoga

Exercise ideas for hot weather

As regular readers know, I feel strongly about the great outdoors, savoring the experience of it as well as exercising outdoors. Summer has made its presence known with a vengeance this year and there is a time and a place for everything.

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I have been riding my bike around sunrise lately as a method of avoiding the oppressive heat. I am 76 years old and in excellent shape, but my doctor said that she tells even her 40-year-olds not to push exercise in extreme heat. You can check out my Page – How to deal with extreme heat for lots more examples.

Meanwhile the Go4Life folks offer the following excellent suggestions for heat extremes:

 •    Walk on the treadmill, ride the stationary bike, or use the rowing machine that’s gathering dust in your bedroom or basement. Or use one at a nearby gym or fitness center.
    •    Work out with an exercise DVD. You can get a free one from Go4Life.
    •    Go bowling with friends.
    •    Join a local mall walking group.
    •    Walk around an art gallery or museum to catch a new exhibit.
    •    Check out an exercise class at your neighborhood Y.
    •    If you like dancing, take a Zumba® or salsa class.
    •    Try yoga or Tai Chi.
    •    Go to the gym and work on your strength, balance, and flexibility exercises or set up your own home gym. All you need is a sturdy chair, a towel, and some weights. Soup cans or water bottles will do if you don’t have your own set of weights.
    •    Go to an indoor pool and swim laps or try water aerobics
    •    How about a game of indoor tennis, hockey, basketball, or soccer?
    •    Go indoor ice skating or roller skating.
    •    Maybe it’s time for some heavy duty cleaning. Vacuum, mop, sweep. Dust those hard-to-reach areas.

Tony

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Pressed for Time? Don’t Overlook Micro-Workouts

As an old retired guy, I am rarely pressed for time, so I can get in my 10 and 20 mile bike rides over the course of a day without much difficulty. Clearly, that wasn’t the case when I was working.

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If you are still in the working world you know what I mean. Speaking of the working world, don’t forget the dangers of prolonged sitting. Get up from that desk and move around a bit every hour or so.

Regarding exercise needs, according to the 2008 U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans:

Adults 18 to 64 should get:
2.5 hours/wk of moderate intensity exercise.

OR 1.25 hours a week of vigorous aerobic physical activity
OR Some combination of the above – equivalent episodes of at least 10 minutes spread throughout the week.

The 10 minute interval cuts the issue of exercise down to more bite-sized periods. But wait, Rachel Bachman writing in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal reports that studies since 2008 have documented physical benefits from as little as one minute of intense intermittent exercise, not including a warm-up and cool down. Continue reading

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8 Techniques to Relieve Pain – Harvard

Everyone experiences pain at some time in their life. As Harvard says in this latest HEALTHbeat, “Sometimes pain has a purpose — it can alert us that we’ve sprained an ankle, for example. But for many people, pain can linger for weeks or even months, causing needless suffering and interfering with quality of life.”

As an old retired guy who suffers from arthritis in the hands, I understand how pain can lower the quality of your life and I welcome any advice on relieving it.

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“If your pain has overstayed its welcome, you should know that you have more treatment options today than ever before. Here, we’ve listed eight techniques to control and reduce your pain that don’t require an invasive procedure — or even taking a pill.”

1. Cold and heat. These two tried-and-true methods are still the cornerstone of relieving pain for certain kinds of injuries. If a homemade hot or cold pack doesn’t do the trick, try asking a physical therapist or chiropractor for their versions of these treatments, which can penetrate deeper into the muscle and tissue.

2. Exercise. Physical activity plays a crucial role in interrupting the “vicious cycle” of pain and reduced mobility found in some chronic conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia. Try gentle aerobic activities such as walking, swimming, or cycling.

3. Physical therapy and occupational therapy. These two specialties can be among your staunchest allies in the fight against pain. Physical therapists guide you through a series of exercises designed to preserve or improve your strength and mobility. Occupational therapists help you learn to perform a range of daily activities in a way that doesn’t aggravate your pain.

4. Mind-body techniques. These techniques, which include meditation, mindfulness, and breathing exercises (among many others), help you restore a sense of control over your body and turn down the “fight or flight” response, which can worsen chronic muscle tension and pain.

5. Yoga and tai chi. These two exercise practices incorporate breath control, meditation, and gentle movements to stretch and strengthen muscles. Many studies have shown that they can help people manage pain caused by a host of conditions, from headaches to arthritis to lingering injuries.

6. Biofeedback. This technique involves learning relaxation and breathing exercises with the help of a biofeedback machine, which turns data on physiological functions (such as heart rate and blood pressure) into visual cues such as a graph, a blinking light, or even an animation. Watching and modifying the visualizations gives you a degree of control over your body’s response to pain.

7. Music therapy. Studies have shown that music can help relieve pain during and after surgery and childbirth. Classical music has proven to work especially well, but there’s no harm in trying your favorite genre — listening to any kind of music can distract you from pain or discomfort.

8. Therapeutic massage. Not just an indulgence, massage can ease pain by working tension out of muscles and joints, relieving stress and anxiety, and possibly helping to distract you from pain by introducing a “competing” sensation that overrides pain signals.

For more on treating common pain conditions and learning about other mind-body solutions, you can order Pain Relief, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

Tony

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What is a Yoga Trick for Getting to Sleep Quickly?

Regular readers know that I started doing yoga more than 30 years ago while in my 30’s. I did it religiously for the first couple of years, then slacked off some. But, I never stopped doing yoga. I use yoga techniques when I do stretches on bike riding breaks. The yoga breathing sends oxygen-rich blood to my leg muscles and refreshes them to extend the ride.

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I wrote previously about being in Las Vegas on a trip with my girlfriend and dealing with the huge portions of food being served. Another difficulty of being here is that your mind gets going gambling and then when you finally get to bed, your brain is still in high gear.

This Royal Flush is the kind of hand that can keep a player from falling asleep.

This Royal Flush is the kind of hand that can keep a player from falling asleep.

What to do?

Going back to my practice of yoga, the one technique that I have carried forward and used probably every day of my life is breath control. I think it may have saved my life on more than one occasion.

If you aren’t familiar with breath control in yoga, I will share my experience. I learned from a yoga teacher that I was dating, there may well be other further techniques that I don’t know about.

What I do is called diaphragmatic breathing in which you lower your diaphragm by extending your stomach outward (making a potbelly). This is done to a count of five and the result is that the inhaled air reaches deep into the lungs which doesn’t occur in regular breathing. You can hold the breath for a beat or two and then exhale to a similar five count.

Besides sending oxygen-rich blood around to your muscles and brain, this also has a wonderful stilling effect on your mind as well as your body. Remember, when you are stressed, you breathe shallowly – your breath comes in short pants. The yoga breathing is the opposite of that and has the opposite effect. It calms you down.

Whenever I find myself stressed in any way, the first thing I do is to relax and breathe diaphragmatically. This slows my racing mind down and allows me to make clear decisions as opposed to panicked ones.

Now you know the first part . I recently took a yoga class from The Great Courses. In this class, the teacher extended the yoga breath which I have described. In her version, you inhale diaphragmatically to a five count, then, instead of exhaling, you expand your chest and inhale for a further five count. This results in considerably more oxygen getting into your system and also has a stronger impact on slowing your breathing and heart rate.

While practicing yoga breathing concentrate only on the breath you are taking and nothing else. Feel the oxygen entering your lungs and circulating through your body as you inhale. Release the waste air on the exhale thinking only of that. Clear your mind as you fill and empty your lungs.

I have found that using this new technique at night can result in putting me to sleep in no time. It really relaxes me and takes me right down.

If you are having trouble getting to sleep or would just like to fall asleep faster, I suggest you try it.

Finally, because so many readers are concerned about their weight and waistlines, a good night’s sleep is very helpful in controlling your weight. When you sleep badly, or too little, you are more likely to be snacking on sugary, calorie-filled, confections in the afternoon to get an energy boost. So, a good night’s sleep can help you cut down on bad snacks, too.

Tony

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10 Tips for Successful Weight Loss – Infographic

I never cease to be amazed at the information contained in these infographics.

This one has some great suggestions which echo what you have read here in a number of posts. Some of these take a little interpretation. Number 8 for example, says to pray the fat away, because people who are closer to God are more likely to be physically active. I buy the physically active part, you can handle the religious part any way you want. Eat less; move more; live longer – I believe that.

Number 9, however, I fully subscribe to. When I was taking off my 50 pounds in 52 weeks, I absolutely designated Sunday as my cheat day and indulged a bit. It helped to relieve the pressure of my diet and weight loss efforts from the prior six days.

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Tony

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8 Benefits of Yoga – Infographic

I was fortunate enough to get involved with yoga about 30 years ago when I was dating a woman who also taught yoga. I practiced religiously for years after she and I had gone our separate ways. To this day, I am grateful for learning how to still my body and reduce my stress by the simple practice of controlling my breathing. As you can see from the infographic below there are profound benefits to doing yoga. There is also a good section on myth-information about yoga.

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To read further posts on yoga, check out:
Why Should I Do Yoga?
New Study Shows that Yoga and Meditation May Help Train the Brain
Body Strengthening Yoga Poses – Infographic
How can yoga benefit your brain?
Why is Yoga Good for You?
Yoga for Arthritis; Yoga for Seniors

Tony

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4 Stretches to do if you Sit at a Desk – Infographic

Regular readers know that I have written about the dangers of prolonged sitting. Check out:

Sitting Too Much is Killing Us – New York Times
How Sitting Too Long Affects Your Body – Infographic
Sitting is the New Smoking
7 Areas of the Body Affected by Sitting too Long – Infographic
Sitting Is Killing You – Infographic
Exercising More, Sitting Less Reduces Heart Failure Risk in Men
Too Much Sitting can be Hazardous to Your Health and Longevity
The Sitting and Rising Test Gives Clues to How Long You Might Live

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Tony

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How Do I Benefit From Core Exercises? – Harvard

We hear a lot about ‘working the core’ these days. Pilates and yoga are ones that I remember, but how do I benefit from core exercises?

Harvard Medical School offers the following in answer: “Who will notice first? That golf partner who can no longer beat your drives off the tee? The co-worker who wishes that she had as much energy as you at the end of the day? Or will it be the friend who, with more than slight envy, congratulates you on looking so “fit?”

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“The fact is, after beginning a core exercise program, you will notice the difference. You will have greater strength and flexibility for doing everyday tasks. You will have added power for athletic activities. You’ll have less pain and stiffness. And your slimmer waistline and better defined ab muscles will be hard to ignore.

“Core muscles form the central link between your upper and lower body. A strong core underpins almost everything you do. Building up core muscles is key to improving performance in almost any sport by extending your range of motion to lift, bend, turn and reach. It also trims your silhouette and tones your abs and glutes.

Core Exercises is a Special Health Report prepared by Harvard Medical School physicians and Master Trainers. It will show you how you can strengthen your core with workouts that take no more than 20-40 minutes and do not require fancy equipment. They are exercises that will keep you motivated and continue to challenge you as you make progress.

“Six of the workouts consist of 9-10 exercises each that combine classic core moves — planks, squats, and lunges — with exercises that work the full range of core muscles. Each exercise is illustrated and accompanied by tips and techniques, instructions for tempo and movement, and options for making the exercise easier or taking it up a notch.

“The report also gives you four short workouts for busy days or when you need a change. You’ll get tips for exercising safely and effectively. Plus, a handy chart tells you which exercises and stretches are best for your favorite sport.”

Tony

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New Study Shows that Yoga and Meditation May Help Train the Brain

The participants with yoga or meditation experience were twice as likely to complete the brain-computer interface task by the end of 30 trials and learned three times faster than their counterparts for the left-right cursor movement experiments.

Please check out my Page – Important Facts About Your Brain for more on this subject.

Tony

Cooking with Kathy Man

New research by biomedical engineers at the University of Minnesota shows that people who practice yoga and meditation long term can learn to control a computer with their minds faster and better than people with little or no yoga or meditation experience. The research could have major implications for treatments of people who are paralyzed or have neurodegenerative diseases.

The research is published online in TECHNOLOGY, a new scientific journal featuring cutting-edge new technologies in emerging fields of science and engineering.

In the study, researchers involved a total of 36 participants. One group of 12 had at least one year of experience in yoga or meditation at least two times per week for one hour. The second group included 24 healthy participants who had little or no yoga or meditation experience. Both groups were new to systems using the brain to control a computer. Both groups participated in three, two-hour…

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How can yoga benefit your brain?

To summarize all this information, and most importantly, to make you think about the benefits you are already experiencing from yoga, I have summarized some examples. Or, for those who have not yet experienced the benefits of yoga you might consider the realm of possibilities that activate your mind, body, and brain!

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Regular readers know that I feel strongly about the health of the brain. Please check out my Page – Important Facts About Your Brain (and Exercise Benefits).

Tony

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