Yoga is being debated in the House of Lords!

Thanks to Sonia H for the heads up!

21 March 2019

Volume 796

Question

 11.22 am

Asked by

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe

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To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will draw up a strategy and campaign for the expansion, particularly in the National Health Service, of access to yoga and its associated health benefits.

The Earl of Courtown (Con)

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My Lords, there is evidence that yoga helps to build strength in healthy adults and can improve health conditions such as high blood pressure. The UK Chief Medical Officers recommend muscle-strengthening activities on at least two days a week, and yoga is one of many activities recommended in their report, Start Active, Stay Active.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe (Lab)

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I am very grateful indeed to the noble Earl for such a positive response. I am sure that he will agree with the Secretary of State’s statement last autumn that, if the NHS is to survive, we need more social prescribing by GPs, which will help with the financial position. Given what the noble Earl just said, I am sure he will agree that yoga helps people with mental health problems and back pains, those tackling addictions, and people with obesity—a whole range of subjects. Is he willing to meet a group of representatives to discuss how we might take this forward, particularly in the context of the 10-year programme being drawn up to try to offer people greater movements towards better health while saving the NHS money? I declare an interest as the co-secretary of the All-Party Group on Yoga.

The Earl of Courtown

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My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right about the importance of social prescribing—it can be felt right across the population, particularly in relation to mental health. I agree with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State about social prescribing; that is one of his top priorities. The noble Lord asked whether a meeting could be arranged with me, him and other interested parties. I will pass that request on to the Minister responsible so that they can have a useful conversation.

Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate (Con)

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My Lords, it is acknowledged that yoga is very beneficial for mental health: it provides mindfulness, an ability to make better judgments, to relax, and to take decisions in a sensible and responsible way. In light of that, does my noble friend agree that yoga should now be made obligatory for Members of the House of Commons?

The Earl of Courtown

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My Lords, my noble friend makes a very important point about the importance of yoga and the great benefits that it gives to everybody. I have unrolled my yoga mat in my office and am waiting for a lesson from my noble friend Lady Barran, who is a teacher of yoga.

Baroness Walmsley (LD)

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My Lords, there appear to be particular benefits of yoga for older people in improving balance and muscle tone, NICE estimates that falls cost the NHS more than £2.3 billion a year, and we know that older people often become lonely, so the mental health and social benefits of going to classes also apply. Given those facts, will the Government encourage yoga for older people?

The Earl of Courtown

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Yes, the noble Baroness is quite right. The only proviso as far as that is concerned is that more frail elder people should take great care—the noble Baroness makes a hand movement which I think describes her exercise.

Noble Lords

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Oh!

The Earl of Courtown

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Anyway, deep breath! The noble Baroness is quite right about the importance of social prescribing and yoga being of great advantage to the population.

Baroness Meacher (CB)

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My Lords, is the Minister aware that East London NHS mental health trust has for seven years been running and evaluating sports programmes—including yoga, but also many other activities—for people with severe mental health problems? I shall give an example: 100% of those involved in its boxing programme for forensic patients—those with severe mental health problems and a criminal history—have achieved a significant improvement in their mental health and well-being. Will he make NHS England aware of the work in East London and issue guidance to mental health trusts across the country that they should all run a range of sports programmes for people with severe mental health problems?

The Earl of Courtown

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The noble Baroness is quite right: the importance of those various forms of activity is well felt. I do not know the event that she described, but I know that Haringey CCG has created a better care fund to improve health and social care services for older people, particularly those with long-term health conditions. Strength and balance is one of the programmes funded by that partnership; that goes back to the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. I will of course make that point to the department, but more and more areas are getting involved in social prescribing, which is promoted by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and is without doubt doing a great job.

Lord Stone of Blackheath (Lab)

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My Lords, I have just discovered that you can do downward dog on these Benches: I invite noble Lords to join me. With the evidence showing that yoga and mindfulness can be good for preventing and curing illnesses, both physical and mental, what progress has been made with the establishment of a national academy for social prescribing? Will representatives of yoga and mindfulness practice be on it?

The Earl of Courtown

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Yes, my Lords, engagement with stakeholders on the national academy for social prescribing has already begun and they are being consulted. The academy is under development. I have asked the department and NHS England whether representatives of yoga and mindfulness will be engaged in its development.

Baroness Thornton (Lab)

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My Lords, I can bear witness to the efficacy of workplace yoga, as I attended many of the lunchtime sessions organised by my noble friend for seated yoga before the Christmas break. I enjoyed them very much and commend them to all Members of the House. Noble Lords will be very relieved to know that MPs, Peers and other staff were not required to don their Lycra during lunchtime. Is the Minister aware of the amount of workplace yoga being encouraged for NHS staff for not only their mental but their physical well-being, for those who have to lift heavy weights and so on? That programme should be rolled out across the whole NHS.

The Earl of Courtown

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The noble Baroness makes a good point. What she did not mention is how good yoga is for stress, and how to reduce one’s stress levels with movement, breathing and meditation. I know that yoga classes are available in various workplaces, but I was not aware of the NHS programme. I will, of course, bring it to the attention of the department.

Yogis have been doing this for 2500 years!

Proper Breathing Brings Better Health

Stress reduction, insomnia prevention, emotion control, improved attention—certain breathing techniques can make life better. But where do you start?

Breathing is like solar energy for powering relaxation: it’s a way to regulate emotions that is free, always accessible, inexhaustible and easy to use. Credit: Ruslan Ivanov Getty Images

IN BRIEF

  • A growing number of studies show that breathing techniques are effective against anxiety and insomnia.

  • These techniques influence both physiological factors (by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system) and psychological factors (by diverting attention from thoughts).

  • Because these techniques are safe and easy to use, scientific validation might result in their being more frequently recommended and practiced.

As newborns, we enter the world by inhaling. In leaving, we exhale. (In fact, in many languages the word “exhale” is synonymous with “dying.”) Breathing is so central to life that it is no wonder humankind long ago noted its value not only to survival but to the functioning of the body and mind and began controlling it to improve well-being.

As early as the first millennium B.C., both the Tao religion of China and Hinduism placed importance on a “vital principle” that flows through the body, a kind of energy or internal breath, and viewed respiration as one of its manifestations. The Chinese call this energy qi, and Hindus call it prana (one of the key concepts of yoga).

A little later, in the West, the Greek term pneuma and the Hebrew term rûah referred both to the breath and to the divine presence. In Latin languages, spiritus is at the root of both “spirit” and “respiration.”

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Recommendations for how to modulate breathing and influence health and mind appeared centuries ago as well. Pranayama (“breath retention”) yoga was the first doctrine to build a theory around respiratory control, holding that controlled breathing was a way to increase longevity.

In more modern times, German psychiatrist Johannes Heinrich Schultz developed “autogenic training” in the 1920s as a method of relaxation. The approach is based partly on slow and deep breathing and is probably still the best-known breathing technique for relaxation in the West today. The contemporary forms of mindfulness meditation also emphasize breathing-based exercises.

In fact, every relaxation, calming or meditation technique relies on breathing, which may be the lowest common denominator in all the approaches to calming the body and mind. Research into basic physiology and into the effects of applying breath-control methods lends credence to the value of monitoring and regulating our inhalations and exhalations.

Yoga and meditation have inspired many of the breathing exercises used today. The benefits of controlled respiration were first theoretically posited centuries ago by the practitioners of pranayama yoga. Credit: Getty Images

MIND UNDER THE INFLUENCE

Even a rudimentary understanding of physiology helps to explain why controlled breathing can induce relaxation. Everyone knows that emotions affect the body. When you are happy, for instance, the corners of your mouth turn up automatically, and the edges of your eyes crinkle in a characteristic expression. Similarly, when you are feeling calm and safe, at rest, or engaged in a pleasant social exchange, your breathing slows and deepens. You are under the influence of the parasympathetic nervous system, which produces a relaxing effect. Conversely, when you are feeling frightened, in pain, or tense and uncomfortable, your breathing speeds up and becomes shallower. The sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body’s various reactions to stress, is now activated. Less well known is that the effects also occur in the opposite direction: the state of the body affects emotions. Studies show that when your face smiles, your brain reacts in kind—you experience more pleasant emotions. Breathing, in particular, has a special power over the mind.

This power is evident in patients who have breathing difficulties. When these difficulties are sporadic and acute, they can trigger panic attacks; when they are chronic, they often induce a more muted anxiety. It is estimated that more than 60 percent of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have anxiety or depressive disorders. These disorders probably stem in part from concerns about the consequences of the disease (what could be more distressing than struggling to breathe?), but purely mechanical factors may contribute as well: the difficulty these patients experience often leads to faster breathing, which does not necessarily improve the quality of their oxygen supply but can aggravate their physical discomfort and anxiety.

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Rapid breathing can contribute to and exacerbates panic attacks through a vicious circle: fear triggers faster breathing, which increases fear. In 2005 Georg Alpers, now at the University of Mannheim in Germany, and his colleagues observed significant and unconscious hyperventilation when people who had a driving phobia took their vehicles on the highway (where they might not be able to pull over if they become agitated).

Whether anxiety derives from breathing problems or other causes, it can be eased by a number of breathing techniques derived from traditional Eastern approaches (see “Six Techniques for Relieving Stress”). For example, “follow your breath,” an exercise that focuses attention on breathing, is one of the first steps in mindfulness meditation, whereas alternate nostril breathing comes from yoga. Combining reassuring thoughts with breathing is an approach incorporated into sophrology, a technique that emphasizes harmony of body and mind and that borrows exercises from many approaches, including yoga and mindfulness.

Overall, research shows that these techniques reduce anxiety, although the anxiety does not disappear completely. Breathing better is a tool, not a panacea. Some methods have been validated by clinical studies; others have not. But all of those I describe in this article apply principles that have been proved effective. They aim to slow, deepen or facilitate breathing, and they use breathing as a focal point or a metronome to distract attention from negative thoughts.

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SPOTLIGHT ON CARDIAC COHERENCE

A close look at one popular technique—cardiac coherence—offers more detail about the ways that breathing exercises promote relaxation. With the help of biofeedback, the approach attempts to coordinate breathing with heart rate, slowing and steadying breathing to slow and stabilize the heartbeat.

The method was developed based on the understanding that slow, deep breathing increases the activity of the vagus nerve, a part of parasympathetic nervous system; the vagus nerve controls and also measures the activity of many internal organs. When the vagus nerve is stimulated, calmness pervades the body: the heart rate slows and becomes regular; blood pressure decreases; muscles relax. When the vagus nerve informs the brain of these changes, it, too, relaxes, increasing feelings of peacefulness. Thus, the technique works through both neurobiological and psychological mechanisms.

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Cardiac coherence’s stabilization of the heartbeat can dampen anxiety powerfully. Conversely, patients with overactive heartbeats are sometimes misdiagnosed as victims of panic attacks because their racing heartbeat affects their mind.

A typical cardiac coherence exercise involves inhaling for five seconds, then exhaling for the same amount of time (for a 10-second respiratory cycle). Biofeedback devices make it possible to observe on a screen how this deep, regular breathing slows and stabilizes the beats. (The space between two heartbeats on the display is never exactly the same, but it becomes increasingly more consistent with this technique.) Several studies have confirmed the anxiety-diminishing effect of these devices, although the equipment probably has more influence on the motivation to do the exercises (“It makes it seem serious, real”) than on the physiological mechanisms themselves. Simply applying slow breathing with the same conviction and rigor could well give the same result.

Some versions of cardiac coherence recommend spending more time on exhaling than on inhaling (for example, six and four seconds). Indeed, your heart rate increases slightly when you inhale and decreases when you exhale: drawing out the second phase probably exerts a quieting effect on the heart and, by extension, on the brain. This possibility remains to be confirmed by clinical studies, however.

Other work suggests that the emotional impact of the breathing done in cardiac coherence and various other kinds of exercises stems not only from effects on the periphery—on the parasympathetic nervous system—but also from effects on the central nervous system. Breathing may well act directly on the brain itself.

In 2017, for instance, Mark Krasnow of Stanford University and his colleagues showed in mice that a group of neurons that regulates respiratory rhythms (the pre-Bötzinger complex in the brain stem) controls some of the activity of the locus coeruleus, a region involved in attention, wakefulness and anxiety. Breathing techniques may influence this seat of emotions by modulating the activity of the pre-Bötzinger complex.

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Beyond any direct effects produced by slowed breathing, the attention given to inhaling and exhaling may play a role in the brain’s response. In 2016 Anselm Doll and his colleagues, all then at the Technical University of Munich, showed that this attentional focus eases stress and negative emotions, in particular by activating the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, a regulatory area of the brain, and by reducing activity in the amygdala, which is involved in these emotions.

In addition, paying attention to breathing causes most people to slow it down and to deepen it, which as I have mentioned, is soothing. Cognitive resources are limited, and so when individuals concentrate on breathing, they are not thinking about their worries. Those who practice mindfulness learn to notice when their attention drifts away from breathing and goes back to their concerns, and they train themselves to return periodically to their breathing. This refocusing has a relaxing effect on anyone and helps to combat ruminative thinking in people who have anxiety or depression, especially those who are particularly prone to negative thoughts that run in a loop.

WHEN TO USE BREATHING TECHNIQUES

What is the best time to apply slow-breathing techniques? One is during occasional episodes of stress—for example, before taking an exam, competing in a sporting event or even attending a routine meeting at work. In 2017 Ashwin Kamath of Manipal University in India and his colleagues studied stage fright before a public speaking engagement. The participants, all medical students, spent 15 minutes doing alternate nostril breathing—that is, slowly inhaling through one nostril and exhaling through the other by applying finger pressure to the side of the nose not being used. Compared with members of the control group, participants experienced somewhat less stress when speaking publicly.

These exercises may also help when insomnia strikes. In 2012 Suzanne M. Bertisch of Harvard Medical School and her colleagues reported, based on survey data, that more than 20 percent of American insomniacs do these breathing exercises to sleep better. They may be on to something. In 2015 Cheryl Yang and her team at National Yang-Ming University in Taiwan showed that 20 minutes of slow breathing exercises (six respiration cycles per minute) before going to bed significantly improves sleep. Insomniac participants went to sleep faster, woke up less frequently in the night and went back to sleep faster when they did wake up. On average, it took them only 10 minutes to fall asleep, almost three times faster than normal. The investigators attributed the results both to the calming mediated by the parasympathetic system and to the relaxing effect of focused breathing.

But respiratory techniques do not work only for acute stresses or sleep problems; they can also relieve chronic anxiety. They are particularly effective in people with psychiatric disorders such as phobias, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. In 2015 Stefania Doria and her colleagues at Fatebenefratelli e Oftalmico Hospital in Milan, Italy, offered 10 training sessions of two hours each, spread out over two weeks, to 69 patients with anxiety or depressive disorders. The training included a varied set of breathing techniques (such as abdominal breathing, acceleration and deceleration of rhythm, and alternate nostril breathing.), combined with some yoga stretches. The researchers observed a significant decrease in symptoms at the end of the protocol. Even better, improvement was maintained two and six months later, with follow-up sessions just once a week and some home practice during this period.

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Breathing exercises also help to counter the accumulation of minor physical tension associated with stress. Therapists recommend doing them regularly during the day, during breaks or at moments of transition between two activities: you simply stop to adjust your posture and allow yourself a few minutes of quiet breathing. Therapists often suggest the “365 method”: at least three times a day, breathe at a rhythm of six cycles per minute (five seconds inhaling, five seconds exhaling) for five minutes. And do it every day, 365 days a year. Some studies even suggest that, in addition to providing immediate relief, regular breathing exercises can make people less vulnerable to stress, by permanently modifying brain circuits. In a practice that may seem counterintuitive, however, counselors may encourage some anxious patients to breathe rapidly instead of slowly, as part of an effort to train them to cope with their anxieties (see box “Inhale for Panic!”).

But why confine breathing techniques to negative emotions? It is also worth applying them during pleasurable moments, to take the time to appreciate and remember them. In short, one can pause and breathe for enjoyment as well as to calm down.

365 : The name given to a common technique recommended by therapists to counter accumulated stress: at least three times a day, breathe six times per minute (inhaling for five seconds and exhaling for five seconds each time) for five minutes. Repeat all 365 days of the year.

OPEN QUESTIONS

Tradition and experience encourage the use of respiratory-control techniques, and scientific studies increasingly suggest that it is a good idea. Nevertheless, further research is still needed, particularly given that some studies lack control groups. One exception stands out: focusing on breathing often is not a good idea for people having a panic attack that stems from anxiety over their physical state (also known as interoceptive anxiety). In this case, focusing on physiology, such as muscle tension or breathing, may actually amplify panic (“Now that I’m paying attention to it, my breathing doesn’t seem regular. Am I choking? What will happen if I suddenly stop breathing?”) For these people, breathing techniques should be tested and practiced under the supervision of a therapist.

Otherwise, considering how often everyone experiences emotional discomfort in their everyday life and its negative consequences on health, we would all do well to regularly pay attention to the way we breathe. Start with brief periods of conscious, quiet breathing several times a day. Breathing is like solar energy for powering relaxation: it’s a way to regulate emotions that is free, always accessible, inexhaustible and easy to use.

In fact, I am mystified that controlled breathing is not recommended and practiced more widely. Perhaps it is perceived as too simple, commonplace and obvious to be a remedy. Faced with the complexity of negotiating the ups and downs of human life, many people may assume that simple solutions cannot be effective.

Or maybe we are intimidated by the sacred aspect of breathing, by its connection to life and, especially, to death. In the 1869 novel The Man Who Laughs, Victor Hugo wrote: “Generations are puffs of breath, that pass away. Man respires, aspires, and expires.” Ultimately, we don’t like to think that we are nothing more than “puffs of breath.”

Six Techniques for Relieving Stress

Here are some commonly used breathing techniques. Five to10 minutes of exercise can relieve sporadic stress and even fend off panic attacks. More regular practice can lower the daily levels of anxiety.

Stand Up Straight

Posture is important for breathing: hold yourself straight, without stiffness, shoulders back, sitting or standing. This body posture facilitates the free play of the respiratory muscles (of the diaphragm and between the ribs). Good posture enables your body to breathe properly on its own.

Follow Your Breath*

Simply observe your respiratory movements: be aware of each inhalation and exhalation. Focus on the sensations you feel as air passes through your nose and throat or on the movements of your chest and belly. When you feel your thoughts drift (which is natural), redirect your attention to your breath.

Abdominal Breathing

Breathe “through your stomach” as much as possible: start by inflating your belly by inhaling, as if to fill it with air, then swell your chest; as you exhale, first “empty” your stomach, then your chest. This type of breathing is easier to observe and test while lying down, with one hand on your stomach.

Rhythmic Breathing

Near the end of each inhalation, pause briefly while mentally counting “1, 2, 3” and holding the air before exhaling. This counting while not breathing can also be done after exhaling or between each inhalation or exhalation. It is often recommended for anxious patients to calm anxiety attacks because it induces a beneficial slowing of the breathing rate.

Alternate Nostrils*

Breathe in and out slowly through one nostril, holding the other one closed using your finger; then reverse and continue by alternating regularly. There are many variations of this exercise—for example, inhaling through one nostril and exhaling through the other. Research suggests that what is most important, aside from slowing the breathing rhythm, is breathing through the nose, which is somewhat more soothing than breathing through your mouth.

Think Reassuring Thoughts While Breathing

With each breath, think soothing thoughts (“I am inhaling calm”). With each exhalation, imagine that you are expelling your fears and worries (“I am exhaling stress”).

*Technique validated by clinical studies.

Inhale for Panic!

Whereas slow breathing soothes, overly rapid breathing can induce feelings of stress and anxiety. This phenomenon is used in behavioral therapy sessions to train anxious patients to confront their emotions directly. By deliberately hyperventilating, patients artificially trigger an unpleasant anxiety, which they get accustomed to feeling and learn to put in perspective. This technique also enables them to see that poor breathing habits amplify their fear.

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MORE TO EXPLORE

Efficacy of Paced Breathing for Insomnia: Enhances Vagal Activity and Improves Sleep Quality. H. J. Tsai et al. in Psychophysiology, Vol. 52, No. 3; pages 388–396; March 2015.
Self-Regulation of Breathing as a Primary Treatment for Anxiety. Ravinder Jerath et al. in Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, Vol. 40, No. 2, pages 107–115; June 2015.
Mindful Attention to Breath Regulates Emotions via Increased Amygdala-Prefrontal Cortex Connectivity. Anselm Doll in NeuroImage, Vol. 134, pages 305–313; July 1, 2016.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

Christophe André

Christophe André is a psychiatrist at the Sainte-Anne Hospital Center in Paris and a pioneer in the therapeutic use of meditation in France. He has contributed significantly to the practice’s dissemination, especially through his writings, which include the international best seller Mindfulness: 25 Ways to Live in the Moment through Art (Rider, 2014)

Memorising chants can help the brain!

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8876

Neuroscience and the ‘Sanskrit Effect’

By Azriel ReShel on Friday February 23rd, 2018

 

Science Proves the Power of Chanting

Many of us have heard the Gyuto Monks of Tibet. With their extraordinary chanting and low throaty drone of ancient sacred texts, they have kept audiences in the West spellbound with their long, careful and accurate recitations of potent Tibetan Buddhist texts. Sitting in their presence you feel a clarity, and a potent spiritual transference of energy and healing. The Buddhist tradition stems from India and the sacred language of Sanskrit. While Tibetan Buddhists have a rich chanting tradition, in India, this age-old tradition goes back even further.

Sanskrit scholars in India learn to chant ancient texts from a tender age. They chant simple mantras, Sanskrit poetry and prose, along with memorising and chanting the most ancient Sanskrit texts, including the Shukla Yajurveda, which takes six hours to chant. While those listening to these chantings receive the gift of the sacred texts they are sharing with us, the chanting of long texts does, in fact, have an amazing effect on the brain.

Neuroscience shows how rigorous memorising can help the brain. The term the ‘Sanskrit Effect’ was coined by neuroscientist James Hartzell, who studied 21 professionally qualified Sanskrit pandits. He discovered that memorising Vedic mantras increases the size of brain regions associated with cognitive function, including short and long-term memory. This finding corroborates the beliefs of the Indian tradition which holds that memorising and reciting mantras enhances memory and thinking.

Sanskrit pandits train in reciting Sanskrit texts from childhood, for seven years.

An Unexpected Discovery…

Dr Hartzell, a Sanskrit devotee and postdoctoral researcher at Spain’s Basque Centre on Cognition, Brain and Language, spent many years studying and translating Sanskrit and became fascinated by its impact on the brain.

I noticed that the more Sanskrit I studied and translated, the better my verbal memory seemed to become. Fellow students and teachers often remarked on my ability to exactly repeat lecturers’ own sentences when asking them questions in class. Other translators of Sanskrit told me of similar cognitive shifts.

India’s Vedic Sanskrit pandits train for years to orally memorise and exactly recite 3,000-year old oral texts ranging from 40,000 to over 100,000 words. We wanted to find out how such intense verbal memory training affects the physical structure of their brains.

Dr Hartzell’s research is the first study to examine the brains of Sanskrit scholars. Using structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) at India’s National Brain Research Centre, they scanned the brains of 21 Sanskrit pandits and 21 control subjects.

What we discovered from the structural MRI scanning was remarkable. Numerous regions in the brains of the pandits were dramatically larger than those of controls, with over 10 percent more grey matter across both cerebral hemispheres, and substantial increases in cortical thickness. Although the exact cellular underpinnings of grey matter and cortical thickness measures are still under investigation, increases in these metrics consistently correlate with enhanced cognitive function.

He reports that the right hippocampus of the scholars, a region that plays a vital role in short and long-term memory, and is specialised for patterns, such as sound, spatial and visual patterns, had more grey matter than the brains of the control subjects. The right temporal cortex, associated with speech prosody and voice identity, was also substantially thicker.

Regions in the pandits’ brains were dramatically larger than those of controls.

Past Studies

Dr Hartzell is not sure whether the effect relates particularly to the Sanskrit language and plans to conduct further research. The power of sound and chanting is becoming widely documented, and even short chants have an energising and healing effect on the body and mind of those who are chanting sacred mantras or verses. Interestingly, fifty years ago, a French scientist noted that Christian monks who chanted the Gregorian Chants have exceptional memories.

In 1967, Alfred Tomatis, a French physician, psychologist and ear specialist, studied the effect of chanting on Benedictine monks who had been part of a tradition with a strict schedule of daily chanting of up to eight hours a day. When a new abbott changed this schedule, cutting out the chanting, the monks became tired and lethargic, even though they were getting extra sleep. In fact, the more sleep they got, the more tired they were. Alfred Tomatis believed that the chanting was energising their brains and bodies, so he reintroduced the chanting and the monks were soon full of energy again.

Dr Hartzell’s recent study raises the question whether this kind of memorisation of ancient texts could be helpful in reducing the devastating illness of Alzheimer’s and other memory affecting diseases. Apparently, Ayurvedic doctors from India suggest it is the case and future studies will be conducted, along with more research into Sanskrit.

While we all know the benefits of mindfulness and meditation practices, the findings of Dr Hartzell are truly dramatic. In a world of shrinking attention spans, where we are flooded with information daily, and children display a range of attention deficit disorders, ancient Indian wisdom has much to teach the West. Even introducing small amounts of chanting and recitation could have an amazing effect on all of our brains

Yoga for bad backs - Elite Daily.

The Best Yoga Pose For Back Pain Is Incredibly Easy & Can Be Done Almost Anywhere

By Georgina Berbari19 hours ago

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A constant, aching pain your back can ruin your day before it even has a chance to begin. And while it can be tempting to simply mask the feeling with some Advil, there are natural remedies, like yoga, that can help soothe the root of the soreness, rather than put a temporary band-aid on it. However, if you don't have time for a full-on flow, there is one yoga pose for back pain that will get the job done whenever your spine is in need of some major TLC.

Now, it's important to note that, if you've been dealing with chronic back pain for a while now, it's important that you talk to your doctor to see what your treatment options are, and what might work best for you. But, if you've already been-there-done-that, and you have no idea what will make you feel better, at this point, yoga might just be the solution you've been hoping for.

According to research published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, if you find yourself constantly dealing with an achy back, yoga can help to significantly reduce the need for pain medication. The study showed that, of three different groups of people who were suffering from back pain (70 percent of whom were taking meds for it), and were trying various treatments for it, the group who participated in yoga reduced their need for painkillers by a whopping 50 percent.

Now, as a yoga teacher myself, I recommend restorative beginner classes for anyone and everyone experiencing persistent back pain (with the go-ahead from your doctor, of course).

However, if you don't always have time to make it to class, practicing child's pose — or balasana, in Sanskrit — for a few minutes at home will help relieve that lingering upper- and lower-back soreness.

 

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While there are certainly many poses known to relieve back aches and help you return to a pain-free state of being, balasana is the universal pose that can help with a wide range of back tension, without causing further irritation to more intense cases of back discomfort.

Finding your way into a lengthy and restorative child's pose will help your entire body and mind relax, while simultaneously providing a luscious stretch to both your back and your hips.

Since back pain is often caused by poor posture (hello, desk jobs and smartphones), the release that balasana brings to the muscles in the front of your body will help remedy this issue, according to Yoga Outlet. Any lingering tension in the shoulders and neck will slowly melt away as you breathe deeply in this asana, allowing your body to melt slowly into the earth beneath you.

Child's pose is a safe haven where you can decompress and allow the posture to passively stretch the muscles in your back, relieving your sacrum and any pain you might be experiencing there.

Your breath is an important tool here, too, so remember to close your eyes and activate those deep belly breaths — or your "Ujjayi" breathing.

Remember, if you need to, you can make your child's pose even more restorative, by including props to support your head and torso.

 

DiTuroProductions on YouTube

While the setup for this version of balasana does require a bit more effort on your part, I promise, it's totally worth it, my friends. As you rest in this luxuriously comfortable position, again, tune into your prana, which is your breath, or life force.

On each inhale, allow your shoulder blades to rise, expand, and spread away from one other, filling each and every crevice of your body with sweet air. On your long exhales, envision your shoulder blades being released, while gently melting toward the earth and becoming one with the cushion beneath you.

Hope you feel better soon, my fellow yogis!

Why Men should do yoga! - Huff Post.

Why Men Need Yoga More Than Ever

Yoga is for everybody, but as men we can use it to help unwind some of our own gender-specific baggage

  • Adam HockeYogi, teacher, blogger, podcaster, and wellness speaker based in London

26/02/2018 09:39 GMT | Updated 11 hours ago

Every day when I walk into the yoga studio, without fail there are more women than men. My studio tells me that current male representation is a paltry 20%. Men are missing, and wherever they are, they aren’t taking great care of themselves.

Suicide is the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK. Worldwide, we are reckoning with extreme abuses of male power and sexual objectification. Although not all of us are in crisis, none of us is immune. Healing can begin by confronting the conflicted relationships we have with own bodies dating back to the lessons of our fathers, coaches, and the deeply embedded history of masculine physical culture. Yoga, a discipline that pairs movement with mindfulness, can start the process of unwinding the unreasonable self-objectifying expectations of power, masculinity, and invulnerability we have been wedded to for far too long.  

On teams and in locker rooms, from fathers and uncles, through words and images I was taught that my body was a tool to strengthen and perfect for the purposes of sport, sex, and emotional invulnerability. Like many, I was shamed and humiliated when told that I was too weak, too effeminate, or too fat to belong. If I could be lean, strong, and athletically proficient I could be a real man

Movement is a requirement for health. But motivating factors for exercise are far more complicated than simply health and wellbeing. I know my gym bag doesn’t just carry trainers and kit but years of cultural indoctrination. When you lift weights, run, or think twice about what you eat, can you say you aren’t chasing some aspect of the masculine ideal? 

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Our bodies aren’t just objects we can push and prod to serve our purposes or meet societal expectations. When we begin to respect and truly care for our own bodies, it’s less likely we’ll treat the body of another with disrespect.

Yoga teaches that the body is far more than a sack of muscles to shape and sculpt. Sure, you’ll use strength, stretch, and occasionally go upside down, but along the way you learn to carefully observe, feel, and experience the body from the inside out. You learn self-care by regulating breath, exertion, and sensation in the face of challenge. You learn to soften and rest when needed. You learn that strength isn’t the only answer. You learn to feel and be with what has long lain buried and unexpressed. If this sounds a little wishy-washy to you, ask yourself if the alternative of a lifetime of strengthening and suppressing is really sustainable.

PHOTO BY HO SUI-JIM

Strength isn't the only answer

Yoga brought me back home to my body. A body I thought was only a source of disappointment is now a continual source of wonder and inquiry. I revel in the opportunity to be physical, move, and get out of my head. I lift weights and practise reformer Pilates without having to push myself too hard. Knowing I need to routinely burn off anxiety, I ensure I get my heart rate up a few times a week on a treadmill or ladder machine. Yoga developed my awareness to realise that I need to incorporate many types of physicality into my unique programme for emotional and physical wellbeing. As your practice and awareness grows, you will surely find your own combination. 

Yoga is for everybody, but as men we can use it to help unwind some of our own gender-specific baggage. We can face down the inherited cultural expectations. We can face down the voices that tell us we need to be stronger, or fitter, or leaner and ask ‘why?’ We can learn to self-regulate emotion and sensation rather than building up suits of armour that we mistakenly believe will protect us.

But it’s not just about men. When you and I come together in rooms of women, who of course have their own tumultuous relationship with embodiment, we can breathe together, know each other more fully, and relate with compassion and kindness. I believe that power doesn’t come from individual strength, but from confronting and caring for our collective wounds. Power comes when we stand together.

This to me is yoga. Will you join me?

3 Yoga poses for relieving sciatica

Why Hongkongers get sciatica, and three yoga moves to deal with the lower back pain

Sciatica is caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve from a bulging disc or tight buttock muscles. Yoga teacher and therapist Dilip Pillai shows how to stretch properly to alleviate symptoms of this painful, debilitating condition

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 October, 2017, 7:16pm

UPDATED : Monday, 30 October, 2017, 7:15pm

 

30 Oct 2017

If sitting is the new smoking, then it’s no surprise that sciatica is the new tennis elbow.

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Sciatica – a pain that radiates along the sciatic nerve – is often caused by prolonged sitting and/or weight gain. It can also be caused by incorrectly doing something physical. There are many misconceptions about both the causes of and remedies for this condition.

The sciatic nerve is the largest in the body, starting in the lower back and running down the back of the legs. Pressure on this nerve can cause excruciating, sometimes debilitating, pain down the back of the leg and up into the pelvis and buttocks. This condition may be caused by a bulging disc in the lower back, or from tight buttock muscles (the gluteus medius and/or the piriformis) muscle. A disc can herniate from injury, weakness, excessive weight or constant physical movement – lifting, twisting, bending – done incorrectly, such as not bending down properly to lift something heavy.

If you suffer from pain that seems to present itself as sciatica, but the root cause could be a serious degenerative disc problem, any forward bending is ill advised. Speak to your doctor if you have persistent pain, despite regularly releasing tight glutes and hip muscles.

Sciatica may also be the result of very tight buttock muscles, as the nerve runs straight through the gluteal and piriformis muscles. If these muscles are overworked, they can impinge on the sciatic nerve and cause pain, which will travel through the buttock possibly all the way to the foot, and sometimes up into the lower back. Loosening the piriformis muscle with deep body rolling tools can be a great reliever.

Do you have ‘chicken neck’? Nine ways to avoid neck and lower back pain

One key misconception is that the best way to relieve sciatica is to stretch. Stretching in a forward bend (either standing or sitting), if done improperly, can worsen the condition. Many people aggravate their sciatica by doing this. If your doctor advises that the sciatic pain could pass with the right exercises, a good stretch is key. But don’t simply get out there and bend it like Beckham.

You first need to lift your body ‘up’ to extend it before forward tilting at the hips to stretch forward and reach for your toes. Your hips need to be tilted forward, with one knee bent, stretching just one leg at a time.

Yoga teacher and therapist Dilip Pillai demonstrates the three most effective yoga poses for relieving sciatica.

 

Cow face pose (gomukhasana)

Dilip starts in a comfortable seat then crosses his knees over each other and stacks them evenly, ensuring both feet are flexed and at the side of the body. He keeps his spine straight, head upright and arms by his side.

He inhales deeply, exhales, extends his back even higher and leans using a forward hip-tilt – not down to his knees – as though he is trying to place his forehead on the wall in front of him. In other words, by the time he has reached this position, he has extended and – once gravity has taken hold – his head has naturally reached closer to his knees. Hold for a few breaths and come back up the same way you tilted forward. It is an incredible back stretch and hip reliever. For variation, if you feel up to it, hold your hands behind your head.

 

Child’s pose (balasana)

The child’s pose is similar to having a quick snooze. Dilip sits upright, knees folded neatly underneath him. If you can’t do that, find a yoga block and place it under your buttocks, knees folded either side. Once you’ve inhaled deeply and ensured your back is straight and your head is in line with your spine, extend up and forward – very slowly – as far as you can go.

Swimming beats back pain

Ideally, your forehead will reach the floor and you can breathe into the stretch. This pose stretches hips, thighs, and ankles while reducing stress and fatigue.

 

Seated one-legged fold (janu sirsasana)

This forward fold gives a good stretch to the back legs, from the glutes to the hamstrings to the calves and is also great for the side body. As with any hamstring stretch, practising this pose will release the lower back. It is also calming. But remember, as with the other poses, you are extending up, then forward.

Notice that Dilip’s head is not on his shins and that his right foot is flexed close to his body. His left foot is also flexed and his buttocks are flat on the floor. His elbows are bent as his grasps the inside and outside of one foot. If you can not reach your foot, aim for the shin and breathe.

You want to improve your golf? Better come to Yardley Yoga!

 

 

YOGA: THE SECRET WEAPON FOR BETTER GOLF?

 

Increase strength, mental resilience and find your 'Goldilocks' State: this is why you should be doing yoga. 

Submitted by Charlie Lemay on Wed, 25/10/2017 - 15:30

It’s taken a while for golfers to realise they are athletes, but the penny has finally dropped (well, mostly) and lifestyles are evolving accordingly.

The best players in the world - particularly the younger crop - are now gym bunnies with famous personal trainers, live on a strict diet and seek advice from sports psychologists to give them the edge. 

And it's not just the megastars on Tour reaping the rewards of looking after themselves - society as a whole is understanding the benefits, and that includes your average hacker. 

While hitting the gym and healthy eating are well-known to aid performance, yoga has perhaps been overlooked by most in the golf world. Not so in other sports  - Ryan Giggs, LeBron James, the All Blacks and Gareth Bale all endulge in it - then again, golf has always been a bit behind the curve. But it appears yoga could be the new game improver, and is gaining some dedicated followers.

It makes sense. The practice, which originated in ancient India, improves strength and flexibility, and also has a positive impact on psychological well-being.

It seems the perfect tonic to help improve your game - but we’re no yoga aficionados, so we spoke to Hotpod Yoga co-founder Nick Higgins to find out more.

What physical benefits can yoga provide golfers?

Yoga works physically by combing, stretching and strengthening major and minor muscle groups to help the body work best biomechanically. This helps to build strength, stabilise the relevant joints, stretch out the body parts, and help general wear and tear.

Golfs repetitive action will put the body under strain, and perhaps not allow enough time for recovery. Yoga can help relieve, recover and ultimately make resilient to injury, whilst developing balance, strength, increased range of motion through the necessary joint focus and bring suppleness through the body.

And what about the mental side of things?

Yoga also plays a huge role in bringing a sense of ease and calm psychologically. This happens through the increased release of GABA - a relaxant neurotransmitter and regulator of the human nervous system. This sense of calm helps ease the chimp mind when playing allowing the mind to focus, as well off-field, helping anxiety and sleep patterns which therefore increase recovery time too.

Although just physical movements, the other focus is on maintaining nice smooth steady breathing.

Physical exertion turns on the 'Sympathetic' nervous system - which is our bodies accelerator, but by using smooth steady nasal breathing (when we are being exerted), it hacks into our biochemistry and turns on the 'Parasympathetic nervous system'. Throughout a session, there is constant back and forth between each system, which is known as 'flossing'. This, along with 'GABA' creates this "Goldilocks" state of calm, through the mind and body.

When we put our bodies in unfamiliar, taxing postures, the brain immediately creates a narrative about how uncomfortable, frustrated and fatigued it is feeling. When these thoughts arise, by drawing the mental focus to something else, eases the then arising emotions. In this instance, taking the mental focus to your breathing, helping to refocus the mind to the task in hand. Building this mental resilience in a yoga class is then transferred when playing, keeping the mind focused when playing the shot.

 

What type of yoga is best for golfers?

It really depends on the individual. However, it’s good to start with something rounded such as 'Vinyasa flow'.

This works the full body in a fluid motion, stretching and strengthening the whole body equally. From there, depending on what the player needs, the focus can be to tweaked to suit the specific body and therefore mental state.

What is Hotpod Yoga, and what do you say to new starters?

We use heat and humidity to help the body ease into the postures. This heat also enhances the feeling of calm and ease in the body. All of our teachings are done in a logical and clear way so everything is understood, making you leave the class feeling relieved entirely rejuvenated.

At Hotpod Yoga we focus on those who have never done yoga before, so if you are anywhere near one of our studios perhaps try coming to one of our classes.

As mentioned, our focus is to bring yoga to those who don't do/have never tried yoga and really make it accessible on all fronts. Our classes are in our specially designed pods to encourage a calm environment.

 


We’ve seen Lee Westwood has been visiting, do you have any other athletes coming by?

Yep - we also work with many athletes such as, Harlequins (rugby), Cardiff Blues (rugby), Swansea Ospreys (rugby), GB rowers and GB cyclists

Each athlete is slightly different, however, all comment on the huge benefits they have seen physically in injury prevention, recovery, subtleness and development of mental resilience.

Hotpod Yoga have over 30 locations worldwide - find your nearest studio and book a class by visiting their site.

Follow Hotpod Yoga social channels: Instagram
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Read what Harvard Health think about Yoga!

Home » Harvard Health Blog » Yoga could slow the harmful effects of stress and inflammation - Harvard Health Blog

Yoga could slow the harmful effects of stress and inflammation

 

POSTED OCTOBER 19, 2017, 10:03 AM

Marlynn Wei, MD, JD, Contributing Editor

 

Stress accounts for between 60% and 80% of visits to primary care doctors. Chronic stress has been linked to accelerated biological aging, and increased chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, two processes that cause cellular and genetic damage. Scientists refer to chronic, low-grade inflammation in the body as “inflammaging.” Inflammaging has been associated with conditions like diabetes, heart disease, stress, depression, and a weakened immune system.

Several recent studies suggest that yoga could slow the harmful physical effects of stress and inflammaging. There are many different types of biomarkers in the blood that can be used to measure the level of chronic inflammation and stress in the body. Cortisol varies throughout the day based on the circadian rhythm, and a higher baseline level of cortisol is one indicator of high chronic stress. Cortisol becomes less variable throughout the day in people who are chronically stressed, signaling an overactive fight-or-flight or sympathetic nervous system. Another biomarker is brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a naturally occurring protein in the body that regulates neuroplasticity and promotes brain development. People who have depression, anxiety, or Alzheimer’s disease have been found to have lower levels of BDNF.

Studying yoga’s effects on stress

In an exploratory study published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, researchers found that 12 weeks of yoga slowed cellular aging. The program consisted of 90 minutes of yoga that included physical postures, breathing, and meditation five days a week over 12 weeks. Researchers found indications of lower levels of inflammation and significantly decreased levels of cortisol. The study also found higher levels of BDNF after the yoga program, suggesting that yoga could have potential protective effects for the brain as well.

In another recent study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, researchers found that a three-month yoga retreat reduced inflammation and stress in the body. The yoga retreat incorporated physical postures, controlled breathing practices, and seated meditations. Participants did two hours of sitting meditation, one to two hours of moving practice, and one hour of chanting daily. Levels of protective anti-inflammatory markers increased after the retreat, while harmful pro-inflammatory markers decreased. Researchers also found that BDNF levels tripled. Participants felt less depressed, less anxious, and had fewer physical symptoms.

These studies suggest that yoga could slow down the harmful effects of chronic stress at both the psychological and physical levels. It also indicates the benefits of a yoga practice that incorporates more than just poses by including yoga breathing and meditation or deep relaxation.

There are many simple yoga breathing (pranayama) techniques that can lower your stress levels that you can do at home for as little as a few minutes a day. Yoga breathing types can be calming or activating, depending on the type. One example of a calming yoga breath is alternate nostril breathing. You can practice it for as little as one to two minutes at home.

Alternate nostril breath (Nadi shodhana)

  1. Sit in a comfortable seated position, perhaps with your back supported by a wall.
  2. Close your eyes, reminding yourself not to judge anything you’re doing.
  3. Take a few slow breaths in and out.
  4. Rest your left hand on your left knee.
  5. Fold your ring finger and little fingers toward the palm on your right hand.
  6. Place the index and middle fingers of your right hand in the middle of your forehead, between your eyebrows. You can also curl your index and middle finger toward your palm and rest them on your forehead if that feels more stable.
  7. Exhale slowly through your nose, allowing your lungs to empty completely.
  8. Close your right nostril with your thumb.
  9. Inhale gently and slowly through your left nostril for 5 counts.
  10. Press and close your left nostril with your ring and little fingers. Hold for 2 counts.
  11. Lift your thumb to release your right nostril, and exhale slowly through your right nostril for 5 counts. Stay empty for 2 counts.
  12. Inhale gently and slowly through your right nostril for 5 counts.
  13. Press and close your right nostril with your thumb. Hold for 2 counts.
  14. Release your left nostril, and exhale through your left nostril for 5 counts. Stay empty for 2 counts.
  15. Start another cycle by inhaling through your left nostril. Continue to this pattern for 10 cycles. After you exhale from one nostril, remember to breathe in from that same nostril before switching.

Yoga makes the world a better place!

How Yoga Makes the World Better

 

Carolee Belkin Walker, ContributorWriter, runner, optimist

HUFFPOST

09/18/2017 05:17 pm ET Updated 1 day ago

Sunset yoga with goats: Joyous and fun but also an excellent opportunity to practice mindfulness? Let your mind wander and you’re gonna drop that baby.

By now I’ve incorporated the best part of my own yoga practice, the mindfulness part, into my running. But it’s also what gets me through a stressful day or a less-than-perfect commute. It’s a habit now for me to remain in the moment so that when even a little shit happens, I’m able to take a step back, provide some space between my emotions and my actions by giving myself time to curate my thoughts and put them into perspective.

What if everyone around me took a few breaths before cursing out a distracted driver or a slow poke in the cross walk? I want you to get some yoga. I want everyone around the world to get some yoga. What I really want is for the world around me to be less toxic, to be a little nicer.

Can yoga do that?

I was thinking about this when I had the chance to speak with David Lipsius, president and CEO of Yoga Alliance, about the state of yoga in America today. Here’s an excerpt of our conversation.

Carolee Belkin Walker: Hi, David. A friend sent me a photo her son took of her doing yoga with goats. He was home for a few weeks before returning to college and they wanted to find something to do together that might be interesting.

But yoga with goats? Is this a trend?

DL: Yoga is a practice to change consciousness and that can happen on the mat or off. It’s the attitude and the intention and the goals that we bring to the practice that matter most.

CBW: My friend loved it. She loved it.

DL: People enjoying something is an important factor here.

Yoga is like a vast ocean. An endlessly deep ocean of wisdom that’s available to us, but for me personally and for others I think who have admitted it, that deep ocean is a lot to drink from so we enter from a river or a stream or a small tributary miles away from the ocean. So there’s something to be said for celebrating individual human beings and where they might enter the stream of yoga. All of those rivers and tributaries and streams are going to flow into that ocean ultimately. And so not judging what other people are doing but recognizing that anybody stepping into a stream of yoga as long as it has the consciousness into it is a positive force and will have a beautiful ripple effect out to other people and not just to that person.

Historically there’s also something funny that I always think about, which is the yogis who first practiced yoga were not in bamboo-floored, temperature-controlled studios with hot and cold showers and all the amenities, right? They were practicing in fields and in mountains and in caves and in temples and wherever. The external was not the important factor.

So knowing that they were practicing with cows and tigers and snakes and spiders and other creatures around also gives me a little bit of a laugh sometimes to say, like of all things, goat yoga, in particular, is not the worst thing I’ve ever heard of.

CBW: Good point.

DL: If doing some yoga postures with some cute goats around is bringing a smile to someone’s face and lighting up their day and taking away some of the burden of modern society, then that’s a good thing. We should consider whether someone has received benefits that ultimately benefit society - if that person becomes happier and healthier.

CBW: Is that the ripple effect you mentioned?

DL: Yes. The most important trend I’m seeing in yoga is the trend toward giving back in the form of service. There’s been a shift in consciousness, which is what yoga is about, ultimately, that is taking it away from the individual practices that many of us have been doing for many years and reflecting that back into, well, how is that making us better people? How is it helping our community?

CBW: I know it’s in my best interest to be happier but I realize the world can be a rough place sometimes. If other people around me are doing what they need to be doing to become more resilient and happier, in essence, the world around me is simply nicer. Is that why we’re seeing yoga in hospitals, prisons, schools, etc.?

DL: Definitely. The interest in applying the tools of yoga and seeing the benefits of yoga – self-regulation, resilience, tolerance, happiness, health, positive mental attitudes – are beginning to be seen as valuable in areas that were less traditional 5, 10, or 15 years ago. And so as yoga has exploded in popularity in the mainstream, it naturally has begun to open doors into other areas where people may need those tools, too. Yoga teachers are thinking about where they can serve beyond the studio - asking where else they can make a difference. What is really interesting about the field today is how yoga is entering places it wasn’t necessarily welcome not too long ago and how people can benefit even if they are unable to get to a yoga studio, for example.

CBW: That’s a good point. I’m training for the Marines Corps Marathon so while I’m adding more mileage and more sleep and recovery I’m unsure how to place yoga into my training schedule or when I can fit in an actual yoga class. But I still want the benefits of yoga.

DL: Sure. Yoga is frequently seen as an activity and something to be scheduled, but in a lot of ways it’s an outcome. It’s a way of being. And so we need to practice that way of being on the mat, for instance, but the real outcome, the goal, is to be able to practice the yoga, the mindfulness, the awareness, the self-regulation, the connection to breath, the connection to body, the connection to mind, the seeing of a higher self, off the mat. The full picture of yoga only begins to emerge once we bring the lessons learned from the mat into our daily lives.

CBW: Or into our running.

DL: Yeah. Yoga or any mindfulness practice allows us to watch our thoughts, feelings, and emotions without judging them. Self-observation without judgment. And so whether you’re a beginner runner struggling with body image or comparing yourself with other competitors around you or with your own history of health or happiness or if you’re a beginner in yoga or meditation trying to fit in and somehow believing that the goal is to coral the mind, or to force it to be still, these are unrealistic expectations that we place upon ourselves as we begin the journey. And much like a runner wouldn’t intentionally go out and run a marathon on the first day of running, the tools of yoga, and the practices of yoga, in addition to mindfulness, are all designed to systematically bring us to a place where we can achieve self-observation without judgment.

The self-observation part comes from noticing that those thoughts and feelings and emotions don’t stop. And the goal is not necessarily to stop them, to have them cease existing within our mind, but to watch them and to notice that they are fleeting, that they’re constantly changing and shifting.

CBW: So we should not become attached to any one of them.

DL: Right. One great yoga teacher talks about it this way: there’s the sky and then there’s the weather. Whether you’re practicing yoga on a mat or sitting down and practicing yoga as a meditative practice or practicing yoga as you run, we need to understand that we’re the sky, not the weather. The thoughts, the feelings, the emotions, they’re the weather. They will pass and change.

CBW: How interesting.

DL: To take it out of the esoteric, the beauty of those lessons as we learn them is, then you go about your day, and someone cuts you off in traffic, or someone says something rude, or someone does something that you don’t like, and we begin to notice that we don’t have to automatically react to that thought or that feeling or that emotion that’s surfacing, but we can pause in that self-reflection. We can pause in that moment and then choose an outcome that we want.

And that is specifically the way in which yoga makes the world better, because if we were all able to take those moments of pause in between, before reacting to every thought, feeling, and emotion we have, we’d be making choices from a different place, a place of that clear, blue sky that is vast and limitless and really has all the potential in the world, as opposed to maybe the narrow confines that we’ve constructed around ourselves when we are simply reacting.

Want to try yoga for the first time or see how yoga can help you find the joy in running? Check out yoga: learn easy pose or tips to making you a more joyful runner

5 Yoga poses every runner should do.

JULY 17, 2017 |

BY KRISTINE THOMASON

If you're a runner, adding yoga to your routine is a good way to balance out the pavement pounding. That’s because all those sun salutations and down dogs help improve flexibility and breath control, reduce your risk of injury, and boost strength—all of which are important for runners.

 

But the benefits of yoga go beyond the physical. Adding the practice to your usual workouts boosts your mental strength too, says yoga instructor and runner Adriene Mishler. Think about when you just started getting into running (or maybe that describes you right now): How hard was it to drag yourself outside and get a few miles in? That’s because the biggest struggle isn’t in your legs or arms. "The biggest struggle is mental,” Mishler says. "Our minds get tired long before our bodies actually do."

Luckily, yoga is a great tool for bringing awareness to the body, calming the brain, and even reducing false feelings of fatigue. “This helps create a long-lasting, sustainable life as a runner,” she says.

 

 

You don't need to be a pro yogi to benefit from the practice. You can start with these five simple moves, which will help create balance and strength. Mishler outlines these in her “Yoga for Running” Discovery on the new adidas ALL DAY app (available on the iTunes App Store and Google Play). The sequence is perfect to try before or after a run—or really any time you need a little mind-body boost.

PIN IT

1. Downward-Facing Dog

Adho Mukha Svanasana

How to do it: Start on all fours, wrists under shoulders and knees under hips. Spread fingers wide and tuck toes as you press into palms, lift knees, and send hips straight up and back. Gently straighten legs but don't lock knees, so your body forms an upside down V shape. Rotate arms externally so inside of elbows face thumbs. Keep sending hips up and back as you try to keep heels planted on mat. Hold for a few breaths, then release.

Why it’s great for runners: The iconic yoga pose is not only a great hamstring and calf stretch, but it can also help you get grounded (literally) and check in with how you feel that day. “So you're not just cranking Kanye and heading out for a run,” Mishler says. Physically speaking, it’s a great total-body move. “For most people, it will inspire a deeper breath because you’re in a position your body isn’t used to,” she says. “Plus, I think it’s a great change of perspective—you shut off what you’ve done in the day thus far and reset.”

PIN IT

2. Low Lunge

Anjaneyasana

How to do it: From downward-facing dog, step right foot between hands so right knee is over right heel, then lower left knee to mat. Distribute weight evenly between front foot and the ball of your back foot, keeping heel raised, then lift chest. “Make sure you bring knee over the ankle,” Mishler says. “Some runners will send the knee way over the ankle, to stretch the Achilles, but you can wear on the knee when you do this.” You should feel the stretch in the left hip and front of left thigh. Hold for a few breaths, then repeat on other side.

Why it’s great for runners: This one is more about the physical benefits, says Mishler. It tends to the hips and the major muscle groups of the legs. Low lunge is also a move that most yogis and runners of all levels feel good doing. “It’s a shape that people can make adjustments to based on what their body needs,” she says.

PIN IT

3. Revolved Side Angle

Parivrtta Parsvakonasana

How to do it: From low lunge position with right knee bent, twist from your torso and bring right hand up toward the ceiling, stabilizing through core and extending through left hip as you do. Hold for a few breaths then repeat on other side.

Why it’s great for runners: “For me, where I feel the most tension while running is in my torso,” Mishler says, and the revolved side angle helps loosen up the upper body and lengthen through the lower back.

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4. Half Frog

Ardha Bhekasana

How to do it: Lie facedown on mat, then lift chest up and rest on elbows (like a cobra pose). Bend left knee to bring left foot to butt, then reach back with left arm to grab foot with hand and pull it toward your seat. Hold for a few breaths until you feel a stretch in left quad, then repeat on other side.

Why it’s great for runners: “Quads, just like the hamstrings, are so complicated and wonderful,” Mishler says. As a runner, the go-to move to stretch your quads is likely a standing quad stretch. But performing this move prone (or lying down) helps you get a little deeper, Mishler explains. It gets into the hip flexors and creates more length in the spine.

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5. Standing Forward Fold

Uttanasana

How to do it: Start standing with feet hip-width apart. Bend at the hips and draw belly button to spine as you drape your upper body over your legs. Keep a micro bend in knees. Grab opposite elbows with hands and let upper body dangle from side to side to feel the stretch along your back body. Hold for a few breaths then release.

Why it’s great for runners: This is a great pose to come into after a run or anytime you’re feeling anxious, stressed, or have that "I just can’t" mentality, Mishler says. “It’s also a really amazing full-body stretch to take care of the lower back and just chill out, wind down, and restore.”

Be careful what you say!

Home  Good Ideas  Teacher Shows Students How Negative Words Can Make Rice Moldy

Teacher Shows Students How Negative Words Can Make Rice Moldy

by Joao Freitas - Jun 11, 2017

 

The impact of positive and negative emotions might be more impactful than you think—and more persuasive.

A teacher in Curitiba, a southern region in Brazil, decided to illustrate the power of words to her students by using two cups of sealed rice.

Physical education teacher Ana Paula Frezatto Martins arranged the class in a circle around the two cups of grains. Then, she asked the students to say bad things to one of the cups — things people might hear in everyday life, like “you are useless”, “you are stupid”, and “you can’t accomplish anything”.

To the second glass, the teacher asked the kids to say things they would like to hear from everyone. The kids used such expressions as “you are special”, “you can accomplish anything”, and “you are smart”. Days later, the rice in the “love cup” fermented naturally while the rice in the “hate cup” became dark and moldy.

Martins says she has always tried to show her students the importance of highlighting positivity.

“In my classes I explain the importance of saying nice things to each other, but kids need more tangible physical expressions of our examples,” says Martins, according to Globo.

“When you say something nice, like ‘you can do it’, you feel that in your heart,” says 10-year-old student Anita Santini Trevisan. The youngster says that because of the experiment, she has tried to be more positive every day.

Another student, Henrique Kloster, had a similar conclusion: “The damage of negativity is bigger than we can imagine … there are two ways to say things, the right way is to praise the good side of others with the eyes of the heart, not the eyes we see.”

The rice experiment mirrors a famous one conducted by Masaro Emoto who tested distilled water and natural water when it was frozen into crystals to see what would happen when they were exposed to different human emotional energy, in the form of words, pictures, thoughts and music — for instance, heavy metal music versus classical. He then observed the crystals under a microscope.

“In all of these experiments,” he wrote on his website, “the result was that we always observed beautiful crystals after giving good words, playing good music, and showing, playing, or offering prayer to water. On the other hand, we observed disfigured crystals in the opposite situation.”

He published these results as a photographic collection, entitled “Messages from Water (1999)”. The photos have been viewed by millions, and used in films, like the one below.

He also did a similar experiment on jars of cooked rice. As you can see in the video below, the rice stayed productive and pure when it was appreciated, but the rice that was either hated or ignored, turned black and moldy.

The rice experiment has been undertaken by others who recorded on video the same results, and shared them on YouTube.

It makes us want to pay more attention to the words and emotions we are displaying toward others every day.

How Yoga can improve diabetes control.

Research highlights benefits of yoga in improving diabetes control

 

Mon, 22 May 2017

Benedict Jephcote

Research highlights benefits of yoga in improving diabetes control

 

Blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes could be improved after just ten days of practicing yoga, a study has found.


New research carried out by an Indian university dedicated to yoga called S-VYASA also suggests that regularly practising the discipline could result in people with type 2 diabetes having less reliance on diabetes medications.

Blood glucose levels fell by ten per cent in those who had practised yoga for ten straight days and been to seminars about yoga and diabetes, according to the study published in the journal Diabetes &Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research &Reviews.

Lead researcher on the study Dr Venugopal Vijayakumar 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 glycemic control of people with diabetes.

"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."

Dr Venugopal believes the increased blood glucose control was not just down to the physical side of yoga, adding: "Yoga has been shown to bring about a reduction in stress hormones, inflammation and oxidative stress, so reducing insulin resistance."

A total of 1,292 people were studied, with participants either having type 2 diabetes or being at high risk of the condition. The researchers recorded their blood sugar levels both before and after they practised yoga.

Dr Venugopal said that people needed to do yoga as part of their daily routine to get the real benefits but also said that completing 45 minutes of yoga five days a week could also be beneficial

Yoga makes people super emotional. But why?

Yoga Makes People Super Emotional. But Why?

 

 

by Julia Layton

April 26, 2017

 

 

"Crying is one of the highest devotional songs. One who knows crying, knows spiritual practice. If you can cry with a pure heart, nothing else compares to such a prayer. Crying includes all the principles of Yoga." 
—  Swami Kripalvanandji, yoga guru

Somewhere around the start of the 21st century, mainstream America discovered yoga. And with that, a lot of yogis found themselves crying in public for no apparent reason.

Mind-body disciplines — including yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic and meditation — have gained significant followings in the United States over the last decade or so. But yoga's rise was meteoric: Yoga Journal's annual "Yoga in America" study found that fewer than 2 percent of U.S. adults practiced yoga in 2003. In 2016, nearly 15 percent of Americans over age 18 were engaged in the discipline, and another 34 percent were thinking about giving it a try.

  How did yoga become popular in the U.S.? In this episode, Cristen and Caroline take a closer look at the health benefits and physical risks of practicing yoga. Tune in to learn more.

 

Yoga is a tough discipline to define. The National Institutes of Health describes it as a "meditative movement practice" combining "physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation." But it's not really something you do, at least not in the way you do push-ups. It's more a state of mind.

Technically, the highly physical practice that Westerners think of as yoga is just one of a large body of yogic disciplines, some of which are far more spiritual than sweat-inducing. Most scholars trace yoga's roots to ancient Indian religious practices, typically associated with Hinduism. The Sanskrit word yoga means "connection," and holistic-wellness website Big Shakti explains that yoga is "both a state of connection and a body of techniques that allow us to connect to anything." In more concrete terms, the yoga state is variously defined as relaxed attentivenessbalance between body and mind, and tranquility.

Yoga teacher and mindfulness coach Daniel Shankin, who developed the "Applied Mindfulness" approach to well-being, thinks of yoga as "being present."

Crying Pigeon

Whatever yoga is, it can facilitate intense emotional release. Many sources cite resting asanas (yogic postures) like Corpse pose (Shavasana) as common settings for tears. Backbends, which are considered heart openers in yoga, make the list as well. But hip openers, particularly Pigeon pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana), seem to win the anecdotal vote.

"I'm going to make a t-shirt one of these days that says, 'in pigeon pose, nobody can see you cry,'" Shankin writes in an email. "One time, I cried in pigeon pose every time I went to class for three months." He wasn't in pain, he says — he was deeply sad.

One stage of Pigeon pose looks something like a forward split, but the front leg bends and rests on the mat, causing the hip flexor to open. In the another variation of the pose, Sleeping Pigeon, the upper body folds over that front leg, and the forearms and forehead may rest on the mat in front of the knee. One-legged King Pigeon, an advanced expression of the pose, incorporates a backbend, where the foot of the back leg touches the head.

Joseph Lopez, a Denver-based yoga instructor, has also cried in Sleeping Pigeon. "For me, it's always the hip openers that trigger emotions the most," Lopez writes in an email. "I don't always cry. Sometimes I get really, really pissed off."

Emotional Gunk

Lopez, who has been practicing for 10 years and teaching for seven, thinks it may be a matter of where we store the "emotional gunk" of feelings we don't express. "I carry my anger in my hips," he explains, "so when I open them, that's what gets released."

That's a common take on the phenomenon, which seems to draw from the Eastern philosophy of chakras. There are seven traditional chakras that mark the points in our bodies where energy flows. In this understanding of wellness, a block in that energy flow can cause physical and psychological damage. 

The second chakra, Svadhisthana, is linked to emotions and tears and centered around the pelvis. Unblocking that chakra by opening the hips could lead to a sudden flood of emotion — something like the unconscious exploding into consciousness.

"You can't really hide from your own [crap] while practicing asana. Which is part of the reason to do it. To uncover what's blocking you and work those things out of the body," Lopez writes

Some scientists and medical professionals frame that blockage as a function of the sympathetic nervous system, which reacts to stress by activating the fight-or-flight response. Nerve signals tell the body's muscles, including the hip flexors, to contract, gathering energy in preparation to run, fight or freeze. When that energy goes unused, the theory goes, the traumatic experience gets stuck in our bodies. Hip-opening poses, then, could release stored emotions from past traumas.

The (Mysterious) Science Behind Yoga Tears

The emotional-gunk explanation for yoga crying (or fuming) is more interesting than the scientific one. Science has started looking at the effects of yoga on the mind: A March 2017 study found that yoga can ease the symptoms of major depressive disorder, and other research has found it induces "transcendence of the ordinary" and reduces anxiety and stress. But science hasn't done much to elucidate the mechanisms responsible for yoga's emotional liberation.

Dr. Timothy McCall, author of "Yoga as Medicine," practiced internal medicine before deciding to study and teach yoga therapy full time. To his knowledge, "the triggering of often unexpected emotions during a yoga practice … is not something that has … been investigated scientifically," he says in an email.

McCall once cried after performing a series of backbends.Oneplausible explanation, he says, is simple awareness. "Have you ever had the experience, say on the beach or in the middle of the woods, when you get quiet inside and just become part of … what's going on around you? Sometimes, in that moment you'll get an epiphany, maybe you need to quit your job or get out of an unhealthy relationship," he writes. The knowledge has always been there, but we may overlook it in the grind of everyday life.

And it can work that way with emotions, too. "They may be buried deeply or sometimes just below the surface, yet out of our conscious awareness. When we get quiet and introspective in a yoga practice, those emotions might come to the fore," McCall speculates.

It may be that yoga's focus on conscious breathing, postural alignment and physical sensations, as well as the interactions between those factors, leaves no room for the noise of daily life. Suddenly, we can hear something deeper.

It Doesn't Matter

Ultimately, neither science nor yoga practitioners really know why yoga can bring emotions to the surface. Maybe they never will. But McCall says these types of breakthroughs are useful; as a yoga teacher, he tries to let them be.

For many practitioners, part of yoga is letting go of the hows and whys. To this day, Daniel Shankin has no idea why he cried in pigeon pose for three months — but that doesn't matter. For him, what matters is that he "finally felt safe enough to express it and let it go."

"At the end of the three months, the crying stopped on its own," Shankin writes, "and my hips were much more open, as well."

Great article and thanks to Julie Brooks for mentioning it!!

How Yoga Turns Your Bad Thoughts into Good Thoughts

 

You learned in grade school science class that energy can appear in either the potential or kinetic form. The electricity in the wiring of your home is available for any use you choose. When you turn a light switch to the “on” position, energy appears in the form of light. This is the kinetic state because the energy is being used or expended. However, when you turn the light switch to the “off” position, the energy remains in the potential state – ready to be used at the flick of a switch.

The inherent power of fear, anger, and self-willed desire can also be stored potentially or expended kinetically, and it is your personal attention that determines in which state the energy resides. If the mind’s conscience (known as “buddhi” in Sanskrit) defines a particular thought as a form of energy that will enable you to fulfill the purpose of your life (a shreya), it is suggesting that you transform the state of that thought energy from the potential into the kinetic by taking some appropriate action. In other words, you are encouraged to think about the shreya, speak in service to the shreya, and take some physical action in service to the shreya.

 

 

Such emotions as fear, anger, and greed are not inherently bad or negative, for if they’re handled skillfully, they can become helpful resources. If the conscience (buddhi) recognizes them as merely an ego or sense gratification that conflicts with your own inner wisdom, you are being asked to renounce your attachment to them so that their intrinsic power can be transformed and stored for your future use.

The laws of physical science state that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, but it can be transformed. Viewing yoga as a sister science, the ancients experimented with controlling, conserving, and transforming the energy of thought. Through trial and error they realized that when they renounced a single preya desire – what could be seen as a momentary temptation or a negative thought – the energy of that desire manifested in a different form.

Recognizing this process, imagine what would happen if, instead of gasoline, twenty gallons of crude oil directly from the fields of Saudi Arabia were pumped into your car’s gas tank. It would wreck your engine. Crude oil is simply of no use in a combustion engine. To become an appropriate fuel for your automobile, the raw oil must first be refined.

Each of us has the capacity to employ a refining process that can transform the raw, inherent power of every thought, desire, and emotion. When the mind’s conscience, the buddhi, intuitively advises that the unusable, destructive and constrictive power of a particular fear, anger or self-willed desire is appearing in your awareness in the form of preya, you, as a yoga scientist, have access to a mechanism for capturing and transforming that power. This refinement process is accomplished by consciously and willingly renouncing your attachment to the preya.

Remember, in every moment, the buddhi is always present to advise you that it’s not in your best long-term interest to give the preya your continued attention. If you consciously or unconsciously choose to serve the preya in thought, word or deed, you will experience some form of physical, mental, emotional or spiritual dis-ease.

Every thought, word and deed is a means for spiritual unfoldment. Recognizing that desire is the fuel for human action, the ancient sages conceived a scientific formula that might well be called the spiritual equivalent of Albert Einstein’s E=MC2. The formula they discerned was D = E + W + C.

Every desire is composed of three basic components: energy, will power, and creativity (consciousness). When you align every thought, word, and action with the wise and good counsel of the buddhi by serving the shreya, you’ll be led for your highest and greatest good. When you willingly and consciously surrender your attachment to the merely pleasant, comfortable, familiar, and attractive preya, you really give up nothing of value. The intrinsic power of the preya is not lost to you. Instead, your voluntary act of sacrifice automatically transforms the preya into internal reserves of energy and will power, and opens the doorway to the superconscious mind – your access to the divine source of intuitive wisdom and creativity.

 

Conversely, when you go against the advice of the mind’s conscience by serving the ego or sense gratification that conflicts with inner wisdom in thought, word, and deed, your internal strategic reserves of energy, will power, and creativity are diminished.

The major crisis of our culture today is not one of IQ – but rather the problem we face individually and collectively is one of WQ – will quotient. In 21st century America, countless people possess the intellectual capacity to make brilliant decisions, but because they are habituated to serving the limited perspective of the ego, senses, and unconscious mind, their reserves of will power have become bankrupt. Without sufficient will power to exercise discrimination, their reserves of energy and creativity are similarly diminished. The more these reserves are depleted, the more frequent and severe the tension, stress, anxiety, burnout, and pain.

As in banking, our personal balance sheet always reflects whether deposits or withdrawals have been made. The choice of solvency or bankruptcy is up to each individual.

In modern life, you need plentiful reserves of energy, will power and creativity to fulfill your many duties and responsibilities. You have obligations to yourself, your family, friends, business associates, society, the animal kingdom, and the good earth herself. Yoga science teaches that everything you need for a happy, healthy, and secure life is always available in the form of your thoughts, desires, and emotions. A ready supply of power arises within you daily in the form of fear, anger, and selfish desires. If you do not expend this power kinetically in the present moment, you can consciously conserve and transform it for use at another time. Yoga science offers a systematic, practical method for conserving and transforming energy. It’s very simple, and all it takes is knowing how to direct your attention appropriately, based on the intuitive wisdom already within you

Yoga beats depression - Daily Mail

Why yoga beats depression: Harvard and Columbia study 'prove' how the relaxing workout eases symptoms 

  • Taking yoga classes can help ease depressive symptoms, a new study says
  • Participants who took two to three classes a week saw reduced symptoms
  • Past studies have said that yoga increases serotonin production in the brain and is helpful due to its emphasis on breathing and concentration

By Mary Kekatos For Dailymail.com

PUBLISHED: 17:06, 15 March 2017 | UPDATED: 22:49, 15 March 2017

 

Yoga can do more than just cure your back pain, it can also cure your depression.

A new study has found that those with depression reduced their symptoms through the workout.

Previous studies have shown that yoga increases the production of serotonin - a mood stabilizer in the brain - and its emphasis in breathing, concentration and smooth movement helps reduce symptoms.

Scientists say that this study underlines exactly why many doctors suggest yoga could even be a replacement for antidepressant drugs.

Taking two to three yoga classes a week can help lessen depressive symptoms, a new study reveals

The study, conducted between Harvard University in Massachusetts and Columbia University in New York, held a 12-week integrative health intervention for 30 people, practicing yoga and breathing exercises. 

Specifically, they practiced coherent breathing, where you take just five breaths per minute.

The participants took classes in Iyengar yoga, which focuses on detail, precision and alignment in posture and breath control.

Subjects were split into two groups: one taking three classes a week and one taking two classes a week.

 

All of them were diagnosed with major depressive disorder and were either on no antidepressant medications or on a stable dose of antidepressants for 3 months or less.

Researchers used a Depression Inventory measure to assess depressive symptoms in the 30 participants, at the beginning of the study and throughout the 12-week intervention.

They found that although symptoms declined considerably in both groups, those who took three yoga classes a week were more likely to achieve lower depression scores after 12 weeks than subjects who took two classes.

Depression affects more than 15 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the US population. 

WHY HEALTHY ADULTS SHOULDN'T TAKE ANTIDEPRESSANTS 

Healthy people who take antidepressants are twice as likely to become suicidal and violent, researchers claimed last year.

The first ever review of trials of antidepressants taken by healthy adults, who have no signs of a mental disorder, concluded the pills doubled harms related to suicide and violence.

The analysis, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in October 2016, examined 13 previous trials of antidepressant drugs, involving 612 patients.

The researchers, from the Nordic Cochrane Centre and the University of Copenhagen, claimed the original papers underestimated the risk of suicide and other harms. 

 

The most common psychological disorder in the Western world, around ten times more people are diagnosed with depression now than 70 years ago.

Emotionally crippling, it can require years of expensive and time-consuming therapy, and often medication to control it.

Approximately 188 million prescriptions a year are written in the US for anti-depressants. 

The researchers claim that up to 50 percent of individuals treated with antidepressant medications for depression do not achieve full remission.

They say that the current treatments for depression are not effective in reducing the associated morbidity or mortality.

'This provides preliminary support for the use of yoga-based interventions as an adjunct to pharmacologic treatment for depression,' the authors wrote.

'This intervention has the advantages of avoiding additional drug side effects and drug–drug interactions.'

One recent study compared levels of the amino acid GABA in those who regularly practiced yoga and those who do an equivalent amount in walking. 

This amino acid is vital for a well-functioning brain and central nervous system and helps promote feelings of calm inside the body. 

Scientists found that levels were significantly higher in those who did yoga - low GABA levels are associated with depression and anxiety. 

 

A study published in January, University of Auckland in New Zealand, revealed that also having good posture by sitting upright can help you feel less depressed.

'Compared to sitting in a slumped position, sitting upright can make you feel more proud after a success, increase your persistence at an unsolvable task, and make you feel more confident in your thoughts,' said lead researcher Dr Elizabeth Broadbent.

'Research also suggests that sitting upright can make you feel more alert and enthusiastic, feel less fearful, and have higher self-esteem after a stressful task.'



 

Regular yoga may help reduce symptoms of depression.

Regular yoga may reduce symptoms of depression

By: Carly Raffiek | General Health | Tuesday, March 07, 2017 - 02:00 PM

Those who suffer from depression may find better relief of their symptoms on a yoga mat, according to a new study from Boston University Medical Center.

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a chronic, recurrent, and disabling condition that is prevalent worldwide and is responsible for more years lost to disability than any other disease. As much as 40 percent of patients that are treated for depression with antidepressant medications do not achieve full remission, prompting researchers to explore alternative treatment options. This study analyzed the effect of Iyengar yoga—a form of yoga that focuses on detail, precision, posture, and breath control—on the symptoms of those with major depressive disorder.

Volunteers with MDD were randomly assigned to either a high dose or low dose condition. The high dose condition consisted of attending three, 90-minute yoga classes a week as well as practicing the exercise at home, while the low dose condition had participants attend two 90 minute yoga classes and practice at home. Both the high dose and low dose groups saw significant reductions in their symptoms, though those in the high dose groups saw more reductions than those in the low dose group.

Despite this, the team asserts that the low dose condition of attending two yoga classes weekly as well as practicing at home could still effectively reduce depressive symptoms without taking up as much time as the high dose condition. Dr. Chris Streeter, the corresponding author of the study, explained, “This study supports the use of yoga and coherent breathing intervention in major depressive disorder in people who are not on antidepressants and in those who have been on a stable dose of antidepressants and have not achieved full resolution of their symptoms.”

 

These findings support the notion that depressive symptoms can be managed with non-pharmacological treatment methods, either as a replacement for or in addition to pharmaceutical interventions. Yoga may be a safe addition to an existing treatment regimen as patients do not need to worry about adverse side effects or drug interactions

The beginner's guide to yoga for men - MENS FITNESS MAGAZINE.

WHEN YOU’VE NEVER tried yoga, it can be intimidating, especially if you’ve been scoping the jaw-dropping, super bendy, pretzel-like poses your girlfriend practices each morning. But relax: It’s actually the most basic postures—not the fancy positions—that provide you with the foundation of flexibility and strength every man needs.

With that said, there are a number of yoga styles, and finding the right one will help ensure you keep up your practice. For those who want a more fast-paced practice, consider power yoga. If you want to wipe yourself out and break a serious sweat (no joke), try Bikram (hot) yoga. Hatha yoga is good for beginners because of its slow pace and introductory poses. And Vinyasa focuses around the mind-breath connection and works the body with aggressive stretching. That’s just a handful of different yoga variations designed to improve flexibility, athletic ability, mental clarity, and more.

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Before we get into the basic poses, here’s why you should practice yoga, in any variation.

7 reasons men should do yoga

1. Relieve stress
We all find ways to deal with stress. But Terrence Monte, a managing teacher at Pure Yoga, says, “going to amped up gyms or punching a punching bag can make you more aggressive or more tired.” Yoga, on the other hand, employs a number of relaxation techniques, which, with regular practice, can make you calmer overall. Sadie Nardini, host of “Rock Your Yoga,” adds: “Along with training your body, yoga trains your mind to see the bigger picture and act from integrity instead of freaking out. If you want to be more James Bond than Charlie Sheen, get yourself on the mat.” Being forced to unplug from text, calls, and email for 60 to 90 minutes doesn't hurt either.

2. Get flexible
Most series of yoga asanas (physical postures) include one or more spinal twists to loosen the many joints that make up your spine. This can improve your tennis game and golf swing, as well as promote detoxification and good digestion. Yogi Cameron Alborizan, Ayurvedic healer, yoga guru, and author of The One Plan, says: “Think of the body as a sponge filled with dirty sink water. Gentle twists help to wring the sponge out and purge toxins.”

3. Build more muscle
Yoga widens range of motion and increases access to more muscle fibers, allowing for more substantial hypertrophy in any given muscle group,” says Kate Abate, a certified trainer and yoga teacher. Hypertrophy is when a muscle is enlarged because its cells are enlarged (it's basically muscle growth on a cellular level).

If you supplement your regular lifting routine with yoga classes, you’ll be able to activate ignored sections of muscle. For example, take the serratus anterior or “boxer's muscle,” which is located under your armpit and over the side of your ribs. This muscle provides stability for your shoulders and is a base for developing deltoids and pectorals. Making your serratus anterior pop will help your abs look ripped, and you can get at it with yoga.

4. Prevent workout injuries
Most yoga classes begin with a reminder to honor your body’s particular needs and limits on that particular day. This basic ability to scan and assess yourself as you practice will help reduce the incidence of injury when running or playing other sports. Plus, flexible, well-stretched yoga muscles will heal and recover more quickly after working out or getting strained.

5. Have better sex
A study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found yoga to seriously enhance a woman’s experience in the bedroom via greater lubrication, and more powerful orgasms as a result of strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. For guys, yoga helps reduce anxiety and increases body awareness and confidence; and it speeds the release of hormones that boost arousal and increase blood flow to the genital area, which is important for erections.

6. Calm your mind
In the midst of a jam-packed schedule, committing to the relaxed space of a yoga class might be the only way for some guys to slow down and breathe right. A 2013 review found that yoga relives mild clinical depression, even in people that didn’t take antidepressants. The ancient Indian practice also was found to help better sleep better and longer. Furthermore, A study in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that 20 minutes of Hatha yoga stimulates brain function more than walking or jogging on the treadmill for the same amount of time.

7. Smell better
Seriously. Michael Hewitt, founder of Sarva Yoga Academy says yoga is very much about waste removal. “Pheremonally, regular practice is more effective than cologne,” he says. Exhaling and sweating help get rid of toxins during class, so that afterward, your sweat really will smell sweeter. “After a class,” says Hewett, “[your body is] cleaner, more confident and focused than when you walked in.”

Now that you’ve found out why you regularly do yoga, it’s time to lay down the mat and start opening up your hips (and every other joint too). But before you do that, remember these three beginner tips.

 

The 3 best yoga tips for beginners

1. Stay in the back row

For your first few visits, lay your mat down in the back row so you can see what the people around you are doing. This helps you learn, keeps your neck from straining to see what's going on, and provides you with an awesome view of your mostly female class.

2. Remain calm
Yoga is not easy. Don't freak out if your athletic build is getting in the way of some moves. Progress is supposed to be slow and steady, and the most challenging aspects are usually what your body needs the most.

3. Focus on your breathing
Deep abdominal breathing is a huge part of yoga, and it activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This lowers levels of cortisol, a hormone that forces your body to hold on to belly fat. Training yourself to breathe deeply through yoga can reduce stress and cortisol levels in your daily life.

Ready to feel a stretch like never before?  

 

The 10 best beginner yoga poses for men

1. Mountain (Tadasana)
Why you should do it:
 Simple but effective, mountain pose builds a solid foundation for all other standing poses. It strengthens and returns flexibility to your feet, improves your posture, and works your thighs and core.

How to do it: Stand with your big toes touching and heels slightly apart. Balance the weight evenly on your feet and lift up the arches. Engage the thigh muscles slightly to lift up the kneecaps, but avoid locking your knees.

Pro tip: With every inhale, imagine lengthening your spine by stretching your head toward the ceiling. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your shoulder blades drawing down your back.

2. Tree (Vrksasana)
Why you should do it: 
Like other standing balance poses, tree pose will improve your focus while strengthening the muscles in your ankles, calves and thighs. It also stretches the inner thigh and groin muscles on the bent leg.

How to do it: Shift your weight onto your right foot, pressing it firmly onto the floor. Bend the leftt leg at the knee and place the sole of the left foot on your inner right thigh. Point the toes toward the floor. If this is difficult, you can also place the sole of the foot on the inner calf or ankle (but avoid the knee). Bring your palms together in front of your chest and keep your weight centered over the left foot. Press the right knee back to open the groin while keeping your hips parallel to the front of the room. Release the foot and repeat on the other side.

Pro tip: To improve your balance, keep your attention on the floor a few feet in front of you.

3. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

Why you should do it: Standing forward bend can calm your mind, while also stretching the hamstrings and muscles of the spine.

How to do it: Start in mountain pose with your hands on your hips, then exhale, tucking your chin slightly toward your chest and bending forward at the hips. (As you fold forward, lengthen the front of your torso to avoid curling the spine.) Relax your head, neck and shoulders and let your arms hang loosely. Place your palms or fingertips on the floor beside or slightly in front of your feet. (If you can’t touch the floor, cross your forearms and grab your elbows.) To come out of the pose, bring your hands to your hips and lift up on an inhale. Keep your chin tucked and lengthen the front of your torso as you come back up.

Pro tip: If your hamstrings are very tight, bend your knees slightly to let the spine stretch toward the floor. Avoid pulling yourself down with your hands—let gravity do the work.

4. Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)

Why you should do it: Warrior I is often encountered during the Sun Salutation sequence. In addition to improving your balance, this pose stretches and strengthens the ankles, calves and thighs. It also stretches the chest, lungs, shoulders and groin.

How to do it: From mountain pose, step your right foot forward and lift your arms overhead. Turn your left foot 45 to 60 degrees to the left. Bend your right knee until it is over the ankle. Bring the hips parallel to the front of the room. Arch your upper back slightly, lifting your chest up toward the ceiling. Press your palms together, if possible, or keep your hands shoulder width apart with your palms facing each other. Look forward or up at your thumbs. When done, step the right foot back into mountain pose. Repeat on the other side.

Pro tip: The most challenging part of this pose is lining up the front heel with the arch of the back foot. If you feel unbalanced, widen your stance.

5. Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Why you should do it: Downward-facing dog, another pose found in the Sun Salutation sequence, strengthens the legs and arms, while stretching the calves, hamstrings, shoulders, hands and wrists.

How to do it: Start on your hands and knees, with your hands just in front of your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. Press your hands firmly onto the floor, with index fingers pointing forward. As you exhale, lift your knees off the floor, keeping the knees slightly bent. Stretch your tailbone toward the ceiling to lengthen your spine. Press your heels down toward the floor and your thighs back to straighten your legs. Keep pressing the base of your index fingers into the floor and lift along your arms from your hands to your shoulders. Draw your shoulder blades against your back and down toward your tailbone. When done, drop your knees to the floor.

Pro tip: It’s okay to keep the knees slightly bent in this pose—focus more on lengthening your spine. Use your triceps to straighten your arms, but keep the shoulders from moving toward your ears.

6. High Lunge (Crescent Lunge)

Why you should do it: Also known as crescent lunge, this is similar to Warrior I, except with the back heel lifted and the feet about hip width apart. In this position, you may find it easier to keep your hips parallel to the front of the room, but your leg muscles will work harder to maintain your balance. High lunge will also strengthen the arms and stretch the muscles of the groin.

How to do it: Start in downward-facing dog. As you exhale, step your left foot forward between your hands, keeping your left knee over the ankle and your feet hip-width apart. As you inhale, lift your torso upright and bring your arms out to the side and overhead. If possible, bring your palms together—or keep the hands shoulder width apart with the palms facing each other. Press back through your right heel and lift up through the torso. To come out of the pose, bring your hands to the floor as you exhale and step back to downward-facing dog. Repeat on the other side.

Pro tip: Don’t lean forward—keep the torso directly over the hips, and think about sinking your hips straight downward while engaging the back thigh to keep the back leg straight. Don’t let the front knee move ahead of the ankle. To give your legs a rest, drop the back knee onto a mat or folded blanket, and focus on the stretch in your groin.

7. Boat (Navasana)

Why you should do it: While often known for its ab-busting potential, boat pose also works the deep hip flexors, as well as the spine. When you add in the arms, even your shoulders will get stronger.

How to do it: Start seated with your legs extended in front of you. Press your hands into the floor just behind the hips, pointing your fingers forward. Lean back slightly and lift up through your chest, to keep your back from rounding. As you exhale, bend your knees and lift your feet off the floor until your thighs are at a 45-degree angle from the floor. Straighten your legs slowly. When you feel stable, lift your arms off the floor and bring them out in front of you, parallel to the floor with the palms facing each other. To come out of the pose, lower your legs and arms as you exhale.

Pro tip: If your hamstrings are tight, keep the knees bent so you can maintain the neutral shape of the spine—similar to as if you were sitting in a chair. For a more intense workout, lift your arms overhead.

8. Locust (Salabhasana)

Why you should do it: Locust pose is a great way to slowly strengthen your back and prepare you for more challenging backbends. In addition to working the muscles of the spine, locust strengthens the buttocks and the muscles on the back side of the arms and legs. It will also stretch the chest, shoulders and thighs.

How to do it: Lie on your belly with your forehead on the floor and your hands by your hips, palms facing up. Point your big toes toward each other slightly to roll your thighs inward. As you exhale, lift your head, chest, arms and legs off the floor. Rest your weight on your belly, lower ribs and pelvis. As you inhale, lengthen your spine by stretching your head forward and your legs backward. Stretch back through your fingertips while keeping your arms parallel to the floor. Look down or slightly forward to avoid crunching your neck backward. Lower down on an exhale.

Pro tip: As you hold the pose, think about lengthening your spine on every inhale and lifting the chest and legs slightly higher on each exhale. If you feel pinching in the back, lower the chest and legs slightly.

9. Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

Why you should do it: A deeper backbend than locust, bridge pose stretches the front side of the body, as well as the spine and the rib cage.

How to do it: Lie on your back with your arms by your side. Bend your knees and bring your heels close to your buttocks, with the feet about hip width apart. As you exhale, push your feet and arms into the floor and lift your hips toward the ceiling. Keep your thighs parallel as your lift. Interlace your fingers beneath your pelvis and stretch your arms toward your feet. To come out of the pose, release the hands and lower your hips slowly to the floor on an exhale.

Pro tip: In the beginning, you may not be able to lift your hips very high. Instead of forcing it, focus on keeping the thighs parallel and stretching your tailbone toward your knees to lengthen the spine. With each inhale, lift a little higher. To keep the knees from spreading outward, hold a yoga block between your thighs while in the pose.

10. Reclining Big Toe Pose (Supta Padangusthasana)

Why you should do it: One of the best yoga poses for stretching the hamstrings, it also stretches the hips, groin, and calves. Done properly, it will even strengthen the knees.

How to do it: Lie on your back. As you exhale, bend the left knee and pull it toward your chest. Keep the other leg pressed firmly onto the floor while pushing the right heel away from you. Hold a strap in both hands and loop it around the middle of your left foot. As you inhale, straighten your left leg slowly toward the ceiling. Move your hands up the strap until your arms are straight, while pressing your shoulders into the floor. Once your left leg is straight, engage the left thigh slightly and pull the foot toward your head to increase the stretch. Stay here for 1 to 3 minutes. Then lower the left leg slowly toward the ground, keeping the right thigh pressed into the floor. Continue until the left leg is a few inches off the floor. Work the foot forward until it is in line with your shoulders. Inhale your leg back to vertical. Lower the leg and repeat on the other side.

Pro tip: When you extend the leg upwards, press the heel toward the ceiling. Once the leg is straight, engage the thigh slightly and lift up through the ball of the foot.

If you're a really quick learner and breezed through those 10 poses, try these four challenging yoga poses to really release tension everywhere. 

 

1. Wheel
Why you should do it:
 According to Stiles, the wheel pose will open up the spine, shoulders and quad muscles resulting in improved flexibility and safeguard you from injury.

How to do it: To achieve the pose, sometimes called a "Bridge," Stiles explains, "Lie down on your back and press your feet into the ground next to your hips. Press your palms on the ground beside your ears, elbows up. Press down with your hands and feet and lift up in your chest and abdomen. Only raise yourself to where you can breathe easily. Stay for 10 long deep breaths and lower slowly."

Pro tip: Practice three sets in a row with rest in between for three days every week.

2. Handstand

Why you should do it: Stiles recommends taking on the challenge of the handstand for strengthening the back, shoulders and core. Similarly to the headstand, this pose also improves athletic balance and focus.

How to do it: Stiles advises starting in the "Warrior 3" position (with one foot placed in front of the other, lift your back leg up and raise your arms straight out in front of you so your body forms a "T"). "Press palms on the ground with arms straight. Gently rock forward and back (inhale forward, exhale back) until you feel steady enough to lift both legs off the ground. Hang with the legs in an 'L' shape. If you are steady there bring the second leg up."

Pro tip: Trying the handstand up against the wall will help improve your knowledge and feel of the pose with less fear of falling.

3. Crow Pose
Why you should do it: When it comes to building strength, increasing body mechanics and coordination, this is Stiles' pick. A strong core is pivotal in fitness, and it will take most of the brunt along with the shoulders, biceps, triceps and forearms.

How to do it: "Come into a squat. Press your hands on the ground and place your arms inside your knees with your knee propped onto the back of your upper arms or triceps. When stabilized, lift up in your hips and belly until your feet come off the ground and your hands are the only things touching the ground."

Pro tip: To master this pose, Stiles recommends practicing slowly lifting yourself rather than "jumping" into the pose. She says, "It's harder to lift up, but you'll stay focused and be able to stay in the pose longer than if you launch yourself.

Andy Carrol is benefiting from Yoga - Sky News.

West Ham's Andy Carroll 'without question' benefiting from yoga, says expert Sharon Heidaripour

By Dev Trehan

Last Updated: 14/02/17 1:38pm

Andy Carroll scored a goal-of-the-season contender against Crystal Palace last month

Andy Carroll's prolific recent form shows he is reaping the benefits of practising yoga, says expert Sharon Heidaripour.

Carroll, 28, has been practising the ancient Indian discipline in recent years as he bids to sustain fitness and get back to his goalscoring best after a number of different injury setbacks during his career.

 

The striker missed West Ham's 2-2 draw with West Brom at the weekend, but had been in blistering form since returning from a knee injury at the end of last year, scoring four goals in four matches, including January's Goal of the Month for his spectacular effort against Crystal Palace last month.

"Absolutely without question Andy Carroll is reaping the benefits of yoga," football yoga guru Heidaripour told Sky Sports.

"I know he's been doing it for a few years now because he posted that photo of himself doing yoga on the beach in Dubai in 2014.

 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic bent his standing leg when scoring this bicycle kick against France at Euro 2012

"You only need to look at his posture for that scissor kick he scored against Palace. Normally when a player tries to score a goal like that, the knee on the player's standing leg bends due to a lack of flexibility in the hamstring.

"But the fact that he could keep his standing leg so straight while executing that goal demonstrates how good his hamstring flexibility is.

 

Sharon Heidaripour has developed a specialised football-specific yoga programme

"If the hamstring is tight, the knee will automatically bend because the straighter, the leg the greater the stretch on the hamstring.

"But in general, footballers practising yoga is growing."

 

Andy Carroll says he believes yoga is improving his fitness and his football.

Heidaripour was a right winger for Swedish Damallsvenskan side Jitex before training as a sports therapist after her football career was cut short due to a series of knee injuries.

She spent eight years working at the academies of Arsenal and Chelsea, and four years working with FIFA referees at tournaments including the 2015 Women's World Cup and the football competition at the London 2012 Olympics.

 

Robert Pires is put through his paces by football yogini Heidaripour

After doing a master's degree in football rehabilitation, Heidaripour undertook a yoga teaching qualification in Mexico and now delivers football-specific yoga sessions to a host of professional players and clubs.

"I've been practising yoga religiously for well over a decade now and I am very much a believer in the whole yogic, holistic lifestyle," the football yogini added.

"Some of the injured players I have done yoga with have returned to action months ahead of schedule but of equal importance is the fact that yoga helps to prevent injury.

 

Heidaripour delivered a session at Crawley Town earlier this season

"The link between yoga and football is definitely getting stronger and I foresee a growth in independent programmes tailored and personalised according to the player.

"But for footballers to fully reap the benefits of yoga, the instructor needs to have an understanding of football or come from a sporting background in order to make it specific and put all the components together.

"Having one or the other will simply not allow football players to fully harness the benefits of yoga.