Prevent Back Pain While Driving

When you suffer from back pain, sitting in a car for hours can make it much worse. Even people who don’t normally endure lower back discomfort, can begin to experience it on a long car trip. However, by planning ahead and taking a few precautions, much of this back pain can be reduced or sometimes even prevented. Here are a few tips and ideas to help prevent back pain while driving or riding in a car.

Get Comfortable Immediately. When you first get into your car, make sure that you are sitting comfortably. Especially if you already have some back discomfort, sitting in an uncomfortable position will worsen the feeling.

Change Your Seat Position. Most of today’s cars have seats that place the driver’s pelvis lower than the driver’s knees. For most people, this makes a more comfortable chair. However, sitting in this position adds extra pressure on the tailbone. This pressure can be relieved by raising your seat so that your pelvis is parallel to your knees, or even slightly higher. If your seat is unable to move this way, you a wedge shaped cushion can help provide the same lower back pain relief.

Lumbar Support. If you have a long drive or lower back discomfort, you can take a small towel, roll it up and use it as a lumbar support. This can help relieve some pressure during a long trip.

Take Frequent Breaks and Stretch. You can go from rest stop to rest stop if you need to. At each stop, get out and stretch or exercise a bit. Walking helps to get your blood flowing again and will also help keep you awake. It is also very important to stretch your hamstrings. While sitting for extended periods of time, your hamstrings get shortened and tighter. Stretch them gently to relieve some tightness and help your lower back.

Trade off Driving When Possible. If you are driving with a partner, you can trade off driving so the other can relax and stretch. If you need to, go into the back seat and either lie down to rest, or you can stretch your legs out.

The most important thing to keep in mind, is to be aware that you have an issue and think through some things before you leave on a longer trip. It mostly comes down to common sense, but try to pack whatever back support items you may need and leave extra time so you can get out and walk around or stretch if needed.

Find another great resource for ways to prevent and relieve back pain while driving here.

This article originally appeared on

Alignment is More than Just Good Posture

Remember when you were growing up and your mom (or your annoying aunt) would always correct you about your posture? “Stand up straight.” “Don’t slouch.” “Shoulders back.” Well, it was right… sort of. Body alignment is important. It affects many aspects of your health. But proper body alignment is more than just good posture.

Proper body alignment can help with body mechanics. That means it helps your body moves in a way that’s smart, efficient and with less risk of injury. In other words, body alignment will keep your body moving, sitting, standing, working, exercising, and being active for a long time. Proper alignment is very important, not only for your back, but for your overall health as well.

Proper body alignment helps the major systems in your body work better: digestive system, respiratory system, nervous system, immune system and more. In other words, everything runs better when the body is aligned.

Body alignment is important when exercising. Body alignment prevents injuries and balances how your muscle groups work. Also, when you are in alignment, you use less energy for any movement and put less stress on the joints. When movements are done from poor alignment position, there is greater wear and tear on joints and  greater is the risk of injury.

How to help body alignment.

Work on posture. Train yourself to recognize Neutral Spine Position—it’s when the pelvis, rib cage and skull are aligned on top of each other.  Instead of thinking of “standing up straight with your shoulders back” imagine being suspended from a string from the top of your head and all the other parts of the spine are suspended from the same string. When in neutral spine position, all 3 curves of the spine (cervical, thoracic and lumbar) are aligned and in natural balance. When you’re in this position, every movement activates from the core muscles.

You can find neutral spine position by practicing a basic relaxation exercise from the floor. You will eventually be able to recognize it while standing, sitting, reclining or moving.

Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts additional stress on the joints and muscles.

Avoid certain body positions and movements. Having a slumped forward head posture, twisting from the spine to a point of strain, reaching for anything too far out from the body, bending from the waist to lift things or reach for things.

Exercise regularly with a program that promotes and builds core stabilization.

  • Squats, planks, push-ups, lunges can help strengthen your core. These should be done slowly and with attention to proper alignment. You may want to work with an exercise coach if you are not familiar with proper alignment and are new to an exercise program. Be sure to get approval from your doctor before starting any new exercise or stretching program.
  • Practice yoga which helps stretch the muscles, but also strengthens the core (and all major muscle groups). Most yoga classes are available for a wide range of fitness levels. Choose one that is appropriate for you.
  • Consider taking up Tai Chi, which emphasizes breathing and slow, balanced movements.
  • Try a class in Pilates, which also helps with body alignment and core strengthening. It was developed by Joseph Pilates, who overcame a sickly childhood and later did physical training with WWI soldiers who were recovering from injury.

Remember, all of these exercises can help with body alignment and strengthening your core. But not all exercises are good for everyone. People who have had spinal fusion or a slipped disk should be especially careful with any exercises and confer with their doctor.

This article originally appeared on

4 Simple Steps To Get Great Posture (Video)

Our posture both reflects and creates how we feel and how we live, so obviously good posture is so important! When it's not so good, we often feel more sluggish and weak, but when it's good, we feel great! We have lots of energy, and we're strong enough to do anything we want.

Since our posture is created by what we do all day, it might take more than a few shoulder-rolls to get everything perfect. But there are some things you can actually do for just a few minutes each day that will help your body learn (and remember!) the optimal ways of moving and holding still. From here, great posture becomes an all-day, every-day good habit!

It's helpful to remember that posture isn't just about your shoulders and back. How you hold yourself builds on a chain of interconnected parts —  beginning at your ankles and then knees, up through your hips, belly, and lower back. From there it runs up the full length of your spine, into your neck and shoulders.

You want this chain to be not too taut, not too loose, but just right in the middle. Think of your body like water in a glass —  easily and fluidly movable, encompassed by a nice big container that keeps us from spilling all over the place!

Here are four key areas of movement that I cover in-depth for you in the video below. Try getting into each of these areas every single day, and your body will start to align perfectly and your back will thank you!

1. Get on your hands and knees (or feet!) and move everything you've got, in every direction you can move it.

This gives you a great way to move and explore the full length of your spine easily, in every possible direction. This kind of movement is critical for development of all the small supporting muscles along your spine, which in turn helps your ligaments restore and maintain proper position for healthy alignment.

2. Get up on your feet and challenge your balance.

By playing with balance, you further develop and fine-tune all the small supporting muscles in your body. These muscles are the key to how you hold yourself. When they're engaged and evenly-developed, you will naturally hold yourself up just right (without even tiring!) and be ready for anything.

3. Get all-around STRONG in your core!

We all know a strong core is necessary for a healthy back and good posture. Here, we'll get into your core as we did before, by moving evenly in every possible direction. By starting this multi-directional movement right from your center, we'll check off a key element in healing and strengthening your body's natural alignment systems.

4. Release and relax the hips and hamstrings.

Finally, we wind it down with some easygoing releases for your hips and thighs, by exploring all around these areas again, in every possible direction. Your legs and hips are a key part of the chain that sets up how you stand, sit, and move, so keeping them stress-free and easily movable is important.

When you awaken every inch of your body and move happily, your body becomes a wonderful orchestra —  all the pieces in tune, playing the best music there is.

Want perfect posture? Tune your orchestra! Move happily, everything you've got, in every direction you can. Do it every day, and you're going to like what happens to your body, I assure you.

Here's the video to get you started. Enjoy!

Article originally appeared on and was written by Michael Taylor

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Why Brain Gym is Essential for Mental Health and Anti-Aging

It’s one thing to have your heart working properly or your body looking youthful, but for a truly long and healthy life, you should also consider your brain and mental health as you age.

Brain Gym is a series of cognitive learning exercises that are great for all ages, which is why the mental health workout is used everywhere from classrooms to retirement homes. As the aging process progresses, physical activity remains vital for not just maintaining a healthy appearance, but also so your brain and mental health remain intact. A Brain Gym anti-aging fitness routine allows you to enjoy living and learning through simple movement activities.

The creation of Brain Gym originated with Paul Dennison, PhD, and his wife and colleague Gail Dennison, who incorporated fun movements as an innovative and educational approach to mental health and brain health. Brain Gym became a household name for anti-aging and mental health after the 1986 release of the Dennisons’ book, Brain Gym: Simple Activities for Whole-Brain Learning.

Brain Gym International (also referred to as the Educational Kinesiology Foundation) was founded in 1987 in Ventura, California, and is currently being used to enhance mental health in over 87 countries and is translated in over 40 languages.

How Brain Gym Works for Mental Health

People who practice Brain Gym on a daily basis have shown improvement within many factors concerning mental and brain health, including concentration and focus, memory retention, physical coordination, and self-responsibility. Students have demonstrated enhancements in various academics areas, such as writing, reading, math, and test taking, while both students and adults have shown improvements in organization skills, improved relationships, and an overall more positive attitude toward life and wellness.

There are a total of 26 Brain Gym activities and exercises that are designed to improve mental health by integrating the body and the mind. When we’re born, we first develop a proper understanding of coordination by naturally moving our eyes, ears, hands, and, eventually, our whole body—the Brain Gym exercises are reminiscent of the movements we make in those early stages of life.

Today, many teachers, wellness practitioners, mental health professionals, and anti-aging experts have been educated through Brain Gym 101, bringing the movements to students, business professionals, and seniors worldwide.

Why Brain Gym is Essential for Mental Health and Anti-Aging

When is a good time to begin a cognitive anti-aging fitness routine to improve mental health? You can begin at anytime and at any age, which is why you can even find 90-year-old seniors practicing the Brain Gym movements in retirement homes. These anti-aging fitness exercises are very versatile, and can be modified for people using wheelchairs or walkers.

The Brain Gym exercises are extremely beneficial for older adults’ mental health because, along with improving concentration and memory, they also double as a stress management technique—stress management is imperative for maintaining your mental health as you get older. Actively participating in Brain Gym can balance moods and reduce the risk of depression as you get older.

The cognitive Brain Gym exercises help seniors continue learning into old age, which alters behavior and enhances physical and mental health over time while also fixing damaged areas of the brain. The integrative movements effectively develop new brain cells, while building healthy neural networks. This can help prevent or slow down neuro-degeneration diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Along with mental health, the Brain Gym exercises can improve physical health as well by enhancing vision, hearing, coordination, and mobility. They also maintain proper sleeping patterns, energy levels, and balance.

Brain Gym vs. Yoga for Mental Health

There are definitely some similarities between some yoga postures and the Brain Gym exercises.

Brain Gym’s “grounder” exercise is a lengthening movement, where the benefits include comprehension, short- and long-term memory, grounding, centering, and whole body relaxation. The grounder is a modification of the warrior II position in yoga, where your arms would be placed on your hips instead of an extended T-position in the yoga posture.

There is also a similarity between Brain Gym’s cross crawl sit-ups and the yoga bicycle. The cross-crawl sit-ups benefit reading, listening, math, mechanics, spelling, and writing. It’s essentially a modified yoga bicycle, where you lie on your back with your hands behind your head, alternating each elbow to opposite knees with every breath.

Both Brain Gym and yoga are effective anti-aging fitness routines to enhance brain and mental health as you get older. For the best results, try incorporating both into your own anti-aging fitness routine.

“What is ‘BRAIN GYM?’” Brain Gym International web site;, last accessed December 30, 2013.
“‘Brain Gym’ Program,”;, last accessed December 30, 2013.
“Use it…Don’t Lose it! Aging Population, Quality of Life and Cognitive Fitness,” Brain Works Global Inc. web site;, last accessed December 30, 2013.

This article originally appeared on and is written by
Jon Yaneff