If you have coverage for Massage Therapy, Manual Osteopathy, Acupuncture, Reflexology, Kinesiology or Yoga Therapy your benefit plan is likely coming to an end December 31st. If any remaining balance in your benefits are not used they will not carry over in to the next year. If you have insurance benefits that help you improve and maintain your health, why not take advantage of your plan?
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Yogis know the poses that “open” the heart, but did you know that regular practice can also help protect your ticker over the long term?
In honor of National Wear Red Day, the American Heart Association’s campaign to raise awareness of heart disease (the#1 killer of women), here are 5 ways that yoga keeps your heart going strong.
And don’t forget to wear red yoga pants on Friday to spread the word!
1. Love how you feel after class? That’s your stress melting away.
Stress may affect behaviors and factors that are proven to increase heart disease risk: high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, smoking, physical inactivity and overeating, according to the American Heart Association. Chronic stress may also cause some people to drink too much alcohol, which can increase your blood pressure and may damage the artery walls. A regular yoga practice, on the other hand, is likely to calm you down, making you less likely to lean on caffeine, sugar, fatty foods or alcohol to “numb out,” says Hazel Patterson, Urban Zen Integrative Yoga Therapist and teacher trainer at YogaWorks in Los Angeles.
“Moving with the breath, in other words linking expanding movements with the inhales, and contracting or softening movements with the exhales, starts to create a dynamic which calms the nerves and moves that stress energy out of the body,” she explains.
For your go-to bliss-out pose, Terrence Monte, a Managing Teacher at Pure Yoga in New York City, recommends the Seated Forward Bend. To make it even more delicious, place a rolled blanket or towel under your knees, and rest your forehead on a block or other prop placed on your shins.
2. It’s a feel-good workout.
Maintaining a normal BMI (body mass index) can help your heart, according to the CDC, and regular physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight. Yoga, Monte says, is the “best resistance workout on the planet” —meaning it’s easy on the joints and uses your own body weight to build strength. Become a fat-burning machine by building long lean muscle—Monte suggests Plank Pose as all-over strengthener that does double-duty by targeting your core and shoring up your back.
3. It blasts belly fat.
Excess abdominal fat has been linked to increased risk for heart disease. By strengthening the large muscle groups in the body, such as the gluteals and quadriceps, yoga gets your body burning more calories, meaning you are less likely to store them as fat around your middle, Patterson says. “Standing poses like Warrior II held for a little longer than the mind is comfortable with is a great way to build these powerhouse muscles,” she says.
4. It “opens” the heart.
What does it mean to “open” your heart mean anyway? “Asana is the practice of putting your body in challenging shapes. Yoga, on the other hand, is the practice of integrating what you learn on the mat with what you do off of it,” Monte explains. “As you become more mindful about your body, your breath, your language in challenging poses, you become more aware about your own perceptions (read: misperceptions) of the world.”
Rather than the obvious heart-openers (Fish, Camel, Locust ), Monte suggests a pose that’s really challenging to stay vulnerable in, like Chair Pose. “Sit as low as you can with your lumbar spine as long as possible for as long as you can. Notice how your mind, your language, your perceptions change as the intensity increases,” he says.
5. It changes your diet.
A healthy diet (heavy on colorful fruits and veggies, fiber and heart-healthy fish and light on red meat, saturated fat, sodium, sugar and processed foods) is critical to heart health, and studies have linked regular yoga practice to mindful eating.
“As you connect to your body, breath and perspectives in challenging shapes on the mat, you connect more to what you do to it off the mat,” Monte says. “Suddenly, if you have to do yoga in the morning, it gets much harder to have that fourth martini, that fried whatever, that extra serving of needless sugar. You develop a sense of respect for this absurdly miraculous body that has developed over millions of years of evolution.”
Article originally appeared on The Yoga Journal.
Over a century ago, scientists demonstrated that sleep supports the retention of memories of facts and events. Later studies have shown that slow-wave sleep, often referred to as deep sleep, is important for transforming fragile, recently formed memories into stable, long-term memories.
Now researchers propose that deep sleep may also strengthen immunological memories of previously encountered pathogens.
“While it has been known for a long time that sleep supports long-term memory formation in the psychological domain, the idea that long-term memory formation is a function of sleep effective in all organismic systems is in our view entirely new,” says senior author Jan Born of the University of Tuebingen. “We consider our approach toward a unifying concept of biological long-term memory formation, in which sleep plays a critical role, a new development in sleep research and memory research.”
The immune system “remembers” an encounter with a bacteria or virus by collecting fragments from the bug to create memory T cells, which last for months or years and help the body recognize a previous infection and quickly respond.
These memory T cells appear to abstract “gist information” about the pathogens, as only T cells that store information about the tiniest fragments ever elicit a response. The selection of gist information allows memory T cells to detect new pathogens that are similar, but not identical, to previously encountered bacteria or viruses.
Studies in humans have shown that long-term increases in memory T cells are associated with deep slow-wave sleep on the nights after vaccination.
Taken together, the findings support the view that slow-wave sleep contributes to the formation of long-term memories of abstract, generalized information, which leads to adaptive behavioral and immunological responses.
The obvious implication is that sleep deprivation could put your body at risk.
“If we didn’t sleep, then the immune system might focus on the wrong parts of the pathogen,” Born says. “For example, many viruses can easily mutate some parts of their proteins to escape from immune responses. If too few antigen-recognizing cells [the cells that present the fragments to T cells] are available, then they might all be needed to fight off the pathogen.
In addition to this, there is evidence that the hormones released during sleep benefit the crosstalk between antigen-presenting and antigen-recognizing cells, and some of these important hormones could be lacking without sleep.”
Born says that future research should examine what information is selected during sleep for storage in long-term memory, and how this selection is achieved.
In the end, this research could have important clinical implications.
“In order to design effective vaccines against HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis, which are based on immunological memory, the correct memory model must be available,” Born says. “It is our hope that by comparing the concepts of neuronal and immunological memory, a model of immunological memory can be developed which integrates the available experimental data and serves as a helpful basis for vaccine development.”
Article originally appeared on sciencebeta.com
As depression affects millions worldwide, countries across the globe now have special days to foster more awareness about mental health issues. While Mental Health Days are a good place to start, is anyone raising awareness of the concrete strategies that anyone can do to prevent, manage and overcome this condition? While some individuals may require stronger treatment methods (such as medications and psychotherapy) most should begin by addressing the many simple, yet powerful changes they can make in their diets and lifestyle.
Stats Canada and the CDC (Center for Disease Control) report that about 9% of adults 18 and older reported symptoms consistent with at least one of the following disorders: major depressive episode, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and abuse of or dependence on alcohol, cannabis or other drugs.
Depression can be described as a state of being that includes a lack of motivation, a sense of hopelessness and a lack of energy. It can include chronic fatigue, sleep problems, alterations is appetite and loss of interest in life in general.
In mainstream medicine, most doctors only address and treat the symptoms of depression by prescribing antidepressants. These types of medications all come with varying degrees of side effects which can be even more detrimental to the individual.
An integrated approach looks at all the contributing factors then works to correct and resolve areas that may be creating difficulty.
How You Think and Feel is Directly Affected by What You Eat
There is much evidence that the foods we eat directly influence the brains behavior. Here’s some Food for Thought: How you think and feel is directly affected by what you eat. This idea may seem strange but a poor diet, especially one with a lot of junk foods, is a common cause of depression. That’s because neurotransmitters in our brain, which regulate how we behave, are controlled by what we eat and closely linked to mood. The fact is that eating the right foods has been proven to boost IQ, improve mood and emotional stability, sharpen memory and keep your mind young.
Two of the most important aspects an individual should address if they’re suffering from depression are their diet and lifestyle. Everything from blood sugar imbalances to food allergies and deficiencies in much needed vitamins and minerals should be considered and corrected as well as ensuring your diet is rich in fatty and amino acids as these have all been linked to low mood.
What is a Balanced Diet?
A good nutritional program consists of three parts:
- A good diet, without chemicals, sugars and junk food. Eating a whole food diet ensures you receive all the right nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids and EFA’s. These all support you mental, physical and emotional health.
- Micronutrient support, especially the B vitamins niacin, pyridoxine (B6), B12, folic acid, vitamin C, zinc & essential fatty acids.
- Other nutrients that support the production of neurotransmitter substances such as choline, and L-tyrosine which improves dopamine synthesis and 5-HTP to stimulate serotonin production.
Getting enough Vitamin D through appropriate sun exposure or in supplement form is also essential in fighting depression. Vitamin D is actually a neuroregulatory steroidal hormone that has been found to significantly lower the presence of depressive symptoms. There is growing evidence showing that if you’re suffering from depression one of the best choices you can make is to spend as much time outdoors in the sun as possible.
Exercise is a great way to prevent and treat depression. Studies show that regular exercise helps you feel better and improves mood and attitude towards life. Exercise can help cleanse toxins out of the body and could moderate depression. Also, exercise helps increase feel good endorphins in your brain.
Exercising 3-5 times a week for at least 45 minutes and including some form of aerobic exercise, weight training to improve strength and tone and stretching to ensure flexibility are all essential components to a balanced program.
Although this may be difficult to even consider when you’re feeling depressed, once you establish a routine it will build and help moderate your symptoms.
How you live your life, interact with others, the work you do and the stresses in your life all have an impact on you mental health and need to be addressed and modified. Keep a positive attitude towards life. Look at challenges as opportunities to improve your well being. Create a regular exercise program and learn ways to talk about your feelings and frustrations with friends or loved ones.
Other possible causes of Depression
Many drugs can cause mild to moderate levels of depression; these include blood pressure medications, estrogens in birth control pills, steroids and antianxiety drugs. Although alcohol can make you feel good initially it is actually a depressant and if you suffer with depression you should absolutely minimize or avoid consumption.
Hormonal imbalances such as low testosterone or menopausal imbalances are also factors in causing depression.
A hidden problem that many individuals suffer from is unbalanced thyroid, in particular hypothyroidism which, often goes undiagnosed and untreated. Thyroid problems can have a definite impact on your mood.
As mentioned above food allergies can produce and aggravate depression. For this reason it’s critical to isolate and eliminate food allergies. Avoiding or better yet, eliminating all sugars, refined foods and chemicals found in those foods helps many people with poor moods and depression.
Empower Yourself with an Integrated Approach to Mental Health
If you or someone you know is plagued with depression there are many ways to help prevent and control this condition using natural alternatives or in conjunction with medical therapy.
Keep a positive attitude, exercise, address your diet and nutritional intake, supplement with a good quality multi-vitamin and mineral formula, avoid foods that are toxic to your body and don’t forget to exercise regularly.