The Benefits of Yoga: Good for Mind and Body!

You’ve certainly heard time and again that yoga is good for you. All that stretching and breathing calms you down and makes you feel better. But other than “making you feel good,” what are the health benefits associated with practicing yoga?

More often than not, we tend to perceive yoga as a meditation practice that helps us physically – to balance, to stretch, etc. But yoga is also a practice that improves the well-being of our mental state. In fact, “yoga” is derived from the same root as the word “yoke,” referring to the process of yoking the mind and body together.  It is in combining both of these that the most benefit is derived from the practice of yoga. 

Physical Benefits
* Breathing: most of us breathe very differently than we should. As infants, we breathe in by expanding our bellies, and breathe out by retracting our bellies. As we age, we actually reverse this process, and we tend to breathe in a very shallow manner.  In fact, we very rarely truly give any thought at all to how we breathe. Pranayama, a yoga breathing exercise, actually helps to give thought to “how” we breathe and teaches us how to do it properly.

* Muscle tone and strength: many yoga poses require you to support yourself and balance on your limbs. This in turn increases your strength. Thus, more strength equals stronger, leaner muscles.

* Pain prevention: whether or not you have pain to begin with, yoga can help treat both current chronic pain and prevent future pain that can occur as we age. Back pain, for instance, is a very common as most of our everyday lives are spent sitting in a car or at a […]

By |November 5th, 2009|Exercise, Fitness, Tips, Yoga|0 Comments

Is laughter really the best medicine?

Experts Take the Benefits of Laughter Seriously

We’ve all heard the saying that laughter is the best medicine. You might even be familiar with the similarly named column in Reader’s Digest, “Laughter, the Best Medicine.” But is laughter really cure-all it’s purported to be?

Benefits of Laughter

Nowadays, not only is it common knowledge that laughter has all sorts of physical and mental health benefits, there’s even an organization called the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (http://www.aath.org/), which is made up of more than 600 doctors and health care professionals who study the effects of humor on humans. Here’s what they’re discovering:

• Laughter decreases the amount of stress hormones in the body and increases the activity of natural killer cells that go after tumour cells.

• It has also been shown to activate the cells that boost the immune system and to increase levels of immune system hormones that fight viruses.

• By the time a child reaches kindergarten, he or she is laughing some 300 times a day. Compare that to the typical adult who, one study found, laughs a paltry 17 times a day.

• Three minutes of deep belly laughing is the equivalent of three minutes on a fitness rowing machine.

• When you laugh, your heart rate goes up. You increase the blood flow to the brain, which increases oxygen. Laughter increases your respiratory rate. You breathe faster. Your lungs expand. It’s almost like jogging, only you never have to leave the house.

• When you have a deep-down belly laugh, the kind that shakes you, it releases anti-depressant mood chemicals.

• With laughter, there is an increased production of catecholmanines. This increases the level of alertness, memory, and ability to learn and create.

• Learning […]

By |June 7th, 2008|Emotional Eating, Laughter, Tips, Yoga|0 Comments

What does it really mean to be fit?

I’ve recently started getting into yoga, for the first time in many years. I took a class once when I was an undergrad and although I diligently attended classes, I never really enjoyed it (the fact that the class was downtown at the ungodly hour of 7:30 AM might have had something to do with it). Now maybe that I’m older, I find myself patient enough to enjoy its slow, meditative pace, although I definitely have a lot to learn. However, it’s gotten me thinking a lot about what it means to be fit.

I remember reading somewhere once that most people think that to be physically fit is to possess either good strength or endurance. In other words, being able to lift a lot of weight or have shapely muscles (strength), or else be able to run for a long time or have good cardiovascular fitness (endurance), is enough to be considered a fit person. However, true fitness also includes balance and flexibility. What good is it to be able to run or lift weights if you aren’t flexible? Although most people do incorporate some stretching into their routines, balance is by far the most neglected part of fitness. This is why elderly people are so prone to falling. Just like developing good musculature, good balance can also be developed. One of the best ways to develop balance and flexibility is through yoga.

Yoga also increases your sense of self-awareness, which makes yoga an ideal mind-body exercise. It takes a lot of practice and discipline, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s hard, and it can be frustrating, but I find that it’s helping me to develop more tolerance with myself. It teaches you to […]

By |January 6th, 2008|Emotional Eating, Exercise, Fitness, Yoga|0 Comments