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Month: October 2016

How Medications and Yoga Interact

A message from Tiffany:

I am excited to share this fantastic resource from one of our teachers – Margeaux Amerine. Margeaux has generously shared a reference chart she developed for the interactions between medications and yoga practice. Possible issues include dizziness, risk of falls, blood clotting and more.

Click here to view or download the chart for reference as you work with yoga clients.

About the Author

Margeaux graduated with her Doctorate in Pharmacy in 2008 from the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy in Iowa City, Iowa. She began practicing yoga the same year to help heal emotionally and physically after the loss of her father. Through the years yoga has remained an outlet in her life for growth and healing. In 2014, she completed her RYT-200 training with Yoga Medicine and is currently in the process of completing her RYT-500 with Yoga Medicine. She is a full-time practicing pharmacist and yoga teacher living on Whidbey Island, WA.

Connect with Margeaux on Instagram and Facebook.

Seasonal Affective Disorder: 13 Must-Know Facts

By Kristen Fischer.

Along with autumn’s savoury fall produce and brightly colored leaves, comes shorter days. Is the lack of sunlight giving you the blues, or is it something more serious like seasonal depression? Find out, here. Plus other must-know facts about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Woman meditating in the fall leaves for article about Seasonal Affective Disorder

Love the crisp autumn air but hate how you depressed you feel when the sun begins to set while you’re still at the office? You may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or seasonal depression, a type of depression triggered by seasonal light changes. In most cases, symptoms begin during late fall or early winter and start to fade away as the days become longer during spring. However, some people get SAD in spring or summer—it’s just less common. Either way, symptoms include loss of interest in things that you once enjoyed, lack of energy, sadness, feelings of hopeless, difficulty concentrating, a strong desire to sleep, or changes in appetite or weight. Thankfully though, the condition can be treated.

Click here to view the full article and find Tiffany’s insights on how exercise can help to clear the internal seasonal fog.

Infrared Heat: The New Non-Workout Workout

By Sharon Feiereisen. 
We’re often guilty of seeking reward without effort, especially when it comes to exercise and weight loss. Motivating ourselves to go for a run with last night’s double fudge sundae digesting can be a challenge. This is something that becomes increasingly palpable as we head into the holiday season. There’s a reason we’re seeing a growing trend of no-workout workouts, like cryotherapy and EMS training, which purport to burn calories and bust fat with minimal to no effort. Infrared heat is the latest to join the fray and it can range from the completely passive, via a sauna, to active, via heated yoga. So, what is infrared heat and why are experts like Dr. Mehmet Oz and celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow singing its praises?
Click here to read the full article with Tiffany Cruikshank’s insights on the detoxification benefits of infrared heat.

The Reason You Can’t Lose Weight Might Surprise You

By Kristen Fischer.

Can’t manage to lose weight? Can’t keep it off? Have you tried getting a handle on your nerves? It turns out, that stress could be sabotaging your healthy eating efforts. Here’s how chill so you can finally lose that pesky belly fat.

So stressed you could scream? It’s time to take a chill pill, guys! Not only will getting a handle on your stress help you feel better, it will help you look better, too. As it turns out, being under constant tension could be negating all the health and weight loss benefits of your healthy eating plan, according to a study recently published in Molecular Psychiatry.

Stress & Weight Loss

To come to this finding, Dr. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, who heads up the Institute for Behavioral Medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, evaluated 58 women who ate meals with either saturated fat or better-for-you sunflower oil. She then measured levels of inflammation (a chronic condition that can cause weight gain) and markers that predict the likelihood of arterial plaque. Overall, those who ate meals rich in saturated fats were more likely than their counterparts to have markers for inflammation and clogged arteries. However, after controlling for other factors, she found that subjects who ate the healthier fat but reported being under major stress, showed similar results to those who ate the less healthy meals. According to Kiecolt-Glaser, this study is the first to show that stress has the power to cancel out the benefits of choosing healthy fats. Scary stuff!

Is this a go-ahead to eat whatever you want when you are under duress? Not quite. It does, however, highlight the importance of stress management—not only for the sake of your mental health—but for your waistline, too. If you’re not sure how to best unwind so all of your healthy eating efforts don’t go to waste, we’ve got you covered. Read on to find out the very best way to get your zen on.

1. Just Breathe – Literally

Next time it feels like you just can’t deal with your nightmare of a boss anymore, find a quiet place to sit comfortably and breathe for three to five minutes, suggests Tiffany Cruikshank, founder of Yoga Medicine and author of Meditate Your Weight. “Think of yourself as an unbiased observer to the natural process of the breath. Try not to change or regulate the breath but instead notice all the textures and qualities and at the same time try not to judge or put any positive or negative context to what you are experiencing,” says Cruikshank. It may not seem like a simple exercise like this can do much to help, but it’s super simple so it’s 100 percent worth a shot. And how relaxed it leaves you feeling may just shock you

2. Nix Sugar & Caffeine 

You may love your daily sweetened coffee, but caffeine and sugar are both stimulants that give us a false sense of energy, leaving us more exhausted and frazzled than we were before we indulged. You don’t have to quit them cold turkey—cutting back can be favorable, too. “For stress and anxiety, having a stable blood sugar level and cortisol rhythm is key, and sugar and caffeine will throw off both of those,” Cruikshank said.

Read more tips in the original article on

Health Benefits of Meditation: What the Doctor Ordered

By Almut Schotte, a senior certified Yoga Medicine teacher.

Have you always wanted to meditate but never seem to have time?

You know it would be good for you, but for some reason, you haven’t started yet? The end of the year is the perfect opportunity to prepare for the year ahead by starting a meditation practice.

Nowadays, most of us are aware that meditation can improve many different aspects of our life: it strengthens our immune system, improves cardiovascular health, helps with stress, reduces anxiety and depression, and enhances cognitive function. Those are only a few of the benefits of meditation that we can see in recent research. But none of this helps unless we do it. As always, the beginning is the hardest part, so here are some ideas on how you can start to meditate and change your life by “doing nothing.” But first, let’s talk about some of the benefits of meditation.

“We can’t always reduce the stress in our lives but we can change our reaction to it.”

1. It reduces stress

We can’t always reduce the stress in our lives but we can change our reaction to it. Stress can have an extremely negative impact on our body and mind. Cortisol and adrenaline are the two main stress hormones in the body, and between the two of them, we see a widespread effect on many different organs and systems of the body. Meditation can be a key player in reducing and regulating the release of these stress hormones, which can have major health implications, ranging from its effects on heart health, to metabolism, to energy levels, and optimizing our digestive and immune systems. Meditation helps us handle stressful situations with ease.

2. It improves sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep can be trickier than it sounds. If you’ve ever struggled with insomnia, you know that part of the problem is dreading not being able to fall and stay asleep! There are many reasons why we are not able to fall asleep or why we wake up in the middle of the night. For some of us, it can be stress and mental rumination on tasks or unsolved problems that keep us awake at night and for others it could be low melatonin levels. Meditation can help regulate melatonin levels to help you fall asleep and stay asleep for a deep restful night of sleep.

3. It makes you smarter

Modern science has proven that we use only a fraction of our brain. Recent studies have shown that meditation boosts alpha brainwaves, which are responsible for learning, memorizing, and studying. Neuroscience has also proven that meditation and mindfulness training stimulate creative thinking while minimizing depressive symptoms and other mental conditions. When alpha oscillations are prominent, your sensory inputs tend to be minimized and your mind is generally more clear and focused – ready to be at your service.

What Is Meditation?

OBSERVE. PERCEIVE. BE MINDFUL. Nothing less and nothing more. Some people think of meditation as some kind of special activity, but it’s more about stopping and being present. In our daily lives, we run around doing, performing and achieving goals. With meditation, we want to create time to simply stop and notice. And as soon as you—there you are, about to meditate. You simply hear, smell, listen – you observe the present moment.

Tips for Meditating

You can meditate anytime and anywhere you want. It doesn’t need to be a special place and it does not need to be done for a long time. You can meditate for a couple of minutes or half an hour – either way, you will feel the effects.

Frequency is key- Find a slot in your daily life where you commit to a daily meditation routine. Keep in mind that frequency is more important than duration. Research has shown that it’s beneficial to do three minutes a day rather than 20 minutes once a week. You can always increase the time when you feel ready.

Find a time slot that works. Meditate at the same time each day, in the morning right after getting up, during your lunch break, or in the evening before heading to bed. Whatever time works for you the best, just commit to it and make it a daily habit.

Let’s Get Started

Choose a quiet location. It doesn’t matter where you sit, as long as it’s quiet and nobody can disturb you. Mornings are often a good time, because everybody else is still sleeping. Or hang a sign “Meditation in Progress” for your family or roommates. Shut off your phone, close the door, and get started.

Set your timer. Even if you just sit for a couple of minutes, a timer is helpful so you don’t need to keep checking the clock.

Get comfy. Find a comfortable seated position on a cushion or on a chair. Sit upright, relax your neck muscles, and let your shoulders drop. Your hands can rest in your lap or on your knees.

Close your eyes if you can, or keep them open. Closed eyes will help you to focus without getting distracted, but slightly open eyes are fine. Just keep your eyes relaxed as you turn your awareness inwards.

Do nothing. Just observe. In the beginning, or on a busy day, the “do nothing” part is often the hardest. With your eyes closed, focus your senses on your breath. Be an observer and perceive how you inhale and ho exhale. If your mind starts to wander, simply notice and bring it back to observing your breath. When your mind starts to calm, welcome the stillness inside.

Keep in mind that “Every journey starts with the first step.” Why not start the new year with a new journey, one step at a time, without expectations or judgements, just committing to a daily meditation practice?

About the Author

Almut Schotte is a senior Yoga Medicine teacher. You will see Almut contributing at Yoga Medicine’s 200-hour yoga teacher trainings and assisting in the 500/1000-hour modules. Click here to learn more about Almut and the Yoga Medicine Team.

Yoga for Men – Build Strength & Treat Pain

by Michael Lamb for Sweat Shorts.

Until around 1937 yoga was male dominated practice. Priests and mystics developed and practiced yoga for thousands of years as a path towards enlightenment. Today yoga, in the western world, is predominantly practiced by women.
We hear men say, “Oh no, yoga is for women… it is not for me.”
Have you ever thought that? Or heard someone say that? You know the benefits of yoga, so why don’t you go to a class? Maybe you don’t have a mat? Maybe you’re inflexible? Or maybe you’d rather lift weights? Whatever your reason, all men can greatly benefit from yoga. And that is why I decided to reach out to yogis around the world and see what yoga poses are best for men.
Here is the question I asked 42 yogis: “What 3-5 yoga poses should all men practice daily?
My hope was to get the best yoga poses that address common problems found in men (tight hamstrings, hips, shoulders, etc.). That way, no matter the excuse, you can spend your time practicing the most beneficial poses for your health and flexibility.

Crescent Lunge with Interlace

Why: strengthens quads, hamstrings & core while offering a stretch to the chest.
stretches chest
From a standing position at the top of your yoga mat, step one foot towards the back of the mat while staying on the ball of the foot and keeping feet hips width apart. Begin to bend front knee to stack over front ankle coming into a Crescent Lunge. Draw your tailbone down while hugging in around the waist and stacking shoulders over hips. To modify bend back knee to keep shoulders over waist. Interlace your hands behind your back, or grab onto a towel with both hands behind your back creating space between the front of the shoulders and opening the chest. The key here is to think of broadening the clavicles to target the chest, while keeping the the shoulders stacked over the wait to target the front of the back leg. Stay for 3–5 breaths then repeat with opposite leg in front.

Reverse Warrior

Why: strengthens lateral line of the body & stretches lateral line of the body.
From a standing position at the top of your yoga mat, step one foot towards the back of the mat with toes facing the long edge of the mat. Keep front toes facing forward and align the front heel with back arch as if you where walking on a tight rope. Bend the front knee stacking it over the ankle. To check the length of your pose, extend your arms out and your feet should approximately line up under your hands . Open hips towards the side of the mat as the tailbone lengthens and the ribs knit back to stack the shoulders over the waist. While keeping the structure of the pose from the feet up and the arms extended out, flip your front palm up and reach your arm up and back towards back leg while resting back hand on thigh. Think of contracting the one side of your waist while the other side is lengthening. Stay for 3–5 breaths then repeat with opposite leg in front.

Low Lunge

Why: strengthens legs & core while creating length in the hip flexors & front body.
From the top of your yoga mat, step one foot towards the back of the mat with the heel lifted and bend the front knee aligning it over the ankle to come into a runners lunge with the hands supported on the floor. Begin to slide the back leg further back and lower the leg to the floor so the area above the knee cap rests onto the ground. As you move your hips forward, begin to lift the chest and place your hands on the front leg stretching the front of the hip of the back leg. Think of drawing in around the waist to support the low back and open the front side of the body. Stay for 3–5 breaths and repeat on the opposite leg.

Supine Twist

Why: stretches chest, spine & hips
Lie on your back and bend your knees into your chest, keeping your head and shoulders resting on the floor as you take both knees over to one side. Concentrate on opening the chest, spine and hips on the side opposite of the knees. Hold for 3–5 breaths and repeat on the opposite side.

Reclined Thumb to Big Toe

Why: stretches hamstrings
Laying flat on your back, lift one leg and use a strap or towel over the ball of the foot to stretch the hamstrings while being able to relax head and hips on the floor. Relax into the pose noticing the changes of the tissues on the back of the leg. Concentrate on keeping the back of the knee soft and pushing the ball of the foot into the towel or strap to stretch the belly of the hamstrings muscles. Stay for 1-2 minutes and then repeat on the second side.
Click here to see the original article with input from all 42 yogis.

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