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Month: August 2017

Yoga for Athletes: A Little Goes A Long Way

The Benefits of Adding Yoga to a Training Program

There is growing research available that outlines the benefits of yoga for athletes related to their athletic performance. Athletes benefit from yoga both physically and mentally. Assuming the great benefits of yoga for athletes, how can athletes and coaches make time for another training regimen when they already dedicate five hours to their sport daily?

For elite athletes, their commitment might include practice for their sport, weightlifting, agility and speed training, and physical therapy for recovery or injuries. This is not even considering the most important element – their actual competition.

I am a college softball coach. I also teach yoga to college athletes from all sports and direct softball camps for high school athletes. From my experience, a quick yoga practice is something that can be integrated into any schedule. It can fit into the training schedule of time-strapped college athletes. It can fit into the sports camp experience for younger athletes. Athletes have experienced both the ‘yoga fog’ in as little as three restorative postures as well as the energizing qualities of vinyasa breath after a few sun salutations.

Regardless of scheduling challenges or available space to practice yoga, the main emphases of a shorter practice are breath, awareness of how their body responds, and general mindfulness.

Breath

Sport psychologists often start with noticing breath and what it feels like to breathe intentionally and from the belly. Some athletes do not even have time to take full breaths or forget to breathe when they compete. One of our most successful athletes remarked after her final season that she wished she had practiced breathing earlier. It would have allowed her to avoid almost passing out from holding her breath and help her settle her nerves. Athletes can start in any comfortable position (lying down or seated) to connect with their breath and understand how they can calm themselves or get focused simply by bringing awareness to their breath.

To show the effects of breath, they can try a few styles of breath. I suggest alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodhan) and skull shining breath (kapal bhati).  This allows them to experience how different types of breath (pranayama) affect them physically.

Recognizing what is going on with their bodies

Mind over matter is a common mantra for competitive athletes, especially when it is a matter of the body. Most athletes are concerned with doing their jobs regardless of what their bodies are capable of doing. They will recruit whatever muscles needed to be explosive, dynamic, and endure the rigors of a competition. Spending time in any yoga posture while tuning in to alignment and noticing where the restrictions in movement or compensations happen can benefit athletes by simply being more aware of how their bodies feel and move.

Guided mindfulness

To help integrate both breath and being present in their bodies, space, moment, and breath, I like to end with guided mindfulness or meditation. It could be incorporated into their final corpse pose (savasana) or when breaking down a posture. Athletes can focus on feeling their alignment or noticing their body’s physical or emotional response to different postures. This is especially useful with postures that target the hips, spinal column, or side bodies. These areas are often tight in athletes. If time allows, a guided meditation with attention to counted breath or a general body scan is another way to guide athletes toward mindfulness. The New York Times recently printed an article about a study that revealed that meditation helped a team of Division I football players withstand the physical demands of training.

Incorporating Yoga for Athletes

Athletes can read about the benefits and hear rave reviews from yoga practitioners. But, they may not understand yoga’s value until they actually experience yoga themselves.

For the teams or athletes who feel there is not enough time in their training schedule for yoga, even 10 minutes could make a great difference. I recommend starting with integrating 10 minutes of yoga to experience its benefits. It can be before or after sport-specific training workouts or at a completely separate time.

No need for extra equipment. Athletes can do yoga anywhere – outfield grass or swim deck. Yoga props can be improvised from whatever is on hand – helmet, towels, or a team sweatshirt.

Ginger: Why You Should be Using this Powerhouse Root

Ginger: Uses Both Ancient and Modern

When I was younger and came down with a ‘stomach bug’, my parents would often give me flat ginger ale to relieve my discomfort. Growing up, it was a fairly common remedy for stomach issues. As kids, most of us had no idea why it worked. But we knew we felt better and that was the important bit. Fast forward a few decades. Dand during a bout with norovirus I was desperate for some relief, so I gave this little trick a try. Sure enough, I felt better.

So the question is, why does it work? It’s not just any flat soda product; it has to be ginger ale, which gives us something of a hint. It’s the ginger. Zingiber officinale, the scientific name for ginger, has been used for thousands of years for a wide variety of health issues, most of which are related to gastrointestinal distress (Ali, 2008). Its use appears in both Chinese medicine and the Ayurvedic system. These systems use ginger for stomach cramps, bloating, vomiting, and even helminths (worms) and bacterial infections related to the GI tract.

As an infectious disease specialist studying clinical herbalism, I became curious about what modern scientific inquiry might have to say that could corroborate some of these ancient claims.

Why Does it Work?

As it turns out, there is a tremendous body of literature that fully supports many of these assertions. In addition, the studies that investigate ginger are increasing rapidly in number. Particularly because scientists have become interested in whether it could be used as a means of decreasing antibiotic usage. Which would, therefore, combat antibiotic resistance. In a really fantastic literature review by Valussi in International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition (2012), we see multiple studies that point to the components of ginger that seem to be responsible for its myriad of uses.

The essential oil found in ginger along with chemical components known as oleo-resins were extracted in ethanol (a tincture) and given either via injection into the intestine or orally to rats. In the case of the injection, we see an increase in bile secretion. In the oral administration, the results show increased digestive enzymes. This includes enzymes produced by the pancreas, trypsin, and chymotrypsin, which break down large proteins in the duodenum (the first section of the small intestine).

Valussi further describes several studies wherein consumption of ginger in both lab animals and people results in reduced spasmodic activity in the intestines, but increased rates of digestive activity. This includes enzyme stimulation and peristaltic movement, which drives food products through the GI tract. These studies offer evidence to explain why ginger is frequently used to calm an upset stomach. It also offers a solution to why those who have difficulty with constipation or other digestive issues – including Crohn’s disease, IBS, and ulcerative colitis – may find some relief by the consumption of ginger before or immediately after meals.

Ginger as an Antibacterial/Antimicrobial

The good work of ginger does not end there. As I mentioned before, many scientists are interested in if ginger could be utilized in lieu of antibiotics or antimicrobials. Use of ginger in this way could help to stem the tide of antibiotic-resistant infections. A study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology (Iqbal, 2006) demonstrated that crude powder and a simple aqueous extract of dried ginger were somewhat effective in treating sheep with helminth (nematodes/worms) infections.

Both the powder and extract showed a dose-dependent anthelmintic effect with up to a 66.6% reduction in six different species of worm infection. The standard pharmaceutical, Levamisole, exhibited a 99.2% reduction; but it is worth noting that Levamisole has recently gained notoriety as a cutting agent for cocaine. This is due to its transient neurological side effects, most often reported as “excitement” in both humans and livestock. As such, further investigation of ginger as a potential substitute or complementary treatment is warranted.

Ginger for GI Tract Infections

Finally, an in vitro study in Phytotherapy Research (Bensch, 2011) explored multiple herbal extracts (in ethanol) to determine if any among them might prove useful against the digestive infection caused by Campylobacter jejuni (C. jejuni). This is a bacterium that leads to severe diarrhea and is loosely associated with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, an illness in which one’s immune system attacks one’s nerves – resulting in tingling, weakness or even paralysis. Bensch found that of the 21 extracts he studied, the extracts of ginger and licorice exhibited the greatest effect – the inhibition of the C. jejuni ability to adhere to cells in vitro. This finding suggests these extracts warrant further investigation as to whether they could prevent C. jejuni adhesion in the human gut and, thus, prevent infection and disease.

Takeaways

In summary, there is a lot of exciting evidence from both ancient systems and modern scientific inquiry that suggest how ginger is a great addition to one’s diet and perhaps to one’s over-the-counter arsenal of complementary or alternative options as well. This is especially exciting for those who suffer from chronic gastrointestinal distress. That’s not to say that ginger will fix it all, but it may alleviate pain and discomfort for acute flare-ups.

Certainly, we have progressed rather a long way in our understanding of sugar and other processed foods, so the old trick of a flat ginger ale might not be the best option anymore. But, ginger is readily available. So as are tinctures and teas made from it – or try your hand at making your own! Ginger is suggested to be safe with few or no side effects. But, it is important to always check with your physician before making changes or additions to existing medications.

Check out Dr. Doherty’s article on the use of dandelions as a powerful antioxidant here.

References:

Ali, Badreldin H., Gerald Blunden, Musbah O. Tanira, and Abderrahim Nemmar. Some phytochemical, pharmacological and toxicological properties of ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe): A review of recent research. Food and Chemical Toxicology 46 (2008): 409-420.

Bensch, K., J. Tiralongo, K. Schmidt, A. Matthias, K.M. Bone, R. Lehmann, and E. Tiralongo. Investigations into the Antiadhesive Activity of Herbal Extracts Against Campylobacter jejuni. Phytotherapy Research 25 (2011): 1125-1132.

Iqbal, Zafar, Muhammad Lateef, Muhammad Shoaib Akhtar, Muhammad Nabeel Ghayur, and Anwarul Hassan Gilani. In vivo anthelmintic activity of ginger against gastrointestinal nematodes of sheep. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 106 (2006): 285-287.

Valussi, Marco. Functional foods with digestion-enhancing properties. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition 63(S1; 2012): 82-89.

The Best Free Yoga Workout Videos

Bella Gerard for Health Magazine shares 13 free yoga workout videos. Use these videos to get moving when you can’t get to the studio. Try these short practices today to start reaping the physical and mental benefits of yoga.

Yoga is an incredible workout: not only does it increase flexibility, strengthen muscles, and calm your mind, but it can also seriously whittle your waist, ease lower back pain, improve blood pressure and cholesterol, even boost your immune system. But while the list of health benefits is long, not everyone has the time, money, or patience to fit regular yoga classes into their workout routines. To the rescue: these free online yoga videos let you reap yoga’s many health perks without leaving the comfort of your living room. The best part? They start at just 5 minutes long, so you can fit in a sequence anytime, whether it’s first thing in the morning or while you wait for dinner to cook. Pick one (or a few!) to practice daily and learn for yourself how yoga can benefit your mind and body.

Check out Tiffany’s Invigorating Wake-Up Yoga Workout Video and 13 other short practice videos.

Ethical Yoga Brands That Make Seriously Amaze Clothes

Anna Redko for Peaceful Dumpling shares a roundup of 10 ethical yoga brands. Her list includes Tiffany Cruikshank’s collaboration with Liquido. Check out these brands that are environmentally conscious, and give back to their communities.

10 Ethical Yoga Brands That Give Back & Make Seriously Amaze Clothes (Yaaas)

It’s easy to assume that yoga brands must be ethical in their practices. I mean ahimsa, right? Unfortunately, in reality, that is not always the case. There has been a rising number of activewear and yoga brands that are taking note. These brands are including social corporate responsibility in their efforts to appeal to customer values, which is great news. However, they wouldn’t have taken notice if people were not supporting smaller brands and/or start-ups that are authentically focusing their efforts on ethical business practices by supporting communities and smaller manufacturing facilities that take care of their people whether that is in the U.S.A. or in a developing country.

On the environmental front: yoga leggings, of course, contain polyester, which leeches tiny microplastic fibers into the oceans every time you wash them. So what’s an eco-conscious yogi to do? Not do naked yoga, of course (unless that’s your thing, gah!). Here at PD, we suggest you look for brands that try to minimize the damage by using recycled materials and otherwise giving back to the cause.

So, here is a list of ten activewear and yoga brands that are making positive changes in the fashion industry while producing high-quality yoga-wear you will fall in love with.

Click here to browse the selection of 10 ethical yoga brands.

Thrive Questionnaire Tiffany Cruikshank Interview

Thrive Global shares an installment of its Thrive Questionnaire featuring Yoga Medicine Founder Tiffany Cruikshank. Learn about the first thing she does in the morning, what drives her, and why she believes in sticking to her strengths.

Tiffany Cruikshank – A Renowned Yoga Instructor On the Value of Sticking to Your Strengths

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.

Thrive Global (TG): What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?

Tiffany Cruikshank (TC): Meditate (with my partner when we’re both at home.)

TG: What gives you energy?

TC: Creating, helping others, teaching. Doing what I love for work.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?

TC: I really really love what I do. Also, I place the same value and priority on the things that keep me in balance as I do my work. Most importantly though, I know what I’m good at and I stick to that. It really allows me to be focused and efficient.

TG: Name a book that changed your life.

TC: I am a book junkie, there’s no way I could choose just one! I have hundreds of books on my bookshelves, each one I adore.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?

TC: No way, I don’t usually touch my phone from 8 p.m.-10 a.m. If I need to create or write content or manuals I turn my phone and emails off completely. It’s the best way to increased productivity.

TG: How do you deal with email?

TC: At the beginning of the week I make sure I carve out the time I need to do other things whether that be meetings or chunks of time to create things for our business and then I let the emails fill in the rest of the time. If not I would spend all of my time on email…

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?

TC: Meditate. It puts things in perspective, makes the rest of my day more productive and at the end of my day I feel better with this.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out? Why?

TC: The worst was right after I finished my masters in Chinese Medicine almost 15 years ago, my adrenals were shot. Building my body and mind back up was a long road and it made me really respect my body and learn to find a better balance. Since then I would say the times I feel burnt out are the times when I am not taking time for myself and when I lose the excitement for what I do. That’s when I go back to the drawing board to see what needs to shift.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed? How did you overcome it?

TC: I’m a perfectionist so I always feel like what I do can and should be better. There’s a constant voice inside me that needs everything to be perfect that I have to ignore on a daily basis or else I would never do anything.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.

TC: “Just do it! (There’s no better time than now!).”

About Tiffany:

Tiffany Cruikshank is an internationally renowned yoga instructor and educator, author, and health and wellness expert who travels the globe training both yoga instructors and students on how to use yoga as medicine. She is the founder of Yoga Medicine and makes it her mission is to help people everywhere to create healthy a lifestyle that allows them to thrive (not just be alive.) Tiffany was previously the Acupuncturist and Yoga Teacher at the Nike World Headquarters in Portland, Oregon. She has a pre-med Bachelor’s degree in Medicinal Plant Biology & Nutrition, a Master’s degree in Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine and a specialty in Sports Medicine & Orthopedics. She is the author of two books – Meditate Your Weight and Optimal Health for a Vibrant Life

How to Take Your Meditation Space to the Next Level

Locke Hughes for Women’s Health Magazine shares the key factors that make a meditation space conducive to great practice. Learn how to set up your perfect meditation zone. Yoga Medicine founder Tiffany Cruikshank weighs in on what helps her create the perfect space for calm.


How To Create The Perfect Meditation Space For When Your Stress Levels Are Through The Roof

The idea of a meditation practice sounds great. After all, science has shown that meditation offers tons of benefits for your brain and your body, from lower blood pressure to a better mood. But committing to it on a regular basis is harder than it sounds. One thing that always trips us up? It can be tricky to find just the right (distraction-free) meditation cushion or place to meditate. While it’s true you can do it anywhere and anytime, having a consistent, dedicated place to meditate in your home can help you get in the right headspace, says Khajak Keledjian, founder of Inscape meditation studio in New York City. “The more you meditate within the same, familiar space, the fewer distractions you will have, which makes it easier to stay focused and present.”

Short on space? No problem—it could just be a small corner or section of a room, says Donald Altman, psychotherapist, a former Buddhist monk, and author of The Mindfulness Toolbox and One-Minute Mindfulness. “Don’t feel limited by space—it’s how you make the space sacred that matters.” Got your spot? Keep reading for more advice on how to make it peaceful and inviting as possible.

Clear Out Commotion

Ideally, try to find a place in your house where you can shut the door so others know not to disturb you, suggests Tiffany Cruikshank, yoga and meditation expert and founder of Yoga Medicine. Make sure it’s free from distractions like pets, computers, or piles of laundry that needs to folded.

Grab a Cushion and a Timer 


The two most important items: a comfortable cushion to sit on and a timer so you don’t have to look at a clock, Cruikshank says. You can meditate without a cushion, but having one will make the experience much more comfortable. Try this cushion, which comes in three colors ($44.99, amazon.com).(Turn bath time into a meditation with color therapy bath botanicals from the Women’s Health Boutique.)

Increase the Peaceful Vibes

Seek out a spot with serene colors like green, blue, and purple, Altman suggests. Include textures that are soft and inviting—think cozy blankets, a soft rug, and a plush cushion. Finding a spot that has a view of greenery or plants is also a perk, as nature can help enhance quiet reflection, he says.

Try an App 

Smartphones may seem like the antithesis of mindfulness, but you can use technology to your advantage. “There is a misconception that people need to detach from technology to find balance and create mindful environments,” Keledjian says. “At our studio and within our app, we’re merging tradition, modern thinking, and of-the-moment technology.” In the Inscape app, for example, you can start with breath work that’s less than five minutes that’ll help you get used to centering yourself and focusing inward. Cruikshank also recommends the Enso app: “It’s a simple meditation timer that allows me to program the intervals I like, with a gong or bell as a more soothing sound to come back to.”

Personalize Your Space 

Consider adding items like a statue, candle, or peaceful pictures to your space. Make sure it’s something that works for you, Altman says. For example, if you’re very visual you might want to hang a photo or picture of a spiritual icon or image on the wall in front of you. If you are very kinesthetic, maybe get a rosary to hold or a special scarf or shawl to place over your shoulders while meditating. The right kind of crystals can also enhance meditation, Altman says. This candle by NEST Fragrances provides a bamboo scent that can help set the space’s tone ($40, amazon.com).

Silence is Golden 

Whether or not to use music or silence during meditation is a matter of choice, Altman says. “Music can certainly be meditative, but it can also be distracting and take focus away from the meditation.” If possible, try for silence. “That way, the nervous system has just one thing to pay attention to,” Cruikshank says. If silence isn’t possible (or if there’s noise in your home), you can play some calming music to help block out background noise.

Bring in Scents 

Certain smells can help enhance the sensory experience of meditation. Look for a lavender-scented candle or essential oils, Altman suggests, for a calming effect: “Lavender has been shown to quiet down the heart rate and lower blood pressure,” he says. Keledjian uses a custom blend of vetiver, frankincense, and cardoon to create a grounding, expansive, and warming environment at his studio.

Find the Space Inside Yourself 

Now that you’ve created the perfect place for your practice, we’ll remind you that you don’t have to always meditate there. “For me, a mindful space has an infinite feeling and isn’t purely defined by a physical environment,” Keledjian says. “It starts with finding an environment that supports the habit you’re setting and then you can work to create the mindful space inside of yourself. Once you have that space inside of yourself, you can be mindful anytime, anywhere.”
Click here for the original article on Women’s Health Magazine.

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