Power breathing

When you breathe deeply, you refresh your mind and improve your lung function.

Think of a time when you felt anxious and stressed. Stress is impossible to avoid; bills, job demands or challenging relationships all contribute to taxing your nervous system. But the easiest and quickest way to calm your mind is to simply breathe in and out.

When you breathe deeply, you refresh your mind and improve your lung function. The simple act of inhaling and exhaling decreases the sympathetic nervous system response and leaves you feeling more relaxed.

Worry and stressful situations can trigger a cascade of stress hormones that make the heart pound and muscles tense, known as “fight or flight.” The National Cancer Institute describes it as a group of changes that occur in the body to help a person fight or take flight in stressful or dangerous situations. This is the body’s way of helping to protect itself from possible harm. During fight or flight, certain hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, are released into the blood. This causes an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. Other changes include an increase in blood sugar, alertness, muscle tension and sweating.

Fight or flight served us well on the savannah, but on a daily basis we can’t be continually running from tigers. The simple act of breathing with focused intent can help you relax and feel better.

At rest we only use about 20% of our lung capacity and barely utilize the muscles of our breathe. The American Lung Association indicates that when the diaphragm is not working at full capacity, the body starts to use other muscles in the back, neck and chest for breathing. This means that there is less reserve for exercise and activity, and lower available oxygen levels.

So, how do you take a deep breath?

Although many people feel a deep breath comes solely from expansion of the chest, chest breathing (in of itself) is not the best way to take a deep breath. To get a full deep breath, learn how to breathe from the diaphragm while simultaneously expanding the chest.

Yoga teaches that by breathing this way: a vertical extension, a horizontal expansion and a circumferential extension of the rib cage, chest and lungs shows that the lungs are being filed to their maximum capacity.

Breath is life. Yoga teaches that breathing is a prayer of gratitude we offer to life itself. B.K.S Iyengar, one of the most influential yoga teachers in America, compares leaves moving in the wind to how our mind moves with our breath. When your breath is regulated, there is a neutralizing effect on the mind. Activating the deep breath will decrease your parasympathetic nervous system and leave you feeling more relaxed and in control of your emotions.

It’s not only yogis who know the benefits of remaining calm and focused by practicing breathing. Navy SEALS use controlled breathing techniques in their military training programs as a valuable tool for their soldiers. Facing crisis, high pressure and uncertain circumstances, one of techniques the SEALS use is easy to learn and powerful, called box breathing.

Box Breathing

Sometimes referred to as square breathing, box breathing is a practical technique to start with. You can practice it anywhere and at any time; however, it’s best to sit in a comfortable chair with your feet on the floor, or lying down, to learn. Try to tune out extraneous sounds, as you close your eyes and listen to your breath. Notice the natural rhythm of your breathing for a few cycles. Now you are ready to begin your box breathing.

  1. Breathe out slowly, releasing all the air from your lungs.
  2. Breathe in through your nose as you slowly count to four in your head. Be conscious of how the air fills your lungs and stomach.
  3. Hold your breath for a count of four.
  4. Exhale for another count of four.
  5. Repeat steps 1 to 4 for three to four rounds.

For visualization, while you are box breathing, imagine as though the box is being traced by a colored crayon or imaginary marker. For each of the four lines you draw, switch colors of the box’s outline. For meditation, you can add an affirmation, such as “I am relaxed,” as you breath by syncing it with your breath, rather than counting.

Continue practicing your breathing technique whenever you think of it. Your breath is always with you, as is life itself. 

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru-power-breathing/article_936765b2-d77c-11ec-bc26-ff6932a5d3ee.html

Fitness Guru: Stretch your hips like a pro

Warrior 1 involves leg strength and mobility.

By CONNIE ARONSON

Skiing, snowshoeing, yoga or walking requires strength and mobility. Consider the yoga pose Warrior 1, where you stand in a lunge position with your arms stretched straight up overhead, neck extended with the head back and eyes looking up. Doing this pose involves leg strength as you stretch your leg and hip muscles. Your spine extends, the chest opens, and the arms, shoulders, upper back and neck stretch! All in all, Warrior 1 strengthens and stretches you.

You need flexibility as much as cardio, as it enhances optimal movement and just plain old feels good.

If you feel stiff and tight lately, you might want to work on your flexibility for the health of your body. However, if you’re not quite ready for Warrior 1, let’s start with an essential hip flexor stretch.

Hips don’t lie

The hip flexors are a muscle group that can get chronically shortened from prolonged sitting at a computer.

If your hips are stiff and tight, it can lead to poor hip mobility and is associated with poor core and hip stability.

Tight hips also affect the health of the whole back, as they cause the pelvis to anteriorly tilt. If you picture your pelvis being a bowel of water, the water would spill out the front. When you stand in perfect alignment, the pelvis is naturally rotated about 10 degrees, meaning that the front of the pelvis is slightly lower than the back of the pelvis.

A & B: Tennis ball and hip flexor stretch

While it may sound technical, the technique referred to as self-myofascial release is easy to do, and is like self-massage. Self-myofascial release techniques are used to release and rejuvenate tight muscles and other soft tissues to prepare for later stretching and strengthening exercises.

There are 2 parts to this stretch:

Tennis ball roll on the hip flexor

Tennis ball roll on the hip flexor

Lie facedown, and place a tennis ball beside your belly button. This targets the psoas major muscle, which lies under the abdominals. Turn your foot in slightly, and scoot your body to move the ball to any sore spot all the way down to the top of the hip.

Try to relax on any tight areas for 20-30 seconds, for a total of 2-3 minutes on both sides.

Right after rolling, go into the hip flexor stretch as follows:

Kneeling hip flexor stretch.

Kneel down on one knee, and tuck the pelvis under using the glutes and abdominals. Raise your arm over your head on the same side as the kneeling leg, and reach over your head, toward the opposite side of the body.

Hold the stretch for 15-20 seconds, and repeat 2-3 cycles on each side once a day.

Kneeling hip flexor stretch with arm reach

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru-stretch-your-hip-flexors-like-a-pro/article_674f0d2e-7f28-11ec-9b9d-639bf6f49d52.html

To sleep better, add Yoga Nidre to your nighttime routine

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Yoga Nidre, a meditation technique, is a proven antidote to help with anxiety and sleep

We need sleep and it’s best in moderation, like most things in life. According to studies recently published in the journal Brain, there is a middle range to keep the brain sharp over time, and most adults need at least seven hours of sleep each night. The study shows that too little or too much sleep is associated with worse cognitive performance. Good sleep improves your brain function, immune system, mood, and health. Sleep is so important for our overall health that having just one night of sleep loss can significantly impair your daily functioning. More than one-third of U.S. adults sleep fewer than six hours per night. So what really keeps you up at night, and how can you make sleep a priority?

Sleep can be so elusive some nights. Worrying, tension, cluttered thoughts, family concerns, and work-life balance dilemmas can keep us up, although we crave sleep.

Caffeine, bright lights, and room temperature

• For most people, the sleep signal happens after 12-16 hours of being awake. A chemical called adenosine accumulates in the brain during the day. Caffeine, however, blocks and inactivates adenosine receptors, and tricks you into feeling alert. Coffee in foods such as dark chocolate and ice cream, as well as some medications, are also sources of caffeine.

• A laptop screen, smartphone or tablet has a very real impact on your melatonin release, interfering with your natural ability to wind down from a busy day.

• Try turning off half of the lights in your home in the last two hours before bed, and keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet.

  • A colder bedroom helps the body’s core temperature drop by 2-3 degrees Fahrenheit, ensuring a better nights’ sleep.

Let tension go with Yoga Nidre

When you’re trying to sleep, our bodies can be holding tension that we are not even aware of. Yoga Nidre, a meditation technique, is a proven antidote to help with anxiety and sleep. The roots of Yoga Nidre go back thousands of years, but many of today’s yoga leaders have adapted the teachings to make them more accessible to Westerners.

Seated meditation isn’t for everybody, as it is difficult to try to clear your mind and bring your focus back to your breath. Because Yoga Nidre is always guided, it promotes deep rest and relaxation. It can be as short as 10 minutes, or as long as an hour. The focus is to cultivate multiple levels of well-being.

Use a meditation app such as Insight Timer or Calm. Once you find a sleep meditation that appeals to you, and because it is guided, you’ll need headphones. ( Be sure you don’t start scrolling ! ) Lie and rest comfortably in your bed. You are encouraged to move around and get as comfortable as you can as you begin.

While you practice Yoga Nidre, you’re often asked to choose a samskara. Yoga teaches that samskara is the sum total of all our actions that conditions us to believe in a certain way, a habit or thought that is ingrained in us. It can be something positive that you’d like to work on. Through your meditation, you can create this belief to help you live less out of habit and more out of a desire to grow as a person. Ultimately you’ll drift off to sleep.

Sleep, you deserve it.

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_e605884e-3ccc-11ec-93f0-5f914f01f24d.html

The bicycle twist is a core move for the morning

Clients often tell me about their morning sequence to start their days, and I’m always proud that they take care of themselves. A morning core program can help maintain low back health, improve neuromuscular control, spinal stability, movement pattern efficiency, and injury prevention. But any ab or core exercise you choose needs to be effective, and not potentially lead to lower back pain.

A morning program is ideal for two reasons. First it’s typically the time in which your body is stiff, cold and most prone to injury. Having a routine prior to your busy day is like doing a pre-workout warm-up: It helps to increase soft-tissue blood-flow, warmth and pliability, facilitates neurological awareness and helps develop a psychological readiness for the day ahead. Second, a morning routine gives us another chance to make our habits stick, and if you miss doing it, you have another opportunity to do it later in the day.

The Bicycle Twist is a big external oblique winner.  

If you need a little help in choosing where to start, add Bicycle Twist to your routine, one of the best core exercises. Compared to a crunch, electromyography ( EMG ) shows that this exercise is 9 % more effective at targeting the rectus abdominis and 310 % more effective at targeting the external obliques.

It’s an ab exercise that many people know, also known in Pilates as Criss-Cross, and a go-to in yoga class.

Let’s include a brief anatomical overview of the ab muscles that this exercise targets. Four abdominal muscles hold the contents of the abdomen in place; the rectus abdominis, aka “six-pack”, which stabilize the pelvis and rib cage with respect to each other, transverse abdonimis, a deeper muscle that maintains intra-abdominal pressure, and is not involved in movements of the trunk, and the external and internal obliques that work together to help decelerate the spine as it arches backwards, rotates, and side bends. The external and internal obliques store potential energy, as in a follow-through in a golf swing.

The Most Common Mistake 

The Bicycle Twist targets the abs, yet most people do it wrong, and use the hip flexors. Stop using your hip flexors! They are typically stronger than the abs in trunk flexing movements; hip flexors bring the legs and trunk toward each other. Beyond 30 degrees, in the Bicycle Twist, crunches, or sit-ups, the powerful hip flexors begin to take charge of the movement. In real life, they are more likely to be strong, as you use them to create energy to help swing your leg forward in walking and running.  

Pilates mat exercise studies using EMG found that the hip flexors in Criss- Cross work at an intensity of 41 %. In other words, when you bring your knee towards your torso, the Criss-Cross, or Bicycle Twist becomes an ineffective exercise for the abdominals. The goal of ab training is to maximize the involvement of the abdominals, and minimize the hip flexors. 

Getting it right 

Keep your knees at 90 degrees, instead of flexing the hip to pull your knee in toward your elbow. This will give the back extra support and help target the obliques. 

Connie Aronson is an ACSM Exercise Physiologist and Corrective Exercise Specialist (TBBM-CES )  Visit her at www.conniearonson.com and  Instagram@conniearon

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_a62eb6d4-61a6-11eb-bcfb-3f5fb75e1f4c.html

Sore neck? 2 quick fixes for forward head

If it’s your habit that your head juts forward and is ahead of your shoulders, you can learn how to fix this common musculoskeletal imbalance.


  • by CONNIE ARONSON

If you feel like you have the weight of the world on your head right now, it could be time to change that situation. If it’s your habit that your head juts forward and is ahead of your shoulders, muscular neck and head pain could be the culprit. It’s very possible that headaches, jaw pain or grinding noises in the jaw could be the result of your forward head. When you have a forward head position, your body’s center of gravity shifts forward and increases the weight of your head in relation to the body. Your head effectively weighs almost as much as two bowling bowls, if it is only 2 inches forward and out of alignment with your upper back.

Imagine the head as round as a ball perched on top of the spine. In real life, the head rests on the most mobile part of the spine, the neck. Because of the small base it sits on, the head becomes more like a large ball sitting precariously on a seal’s nose. The numerous neck muscles that hold your head up all work together to keep your head sitting correctly on top of your shoulders, whether you’re riding a bike, doing crunches, walking or running. However, if you are constantly looking down at your phone, or watching a lot of television, the front neck muscles become weak from being continually stretched forward. When you align the head in an optimal anatomical position, you align the entire upper back, shoulder girdle and ribcage.

There are two common muscle imbalances in the head and neck. One is your head being too far forward, (forward head) and the second one is excessive cervical lordosis, when the muscles in the back of the neck are chronically shortened. For example, suppose you are watching a great movie on a big screen, and you sit slouching, looking up. Sitting like this causes the position of your neck to arch backward to keep your eyes on the show. This position of holding your head up, with your eyes looking up, is a deviation. You’re slumped. When you later try to correct your posture by tucking your chin, those very muscles and fascia on the back of your neck can feel painful or irritated.

Quick fix: How to tell if your head is too far forward

Here is a quick and easy assessment to see if you have forward head. You can also do this alignment check at any time during the day to see if you are practicing good head carriage and posture.

  • Sit on the edge of a chair. With your index finger, find the part of your cheekbone that protrudes outward most, just below your eye. Gently place your index finger there.
  • With an imaginary line, place your other index finger directly below your top finger, on your collarbone. They should be vertically aligned.
  • If the end of the finger on your cheekbone is ahead, your head is too far forward

Tennis ball rejuvenation

A tennis ball is a great inexpensive tool to help you loosen up tight sore muscles. Lying down, place a tennis ball on one side of your neck, and move around a little to find a sore spot. Once there, try to breath and relax on that particular spot. Do for one minute, every day, on each side of the neck. Click on video to see the exercises: vimeo.com/manage/427520367/general.


Connie Aronson is an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist at the YMCA in Ketchum. Learn more at www.conniearonson.com.

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_2a3367a6-ac2e-11ea-b3ee-d73273a6435f.html

Your feet-why they need extra care

When we walk, our feet and ankles absorb impact and force from above and the ground. Our feet need tender loving care because of this.

During this overwhelming pandemic, walking is like a lifeline. People are walking more than ever. You can use this time to improve your alignment and movement skills, starting with your feet.

When we walk, our feet and ankles absorb impact and force from above and the ground. Our feet need tender loving care because of this. Your feet have 52 bones and over 100 ligaments, with 40 muscles and tendons connecting the muscles to these bones. They all form the foundation of the human body. Having healthy feet and ankles means that they can keep your body balanced and can withstand the pressure of standing and moving. That pressure needs to be evenly distributed throughout the lower legs all the way up to the head.  

The average American walks 3,000 to 4,000 steps a day. When you walk, the pressure on your feet increases by 50 percent, and increases even more during an hour of strenuous exercise, cushioning up to one million pounds of pressure. If the feet and ankles are not functioning optimally, it could create some problems through the entire muscular system.

Other areas of the body will be affected as they shift further out of alignment to try to maintain balance.

Our gait affects the whole body, from the moment your heel hits the ground and your weight is transferred through a system of arches that displace forces. The muscles of your feet and lower leg react as our arches drop and roll with gait. The feet and ankle also must know how to adapt to changes in surfaces, like steps or uneven terrain. If your ankles don’t bend, for example, or your knees roll inward, called pronation, not only is your walking gait off kilter, but the knees, hips, lower and upper back can be affected because of musculoskeletal imbalances.

  1. How do they look?

Take a moment to look at your feet. Notice if your big toes have bunions or calluses, or if that toe has moved towards the other toes, rather than pointing straight ahead. Are your lesser toes curled up and flexed?These conditions are called hammer, claw or mallet toes. Are your arches collapsed? Are your feet turned outward as you stand? All of these checkpoints affect the position of the knee, so you can begin to understand the importance of distributing your weight evenly through your feet.

2. Golf and tennis ball roll.

Give your feet a home massage by rolling a golf ball under your foot for a few minutes every day. This exercise helps rejuvenate the plantar fascia, a broad dense tissue on the underside of your foot, where the muscles of you lower leg attach.

Place a golf ball under your foot, and roll the ball back and forth, until you feel tender or sore spots. Pause on the sore spots, until you feel the sore spot release. If the golf ball is too painful, use a tennis ball. You can also add an active stretch by pulling your toes up while rolling.

Do this myofascia release exercise as you sit watching TV, or by your bed to do first thing in the morning.

3. Toe Stretch.

After you golf or tennis ball roll, stretch the underside of your foot to increase the flexibility of your toes and ankle. Stand barefoot, one foot forward, with your toes pushed up against the wall. Keep the ball of your foot and base of the toes in contact with the floor. Slowly lean in, moving the knee inward. Hold for 10-15 seconds, and repeat.

Take at look at the exercises at

https://vimeo.com/user77012133/review/415371796/a971589693

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_10c8774a-90b1-11ea-8d1c-3b262b6c1d24.html

Breath and awareness can help us cope

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Now is the time to connect to our humanity, take a nice big breath and not be so hard on ourselves.

Fear and uncertainty are real right now, as each week brings even more uncertainty fighting COVID-19. Many of us are scared and lonely. But please don’t be so hard on yourself right now, because you already are doing something very brave and compassionate, staying home to flatten the curve. This extremely important measure is a global act of unity. By doing so, you are protecting others, especially our dedicated health workers, who are on the front lines, personifying service.

To feel anxious is natural. Right now, you don’t have to be a hero as you confront all the uncertainty of life. Like the earthquake we all just felt here in Idaho! Right now you want to put as little pressure on yourself as possible. Of course, volunteer to help those in need, get out for a long walk or start a new project. But there is one important thing that you can do to boost your spiritual immune system. Try to stop for a moment, and take a deep breath. This one new habit is one that is based in love, not fear. When you calm your mind down and pause, you connect to something bigger than yourself. Your breath and awareness become a tool to quiet the external fears and worries.

Peel an orange

In just over two weeks’ time, running to the store for one thing or another has come to seem like such a luxury. Today, if you are lucky enough to have fresh fruit in your house, peel an orange. As you peel it, think about how this piece of fruit grew on a tree, in an orchard, tended by a farmer. Think, for a moment of the sun needed for it to grow until it was ripe enough to pick. Take another few breaths to appreciate the trucks and drivers needed for this very orange to travel all the way to your supermarket. This small simple act of gratitude is meditation, connecting you to something much bigger than yourself.

Walk with purpose

Walking outdoors is good for you, and one of the healthiest things you can do for your fitness. You certainly have the time now. On your walks, think about how the arches of your feet absorb the impact of the ground for propulsion. The very act of walking, the human gait system, uses almost all of the 635 muscles in your body. Think, for a moment, of how lucky you are for your feet to be hitting solid ground, propelling you forward. Breathe out compassion for all the doctors, nurses and care givers who aren’t as lucky as you to be doing so. Breathe in love and compassion for all of those who have succumbed to the coronavirus, or who are struggling with the disease right now. As you continue to walk, envision your health and good fortune.

* * *

Use this tool in as many ways as possible during the day. You might not realize it, but your courage comes from generations of people who survived wars, plagues and crisis, yet humanity finds a way to move forward. What is here and is coming is difficult, but now is the time to connect to our humanity, take a nice big breath and not be so hard on ourselves.


Connie Aronson is an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist at the YMCA in Ketchum. Learn more at www.conniearonson.com.

https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_ef34fdda-752e-11ea-839f-834530597363.html

Stretch to stay on top of your summer game

We all want to enjoy summer to the max, and that means more time outside, doing the activities and sports that warm sunshine offers. But each sport has specific demands on your body. A stretch routine after a ride, golf game or hike can make a difference in staying up to the task, especially as you age. Flexibility can decrease as much as 50 percent in some joint areas. The good news is that this loss of motion can be minimized with a regular stretching and range-of-motion routine.

For decades, coaches have thought that pre-exercise stretching was important for their athletes, and would prevent injury or muscle soreness. However, copious research on the topic of flexibility challenges that old belief. It is thought that due to an alteration in joint connective-tissue compliance, stretching before workouts may lead to greater joint instability.

What the research shows is that stretching will help you achieve positive long-term performance outcomes when done at times other than before performance. A warmup that increases blood flow, like arm circles, or leg swings, to get a mild sweat beforehand, is a better injury prevention component.

Your post-game stretches have to be specific to target the muscles that have been stressed or overused or have a reduced range of motion. Here are some tips to ensure that you end a great day outside energized, happy and loose.

Cycling: Stretch after you get off the bike

The quads and hips are big players in cycling, used powerfully and repetitively, and stretching afterward helps combat tightness. Cycling is different from other sports in that force is primarily produced as the muscles are shortening. In cycling, the pedal stroke doesn’t use the full range of motion of the hip, knee or ankle. Running, on the other hand, bends your knees as you raise your thigh, but straightens and extends your leg to push off the ground.

Cyclists also spend a lot of time bent over in the riding position, which puts the hip flexors in a shortened position. Short, tight hip flexors add to achy hips and backs. Tight hip flexors, particularly the deep-seated psoas, can pull forward and down on the lumbar spine. When that happens, you lose an important lower back curve. No wonder your back can hurt after a long ride. Aim for post-ride hip, low-back and chest stretches. You can view those at vimeo.com/343122017.

Golfing: Get loose

Flexibility is imperative to improving your golf swing. Without flexibility, you won’t have the range of motion to unlock any of the power you already have, or are working on. Picture a golfer, at the final moment of follow-through from a fairway shot. That person is, for the most part, opened and stretched in a fluid spiral line of energy. That takes optimal range of motion in joints or groups of joints.

In just one round of golf, you end up swinging a golf club up to 300 times, including practice swings, and at speeds upward of 90 mph. That’s a lot of stress on your muscles, tendons and joints! A pre-game 5- to 10-minute warmup provides essential preparation for your game. Walking around a practice tee, leg swings or arm circles are ways to loosen up for your game. A good warm-up increases blood flow to working tissue as well as velocity of nerve impulses to muscles. It should be relatively easy, inducing a mild sweat. Stretching is recommended after your game. Click on this link for a golf-specific flexibility routine: vimeo.com/343122336.


Connie Aronson is an ACSM-certified exercise physiologist at the YMCA in Ketchum. Learn more at www.conniearonson.com.https://www.mtexpress.com/wood_river_journal/features/fitness-guru/article_6eacb7c8-9377-11e9-9a99-5301d856d0cc.html

Learning to sit still. How meditation works.

 

Learning to sit still-how meditation works

If you think you can’t sit still for five minutes and have absolutely no time, you aren’t alone. You might think you can’t add another “to do “list to your day, as modern life is fast- paced and stressful enough already. Sometimes you’re just pissed. So many diversions, like Facebook, or shopping online, steal our precious time. But sitting still, in meditation, can have tremendous benefits for your health and happiness. Stress levels in the US are steadily rising, with over 53% burnout across industries, (even non-profits), now more than ever, according to a Regus Group study. Antidepressants use alone has increased by 400 per cent this last decade. Meditation was once thought of as an esoteric practice, but scientists are showing that it makes you smarter, less anxious, less depressed, and increases resilience and social connection. Better yet, there’s no right or wrong way to meditate. What’s important is the support and empowerment it gives to your day.

Relax a little more

In studies of happiness, says Emma Seppälä, Science Director at Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research, Americans are all about high intensity. Happiness is more of the “thrill’ and “excitement “ variety, with little value on calmness-that is, low-intensity positive emotions. For example, if you ask Americans to describe “happiness” they won’t say “inner peace”, says Seppälä.

When we’re stressed or angry, called unpleasant high-intensity negative emotions, we’re more likely to counter with even higher intensity doings-like running, to “ blow off some steam”. We’re more likely to turn to a myriad of distractions. Anything than sitting still. That’s where meditation comes in, as practicing sitting still helps you develop perspective and relax.

We need to take time for ourselves. We all want a purposeful, rich, and diverse world. When you take time for yourself, engage in a purposeful or idle pastime, you become more imaginative and grounded. Giving yourself space for quiet and stillness boosts happiness and encourages a healthy lifestyle. That stillness is why you need to meditate.

How to sit

There are so many ways to meditate, but one of the most profound yet simple ways is to sit tall. Sitting tall though, is really hard for most people. A bad back, inflexibility, or other physical barriers make sitting awfully uncomfortable. Aligning the spine straight and tall has an inherent subtle dynamic. Try these tips to work with posture limitations. Now you’re ready to slide into meditating:

1 .Use a pillow, or folded blankets under your sitting bones, to help tip your pelvis forward. If you don’t know what that feels like, it means your bum is a little higher than your pubis. You can also kneel with one or two yoga blocks underneath your rear, which can feel very comfortable. If you are sitting, your legs can be crossed, or more extended.

Shift your hips back a few times, to make sure you are grounded into the floor beneath you. Wiggle around a bit. Shifting or snuggling your hips back helps your spine be tall. If that isn’t comfortable, you can lean against a wall to support your back. Once you feel more grounded, feel yourself settle down. If you feel you need to just lie down to be comfortable, do it!

 

  1. Start to focus on your inhales and exhales. Let your breathing be soft and leisurely, not forced. Be leisurely about it, so you are not rushing.

Imagine your body feeling like Jell-O. When you tap Jell-O gently, it wobbles slightly, teaches yoga master Erich Schiffmann, author of Yoga-The Sprit and Practice of Moving into Stillness. That movement is your breath moving through you. Notice that you are starting to sit quietly, yet the body does have movement going on, and that movement is your breath rippling through you.

4. Stay as relaxed as you can be.

With a little time, patience, and practice, meditation gives back more than you thought possible.

 

 

 

 

 

The mystery and myths of muscle cramps

Many myths surround the how and why we get sudden cramps.

You’re not alone in jumping in the night because of one. Muscle cramps happen suddenly and often excruciatingly, leaving a palpable knotting of the muscle. They can happen to anyone, with or without a history of nervous or metabolic disorders. Cramps can occur during sleep, strenuous activity, or pregnancy. It’s not clearly understood why we get these sudden cramps, but research shows that the likely causes of these types of cramps are multifactorial and caused by changes in the neuromuscular system. One hypothesis is that nerves malfunction. Overly excited muscle neurons go a little haywire in a feedback loop either from the receptors in the muscle, or spinal nerve pathways.

Other causes of cramping are straining or overusing a muscle, or not enough blood getting to the muscle. Sometimes this malfunction is related to metabolic disorders, or a health problem such as a spinal cord injury, medications, or a pinched nerve in the neck or back.

But still, many myths surround the how or why. Regarding exercise- associated muscle cramping, 92% of athletic trainers and most people believe that dehydration or electrolyte imbalance is the cause. Or, perhaps eating more bananas is the answer? If you have a family history of cramping, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor for any possible calcium or potassium supplement recommendations. If you are healthy, there are few well-designed experimental studies supporting dehydration or electrolyte imbalances. First, the best immediate response for cramps is gently stretching the taut muscle. It’s been argued that since static stretching quickly relieves cramping, then how could it be that dehydration is the problem, as no liquids or electrolytes are added to the body with simple stretching. Second, cramp- prone athletes often drink more fluid than athletes without a history of exercise- associated muscle- cramping, ( EAMC ) and it’s found that even when sport drink consumption matched sweat loss, EAMC still happened 70 % of the time. The most interesting argument against dehydration being the culprit is that dehydration affects the whole body, not just the calves, quads or hamstrings, the muscles that are more prone to cramping.

Myths 2 and 3 : Sports drinks and bananas for electrolytes.

If you’re active, you need to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. But you don’t want to overdo it, whether you are simply gardening, or playing two and a half hours of tennis. If you did play tennis, or any other sport for that amount of time, you would need the equivalent of approximately six and half teaspoons of salt replaced. Keep in mind that a typical sports drink contains only 0.44g/L of sodium. That would mean you’d be drinking gallons of fluids, which can be deadly. It’s not uncommon, sadly, that sports enthusiasts and athletes can die from water intoxication, called hyponatraemia. Rather than relying on sports drinks, it’s important to replace electrolytes at meals. Drink enough water throughout the day. As we age, we sometimes forget to drink enough because the thirst impulse becomes weaker.

Another myth about cramping is to reach for a banana, as the potassium in bananas can relieve cramping. Bananas are a healthy snack, but it takes at least 30 minutes to see an increase in new potassium ions in the blood after eating one. So far, there isn’t any evidence that eating bananas effectively prevent or treats EAMCs.

Because immediately stretching a cramp helps it subside, another factor may be in play. Tiny fibers, myofilaments, in muscle may overlap each other when muscles are already tight, and can bunch up even more, resulting in a sudden cramp. I’ve often experienced hamstring cramps going into an advanced yoga lunge if I haven’t previously stretched them enough beforehand. Though the cause of muscle cramps is still a bit elusive, recent evidence suggests that muscle overload is a factor. Stretching still appears to the the best treatment for those sudden cramps.

Click on the link for an effective calf stretch . https://vimeo.com/230657677

Published in the Idaho Mountain Express August 25, 2017.