Tag: yoga

Make It Move: 5 Ways to Crank-Up Your Middle-Aged Metabolism

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With age comes wisdom, but some of us would gladly trade a bit of that hard-earned knowledge for the body we took entirely for granted in our 20s. Joints start to ache as we get older, muscles are pulled more easily, and perhaps the worst thing of all that happens is the slowing down of our once-speedy metabolisms.

Like a lot of things we’ve learned about in life, this simply isn’t fair, but the good news is that there are many things we can do to stay in shape as we age. We may have to work a little harder to get there than when we were younger, but it is still entirely possible to maintain a fit and healthy physique.

 

Below are 5 top tips to speed up a sluggish middle-aged metabolism:

 

1. Set a Schedule—

Some people like to eat 6 small meals a day, and some choose the traditional 3, but the most recent research has shown the amount of meals per day actually doesn’t matter as much as we once thought – calories are calories.

If maintaining even blood sugar levels is mandatory, multiple, mini-meals may be your smartest choice, but if you’re a 3-squares-a-day kind of person, that’s okay, too.

However, no matter how often you choose to eat, the most important thing is consistency: set an eating schedule and stick to it. When your body feels deprived, it goes into starvation mode, which lowers metabolism, so let it know what to expect and deliver the goods on time.

 

2. Muscle Up, Buttercup—

In addition to increasing bone mineral density, adding weightlifting to your workout routine can build muscles, which automatically increases resting metabolic rate.

Strength training exercises can also build up muscles around aching joints to take the pressure off of them, reducing strain and pain.

When starting a weightlifting regimen, remember that you don’t recover as quickly as your younger self, so start slow. If you can’t do 15-20 repetitions, lower the weight, and gradually work up to it. Pushing yourself too hard can result in an injury, which will send you frustrated and limping back to the beginning.

 

3. Make More Movement—

Your days of circling the parking lot, vying for the up-front parking are over. If you want to boost your metabolism, one of the best ways to do this is to create reasons to go the long way – like parking at the back of the lot. On purpose.

If you work in a building with an elevator, make friends with the stairs; they will thank you by burning calories and building muscles. Finding a walking buddy to get some head-clearing and fat-burning exercise on your lunch break is another great idea.

If you can get up and walk around while on the phone, even pacing while you chat is an excellent way to sneak in more movement.

 

4. Protein is Your Pal—

Studies have proven that protein not only assists in the building of muscles, it makes us feel more satisfied than carbohydrates, which can cut down on daily calories consumed.

Try to include a little protein with every meal for increased feelings of fullness and steadier glucose levels to eliminate hunger-binging.

High-protein yogurt (such as Greek) can be especially helpful for weight loss, as it also contains probiotics to bolster good intestinal flora and assist in digestion.

 

5. Slow Down to Speed Up—

The stress hormone cortisol is a common carbohydrate-craving culprit that can cause extra weight gain, especially in the belly area. Not getting enough sleep can also increase levels of ghrelin, a hormone that increases appetite.

The solution to this hormonal weight gain double whammy is difficult for many: making sleep a priority, and getting a minimum of 7 hours per night. But no matter how hectic your life may be, it’s crucial to get a good night’s sleep.

Yoga and meditation are also wonderful ways to stretch, relax, soothe the soul and de-stress. And if nature eases your mind, gardening or taking a hike somewhere green can work wonders, as well.

 

If you’ve noticed you can’t eat as much as before without gaining weight, and the ways you used to stay in shape are no longer working: don’t give up. Try some of the ideas above, and move your metabolism back into a higher, fat-fighting range to keep your body burning calories like a champ and feeling great.

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A Better Brain, Body and Beyond: 6 Beautiful Benefits of Yoga

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It’s well known that yoga increases flexibility and strength in a gentle way accessible to those at any fitness level. But yoga fans will tell you it also offers mental and spiritual benefits that go beyond mere muscle tone and elasticity. Some even believe that yoga slows aging by keeping the body cleaner, running more smoothly, and reducing our physical deterioration on the cellular level.

If you’re considering starting a yoga practice, remember that even if you’re in great shape, it’s a completely different form of exercise than what you’re probably used to doing, so take it slow and listen to your body. If it hurts, stop, because yoga isn’t a “no pain, no gain” type of workout. You’re supposed to feel relaxed and limber at the end of class, not like limping home in defeat.

Below are 6 benefits to adding yoga to your regular workout regimen:

 

1. See Ya, Stress—

One of the first things people notice when they start a regular yoga routine is the sense of calm and tranquility it brings them, almost instantly. Something about stretching muscles and the slow, controlled movements brings a peace to the workout rarely found in other exercises.

One study showed that women who did yoga at least once a week for over 2 years released 41% less of a protein triggered by stress that makes people feel moody and tired. (Source: Psychosomatic Medicine.)

Because yoga forces us to focus intently on our body and position, it creates an automatic sense of mindfulness as we meditate and remain in the moment for the duration of each pose, naturally eliminating stress and tension.

 

2. Balance Bonus—

As we get older, balance can become compromised by medications or loss of muscle tone. Yoga can correct this issue by strengthening the balance muscles through repetitive practice, because we all know: practice makes better.

Tree pose, where each leg is individually held up at the knee for a count (without lowering the other leg for support or wobbling) and yoga poses that build core strength can really help those with inner ear or dizziness issues.

 

3. Stretching to Sleep—

Studies have shown that people with sleep issues who do yoga regularly before bed sleep better, longer, and fall asleep faster than those who don’t. (Source: Brigham and Women’s Hospital.)

This improved sleep is attributed to the more relaxed mental state generally found in those who do regular yoga.

Other research has shown that as little as 3 sessions per week can help people sleep better overall—so if insomnia is an issue for you, consider spending some quality time on your yoga mat to hopefully get more quality time in your bed.

 

4. Better Breathing—

Yoga can help those with asthma, allergies and other respiratory issues, thanks to the sinus-clearing deep breathing exercises that tend to accompany the poses.

Reducing anxiety plays a role in breathing problems, and the calming effects of yoga seem to help patients with asthma control tension and relax so they can breathe more easily without medication.

Deep breathing also oxygenates the body which is great for brain function, and helps every other part of the body perform better as well.

 

5. Brain Booster—

By relaxing the mind, yoga increases mental clarity and concentration, and psychologically improves emotional well-being and attitude.

Breathing through one nostril at a time is a common yoga meditation practice that has been shown in studies to increase electrical activity in the brain, boosting cognitive abilities and intellectual performance.

 

6. Terrific Toning—

Even more than strength training and free weights, yoga can target muscle groups by using the body’s own weight to balance, firm and tone. Poses requiring the exerciser to hold them for long periods of time are especially strengthening.

The back is one of the areas most helped by yoga, as the backbone supports everything, and yoga promotes good alignment by decompressing the spine and building up surrounding muscles. This can be very helpful for those who sit for a living and have back pain issues.

 

Remember that yoga is not a competitive sport: everyone is at their own level, with strengths and weaknesses, just like yourself. The goal is to achieve progress at a comfortable rate so you will be more likely to stick with it and see results. If you push too hard too soon, you might put yourself off this excellent form of exercise for good, losing all of the benefits listed above.

So hang in there and be consistent, because the more you practice, the more you’ll learn to love yoga, and all of the wonderful things it has to offer your body and soul.

The Power of Positive: What Laughter Yoga Is and How It Helps

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There are plenty of positive graphics floating around the Internet, generally consisting of tranquil nature scenes with inner-peace inspiring quotes pasted on top. Many of these images tout the advantages, both spiritually and physically, of remembering to be grateful and focus on happiness. And while these messages are lovely and make us feel warm inside, they don’t really put the positive movement into action unless the viewer decides to make it so.

Laughter yoga, however, provides a concrete way to bring the power of positivity to life with a very real and fun form of exercise. Indian physician Dr. Madan Kataria is generally given credit for starting the first Laughter Club, after he discovered in studies that laughter offers humans physical benefits on nearly equal par with exercise.

Because fake laughter produces the same physiological effects as genuine laughter, there’s no need to start renting funny movies and watching comedians while you practice this version of yoga. Laughter yoga involves exactly what the name implies – laughing while you do yoga – and it doesn’t matter if it’s forced or not.

So what are the benefits of laughter yoga, and how does one begin practicing this playful activity?

 

The benefits of laughter yoga include:

* A cathartic reduction in stress and anxiety that can lead to faster healing, a stronger immune system, and lowered blood pressure.

* Less of the stress hormones that cause anxiety and weight gain, such as epinephrine and cortisol.

* Regulation of blood sugar and less risk for diabetes.

* A boost of oxygen throughout the body, leading to mental alertness and the release of happiness-inducing endorphins.

* Increased lung/respiratory health resulting from deep, strong breathing during laughter.

* Increased abdominal strength and toning from using stomach muscles to laugh while performing yoga.

* The strengthening of facial muscles, which can minimize wrinkles and help tone the under-chin and neck area.

 

The laughter yoga practice can be done at home if you choose to teach yourself, or with a group if you can find a local laughter yoga class or club. Below are the steps to help anyone learn laughter yoga:

 

1. Open Your Mind—

You are about to laugh for no apparent reason, and many find this makes them feel a bit silly, even if completely alone. This means the first step to practicing laughter yoga is to let go of all feelings of self-consciousness.

To do this, remember you’re doing a positive thing for your health. Plus, you might also find that once you start laughing, it will become real as the giggles take hold.

 

2. Applaud Yourself—

To start, clap your hands together in front of your heart and let out the biggest laugh you can muster, focusing on the stomach and heart areas.

If you’re having trouble faking laughter, some laughter yogis suggest making the actual sounds, “Ha, ha, ha, ha,” as you concentrate on the heart, and the sounds, “Ho, ho, ho, ho,” while engaging the abdominal area. This simulated mirth will often lead to actual laughter if you stick with it.

 

3. Take It Down to the Ground—

After mastering the chest and belly laugh, you can now send joy into the lower part of the body by stamping your feet and chanting, “Hee, hee, hee, hee,” until the laughter becomes genuine.

Adding a yoga move such as standing forward-fold pose or downward-facing dog while continuing to laugh can combine the benefits of exercise and happiness.

 

4. Bring It Up to the Sky—

The laughter wave is another popular move that combines the upper and lower parts of the body during laughter yoga.

To perform the laughter wave, bend at the waist in a bow, face hands down to the ground and lower them, and then raise them palms-up to the sky, laughing heartily.

 

5. Keep a Clear Head—

If you feel tension mounting inside of your mind at any point during the day, place the hands upon each side of the head, and laugh inside to yourself with a big smile on your face for an amazing release of pent-up anxiety.

This can be performed in a private office at work, or even a bathroom stall if you have no other options and really need to let go of stress.

If you’re performing this move at home or in a laughter yoga class, of course, be sure to laugh out loud for maximum health benefits.

 

It may sound like a slightly odd combination – mixing laughter with the usually silent, solemn practice of yoga – but the benefits of both activities combined have given laughter yoga large amounts of respect among fitness experts and spiritually-minded people.

With an estimated 6,000+ laughter yoga clubs and classes worldwide, laughter yoga has moved from an interestingly odd trend to a legitimate, accepted and highly effective type of exercise. Consider trying some of the laughter yoga tips above at home, or try a class in your area to reap the physiological benefits of this fun exercise… and find your happy place today.

Prenatal Yoga: 7 Super Benefits for Mom and Baby

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Whether you worked out regularly before pregnancy, or have decided to find a way to have the healthiest pregnancy possible by starting an exercise program, prenatal yoga has many benefits to offer both mother-to-be and baby.

Obviously, increased flexibility and strength will relieve some stress the rapid weight gain of pregnancy places on the body. But there are many other ways prenatal yoga can help women stay strong and healthy until their due date, and beyond.

Check out 7 of the many great things prenatal yoga can do for expectant mothers below:

 

1. Yoga Reduces Anxiety—

Bringing a new human into the world can be a simultaneously joyful and stressful time for anyone, but for the well-being of both mother and baby, it’s important to keep anxiety levels low.

Yoga has been proven to reduce nervousness, lower blood pressure, and increase oxygenation through deep breathing, all of which create a soothing sense of peace and calm.

Breathing exercises during yoga can also teach women to control pain and tension during labor, increasing the chances of achieving a natural birth if so desired.

 

2. Yoga Improves Balance—

Because the body is growing and changing so quickly during pregnancy, it can be hard to maintain balance, giving expectant mothers the reputation for being clumsy. But to be fair; who wouldn’t be clumsy when faced with trying to adjust to a new, larger body every week or so?

During this constantly-fluctuating bodily transition, building the balance-giving leg muscles through certain yoga poses (such as tree pose, for example) can really reduce the wobbliness and off-kilter sensations many pregnant women experience.

 

3. Yoga Increases Mindfulness—

Yoga is great for encouraging people to become more in touch with their bodies, allowing them to better listen and respond to needs.

Never in a woman’s life is mindfulness more important than during pregnancy, because now another person’s needs must be considered and recognized. Being aware of certain food cravings and indulging them, for example, can give the body necessary nutrition.

Remembering to treat yourself with care, respect, and having patience with the pregnancy process are examples of enhanced mindfulness that can benefit both mother and baby.

 

4. Yoga Reduces Aches and Pains—

Pregnancy can be an uncomfortable and even painful experience for some, with common ailments often occurring in different trimesters. Many women feel nauseated in the first trimester, for example (or the entire pregnancy), and some experience heartburn, back pain, or joint pain as the baby grows.

By increasing flexibility and strength, yoga can alleviate or even prevent many issues during pregnancy, with poses that open the hips and shoulders to reduce strain. Certain yoga positions can also lessen back pain, and help with digestive problems like constipation or heartburn.

 

5. Yoga Provides Emotional Support—

As any support group member will tell you, there’s something very soothing about being around people who can understand the matters with which you’re dealing, and a room full of other pregnant women is no exception.

By doing taking a prenatal yoga class together, you’ll likely find yourself making friends, relating and bonding with other mothers-to-be, which can help you feel less alone or worried about what’s normal.

Bonus: Talking with women who are further along in their pregnancies can better prepare you for what to expect.

 

6. Yoga Maintains Fitness—

Doctors disagree on whether or not women can continue to lift weights, run, and do more strenuous exercises during pregnancy.

Activity levels while pregnant also vary from person to person, and those with high-risk pregnancies may be forbidden from certain exercises for this reason as well.

But yoga, when done gently and carefully (with a doctor’s permission, of course) can be a gentle way to retain muscle mass, strength and flexibility.

It’s more important than ever before to stay healthy during pregnancy, so don’t use it as an excuse to lie around and lose all of the fitness progress you’ve made; simply modify your routine and keep moving.

 

7. Yoga Encourages Meditation/Naps—

One of the best pieces of advice any new mother will hear about her infant is “sleep when they sleep.” But this can be a frustratingly difficult goal to achieve, because when you’re constantly getting up to change diapers, feed and soothe a baby back to sleep, it’s hard to wind back down enough to fall asleep yourself after they finally nod back off.

But prenatal yoga teaches the relaxation pose and often ends with a session of quiet meditation that trains yoga students to relax on command. If you can carry this ability into motherhood, you’ll be able to rest quickly whenever your new little one does, which is a wonderful skill to have in your parenting arsenal.

 

As you can see above, prenatal yoga has many benefits for mind, body, mother and baby. Consider adding this wonderful practice to your exercise regimen today to stay in great shape throughout your pregnancy, and consider doing postnatal yoga for a great way to lose the baby weight faster afterward.