More older people are doing yoga, but they are also racking up injuries.

By Carol Krucoff
Yoga may hold a key to aging well, suggests a growing body of research into its potential benefits for body and mind — benefits that include reducing heart rate and blood pressure, relieving anxiety and depression, and easing back pain. One recent study even raised the possibility of positive changes in biological markers of aging and stress in people who do yoga.
So it’s no surprise that the number of yoga practitioners in the United States has more than doubled to 36.7 million over the last decade, with health benefits the main reason people practice, according to the Yoga in America Study conducted last year on behalf of Yoga Journal and the Yoga Alliance.
While yoga enthusiasts are often pictured as young and bendy, the reality, according to the Yoga in America study, is that 17 percent are in their 50s and 21 percent are age 60 and older.
Along with this upsurge of interest has been an upsurge in injuries, particularly among older practitioners. “Participants aged 65 years and older have a greater rate of injury from practicing yoga when compared with other age groups,” researchers wrote last year in a study of nearly 30,000 yoga-related injuries seen in U.S. hospital emergency departments from 2001 to 2014. “While there are many health benefits to practicing yoga, participants and those wishing to become participants should confer with a physician prior to engaging in physical activity and practice only under the guidance of certified instructors.”

As a yoga therapist who has been teaching in medical settings for nearly 20 years, I have found it distressingly common to hear about the negative experiences and injuries people have sustained in yoga classes. The stories my students relate suggest classes that were too difficult for them and/or were taught by an inexperienced or poorly trained instructor. Even instructors who are trained to teach able, young students typically have a limited understanding of safety considerations that are essential when working with middle-aged and older bodies and people with such health challenges as rotator cuff injuries, arthritis, glaucoma, hypertension and heart disease.

Fortunately, there is a growing recognition of the importance of safe yoga practice along with professionalization of the field. To practice yoga while reducing the risks, here are five strategies to help older adults — as well as people with health challenges — age well with yoga:

Start where you are, not where you think you should be. If you are new to yoga, try a beginner’s class — even if you’re fit and active — because yoga is not just about what you do, it’s about how you do it. Unlike Western exercise, the yogic approach is to balance effort with relaxation, which can be surprisingly difficult for many people used to our culture’s emphasis on striving, competing and being “in it to win it.” In fact, learning not to push yourself, or rush, or be ambitious to look a certain way, can be one of the most challenging (and therapeutic) parts of the practice. Give yourself time to learn how to move into a posture to a point where you feel challenged but not strained.

Recognize that styles of yoga vary widely. Yoga classes range from vigorous and athletic to relaxing and restorative — with a confusing array of trendy hybrids such as yoga with goats and kittens, and yoga offered on a paddleboard. To find a class designed for mature bodies, look for names such as “Yoga Over 50,” “Gentle Yoga” or “Senior Yoga.”
Hatha yoga is the name for any type of yoga that teaches physical postures. This means that virtually all yoga classes in the West are hatha yoga. But when a class is marketed as hatha yoga, it generally signifies a non-gimmicky approach to basic postures and breathing, which may be a good starting place. Viniyoga and Kripalu yoga are relatively gentle styles that may be appropriate for people with health concerns. Restorative yoga involves using supports (such as blankets and yoga blocks or bolsters) to prop students into passive poses that promote profound rest. Hospital-based wellness and integrative medicine centers may offer classes designed for people with specific ailments such as cancer or back pain.

Find a well-trained, experienced teacher. Ask prospective instructors about their credentials [see sidebar about yoga credentials], how long they’ve taught yoga and whether they’ve had special training and/or experience teaching older people. Ask to watch a class to see if it’s suitable, which is also a good way to assess the instructor. A good yoga teacher will act as a guide, helping students explore what works best for them as they try each posture. For people with health challenges, working one-on-one with a certified yoga therapist can be ideal.

Talk to your care provider. If you have medical issues, get guidance about specific movement precautions. For example, people with glaucoma may be advised to avoid “head-down” positions, which may increase pressure in the eye. Hot yoga may be problematic for people with heart conditions because high temperatures can increase cardiac workload. Recognize, however, that many doctors know little about yoga and may assume you’re planning to stand on your head. Tell your provider that you’d like to try gentle yoga consisting of simple movements, stretches and breathing practices.
Let go of excuses that you’re too old. You don’t have to be young or fit or flexible to try yoga. If you can breathe, you can practice yoga.

Krucoff is a yoga therapist at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, N.C., and co-author of “Relax Into Yoga for Seniors: A Six-Week Program for Strength, Balance, Flexibility and Pain Relief.”

The Resting Squat – How Squatting Makes You More Human.

Written by Shawn Stevenson The science is stacking up, and word is out that sitting for prolonged periods is devastating to our health. Former NASA scientist, Dr. Joan Vernikos, has compared sitting in a chair for prolonged periods to being weightless in space. This is due to the fact that the muscles, bones, joints, and other tissues aren’t supporting themselves naturally any longer. I did an entire show dedicated to the newly dubbed “Sitting Disease” right here. During the show, we also went in-depth on the impact that sitting too much has on your blood pressure, blood sugar, and your ability to burn fat.

Today we’re going to take things a step further. After understanding that sitting in chairs too frequently is bad for our health, what do we do instead? We understand now that our ancestors were much healthier and robust than we are today, but surely they sat down too?

It’s not that sitting is bad. It’s more so how we’re sitting that’s really smacking our health around right now. The human body was never designed to sit in an awkward 90 degree position with certain muscles completely shutting off, while others are being dramatically over-stressed.

Limp Biscuits
Sitting triggers your butt muscles to do absolutely nothing. They completely shut off and get used to not “activating” normally. This deranges your ability to walk, run, jump, stand up, sit down, and pretty much any other activity you can think of. Your glute muscles become limp and no longer fire properly when they are deconditioned from sitting too much.

Soft-serve Abs
Your abs will be closer to soft-serve ice cream than a well-defined washboard if you’re sitting too often. Your abdominals actually help to hold you upright, but when you sit back in a chair they no longer have to work, and the battle of the bulge can take place. Your abs will quickly lose their tone and strength if you totally take them out of the equation by sitting.

Your Hips Do Lie
Unlike Shakira, your hips will be lying to you and everyone else when you try to exert yourself. Hip mobility and functionality is critical to all basic human movement patterns. Your hips provide stability and balance, and lack of mobility here is one of the major causes of serious injury.

Boney Bones
It’s now understood that the largest contributing factor to poor bone density is lack of activity. Your bones need resistance to drive nutrients into them to trigger development. Sitting too often will lead to bonier bones, plus at heightened risk of disease and injury.

Eject Your Disc
People who sit more often are at greater risk of herniating their lumbar spinal discs. Sitting in chairs is synonymous with having “shortened” hip flexors. A large muscle called the psoas is a major hip flexor muscle that runs through the abdominal cavity. When the psoas is short (or tightened) from sitting too much, it pulls the upper lumbar spine forward which puts you out of alignment. Your upper body now rests on your ischial tuberosity (sitting bones) instead of being distributed along the arch of the spine. This is a leading cause of back pain and overall loss of function.

These are just some of the physical problems that occur from sitting too much. This is why I now believe that: “Being able to sit comfortably in a resting squat position is tied to being human.” Your genes literally expect this of you. Being able to get down into the squat position is an important part of you being alive.

What is a resting squat and why is it important?

Conventional sitting puts your weight onto another object by placing your butt on it and turning many critical muscles off. A resting squat is a posture where you squat down fully, lowering your hips towards the ground and your weight is equally distributed and controlled by your body.

For countless ages throughout time, human beings have been able to crouch all the way down into a resting squat for relaxing, working, cooking, communing, and even for using the bathroom. I shared all of the critical information about the dangers of pooping on today’s conventional toilets right here.

You’ll be shocked to hear the links to things like diverticulousis, heart failure, and even colon cancer. This is partially because sitting on a toilet, and not squatting all the way down like we are designed to do, pinches off the end of the colon so your bowels are literally tied up and unable to fully release. This is must know information, and the solution to this is far easier and hygienic than you may think.

I can’t stress enough how important being able to sit all the way down into a squat is to your health. As a strength coach I’ve seen this skill transfer over into so many other facets of people’s lives. If you can’t get down into the full resting position of a flat-footed squat, it’s time that you start working on it. If you don’t, you are dramatically limiting your mobility and ability to function at a high level. To read complete article http://theshawnstevensonmodel.com/resting-squat/

 

18 Benefits of Deep Breathing.

Originally  posted on One Powerful World  ~ Breathing correctly  is not only important for living longer but also to have a good mood and keep performing at your best. Let us look at the benefits of deep breathing and why you should make it part of your everyday living.

1. Breathing Detoxifies and Releases Toxins
Your body is designed to release 70% of its toxins through breathing. If you are not breathing effectively, you are not properly ridding your body of its toxins i.e. other systems in your body must work overtime which could eventually lead to illness. When you exhale air from your body you release carbon dioxide that has been passed through from your bloodstream into your lungs. Carbon dioxide is a natural waste of your body’s metabolism.

2. Breathing Releases Tension
Think how your body feels when you are tense, angry, scared or stressed. It constricts. Your muscles get tight and your breathing becomes shallow. When your breathing is shallow you are not getting the amount of oxygen that your body needs.

3. Breathing Relaxes the Mind/Body and Brings Clarity
Oxygenation of the brain reducing excessive anxiety levels. Paying attention to your breathing. Breathe slowly, deeply and purposefully into your body. Notice any places that are tight and breathe into them. As you relax your body, you may find that the breathing brings clarity and insights to you as well.

4. Breathing Relieves Emotional Problems
Breathing will help clear uneasy feelings out of your body.

5. Breathing Relieves Pain.
You may not realize its connection to how you think, feel and experience life. For example, what happens to your breathing when you anticipate pain? You probably hold your breath. Yet studies show that breathing into your pain helps to ease it.

6. Breathing Massages Your Organs
The movements of the diaphragm during the deep breathing exercise massages the stomach, small intestine, liver and pancreas. The upper movement of the diaphragm also massages the heart. When you inhale air your diaphragm descends and your abdomen will expand. By this action you massage vital organs and improves circulation in them. Controlled breathing also strengthens and tones your abdominal muscles.

7. Breathing Increases Muscle
Breathing is the oxygenation process to all of the cells in your body. With the supply of oxygen to the brain this increases the muscles in your body.

8. Breathing Strengthens the Immune System
Oxygen travels through your bloodstream by attaching to haemoglobin in your red blood cells. This in turn then enriches your body to metabolise nutrients and vitamins.

9. Breathing Improves Posture
Good breathing techniques over a sustained period of time will encourage good posture. Bad body posture will result of incorrect breathing so this is such an important process by getting your posture right from early on you will see great benefits.

10. Breathing Improves Quality of the Blood
Deep breathing removes all the carbon-dioxide and increases oxygen in the blood and thus increases blood quality.

11. Breathing Increases Digestion and
Assimilation of food
The digestive organs such as the stomach receive more oxygen, and hence operates more efficiently. The digestion is further enhanced by the fact that the food is oxygenated more.

12. Breathing Improves the Nervous System
The brain, spinal cord and nerves receive increased oxygenation and are more nourished. This improves the health of the whole body, since the nervous system communicates to all parts of the body.

13. Breathing Strengthen the Lungs
As you breathe deeply the lung become healthy and powerful, a good insurance against respiratory problems.

14. Proper Breathing makes the Heart Stronger.
Breathing exercises reduce the workload on the heart in two ways. Firstly, deep breathing leads to more efficient lungs, which means more oxygen, is brought into contact with blood sent to the lungs by the heart. So, the heart doesn’t have to work as hard to deliver oxygen to the tissues. Secondly, deep breathing leads to a greater pressure differential in the lungs, which leads to an increase in the circulation, thus resting the heart a little.

15. Proper Breathing assists in Weight Control.
If you are overweight, the extra oxygen burns up the excess fat more efficiently. If you are underweight, the extra oxygen feeds the starving tissues and glands.

16. Breathing Boosts Energy levels and Improves Stamina

17. Breathing Improves Cellular Regeneration

18. Breathing Elevates Moods
Breathing increase pleasure-inducing neurochemicals in the brain to elevate moods and combat physical pain

Start Where You Are ~ Renee’ Fulkerson

YogAlign is Simply the Art of being in your Structure and Breath.
I invite you to start your YogAlign practice right where you are. Not with comparison of where you have been or tirelessly trying to perfect where you are going. Inner Breath Yoga ~ YogAlign focuses on the now, supporting our physical and mental health and wellness in order to create a sustainable body. A pain-free body with a positive mental outlook that allows us to keep enjoying the people, places and new adventures that keep us thriving in life. Just imagine the possibilities in a body you can trust. See you on the mat.  www.innerbreathyoga.com

The Virtues of a Clean Yoga Mat This entry was posted on October 26, 2017 by Charlotte Bell.

It’s a nice perk when yoga studios provide yoga mats for their clients. But it’s not so nice when you can see that previous practitioners have left their sweaty mark on the mats. That’s one of many reasons why it’s smart to bring your own mat to your favorite studio.

But our own personal mats aren’t above getting a little grotty either. Especially if you practice a sweaty style of yoga, your mat may need to be cleaned every day.

Why?

Three things:

1. There’s the aesthetic assault of looking at a dirty mat while you’re facing downward in Downward Facing Dog (and other poses). It may be harder to relax in Savasana on a less-than-pristine mat. And the smell …
2. Yoga mats, like any other absorbent material, can harbor bacteria. If you’re sweating on your mat, bacteria are living there. Even the oils in your hands and feet can cause bacteria growth.
3. When the surface of your mat is less than clean, it becomes less grippy. Sliding around on your yoga mat during practice can cause slipping and even falling. At the very least, your practice will be less satisfying if you’re spending energy on worrying about sliding. Also, a slippery mat tends to cause you to hold back in your asanas because you don’t feel stable. At worst, a slippery mat could cause you to take a fall. A clean yoga mat provides a stable surface for your practice.

Even a new mat, just out of the package, should be cleaned. The manufacturing process leaves a slippery coating on the surface of most yoga mats. The coating can interact with the oils and sweat on your hands and feet and make the mat slippery. Cleaning this coating off your mat will save you a lot of grief when you’re trying out your new mat.

A clean yoga mat gives your practice a fresh start each day. If you practice a quieter, Hatha style of yoga you may not need to clean your mat after every practice, but cleaning it once a week is a good idea.

Tips for a Clean Yoga Mat:

There are several ways to start your day with a clean yoga mat. After more than 30 years of selling yoga mats and props, Hugger Mugger has experimented a lot with the best ways to keep your yoga mat in optimum shape. Here’s what we suggest:
1. Clean after each use with PureMat Gear Wash. Apply a thin coating to your mat and other props and wipe with a clean cloth. PureMat Gear Wash comes in two natural scents made from essential oils: Lemon-Tea Tree and Lavender and the cleaning agent is derived from plants.
2. Clean your mat with Jo-Sha Wipes. These handy yoga mat wipes are easy to slip into your mat bag for use at the studio. The mixed package of wipes comes in four scents: eucalyptus, tangerine, lavender and peppermint. They are free of alcohol and bleach and are not tested on animals. Jo-Sha Wipes are biodegradable.
3. Clean your mat with a 1:20 solution of a mild dish soap and water. Make sure to use no more dish soap than this because the soap can be absorbed into the mat and can actually make your mat more slippery! Apply with a soft, clean cloth and wipe dry.

Some Important Cautions and Absolute Don’ts
If you don’t clean your mat regularly and it gets super grotty, it can be tempting to resort to extreme measures. Doing the things listed below can shorten the longevity of your mat. It’s a whole lot easier just to clean your mat regularly. But just in case you find yourself grossed out by your yoga mat, here are some cautions:

1. Never wash your yoga mat in a washing machine! Also, don’t put your mat in a clothes dryer unless you want to have to replace the drum. Your mat will likely get stuck to the inside of the dryer. So just don’t!
2. If you let your mat get really grotty, you may, in fact, have to put it in the bathtub with a very dilute amount (1:20) of mild dish soap, and wipe it down with a soft cloth or sponge to get it clean. This isn’t ideal, as it can degrade your mat over time. But if you end up having to do this, know that it will take a very looonnnnggg time to dry. Yoga mats are made from dense materials so they hold onto moisture. Your mat could take a good week to dry completely once it’s been submerged. The best way to dry your mat is to hang it so that it can get lots of air circulation, but definitely keep it out of direct sunlight.

Osteopenia, Osteoporosis and Yoga September 23, 2016 by Jennilee Toner https://www.ekhartyoga.com/articles/osteopenia-osteoporosis-and-yoga

What happens if you’ve been diagnosed with a bone density loss condition? How can you continue to enjoy the benefits of yoga while taking extra care of your bones?

Hatha yoga – the physical branch of yoga – strengthens, stretches and supports all the systems of the physical body, it calms and clears the mind of unnecessary chatter, and can remove blockages from energetic pathways so that life force can flow with ease.

You’re probably familiar with at least some of these benefits of yoga but what if you have been diagnosed with a bone density loss condition like osteopenia or osteoporosis? Is yoga still beneficial for YOU and your bones? If so, which postures and practices will be beneficial, and which should you approach with more awareness and caution than before? And are there ways that Hatha yoga can help us to prevent or live with the condition?

Osteoporosis: A bone density condition that occurs when bones become weak, brittle and porous.

Osteopenia: A bone density condition that occurs when the body doesn’t make new bone as quickly as it reabsorbs old bone. In Osteopenia, bone density is lower than normal peak density but not low enough to be considered Osteoporosis.

Bone growth, modelling and remodeling
There are 206 bones in the human body (not including the minute bones of the ear). The shapes of our bones are long, short, irregular and flat. Bones grow, model and remodel throughout our lifetimes.
*Growth occurs during childhood and adolescence. In long, short and irregular bones the cartilage is replaced by bone tissue. In flat bones, thin “sheet-like” connective tissues are replaced with bone tissue.
*Modelling is when bones change shape (mostly during adolescence) due to mechanical stressors placed upon them.
*Remodeling is the process of bone breakdown, reabsorption and renewal.

In people diagnosed with osteopenia and osteoporosis there is increased activity of the breakdown cells (osteoclasts) but decreased activity of the bone rebuilding cells (osteoblasts). This low bone turnover (more breakdown then rebuild) leads to low bone density and bone strength, increasing the risk of micro-fractures and fractures.
Osteoblasts: Type of bone that mineralizes and forms bone tissue. Osteoclasts: Type of bone cell that breaks down bone tissue.
Osteocytes: Type of bone cell that regulates the jobs of the osteoblasts and the osteoclasts.

Strengthening your bones with yoga
There are no symptoms for bone density loss conditions such as osteoporosis and osteopenia. Most people only discover they have the condition after their first fracture and have a bone density test. Losing bone is a normal part of ageing so therefore we need to take care of our bones from an early age through exercise and a healthy diet with plenty of calcium and Vitamin D from the sun. Certain groups are more at risk of developing osteoporosis. Always speak to your doctor if you have any concerns about your health.

Bones are living tissue and they respond to mechanical stressors. Weight bearing exercises, including yoga, help tremendously in the remodeling process of our bones. They encourage more bone growth increasing the rate of HEALTHY bone turnover and so are vitally important to practice especially when we are younger.

Holding up one’s body weight in standing postures such as Warrior 1 or 2, balancing postures such as Tree and Dancer, and in horizontal postures such as Plank helps maintain the balance between bones breaking down and bones rebuilding.

Looking after your spine – forward bends and twists
Many spinal fractures are due to poor alignment (poor posture). Because our thoracic spine is already in a convex (kyphotic) curve, we instinctively tend to hunch over a bit. With the over-conditioning of sitting many people have tight, locked-short chest muscles (pectoralis major and minor) and tight, locked-long upper back muscles (rhomboids, mid and lower trapezius) which can take the already kyphotic curve of the thoracic spine and make it dramatically more pronounced, potentially resulting in the syndrome of Kyphosis – a hunchbacked condition also known as Dowager’s Hump. Yoga can help to maintain the spine’s natural curves, read Fountain of youth found in yogi’s spine.

hatha-for-beginners---square

If you are diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis the likelihood of spinal bone fractures is increased. One family of postures contraindicated for those with osteopenia and osteoporosis are forward bends – for fear of fractures on the anterior (front) portion of the vertebral bodies (irregular bones of the spine).

In order to continue to practice many of the forward bend postures such as Uttanasana (standing forward bend) and Prasarita Padottanasana (standing wide legged forward fold) it is important to bend the knees and tilt from the pelvis – rather than bending at the thoracic spine. It can help to place the hands on blocks so that the spine stays long and there is no extra pressure on the front of the vertebrae.

Other contradictions for those diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis are some spinal twisting poses…especially ones where there is a possibility of a rounded spine occurring in order to get into the twist. It is always wise to remember that Parivrtta (the Sanskrit word that precedes most twisting poses) means REVOLVE and not twist.

Always inhale and lengthen your spine before allowing the hips, ribs, shoulders and skull to revolve slightly around it. When bone density has lessened and the possibility of fractures has increased, it is wise to not do any twisting postures that may require you to round forward to perform the twist. Again, use blocks to prop yourself in such a way to keep the spine lengthened. For example sitting up on a block to raise the hips in seated twists.

Looking after your hips – strong and steady
Many hip fractures that happen in the aging population occur during falls – often due to an inability to balance and/or vision impairment. Those who are diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis have weaker, less dense and porous bones. Falling on these weakened bones increases the risk of bone fractures especially in the hips, ankles and wrists.

improve-your-balance-yoga

In order to help prevent falls from occurring it is important to strengthen our ability to balance. I tell all my students when they are wobbling while in balancing postures such as Tree or Extended Hand to Big Toe: “Your bones, your bone-connecting tissues (ligaments) and the muscles that surround them are getting stronger…Right Now.”

Practice these poses regularly to build stronger bones and also to prevent the risk of fractures due to falls as you get older.

If you already have been diagnosed with bone density loss it is good to be by a wall or use a chair for many of these balancing poses.

The takeaway message:
To build strong bones and promote healthy bone turnover, practice weight-bearing yoga poses like the Warriors and Plank pose. To minimize the risk of falls (and fractures) as you get older, work on your balance with Tree pose, Dancer’s pose and any other one-legged balances.

If you have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia take extra care of your spine by using props to keep your spine long in forward bends (bending from the pelvis, not thoracic spine) and gentle twists.

Yoga For Arthritis ~ Arthritis Foundation http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/

Yoga
Yoga – a blend of physical exercise, breathing techniques and meditation techniques – is practiced around the world in more than 100 different styles. Among those who practice are many people with arthritis, who find that a gentle yoga practice can be easy on their joints, may reduce their symptoms and can promote relaxation. Evidence suggests that regular yoga practice can help reduce joint pain, improve flexibility and physical function, and lower stress and tension. Yoga may also help a person with arthritis build muscle strength and improve balance. Yoga teachers are more than willing to work with you to find pose variations and modifications to accommodate your arthritis. The Arthritis Resource Finder can help you locate a class in your area. The Arthritis Foundation also offers a yoga DVD created especially for people with arthritis.

Modifications
Specific modifications will depend on your joints affected, but a few you may consider include:
*Use props such as blocks, folded blankets and straps to personalize your yoga practice and make it more comfortable.
*Poses can be modified by not going “deep” into the positions.
*Most yoga teachers are more than willing to work with you to find pose variations and modifications to accommodate your arthritis.

Tips
*Practice proper body alignment and equal weight distribution.
*Find a comfortable resting pose to go to if you are feeling pain or discomfort in your joints.
*Always practice yoga poses in your pain-free range.

Progression
*Listen to your body and be mindfully present in the moment as you practice. Do not try to keep up with classmates or have expectations of yourself.
*With regular practice, you will likely gain flexibility, strength and confidence in your yoga practice.

I Was A 36-Year-Old Barre Instructor When I Had A Stroke. Here’s How It’s Changed My Outlook On Health And Wellbeing. Despite leading what I believed to be a healthy lifestyle, I still got sick—and it completely opened my eyes. By Jessica Diaz, As told to Jen Mccaffery

Jessica Diaz is a Boston-based Barre instructor, personal trainer, and mother of two. She had a stroke at age 36 despite leading, what she thought, was an extremely healthy lifestyle. This is her story.

The morning of June 20, 2013, started out like any other. I was 36 years old and had recently become a certified Barre instructor. I led two classes that morning, then ran to another studio to take Zumba. Then, I rushed home, excited to take my daughter to her first kids’ yoga class. Because I was so active, I thought I was living my healthiest life and I was eager to introduce her to the joy of fitness.

I had just jumped in the shower when all of the sudden I felt a shooting pain down my left side. My left arm just sort of let go; I had no control over it. The sensation only lasted about 30 seconds, but it really freaked me out. So I turned off the water, found my husband, and said, “Oh my God, something really bizarre just happened to me,” and went on to explain the sensation I felt in the shower. After looking me over, he said, “You look fine. You’re fine.”

I decided he was probably right, so I got back in the shower.
But soon after, I developed a headache. I do get migraines on occasion, but this felt very different from any headache I’d ever had. I wanted to get out of the shower, but realized that I couldn’t lift my left leg. My husband helped me out of the bathroom and suggested that I lay down. After an hour, I called my primary care doctor and explained my symptoms. The nurse said, “I want you to hang up the phone and call 911.” And I thought, This woman is out of her mind, I have to get to that yoga class.

Then I did everything you’re not supposed to do. I ignored the nurse’s suggestion and blow-dried my hair. I thought she wanted me to go to emergency room, where I’d wait hours to get Tylenol for my particularly severe migraine. I also didn’t love the idea of leaving my daughter, 5, and son, 2. But when the symptoms continued, I finally asked my husband to drive me to the ER. Yoga would have to wait. (Here are 8 things ER docs will never ever do.)

Fortunately, we live close to Mass General, which is an amazing hospital. When I walked into the emergency room, the doctors took me right away and put me in the MRI machine. Although the noise inside the machine resembled the grinding of a trash truck, I fell asleep, which is highly unusual. That’s when I think they knew something was seriously wrong. They pulled me out, and started to piece all my symptoms together. Soon after, they brought my husband in and told me that I was having a stroke. I found out later that it had been going on for about four hours by the time I arrived at the hospital.

I was terrified—and confused. I thought a stroke was only something that happened to really old and sick people. I thought, Wait a minute, I’m a fitness instructor following a healthy lifestyle, and I have this old person disease? No way! My doctors told me it would take five weeks to figure out what was going on with me, including three to four weeks in a rehabilitation hospital to regain use of my left leg. All I could think was, What about my kids? They need their mother.

But miraculously, when I woke up in the hospital the next day, though I was very groggy, I could walk again. As I eventually came to learn, the duration of stroke rehabilitation depends on the severity of the stroke. Some people recover quickly, while others require years of physical and cognitive therapy. I was very lucky. My doctors attributed my quick recovery to the fact that my stroke was, in the scheme of things, not very severe. They also said it was helpful that I got medical attention within the critical three- to four-hour window. Another thing that worked in my favor: my general good health. I had recently lost the 80 pounds I gained during my last pregnancy. Had I not been so fit, my doctors said that my recovery would have been much harder.

I was terrified—and confused. I thought a stroke was only something that happened to really old and sick people. I thought, Wait a minute, I’m a fitness instructor following a healthy lifestyle, and I have this old person disease? No way! My doctors told me it would take five weeks to figure out what was going on with me, including three to four weeks in a rehabilitation hospital to regain use of my left leg. All I could think was, What about my kids? They need their mother.

The diagnosis
My doctors told me I was fortunate. I’d had an ischemic stroke, which blocked blood flow to my brain. My doctors called it a “warning stroke.” They assured me that if I didn’t get treatment, a massive stroke might be a year, month, or even a week away.

While I was in the hospital I underwent a series of routine blood tests that revealed that I have a blood disorder called Factor 5 Leiden, a mutation that increases the chance of clotting. A lot of people live their whole lives with Factor 5 and don’t know it. My doctors also discovered I had a previously undiagnosed congenital heart defect called a patent foramen ovale (PFO), which is a small hole in the heart that didn’t close the way it should after birth. All of these issues ultimately caused my stroke.The clot had formed in my heart, passed through the hole, and traveled to my brain. Or as one of my doctors told me, “you had a Tedy Bruschi.”

Tedy Bruschi, a former linebacker for the New England Patriots, had the same blood clotting disorder, the same hole in his heart, and the same stroke during the height of his career. One of my doctors happened to have treated Bruschi and recommended that I talk to him about surgery to repair my heart. Having the surgery wouldn’t guarantee that I’d never have another stroke, but I thought it might help put me at ease.

Bruschi said it wasn’t fun having the surgery but the peace of mind it gave him was worth it. So I decided to go through with it. After the surgery, I thought, Can I really start chasing my kids again and picking them up? Then I thought, Oh wait a minute, Tedy Bruschi’s out there playing football; I can absolutely pick up my kids.

Making peace with my new reality
It was just after I had heart surgery that I made peace with the fact that I’d had a stroke. Initially, after it happened, I didn’t even tell my bosses at the Barre studio. I was embarrassed that I had what I considered to be an “old person’s sickness” and didn’t give myself time to adjust to my new reality.

For many stroke survivors, there’s this sense of the “old me” and the “new me.” I was trying to be the old carefree version of myself that didn’t worry about things like blood clots. But that wasn’t going to keep me healthy.

After some time had passed, I started attending events at the American Heart Association and the Stroke Association. And eventually, I reluctantly shared my story. Afterwards, a woman came up to me with tears in her eyes. She said, “My first stroke was just like yours, and I ignored it. I have two kids at home, and thought I didn’t have time to go to the hospital.” Her symptoms seemed to disappear until a few months later when she was eight weeks pregnant she had a massive stroke.

A new perspective
Having a stroke has changed my life in so many ways. When I look back, I could tell you how many calories I ate for breakfast the day of my stroke, but I had no idea if I had high cholesterol or high blood pressure. I didn’t think I’d have to worry about these things until I was 55 or 60. I was a fad dieter who was all about the number on the scale and fitting into my skinny jeans.

But now my perspective has shifted from the short term to the long-term when it comes to taking responsibility for my health. When I asked my doctors how I should eat after the stroke, they vaguely recommended the food pyramid. I’ve since educated myself a lot on nutrition and learned how high-fat meat and dairy could lead to inflammation that can cause disease. I now follow a plant-based diet. (Editors note: Although a physician did not prescribe Jessica a special diet, this is what she felt was best for her. You should always check in with your health care provider before altering your diet to prevent or cure disease.) I wish I had realized sooner that less salt and less fat in your diet could really have an impact on your health. I know that eating that way earlier probably wouldn’t have prevented my stroke, but 80% of heart disease and stroke are preventable by lifestyle choices, so I’m hoping my diet keeps me healthy in the future.

I’ve also taken responsibility for tracking my health data. People often switch doctors, so they might not know that even though their blood pressure is within the normal range, it’s gone up in the past few years, which could be a sign of a problem. If you’re keeping track of your numbers yourself, you can identify changes and patterns and alert your doctor.

My stroke has also given my new purpose. In addition to teaching Barre and working with the Stroke Association, I’ve been trying to get legislation passed that would provide funding to test pregnant women for Factor 5. (In addition to causing strokes, my blood disorder can also cause a miscarriage.)

My experience has also changed my whole family. Now my husband and I speak to our children about what it takes to be our healthiest selves. My husband and I are avid exercisers, and we tell our kids that I’ve been doing so well since I was in the hospital because I’m taking care of my health. Thankfully I’m able to workout as intensely as I did before the stroke, but staying really hydrated is important for anyone with Factor 5 as well as people who have suffered a stroke because dehydration increases the risk of clotting. Now, you’ll never see me without a water bottle by my side.

When I had my stroke nearly five years ago, it seemed rare. But now I hear about more and more young people having strokes for different reasons. It’s so important to know that it’s ageless. I just hope young women learn the signs and symptoms, so they don’t ignore their stroke. There’s definitely time to make changes so you can prevent a bigger one.

 

Your Poor Quadriceps Muscles by Jonathan FitzGordon

The quadriceps are four muscles grouped together that act to extend the knee and flex the hip. All of the muscles converge into a tendon above the knee that ultimately connects to the shin below the knee. At the top three muscle anchor to the leg and the fourth, the hip flexor, connects to the pelvis.

Our quadriceps muscles are messed up in interesting ways—they are both stretched too long and carry an excess of tension. This is an interesting conundrum as most problem muscles tend to be short and tight or excessively long and lax.

To understand this we have to start with my premise that everyone has a misaligned pelvis with leg bones that are forward of the hips rather than directly in line with the pelvis. This is the posture pattern that I see in 99% of my clients. If you agree with me, and it shouldn’t take much investigation to see it in action around you (if not from you), we can look at what this alignment does to the quadriceps.

Properly aligned quadriceps muscles have a harmonious relationship with the hamstring muscles at the back of the thighs. These two muscle groups work together to lift, flex, extend and move the leg. I have written before about how I think the hamstrings are thrown out of whack by this forward thigh posture. My take isn’t that the hamstrings are tight because they are short, they are tight because they have been pulled away from the forward leaning bone.

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As the forward leaning bone pulls away from the hamstrings it pushes into the quadriceps. While this overstretches all four of these muscles it puts particular strain on the rectus femoris, the only one that attaches to the pelvis.  Another unfortunate thing happens when the quadriceps muscles are in this position—they are forced to assist in holding the body upright because the misaligned bones can’t do their job. The strain that this creates is why we have a muscle that is both overstretched and full of tension.

There are a number of important joints that suffer from our poor posture but the two hips joints are more aggrieved than most.  Getting the legs under to hips to release the quadriceps muscles is a key goal of my walking program. Walking correctly aligns the bones and frees the muscles to work as designed.

Why Savasana Is the Hardest Yoga Pose By Karson McGinley

Savasana might look like a nap at the end of your yoga practice. But it’s actually a fully conscious pose aimed at being awake, yet completely relaxed. In Savasana—also known as corpse pose— you lie down on your back and relax your body and mind so you may fully assimilate the benefits of your asana practice.

During this pose, you close your eyes, breathe naturally, and practice eliminating tension from the body. Ideally, this posture lasts for 10 to 20 minutes. However, even a few minutes of Savasana is said to have powerful benefits.

The Benefits of Savasana

Savasana helps relieve mild depression, high blood pressure, headaches, fatigue, and insomnia, according to Yoga Journal. Savasana can calm the nervous system and promote equanimity in your entire body. Fatigued muscles get to relax, tense shoulders and jaws soften, and the eyes quiet down to reflect a quieter state of mind.

Common Challenges of Savasana

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This simple-sounding pose is more difficult than you might realize. The body can cause distractions that make it a challenge. Your body might feel cold, itchy, or unsettled. Savasana occurs at the end of the yoga practice to remedy this obstacle.

By the time you’ve completed asanas, or postures, your body and mind should be tired enough to be able to relax sufficiently for Savasana. Think of it like taking your dog to the park or your kid to Disneyland—the drive home is often the quietest and calmest of the day.

Even if your body is amenable to the rest, your mind can get in the way. Some common thoughts that pop up during Savasana:

~How much longer will we be here?
~Did that guy just snore? That’s embarrassing.
~I hope I didn’t just snore.
~What am I making for dinner when I get home?
~Is this relationship really working out?
~I’m hungry.
~What’s my life all about, anyway?
~I smell like sweat.
~Did I remember to pay the meter?
~Maybe I should quit my job

It’s normal for the mind to try to resist this deep relaxation. Savasana is the ultimate act of conscious surrender. It takes practice and patience to surrender easily.

With the world moving so quickly, cultivating the art of Savasana is more valuable than ever. Our society tends to place greater value on speed and productivity; learning how to do nothing is a skill that can help you become more productive when you need to be.

Savasana helps us learn how to completely surrender, stop fighting the clock, and make space for peace and harmony to fill the soul. Savasana is like turning off your computer when it’s acting up. Once you reboot it, the computer often has greater functionality.

5 Steps to a Successful Savasana

1. Set yourself up for success. Stretch out on your mat and be sure you’re completely comfortable. Use bolsters, pillows, blankets, and cover your eyes with an eye pillow or towel. The more comfortable you are, the more you can relax. The more relaxed you are, the more easily you can surrender. The more open you are to surrendering, the more benefits you’ll receive.

2. Take one final cleansing breath. Your teacher will likely prompt you to take one audible exhale, signaling to your body to release into the pose. This cleansing breath also sends a message to your parasympathetic nervous system that it is safe to relax and be just as you are.

3. Scan for tension. Mentally run through all the parts of your body and try to make them heavier. Be on the lookout for tension hiding in the jaw, temples, shoulders, and hips because stress likes to accumulate in these areas.

4. Then, just notice. Some days will be easier than others, and that’s part of the practice. See if you can be still, at ease, and simply trust that the breath will carry you to the next moment. Watch for those peaceful moments of quiet between the thoughts. Over time, they’ll get longer, and you’ll find more inner quiet.

5. Set an intention.Before you come out of Savasana, take a mental snapshot of how you feel on every level. Ask yourself what you’d like to take with you from your practice, and what you might like to leave behind. Seal these observations into your psyche with an inner smile, and then enjoy a deep inhale to awaken and emerge into your day. Now take a moment to notice that you feel more rested, awake, and alive than you did before.

Savasana is a time of rest, but not a time to sleep. If you have a tendency to fall asleep, the first step is to be compassionate with yourself, and acknowledge that your body needed some rest. Over time, you can train yourself to achieve the rest you need while remaining awake.

Give your Savasana the same attention you give to your Adho Mukha Svanasana
(Downward Dog) and your Virabhadrasana (Warrior II) poses, and notice the effects. If you consistently practice calm and surrender on the mat, it will become easier when you’re no longer on it, which is ultimately why we all practice yoga in the first place.