The quality of your health is a direct reflection of your level of independence.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

in·de·pend·ent
/ˌindəˈpendənt/
adjective – not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence.
“I wanted to remain independent in old age”
synonyms – self-sufficientself-supportingself-sustainable.
My experience with this above mentioned topic has happened within this last year and as always got me looking around at folks moving through their daily lives.
I grew up in Southern California and spent every summer (which then was June, July and August) in Baja California at my grandparents house on the beach until I was well out of high school.
In both geographical locations the weather was mostly sunny and warm which I am a huge fan of and I spent most of my days wearing cut off Levi shorts, tank tops and flip flops. In other words closed toes shoes, socks, pants and jackets were far and few in my everyday life.
I do everything in my flip flops (called slippers here on the Hawaiian islands) probably not the best option for most of my outdoor projects. While thinking back to my 16 years living in a mountain community (including snow) I still spent a great deal of time in my flip flops. I had a large yard/ garden in the mountains as well as here on the island consequently digging, raking, weeding etc. yes in my slippers. I have also done many hikes, walks and dancing in my flip flops as a side not ipanema slippers are my favorite.
Inner Breath Yoga YogAlign Kauai Hawaii (1)
This last June as my family and myself were preparing for our annual summer mainland mountain road trip my flip flop existence took a turn for the worst. As I was outside in the garden digging with a shovel pushing down on the metal piece with the the arch of my foot I felt a stretch and pull of discomfort and my heart dropped as I knew I had injured my foot.
I hobbled into the house and began icing three to four times a day with a frozen bottle of water, lightly massaged the surrounding areas (directly massaging soft tissue injury may make it worse) and slept with my foot wrapped in an Ace bandage.
Once on the mainland I continued feeling the discomfort and the lack of stability in my foot however road tripping and camping left me little time to continue my therapy routine. As the road trip progressed I wore shoes and socks much of the time as well as my slippers I was frustrated to say the least. I was not as agile, comfortable or confident in my daily ventures and had to opt out of hiking back to camp for a boat ride back to camp – Boo Hiss Growl
Upon arriving back on Kauai and to this very day September 09/2019 I continue to feel some pain in my foot. I have continued my normal daily activities at home (although I wear shoes and socks now while gardening). YogAlign, snorkeling and continuing icing and wrapping has kept me comfortably active. In my humble opinion being sedentary after and injury is the wrong way to go – the body wants to heal and circulation is key. I have purchased a new style of flip flops during healing process OOFOS Recovery Footwear.
Inner Breath Yoga YogALign Kauai Hawaii
As I began looking around me one day while I was out running errands in my OOFOs feeling comfortable, confident a mostly pain-free when I noticed how many folks were not stable on their feet. Young and old, small and large, black or white it did not matter their health or lack of was hindering their independence. Canes, wheel chairs having to be pickup or dropped off from the car and needing a partners arm for assistance was what I was seeing. Again these were not just mature folks (which by the way can also stay very independent).
That is when it hit me The quality of your health is a direct reflection of your level of independence or lack thereof. I think most of us would agree it is hard enough to ask for help much less be reliant on somebody to get you around physically. I could not imagine my life without my physical independence.
What have I learned:
Directly – flip flops / slippers have a time and place. lol
Staying physically active is a key component to independence but not only that being in proper posture and alignment while preforming that action keeps you less likely to get an injury. What I mean by that is when I am teaching a YogAlign class and we are doing the YogAlign SIP ups (properly aligned sit ups) with SIP breath (structurally Informed Posture- informs our body of how to be in good posture by aligning from the inside out)  before students begin movement we prepare are body for optimal results and less negative impacts to the body.
Students begin by lying on their backs, knees bent toward the ceiling/ with a yoga block placed between the meaty part of the inner thighs, shoulder blades under them to create and support the natural curves in the spine (no belly button toward the back body flattening out our natural spinal curves aka springs) hand over hand palm facing up supporting the Occipital Bone on the back of the head, drawing elbows up enough to see from their Peripheral vision thus turning on the arms and with a lion’s exhale let out all their breath. Next we look up at the ceiling take in a full diaphragm SIP breath, squeeze the block between out knees, engaging the core an lifting from the core (maintaining an open front line – no chin to chest) and coming down with the S-hale like a snake. If during that practice I see a student pulling from the neck with their hands or rounding the spine by pulling the chin to the chest I request they come out of the posture immediately as they are doing more harm then good to their body. We do not want to rob Peter to pay Paul. Again it is more important to practice a yoga posture correctly to receive the optimum benefits than doing more harm then good.
I wish us all to be proactive in maintaining our personal independence – you don’t know what you have until it is gone.
See you on the mat.

Is your yoga practice sustainable? If we are moving through a yoga practice that is harming or damaging our human body what would be the point?

By Renee’ Fulkerson

SUSTAINABLE | definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary
https://dictionary.cambridge.org › dictionary › english › sustainable
sustainable meaning: 1. able to continue over a period of time: 2. causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time.
We could exchange the word environment for human body.  By the above definition the question could be re-worded to – Is your yoga practice causing little to no damage to your human body? Will you be able to continue this yoga practice for along time?
The answer for me is yes at this current time as my yoga practice is The Yoga Align Method – pain-free yoga from your inner core focuses on proper body alignment and real life movement.
I have found whether young or mature of age we all want to feel good and be happy in our mind, body and spirit.
In my teaching and personal experience most of use can connect to the physical body easily we can touch it, see it and feel it. Where as the mind takes time to connect with with in regard to meditation and stillness. The spirit for some is altogether unattainable in the tangible sense and they cannot find the connection. So doing some physical movement seems like a rational place to find some joy and happiness.
For some yoga practice means only physical movement (asana) for others it is only meditation they seek and actually in this day and age yoga can come in many forms. For this blog lets stick with yoga practice in the physical sense.
When you are in your next yoga practice/ class ask your self some important questions:
  • Am I able to take a full deep breath in this posture?
  • Does my spine and sacrum maintain their curves and integrity?
  • Does this posture simulate functional movement, am I comfortable and stable?

We have been exploring in my public YogAlign practice that some folks do not and have not ever felt comfortable and stable in a forward lunge. A lunge is a lower-body exercise that works several muscle groups at once. The targeted muscles include the glutes in your hips and butt along with the hamstrings and quadriceps in your thighs. The calf muscles in your lower legs, your abdominal muscles and your back muscles act as stabilizers during this exercise.

Not feeling stable in the forward lunge restricts deep breath, alignment and there for is not comfortable or stable. The solution is simple we have placed a yoga block under the back foot which has a double duty purpose. One it allows the student to get alignment from the foot to the hip, raises the heel to a comfortable level and creates the stability the student was lacking and once they are in a stable lunge everything else falls into place.

Inner Breath Yoga Yogalign kauai hawaii

I have also had students lunge with the assist of the wall. Placing their right foot forward big toe close to the wall be not touching, left foot back on a block or heel lifted once they feel stable (foot in alignment with hip) I have them check to see if the back of the head the Occipital bone and the sacrum are in alignment creating even more stability and bonus proper alignment. Next when alignment and stability are solid we sink into the front knee and place the pads of our fingers (fingers open to turn on the arm muscles) against the wall upper chest height and start our SIP breath (structurally Informed Posture- informs our body of how to be in good posture by aligning from the inside out). Allowing this core breath to stabilize the body along with drawing the shoulder blades together creating even more stability.

When properly aligned in a posture with effective breathing and feeling stable and comfortable then and only then will we reap all the benefits the posture has to offer. I would say the above described YogAlign Power Lunge is sustainable for the human body as it ticks all our boxes.

If we are moving through a yoga practice that is harming or damaging our human body what would be the point? Although sometimes this may happen and we do not even realize it is happening. Be careful when an instructor cues a posture is supposed to be painful and to breath through the pain. That may be somewhat true for a person who has had a debilitating accident and is in recovery (physical therapy) and even then I would question the motive and benefits.

We can create a happy healthy mind, body and spirit well into a mature age by putting our body in breathable, aligned, functional, comfortable and stable yoga postures.

Now go out and use your sustainable body for good!

See you on the mat.

Exercise Wins: Fit Seniors Can Have Hearts That Look 30 Years Younger

By PATTI NEIGHMOND

We know we need to exercise for our health, but a lifelong exercise habit may also help us feel younger and stay stronger well into our senior years. In fact, people in their 70s who have been exercising regularly for decades seem to have put a brake on the aging process, maintaining the heart, lung and muscle fitness of healthy people at least 30 years younger.

Take 74-year-old Susan Magrath, a retired nurse practitioner who lives in Muncie, Ind. Magrath has been running almost daily for 45 years. She often runs outdoors and describes it as addictive. “It’s just such a release, just a wonderful release,” she says. “I ran today and there were little snowflakes coming down, and I was down by the river and it’s just wonderful. And I think it’s become more of a contemplative meditative process for me.”

Magrath may be living proof that lifelong exercise helps with cardiovascular and muscle health. She recently took part in a study at the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University, also in Muncie, headed by exercise physiologist Scott Trappe. Trappe is among the first to study the enticing new population of lifelong exercisers.

After the running and aerobic boom of the 1970s, large numbers of septuagenarians stuck with it and have been exercising regularly for the past 50 years. In this population, Trappe says, “We were interested in basically two questions: One, what was their cardiovascular health? And two, what was their skeletal muscle health?

What he saw surprised him. “We saw that people who exercise regularly year after year have better overall health than their sedentary counterparts. These 75-year-olds — men and women — have similar cardiovascular health to a 40- to 45-year-old.”

” ‘Exercise wins’ is the take-home message,” he says.

In the study, Trappe divided 70 healthy participants into three groups. Those in the lifelong exercise group were on average 75 years old and primarily kept their heart rates up through running and cycling. They had a history of participating in structured exercise four to six days a week for a total of about seven hours a week.

The second group included individuals who were also, on average, 75 years old but did not engage in structured exercise regimens, although they might have participated in occasional leisure walking or golf.

The third group consisted of young exercisers who were, on average, 25 years old and worked out with the same frequency and length of time as the lifelong exercisers.

All participants were assessed in the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University. Cardiovascular health was gauged by having participants cycle on an indoor bike to determine VO2 max, also known as maximal oxygen uptake, which is the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen a person can use during intense exercise and is an indicator of aerobic endurance. During the cycling test, which became increasingly challenging, individuals exhaled into a mouthpiece that measured oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.

The aerobic profile of the participants’ muscles was measured by taking a sample via a biopsy about the size of a pea, says Trappe. Then in the lab, researchers examined the micro vessels, or capillaries, that allow blood to flow through the muscle itself.

They also looked at specific enzymes that provide fuel to the working muscle and help break down carbohydrates and fats.

Although the study was relatively small, the findings, which were published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in August, suggest a dramatic benefit of lifelong exercise for both muscle health and the cardiovascular system.

“Lifelong exercisers had a cardiovascular system that looked 30 years younger,” says Trappe. This is noteworthy because, for the average adult, the ability to process oxygen declines by about 10 percent per decade after age 30.

“It’s kind of a slow decay over time that’s probably not so noticeable in your 30s or 40s,” says Trappe, but eventually as years go on, becomes apparent. People can get out of breath more easily and may have difficulty pushing themselves physically.

The age-related reduction in VO2 max is directly associated with an increasing risk of multiple chronic diseases, mortality and loss of independence. Maintaining a strong heart and lung system has been shown to decrease these health risks.S

As for muscle health, the findings were even more significant, says Trappe. Trappe says researchers were surprised to find the 75-year-old muscles of lifelong exercisers were about the same as the muscles of the 25-year-olds. “If I showed you the muscle data that we have, you wouldn’t know it was from an older individual. You would think it’s from somebody that’s a young exerciser,” he says.

David Costill, 82, was not part of the study but is a former colleague of Trappe’s and professor emeritus of exercise science at Ball State University. As an exercise physiologist, he has always known about the benefits of exercise and has been committed since high school.

He says he has spent about “60 years actively exercising.” Costill ran marathons for about 20 years until his knees started to bother him, so he headed to the pool. “And I’ve been swimming for the last 35 years.”

When Costill looks at his friends, he says he finds he can do a lot more physically than they can. “If I’m out with a group of my peers, guys who are near 80, and we’re going someplace, it seems to me they’re all walking at half speed.”

Trappe says the findings are clear: 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day may be the key to a healthy life. But you don’t have to run marathons or compete in cycling events. “If you want to do 30 to 45 minutes of walking a day, the amount of health benefit you are going to get is going to be significant and substantial,” he says. “Will it equal the person training for competitive performances? No. But it will outdo the couch potato.”

Unfortunately, couch potatoes are the norm. Federal guidelines recommend two hours and 30 minutes of moderate exercise a week, or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. Yet 77 percent of Americans do not come close to getting that amount of exercise.

Dr. Clyde Yancy, spokesperson for the American Heart Association and chief of cardiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, says the findings suggest “a lifelong investment in health and fitness appears to be associated with a really sustainable benefit out until the outer limits of life.”

Since we are living longer, maintaining a good quality of life is more important than ever. While the study was small and the findings need to be confirmed, they present a “strong argument” for lifelong exercise that is inexpensive and accessible for everyone. “If you can swim, do yoga, cycle, or walk,” you can benefit,” Yancy says.

10 Tips for Starting Yoga at 50+

by Amber Burke & Bill Reif

Medical practitioners and health-focused websites are increasingly recommending yoga to those of middle age and up, perhaps because yoga can help make you more flexible and mobile, improve your balance, reduce age-related changes in gait, increase your energy, reduce chronic pain and addictive behavior, decrease the risk of heart attacks and strokes, alleviate depression and anxiety, improve sleep quality, and even slow the effects of aging on a cellular level.

Older adults seem to be listening. According to one large survey, those 50 and up constitute 38 percent of all practicing yogis, making them the second largest group of practitioners (after those 30-49). If you are considering joining this number, it’s important to consider how best to approach a new yoga practice at and after middle age.

Although no single type of practice will ever be appropriate for everyone in any demographic, a yoga practice for those 50 and up is one that understands and works with the differences between younger bodies and older bodies, rather than one that pretends those differences do not exist.

In particular, a safety-focused approach to yoga may be especially valuable for older practitioners, who seem to run a higher risk of in-class injury than their younger counterparts. Yoga, like all forms of exercise, can both cause and exacerbate injuries, and while the rate of yoga injuries for all demographics rose between 2001 and 2014, injuries were most frequent among those 65 and up (57.9 injuries/100,000 practitioners), followed by those 45 and up (17.7/100,000). This may result from the way normal, age-related changes and preexisting wear and tear on our bodies interact with a yoga practice.

Although all bodies are different, in general, our bodies become less resilient as we age. To varying degrees, we experience decreases in muscle strength, connective tissue elasticity, and bone density, the combination of which may make us more vulnerable to injury than our younger counterparts. Older adults may also find that their injuries don’t heal as quickly as they did a decade or two ago.

By the time we reach middle age, it’s also likely that we bring to yoga conditions or injuries—diagnosed or undiagnosed—that affect our practice and can make injury more likely. Kyphosis, frozen shoulder, osteoporosis, and back pain (discussed further here) are among the common conditions experienced by older adults that may necessitate changes in our yoga practice.

Fortunately, by making careful decisions about what type of yoga to practice, and how to practice it, we can decrease the odds of injury. While much of the advice below applies to yoga practitioners of all ages and levels, it is especially crucial for those starting yoga at or after age 50, when safety must take center stage.

1. Seek out the type of yoga class that’s right for you.

There are many types of yoga. A high-intensity practice like ashtanga, vinyasa, or power yoga (in which students often “flow” quickly through poses) usually requires the hands to bear weight. These practices may work for some beginning practitioners, especially those who are athletic and free from competitive urges, and who can easily make adaptations within a group class when needed.

But if you are newer to exercise and/or working with injuries or pre- existing conditions (especially of the shoulders, elbows, or wrists), the fast pace of a vinyasa or power yoga class and the emphasis on weight-bearing with the hands may not suit you. Instead, you might consider choosing a class that moves slowly and focuses on alignment. Hatha classes, Iyengar classes, classes geared specifically toward older adults or billed as “alignment-focused,” and introductory, basic, or foundational classes could all be appropriate. Kundalini classes, which often emphasize seated poses, chanting, and working with the breath, may also be beneficial. Yin yoga and restorative yoga (both floor-based practices emphasizing long holds), and chair yoga, in which many poses are practiced with the help of a chair, are of value to many practitioners, but may be especially valuable for older students who are newer to exercise, find balancing to be a challenge, or have difficulty coming down to and up from the floor.

Teachers of all of these different styles are often happy to teach you privately. A private yoga session is considerably more expensive than a group class, but often far less expensive than an appointment with a physical therapist or doctor.

During one-on-one sessions, a teacher can check your form and help you make adjustments to poses that haven’t been feeling quite right, or about which you may be uncertain.

Yoga International and other yoga sites will give you many of the tools you need to be your own teacher and embark on a home practice. There, you’ll find online yoga videos that offer classes for a variety of different levels that you can practice at your convenience. However, even those who prefer practicing at home often find participating in group classes helpful—both for the instruction from a “live” teacher, and the encouragement from a community of other students.

2. Find the right teacher for you.

Even within each type of yoga mentioned above, classes often vary tremendously depending on the instructor. Some say there are as many styles of yoga as there are yoga teachers. For instance, some vinyasa teachers may move slowly, while some hatha teachers pick up the pace. Shop around. Try different teachers. It is not necessarily important that your teacher be the same age as you, but it is important that younger teachers know how to work with students older than themselves.

Go to class early enough to talk to the instructor, or visit with the studio manager to inquire about various teachers’ styles. Ask about their philosophy and goals. Consider steering clear of teachers who think all poses are uniformly attainable and beneficial for all bodies. Instead, seek out a teacher who seems to care about any needs and pre-existing injuries or conditions you might have, and is interested in making your practice productive for you.
Find someone who gives careful instruction, teaches poses that seem valuable and possible, and who offers directions you can easily interpret. Above all, look for a teacher whose emphasis is not on the “what” but the “how”—a teacher who is more interested in teaching students how to move safely and with awareness, than in achieving a particular pose.

3. Be clear about your goals.

If, instead of accomplishment—like achieving handstand or lotus pose, you see the goal of your yoga practice as improved physical and mental well-being, the poses themselves become less important, a means rather than an end. You will then be less inclined to do anything in the short term that puts you at risk for injury, which would interfere with your long-term goal.

Yoga’s benefits for your well-being do not hinge on the attainment of particularly adventurous or dramatic poses, keeping pace with the person next to you, or practicing a pose just the way your teacher does. Rather, the benefits derive from a consistent and mindful practice of poses that challenge your range of motion and strength to a sustainable degree.

4. If you have any injuries or pre-existing conditions, tell your teacher about them, and share any advice you’ve received from your doctor.

A discussion with your teachers regarding any injuries and conditions you may have is essential, so that they avoid encouraging you to make movements that are risky for you. Sometimes, your teachers can help you modify potentially problematic poses or suggest alternatives. Even if you aren’t seeking advice (because you know exactly which changes you’ll make to your practice to keep yourself safe), it’s also important to communicate with your teachers to avoid hands-on adjustments that could place pressure on a place of injury or vulnerability.

Past injuries and surgeries matter, too, since the area of a previous injury is often the area that’s most likely to be injured again.

Any information your doctor has given you about which movements to do and which not to do can be invaluable to your yoga teacher. Though many experienced teachers will know how to work with practitioners who have certain common injuries and conditions, it’s simply not possible for them to know the particulars of every diagnosis. So if, for example, your doctor has given you instructions not to twist or forward-fold, pass that information on.

5. Take charge of your own well-being throughout your practice.
It can be tempting to assume that whatever poses the teacher suggests will be a good idea for you, especially if you’ve communicated with them about any injuries or conditions you have.

But it’s important not to surrender responsibility for either your own safety or your own good judgment. Sometimes classes are so large that teachers don’t feel they can attend to the particular needs of any one individual. Sometimes your teachers may not know how best to accommodate your needs.

But perhaps most critically, there will be times when only you will know what your needs are. For instance, only you can know when you are on the verge of losing your balance in a standing balance pose. But since, according to one study, falls from standing height are the most common cause of injuries in older athletes, it’s critical that you don’t wait for the teacher’s invitation: Exit the pose before your shaking destabilizes you.

Continually register what you are doing and how it feels. Stay attuned to warning signs like tingling, numbness, lightheadedness, and, of course, pain. These are cues telling you that it’s time to come out of a pose.

6. Move Slowly.

Moving slowly from pose to pose gives you time to both get your footing and to notice sensations in your body. And if you’re not in a rush during transitions, it may be easier to stay mindful of your alignment, as well as of any advice your yoga teacher or your doctor may have given you.

Slow movement can also help build strength. Slow doesn’t mean easy—quite the opposite. Try taking a few steps as slowly as possible. You’ll likely feel that moving slower requires more control and effort, rather than less. Moving slowly can also require mental strength to stick with the challenges it presents, as well as to keep a slow pace even when others are moving faster.

7. Give yourself permission to skip and alter poses as necessary.

Respect your feelings of hesitation. If you look at a pose and think, That looks like a bad idea, don’t do it.

Err on the side of caution. Take all directions as suggestions rather than mandates, and do only the poses you can do without strain and while breathing deep, comfortable breaths. Whenever you wish, take a break in child’s pose or any seated pose that is comfortable for you.

Often, there may be another way of approaching a pose to make it more accessible. Ask for help from the teacher in creating another version of the pose, perhaps using props. Having a wall to touch or lean against can help you with balance, and blocks or straps can arrest the depth to which you go in a pose, lessening strain and lowering the probability of injury.

8. Pay attention to how you feel, both after practice and the next day.

It’s important to take into account how you feel, not only during but also after your practice. Do you feel nothing at all? Do you feel you exerted yourself in a productive way? Maybe you’re sore in a “good way”?

Do you have a lightness in your step and a buoyancy in your mood? Or do you feel exhausted? Or maybe you even feel new pain somewhere?

If you feel nothing at all after the class you took, you might consider upping the intensity of your practice. If you feel absolutely exhausted or in pain, you may conclude that you did a little too much, and tone things down next time.

9. Give up comparisons.

You may or may not have something in common with the person practicing vigorously next to you. Do not expect your poses to look exactly the same way that other students’ poses look. Besides, impressive as some of those demonstrations may be, you don’t know what is going on inside any of those other bodies. For all you know, those yogis have rotator cuff tears, repetitive motion injuries, or pain they are ignoring (and perhaps exacerbating by practicing that seemingly advanced pose). Who knows, some of them may have managed to get into their pose only by compromising their alignment or stability in some way. They may even be holding their breath!

Trust that the more advanced student is one who recognizes their own limitations, and practices the version of a pose that is appropriate for their body while maintaining their personal optimal alignment and breathing deeply. Be that student.

It may also be tempting to compare yourself with the person you were twenty years ago, who could have done the suggested adventurous pose with abandon. You can no longer do anything to help or hinder the person you used to be, but your actions today will have a direct impact on the person you will be tomorrow. Do your future self a service by respecting your limits as they are today.

10. Men: Patience and persistence will pay off.

Researchers have long-noted that women tend to be more flexible than men, a gender gap that is slight in preadolescence but increases toward seniority (when older women maintain greater range of motion in many joints than older men do). This difference may be due to a combination of muscle size, tendon elasticity, hormones, and the kinds of activities that men or women are more likely to engage in.

The fact that aging-related declines in flexibility appear to be joint-specific, with, for instance, the shoulder and trunk experiencing greater losses in range of motion than the elbows and knees, indicates that habitual joint usage patterns play a role in these losses.
Statistically, men tend to participate in more vigorous physical activities than women, do more strength-training activities, and play sports twice as much (or more) than women do. But muscle bulk, the wear-and-tear of repetitive movements, and the scar tissue that results from injuries may contribute to losses in flexibility.

Men’s comparative inflexibility is not a reason for them not to do yoga; rather, it makes yoga even more important. And the good news is that, when embarking on a program of stretching, men seem to make gains in range of motion at a similar rate to that of their female counterparts.

However, it’s important that they take things more slowly than they might be inclined to, and that they don’t expect themselves to be able to do everything their female neighbors in class are doing—at least not right away.

Reflections

What all these tips encourage is viveka: a Sanskrit term for the prized quality of discernment and discrimination. Although certain physical aspects of yoga may be more challenging as we age, discernment may also be easier to come by.

At middle age and beyond, we may have an easier time discerning our goals, the kind of practices and teachers that are right for us, and the speed at which we may safely proceed. We may be able to better discriminate between the poses and movements that are of benefit to us and those we would be better off skipping, between what is right for another and what is right for us, and even between what was right for us 20 years ago and what is right for us now.

If we apply this earned wisdom to our yoga practices, it will not only help to keep us safe, but it will also serve as a signal to others.

Every time we stay in a less extreme version of a pose, or take a break when we need it, we model to younger, more ambitious practitioners a kinder way of practicing. We tell another story about what yoga can be. Through the self-awareness and self-care that infuses our actions—and at times our inaction—we become arrows that point inward instead of outward.

MIND-CENTERED TECHNIQUES THAT CAN HELP YOU HEAL YOUR ARTHRITIS

The Arthritis Foundation says on its website that, ‘by conservative estimates, about 54 million adults have doctor-diagnosed arthritis.’ Furthermore, they start off their How to Prevent Arthritis section by stating, ‘The fact is, there is no sure way to prevent arthritis.’
If you already have arthritis, they do offer a few specific examples of things you can do to manage it. For osteoarthritis, they recommend that you maintain a healthy weight; for rheumatoid arthritis that you do not smoke; and for gout, they advocate that you eat a healthful diet, low in sugar, alcohol and purines. They add the following at the end:
Right now, because scientists don’t fully understand the causes or mechanisms behind these diseases, true prevention seems to be impossible. However, there is real hope that someday some or all types of arthritis and related conditions can be prevented.

Gee whiz. Perhaps we simply haven’t given enough money to Western Arthritis Researchers to enable them to ‘understand’ what’s going on. Oh well–at least in the meantime, they have mountains of pharmaceutical drugs, enough for everyone, to fill the void of ignorance.

For arthritis sufferers, little of the ‘insights’ of Western medicine are truly helpful. The lack of clarity about the causes and effective treatments for arthritis is obviously frustrating. And when pharmaceutical drugs are the main line of treatment for arthritis sufferers—drugs which serve only to suppress the immune system and block some of the pain caused by arthritis, and do not offer the possibility of a cure—it is understandable that having arthritis could lead to feelings of hopelessness and depression.

Links Between Arthritis and Mental Health Issues

In fact, this lines up with a new study conducted by the Medibank Better Health Index that shows that Australians living with arthritis are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Medibank Chief Medical Officer Dr. Linda Swan further drills down on this as follows:

While arthritis is a physical health condition, we know it can also take a major toll on the mental wellbeing of those affected—with chronic pain, mobility loss and a reduced ability to take part in physical and social activities all playing potential roles. These findings confirm how essential it is that people with arthritis take measures to not only manage the physical symptoms of the condition, but also their mental health as well.

The first recommendation given by the study is for sufferers to ‘learn mindfulness and relaxation techniques.’ Certainly, the notion that we should have strategies to mitigate the mental health problems brought on by arthritis is a positive step; however, this still leaves us with a disease, arthritis, that is seen as fundamentally incurable and a constant pain we just have to live with.

An article entitled ‘Use Your Mind to Beat Arthritis’ goes a step further in suggesting that perhaps mind-centered techniques have the ability to actually alleviate some of the pain brought about by arthritis on their own. Here is the science they point to:

A recent Norwegian study followed 68 people with painful joint inflammation, half of whom participated in mindfulness training in a group setting. Over several months, they were able to reduce their emotional stress and improve overall well-being compared with the other half, who received routine medical care and simply followed along with a CD of mindfulness exercises at home.

Unfortunately, the article is very careful to present its claims in deference to Western medicine, disclaiming on several occasions that mind techniques are not substitutes for Western medication, and calling upon an MD for his authoritative take on it:

How does this “mind over matter” approach help arthritis? “If it works, we don’t understand why,” says Robert Shmerling, MD, a rheumatologist and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. But dissecting the mechanics may be unimportant if the end result is a better outlook on life. “It’s possible that anyone with chronic pain can be helped with some of these approaches,” Dr. Shmerling says. The only caveat is that they should not be used as a substitute for medication or other therapies, including those aimed at treating joint pain. “You can get joint damage and functional disability if you stop your medications,” he warns.

Again with the ‘we don’t understand why’ business. Why? Because Western medicine only concerns itself with physical processes, and so is disqualified from being an ‘authority’ on what the mind can do since they don’t even actually investigate the powers of the mind!

The article goes on to describe 4 different methods:

Meditation. Meditation helps you focus your attention, reduce stress, and improve feelings of well-being. There are different types of meditation to consider. In mindfulness meditation, you concentrate on your breathing (or another physical process) without reaction or judgment. With transcendental meditation, you repeat a mantra — a word or phrase — over and over to keep any thoughts from distracting you. A study published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that people with arthritis who underwent eight weeks of mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy that included meditation experienced a significant decrease in their pain intensity and achieved improved quality of life.

Relaxation techniques. Sometimes, taking steps to relieve the stress of arthritis can bring about positive physical changes, like decreased blood pressure and slower breathing, which in turn can lead to less discomfort from chronic joint pain. One technique, called progressive muscle relaxation, centers on purposely tightening and then relaxing each muscle group in your body while following a breathing technique. A study published in the International Journal of Nursing Practice found that a small group of people with rheumatoid arthritis who practiced relaxation techniques in addition to taking their medication had less anxiety and depression than those who only took medication.

Biofeedback. Biofeedback therapy involves the use of a simple machine that measures blood pressure, muscle tension, and other physical markers. By watching the measurements on the machine as you use various calming techniques, you can learn how to better control these physical functions. You can even shop for a biofeedback machine and books on the topic online.

Cognitive behavioral therapy. This form of psychotherapy helps you change negative thought and behavior patterns by replacing them with more positive behaviors. If your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms are making you tired, this approach could be particularly helpful — two British studies found that group sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy reduced the impact of fatigue.

Belief Is The Key

After listing these 4 techniques, the article goes on to state that ‘the best therapy is one that you truly believe may help. Going into it with a lot of skepticism may reduce its effectiveness.’

Aha. There it is. Belief is the key. The problem is that this article, and Western medicine as a whole, do not provide us with a body of knowledge that would give us good reason to believe in the powers of the mind, and our innate abilities to heal ourselves. And why? Because if we really believed in our own ability to heal ourselves, the entire Western Medical Establishment would be out of business, save for a small area of health care dealing with acute traumas to the body.

Holistic Paradigm

For chronic illness, especially if we want to test the full effectiveness of mind-centered therapies, it becomes important to adopt a holistic paradigm of healing. A holistic approach sees the mind and body as one, intimately connected in the manifestation and perpetuation of chronic disease. Rather than being seen as an arbitrary event, diseases such as arthritis are actually manifested and maintained by the mind, the ultimate source of intelligence behind all of the body’s physiological processes. It follows that if we are willing to see chronic illness in the body as the manifestation of an improperly functioning mind, then it gives us a lot more confidence that we can heal ourselves through mind-centered practices such as the ones described above.

This does not negate the need for proper nutrition, rest, activity, or other physical processes; indeed in the holistic paradigm these are all part of the overall health of the organism, and would be included in any holistic treatment program for arthritis.

The unlimited power, though, is founded in the mind. To get really clear on the mind’s role in both the manifestation and healing of chronic illness within the body, books such as Bruce Lipton’s ‘The Biology of Belief’ or Louise Hay’s ‘You Can Heal Your Life,’ are excellent resources. Once you gain a full understanding of this paradigm, you will bring confidence and optimism to your experimentation with various mind-centered therapies, gaining more confidence and certainty in your ability to heal yourself with each sign of success.

Inner Breath Yoga Presents Yogalign Thursday & Friday May 17th & 18th at Big Bear Yoga in Big Bear Lake, California

Aloha Inner Breath Yoga~YogAlign Class Pain-Free Yoga From Your Inner Core With Renee’ Fulkerson E-RYT 200| RYT 500 Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Provider www.innerbreathyoga.com | 909-747-4186

When: Thursday May 17th/ Friday May 18th
Time: 6:00pm to 7:45pm On Both Days
Investment: $15 In Advanced $20 Day of Per Person / Per Class Location: Big Bear Yoga 909-584-5270
421 W. Big Bear Blvd. Big Bear City, Ca. 92314
Contact: http://www.bigbearyoga@hotmail.com

What to Expect
• Breathing from the diaphragm with Core SIP Breath
• Postures supporting natural spine alignment
• Re-setting the tension in the body
• Creating space in the body with self-massage
• Stillness a time to feel the effects of your practice
• Use of yoga props blocks, blankets and straps

YogAlign is Simply the Art of Being in Your Structure and Breath. What differentiates YogAlign from other practices is its focus on rewiring of real-life movement patterning, rather that confusing the body with poses that do not necessarily stimulate real-life function or movement. The basis of the YogAlign practice is to create and maintain posture in natural alignment and therefore the emphasis in on posture, not the poses. Imagine the Possibilities in a body you can trust.

Benefits of Good Posture
Improves and allows for more efficient breathing
Eliminates/ reduces risks of back and neck pain
Improves concentration and mental performance
Feel better, improves mood & boost’s energy
Reduces risk of injury (present and future)
Lifts confidence with improved bodily alignment
Showing up to YogAlign practice will allow you the time and space to get to know and support your bodies authentic needs and enjoy the benefits of good posture.

Back Pain Surgery Alternatives and Remedies

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Back pain is a disorder that affects the muscles, nerves, and bones of the back. It is one of the most common causes of visits to the doctor. It can be classified into the pain of the lower part of the back, the pain of the upper part or middle part of the back. However, the pain of the lower of the back is the most predominant. According to studies, about 80% of Americans have experienced back pain at one point or the other in the lives. Back pain can be due to different reasons. The majority of back pain is caused by injury, such as strains to the nerves, muscle sprains. It can also be as a result of some diseases such as cancer of the spinal cord, herniated vertebral disc, Sciatica, renal diseases, infections of the vertebral spine and so on. Back pain can be classified based on the duration of the pain. There is the acute back pain, which is when the back pain lasts for less than 6 weeks, then there is the sub-chronic lower back pain, this is when the pain lasts for between 6 to 12 weeks, and lastly, the chronic lower back pain, this is when the pain lasts for more than 12 weeks. There is some kind of back pain that might need for surgery to be done.  This piece is focused on nonsurgical ways to treat back pain. However, it’s important to know the causes of back pain before going into how it can be treated.

What Are the Causes of Back Pain?

  1. Strains: This occurs when there is a strain of the muscles and ligaments of the lower back. It could also be as a result of engaging in activities that put excessive strain on the back. Some of the signs and symptoms of strain include pain and rigidity of the lower back. The patient might also experience spasms of the muscles of the lower back. The treatment for a strain is rest and physical therapy.
  2. Vertebral disc problems: Some of the most common problems of the vertebral disc include herniation or bulging of the disc. The discs of the vertebrae are prone to injury. However, this tends to occur more as one age. This is why disc injuries are more predominant in adults. Disc herniation is a condition in which the cartilage that surrounds the vertebral disc pushes into the spinal cord. This might also affect the nerve roots. In this condition, the cushion that normally sits between the vertebrae discs slips out of position, which leads to the compression and crush of the nerve root. Injury to the vertebral disc usually occurs after the individual lifts something heavy, or twists the back. Pain from the injury of the vertebral disc can last for up to 3 days before it subsides.
  3. Sciatica: This condition can happen with a herniated disc, especially if the disc crushes on the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the connection between the spine and the legs. This leads to painful sensation in the feet and in the legs. The patient might complain of pins and needles in the feet.
  4. Stenosis of the spine: This is a condition in which the spinal column becomes constricted. The narrowing of the spinal canal puts some kind of pressure on the content of the spinal column, which includes the spinal cord and the spinal nerves. This would eventually lead to the compression of the nerves and the other components of the column. The patient might experience signs and symptoms such as numbness in the leg, weakness, and cramping. It’s common for patients to feel the intensity of the pain when they exert some force on their back, especially when walking or sitting.

How Can I Reduce Inflammation in my Back?

Sometimes, back pain is caused by the swelling and inflammation of the joints in the spine. It’s advisable to consult a physician if you notice any inflammation in your back. However, here are some things to reduce the inflammation;

  1. Apply ice and heat therapy: One of the easiest ways to reduce inflammation in the back is to apply ice or heat to the affected part. This can be done by wrapping the ice in a cloth, such as a clean towel and placing it on the affected region. On the other hand, heat therapy is also efficient. Heat increases the flow of blood to the area, which reduces the pain signals that are being sent to the brain. Asides from this, heat therapy also relax the body and calm the mind.
  2. Reduce the consumption of food that could cause inflammation: There is some food that helps to reduce inflammation. Examples of this types of food include olive oil, more fish, less red meat and so on.
  3. Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a minimally invasive treatment that helps to reduce pain, especially in the back. This technique also increases the ability of the body to heal itself. Acupuncture is done by lying comfortably on a table, then acupoint areas are located and needles are placed. Patients do not experience any pain. The process is soothing and relaxing.

What Foods Help with Muscle Inflammation?

There are some types of food that help to reduce and eliminate inflammation. It’s best to start consuming this type of food if you notice you might be having some inflammation of the muscle. Examples of these food include;

  1. Olive oil: Olive oil is rich in fatty acids, especially Omega-9 fatty acids. They help to reduce inflammation. You should consider changing your normal vegetable oil for olive oil when cooking.
  2. Consume less red meat, and more fish
  3. Include nuts in your food

What Natural Remedies Reduce Inflammation?

  1. Bromelain: This enzyme can be found in many fruits. However, they’re abundant in pineapple. It’s a powerful anti-inflammatory agent.
  2. Tumeric: Tumeric looks similar to ginger. It has a strong anti-inflammatory property. It can be enjoyed as a tea.
  3. White Willow bark: This is the bark of the White Willow tree. It’s used for the treatment of pain and as an anti-inflammatory agent. It’s been used for this purpose for many years.

References

Ayren Jackson-Cannady. (2011). When to See a Doctor for Back PainWebMD. Retrieved 24 April 2018, from https://www.webmd.com/back-pain/features/when-to-call-doctor#1

Charles D. Ray, M. (2018). Should I See a Doctor for Back Pain?Spine-health. Retrieved 24 April 2018, from https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/lower-back-pain/should-i-see-a-doctor-back-pain

Dr, P. (2016). How To Find A Back Pain Doctor Near Me – Pain DoctorPain Doctor. Retrieved 24 April 2018, from https://paindoctor.com/back-pain-doctor-near-me/

Philip R. Shalen, M. (2018). Specialists Who Treat Back PainSpine-health. Retrieved 24 April 2018, from https://www.spine-health.com/treatment/spine-specialists/specialists-who-treat-back-pain