Archive for July, 2011

Gently dynamic repetitions help warm and loosen the joints to increase range-of-motion and decrease stiffness. The chair yoga practice  and chair sun salutations/surya namaskar have helped people with back pain as well.Those who have arthritis that restricts their ability to get on the floor, please see all the gentle, restorative yoga asanas that can be done on the chair, bed, and standing found in links below. Standing positions may be helpful in improving balance and strengthening feet, ankles, knees, and hips.

Working for several years with seniors at our community center and seeing a range of issues, practical modifications have been made to adapt many asanas for the chair. Everything you need is on www.mahasriyoga.com/asana, www.mahasriyoga.com/pranayama, and www.mahasriyoga.com/meditation.

Other suggestion is Satyananda Yoga’s Pawanmuktasana Series Part 1 Anti-Rheumatic Group in Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha. There will also be many suitable asanas in Swami Rama’s book  Exercises for Joints and Glands.

Audio tracks on pranayama breathing and meditation form a complete practice. Studies suggest that these practices are helpful for arthritis,  for a sense of well being, and an improved quality of life.

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Spiced, roasted eggplant makes a fragrant and flavorful bhartha (mashed). In this recipe, Roasted Spiced Eggplant, all the vegetables are first oven roasted (can use the grill as well) for more flavor. This also reduces the amount of oil in the dish.

It carries well in a lunch box and can be eaten at room temperature. As more people come looking for slow carb vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free recipes, this may be a good addition.

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Long-term meditation is associated with increased gray matter density in the brain stem

Vestergaard-Poulsen, Petera; van Beek, Martijnc; Skewes, Joshuaa c; Bjarkam, Carsten R.b; Stubberup, Michaeld; Bertelsen, Jesd; Roepstorff, Andreasa c

Abstract: Using magnetic resonance imaging, we observed higher gray matter density in lower brain stem regions of experienced meditators compared with age-matched nonmeditators. Our findings show that long-term practitioners of meditation have structural differences in brainstem regions concerned with cardiorespiratory control. This could account for some of the cardiorespiratory parasympathetic effects and traits, as well as the cognitive, emotional, and immunoreactive impact reported in several studies of different meditation practices.

Neuroreport:                                                                                                                                         28 January 2009, Volume 20 Issue 2, pp 170-174

doi: 10.1097/WNR.0b013e328320012a                                                                             Behaviour

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The New York Times article, Still Counting Calories? Your Weight Loss Plan May Be Outdated, describes the most extensive and detailed long-term analysis on weight gain done by nutrition and public health experts at Harvard University. It is worth reading.

The 120,877 participants included doctors, dentists, nurses, and veterinarians who were followed for 12 to 20 years. The results are illuminating.

This blog has many visitors who come via a search on slow carb vegetarian recipes. Tim Ferriss’ diet appeals to Indians and vegetarians because it allows all the beans, dals, vegetables that one can eat. However, there may be long-term questions about permanently switching to a diet that eliminates entire food groups such as fruit, dairy, and whole grains. Rice and beans/dals make a complete protein. On their own they are incomplete proteins. Dairy and  soy products are important sources of calcium and eliminating them means relying on calcium supplements.

The Harvard study indicates that whole grains, dairy, fruit do not add to weight gain and even caused weight loss. Participants who ate yogurt actually experienced weight loss.

Exercise, sleep, television watching, smoking, and alcohol intake are also important factors in weight gain.

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It is easy to prescribe a given set of asanas for back pain. In reality there is practically no one sequence or given set of asanas that works for everyone. There is no one cause for back pain and every body is different. There may be some conditions, such as spinal fractures, that will be aggravated by yoga. Here are some practical and realistic steps for back pain that I share when consulted by yoga teachers and therapists.

Back pain is probably the most common issue I have encountered in teaching yoga and yoga therapy. First, it helps to know what is causing the back pain. Yoga may be indicated as possible therapy. Then we go through some asanas that may be helpful after taking into account the person’s physical limitations and medical history.

However, even after numerous tests, often the cause for pain is not determined. The pain can be debilitating. In this case, it is helpful to first go through various movements to help determine where the pain is located, what movements and angles make it worse or act as triggers, and then how it radiates into other parts of the body.

People that I encounter are in no position to do sirshasana (head stand), sarvangasana (shoulder stand), dhanurasana (bow), shalabhasana (locust), bhujanagasana (cobra), or matsyasana (fish). They cannot even walk or sit without pain. In fact, if the pain is due to a compression of the discs/vertebrae in the small of the back, many of these asanas aggravate the pain as they seem to cause further compression because of the pelvic tilt in those bodies. They need forward bends.

What is helpful is relaxing the body and muscles that have often become tense in response to the pain. A short breathing practice is very useful. Then begin with range-of-motion type asana movements, doing several repetitions with the breath to loosen the joints and muscles. Some suggestions are leg lifts (one leg keeping the other leg bent and never with both legs together), arm lifts, cycling (one leg at a time, keeping the other leg bent), rowing, grinding, titali also known as baddhakonasana (butterfly or bound angle pose), simple abdominal twists, nose-to-knee pose (keeping the opposite leg bent), and side bends. Many of these simple movements can be found on www.mahasriyoga.com/asana/index. Once the body gets comfortable with repetitions, then try holding positions.

After several days of the range-of-motion movements, move on to  tadasana (known as both tree and mountain pose), marjariasana (cat), shashankhasana also known as balasana (hare’s or child’s pose), followed by modified bhujangasana (cobra) often called the sphinx, and parvatasana also known as adhomukh svanasana  (mountain pose also known as downward dog), and setu bandha (bridge pose). Many of these can be easily modified for the chair. Add vyagharasana (tiger pose) to strengthen the back.

Once a comfort level has been achieved with those asanas, move on to surya namaskars (sun salutations).  For chair sun salutations visit www.mahasriyoga.com/asana/chair. Forward bends such as janusirshasana (figure 4 pose) can also be added.

A gentle and steady progression is suggested as I have found that to be the most effective. If there is a sharp pain, a pulling or any burning sensation, stop that movement. Often, many adjustments are necessary to deal with the pain and to accommodate various medical conditions. A good yoga therapist is necessary for those who require modifications.

Yoga Nidras can be very helpful in managing pain.

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The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) funded a study in 2009 at West Virginia University to evaluate the effects of Iyengar Yoga on low-back pain.

Evaluation of the effectiveness and efficacy of Iyengar yoga therapy on chronic low back pain.

Williams K, Abildso C, Steinberg L, Doyle E, Epstein B, Smith D, Hobbs G, Gross R, Kelley G, Cooper L.

Source: Department of Community Medicine, West Virginia University, Morgantown, USA. kwilliams@hsc.wvu.edu

The study concluded that there was a significant improvement in the disability, intensity of pain, and depression in the group that practiced Iyengar Yoga twice a week. The dosage of pain medication decreased.

A significant number of people, in our own experience, have seen improvements in low-back pain through most types of hatha yoga, in many cases modified for individual needs. (See Asana section of www.mahasriyoga.com for gentle modified movements that can be done sitting on a chair/bed or standing.)

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On Father’s Day and Mother’s Day we acknowledge and honor our fathers and mothers. There are social ways in which appreciation is expressed for all that they do. It is the same for Guru Purnima.

In the yoga tradition, parents are the first gurus. Guru means remover of darkness or ignorance. We all have several “gurus” during our lives who help, mentor, and guide us. There is also the inner guide or inner guru. Some have a spiritual guru.

In the yoga, Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain tradition, there is Guru’s Day called Guru Purnima to acknowledge and honor all gurus. On this day, it is believed that the blessings of the guru grow a thousand times.

Purnima means full moon and this day falls in the lunar month of ashad in the Indian calendar, around June/July. This year it is July 15. There are many traditions and rituals to celebrate this day and to honor the guru within and without. People celebrate individually and in their groups to support each other in their spiritual journeys. It is a way of bonding with our spirituality.

What can people here do on their own in their own private and personal way? Here are some suggestions:

Rise early, at dawn, if practical. Observe silence. Hear or sing some chants of any tradition for 10 minutes. For guru mantras and guru strotas, visit www.rikhiapeeth.net and go to Tapowan Sangeet or other chants. Use CDs, if you have them.

Use the bathroom, shower, change into fresh clothes.

Do a short practice of asana and pranayama in the mental presence of your inner guide and your outer guide (only if you have a strong relationship with one).

Spend some time doing candle flame trataka or trataka on the photo of your inner guide. Then meditate on your mantra–this means being attentive to the mantra’s sound vibration and it’s meaning. Repeat it with your body, mind, and spirit totally engaged in the mantra. Be wary of mechanical repetitions. Acknowledge the guru and dissolve the ego, the I-ness, in its light.

Have a simple breakfast quietly. Spend the day feeling the presence of your guru close to you, as close as your breath.

End the day with meditation of mantra japa (repetition of your given or chosen mantra).

In peace and light, a joyful Guru Purnima to everyone.

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