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Archive for August, 2011

There is a change in the air with cooler temperatures as we anticipate Fall. It is time to begin thinking about Fall clean-up of the mind and body. Fall planting will be here soon. We are gathering seeds to sow peace.

We begin with this beautiful clip of universal appeal, The Principle of Emptiness. The seed text is written by Joseph Newton, the stunning photography is by Gregory Colbert, and the exquisite music is that of Coeurs D’or Clayderman. It is a lovely meditation on peace.

How do we sow this seed? Prepare the soil by doing a breathing practice. Then watch the video clip with the music. Let the seed of message plant itself and take root.

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The website that accompanies this blog, www.mahasriyoga.com, is now multilingual and can be read in 52 languages. We are using Google translators. There is a tab on the upper right corner to make the selection. As this blog and the website are global spaces with readers from over 35 nations, we hope this will add to accessibility. Google online translations are not perfect but we are grateful for them. The more frequently used languages will translate better than the others.  We did have friends look at translations in Spanish and German and were comfortable with them. Your help in spreading the awareness of the website and its free resources for gaining peace of mind is always appreciated.

Audio tracks continue to be in English (16) and Gujarati (4).

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Randomized trials show that low-carb diets are as good as low-fat diets and may even be better, according to Harvard Healthbeat’s August 16, 2011 issue. Two studies show that just as there are good fats and bad fats, good carbs and bad carbs, there is new evidence for good proteins and bad proteins.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health have been following 85,000 female nurses and 45,000 male health professionals since the mid-1980s. The huge pool of data has found some telling evidence.

Not surprisingly, one study on the nurses’ diet indicated that red meat increased the chances of heart disease significantly in women. Replacing even one serving of red meat with nuts,  significantly reduced the risk of heart disease.

In another study that looked at the carb content as well as sources of protein in nurses and male health professionals, low-carb diets that were high in animal protein increased the likelihood of death by 23 percent over 20-plus years of follow-up versus “regular” diets. Those on low-carb diets with plant proteins were less likely to die over that period by 20 percent. Looking at the table of various sources of protein and the content, what distinguishes animal proteins from plant proteins is the amount of saturated fat. The plant proteins have far less saturated fat and more carbohydrates (the good kind).

The study left me with several questions. It would have been interesting to have some more information on white meat protein. Is plant protein better even if it is cooked in unsaturated fats, like olive oil? Does the plant protein advantage disappear if equal amounts of saturated fat are added? The table in the newsletter has boiled soybeans and black beans. These questions have been forwarded to the newsletter and any feedback given will be posted here.

The bottom line is that for long-term health, both studies conclude that the type of protein consumed does matter. Plant protein is better for longevity than animal protein. Low-carb diets help reduce weight but the wrong type of protein may also reduce the days of life.

There are other benefits, not cited by the studies: plant protein is much more economical; it requires far less land, water, energy to produce than animal protein; no methane is produced. Animal proteins may carry stress hormones produced in the animals due to their inhumane living conditions as well as the stress and fear endured during the process of slaughtering. These stress hormones may enter the human body when the animal protein is consumed. These are some of the reasons, in addition to non-violence, yoga and meditation traditions recommend vegetarian diets. Plant proteins are better for the body, the environment, as well as the family budget.

There are several vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free recipes, and we keep adding more, for low-carb diets on www.mahasriyoga.com/recipes. Indian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Mexican cuisines offer a wide variety of delicious choices.

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York University of Canada announced on July 27, 2011, that in a study their researchers found that practicing hatha yoga reduced the physical and psychological symptoms of pain in women suffering from fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is believed to predominantly affect women. It is characterized by chronic pain and fatigue; common symptoms include muscle stiffness, sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal discomfort, anxiety and depression.

The study looked at the effects of yoga on cortisol levels in women with fibromyalgia. According to the university press release, previous research had found that women with fibromyalgia have lower-than-average cortisol levels, which contribute to pain, fatigue and stress sensitivity. According to the study, participants’ saliva revealed elevated levels of total cortisol following a program of 75 minutes of hatha yoga twice weekly over the course of eight weeks.

“Ideally, our cortisol levels peak about 30-40 minutes after we get up in the morning and decline throughout the day until we’re ready to go to sleep. The secretion of the hormone, cortisol, is dysregulated in women with fibromyalgia,”  said the study’s lead author, Kathryn Curtis, a PhD student in York’s Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health.

The press release states that cortisol, a steroid hormone, is produced and released by the adrenal gland and functions as a component of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in response to stress.

“Hatha yoga promotes physical relaxation by decreasing activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which lowers heart rate and increases breath volume. We believe this in turn has a positive effect on the HPA axis,” said Curtis.

Participants completed questionnaires to determine pain intensity pre- and post-study; they reported significant reductions in pain and associated symptoms, as well as psychological benefits. They felt less helpless, were more accepting of their condition, and were less likely to “catastrophize” over current or future symptoms.

“We saw their levels of mindfulness increase – they were better able to detach from their psychological experience of pain,” Curtis says.“Yoga promotes this concept – that we are not our bodies, our experiences, or our pain. This is extremely useful in the management of pain,” she says. “Moreover, our findings strongly suggest that psychological changes in turn affect our experience of physical pain.”

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In the chair yoga, pranayama, and meditation class that I do at our local senior community center, many seniors (70-87 years old) are  active, pro-active, in their health care. Many do multiple types of exercises. None of them get on the floor. There are several health issues in the group of 20-30, mostly women. There are hip replacements, knee replacements, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, arthritis, poor balance, back problems, Parkinson’s, and shoulder problems.

After our session,  a majority of them self-report significant improvements in stiffness, range-of-motion, and pain. Some report better bowel function. Some feel an ease in back pain. One says her breathing has improved considerably. The ones with Parkinson’s report that their anxiety disappears–for one, the effect lasts for “some time” and her tremors lessen or disappear during the session.  She tells me her anxiety just flows and melts away. Almost all of them feel tranquil and relaxed, some reporting it is the only time they feel peaceful/anxiety-free. Other forms of movement (jazzercize, zumba, strength training), which they do enjoy, do not seem to produce the same feeling of peace and tranquility in this group as yoga does. A few of them continue to use the free online pranayama breathing and meditation audio tracks on www.mahasriyoga.com, during the week.

A weekly group yoga class for seniors (60-75 minutes) has proved to be very beneficial and the seniors eagerly look forward to it–most of these seniors have been coming now for three years, for 24 to 36 weeks each year. The town offers the seniors very low-cost classes at $2.50 per class. The payback in their well being is significant. During town budget cuts all senior classes were spared and the town is supportive of the well being of its senior population.

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Yoga for Seniors with Arthritis: A Pilot Study

Abstract: To examine whether Yoga classes can relieve arthritis symptoms in older adults, Yoga classes were offered once a week for six weeks to 23 older adults (mean age 71; 19 of the 23 were diagnosed with arthritis) in four different senior institutions in East Harlem, New York. Most participants were of Puerto Rican or Spanish-speaking origins, and all had low incomes and little knowledge of or prior exposure to Yoga. Self-reported levels of pain, stiffness and sleeplessness were collected at the beginning and end of the six-week Yoga program. Statistical analyses revealed significant improvements in pain and stiffness, with large effect sizes. The classes had no significant effect on sleeplessness. Twenty-two of the 23 participants also reported home practice of breathing and poses. The results of this pilot study provide promising evidence that group Yoga classes can reduce pain and stiffness among seniors with arthritis. The study also demonstrates the feasibility of this type of intervention: a group format delivered to seniors where they already live or seek resources and that accommodates a diverse range of abilities and health conditions.

Author: Elizabeth de G.R. Hansen, PhD

International Journal of Yoga Therapy
Issue Volume 1, Number 1 / 2010 pages 55-60

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The benefits of yoga for rheumatoid arthritis: results of a preliminary, structured 8-week program

Abstract: The aim of this study was to measure the effects of a bi-weekly Raj yoga program on rheumatoid arthritis (RA) disease activity. Subjects were recruited from among RA patients in Dubai, United Arab Emirates by email invitations of the RA database. Demographic data, disease activity indices, health assessment questionnaire (HAQ), and quality of life (QOL) by SF-36 were documented at enrollment and after completion of 12 sessions of Raj yoga. A total of 47 patients were enrolled: 26 yoga and 21 controls. Baseline demographics were similar in both groups. Patients who underwent yoga had statistically significant improvements in DAS28 and HAQ, but not QOL. Our pilot study of 12 sessions of yoga for RA was able to demonstrate statistically significant improvements in RA disease parameters. We believe that a longer duration of treatment could result in more significant improvements.

Authors
Humeira Badsha1 Email for humeira.badsha@dbaj.ae, Vishwas Chhabra2, Cathy Leibman3, Ayman Mofti4, Kok Ooi Kong5

Rheumatology International

Issue Volume 29, Number 12 / October, 2009 Pages 1417-1421
DOI 10.1007/s00296-009-0871-1

It has been inspirational to note the traffic to Mahasri Yoga from Dubai, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman. Then I discovered this study done in Dubai. Yoga and meditation are truly global, universal bodies of knowledge with potential benefits for everyone. The participants in the study had no prior exposure to yoga and did no physical exercises. Yet, there was a statistically significant improvement. Our next blog post is of a study of the effects of yoga on arthritis on seniors in the Spanish-speaking population in East Harlem, with similar results.

Most in the West know styles such as Iyengar’s hatha yoga. Raj yoga tends to be gentler and integrates the mind with the physical movement and the breath–it is more meditative physical movement as there is great emphasis on paying attention to the body, the movement, the breath. Iyengar places greater emphasis on physical alignment and is more physically challenging because of the way the teachers choose to teach. Both are valid, a combination can be excellent.  Asanas at www.mahasriyoga.com/asana are based on raja yoga that incorporate Iyengar’s alignment principles.

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