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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Yoga Poses That Can Hurt You

Michaelle Edwards

Michaelle Edwards

"Anityasuciduhkhanatmasu nityasucisukhatmakhyatiravidya" (What at one time feels good or appears to be of help can turn out to be a problem; what we consider to be useful may in time prove to be harmful.) -- From Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, written in Sanskrit approximately 2,400 years ago.
As a 40-year yoga practitioner, with over two decades practicing massage therapy and teaching yoga, I have seen countless injuries, chronic pain and joint issues in yoga clients of every age and fitness level. My work and investigations with yoga injuries has revealed certain yoga poses engage the body in positions that are unnatural for the design of the human body. In this series of posts, I will explain why these poses need to be radically modified or eliminated to protect yoga practitioners from finding out that which was considered to be useful may in time prove to be harmful.
The sad truth is that years of practicing body positions that do not simulate real life function can lead to misalignment, chronic pain, and even surgical replacements.
To be smart and safe in yoga, we need to consider postural alignment and natural joint function, rather than blindly following a list of "must-do" traditional poses and boot camp challenges.
Yoga Can Heal and Yoga Can Hurt
Paschimottasana and Uttanasana are straight leg seated forward bending poses practiced from sitting or standing that go against how our body is "wired" to move. These poses and many variations are practiced with the compartmentalized idea that stretching the back while keeping the knees straight will lengthen the hamstrings and make the spinal column more flexible. But how does this contribute to real life anatomical function and a balance of postural dynamics?
Stop driving with your parking brakes on.
We must bend at least one knee to move forward. When both knees are straightened and we stretch forward as in yoga forward bends, we are driving with our brakes on and stretching the ligament forces needed for natural anatomical function. Try to walk without bending your knees and you will get the global picture of how your body works. Can you feel the unnatural torque and tension in the lower back and knees?
Touching your toes is a waste of time and could prove to be harmful in the long run.
All standing and seated forward bends with knees straight and ankles flexed in right angles undermine the spine's integrity creating the C shape, or slouch, stressing the necessary ligament tension needed for natural joint functions of our spine, hips and knees.
Keep your sexy curves by not engaging your body in straight lines!
We are not made of parts. Our body is made of curves, global in nature, and all parts affect the whole. We all want to be healthy and feel peaceful in body and mind. What is the purpose and function of doing yoga poses that flatten the curves, and stretch out the very seams of the fabric that holds us together?
Forward bends with straight knees can give you a flat butt!
Before and After YogAlign Practice
Many yogis wind up with a flat butt and sagging posture from ligaments that are too loose. Ligaments need to be "tight" enough to keep the hip joint stable during normal activity and movement.
The gluteus muscles are stretched out and weakened when we do straight leg forward bends because the butt muscles cannot functionally activate if both knees are straight. This is why people with strong tight butts have difficulty doing forward bends with their knees straight.
The flexible and bendy people have no trouble doing these poses and it can even feel "good," but over the long run, this flexibility becomes a liability. The sacroiliac (SI) joint ligaments become lax and the hip joint is destabilized, lacking shock absorbing forces needed to protect joint function. Many famous yoga teachers and long time practitioners are getting hip and knee replacements as a result of over-stretching the SI joint as practiced in straight leg seated and standing forward bends.
Babies know best.
Watch a toddler move and bend over. When they lean over to pick up a toy, they move from core center, hips back, with knees bent and butt and leg muscles working. This is why all babies have cute butts.
Bend your knees, not your spine!
When we lean forward from sitting or standing without bending our knees, we are asking the spine to stretch in ways it is not designed. Any back doctor will tell you to always bend your knees when leaning over. Why does yoga get a hall pass to ignore this basic anatomical rule to bend the knees?
Protect your spine and lower back curves in yoga: Keep your knees deeply bent in all seated and standing forward bends, and stay out of all yoga poses that create a C shape in the spinal column.
Align, don't contort.
Before and After YogAlign Practice
In order for yoga to evolve and be safe for all, we must use critical thinking, discernment, awareness and simple bio-mechanical common sense.
I always remind my students to practice naturally aligned posture as the most important asana. If an asana does not support your spine in good posture, it is quite possibly working to pull your body out of alignment, and what is the benefit of doing it?
Three simple tests to determine whether a pose serves the human design:
1. It should allow the spine to maintain its natural curves.
2. It should not restrict the ability to do deep, rib-cage breathing.
3. It should have a real-life correlation to functional joint movement.
Yogis need to take off the avidyas (blinders) and consider the long-range effects of yoga poses on the human body. Is the pose or position going to lead to a favorable outcome adding value to our lives and supporting the ancient wisdom of the yoga sutras?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Benefits of The 5 Tibetan Rites

5 Tibetan Rites - full demo so you can join in

Perfect 5 Tibetans Workout

Five Tibetan Rites

You CAN Grow Younger -
Do the Five Tibetan Rites!

Grow Young Guide Ellen Wood demonstrates the RIGHT way to practice the Five Tibetan Rites.
The Tibetan Rites of Rejuvenation are exercises developed about 2500 years ago by lamas in Tibet. They were kept secret in monasteries for centuries because they were considered to be a path to higher consciousness, ONLY for the initiated.
The Tibetan Rites, also called The Five Tibetans, were introduced to the Western world by author Peter Kelder and first published in 1939. Kelder had met a retired British army colonel in southern California in the 1930s who told him stories of his travels and the discovery of the Tibetan Rites of Rejuvenation. The author published The Eye of Revelation based on his conversations with the colonel.
Kelder makes it clear that these are not physical fitness exercises. The Five Tibetans affect the body, mind and emotions and activate key energy centers in the body. These seven energy centers are similar to the seven chakras many of us are familiar with, but not exactly the same. There are two in the head, one at the base of the throat, one in the right side at the waist, one in the sexual center and one in each knee. The whole purpose for doing the Tibetan Rites is to get those seven energy centers, or vortexes, all spinning at the same rate of speed – the rate for a robust 25-year-old. That's how they work to make us grow younger.
I first learned about the Tibetan Rites in 2004 and I have been practicing the Five Tibetans daily since then. Recently I discovered a new edition of Kelder’sThe Eye of Revelation, edited by W.J. Watt and published in 2008 in hardback and 2009 in paperback. This book, based on a recently discovered manuscript of Kelder’s from the 1940s, gives additional detail and information on the correct way to do the exercises and their benefits.
One of the details is that they should be performed VERY SLOWLY. What a difference that makes! I had easily worked up to 21 of each of the rites doing them the old way but when I slowed down, I had to cut back to just six a day of each and my muscles were sore! Now I'm back up to 21 of each and no soreness. I plan to produce an instructional DVD on how to properly practice the Tibetans. Watch for more information on this in my blog, and please do not attempt these exercises unless you first get a doctor's permission.
Rights to Kelder's book were purchased in the 1970s by Harbor Press, publisher of a revised version titled Ancient Secrets of the Fountain of Youth. In 1999 Doubleday published Ancient Secrets of the Fountain of Youth: Book 2, which provides a great deal of useful information along with photos illustrating the exercises, and has a foreword by Bernie Siegel, MD. The newer book edited by J.W. Watt is much more detailed and thorough in its instructions on how to do the Five Tibetans. I highly recommend both books.

5 Tibetan Rites - The RIGHT Way, Anti-Aging Tip from Ellen Wood, author ...

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Meditation's Healing Power

It’s hard to believe some still question whether meditation can have a positive effect on mind and body. A very selective research review recently raised the question, leading to headlines (such as one in The Wall Street Journal) that said the benefits are limited.
As a physician and scientist, I’ve been researching effects of meditation on health for 30 years, and have found it has compelling benefits. Over the past year, I’ve been invited by doctors in medical schools and major health centers on four continents to instruct them on the scientific basis of mind-body medicine andmeditation in prevention and treatment of disease, especially cardiovascular disease.
Research on Transcendental Meditation, for example, has found reduced blood pressure, stress and insulin resistance (useful for preventing diabetes), slowing of biological aging, and even a 48% reduction in the rates of heart attack, stroke, and death. I would consider those to be benefits. And so does the American Heart Association, which last year released a statement saying that decades of research indicates TM lowers blood pressure, and may be considered by clinicians as a treatment for high BP.
Research on meditation has shown a wide range of psychological benefits. For example, a 2012 review of 163 studies that was published by the American Psychological Association concluded that the Transcendental Meditation technique had relatively strong effects in reducing anxiety, negative emotions, trait anxiety, and neuroticism, while aiding learning, memory, and self-realization. Mindfulness meditation showed effects in reducing negative personality traits and stress, and in improving attention and mindfulness. The review concluded, “The effects found in the current analyses show that meditation affects people in important ways.”
Why, then, did the recent review published in a specialty journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA Internal Medicine) conclude there were limited benefits, with mindfulness meditation showing only moderate or low evidence for specific stress-related conditions such as anxiety?
That review was narrowly focused on research on meditation for certain types of psychological stress, so objective benefits such as reduced blood pressure and heart disease were outside its scope. In addition, that review only looked at studies in which the subjects had been diagnosed with a medical or psychiatric conditions. The authors excluded studies of otherwise normal individuals with anxiety or stress, as well as any study that wasn’t on adults.
These limited selection criteria resulted in the omission of many rigorous studies, which, when taken as a whole, show that at least some forms of meditation are beneficial for reducing stress and anxiety. A 2013 meta-analysis (a type of rigorous review) of 16 controlled studies among 1295 participants (10 of which matched the JAMA Internal Medicine criteria for active controls) found that the Transcendental Meditation technique significantly reduced anxiety, the most common form of stress. And the greater the starting level of anxiety in the test subjects, the greater the reduction with meditation.
In a commentary that accompanied the article published by the AMA, Allan Goroll, MD, states, “The modest benefit found in the study by Goyal et al begs the question of why, in the absence of strong scientifically vetted evidence, meditation in particular and complementary measures in general have become so popular, especially among the influential and well educated.”
I can answer that. Complementary and alternative approaches (now called integrative medicine) have indeed been shown in rigorous scientific studies to have some major effects on mind and body health. But, equally important, people who use natural approaches are taking a more active role in their health. This is called self-empowerment. This is what medical professionals should desire for their patients and themselves. This is the grail. We want people to adopt healthier behaviors and outlooks and attitudes, to take more responsibility, to use their own inner healing abilities. The US Centers for Disease Control and Preventionestimates that the majority of chronic diseases could be prevented by healthy behaviors. That is, by people managing their own stress and lifestyle.
In addition, think for a moment about acupuncture. There’s been extensive research on its effectiveness in treating pain. Some of that research shows it to be better than a placebo; much of it shows it to be about the same as a placebo. But most of the research shows that it’s better than no treatment. It's astounding that people can reduce their own pain, yet medical journals are typically gripped by the fact that it’s often no better than a placebo.
Finally, people meditate because it can fundamentally change their self-perceptions and sense of suffering. And, yes, research also supports this. In studies on long-term and even short-term practitioners of Transcendental Meditation, subjects report the experience of a deep level of unity and wholeness in their awareness. This gives them a profound experience of peace, connectedness, and relief from stress. EEG and brain imaging research confirmsthat meditators’ brains actually function differently than those who haven’t learned the technique.
So to Dr. Goroll and all those who wonder why anyone would meditate, my observation, based on decades of published peer-reviewed scientific research, is that at least certain forms of meditation may greatly contribute to a healthy, balanced mind and body. To ignore the evidence is ignoring the scientific basis of medicine.
As can be seen in the presentations on meditation at the recent world economic summit in Davos, Switzerland and the cover story in the February 2 issue of TIMEmagazine, the benefits of meditation are coming to be widely accepted by health professionals, business leaders, and the media. It’s now time for the medical profession to catch up and provide this information to those who depend on them for the most advanced knowledge and technologies for mind and body health.
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