Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Stop & Chew Your Food

I am one of those fast eaters and normally finishes my food before my fellow diners. Sometimes I have indigestion due to this and my body has a lot gas. After reading the article below from Sparkpeople, I now know why I am having those digestive and stomach bloating problems. I hope that you will also find the article enlightening.

The Benefits of Slowing Down & Chewing More
by Liza Barnes, Health Educator

In this era of fast-paced everything, even the act of eating a meal has become something we can do on the run. Breakfast comes in bars, lunch can be eaten while speeding down the highway, and dinner is merely an accompaniment to the evening news, squeezed in between other pressing activities. Invariably, when eating plays second string to everything else, every meal becomes “fast food,” as in eaten-very-fast food. If you find yourself wolfing down your meals in a hurry, you’re actually shortchanging yourself in more ways than you might think.

It turns out there’s a reason food tastes so good. You’re supposed to enjoy it—slow down and savor it, not just get it to your stomach as quickly as possible. Chewing your food thoroughly is actually the first step in the complex process of digestion, and if you glaze over it, just chewing the minimum amount of times necessary to get the food down your esophagus, you’re actually compromising this process. And it’s a mistake many people make.

If you try to imagine swallowing a whole piece of pizza, it’s easy to see why chewing is necessary. But besides breaking up your food into manageable chunks, there’s another good reason to put in the effort and chew. The saliva that coats your food as you chew actually contains digestive enzymes that begin to digest your food before you even swallow it. The enzymes alpha-amylase and lingual lipase begin digesting carbohydrates and fats, reducing the amount of work for which the stomach will be responsible. And it isn’t just a nice gesture. If food fragments are swallowed un-chewed, not only do nutrients remain locked in the fragments, but these fragments create an environment in the colon that is conducive to digestive distress—bacterial overgrowth, gas, and bloating.

For food particles to even leave your stomach though, the “gates” of the stomach, the pyloric sphincter, must open. Conveniently, chewing also aids in this process, signaling this event. And speaking of signals, just seeing your food causes your brain to send signals to the pancreas and stomach to secrete digestive acids and enzymes that are essential to digestion. And the longer your food has contact with your taste and smell receptors—the longer you chew each bite—the stronger these signals become. Strong signals mean more digestive molecules, less indigestion, less acid reflux, and superior nutrient absorption.

Chewing your food thoroughly and eating your meals more slowly has another benefit. It might shrink your waistline—and not just because you’ll have less bloating and indigestion. Eating more slowly gives your body a chance to tell your mind that it’s full, so that you stop eating before you go overboard. In a preliminary study presented at the North American Association for the Study of Obesity’s Annual Scientific Meeting in 2004, study subjects ate less when they were instructed to eat more slowly.

Here are some practical tips for chewing more thoroughly and eating more slowly:

- Give yourself enough time to eat—at least 20-30 minutes just to eat the meal, plus additional time to prepare it.
- Don’t eat amidst distractions, like the TV, computer, or while driving.
-Be fully present while you eat. Notice the smell, temperature, texture, color, and subtle flavor differences of each food you consume.
-Take smaller portions, taking a break before refilling.
-Put your fork down after each bite.
-Eat mindfully, chewing each bite as many times as necessary to pulverize any texture.
-If you’re eating in a group, be aware of the speed at which others are eating. Challenge yourself to be the last to finish.

Besides all of the physical benefits, perhaps the most pleasant benefit of all is that, if you allow yourself to slow down and chew, you’ll enjoy your food much more.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My Pose For The Month - Shoulder Stand

My pose for the month of June is Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana) which is my favourite yoga pose.

This pose is considered one of the best yoga asanas. The Shoulder Stand stimulates and rejuvenates your entire body. In this exercise, you build up both power and a new structure in your back and you relax tension in well-known stress areas like the neck and the lower back. The muscles of your lower back get stronger, the chest and shoulders can move more freely and the back gets straighter. The Shoulder Stand also stimulates the thyroid gland and is good for blood circulation in the chest, shoulders, upper back and the neck. The Shoulder Stand also provides great benefit to the abdominal organs helping to relieve gas and constipation and stimulate digestion. Regular practice of this posture invigorates the mind and helps to calm the nervous system.

When performed in the morning the Shoulder Stand relieves fatigue caused by sleeping too much or too little and when practiced in the evening it helps to promote deep, restful sleep.

The pose begins by lying on the back. The legs should be straight and close together, while the arms are parallel to the torso. Next raise the legs towards the ceiling, and point the toes upward. Allow the weight of the body to rest on the neck muscles and the deltoid muscles of the shoulders. Support the back and legs into the vertical position by allowing the hands to give the lower back the balance it needs. Breathe deeply while going into the pose.

The pose should be held with the legs and spine straight. Breathe slowly and deeply while concentrating on the thyroid gland which is located in the neck. The shoulder stand has profound effects on this gland and increases its tone. Hold this pose for a couple of minutes for the best effects.

To come out of the pose curve the back and knees simultaneously and lower them to the ground. Remove the hands and place them flat on the floor. When the back is flat on the floor straighten the knees and lower the legs gently.

Immediately after Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand), you should practise Matsyasana (Fish pose) to double the benefits.

Using blankets in Shoulder Stand

Prepare by putting down a yoga mat. Make a neat stack of three or more firm blankets. Fold each into a neat rectangle and very carefully align them with the folded edges on top of one another. Place the folded edges toward the middle of the mat with the blankets at one end of the mat. The stack should be a bit wider than your shoulders and deep enough so that they will support your upper arms when they are placed behind you in the pose.

In the pose your shoulders should be at the forward edge of the stack with your head on the floor and the neck arching down between them. The stack should be high enough so that there is no compression of the cervical vertebrae in the neck and no tightness in the neck muscles. Use as many folded blankets as necessary to relieve neck strain and tightness. Most people initially need three or four folded blankets. Over time, as your neck muscles lengthen, you will find that you can lower the height of your stack of blankets.

Some points to note:

1. One of the dangers of Shoulderstand is throat tension. You may find that you can feel your pulse very strong in your neck and that you have trouble breathing. If this is the case relax your throat and lighten your stretch.

2. Whilst this is a very beneficial pose, if you're not in the proper alignment you can strain and compress your vertebrae, particularly in the neck area. For this reason, it's important not to turn your head whilst in shoulder stand.

3. Position your arms behind you and bend them so your hands support your back as low down towards the shoulders as possible. The support from your bent arms will help you get more lift in your spine.

4.The hands can best support your back if the upper arms are parallel on the blankets or mat. However, most people find that their elbows tend to splay out when they do this. If your elbows do move out make a looped strap as wide as your shoulders and position it around your upper arms just above the elbows. You will be able to support your torso much more strongly this way.

Caution: Those who are suffering from cervical high blood pressure spondylitis or heart problem should avoid this pose. Likewise, pregnant and menstruating women should also avoid doing this pose.

Watch this video from Iyogalife on how to do the Shoulder Stand.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Father's Day Special Karma Yoga

BE YOGA is having a special Father's Day Yoga session with Azmi and Ninie this Sunday, 21 June 2009 at 10.15 a.m.

The Father's Day Yoga is an hour yoga class of heart-opening and humbling poses so that an hour spent opening our hearts and humbling ourselves - will make us a better son, a better daughter if not a better father, ourselves.

The Class is FREE-OF-CHARGE (FOC) although minimum donation is required for a chosen charity body.

If you are interested to attend, please book your space at http://beyoga.my to guarantee availiability as maximum space offered is 30 pax.

Check out Ninie's blog "The Yoga Instructor's Diaries" on being a fan of BEYOGA Facebook page to be eligible for the special discount promotion for the one week or one month unlimited classes.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Yoga and Hunger

I was talking to a practitioner the other day and she told me that she felt that she was putting on weight since she started practicing yoga. She said that she is eating more before and after class. As she does not want to feel hungry during the class, she has been eating before classes and after classes, she is also eating more as her appetite has gone up.

I realized that I had also gone through the same stage when I started doing yoga. At that time, I would take a heavier lunch if I am going for classes in the evenings and after classes, I would be feeling very hungry. I was told this is normal as yoga practice can use quite a lot of energy especially for beginners as you are using more physical and mental energy to concentrate and learn the poses.

Once I got into a regular practice, I noticed that my appetite had gone back to normal. I now take a regular lunch and if I feel hungry before class, I would just snack on a few pieces of dried fruits. After class, I would take a light supper as I can’t sleep with a heavy stomach.

I found this advice on the net and would like to share it here.

It's best to do the asanas in the early morning or the early evening before the evening meal. Never exercise on a full stomach. Before exercising, wait at least three hours after eating a main meal, about one hour after eating a light snack such as a piece of fruit and about half an hour after drinking juices. After finishing the asanas, wait about a quarter of an hour before eating.

This article “Low Fat Yoga” by Gretchen Rose Newmark gives some perspective on how we can apply what we learn from yoga to how we should treat our body. The yoga practice of asking "How does this feel?" will help you to discover what you truly want and need in other areas of your life. Yoga teaches us about awareness and mindfulness which is to observe how our body feels and to put care and thought in what we eat. Yoga is, at its heart, a superb means of getting to know ourselves, from the breath to the mind to the bone.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fashionable Yoga Mat Bags

I was surfing the net when I came across some yoga mat bags which are not the usual yoga mat bags which can only carry your yoga mat and maybe a few items like your wallet, car keys and face towel.

Here are some of the bags which I think some of you might like to have.

Beau Yoga Mat Tote (I like this one!)

Everything fits into this fashionable bag. The 100% cotton (excluding trim) tote bag is roomy enough to accommodate a variety of items, with multiple inside pockets for all your essentials. The exterior straps can hold any standard or premium mat. This bag brings style and practicality to your yoga practice as well as for use in your daily activities.

Pink Bow Bag

This yoga tote bag is similar to the one above and is cute enough for errands. Bow-tie closure with adjustable shoulder straps.

Koi Fish Orange Embroidered Yoga Mat Bag

This embroidered tote bag with adjustable shoulder strap, zippered pocket and drawstring closure keeps your mat clean, dry and portable and is pretty enough to go for outings.

Everything Fits Gym Bag

This eco-chic bag keeps you organized. Its roomy interior features a zippered pocket, an elastic pocket and a key tether. A vented outside compartment can hold shoes, wet clothes or towel. Includes an easy-reach outside pocket for water bottle, inside and outside holsters for cell phone and MP3 player and bottom adjustable straps for your yoga mat.

All the above bags are from Gaiam.com which unfortunately, does not shipped out of USA.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Yoga and Chinese Medicine

I am posting this article which is taken from Yogamates to share here as I find it very informative.

Author: Heather Lounsbury, L.Ac.

There is a saying in Chinese Medicine: “When the mind is calm the Qi flows smoothly, and conversely when the Qi is made to flow smoothly the mind is calm.” If you practice Yoga, you probably know that for the past 5,000 years, Eastern philosophy has stated that the smooth flow of Qi (chĂȘ) is essential to your wellbeing. A healthy flow of Qi leads to the Holy Grail of a healthy lifestyle: Balance. As time marches on it seems balance is more and more illusive in our daily lives. Thankfully, many of us have made the practice of yoga part of our routine, but is it enough to achieve the balance that we all desire?

“Yoga is all I need to be healthy and balanced.” As an Herbalist and Acupuncturist, I hear that a lot. You know what I also hear a lot? “I hurt my back doing Ustrasana 3 weeks ago and it’s not getting better.”

I’d tried yoga a few times before I started graduate school for Traditional Chinese Medicine. But it wasn’t until I started learning this ancient medicine, that I really got it. Once I understood the theory behind the medicine, it all fell in to place for me. Yoga and Chinese Medicine have been practiced for over 5,000 years to increase longevity and prevent disease, and when used in combination, the results are incredible.

Yoga does reduce pain. Many Asanas along with deep breathing help the brain's pain center regulate the secretion of natural painkillers in the body. Because muscles relax when you exhale, lengthening the time of exhalation can help produce relaxation and reduce tension. But many times this is not enough. Our stressful lifestyles, combined with poor eating habits and a polluted environment can create systemic deficiencies and toxin buildup. Receiving added support from Chinese herbs and acupuncture can help to correct most health concerns. The Chinese pharmacy is the largest and most advanced categorization of plants, animals, and minerals. This means that there is an herb, or several herbs, which can treat any imbalance or illness you may be experiencing.

Most people don’t know what effect certain yoga poses have on their body, but acupuncture can provide a framework to understand which poses are best for a particular condition. Specific poses invigorate certain meridians and organs, and nourish yin, yang, Qi,and blood. For example, backbends energize the yang aspect of the body. Meaning they generate heat and energy by stimulating kidney yang production. While forward bends emphasize the yin or cooling and calming aspects of the kidneys. So, if you have insomnia or are going through menopause, forward bends are great for you. The kidneys are the root of yin and yang, which makes them very important in the treatment of almost any illness.

I discovered early on that the poses I hated doing were the ones I needed most. The areas of weakness or decreased flexibility are usually places of stagnation or weakness. This goes for everyone. For example, I dreaded doing twisting postures for such a long time. I’d use any excuse not to do them fully, if at all. Twisting postures literally help squeeze out toxins from your liver and other organs. Guess what? I had liver issues! Surprise! So you should look at which poses are hardest for you to see where you might have imbalances. But please don’t try to diagnose yourself. A qualified acupuncturist will able to help diagnose and treat you.

Along with treating an injury or health issue (emotional as well as physical), Chinese medicine can prevent injury and sickness. This means you can go even deeper with your practice. Acupuncture also allows you to go deeper into meditation. Several patients of mine who meditate have noted this improvement after just a few sessions. Isn’t that we all want? Allowing your body and mind to go places you might not have thought possible can be achieved with the support of acupuncture, herbs, and proper nutrition.

Yoga and Chinese medicine work wonders for pregnancy, and more and more pregnant women are doing a combination of the two. Well, this one study in Sweden proves they’re doing something right. A recent study proved the efficacy of acupuncture and yoga in regards to relieving pelvic pain during pregnancy. Pelvic girdle pain is common among pregnant women, as many as 1 in 3 are suffering severe pain. It is most likely caused by Relaxin, the hormone that softens ligaments and tissues during pregnancy and provides increased flexibility in the joints of the lower back and pelvis in preparation for childbirth.

A research team from Gothenburg's Institute for the Health of Women and Children compared standard treatment (a home exercise routine), home exercise plus acupuncture, and standard treatment plus stabilizing exercises/yoga aimed at improving mobility and strength, each treatment was given for six weeks. The women given acupuncture had significantly less pain than the other two groups.

The researchers concluded that treatment with acupuncture and yoga offers clear advantages and can be seen as a useful addition to standard treatment for pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy. This finding is supported by previous evidence of a beneficial effect of stabilizing exercises adapted for pregnancy as well as evidence that acupuncture can have a pain-relieving effect for patients with low back pain. (Elden, H et al. Effects of acupuncture and stabilizing exercises as adjunct to standard treatment in pregnant women with pelvic girdle pain: randomised single blind controlled trial. British Medical Journal, Vol. 330, April 2005, pp. 761-764)

The next time you hit the yoga mat, think about where you are holding tension. Consider using acupuncture to help the flow of Qi in these areas. Then take stock of any past injuries, traumas, or chronic issues like fatigue, indigestion, or menstrual problems. Instead of ignoring the problem, or taking harmful prescription drugs, which could have side effects that cut into your yoga routine, consider using herbs to help your system heal. If used properly, Chinese medicine and yoga work together in perfect harmony, helping you live a long and balanced life.

"We are in human form, but we are spiritual beings. We need to awaken to that, and remain aware of our spirituality. The body demands attention, and we must take good care of it. With a healthy body we are more free to learn and grow and experience more of the spiritual, more of ourselves." -Lissa Coffey

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Truth About Low Carb Diet

Just read an article “The Truth of about Carbohydrates” by Becky Hand, a Licensed & Registered Dietitian and would like to share some of the information here.

• Carbohydrates are the body's ideal fuel for most functions. They supply the body with the energy needed for the muscles, brain and central nervous system. In fact, the human brain depends exclusively on carbohydrates for its energy.

• Carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables, beans, dairy products, foods made from grain products, and sweeteners such as sugar, honey, molasses, and corn syrup.

• The body converts digestible (non-fiber) carbohydrates into glucose, which our cells use as fuel. Some carbs (simple) break down quickly into glucose while others (complex) are slowly broken down and enter the bloodstream more gradually.

• During digestion, all carbohydrates are broken down into glucose before they can enter the bloodstream where insulin helps the glucose enter the body’s cells. Some glucose is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles for future use, like fueling a workout. If there is extra glucose, the body will store it as fat.

There are basically three types of carbohydrates:

1. Simple carbohydrates are composed of 1 or 2 sugar units that are broken down and digested quickly. Recent research has shown that certain simple carbohydrate foods can cause extreme surges in blood sugar levels, which also increases insulin release. This can elevate appetite and the risk of excess fat storage.

2. Complex carbohydrates (also referred to as starch) are made up of many sugar units and are found in both natural (brown rice) and refined (white bread) form. They are structurally more complex and take longer to be broken down and digested. Complex carbohydrate foods have been shown to enter the blood stream gradually and trigger only a moderate rise in insulin levels, which stabilizes appetite and results in fewer carbohydrates that are stored as fat. Unrefined or ‘whole grain’ carbohydrates found in products like brown rice, whole wheat pasta and bran cereals are digested slowly. They contain vitamins, minerals and fiber which promote health. Fiber and nutrient-rich vegetables, fruits and beans which are carbohydrates also have many important functions for the body and are important for good health.

3.Indigestible carbohydrates are also called fiber. The body is unable to breakdown fiber into small enough units for absorption. It is therefore not an energy source for the body but does promote health in many other ways.

Simple carbs, complex carbs, and fiber are found in many foods. Some provide important nutrients that promote health while others simply provide calories that promote girth.

•Sugar, syrup, candy, honey, jams, jelly, molasses, and soft drinks contain simple carbohydrates and little if any nutrients.

•Fruits contain primarily simple carbohydrate but also valuable vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water.

•Vegetables contain varying amounts of simple and complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water.

•Legumes such as beans, peas, lentils and soybeans contain complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein.

•Milk products contain simple carbohydrates along with protein, calcium and other nutrients.

•Grain products contain complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein. The amounts vary depending on the type of grain used and the amount of processing. Selecting whole grain options whenever possible is recommended.

It is quite common nowadays to hear friends telling that they are on a low-carb diet but do they know how it would affect their health. The article provides some insight on the body’s reaction to this type of diet.

The Body’s Immediate Reaction to Very Low Carbohydrate Diets

When there is a severe deficit of carbohydrates, the body has several immediate reactions:

•With no glucose available for energy, the body starts using protein from food for energy. Therefore this protein is no longer available for more important functions, such as making new cells, tissues, enzymes, hormones, and antibodies and the regulation of fluid balance.

•When carbohydrates are lacking, the body cannot burn fat in the correct way. Normally carbs combine with fat fragments to be used as energy. When carbs are not available, there is an incomplete breakdown of fat that produces a by-product called ketones. These ketones accumulate in the blood and in the urine causing ketosis, which is an abnormal state. Ketosis does cause a decrease in appetite because it's one of the body's protection mechanisms. It's an advantage to someone in a famine (which the body thinks it's experiencing) to lack an appetite because the search for food would be a waste of time and additional energy.

•Due to the lack of energy and the accumulation of ketones, low-carb diets are often accompanied by nausea, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, bad breath, and dehydration.

•Because of dehydration and a lack of fiber, constipation can result.

•Exercise and fitness performance is reduced on a low-carb diet. Do not be surprised if your energy level is so low that you cannot make it through your normal workout routine.

The Long-Term Effects of Low Carbohydrate Diets

When you severely restrict carbohydrates, your consumption of protein and fat increases, which has several long-term effects:

•The risk of many cancers increases when fruits, vegetables, whole grain products, and beans are eliminated from the diet.

•Protein foods are also high in purines, which are broken down into uric acid. Elevated levels of uric acid in the blood may lead to needle-like uric acid crystals in joints, causing gout.

•Kidney stones are more likely to form on high protein, ketosis-producing diets.

•Over time, high protein diets can cause a loss of calcium and lead to osteoporosis.

•The risk of heart disease is greatly increased on a low-carb diet that is high in protein, cholesterol, fat, and saturated fat. A temporary reduction in cholesterol levels may be experienced, but this is common with any weight loss.

The article also provides 3 simple rules to include carbohydrates in your diet in a safe, effective and controlled way.

RULE 1: Include the following in your diet:

•Fruits: 2-4 servings daily
•Vegetables: 3-5 servings daily
•Whole grain breads, muffins, bagels, rolls, pasta, noodles, crackers, cereal, and brown rice: 6-11 servings daily
•Legumes, beans and peas: 1-2 servings daily
•Low-fat and non-fat dairy products: 3 servings daily

RULE 2: Limit the following to less than 2 servings daily:

•Fruit Juice
•Refined and processed white flour products (bread, muffins, bagels, rolls, pasta, noodles, crackers, cereal)
•White rice
•French fries
•Fried vegetables

RULE 3: Eliminate the following from your diet or eat only on occasion:

•Sugary desserts, cookies, cakes, pies, candies
•Doughnuts and pastries
•Chips, cola and carbonated beverages
•Sugar, honey, syrup, jam, jelly, molasses

So, if you intend to go on a diet, choose the correct carbs and you will not only loose weight but also maintain a healthy body.