Immune Boosting Yoga

Immune-System-600

New research published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine (Feb 2018) suggests that yoga can be a helpful way to boost your immune system and decrease inflammation in the body.
Psychological stress can impact many systems in the body, including weakening the immune system and increasing chronic inflammation. Inflammation is natural part of the immune response and in the short term can be helpful to heal wounds, injuries, and infections, but chronic inflammation can do more harm than good.
Researchers collectively reviewed 15 randomized controlled trials that examined whether the regular practice of yoga postures could strengthen the immune system and reduce chronic inflammation. The average sample size of the trials was 70, and sample sizes ranged from 11 to as many as 140 participants. The majority of studies used Hatha yoga, a general term that indicates a style that includes postures.
Scientists in these yoga trials examined the immune system response by measuring blood or saliva levels of circulating pro-inflammatory markers such as cytokines, a protein called C-reactive protein (CRP), as well as immune cell counts, antibodies, and markers of gene expression in immune cells.
Researchers found an overall pattern that yoga reduces pro-inflammatory markers, with the strongest evidence for the reduction of a cytokine called IL-1beta. There are mixed but promising results regarding other types of pro-inflammatory markers. One study found that yoga increased levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-10. Another trial found that yoga could mediate inflammation at the genomic level, changing levels of proteins that control the DNA transcription of proinflammatory cytokine genes.
Overall, the collection of research trials indicate yoga has a promising anti-inflammatory effect in the body.
How often and how long do you need to practice yoga to get this effect? So far researchers do not have a conclusive answer, but most of these research studies implemented yoga programs that lasted from 8 to 12 weeks with a frequency between once weekly to daily. Yoga classes in the research studies range from 30 to 90 minutes. As with most mind-body practices, regular consistent practice yields the most promise.

Originally posted by Marlynn Wei M.D., J.D.

Holy Fig Tree Posture

holy fig tree

This is a fabulous all round posture – it’s a balance which improves concentration and co-ordination, back bend which improves posture and breathing and when done dynamically with the breath is energising, warming, clearing the respiratory system and improving circulation. Start with 5 each side increasing to 10 gradually.

Find a space where you can practice – warm, clean and free from furniture/low ceilings.

First take your arms out to the sides and up overhead 3 times slowly.  Then place your hands onto your hips and alternate taking the legs back without leaning the body forward 3 or 4 times on each side slowly. This warms up the muscles and IMPORTANTLY ensures that you have enough space around you to work.

To practice Holy Fig Tree dynamically –

Stand tall in Tadasana

Place your weight into your right foot.

Lift your left foot to the back, left arm out to the side and right arm up to the ceiling as you inhale

Return to Tadasna as you exhale.

Repeat x 5, rest for 5 breaths then do 5 on the Left side.

ALWAYS PRACTICE WITHIN YOUR CAPABILITY – IF YOU GET TIRED OR DIZZY THEN STOP

Some Book Suggestions…

As it’s coming up to Christmas I thought I’d give you some recommendations for a little present for your Christmas list or for you to give to a friend. Reading about yoga is a great way to supplement your own practice – it’s another way to learn, just looking at the poses helps you to understand the shape the body is supposed to be in!! And you don’t even have to get up off the sofa! And giving the gift of yoga to someone else is the best gift you can give…

slim calm sexy

SLIM CAM SEXY YOGA – Tara Styles

This a great guide to yoga postures – geared towards the younger, (more bendy!), however the photographs, words and sequences are well put together (even though some are a little ambitious).

Tara Styles helps you to discover your own home practice… in just 15 minutes a day yoga can help you…

sculpt your body
control diet-busting cravings
banish stress
get smooth glowing skin
sleep better
improve mood and energy

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YOGA FOR LONG LIFE – Stella Weller

By contrast, his book offers gentle, effective exercise for the mature person. It’s more of a practical workbook offering strengthening and stretching yoga exercises for anyone wishing to preserve the quality of their mobility and life.

With lots of drawn illustrations, this book offers chapters on breathing exercises, mental exercises, eating for longevity and help for common disorders such as arthritis, eye problems and osteoporosis.

Shining Skull Breath (Kapalbhati)

Kapalbhati Pranyama

In our yoga classes this term we have begun to work with Kapalbhati Pranayama. This is a practice which is cleansing and energising – the forceful exhalation clears out the nasal passageways and the pulling force of the abdomen stimulates and strengthens the abdominal muscles and organs. When you have got the hang of this practice it literally takes 5 minutes and you feel strong and ready for anything!  It will make sits up a thing of the past.

The way this makes you feel so good is because the blood is enriched with more oxygen than your usual breathing which is very good for your circulation, renewing body tissue and helping your nerves and metabolism. There really is no other practice in any sport or exercise like it – which can make it difficult to understand and get into.

The following guide is meant as a supplement to our class work. It’s always best to learn from an experience teacher and exercise caution – building up the tummy muscles gradually and the bodies’ capacity to deal with the changes. If you feel dizzy at any time you should stop and sit still until you feel better. People suffering from high blood pressure, eye problems, hernia or recovering from any abdominal injury or operation should not do this practice. IF IT HURTS OR MAKES YOU DIZZY THEN STOP

The body should be prepared over some weeks before even having a go.  A gentle way to do this is to lay on your back in the semi supine position and work with leg raises and apanasana (knees to chest) to bring your awareness to your abdominal muscles and strengthen them. In class we worked with a routine called Mooncat (which I have given as half term homework). This sequence of postures includes the cat and cow, half moon pose and plank – all of which work the abdominal muscles.

Further preparation is required to understand abdominal breathing and our breathing process in general. Visualise air travelling into the body thought the nose and down into the abdomen allowing the abdomen to swell and then visualise the air travelling back out up through the body and out through the nose squeezing the abdominal muscles increasingly tighter with each round. You can begin practising in the semi supine position and then move onto a sitting posture. For more information about abdominal breathing read this post.

To practice Kapalbhati – (it is very important to have taken the steps to prepare, this lays the foundation for your success)

Sit in a comfortable seated posture (one that you can hold and feels as if your back is upright and if someone came along and gave you a shove you wouldn’t fall over)

The back must be upright and the crown of the head up towards the ceiling

The hands resting on the knees, shoulders and elbows relaxed – use your favourite mudra

Close the eyes and relax the whole body – especially the abdominal area

Inhale a deep abdominal breath and then pull the abdominal muscles back to force and exhale back out through the nostrils

The next inhale happens passively as you relax the abdomen then pull the abdominals back again to force the exhale out through the nose.

Continue pumping the air out like this for 10 – 20 rounds or less if your tummy feels tired.

Relax and then take a deep slow inhale, pause gently then exhale smoothly and slowly.

This concludes 1 round, begin again and practice up to 3 rounds.
Always practice with awareness – keep your mind on what you are doing. Stop at once if you feel faint or dizzy.

8 anti-aging benefits of regular yoga practice

Age means nothing in yoga. Our bodies, if kept healthy and happy will go on and on, it’s something that even scientists are coming to agree with. The practice of yoga doesn’t have to take over your life, make you eat vegetarian or grow your hair long.

Whilst there are some things that improve with age – decision making, empathy and happiness, there are a lot of things that do change as we get older that are not for the better; it doesn’t have to be that way.  And it’s never too late to start… just so long as you make a commitment to practice regularly, little and often is the key.

1 Arthritis

Problem – painful joints (especially hands and knees) can make us feel really stiff and creaky – making us grumpy as it hurts to do things we used to get pleasure from.

How Yoga Helps – gentle regular movements help to bring synovial fluids to the joints making them feel more flexible and reduce swelling which relieves tension and pain.

2 Osteoporosis

Problem – as we age our bone density decreases which means our bones are more likely to crack if we fall.

How Yoga Helps – weight bearing exercises help to increase bone density. Although the gains are relatively small, these gains along with the improved muscle tone and balance can help to negate the effects of osteoporosis.

3 Insomnia

Problem – as we age we need less sleep and can be woken with the need to go to the loo.

How Yoga Helps – Gentle stretching and rhythmic breathing techniques can help to induce sleep. Relaxation exercises learnt in a class environment can prove very useful and help us get a full night of restful, healing sleep.

4 Blood Pressure

Problem – High blood pressure is a common ailment affecting us as we age due to reduced elasticity of blood vessels and the decreasing ability to process dietary salt.

How Yoga Helps – The regular practice of deep breathing and gentle physical exercises helps the tissues of the body to remain healthy and elastic. Attending classes helps people to look after themselves, be with like minded people, feel supported in adopting more positive approach to diet and lifestyle.

5 Hormonal Changes

Problem – menopause can cause debilitating disruption to life with wild mood swings and temperature fluctuations.

How Yoga Helps – relaxation techniques and gentle flowing posture work practiced daily can help to decrease symptoms.

6 Myofascial Tightening

Problem – a decrease in collagen produced by the body causes a loss of flexibility in our muscles and connective tissue, this leads to stiffness, tension and imbalance in the body.

How Yoga Helps – gentle, regular stretching keeps the body’s soft tissue fluid and flexible.

7 Ligament Tears

Problem – tears are common in stressed and overused ligaments of the knee joint, shoulders, hips and ankles.

How Yoga Helps – by strengthening the muscles around these joints the stress is reduced on the ligaments and the joint is able to retain it’s healthy use. There is a saying in yoga ‘use it or lose it’ and the best way to keep joints moving is to keep joints moving.

8 Core Strength and Back Pain

Problem – pain is caused by nerves being squashed by unsupported vertebrae. Gravitational forces and poor posture will continually cause vertebrae to want to move downwards. The only way to keep the spine in correct alignment is to support it with strong muscles. There are many spinal issues that can arise as we age – narrowing of the spinal canal, herniated, bulging or slipped discs – all cause back pain which is commonly managed with pain relief tablets.

How Yoga Helps – gentle work to strengthen the back, core muscles (and really the whole of the body from the feet to the eyebrows) will help the back to be supported by muscle and bring about correct alignment to the spinal column.

There is only one rule that you need to know in a yoga class “the posture should be steady and comfortable” – so if you are steady and comfortable you are doing it right. Some people may wish to stand on their heads, some may want to tie themselves up like a pretzel and that’s OK so long as it’s steady and comfortable for them. If standing on your 2 feet with the back in good alignment is what you do at your first yoga class – so long as it’s steady and comfortable then you are doing yoga that is right for you. Your practice is just that – your practice. Don’t delay – you can begin today – see my free online yoga exercises here

 

Photo Competition Winners

A HUGE BIG LOVELY thank you to all of those who entered out photo competition. The judging panel of 6 was made up of both yogis, photographers and people who didn’t have a clue about either. The judges we unanimous about the overall winner but felt 3 other entries were deserving of a prize. If you weren’t lucky this time, don’t worry I’ll run the competition again – so keep on yoga-snapping xxx

Our overall winner is “Tree-Rific” Tree Pose at Worth Matravers, Dorset by Nicky from the Wednesday evening class. The judges thought that the setting and pose worked really well.

A special prize for best caption was awarded to Sarah H from the Wednesday evening class “Coffee and Cake this Way” taken in the Lake District. 

Sarah from the Monday 7.15 class was awarded the prize for Best Seaside Pose

Caroline from the Preston 6 o’clock class was awarded the prize for the Best Back Shot.

Well done to all yogis, photographers and judges, thank you for taking part. 

Abdominal Breathing

Abdominal breathing is the most efficient and natural way to breath. It’s great to watch dogs, cats and children sleeping and watching their little abdomens expanding and contracting with the breath – it’s nature – how we are all meant to breathe. However, it’s a technique that is forgotten by most of us by the time we reach adulthood.

Tense abdominal muscles can be the result of continually holding the tummy in, tight clothing, poor posture, back ache or emotional issues. All of which are often totally unconscious.  Once correct, natural breathing is restored and becomes part of your daily life improvements in health and wellbeing can be quite amazing.

As breathing is the most vital process of the body, even slight improvements can give benefits to the practitioner. The breath influences the activities of each and every cell, and is intimately linked to the performance of the brain.  Abdominal breathing is a preparatory practice for Pranayama (control of the life force) and encourages correct breathing. Slow, rhythmic breathing brings about a calm state of mind, which in turn calms the nervous system and leads to less stress in the body. Deep breathing in this manner increases absorption of energy into the body and keeps the heart healthy and strong.

We practice abdominal breathing by enhancing the movement of the diaphragm and minimising the movement of the ribcage.  I think it helps to visualise the air moving into the body through the nose and travelling down into the abdomen (this does not really happen) and then visualise the air travelling back up through the torso and out through the nose. This movement allows full use of the diaphragm and the lower lobes of the lungs to fill and empty (the parts that don’t get used fully when the diaphragm can’t move).

Try practicing at different times of the day – when you have a little time waiting for something or when you are in bed last thing at night or first thing in the morning. Also try this type of breath in more difficult circumstances – say after a meal or when wearing a tight waist band, it will help you to appreciate where you are making life difficult for yourself! And finally, try this abdominal breathing when you are in a stressful situation and see if it works to reduce your anxiety.

“You are as young as your spine is flexible”

I’m not certain who first said this, but they really do have a point. Keeping the back healthy is so vital to our well being and enjoyment of life that we can’t afford to ignore any niggles or signs that something is wrong.

The spine is made up of 33 individual bones stacked up on top of each other rather like a tube of polo mints. In between these bones (vertebrae) are discs like mini rubber rings filled with fluid. Down the ‘hole’ in this structure runs our spinal cord which is like the body’s ethernet cable with telephone wires leaving this main cable at each intersection in the vertebrae. Whilst this is a very simplified ‘model’ of our spine, it gives us a few things to think about. 33 bones means 33 joints, which means 33 areas for problems to occur. The vast amount nerves running down the and through these joints means they can get easily caught up or trapped and stop working in many different ways. (And unlike your computer there is no such thing as simple as turning it off and on again!)

When the spine is in good alignment with all discs nice and plump and the nerves running freely, the body feels healthy, light and our reflexes (messages travelling through the nerves from all parts of our body) are fast. In short, we feel alive!

What keeps the spine stable, upright and with the right size of holes for the nerves to fit through is the ligaments and muscles of our back and core. What makes your back ache? Having uneven muscles which mean the vertebrae settle out of alignment. Another way to view your spine is like a tent pole – if the guy ropes (muscles) are not working to pull in the different directions then it will bend and break and fall over.

So to keep the spine in optimum condition the ancient yogis devised many practices to move the vertebrae through their comfortable range of movements – forward and back bending, side to side (lateral bending) and twisting. In our yoga and stretch and relax classes the focus is often on a specific theme (this term Big/Small and Feet) however, we always work through these 6 movements of the spine in a gentle and comfortable manner. This is what makes you feel more relaxed at the end of the class 🙂

If you want your back to get stronger, it’s fairly simple really, work a few postures every day. The benefits are too many to relate here, but back ache will be a thing of the past and your posture and breathing will improve enormously. In turn you will feel like eating less food (yes really) because you get more energy from the air that you breathe. Not only that, but also, as you strengthen the muscles they will become more balanced and strengthen your resistance to and recovery from injury. It’s a big win to keep your spine flexible.

YOGA WITH SARAH ROGERS

AUTUMN TERM

Starting Week Beginning 3rd September

Yoga for  Beginners – St Gilbert’s Primary School, Stamford. PE9 2PP

Thursday 6.45-8.00pm

Yoga for Beginners – Bainton Reading Room, Bainton , Stamford. PE9 3AU

Friday 9.30-10.45am

For more information please look at my website:

http://www.sarahyoga.net

sarahyoga@talktalk.net

07751 884534

I have been teaching Yoga since 1997 and qualified as a British Wheel of Yoga teacher in 2001.  I have been lucky to study with a number of different teachers over the years and have had experience of a variety of Yoga Schools.  My style of teaching is mainly influenced by the Viniyoga and Mantra Yoga traditions.  I aim to deliver interesting and structured lessons that allow students to develop, grow and improve. Classes include:  asanas (postures), pranayama (breath work), concentration, relaxation, and philosophy.

Weekly Yoga Classes – September 2018

This year our yoga classes will revolve around the theme of OPPOSITES. This concept was used widely in yogic literature to help us understand ourselves and the world in which we live. Our first pair of opposites will be BIG and small. As always with Hatha yoga we begin with the physical body and using the body to explore ways of being big – like an Oak Tree or a Mountain and also being small – like a child, a bird or a seed. Moving from one to the other challenges our balance, and strengthens and stretches our muscles.

We’ll work with the breath, expanding the lungs with physical moves and breathing exercises – discussing the benefits of large breaths vs small breaths and taking time to feel what this experience is like for us. Throughout our work during the year there will be many ‘companion’ opposites – loud and quiet, easy and strained may well be other pairs as we develop our work with the breath.

There will be time spent on thoughtful reflection too – looking back at BIG life events and forward to BIG life goals. And then considering the smaller things in life too –

Sometimes,” said Poo, “the smallest things take up the most space in your heart.”

(from Winnie the Poo by AA Milne)

I’m very much looking forward to exploring this concept and other OPPOSITES with you as the new year of yoga unfolds. Namaste xx