Archive for January, 2010

The Walkstation
Image by Scoobyfoo via Flickr

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

It’s all over the web today…too much seat time can hurt your heart, increase your risk for cancer, obesity and diabetes, according to a study published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Assn. Doctors from the Karolinska Institute and the Swedish School of Sport and Health conducted a study that shows that sitting too long, not just lack of exercise, can contribute to heart disease and other life threatening diseases.

Journalist, Michelle Fay Cortez, writes in “Sitting Is a Silent Killer, Swedish Medics Warn Couch Potatoes” from Bloomberg.com, “The more time people spend in a completely sedentary state, independent of the exercise they get at other times, the higher their risk of becoming obese, and developing diabetes, heart disease and cancer, the doctors wrote in an editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The dangers are greater still for people who do little exercise as it is, the authors wrote.

While many people think of being sedentary as lacking in exercise, this is more accurately described as the time when the body’s muscles get no activity, the doctors said. They cited an Australian study showing that each extra hour women spent watching television boosted their risk of developing a group of heart complications known as metabolic syndrome by 26 percent, regardless of what exercise they took.”

Read entire article at Bloomberg here.

Unfortunately, most people I know, especially “knowledge workers” have jobs that require us to sit for hours behind a computer.  So, what do you do? Tell your boss, hey, my job is killing me? Not likely. However, many workplaces are responding to such studies with Walk at Work programs. Or allowing staff to go to yoga or other workout classes at lunch. Or providing yoga classes or personal training sessions at work. Some companies provide employees with desks that move up and down to allow for standing. Some very progressive companies use Walk Stations for employees to walk while they work on their computers. Other companies provide regular massage to help increase circulation to your muscles. Massage therapists also provide stretches for sedentary employees.

How to Add More Movement to Your Work Day

You can incorporate more movement and less sitting into your workday yourself with these simple ideas:

1. Take the stairs when you can versus an elevator.

2. Walk up or down a few flights of stairs for a 5-minute break every few hours.

3. Do jumping jacks at your desk or, if that embarrasses you, in the restroom.

4. Do squats at your desk. Simply stand up, then barely sit, then stand, then barely sit. Repeat 5 or 10 times.

5. Do side bends at your desk. Do 3 sets on each side and hold each “bend” for 15 seconds.

6. Stand up, take a few deep breathes, then reach for the ceiling, inhale, exhale and sit down again.

7. Stand up and do arm circles.

8. Walk around the office-take a few laps!

9. Stand at your desk when you are on the phone. March in place for extra points!

10. Drink water at your desk in a sport bottle to keep the water cool and prevent spills. If you drink about 20 ounces every few hours your bladder will create a natural timer for you to get up and take a break!

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach,  ACSM Personal Trainer

Yoga Journal

I took my very first yoga class about 15 years ago at my local YMCA in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Yoga was not as popular at that time and when I moved to Chicago, I relied on fliers and word of mouth to find a yoga class I enjoyed. Now, like most things, the internet makes it so easy to find a yoga class!

If you are a yoga novice looking for your first class, or if you are new to Chicago and want to find a yoga group that fits your practice, check out Yoga Chicago. Yoga Chicago is a local magazine that has a complete directory of yoga classes in Chicago and surrounding suburbs. They also post articles and info about upcoming workshops and yoga oriented trips.

To view a list of classes in your area, click on this link here.

Read one of the interesting articles in the current issue of Yoga Journal, “Neuroscience, Hatha Yoga and Creativity: A New Paradigm for Teaching” by By Michael McColly. Click here to read his article.

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An Artistic yoga class in session
Image via Wikipedia

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

So you decided to take the plunge and try a yoga class. Then you find out that there are different kinds of yoga. How do you know what kind of yoga to take? And what if you are not flexible? Do not despair!  Yoga is really for people that are not flexible. Unfortunately, many yoga teachers or studios advertise their classes by showing a very highly trained yoga teacher doing an extremely advanced pose that few other people can do.  No worries, most beginning classes teach you simple poses to elongate your body and relax. “Pretzel” yoga is for the very very advanced, not the novice.

If you’ve tried a yoga class and found it either too difficult, too easy or too boring, it may not be yoga that’s the problem, it may  be  the type of yoga you tried or that particular teacher. (Think about it, if you get  a bad hair cut, do you think hair cuts are not for you or do you go to a different barber/hair dressor?!?)

So what type of yoga class should you attend?  Here are some tips from http://www.yoga.orz.nz:

Yoga Styles Overview

Iyengar – A softer -on-the-body classical style of yoga, Iyengar is perfect for beginners and those who haven’t exercised in a while. It uses props such as chairs, straps, blocks and pillows, and even sandbags, to compensate for a lack of flexibility, which is helpful for anyone with back or joint problems.

Iyengar is the most widely recognized approach to Hatha Yoga, it was created by B. K. S. Iyengar. Iyengar yoga is characterized by attention to detail within poses and the aid of the props. The props assist all sorts of people to be able to do the poses comfortably.

Each pose is held for a longer amount of time than in most other yoga styles, developing a state of focused calm. Benefits include toning muscles, eliminating tension and easing chronic pain.

Practicing Iyengar yoga will give you a good knowledge of classic yoga poses so that whatever other style you practice, you will have the basic fundamentals of how to do each posture. The teacher focuses on alignment and inner awareness.

Sue’s Note: Some Iyengar teachers tend to take a militaristic approach and may push your body beyond what you are capable of doing. Don’t let them! Many Iyengar teachers are wonderful and gentle. But if you find a teacher that is dogmatic in his/her approach or tells you to try a pose even if it hurts you, avoid this class and find someone that is more compassionate–or risk serious injury!

Ashtanga (Power Yoga) the preferred choice for athletes, Ashtanga yoga is light on meditation but heavy on developing strength and stamina. The poses are more difficult than those performed in other styles, students move quickly from one pose to another in an effort to build strength and flexibility.

This style is suitable for anyone in reasonable physical condition but should be avoided by those who are new to exercise. Even the “beginners” routines are a physically demanding workout.

Students move from one pose to another in a continual flow and combine the inhale and exhale of the breath with movements. This physically demanding yoga was developed to build strength, flexibility, and stamina.

The series of poses involves weaving in a combination of standing, seated, backbends, inversions, balancing, and twisting poses into sun salutation poses which include a standing forward bend, upward dog, downward dog, and other poses.

Sue’s Note: Ashtanga or “power” yoga is popular in the West.  Westerners tend to move at a hectic pace even in yoga. However, proper form is even more important when you move through poses quickly. Potential for injury or overstretching/tearing of ligaments is greater in the faster paced styles of yoga. Take care when you try this style of yoga and make sure your yoga teacher is aware of any injuries or limitations before the class begins.

Bikram done in a hot room that is 38C or higher (to replicate the temperature of yoga’s birthplace in India); this style of yoga focuses on 26 postures that are performed in a certain order. The exercises are very physical and the intensity is high.

The Bikram series is warm and stretches muscles, ligaments and tendons in the order in which they should be stretched. Heat and yoga makes for a tough workout. This style is recommended for yoga veterans and extremely fit individuals only.

Sue’s Note: If you have high blood pressure or tend to overheat easily, you may want to avoid Bikram yoga especially in summer heat!

Hatha: This mellow form of yoga focuses on simple poses that flow from one to the other at a very comfortable pace. Participants are encouraged to go at their own pace, taking time to focus on the breathing and meditation in their practice. This yoga is ideal for winding down at the end of a tough day.

Sue’s Note: Hatha yoga may feel too slow for you if you like fast paced moment and cardio classes. But be patient and let yourself be bored a bit sot hat you can take the time to learn the proper form for you poses. It’s also a  way to sneak a little relaxation into your hectic week.

Kundalini, which incorporates mantras (chanting), meditations, visualizations, and guided relaxation. It focuses on healing and “purifying” the mind, body, and emotions. Kundalini yoga is designed to activate the kundalini energy in the spine.

This is achieved with poses, breath control, chanting, and meditation. Kundalini yoga is beneficial in dealing with addictions, and many people find it a natural way of releasing endorphins just by breathing and doing the poses.

Kundalini yoga consists of poses combined with breath control, hand and finger gestures, body locks, chanting and meditation.

Kripalu, which is more spontaneous, flowing, and meditation orientated. Kripalu yoga starts with the first stage, postural alignment and intertwining of breath and movement, and the poses are held a short time.

The student progresses to the second stage with meditation included and poses held for longer. Finally, the practice of poses becomes a spontaneous dynamic movement. The essence of Kripalu yoga is experienced through a continuous flow of postures whilst meditating, for gentle yet dynamic yoga.

Sivananda Yoga has a series of 12 poses, with the Sun Salutation, breathing exercises, relaxation, and mantra chanting as the basis.

Viniyoga, a slower more individualized form of yoga. This form develops strength, balance and healing, make it ideal for beginners, seniors, people with chronic pain or who are in rehabilitation from injury or disease.

Read the entire article on Type of Yoga at http://www.yoga.org.nz here.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

For those with spinal conditions that cause lumbar vertebrae to compress your disks, one of the many things you an do to keep prevent your back from getting worse is to use inversions, or hang upside down, for a few minutes a few times a week. Years ago one of the chiropractors I worked with introduced me to a simple device that allows me to hang upside down (‘invert”), giving my spine some relief from gravity! I’ve been using my Invertrac for about years now and I find it really helps take  pressure off my spine caused by simply walking around upright against gravity all day.

Invertrac in motion!

Why Do Inversions?

Those of you that do yoga regularly know that inversions are part of a well rounded yoga practice. According to the Invertrac website, here are some of the benefits of doing inversions with Invertrac:

• Invertrac counters the degenerative effects of gravity.
• Invertrac allows for the benefits of spinal decompression without trauma to ankle, knee, or hip joints.
• Natural traction occurs in the lower back when subject is in bent leg position.
• The lumbar curve is flattened allowing this to more readily occur.
• Invertrac helps eliminate stress and tension by stretching spine and back muscles allowing complete relaxation.
• Enhances circulation.

And, according to the Total Health Yoga blog here,

Inverting your body in yoga can help you:
• Give your heart a break.
• Stimulate your endocrine system.
• Calm your mind.
• Strengthens your core.
• Enhance your ability to concentrate and remain focused.
• Increase body awareness.
• Help with circulation.
To include all of these gains to their fullest, you need to remain inverted 3-5 minutes (according to Yoko Yoshikawa at Yoga Journal).

Invertrac Features

Why Invertrac Versus the Inversion Tables or Boots?

According to my chiropractor friend, Dr. Richard Arrandt, of Arrandt Health Care, hanging by inversion boots can cause problems for the ligaments in your ankles. Your ankles and feet are not  designed to suspend your body weight. I’ve tried out the inversion tables myself and I find them to be pretty uncomfortable and they do put a lot of stress on my ankles and feet.

Are There Risks to Doing Inversions?

Inversions are NOT for everyone and there are a long list of contraindications to using the Invertrac or doing inversions here.

Keep in mind that when you are upside down, a lot of blood rushes to your head. So if you have blood pressure issues or eye pressure issues, the Invertrac may not be for you!  Check with your doctor or chiropractor and make sure you are a good candidate for the Invertrac before trying it out (or doing any inversions in yoga classes too!)

How Do I Get an Invertrac?

Unfortunately, consumers cannot buy an Invertrac directly, you must go through your chiropractor or health care provider.  Invertrac’s website provides ordering instructions here.

Note: Neither Working Well Massage nor I have affiliation with Invertrac.

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Image by megpi via Flickr

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

It’s cold outside and soon many Chicagoans will be stir crazy.  What a fantastic time to learn how to cook spicy, tummy warming,  healthy food.  In Chicago, we are lucky enough to have a celebrity cook, Ranjana,  that teaches how to prepare traditional healthy Indian dishes at her home or your home or event.

Ranjana offers a variety of Indian cooking classes. All classes in her kitchen near Hyde Park are designed for 8 students in which you prepare 9 Indian dishes in 3 hours and then have a sit down dinner with the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor! A single class is only $75 (not bad for the instruction, fun, and tasty 9 dish meal meal!)

View a list of Ranjana’s upcoming classes here.

Sample Somosa recipe here.

Note: Working Well is not affiliated with Ranjana. I met her at a Building a Healthier Chicago Stakeholder meeting and thought her classes would be a great idea for many of our clients and blog readers!

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Certified Wellness Coach, Licensed Massage Therapist, ACSM Personal Trainer

How to Survive the Loss of a Love

In the past few weeks a few of my friends have lost loved ones to cancer and heart disease. Loss is never easy and grief take s a lot out of us emotionally and energywise. Losing a life partner, a parent or anyone close to us is like having major surgery ourselves. The funeral and wake may come and go quickly, but the grieving process takes much longer. And the stress of carrying on daily life while grieving can be stressful.

Years a go while I was grieving the loss of a loved one, a friend gave me a helpful little book and said to me “This book helped me get through my mother’s death. I am giving it to you. All I ask is that you pass it on to someone in need someday if it helps you.”  To date I have give away about 15 copies of the book to friends that have faced loss. And I am recommending it to you now if you ever lose a love one or are dealing with loss now. (Loss can also be a divorce or loss of a job, anything  that makes you feel grief.)

The book is called “How to Survive The Loss Of A Love,” by Peter McWilliams, Harold H. Bloomfield and Melba Colgrove.

It is available from Amazon here.

Reading one book won’t eliminate all grief and pain, but this book is easy to read, full of helpful tips to help you work through the grieving process and it’s only about $8.00 on Amazon. I hope it helps you as much as it’s helped me and others I know!

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RIO GRANDE CITY, TX - AUGUST 05:  A patient ha...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Certified Wellness Coach, Licensed Massage Therapist, ACSM Personal Trainer

Winter weather brings a host of health hazards. Aside from falling on ice (which I covered in this post, “Winter Ice Can be Not So Nice–Avoid Meeting the Pavement!” here), simply being too cold can be dangerous to your health. Staying warm isn’t merely about comfort. If your body is too cold for too long, you may develop hypothermia, a very dangerous, and sometimes fatal, condition. Read more to protect yourself and your loved ones from the cold!

Read what the Illinois Department of Public Health, HealthBeat website has to saw about hypothermia. Link to the website for more infomation here.

What is Hypothermia?

Hypothermia is a drop in body temperature to 95 degrees or less. It can be fatal if not detected promptly and treated properly. In the United States, about 700 deaths occur each year from hypothermia.

When the body temperature drops, the blood vessels near the surface of the body narrow to reduce heat loss. Muscles begin to tighten to make heat. If the body temperature continues to drop, the person will begin to shiver. The shivering continues until the temperature drops to about 90 degrees. Temperatures below 90 degrees create a life-threatening situation.

Who is Most At Risk for Hypothermia

While hypothermia can happen to anyone, the elderly run the highest risk because their bodies often do not adjust to changes in temperature quickly. Elderly people may be unaware that they are gradually getting colder. Hypothermia usually develops over a period of time, anywhere from a few days to several weeks, and even mildly cool indoor temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees can trigger it. If you have elderly relatives or friends who live alone, encourage them to set their thermostats above 65 degrees to avoid hypothermia.

What Are the Signs of Hypothermia?

Signs of hypothermia include:
• forgetfulness
• drowsiness
• slurred speech
• change in appearance (e.g., puffy face)
• weak pulse
• slow heartbeat
• and very slow and shallow breathing

If the body temperature drops to or below 86 degrees, a person may slip into a coma or have a death-like appearance.

What To Do If You Suspect Someone Has Hypothermia

1. If you notice symptoms of hypothermia in a person, take his or her temperature.
2. If it is 95 degrees or below, call a doctor or ambulance or take the victim directly to a hospital.
3. To prevent further heat loss, wrap the patient in a warm blanket.
4. Apply a hot water bottle or electric heating pad (set on low) to the person’s stomach.
5. If the victim is alert, give small quantities of warm food or drink.

What Not To Do To a Hypothermia Victim

There are several things you should not do to a hypothermia victim.
1. Do not give alcoholic beverages.
2. Do not give a hot shower or bath, since it could cause shock.
3. Generally, do not try to treat hypothermia at home. The condition should be treated in a hospital.

Tips for Staying Warm

These tips to keep you warm are from the New York City Office of Emergency Management. Link here.

Exposure to cold can cause life-threatening health conditions. Avoid serious conditions such as frostbite and hypothermia, by keeping warm.

  • Wear a hat, hood, or scarf, as most heat is lost through the head.
  • Wear layers, as they provide better insulation and warmth.
  • Keep fingertips, earlobes, and noses covered if you go outside.
  • Keep clothing dry; if a layer becomes wet, remove it.
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