Posts Tagged ‘Yoga’

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

Last night I enjoyed the advantages of 2010 technology. I watched an episode of the show “30 Days”  on my television downloaded from Netflix! 30 Days is a TV show is about people spending 30 days in an environment fairly different from their own. The episode I watched was about a highly stressed man that visited a Life Coach and spent 30 days doing “New Age” therapies to  reduce his reaction to stress. While some of the “therapies” were of questionable merit, many of them helped the man and he ended up becoming a calmer, happier man and building a closer relationships with his wife!

One of the things the man enjoyed, and continued to keep up after the 30 days had ended, was yoga.  More and more research is coming out about the benefits of yoga. I don’t see yoga as a New Age therapy, but then I’ve been doing yoga for about 17 years. And yoga has been around for much longer than the U.S has been a  country (as has acupuncture). As more and more Western style scientific research is done on the benefits of yoga and more people in the U.S.  incorporate it into their daily lives, yoga has become more “mainstream.”

I came across a great article from Yoga Journal on “Banishing Burnout.” In the article, author Jennifer Pirtle shares some information about current research on yoga and stress relief.  She shares some insights into how doing yoga can help you learn to react less to stressors in the workplace. I am sharing some excerpts with you below:

More Bad News About Workplace Stress

Recently, a team of researchers at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) found that stress may even accelerate aging at the cellular level. The study found that the blood cells of women who had spent many years caring for a child with a health condition appeared to be, genetically, about 10 years older than the cells of women whose caretaking responsibilities were less prolonged.

Although the study focused on caregivers, the findings apply to overworked employees, too. “People with other sources of life stress showed similar relationships between their levels of stress and cell aging,” says Elissa Epel, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at UCSF and the study’s lead author.

Stress itself, Epel emphasizes, is neither inherently good nor bad. Instead, how you perceive and react to it determines how it will affect your health. “In the study,” she explains, “the perception of stress was more important than whether one was under the strain of caregiving or not.”

Making your work less stressful doesn’t have to mean leaving it behind for good. (And how many of us can hope to do that, anyway?) Instead, the key is to transform your relationship to the stress so that it no longer overwhelms you. More and more people are discovering that mind-body practices like yoga, qi gong, and meditation can be hugely helpful in shifting the way they react to stress.

How Does Yoga Help With Stress?

You’re likely to feel many of yoga’s benefits the first time you step onto the mat, says Timothy McCall, M.D., an internist and Yoga Journal‘s medical editor. “When you’re doing Downward-Facing Dog, your mind is saying, ‘I want to come down now; my arms are tired,’ but if your teacher tells you to hold the asana a little longer, you find the strength to do it,” he says. “At that point, you realize that you don’t have to respond to every urge you feel. At other times, when your body says it needs to come down, it really needs to. Yoga teaches you to tune in to what your body is telling you and to act accordingly.”

With practice, this awareness will spread into other areas of your life, including your work. “As you learn to separate the urge to act from the reaction, you begin to find that something like a canceled meeting or having a last-minute project handed to you may not rattle you as much as it once did,” says McCall. “You can detect stressors—what Buddhists call the spark before the flame—earlier, then pause long enough to think, ‘Well, maybe I don’t need to respond.'”

That’s what happened for David Freda, a 41-year-old software engineer in Pasadena, California. He had practiced yoga sporadically to help him deal with job-related anxiety in the past, but after he took a new position at an investment company in 1999, he decided to get serious. “I have very high standards as an engineer. As a result, I have a pattern of getting fed up with co-workers and bolting from my jobs,” he says. “When I took this job, I decided to stick it out to see what I could change in myself. I had a strong sense that yoga could help me do that.”

“When I’m doing a challenging posture such as Revolved Triangle [Parivrtta Trikonasana], I can stay in the posture, focus on my breathing, and perhaps not push quite so hard,” he says. “That approach helps me in my job. When I’m confronting someone who is making a bad technical decision, I consider what I could say that would facilitate what I want to achieve. In the past, my emotions would have gotten the best of me, but now people are more inclined to listen and to engage. Even my boss has commented on the changes.”

Read the entire article with many more great insights into how yoga can help you learn to battle workplace and life stress here.

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

Don’t have time to exercise? Working long hours at a computer or desk?  Then this set of easy yoga poses may be for you!

Easy Desktop Yoga is a CD with a series of video exercises based on yoga, and designed specifically for computer users. International yoga instructor, Juliet Lee, demonstrates easy modified yoga exercises to calm, invigorate, or relax.

Pop the CD into your computer and choose from more than 20 yogic exercises.  Each one can be done in just a few minutes, so they are easy to incorporate into your workday.  Easy Desktop Yoga CD-ROM comes complete with a reminder program to help remind you when it’s time to take a break and stretch!

Note: One of our clients purchased the DVD and found it only works for PCs not Apple computers.

What You Get on the Easy Desktop Yoga CD

Office Warm Up (four exercises) Easy Desktop Yoga Cover
Breath Stretch
Seated Sun Salutation
Modified Sun Salutation
Moon Pose
Lunge Pose
Hip Rotation
Knee Rotation
Right Angle Pose
Neck Stretch
Lion Pose
Eye Exercise
Upper Body Twist
Upper Body Stretch
Shoulder Roll
Modified Camel Pose
Modified Cat and Dog Poses
Forward Bend

Purchase your very own Easy Desktop Yoga program here.

Check out the free download for a sample: neck stretch 2 min video here.

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Yoga Videos On Demand: A Fresh Take On Healthy Living



Office Yoga

  • Unlimited Video Classes
  • Full Screen HD Streaming
  • World Class Teachers
  • Low Monthly Subscription

Who is My Yoga Online?

My Yoga Online is a premium online subscription and digital download service, offering yoga, Pilates, meditation, and wellness video classes to thousands of members and free video and written content to hundreds of thousands of visitors worldwide. It was was created in 2005 and is Vancouver, Canada based. My Yoga Online partners a ‘Ancient Practice meets Modern Delivery’ concept, to bring the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of these wellness practices and exercises to a global audience, improving quality of life for all.

How does the website work?

My Yoga Online streams its large video library over the internet using streaming technology, allowing for full screen viewing in HD quality at your computer or on an attached television. People can download individual classes for their ipod, iTV, iPhone, or to burn to DVD. They also sell yoga related music and meditation downloads.

Price for subscription to My Yoga Online

Monthly Membership

$9.95 per month

• Unlimited access for just 33 cents a day
• Less than one DVD or studio class
• Experience our growing library of videos
• On demand anytime, anywhere
• Billing recurs monthly, cancel anytime
• No contract, no obligation

Yearly Membership Plan

$89.95 per year.

• Unlimited access for just a quarter a day
• 12 months for the price of 9
• World class teachers with guided instruction
• All the benefits of yoga at your fingertips

For more information on My Yoga Online, go to their website here.

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By Harvard Health Publications

Since the 1970s, meditation and other stress-reduction techniques have been studied as possible treatments for depression and anxiety. One such practice, yoga, has received less attention in the medical literature, though it has become increasingly popular in recent decades. One national survey estimated, for example, that about 7.5% of U.S. adults had tried yoga at least once, and that nearly 4% practiced yoga in the previous year.

Yoga classes can vary from gentle and accommodating to strenuous and challenging; the choice of style tends to be based on physical ability and personal preference. Hatha yoga, the most common type of yoga practiced in the United States, combines three elements: physical poses, called asanas; controlled breathing practiced in conjunction with asanas; and a short period of deep relaxation or meditation.

Many of the studies evaluating yoga’s therapeutic benefits have been small and poorly designed. However, a 2004 analysis found that, in recent decades, an increasing number have been randomized controlled trials — the most rigorous standard for proving efficacy.

Available reviews of a wide range of yoga practices suggest they can reduce the impact of exaggerated stress responses and may be helpful for both anxiety and depression. In this respect, yoga functions like other self-soothing techniques, such as meditation, relaxation, exercise, or even socializing with friends.

Taming the stress response

By reducing perceived stress and anxiety, yoga appears to modulate stress response systems. This, in turn, decreases physiological arousal — for example, reducing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and easing respiration. There is also evidence that yoga practices help increase heart rate variability, an indicator of the body’s ability to respond to stress more flexibly.

A small but intriguing study further characterizes the effect of yoga on the stress response. In 2008, researchers at the University of Utah presented preliminary results from a study of varied participants’ responses to pain. They note that people who have a poorly regulated response to stress are also more sensitive to pain. Their subjects were 12 experienced yoga practitioners, 14 people with fibromyalgia (a condition many researchers consider a stress-related illness that is characterized by hypersensitivity to pain), and 16 healthy volunteers.

When the three groups were subjected to more or less painful thumbnail pressure, the participants with fibromyalgia — as expected — perceived pain at lower pressure levels compared with the other subjects. Functional MRIs showed they also had the greatest activity in areas of the brain associated with the pain response. In contrast, the yoga practitioners had the highest pain tolerance and lowest pain-related brain activity during the MRI. The study underscores the value of techniques, such as yoga, that can help a person regulate their stress and, therefore, pain responses.

Improved mood and functioning

Questions remain about exactly how yoga works to improve mood, but preliminary evidence suggests its benefit is similar to that of exercise and relaxation techniques.

In a German study published in 2005, 24 women who described themselves as “emotionally distressed” took two 90-minute yoga classes a week for three months. Women in a control group maintained their normal activities and were asked not to begin an exercise or stress-reduction program during the study period.

Though not formally diagnosed with depression, all participants had experienced emotional distress for at least half of the previous 90 days. They were also one standard deviation above the population norm in scores for perceived stress (measured by the Cohen Perceived Stress Scale), anxiety (measured using the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory), and depression (scored with the Profile of Mood States and the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale, or CES-D).

At the end of three months, women in the yoga group reported improvements in perceived stress, depression, anxiety, energy, fatigue, and well-being. Depression scores improved by 50%, anxiety scores by 30%, and overall well-being scores by 65%. Initial complaints of headaches, back pain, and poor sleep quality also resolved much more often in the yoga group than in the control group.

One uncontrolled, descriptive 2005 study examined the effects of a single yoga class for inpatients at a New Hampshire psychiatric hospital. The 113 participants included patients with bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia. After the class, average levels of tension, anxiety, depression, anger, hostility, and fatigue dropped significantly, as measured by the Profile of Mood States, a standard 65-item questionnaire that participants answered on their own before and after the class. Patients who chose to participate in additional classes experienced similar short-term positive effects.

Further controlled trials of yoga practice have demonstrated improvements in mood and quality of life for the elderly, people caring for patients with dementia, breast cancer survivors, and patients with epilepsy.

Benefits of controlled breathing

A type of controlled breathing with roots in traditional yoga shows promise in providing relief for depression. The program, called Sudarshan Kriya yoga (SKY), involves several types of cyclical breathing patterns, ranging from slow and calming to rapid and stimulating, and is taught by the nonprofit Art of Living Foundation.

One study compared 30 minutes of SKY breathing, done six days a week, to bilateral electroconvulsive therapy and the tricyclic antidepressant imipramine in 45 people hospitalized for depression. After four weeks of treatment, 93% of those receiving electroconvulsive therapy, 73% of those taking imipramine, and 67% of those using the breathing technique had achieved remission.

Another study examined the effects of SKY on depressive symptoms in 60 alcohol-dependent men. After a week of a standard detoxification program at a mental health center in Bangalore, India, participants were randomly assigned to two weeks of SKY or a standard alcoholism treatment control. After the full three weeks, scores on a standard depression inventory dropped 75% in the SKY group, as compared with 60% in the standard treatment group. Levels of two stress hormones, cortisol and corticotropin, also dropped in the SKY group, but not in the control group. The authors suggest that SKY might be a beneficial treatment for depression in the early stages of recovery from alcoholism.

Potential help for PTSD

Since evidence suggests that yoga can tone down maladaptive nervous system arousal, researchers are exploring whether or not yoga can be a helpful practice for patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

One randomized controlled study examined the effects of yoga and a breathing program in disabled Australian Vietnam veterans diagnosed with severe PTSD. The veterans were heavy daily drinkers, and all were taking at least one antidepressant. The five-day course included breathing techniques (see above), yoga asanas, education about stress reduction, and guided meditation. Participants were evaluated at the beginning of the study using the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS), which ranks symptom severity on an 80-point scale.

Six weeks after the study began, the yoga and breathing group had dropped their CAPS scores from averages of 57 (moderate to severe symptoms) to 42 (mild to moderate). These improvements persisted at a six-month follow-up. The control group, consisting of veterans on a waiting list, showed no improvement.

About 20% of war veterans who served in Afghanistan or Iraq suffer from PTSD, according to one estimate. Experts treating this population suggest that yoga can be a useful addition to the treatment program.

Researchers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., are offering a yogic method of deep relaxation to veterans returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dr. Kristie Gore, a psychologist at Walter Reed, says the military hopes that yoga-based treatments will be more acceptable to the soldiers and less stigmatizing than traditional psychotherapy. The center now uses yoga and yogic relaxation in post-deployment PTSD awareness courses, and plans to conduct a controlled trial of their effectiveness in the future.

Cautions and encouragement

Although many forms of yoga practice are safe, some are strenuous and may not be appropriate for everyone. In particular, elderly patients or those with mobility problems may want to check first with a clinician before choosing yoga as a treatment option.

But for many patients dealing with depression, anxiety, or stress, yoga may be a very appealing way to better manage symptoms. Indeed, the scientific study of yoga demonstrates that mental and physical health are not just closely allied, but are essentially equivalent. The evidence is growing that yoga practice is a relatively low-risk, high-yield approach to improving overall health.

Where To Find Yoga Classes

Yoga Chicago magazine is a free publication distributed around the Chicagoland area. It contains a directory of all yhe known yoga classes in the city and suburbs of Chicago. Other cities may have similar publications or online services. For the Yoga Chicago main class directory go to this link here.

There are also a number of great yoga DVD’s available from Amazon, or you may find them at Target, Best Buy or Whole Foods Markets:

Yoga for Beginners from Amazon here.

Yoga for Stress Relief from Amazon here.

Yoga for Every Body from Amazon here.

and Yoga for Inflexible People from Amazon here.

Working Well Massage also provides certified yoga instructors for your home or office.


Brown RP, et al. “Sudarshan Kriya Yogic Breathing in the Treatment of Stress, Anxiety, and Depression: Part I — Neurophysiologic Model,” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (Feb. 2005): Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 189–201.

Brown RP, et al. “Sudarshan Kriya Yogic Breathing in the Treatment of Stress, Anxiety, and Depression: Part II — Clinical Applications and Guidelines,” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (Aug. 2005): Vol. 11, No. 4, pp. 711–17.

Janakiramaiah N, et al. “Antidepressant Efficacy of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) in Melancholia: A Randomized Comparison with Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) and Imipramine,” Journal of Affective Disorders (Jan.–March 2000): Vol. 57, No. 1–3, pp. 255–59.

Khalsa SB. “Yoga as a Therapeutic Intervention: A Bibliometric Analysis of Published Research Studies,” Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology (July 2004): Vol. 48, No. 3, pp. 269–85.

Kirkwood G, et al. “Yoga for Anxiety: A Systematic Review of the Research,” British Journal of Sports Medicine (Dec. 2005): Vol. 39, No. 12, pp. 884–91.

Pilkington K, et al. “Yoga for Depression: The Research Evidence,” Journal of Affective Disorders (Dec. 2005): Vol. 89, No. 1–3, pp. 13–24.

Saper RB, et al. “Prevalence and Patterns of Adult Yoga Use in the United States: Results of a National Survey,” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine (March–April 2004): Vol. 10, No. 2, pp. 44–49.

For more references, please see www.health.harvard.edu/mentalextra.

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Relaxation Exercises to Reduce Stress, Anxiety, and Depression
from Helpguide.org

Deep Breathing

Stress Relief: Yoga, Meditation, and Other Relaxation Techniques

The body’s natural relaxation response is a powerful antidote to stress. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and yoga can help you activate this relaxation response. When practiced regularly, these activities lead to a reduction in your everyday stress levels and a boost in your feelings of joy and serenity. What’s more, they also serve a protective quality by teaching you how to stay calm and collected in the face of life’s curveballs.

The Relaxation Response

The relaxation response is a mentally active process that leaves the body relaxed. It is best done in an awake state so don’t practice relaxation when you are very sleepy. The Relaxation Response IS trainable and becomes more profound with practice.

The stress response floods your body with chemicals that prepare you for “fight or flight.” But while the stress response is helpful in true emergency situations where you must be alert, it wears your body down when constantly activated. You can’t avoid all stress, but you can counteract its negative effects by learning how to evoke the relaxation response.

The relaxation response brings your system back into balance: deepening your breathing, reducing stress hormones, slowing down your heart rate and blood pressure, and relaxing your muscles. In addition to its calming physical effects, research shows that the relaxation response also increases energy and focus, combats illness, relieves aches and pains, heightens problem-solving abilities, and boosts motivation and productivity.

Starting a Relaxation Response Practice

A variety of relaxation techniques help you achieve the relaxation response. Those whose stress-busting benefits have been widely studied include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, visualization, yoga, and tai chi.

Learning the basics of these relaxation techniques isn’t difficult. But it takes daily practice to get full benefit of their stress-relieving power. Most stress experts recommend setting aside at least 10 to 20 minutes a day for your relaxation practice. If you’d like to get even more stress relief, aim for 30 minutes to an hour.

More Relaxation Techniques from www.helpguide.org

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