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Yoga for Optimum Health
by Charity Poole
When practiced regularly, yoga is an incredible tool to achieve optimum health. Not only does the practice as a whole increase strength, balance, flexibility, muscle tone, and mental acuity, the list of health and emotional benefits is too numerous to detail in a short article. Yoga has been shown to reduce high blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, and improve gastrointestinal and cardiovascular health and circulation. It strengthens the immune system; promotes strong lymphatic function, helps balance your metabolism, improves sleep quality and increases energy levels.
The individual postures themselves, or families of postures, hold within them unique benefits of their own. Twisting poses, for example, are beneficial to the digestive system, as the organs are compressed in the twist and then released, pushing out the toxins and allowing fresh blood to flow in. Collectively, the postures of yoga work the entire body, removing toxins and impurities, massaging the internal organs, and generally improving the ability of the body to prevent disease.
Yoga also helps us achieve better breathing though the practice of Pranayama (breathing techniques). As you become more aware of your breath, you may notice how shallowly you are actually breathing, unconsciously creating tension and gripping within the body. Pranayama teaches us to breathe more deeply, inviting more oxygen rich air into the body. Yoga also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows the pace of your breathing, allowing for relaxation and reduced stress and anxiety.
As a result of a regular yoga practice, many people begin to change their eating habits, turning toward a cleaner diet. This could be attributed to a stronger mind-body connection and a subsequent increased awareness of how what you put into your body affects you. After a good yoga session your body feels relaxed, detoxified and energized. Consequently you begin to desire to keep the body feeling as such and adjust your lifestyle “off of the mat” accordingly.
To achieve optimum health we must include the mental, physical and emotional components of our beings, and yoga really does help us to do this. Yoga improves the mood in general, promotes self-acceptance, positivity, and peace of mind. Some postures of yoga help bring to the surface and release negative emotions that we may be repressing. Hip and heart opening poses, for example, are thought to release such emotions. Releasing this negativity helps reduce depression.
A dedicated yoga practice is a wonderful, holistic approach to achieving overall mental, physical and spiritual health. It is certainly not an overnight process, but with time and dedication, you will begin to see transformations taking place, and experience an entirely new level of wellness.
This article was originally published in LIVING HEALTH Magazine, June 2014 Edition
“Complaining leads to bitterness and destruction.
Gratitude leads to life and healing.”
In Portuguese, the word thanksgiving is translated as “actions of gratitude.” It is hard to imagine what kind of actions these might be because, as far as I have always understood, thanksgiving (or being grateful) is a state of mind, not an action.
When circumstances become overwhelming beyond my control, and my human tendency is to complain, a “gratitude adjustment” is necessary. I take stock of what is going on and make a conscious determination to give thanks rather than complain because the more I live, the more I understand that gratitude is everything. Complaining turns into bitterness and bitterness leads you down a slippery slope of destruction. Life is too short to be spent in bitterness. Gratitude, however, turns into joy and joy brings life, peace, and healing.
You may ask, “What is there to be grateful for?” For many, including me, it is not "what" but "whom." Gratitude is expressed in a relationship towards someone, not towards the circumstances themselves. In my case, I express it first towards God, the Father of my spirit and the creator of my life. I also express it towards my family and friends. Now, let’s be honest here, there is a reason why I called it a “gratitude adjustment,” is because at the first sign of any duress, my instinct is not to be thankful, but upset and hopeless instead. However, as with anything in life, the more you practice, the better you get at it. Practicing gratitude opens the door to a multitude of blessings, even if you don't witness the effects immediately. Blessings are not necessarily material things. A grateful heart sees the blessing in all circumstances!
So, back to the action: what are the "actions of gratitude?" I have been thinking about it for a while and it finally dawned on me that these are not actions you perform, but rather the sum of your destiny which is meant to help others. I realize that this sentence makes no sense without an explanation so let me use a story that has been told throughout generations to billions and billions of people; it has more recently become a successful Broadway play and released as an animated film. It is the story of a little boy named Joseph. For Dreamworks, he is the “King of Dreams!” And he does wear “The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat” on Broadway.
What is it about this young man that makes his story so powerful? Why will it continue to be told for generations to come? He understood that gratitude is everything. His circumstances were such that by normal terms he had more than every right to become a bitter, ungrateful man. To summarize, he was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, sexually harassed and unjustly accused by his master’s wife, and finally, left to rot in a dark, filthy jail. For about thirteen years he had no control over his life. Throughout it all he had to keep adjusting his state of gratitude. In less than twenty-four hours he went from prison to the palace. When he was released and put in charge of an entire country—mind you that this was no ordinary country, it was the super power of its time—he realized that it was for a purpose that he suffered through all of those horrendous situations. His famous quote: “What you intended for evil, God meant for good,” made me understand that “actions of gratitude” are not something you perform, but something you become: a source of hope and provision to few or to many. Joseph saved millions from suffering one of the most horrific types of death: starvation. His very life became defined by what I now understand as “actions of gratitude.” By being grateful to his God, trusting that He had a purpose for everything, Joseph’s very life became a powerful action that saved nations. If each one of us can have this gratitude adjustment, our very lives will become these “actions” that are meant to save millions.
“Actions of Gratitude” are different than random acts of kindness where you perform a few or various kind deeds to others. “Actions of Gratitude” are the result of your state of gratitude, which transforms the sum of your life, your very destiny, into one or many actions that can save one or many.
Monty Python had it right: “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” Try singing it when you are down. It will bring a smile to your face. Although your circumstances may seem the worst possible, I guarantee you that there is someone near or far who is in a worse condition than you. And although you may or may not be able to affect that someone or multiple someones, by maintaining an attitude of gratitude in life you will be generating life. Life is proliferate and vibrant, so not only you will bring life to yourself but you will exude life to others.
Let’s make gratitude contagious. Remember: Complaining leads to bitterness and destruction. Gratitude leads to life and healing. I say it is time for life and healing for mankind as individuals and collectively.
Help this hashtag trend by Thanksgiving Day. Write a tweet about something or someone you are thankful for and include #gratitudeiseverything — the company of thankful hearts is destined to save billions!
This article was originally published in LIVING HEALTH Magazine, November 2014 Edition
The DIRTY DOZEN and the CLEAN FIFTEEN
This is a Shopper's Guide to Pesticide in Produce put out by the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization that advocates for policies to protect individual health (Portuguese version below):
Here are the Dirty Dozen:
Berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries)
Kale and Colored Greens
Peaches (and Nectarines)
Sweet Bell Peppers, Hot Peppers
And here are the Clean Fifteen:
It is best to buy directly from local grocers, rather than imported. Some of the tropical fruits are usually imported from Thailand, Central or South America. If you find Hawaiian or even local, that will be best.
In the January 2014 edition of LIVING HEALTH Magazine, we have an article about juicing and in there you will also find the best, most-proven way to wash your fruits and vegetables. Check it out!
Este Guia de Agrotóxicos em Frutos Alimentícios para o Consumidor foi gerado pelo Grupo Trabalhador do Meio-Ambiente, uma ONG que protege a defesa da saúde individual. Vale à pena mencionar que os testes foram realizados nos Estados Unidos e a prática de agricultura pode variar de país para país. De qualquer forma, os doze piores são mais propensos a absorver os agrotóxicos do que os quinze melhores.
Lista dos Doze Piores:
Morango, framboesa e mirtilo
Couve (lisa e crespa)
Pêssegos e Nectarinas
Pimentas e Pimentões
Lista dos Quinze Melhores:
É sempre aconselhável comprar dos produtores locais.
Na edição de Janeiro de 2014 da revista LIVING HEALTH, temos um artigo sobre sucos de vegetais e neste artigo ensinamos a melhor forma de lavar suas frutas e verduras. Dê uma olhada se puder.
Yoga for Optimum Health
Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen