Best Yoga Poses to Relieve Stress

The modern perception of yoga is that it creates a thin, toned body — and while it can certainly help whip you into shape, let’s not forget the psychological and emotional benefits of a carefully constructed asana practice. Spending a few mindful moments in these postures can quickly help to relieve the stress of everyday life.

If being physically healthy is one of your main priorities, you’re definitely heading in the right direction, but your emotional and psychological health is just as important! Yoga is an amazing workout that has the potential to fill every need.

Downward Facing Dog:

This is one of the most practiced poses in any yoga sequence. The effects of downward dog help stretch, strengthen and neutralize the spine while rejuvenating the mind with its slight inversion. The opposite flow of energy is great for respiration problems common with stress and anxiety.

Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold):

Use a small pillow or blanket to raise the sit bones off the ground and dive into a seated forward fold. Staying in this pose for a solid three minutes can help relieve tightness in the hamstrings, which pull on the lower back. Many of us feel stress in our backs, so practicing this posture helps to relieve that tension.

Child’s Pose:

Even if you prefer a supported child’s pose, the therapeutic benefits are endless. Calm your brain, relax the hips, and gently stretch into the ankle joints. Many find this pose in the middle of a practice simply to come back into their own body.

Savasana (Corpse Pose):

The pose to end a yoga practice has its many benefits. Allowing your body to melt into your mat and the earth helps to ground the mind. Slowing the breathing and becoming aware of the present gives a chance to surrender to the moment and release any stressful thoughts.

Easy Seat:

Find your way into a comfortable cross-legged seated position. Ground your sit bones, let your hands rest easy, close your eyes and enjoy a minute of solitude. The name says it all.

Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall):

This supported inversion drains the body of toxins and releases bad energy. Simply changing the path of blood flow creates new energy. Easy inversions like legs up the wall reduce ailments like headaches, insomnia and anxiety, and is even believed to help with mild depression.

7 Alternatives to Squats That Are Safer But Just as Effective

There’s no doubt about it. Squats can provide an exceptional full-body workout when they’re done the right way—one that strengthens the body’s core as well as the legs and arms. However, they’re also notoriously hard to do correctly, especially for beginners.

This is a particular problem with squats because doing them the wrong way (with poor mechanics and/or too much weight) can put a sudden, unhealthy strain on the shoulders, lower back and knees. And since many people don’t have a trainer or knowledgeable workout partner spotting them, it can be difficult to know when good form is starting to go bad. Plus, if something does go wrong, the instinct to rebalance an unstable load can cause serious injuries.

Why are squats so hard to do properly? They’re actually a lot more complicated than they look. One website lists 15 different things that need to be done right for a squat to be performed correctly.

Fortunately, there are alternatives that work many of the same muscle groups and are less likely to undo what your chiropractor has already fixed.

Single Leg Glute Bridge

  • Start by lying on your back with knees bent
  • Extend one leg up, squeezing the glutes and lifting the hips as high as possible
  • Pause, lower and repeat without letting your butt hit the ground during repetitions

Hydrants with Leg Extensions

  • Start on all fours with core engaged to keep back straight
  • Lift one knee up and out to the side (This is where the hydrant name comes from.)
  • Extend leg out toward the back
  • Return to start

Bridge

  • Lie on your back with knees bent and hip-width apart
  • Raise your back slowly off the floor, thinking one vertebra at a time
  • Tighten your glutes and hamstrings and rise until there is a diagonal line that runs
    between your shoulders and your knees
  • Return to the ground slowly

Tipping Row

  • Stand up straight while holding a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing inward
  • Lift up one foot while balancing on the other
  • Slowly extend your lifted foot backward and let your arms hang toward the floor
  • Lift the dumbbells by bending your elbows and raising your hands to either side of your chest
  • Hold and then slowly lower your arms toward the floor
  • Repeat dumbbell lifts

Single Leg Deadlift with Kettlebell

  • Hold a kettlebell in one hand and lift your opposite foot slightly off the ground
  • Lean forward and raise your leg straight behind you, keeping your back and neck neutral,
  • Be careful to keep some bend in your supporting leg
  • Lower the kettlebell toward the ground, but be sure that your chest never drops below the level of your hips
  • Hinge your hips backward and lift the kettlebell to return to the starting position

Superman Ball Lifts

  • Lie on your belly, holding an exercise ball between your feet
  • Extend your arms straight out in front of you
  • Engage your abs, inhale and squeeze the ball while lifting your knees, arms and chest
  • Hold for ten seconds and repeat

Lunges

  • Start with your feet parallel and hip-distance apart
  • Take a giant step forward with your torso upright, moving toward a kneeling position with your front knee aligned over your front ankle
  • Bend knees no further than a 90 degree angle
  • Return to the starting position, either by stepping forward with your back foot or by stepping backward with your front foot.
  • Repeat, alternating legs

A Few Important Things to Keep in Mind

Always consult with your chiropractor or another qualified healthcare provider if you’re starting a new fitness program. This is especially important if you’re recovering from an injury, suspect you may have a medical condition or haven’t been physically active in a while. After you begin your program, build up the number of sets and repetitions you do as you become more comfortable with the movements and your body adapts to the new demands you’re placing upon it.

As experts in musculoskeletal health and fitness, chiropractic physicians are specially trained to help you reach your goals. Want to learn more? Just call or visit our office!

10 Great Reasons to Stay Hydrated

Water is essential to life. Our bodies are already 60%-70% water, and those reserves need to be replenished on a daily basis to keep us healthy. Add either extreme heat or extreme cold (both of which dehydrate us), and drinking enough water becomes even more critical.

Exactly how much water we should drink each day is an open question. As reported by the Mayo Clinic, the Institute of Medicine has determined that adequate water intake per day is roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) for men and 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) for women. Some sources recommend more, some less, but there seems to be no question within the healthcare community that many of us should be drinking more water than we are. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Water curbs your appetite, and contains zero calories. Both of these reasons should have some appeal to you whether you’re actively trying to lose a few pounds or just trying to maintain a healthy weight. Studies have shown that often when people think they’re hungry, they’re really thirsty.
  2. Water increases your energy levels. Studies have indicated that a cup of water can be more effective at boosting your energy levels than a cup of coffee. One suspected reason for this is that our perception of fatigue is often caused more by dehydration than actually being tired.
  3. Water is good for your skin. Rather than investing in expensive creams and lotions, why not invest in a few more glasses of water per day? They will help to keep your skin healthy, radiant, and glowing. And it’s a lot less expensive than anything you could buy at the cosmetics counter.
  4. Water increases your brain power. According to a study in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, subjects who drank a glass of water before performing a series of cognitive tasks reacted faster and thought more clearly than subjects who did not.
  5. Water helps maintain the balance of your other bodily fluids. You lose moisture daily via sweat and other excretions. Similarly, your blood, lymph, and intestinal fluids become depleted, and must be replenished with a proper intake of water.
  6. Water improves your moods. Although there are many causes of depression, headaches, irritability, and fatigue, one of the most common is dehydration. When your body becomes low on water, your blood vessels dilate, causing all of these symptoms. Increasing your daily intake of water can counter and reverse them.
  7. Water lowers your risk of heart attack. When your arteries and veins become clogged with plaque, you increase your likelihood of heart disease—one of the most effective ways of preventing this buildup of plaque is to remain properly hydrated. A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that drinking more water was positively associated with a decrease in the risk of coronary heart disease. Drinking liquids other than water increased this risk, according to the same study.
  8. Water can keep your joints lubricated, too. The synovial fluid that keeps your joints functioning properly and that keeps your bones from rubbing against each other becomes depleted when you are dehydrated. Drinking more water prevents this.
  9. Water improves your digestion. Your ability to digest your food depends on the proper functioning of a series of enzymes in your intestinal tract. The “delivery mechanism” for these enzymes is water—don’t get enough of it, and your ability to digest and assimilate nutrients in your food breaks down.
  1. Water even prevents fluid retention. This sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true. Dehydration causes the body to retain water, because it thinks there is a critical lack of it. Drinking more water actually causes your body to stop retaining it.

5 Tips to Better Sit-Ups

Practicing sit-ups is a great way to help strengthen your core muscles, the ones that help you maintain good posture and allow you to bend and twist. If these muscles are weak, it can lead to chronic back pain and disability. But contrary to what those late-night TV ads tell you, sit-ups (whether using a machine or doing them the traditional way) will not give you a flat stomach and six-pack abs. The toned abdominal muscles will develop beneath the layer of abdominal fat, but no matter how many sit-ups you do, it will not spot reduce the amount of fat around your waist. The only thing that will remove the spare tire around your middle is a healthy diet and getting sufficient overall exercise. Once you have slimmed down overall, then those six-pack abs will show if you practice some sit-ups every day. But keep in mind that it’s important to do sit-ups properly in order to develop the optimal muscle conditioning while ensuring you do not hurt your back and neck in the process. Following are 5 tips to better sit-ups.

1) Make sure your legs are bent at a 90° angle – This is the best angle to help reduce excess stress to the lower back while you are performing a sit-up. You should be sure to do your sit-ups on a cushioned surface such as a mat or carpet. With your legs bent, there should still be just enough of a curve in your lower back so it does not touch the floor.

2) Cross your arms over your chest – The traditional hands behind the neck posture for sit-ups sometimes causes people to pull on the neck during the upward movement, which can overstretch it and cause neck pain. Instead, cross your arms over your chest and tighten your abdominal muscles to slowly lift your head and upper body off the floor.

3) Lift up only 6 to 10 inches off the floor – There is no need to sit all the way up when doing sit-ups. In fact, according to researchers at the University of Louisville, once you are above a certain angle, different muscles than the abdominals are being worked, so much of that extra effort to condition your abs is in vain.

4) Go slowly, both up and down – Many people slowly raise themselves up, then flop back down. The best workout for your abs is to go slowly, both on the way up and on the way down. This engages the abdominal muscles more fully and is more important than the number of reps you can do.

5) Pace yourself – It is common to start off doing sit-ups quickly, then slow down as your abdominals tire. Start out at a slow, steady pace, and you are more likely to be able to keep it up than if you get burned out early on in your reps.

Want Your Kids to Be Active? Here Is Why YOU Should Be their Lifestyle Role Model

It’s not news—obesity is a growing national epidemic among young people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that obesity in children has doubled in the last 30 years and quadrupled in adolescents. Nearly 20% of children 6-11 years old are obese as are almost 23% of teenagers. This places them at increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. Finally—and even more concerning—studies have shown that people who are obese as children tend to be obese as adults.

What’s happening here?  In large part, it comes down to our lifestyle choices. Record numbers of both adults and children are succumbing to the temptations of TV, computers, and video games, and many of us simply don’t get the exercise our bodies need to stay healthy.

Naturally, parents who read statistics like these may be—and should be—concerned about their kids. More and more often, they ask themselves questions like “What can we do to help our kids be more active and physically fit?” One answer to this question is pretty simple: To get your kids to be more active, engage in more active pursuits with them. One of the keys to getting children to exercise more is to have them see their parents exercise more. That’s the finding from a new study published in the journal Pediatrics

In the study, researchers at the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine in England fitted 554 mother-child pairs with equipment to measure how much exercise they were getting when they were together as well as when they were apart. Accelerometers tracked their exercise levels, and GPS devices measured how close they were to each other. Over the course of seven days, the findings were clear – the more physical activity the mother was engaged in while with the child, the more active the child was during the rest of the day. In fact, for every minute of moderate-to-vigorous activity the mother got, the child was likely to get ten percent more of the same activity. Conversely, for every minute the mother was sedentary, the child was 0.18 minutes more sedentary. Both of these effects were more pronounced in girls than in boys.

These findings seem to indicate that parents can be effective role models for their children by getting more active exercise themselves. But specialists emphasize that parents don’t have to drop their other priorities to do this. Physical therapist Teresa Beckman suggests, “Incorporate small changes into your daily life. For example, rather than playing a board game together, go outside and play hopscotch. Or if you’re planning a trip to your local playground, try walking instead of driving.”

Other suggestions for becoming more active with your children include playing more sports with them, walking more with them (if you take the bus, get off one or two stops early and walk the rest of the way), riding bikes together, and even playing Frisbee. Dancing is good exercise, so you can encourage your kids to take lessons in various forms of dance and then set a good example for them by attending the classes yourself. You can join exercise classes together, schedule regular pre-dinner walks or runs, or just play family games of basketball or soccer.

You are your child’s most important role model when it comes to teaching them about the importance of exercise. And exercising together is just as good for you as it is for them. So switch off that TV or computer and go out to play! You’ll both be doing something good for your health and having fun at the same time!