I'll bet that's a surprise, huh? I admit, when I first saw those headlines, I was skeptical. Even though I see firsthand every day how much Yoga helps our physical health, I didn’t understand the "why." Now that it makes so much sense, I wonder why someone hadn’t discovered this information long ago.
For years we‘ve known that practices like Yoga, meditation, and Tai Chi make us feel better, breathe better, remove stress, and even sleep well. “New science” has shown us that these mind/body practices leave, what science calls, a “molecular signature” in our cells; they actually cause our body to either raise or lower the protein production of our genes. Cool!
One recent study examined the effects of mindfulness practices on the immune system, with a specific focus on five outcomes: (1) circulating and stimulated inflammatory proteins, (2) cellular transcription factors and gene expression, (3) immune cell count, (4) immune cell aging, (5) antibody response. Their conclusion is that there is enough evidence to support a link between these mindfulness practices and gene expression to warrant further studies. YES! Let’s get more scientific evidence on board so that more docs will recommend Yoga, meditation, etc.
Another review seemed to point to what most of us already know – the majority of improvements and health benefits that people enjoy from these mindfulness practices are related to stress hormones and inflammation. While previous studies have focused on how these practices affect our brains (losing less of our grey matter as we age), this study also looked specifically at how our genes are affected. Certain genes are either upregulated or downregulated in our body throughout our day, based on many different circumstances. All of the studies measured what they call “gene expression,” (the way that genes activate to produce proteins which influence the biological make-up of the body, the brain, and the immune system.) They used blood samples to identify this gene expression both before and after each different mindfulness practice. Some studies were all about Yoga, some Tai Chi, others studied different forms of meditation, etc. In all the studies, the gene expressions of genes that control inflammation and stress were changed after the session.
The results of 18 studies that used gene expression analysis in research on mindfulness practices have, overall, found a significant downregulation of NF-κB (a key transcription factor that controls the expression of inflammation-related genes), which can reverse the molecular effects of chronic stress. I’ll take that!
Even though the study designs, the population, and the types of mindfulness practices used in the studies included in this review vary, it indicates that some of the psychological and physical benefits result from biological changes in NF-κB genes. More studies are currently being done to understand better how Yoga and other mindfulness practices affect our genes.
Another study, which was a follow up to a previous study done at UCLA, found that the Yogic meditation practice called Kirtan Kriya, reversed the pattern of increased NF-κB-related transcription of pro-inflammatory cytokines and decreased IRF1-related transcription of innate antiviral response genes previously observed in healthy individuals confronting a significant life stressor. Translation: This meditation practice reversed the inflammatory process in stressed out caregivers! This particular study was done on caregivers who live with the daily stress of caring for family members with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
When that first UCLA study came out, I wrote an article about it and offered training in this particular meditation practice. I am offering a special on Kirtan Kriya meditation training again today. You can find out more, and sign up HERE.
Dr. Helen Lavretsky, senior author of this study and a professor of psychiatry at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, and her colleagues, found, in their work with 45 family dementia caregivers, that 68 of their genes responded differently after Kirtan Kriya Meditation (KKM), resulting in reduced inflammation. “The goal of the study was to determine if meditation might alter the activity of inflammatory and antiviral proteins that shape immune cell gene expression," said Lavretsky. "Our analysis showed a reduced activity of those proteins linked directly to increased inflammation. This is encouraging news. Caregivers often don’t have the time, energy, or contacts that could bring them a little relief from the stress of taking care of a loved one with dementia, so practicing a brief form of yogic meditation, which is easy to learn, is a useful tool."
Notice she used the word “brief”. This meditation takes only twelve minutes a day! Can you spare twelve minutes a day to alter your genes for reduced inflammation as well as increase your grey matter? Sign up now and learn this easy meditation practice!
Best of Health,
Is Being "Pain Free" Really Possible?
That depends on what those words mean to you.
Do I wake up with aches and a bit stiff sometimes? You betcha! I didn't get to be an adventurous 65 year old without sprains and breaks at some point. BUT, am I pain free? YES!
Because I know exactly what to do when some ache or pain comes back to haunt me and, just like Harry Potter’s wand, I can make it vanish more quickly.
There are exercises and relaxation or release techniques that can help all of us to be pain free - we just need to know which ones to use!
Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing about specific aches and pains and how to deal with them when they arise so that you can heal yourself quicker too!
Today, we’ll start with wrists. Lots of people have weak wrists. Many think there’s nothing they can do about it, that’s it’s “old age.” Well, there’s not much I dislike more than being told that by a physician. I have switched docs when one said that.
So, for those who have wrist aches and pains, here are some tips:
- Often, wrist pain is due to a strain, as in overuse of certain muscles. Using our computers is an example of something that can cause stiff muscles and painful wrists. The key then is to release the tension in those muscles and rest the wrists. If you do this release immediately before bed, then those muscles have a chance to really rest before using them again.
- If your wrist bothers you when exercising, and it’s difficult to do a plank or cat/cow on your hands and knees, here’s another way to release those tense muscles in between rounds of exercises. This is also a good one to use periodically during the day, if you work at a computer all day.
Try these out and let me know how you like them!
Best of Health,
Rushing through your Holiday Season?
Want to make this December a little bit less stressful and feel less overwhelmed and overwrought by the end of the year?
Spend THREE minutes a day doing this and you'll reduce all that tension and stress, relax all the muscles in your back and neck, dissolve tension and arrive on Jan 1st pain free!
Keep those muscles in good health and avoid the pain and strain with this simple exercise!
Best of Health,
My friend Dianna Mullane and I are launching our enchanting, stress relieving, adult coloring book, "A Coloring Book For Women - 30 Divine Designs." Dianna and I have just completed this project of love and we're so excited to share it with you today!
"A Coloring Book For Women - 30 Divine Designs," was written by, and for, women. This is different from any of the others that I have found in bookstores or on Amazon. We wanted to provide something more; something informative, something that would be a way to connect with our inner child again. According to this review on Amazon, we have been successful!
"I tried adult coloring books before, but the designs were busy, geometric designs that I found difficult to color. Those types of coloring books actually ended up frustrating me more than anything! But, "A Coloring Book For Women, 30 Divine Designs," is very different; the designs that Kathi Casey and Dianna Mullane have chosen are lovely and FUN to color! After all, that's why we want to color again, right? To feel the joy we did as children when we sat down to color. I love this book and can't recommend it enough!" -- Jane
The book is available on Amazon, (go take a sneak peek) and also HERE on my website, where, for the same price, we'll include a box of colored pencils to get you started. Each design in our book has a description that will inspire, empower, or simply bring a smile to your face.
If you are starting your holiday shopping this week, please consider our simple, inexpensive stress relief, for all the women on your list (including you!).
Here's what people are saying about our coloring book:
"This book is GORGEOUS! I've seen plenty of adult coloring books, but this one tops them all! Calm and pleasant designs to color that don't make my head explode! I love it. No complicated geometric designs; instead, lovely designs that have meaning for women and are truly a meditative and soothing experience to engage with. This really is a coloring book for all women. I especially love the depiction of Pinga, an Inuit goddess of fertility, medicine, and the hunt. She is surrounded by two beautiful swans. I highly recommend this book!"Estra Roell
"A Coloring Book for Women: 30 Divine Designs" is a dream come true. An adult coloring book created just for women! The pictures are incredibly creative and inspiring. There are descriptions with each design that help you think, and contemplate your own inner path. It is a fantastic addition to the adult coloring book world. I highly recommend "A Coloring Book For Women: 30 Divine Designs." A great gift for the holidays!!!" Elizabeth Helming
Best of Health,
I am excited to say that I have planted my garden this year BEFORE Memorial Day! Can't remember ever doing that before; hope that means an early and fruitful harvest...
Spring is gardening time in the Berkshires and, once again this year, most of my friends and neighbors are walking around with stiff backs from all the weeding, tilling, planting, etc. Each spring I find time to remind everyone of the single most important way to help your back when you know you have done too much - RELAX!
This is the only position which will relax all the muscles along your spine at the same time. Do it every day for at least 5 minutes to reduce that tension and give your back a break. You'll be glad you did!
Make sure that your butt is right up against the couch, with your calves resting on the seat of the couch. If your neck is arched up, you can place a small pillow or folded towel under your head (not under the neck) so your neck is also resting. If you want more information on how to prevent back pain, click HERE!
Best of Health,
Quick Relief for Neck and shoulder pain - get yours here!
Best of Health,
This week a new student asked me if I do Pilates every day. She said she didn't think that she could exercise every day and was worried that coming to Pilates class only once a week wasn't going to make any difference for her. I explained why she was wrong, and if you are also wondering - not to worry! Yes, I have my own combination workout that I do most days, but I have been teaching these classes for more than 13 years and I see fabulous improvements in women who only come once a week. It takes longer, but doing a once a week class definitely makes a difference. People see their clothes fitting differently, they can walk farther and more comfortably, their flexibility improves, as does their mood!
Some of the reasons for this improvement are:
- A workout is like drinking an energy drink - without the caffeine and chemicals! It makes our brains feel more alert and our bodies feel more alive. This, in turn, gives us a greater sense of well being. That makes daily tasks feel less strenuous and gives a greater sense of accomplishment. This happens whenever you exercise, whether it's once a week or three times a week.
- As we age, both muscle and bone density are lost, so our posture takes a hit. With either Yoga or Pilates, you build lean muscle, especially in your core and along your spine, so you begin to naturally stand taller. Many women find that after a Pilates class, they need to adjust the rear view mirror in their car because they are sitting taller! I have found that the breathing and posture tools that you learn in Yoga or Pilates become part of your daily life after a while, so you are integrating these in everything you do all day!
- Also as we age, our muscles and joints can become stiff and achy, making us feel weak. Strength oriented routines such as Yoga and Pilates, give us more flexibility,while at the same time improving our mind body connection, so we become more aware of our own strength. This translates into accomplishing more at home, too. We find ourselves completing tasks that we had given up on, or performing them for longer periods, like raking leaves, or running upstairs to put a wash in, instead of waiting until you have to go up anyway.
All of these, put together, make us feel better about ourselves, which means that we have the confidence to take on both more physical activity and mental challenges. The one thing that I notice about students after several weeks of a weekly class is this added confidence. Many of my students have started classes with back, neck, hip, or some other joint pain and are timid about doing anything physical. After a few weeks, the improvement I see in ability, flexibility, and confidence brings a smile to my face and reminds me why I love teaching!
So, if you are thinking about taking a class but are afraid it won't make much of a difference, think again! In a few weeks, you'll be very happy that you took that step!
Best of Health,
HERE is a link to a report that reinforces what other studies have proven how taking some exercise time in nature benefits our mood and brain. Ned and I went for a long hike last weekend and I felt soooooo much better afterward. I was glad that he insisted we get outside!
Get outside and exercise! In this recent study, researchers investigated whether spending time in nature affects rumination, and they found that hiking in nature decreases these obsessive, negative thoughts. Cool – we can all use more positive thoughts…
In this study, researchers compared the reported rumination of participants who hiked through an urban environment and a nature environment. They found that those who walked for 90 minutes in a natural environment, a grassland near Stanford University, reported lower levels of rumination and also had reduced neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, which is associated with mental illness. Those who walked through an urban environment didn’t enjoy these benefits.
These researchers indicate that our world is becoming more and more urban and that urbanization is linked to depression and other forms of mental illness. Visibly, simply removing us from an urban environment to spend time outdoors where there are fewer mental stressors, less noise, and fewer distractions can be advantageous for our mental health.
In another study by Ruth Ann Atchley and David L. Strayer, creative problem solving was improved by disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with nature. In this study, participants hiked while backpacking in nature for approximately four days and they were prohibited from using technology. They were asked to perform tasks requiring creativity and complex problem solving. They found that those immersed in the hiking excursions had increased performance on problem-solving tasks by 50 percent. Wow!
Not to mention that we all know the benefits of walking/hiking for osteoporosis prevention.
So get out there and “take a hike!” And then when you come home, relax your spine with this simple Yoga inversion.
Best of Health,
This is a good time of year to bring the breathing practice,"Brahmari Breath," back out.
Great stress reliever, can be used to help the little ones who are about to have a melt down, and also helps lower blood pressure!
For many people stress goes right to their backs – what a pain in the butt!
If you need a little stress relief to help calm your back pain try Brahmari!
In fact, let's try it right now:
Ahhh, feel better?
Best of Health,
Thanksgiving is a November holiday that we know well, but are you aware that World Peace Day is the 17th? I know we don't get that day off, but let's take a moment now to contemplate the idea of peace. What does world peace look like to you? Do you feel you can make a difference in the bigger picture? Praying for peace is easy, but it isn't the only way we can help facilitate peace. "Being" peace is something that we, perhaps, don't give much thought to. When we are peaceful, however, when we FEEL peaceful, we share that vibration with everyone around us.
The Dalai Lama has said "World peace must develop from inner peace. Peace is not the absence of violence; peace is the manifestation of human compassion." I believe he is correct. Many times I have seen examples of how a simple act of compassion for another human being changes others, thus making a larger difference than I expected.
Look around you in the grocery store. There is often an elderly person in a wheelchair shopping cart. It's very hard to reach some of the shelves from those carts - offer to get something off the shelf or to carry something that might not fit on their cart. And the person bagging your groceries may be someone with a physical or mental challenge. How about smiling and making conversation with that person instead of ignoring or thinking about how slowly they are packing? Compassion is easy to share with others. First, we have to look around and truly see the people we often ignore.
I find that shopping in any store is the easiest way to find people that are in need of my contagious smile and a kind word. And the best part is that when I see, acknowledge, smile, and chat with people, others around me often take a moment to share a smile and a kind word too. Then the people behind them in line do, too, and the ripple spreads out peace and love to many. Try it yourself and see what a difference you can make!
Best of Health,