Yoga Can Alter Our Genes!

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,

Kathi

Well, how about that!  Western science has shown that Yoga helps reduce back pain better than medication! 

In fact, the new guidelines from the American College of Physicians, states that people with back pain should avoid pain medicines if possible, and instead opt for alternatives such as tai chi, yoga and massage. Halleluiah!  Now, if we can get insurance companies to pay for these useful, preventative modalities we’d all be healthier. But then, insurance companies would lose money, and they don’t want that.

Those of us who are committed to our Yoga practice understand that this has been true for thousands of years and new science is simply catching up!

My classes and private sessions have been filled for years with people who are tired of taking or have no wish to get on strong, addictive drugs for their back pain and every one of them has found relief with the Yoga or Pilates exercises that I give them. AND not just back pain – neck and shoulders, hips, knees, etc. These happy people are the reason I continue to teach. They are why I wrote my book, “STOP Back Pain,” which has been on the Amazon bestseller list for most of five years. The human body benefits greatly from Yoga, which is the original Physical Therapy!

I read one article that talked about the need for more testing so that they can figure out which exercises, and exactly how, Yoga reduces back pain. OK……. I think it would be simpler if they just asked a Yoga teacher to explain. “Yoga” is not simply a series of physical exercises. It is a mind, body, spirit practice. What that means is that when people begin doing yoga, they learn to breathe more deeply which helps circulation; they learn ways to improve posture when sitting, standing, walking, etc. This benefits our spine health, heart health, AND circulation. After a few classes (taught by someone who is certified in Hatha Yoga) people begin to understand their own body more – how it works, what it needs and doesn’t need. This mind body connection means that when you shovel snow, move your furniture around, or in some way strain a muscle, you understand exactly where you have injured yourself and you know which exercises to do and how to help yourself. It is the complete practice of Yoga that helps people HEAL their back pain, not simply mask it with drugs.

I make note, above, about taking classes from a trained teacher, because I have seen some places like YMCA’s or gyms where a personal trainer had taken a weekend course (not properly certified) and then began teaching Yoga or even Pilates! These people do not have enough training to make sure that you are doing the postures correctly and they don’t know how to give you modifications so that you can do them without injury. They also usually only teach the physical postures and skip over the breathing and meditation parts and don’t remind you concentrate on rotating your leg in the hip socket instead of throwing the leg around with your hip, etc. So, when you take a class from an untrained person, you do not get the benefit of actually knowing your own body and what it needs. Every body is different!

If you’d like to know more about how to find the cause of your back or hip pain and what you can do to heal yourself, please feel free to ask. I offer coaching specific to back pain!

Today, I have also included a video of one Yoga pose that helps with lower back pain. Try it, you’ll like it!

Best of Health,

Kathi

Is Your Piriformis Giving You A Pain In The Butt?!

Have you been diagnosed with Piriformis Syndrome?

Do you have Sciatica and are not sure of the cause?

Let me tell you a story about a really thick muscle that can cause a lot of misery if you don’t take good care of it.

The Piriformis stretches from the bottom of your hip, across the center of your butt cheek, to the lower spine. We use it to rotate our hip and to turn our leg outward. It sits on top of a section of our sciatic nerve. So, if you’ve ever had sciatic pain, you know how debilitating it can be. That nasty pain travels from your lower spine, all the way down your leg when it's tense or tight, and you're in excruciating pain - right?!

It’s not so hard to keep your Piriformis strong and flexible, though.

Here’s a massage that will help to relieve your pain:

Place a ball or your fist under the butt cheek of your extended left leg. Place your right foot on the floor, bend the right leg, and use your right foot to roll yourself around on the ball until you feel the exact location on your butt cheek where the pain is most intense. Massage that area until the pain lets up. It will be painful while you are rolling on that spot, but breathe deeply and keep going, you’ll be glad you did! I don’t recommend tennis balls because they’re too hard, so try something softer, or use your fist. Make sure that you always massage both sides – even when your pain is only on one side. When one side is more flexible than the other, you will have pain, so fixing one will throw the other side off.

Another great stretch to keep your piriformis flexible and healthy is Sleeping Pigeon.

 Here is a link to that one.

These are both simple things you can do every day in order to prevent that terrible pain from interfering with your life. You deserve to be pain free!

Let me know if you have any questions about these or other exercises for sciatic pain.

Best of Health,

Kathi

Great, Fun Exercise For Your Lower Back!

Let's spend a few minutes looking for Dory on the bottom of the sea! Yes, you heard that right.

This exercise is called "Sea Weed Legs" and it's a fun way to remove the tension in your lower back. You can even do it with the grandkids for a fun activity to share; they'll love it!

Start out lying on the floor, on your back, with your feet flat and knees bent.

Lengthen your spine and relax your shoulders.

Breathe deeply as you gently raise both legs straight up into the air, feet toward the sky.

Pretend you are lying on your back, on the floor of the ocean.

Let the current gently move your legs around. They can go back and forth, side to side, or move around in any way you feel the current is going, as long as it’s slight, and gentle.

This feels really good and it’s fun to imagine all the fish swimming by – Nemo, Dory, Sponge Bob…

Continue breathing deeply and moving your legs gently for one to two minutes.

Then roll over into a fetal position on your side so that you can easily push yourself back up into a seated position with your hands and arm.

We are all so very busy and rarely take the time to just relax our back like this, but It’s so good for us!

We should take the time to relax our backs at least a couple of times a week.

Try this one once week and then try Legs Up The Wall next time.

Here’s a video of Legs Up The Wall. Do it with me now and see for yourself how lovely it feels!

Best of Health,

Kathi

Are You Pain Free?

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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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,

Kathi

Pilates Proven To Relieve Back Pain!

So many people with back and or neck pain, and so many options for relief that they have not been told about...

It’s frustrating when you go your doctor, get an examination and a referral to a specialist, then go through more test and exams with that doc – sometimes after waiting months for your appointment, and then get yet another referral to a surgeon who then does more tests…

Well, many of you know the scenario. It happens all the time. STOP!

I have been saying for years “you DON”T have to live with back pain!”

My STOP Back Pain book, as well as my DVD and programs, have helped hundreds of people so far, and I’m aiming for thousands!

I have a good friend who suffered with back pain, went through months of docs, tests, etc., and then had surgery, but still has the same pain! She now says she would not have chosen to have the surgery if she’d known it would not heal her pain.

Unfortunately, her story is one I have heard over and over; but people are afraid of treatments that are not covered under their insurance. They have listened to their doctors tell them that there is no proof any of the complimentary modalities work. Notice I used the word “complimentary,” not alternative. There is so MUCH “anecdotal” proof for these complimentary therapies, in fact, that they cannot be called anecdotal any more, but because your doc did not learn about these modalities in medical school, in his or her mind, they do not exist. What a shame. I explain many of these therapies in my book. But some doctors are beginning to realize this, seeing the evidence, and some are even recommending things like acupuncture, chiropractic, Pilates or Yoga. Things are changing, just not very fast.

With that said, modern medical technology is amazing and can help a person get a definitive diagnosis, so don’t ditch your doc quite yet! Just remember that you are the head of your medical team and coordinating your care is part of the job you must do to get well.

I’ve had clients come into one of my Pilates classes so frightened of making their pain worse that they were literally shaking in their shoes. Chronic pain, especially back pain, is my specialty though, and I understand how to calm beginners and modify the exercises for them, so that they begin to feel better and eventually are not afraid and then we can begin to heal their pain.

As for the science behind what I do, here’s a study which showed improved core strength and stability, posture and balance, and fewer pain symptoms in people with chronic lower back pain, who took Pilates classes three times a week for 14 weeks. I have seen people’s back pain reduced with only one class a week, and one suggested exercise in between. It takes longer, maybe six months or so, but it can be done – WITHOUT SURGERY OR OPIODS!

Another study showed that a Pilates exercise program reduced back pain more than other interventions. This particular study looked at 128 scholarly articles on the topic, chose 29 to use in their analysis, and concluded “We found that there is a dearth of studies that clearly demonstrate the efficacy of a specific Pilates exercise program over another in the treatment of chronic pain.  However, the consensus in the field suggests that Pilates method is more effective than minimal physical exercise intervention in reducing pain.

I agree. Pilates does help.

I also use Yoga exercises for my clients with great success. All Yoga and Pilates exercises can be modified to help people who are stiff and sore, who haven’t worked out in a long time, who are in pain and/or scared of exacerbating their pain. Relief is possible!

Please don’t simply take any old Pilates class, however. There are some out there who have taken a weekend training course and then go forth and teach Pilates classes. These people are not really trained. ALWAYS check your instructor’s credentials. If you have questions about their certifications, drop me a note and I’ll happily check for you. There are some GREAT certification programs out there now, and I’ll be happy to look at your instructors and let you know if they have had sufficient training to help you.

If you’d like to work with me either in person, or via SKYPE, please contact me HERE.

Best of Health,

Kathi

Back Pain? – Walk Like John Wayne!

One of the best ways to reduce your back pain is to improve your walk. I have talked a lot on these pages about sitting, and given you some great exercises to do, when sitting, to ward off back pain, but HOW we walk is just as important. 

Here's a video from one of my presentations that includes a short demonstration of John Wayne's swagger! Yes, the old cowboy knew what he was doing.  

Give it a try, "pardner"!

Best of Health,

Kathi

 

Do You Know How To “Stand Tall?”

I am always so pleased when one of my students "finds" their Serratus Anterior muscles. This muscle wraps around your bottom ribs and it's one that we do not use in our regular day to day activities, but one that is so important for keeping our spines aligned and preventing back pain! I'm sure we used it more when we were hunters and gatherers, but in today's world, not so much!

Not that any of us look like Arnold in the day, but here he is showing off his!Arnold showing Serratus Anterior

I work this muscle hard in my beginners Pilates classes and I use it in my coaching, as well, due to the effect it has on our posture. When this muscle is strong, it's so much easier to stand up tall. And when you can stand and sit taller, you also begin using other muscles along the spine as they were designed to be used. You'll notice faster improvement when you work out, and you'll breathe easier and feel better.

Standing up tall does not mean sucking in your gut, pushing your shoulders back and your chest out. This is what I was taught in school, it's the way military personnel are taught. Yet, it's completely wrong according to what we now know about the health of our spine. How many of us gals were taught, as little tykes in dance lessons, to tuck in our pelvis? I know that back in the day, teachers believed that's what would protect our back, but we know better now. Sucking in that gut and tucking the pelvis causes us to lose that lovely little curve in our lower back and we need that curve for proper alignment! Standing or walking with a tucked pelvis on a regular basis can cause our lumbar disks to become damaged (bulging, herniation, etc.)

And how many have neck and shoulder issues right now? Check your shoulders when you are doing a routine task and see if you are tensing them or wearing them as earmuffs. I can't walk through a store or down a busy street without seeing a large percentage of people tensing their shoulders to walk, fold clothes, or ring up a purchase. Totally unnecessary. In fact, walking and working become easier when you can learn to relax your shoulders!

Good posture is much more important than most of us think. That pain in your back or neck can be caused by, or at the very least is exacerbated by, poor posture. So, what's a gal (or guy) to do?

  1. Stand in front of a mirror normally. Concentrate on raising your rib cage up toward your head as you inhale. (easier to do it on an inhale at first) Now, notice how your spine has lengthened, your stomach has reduced in size a bit and your shoulders have squared automatically.
  2. Turn sideways in the mirror and do it again. Notice the same things. But also notice that when you do this, your lower back curve remains, it's not forced backwards. 

Now you are truly "Standing Tall" as our bodies are designed to do. No tensing of shoulders, not harming the lower back, just plain old good posture. 

Practice this whenever you think about it, until it becomes second nature to you, to both inhale and exhale with a lovely long spine.

Best of health, 

Kathi

Feeling Overwhelmed and Overwrought?

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,

Kathi

 

Simple, Affordable Stress Relief!

cover-jpegMy 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

Take a peek on AMAZON or our WEB PAGE today! Thanks.

Best of Health,

Kathi

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