How Yoga Alleviates Stress Related Conditions And Body Aches

Any situation the body perceives as dangerous or threatening triggers the stress or “fight or flight” response in the body. This threat may be overt physical danger or more subtle, dealing with interpersonal conflict such as a disagreement with a coworker or situational pressures, like coping with financial problems.

The body’s efforts to deal with a threatening situation cause a series of reactions. The heart accelerates to provide maximum oxygen levels to organs and cells. The muscles tighten and shorten to prepare for action, to maneuver through the situation, to fight or to flee from the danger. Adrenaline courses through the body heightening awareness and providing a quick burst of energy.

The automatic stress response serves a purpose. It protects the body. However, chronic stress, remaining in a stress response state for a prolonged period of time, takes a negative toll on the body. It causes physical and psychological distress, which affects a person’s overall health and well-being.

Effects Of Stress

• 43% of all adults suffer from health problems because of stress.
• 75% to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
• Stress is a key contributor to heart disease, headaches, body aches, high blood pressure, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, anxiety, and depression.
• The 50% prevalence of any emotional disorder is typically due to untreated stress.
• The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that stress is a significant hazard in the workplace and results in costs of over $300 billion annually.

Symptoms of chronic stress related to the continuous release of stress hormones and an elevated metabolism:

• The digestive system may experience stress as stomach aches, nausea, and intestinal irritability.

• Mentally, a person under chronic stress may experience racing thoughts, unreasonable worrying, lack of focus and disorganization and pessimism.

• A person under chronic stress also displays emotional and behavioral markers of the condition. They may become irritable, experience feelings of overwhelm, depression and low self-esteem.

• Stress associated behaviors, overeating or undereating, avoidance and displaying nervous behaviors like nail biting and pacing emerge under chronic stress.

• Stress related aches and pains could occur in different parts of the body. When the muscles shorten or tighten to prepare for action within the stress response then remain that way, it causes aches and pains in different parts of the body.

Where muscular tension presents itself while under stress varies from one person to another. Some people may clench or tighten their jaw causing pain and discomfort in this area and possibly across the forehead and scalp. Other people hold tension in the shoulders and neck. Some people may find themselves experiencing chronic backaches.

Yoga and Stress Related Aches and Pains

Essentially, yoga acts as a therapeutic antidote to stress; it provides physical, mental, and emotional relief to people experiencing chronic stress. Relief occurs during the actual yoga practice and the benefits continue to present beyond sessions when a person practices yoga consistently.

Yoga poses ease stress related aches and pains due to muscular tension. The yoga poses stretch, lengthen, strengthen, and relax tense muscles. The meditation and breathing exercises calm the mind and the nervous system. They also allow a person to reestablish mental focus and clarity during and following practice.

The breath work and poses practiced during yoga elicit the relaxation response in the body, which helps to decrease and regulate stress hormones.

It is also important to note that yoga has a profound effect on various aspects of one’s health, including the ability to lower blood pressure, prevent heart disease, help regulate blood sugars in diabetes, and decrease anxiety, all of which are commonly seen with chronic stress.

How To Utilize Yoga To Manage Stress

If one intends to develop a yoga practice as part of a stress management plan, consistency is key to success. Yoga provides progressive therapy.

The poses reshape and improve the health and functionality of the muscles, the joints and organs over time; it is a form of training and as with any training, regular practice sets the stage for progress.

This also applies to the meditative and relaxation exercises associated with the practice. According to Dr. Debra Fulghum Bruce, PhD, recent studies show as little as three months of weekly yoga practice, relieves stress related headaches, backaches, reduces stress, and lowers cortisol (stress hormone) secretions. It also lowers blood pressure and improves participant’s mood.

Practicing yoga has been shown to relieve the immediate symptoms of stress related aches, pains, mental distress, and negative emotional states. It also appears to effectively counter the fight or flight stress response by lowering cortisol levels and teaching the mind to observe (through meditation) rather than react to situations.

People experiencing chronic stress can benefit greatly from incorporating a yoga practice in their health regimen. You can begin with yoga by joining a class that is led by a qualified instructor. There are also instructional programs available on DVD. It is very important to learn proper techniques for poses and breath work to reap all the benefits yoga has to offer.

How Laughter Can Improve Your Overall Health

Laughter can be infectious. When you hear the sound of laughter, you can’t help but laugh yourself. When laughter is shared among others, it causes a binding between people and increases both intimacy and happiness.

It is well known that laughter triggers healthy bodily changes and healthy changes in the mind. Laughter can increase your energy level, lessen pain, strengthen the immune system, and protect you from stress. Laughter is the best medicine because it is free, fun, and easy.

Laughter is Strong Medicine

Laughter can be a strong antidote to conflict, pain, and stress. There is nothing else that works more dependably or quicker to bring your body and mind into balance than laughter. The use of humor can lighten your burdens, connect you to others, inspire your hope, and keep you focused, alert, and grounded.

With this ability to renew your health and heal you, laughter can be a great resource for whatever problems you may have. It can also strengthen your relationships, and can support your emotional and physical health and well-being.

How Is Laughter Good For Your Health?

Laughter can do many things for your health. These include the following:

• Laughter can increase your immune system. It can decrease the level of stress hormones within the body and increase the number of immune cells and antibodies you have, which will help you become more resistant to disease.

• Laughter is relaxing. A wonderful laugh can relieve you of stress and physical tension so that your muscles can be relaxed for up to 45 minutes following laughing.

• Laughter releases endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s feel-good hormones. When your endogenous endorphins are released, you feel a sense of well-being and a reduction in the sensation of pain.

• Laughter can help the heart. Laughter can increase the ability of the blood vessels to nourish all parts of the body. It can increase your blood flow, which in turn can help prevent heart attacks and other types of heart diseases.

The Overall Benefits Of Laughter

Laughter is known to have many health benefits, including physical, emotional, and social benefits.
Some of these include the following:

• Decreases your stress levels
• Increases your immunity
• Relaxes your muscles
• Protects your heart
• Lessens pain
• Lessens fear and anxiety
• Relieves stress
• Adds joy to your life
• Enhances your mood
• Improves your resilience
• Attracts other people to us
• Promotes the bonding among group members
• Improves teamwork
• Strengthens relationships

Laughter Can Help Your Emotional Health

Laughter simply makes a person feel good. This good feeling persists even when you are done laughing. Laughter helps you maintain an optimistic, positive outlook so you can better get through situations of loss, disappointments, and other difficult situations.

Laughter is more than just a protection against pain and sadness. It gives you the strength and courage to find other sources of hope and meaning. Even when you find yourself in the most difficult of times, laughter or even a smile can take you far when it comes to feeling better. Laughter really is a bit contagious. When you hear someone else laugh, it primes your brain and sets you up to join that person in laughing, too.

Laughter And Mental Health

Laughter is associated with better mental health. Some things laughter can do to improve your mental health include the following:

• Laughter allows you to relax. A good laugh can lessen stress and increase your energy levels so that you can remain focused and get more things accomplished.
• Laughter can lessen distress. It is hard to feel sad, anxious, or angry when you are instead laughing.
• Laughter shifts your perspective. It allows you to see things in a less threatening and more realistic light. Being humorous helps create a psychological distance between you and stressful events so that you don’t feel so overwhelmed.

Laughter Has Social Benefits

When you use humor and engage in playful communication with others, your relationships become stronger and you trigger positive emotions and an emotional connection with those you are laughing with. A positive bond develops—one that can act as a powerful buffer against disappointment, disagreements, and stress. When you laugh with others, this is a more powerful thing than when you laugh alone.

How To Create More Opportunities To Laugh

There are things you can do to increase your chances of laughing. Here are some you might try:

• Attend a comedy club
• Watch something funny on television
• Watch videos of funny animals there are tons on YouTube, or just add the search term “funny” into the YouTube search bar
• Read the comics in the newspaper
• Be with people who are funny
• Share a funny story or joke with another
• Read a funny book
• Sponsor a game night with your friends
• Play with your pet
• Play with children
• Do something you think is silly
• Engage in activities you consider fun

Laughter can do a lot to help you feel better on a physical, emotional, and cognitive level. Don’t be afraid to share a good laugh with others for all around better health.

How Strength Training Helps Raise Your Metabolism

Without exercising, it is difficult to maintain your weight, or even lose if that is your goal. You have to burn the same amount of calories consumed to maintain and burn more to lose weight. Exercising is the key to both.

But not all exercise is equal. The type of exercise you do, along with intensity and duration, makes a difference in the number of calories burned, both at the time you are exercising and well after. Other factors that affect the number of calories burned are age, gender and genetics – all of which you can’t do much about. So focus on the one thing that you can control – exercising.

Aerobic exercise, like cardio and endurance, are activities usually done at a slower pace, but over a longer period of time. These activities burn calories but usually focuses on burning stored fat. Walking, running, Zumba and Pilates are all types of training that fall into this category. These activities burn calories, but they are calories that the body doesn’t need to replace, so the rate at which your body is burning calories decreases once the aerobic activities stop.

However, when you engage in anaerobic-type activitiesstrength training activities done at a faster pace, but for a shorter duration – you are burning glucose, calories that reside deep within your muscles. This includes activities such as medicine ball throws, kettle bell swings, resistance training and heavy weightlifting. The beauty of strength training is you not only get a high calorie burn while exercising, but the burn continues afterward as your metabolism keeps working at a high rate until it has replaced the glucose that was depleted in your muscles.

The secondary effect of strength training increases the size of your muscles. Ladies, we are not talking about body building – just a toning, firming and slight increase in size. Many women are afraid to get into strength training because they think they will develop a lot of muscle. It just won’t happen; the hormone structure of your gender won’t allow it.

With a more defined muscle structure, your metabolism will work at a higher rate even while at rest and sleeping. More muscle means more glucose in your muscles which makes your metabolism work harder to keep up on the glucose used.

The downside of strength training is you can’t do it six days per week. Your body could never keep up. So a good compromise is to do a cardio activity four days per week and include a couple days of strength training. Just make sure you have a day or two between your two days of strength training.

For strength training, focus on one or two sets of 12 to 15 repetitions in each set of each of your major muscle groups: abs, glutes, quads and biceps.

Strength training gives you the most calorie burning increase, along with giving you a more defined look. When you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, you exude confidence.

5 Reasons Why Women Should Lift Weights

There used to be a belief that women should not lift weights. The thought was women would lose the feminine look when they got “muscled up” and bulky. And yes, if you are a female bodybuilder on supplements and steroids, you won’t look much different from the men who practice the same weightlifting ideals. But you should actually be lifting weights as a woman, and here are 5 really good reasons why.

1 – You Burn More Fat

A Penn State study showed what several other research papers and number crunching fitness experts have revealed. Weight training burns 30% to 40% more fat than diet or aerobic exercise. The Penn State researchers formed 3 groups of dieters:

Those who did not exercise at all…

Dieters who exercised aerobically…

Those dieters that lifted weights as well as doing aerobic exercise…

Across-the-board, an average of 21 pounds was lost by all of the dieters. However, the weightlifting women lost almost pure fat! The dieters who did not exercise, and those that only enjoyed aerobic exercise, saw 25% of their weight loss coming from muscle. Not good.

2 – You Will Have Stronger Bones

Weight resistance training for 12 to 18 weeks delivers bone growth of 15% to 20%. Strength training with weights over time on a consistent basis makes your bones stronger and healthier. This is especially important for women, who suffer a naturally greater tendency for weaker bones and poorer bone density as they age.

3 – You Can Wear More Complementary Clothing

We have already seen that weight training is an awesome fat burner. Between the ages of 30 and 50 women lose 10% to 20% of their muscle naturally. Your body weight usually goes up during this time, in the form of fat gain. A consistent weightlifting regimen helps you regulate a healthy waist size, keeping embarrassing fat from limiting your clothing choices.

4 – You Will Adopt a Nutritious Diet

For any number of reasons, it appears that women who work out with weights frequently often improve their diet as well. It just makes sense. When you see and feel yourself becoming stronger, looking sexier and burning fat, you want to keep the process going. Not only does your body burn more calories as a result of a weight training program, but you mentally find it much easier to stick to a nutritious diet when you like the way you look in the mirror.

5 – You Will Be More Successful, Productive and Happy

When women lift weights as a part of a healthy lifestyle, they burn a lot of fat. This makes them feel good about themselves, and exercise even triggers the release of “feel good” chemicals in your brain. As a result of looking and feeling great, you begin to fuel your body with healthy food as opposed to fast food, sugary sweets and processed garbage. All of these steps combine to make you more productive because you are filled with so much natural energy. This leads to success in all areas of your life, and what woman wouldn’t be happy with that outcome?

10 Fitness Tips For Beginners

If you’re thinking of starting a new fitness regime, use these 10 tips for beginners to make sure that you reach your goals.

1. Make Your Workout Worth It

If you want to get the most out of your workout, you need to remember that around 80% of the results that you get from your workout actually come from just 20% of your workout.

That means that in an hour’s session, only 12 minutes of the workout will contribute to the bulk of your results. You need to make those minutes really count. Use compound movements that work more than one muscle group at a time to really make the most of your time.

2. Remember To Eat Healthy

Any body shaping goals can only be achieved by eating a healthy diet. If you’re going to the gym so that you can go home and eat a double triple cheeseburger with a 2-person serving of French fries, you won’t do your body any favors.

You should make sure that you eat in moderation, and remember that if you’re burning off more calories, you will need to eat that little bit more so that you have enough energy. Balance your nutrition and avoid faddy diets.

3. Change Your Eating Habits

You need to make sure that you eat properly as well as eating healthily. Eating properly includes eating at the right times of the day. Skipping breakfast is a really bad idea and you shouldn’t eat too late in the evening either. Speak to a personal trainer about what would work for you so that you can achieve your goals.

4. Plan Out Your Routine

To make sure that you know just when you’re going to be working out and when you can look forward to some downtime, you really should come up with a plan. Remember to include rest days and be realistic about how much time you can make free.

Remember to stick to your schedule as much as possible so that you don’t slide into the habit of skipping the gym and make your targets achievable.

5. Make A 100% Commitment

You need to remember that your body transformation needs complete dedication from you. You can’t skip a day or two here and there, because you feel as though you deserve it. Plan when your rest day will be and stick to that. Even if you have a vacation planned, check out the local gym, and make sure to take an hour out of each day to continue to work out. Keep up with the healthy eating too.

6. Don’t Let Preconceptions Put You Off

It’s easy to look at a female bodybuilder and suddenly panic if you’re a woman who is trying to lose weight and develop a petite and slender figure.

The reality is that it is virtually impossible for women to bulk like that; it requires a particular plan and effort. If you stick to a plan that your personal trainer has given you, you won’t go wrong.

7. Keep It Simple

You should remember that you are only starting out with fitness. In order to avoid injury and to avoid putting yourself off continuing with your training, you should make sure that you familiarize yourself with the basics first.

Start off with some shorter sessions and then expand your workout as you become more confident and as your fitness, levels start to rise.

8. Prepare For Your New Routine

Make sure that you make yourself available to workout and have a rough plan of how you would like your workout to go. You need to come up with some realistic goals too, so if you want to have 6-pack abs, aim to achieve some muscle definition within 6 months or if you would like to lose 2 stone, make sure that the time-frame that you set yourself is achievable. If you don’t know what your targets are, no personal trainer will be able to help you.

9. Remember Cardio

So you want to get 6-pack abs, bulging biceps, and strong legs? You can’t get those things by just lifting weights. You must remember that while you’re working out, you should fit in a good amount of cardio.

If you’re already carrying excess weight, you need to make sure that you burn off the fat by doing frequent cardio and eventually the muscle will start to show through.

10. Use A Visual Inspiration

It is very helpful to have a visual inspiration to keep you motivated to lose weight. Try performing a Google image search to find photos of people who have a body shape and size similar to your own ideals.  Print out the image or images and display these where you will see them all the time, for example near your work desk, on your car dashboard or on the fridge. This will ensure that you have a visual goal that will keep you motivated every single day!