Monday, August 24, 2009

A Holistic Approach to Back Pain

  • Frequent changes of position are natural and healthy. At work, try to take regular breaks and set up your office so that you have to get up to file or answer the phone.
  • When lifting heavy objects, use your legs as much as possible. If you need to bend forward, don't bend at the waist. Fold forward from the hips without allowing your lower back to round. Try to maintain a normal curvature in the lower and upper spine and avoid twisting and bending simultaneously, as this is a common mechanism of back injury.
  • Wear the right shoes. Narrow-toed shoes lead to tension in the legs and back. High heels shorten the calf muscles and hamstrings and can contribute to back strain.
  • Topical creams containing capsaicin or arnica and liniments based on methyl-salicylate, menthol, and camphor are soothing and very safe.
  • Many people find applications of ice helpful and, once the injury is starting to heal, switch to moist heat, either alone or alternating with ice. Heat can also be useful to reduce stiffness before attempting to exercise.
  • Willow bark tea (which contains the active ingredient of aspirin) may be useful.
  • If your pain is severe and does not respond to over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatory pain relievers, ask your doctor about prescribing opioids. They are generally more effective and safer than many other pain medications, but due to exaggerated fear of addiction, they aren't used as often as they ought to be.
  • The evidence on acupuncture for back pain is mixed, but it is very safe and worth considering.
  • Hands-on bodywork approaches, such as chiropractic, physical therapy, therapeutic massage, and osteopathy can help you through a flare-up of back pain (though not all osteopaths do spinal manipulation, so ask before making an appointment).
  • Judith finds many people with back pain get better results if they combine their yoga with bodywork such as myofascial release designed to iron out the kinks in muscles and connective tissue, and free up scar tissue and other residuals of past injuries.
(Judith Hanson Lasater calls herself a yoga teacher who also happens to be a physical therapist. She also holds a doctorate in East-West psychology, and is the author of six books on yoga, including Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times, on the practice and therapeutic aspects of restorative yoga. She teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area and worldwide.
  • Judith has found the Alexander Technique, which stresses postural education, particularly effective for back problems, both as prevention and treatment.
Source from Yoga as Medicine by Timothy McCall, M.D.

Examples of bad posture and back support:

The following are examples of common behavior and poor ergonomics that need correction to attain good posture and back support:
  • Slouching with the shoulders hunched forward
  • Lordosis (also called "swayback"), which is too large of an inward curve in the lower back
  • Carrying something heavy on one side of the body
  • Cradling a phone receiver between the neck and shoulder
  • Wearing high-heeled shoes or clothes that are too tight
  • Keeping the head held too high or looking down too much
  • Sleeping with a mattress or pillow that doesn't provide proper back support, or in a position that compromises posture

Examples of bad posture while sitting in an office chair

The following bad habits are especially common when sitting in an office chair for long periods of time.
  • Slumping forward while sitting in an office chair
  • Not making use of the office chair’s lumbar back support
  • Sliding forward on the seat of the office chair

Guidelines to Improve Posture

Sitting posture for office chairs
  • Be sure the back is aligned against the back of the office chair. Avoid slouching or leaning forward, especially when tired from sitting in the office chair for long periods
  • For long term sitting, such as in an office chair, be sure the chair is ergonomically designed to properly support the back and that it is a custom fit
  • When sitting on an office chair at a desk, arms should be flexed at a 75 to 90 degree angle at the elbows. If this is not the case, the office chair should be adjusted accordingly
  • Knees should be even with the hips, or slightly higher when sitting in the office chair
  • Keep both feet flat on the floor. If there's a problem with feet reaching the floor comfortably, a footrest can be used along with the office chair
  • Sit in the office chair with shoulders straight
  • Don't sit in one place for too long, even in ergonomic office chairs that have good back support. Get up and walk around and stretch as needed
Standing posture
  • Stand with weight mostly on the balls of the feet, not with weight on the heels
  • Keep feet slightly apart, about shoulder-width
  • Let arms hang naturally down the sides of the body
  • Avoid locking the knees
  • Tuck the chin in a little to keep the head level
  • Be sure the head is square on top of the neck and spine, not pushed out forward
  • Stand straight and tall, with shoulders upright
  • If standing for a long period of time, shift weight from one foot to the other, or rock from heels to toes.
  • Stand against a wall with shoulders and bottom touching wall. In this position, the back of the head should also touch the wall - if it does not, the head is carried to far forward (anterior head carriage).
Walking posture
  • Keep the head up and eyes looking straight ahead
  • Avoid pushing the head forward
  • Keep shoulders properly aligned with the rest of the body
Driving posture
  • Sit with the back firmly against the seat for proper back support
  • The seat should be a proper distance from the pedals and steering wheel to avoid leaning forward or reaching
  • The headrest should support the middle of the head to keep it upright. Tilt the headrest forward if possible to make sure that the head-to-headrest distance is not more than four inches.
Posture and ergonomics while lifting and carrying
  • Always bend at the knees, not the waist
  • Use the large leg and stomach muscles for lifting, not the lower back
  • If necessary, get a supportive belt to help maintain good posture while lifting
  • When carrying what a heavy or large object, keep it close to the chest
  • If carrying something with one arm, switch arms frequently
  • When carrying a backpack or purse, keep it as light as possible, and balance the weight on both sides as much as possible, or alternate from side to side
  • When carrying a backpack, avoid leaning forward or rounding the shoulders. If the weight feels like too much, consider using a rolling backpack with wheels.
Sleeping posture with mattresses and pillows
  • A relatively firm mattress is generally best for proper back support, although individual preference is very important
  • Sleeping on the side or back is usually more comfortable for the back than sleeping on the stomach
  • Use a pillow to provide proper support and alignment for the head and shoulders
  • Consider putting a rolled-up towel under the neck and a pillow under the knees to better support the spine
  • If sleeping on the side, a relatively flat pillow placed between the legs will help keep the spine aligned and straight.
It is important to note that an overall cause of bad posture is tense muscles, which will pull the body out of alignment. There are a number of specific exercises that will help stretch and relax the major back muscles. Some people find that meditation or other forms of mental relaxation are effective in helping relax the back muscles. And many people find treatments and activities such as massage therapy, yoga, tai chi or other regular exercise routines, or treatments such as chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation, etc. to be helpful with both muscle relaxation and posture awareness and improvement.

Source from Dr. David Tio

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Yoga Posture: The Bow (Dhanurasana)

Dhanu means a bow. The Bow is a backward bending exercise which raises both halves of the body at the same time. When the Bow or Dhanurasana is performed, the body is bent to give the appearance of a bow. The stretched (straight) arms resemble the bowstring.

This asana gives the combined effect of the Cobra and Locust Poses. These three exercises can always be done together, forming a valuable set of backward bending exercises. The Bow can act as a counter-pose to Halasana (Plough) and Paschimotanasana (Forward Bend). It is a full backward bend to complement these two forward bending exercises. As the two forward bend flexes the spine, the Bow extends it.

Physical Benefits
  • Massaages and invigorates the internal organs, especially the digestive organs. The large and small intestine as well as the liver and spleen are benefited. Fat is removed. The Bow relieves congestion of blood in the abdominal viscera and tones them.
  • This asana is useful in aiding chronic constipation, dyspepsia, the sluggishness of the liver and gastro-intestinal disorders.
  • The Bow is specially recommended for people with diabetes, as it helps to regulate the pancreas.
  • Strengthens the abdominal muscles.
  • Women specially benefit from the Bow.
  • The thoraic and the chest region is expanded, a boon to persons suffering from respiratory problems such as asthma.
  • It helps hunchback, rheumatism of the legs, knee-joints and hands.
  • Enhances the elasticity of the spine.
  • The Bow works on the entie spine. Flexibility is brought to all regions: cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral.
  • Massages all the muscles of the back.
  • Just as the Forward Bend hyper-extends the spine, so the Bow hyper-contracts it.
  • Ossification of the bones is prevented.

Mental Benefits
  • Regular practice develops internal balance and harmony.
  • Strengthens concentration and mental determination.

Pranic Benefits
  • The person who practises the Bow regularly can never be lazy, but will be full of energy, vigour, and youthful vitality.
  • Stimulates the lung, small intestine, stomach, liver, and urinary bladder meridians.

Common Faults
  • Hands are clasped around the feet, rather than around the ankles.
  • Only the upper part of body is being lifted up from the ground.
  • Elbows are bent, and the knees are bent too sharply, allowing the heels to come down to the buttocks.
  • Body is twisted to one side.
  • Head is forwards, rather than being stretched up and back.

Note: Please perform the yoga posture under the guide of a certified yoga teacher especially for beginner. You are at your own risk and responsible if you perform on your own. Whatever provided here is just act as an information.

Source from Light on Yoga by  B.K.S. Iyengar
                      Yoga Mind & Body by Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tomato Sauce Recipe

If you prefer a smoother tomato sauce to pour over a dish or for use in other recipes, such as Lasagne, puree in a blender.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 450g (1lb) mixed diced vegetables: eg. courgette, green pepper, and carrot
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 480g (1lb) fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped or 2 x 400g (14oz) tins tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons tomato puree
  • 1/4 teaspoon honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat; saute the vegetables for a few minutes, stirring well. Add the herbs and cook for few more minutes, stirring. Add the other ingredients and simmer for a further 45 minutes. Leave the sauce to stand for as long as possible before serving, to bring out the full flavour. Makes about 1kg (2lb).

Source from Yoga Mind & Body - Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre

Lasagne Recipe

A well-known and ever-popular dish; vegans can leave out the cheese.

  • 175g (6oz) spinach, steamed and squeezed dry
  • 284g (10oz) block firm tofu, crumbled and drained
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium courgettes, cut into julienne strips
  • 1 mediium red pepper, cut into julienne strips
  • olive oil
  • 1kg (2lb) Tomato Sauce
  • 6 sheets dried lasagne, cooked and drained
  • 120g (4oz) grated vegetarian Cheddar cheese (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese or yeast (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower or sesame seeds
Chop the spinach, mix with the tofu, and season with salt and pepper. Saute the courgettes and pepper in the oil for 3 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Put a layer of tomato sauce in an oiled 20 x 25cm (10 x 8in) baking dish. Cover this with a layer of lasagne, half the tofu/spinach mixture, then half the courgettes and peppers. Sprinkle with half the grated cheese (if using). Repeat the layers, and top with Parmesan cheese or yeast (if using), and sunflower or sesame seeds. Bake for 50-60 minutes until bubbling and golden. Serves 4.

Source from Yoga Mind & Body - Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Yoga Posture: The Corpse (Savasana)

Sava means a corpse. In this asana the object is to imitate a corpse. Once life has departed, the body remains still and no movements are possible. By remaining motionless for some time and keeping the mind still while you are fully conscious, you learn to relax. This conscious relaxation invigorates and refreshes both body and mind. But it is much harder to keep the mind than the body still. Therefore, this apparently easy posture is one of the most difficult to master.

Lying upon one's back on the ground at full length like a corpse is called Savasana. This posture removes and destroys the fatigu, and induces calmness of mind and quiets the agitation of the mind.

Steady, smooth, fine and deep breathing without any jerky movements of the body soothes the nerves and calms the mind. The streses of modern civilisation are a strain on the nerves for which Savasana is the best antidote.

When the body and the mind are constantly overworked, their natural efficiency diminishes. Modern social life, food, work and even so-called entertainment, such as disco dancing, make it difficult for people to relax. Many have even forgotten that rest and relaxation are Nature's way of recharging. Even while trying to rest, the average person wastes a lot of the body's physical and mental energy through tension. More of our energy is spent in keeping the muscles in continual readiness than in actual useful work. In order to regulate and balance the body and mind, it is best to learn to economize our energy. We can do this best by learning to relax.

In the course of a day, the body usually produces all the substances and energy it needs. But these may be consumed within a few minutes by bad moods, anger or intense irritation. The process of eruption and repression of violent emotions often grows into a regular habit. The result is disastrous for the body, and also for the mind. Yoga precribes a period of complete relaxation, when practically no energy or "Prana" is being consumed. Perfect relaxation must be practised on three levels: physical, mental and spiritual.

Physical Relaxation

Every action is the result of thought. But just as the mind may send a message to the muscles ordering them to contract, the mind may also send a message to bring relaxation to tired muscles. At the end of every asana class, a complete physical relaxation is practised. This autosuggestion begins with the toes and moves upward through the muscles. Then messages are sent to the kidneys, liver and all the other internal organs. This relaxation position is known as Savasana, or the "Corpse Pose".

Mental Relaxation

When experiencing mental tension, it is advisable to breathe slowly and rhythmically for a few minutes. Soon the mind will become calm. You may experience a kind of floating sensation.
Spiritual Relaxation

However one may try to relax the mind, all tensions and worries cannot be completely removed until one reaches spiritual relaxation. As long as a person identifies with the body and mind, there will be worries, sorrows, anxieties, fear and anger. These emotions bring tension. Yogis know that unless a person can withdraw from the body/mind idea and separate himself from the ego-consciousness, there is no way of obtaining complete relaxation.

The Yogi identifies himself with the all-pervading, all-powerful, all-peaceful and joyful Self, the pure Consciousness within. He knows that the source of all power, knowledge, peace and strength is in the Self, not in the body. We tune to this by asserting the real nature, that is "I am that pure Consciousness or Self." This identification with the Self completes the process of relaxation.
                      The Sivananda Yoga Training Manual

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Holistic Approach to Anxiety & Panic Attacks

  • Depression, alcohol abuse, diabetes, and thyroid disease, among other conditions, can cause anxiety and should be ruled out or treated.
  • If significant anger or a low level of self-esteem is part of your symptoms, you may have an underlying depression and may benefit from consulting with a physician or psychotherapist.
  • Psychotherapy can be an important tool for anxiety. The combination of therapy and drugs or therapy and yoga is likely to be more effective than either alone.
  • Although tranquilizers in the Valium family are often prescribed for anxiety, due to side effects including drowsiness and addiction, when drugs are needed, most experts favor antidepressants such as Prozac (fluoxetine) or Zoloft (sertraline).
  • News reports, particularly television news, can fuel anxiety. Instead of watching the news for half an hour a day, do yoga instead and see if you feel better.
  • Rolf suggests cutting back on processed foods, junk food, and chemicals that increase the activation of your nervous system. In particular, he advises reducing or eliminating caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and nicotine. Rolf also favors well-cooked as opposed to raw foods in people with anxiety.
(Rolf Sovik began studying yoga with Swami Rama in the early 1970s. At his guru's suggestion, he pursued a doctorate in clinical psychology, writing a master's thesis comparing cognitive therapy to yoga, and completing a research project on the use of breathing in the treatment of anxiety. Rolf practices as a psychotherapist, teaches yoga, and with his wife, Mary Gail, is codirector of the Himalayan Institute of Buffalo, New York. He is the coauthor with Sandra Anderson of the book Yoga: Mastering the Basics, and author of Moving Inward: The Journey to Meditation.)
  • The omega-3 fatty acids found in some deepwater fish and in flaxseed oil appear to reduce anxiety.
  • German chamomile, tincture of passion flower, supplemental B vitamins, and magnesium are safe remedies that appear to have antianxiety properties. Aromatherapy with such fragrances as lavender has been shown to be calming.
  • Other measures to combat anxiety include acupuncture and regular aerobic exercise.

Source from Yoga as Medicine - The Yogic Prescription for Health & Healing by Timonthy McCall, M.D.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

My Daily Breakfast

Breakfast is very important. If you want to skip any meal, never skip breakfast. Since breakfast is so important, it's best try to keep it healthy most of the time.

Some people complain that eating breakfast makes them feel hungrier and eat more later on. But studies have shown the opposite is true: breakfast eaters consume fewer calories and less fat throughout the rest of the day. If you are hungry again immediately after breakfast, it's probably a sign that you still haven't eaten enough.

Start the day with plenty of energy-rich food and choose a carbohydrate-rich, low-fat breakfast to get through a busy morning. It's worth getting up a little earlier and giving yourself time to wake up with a good breakfast, instead of waiting for hunger to strike mid-morning when the only handy options seem to be sugary doughnuts or chocolate. Healthy eating can taste good too.

If you do feel hungry between meals, snack on fresh fruit, bagels, pretzels or dried fruit and a few raw nuts. But remember dried fruit and nuts are high energy foods, so don't overdo them if you are trying to lose weight.

Interested to know what I have for breakfast? Above is my daily breakast I use to have almost everyday, especially on weekdays. Honey drink, mixed fruits and nuts. Above is my yesterday breakfast. They are honey drink, mixed fruits of apple, guava, cherries and longan, and raw nuts of walnut, almond, sunflower seeds and some raisins. I also take abit of high calcium and low fat milk too.

On the day where I have morning class to do, I will have some oatmeal too. I always wake up early to take my breakfast in order to give enough time for the foods to digest before I do my class.

On the day where I have no morning class to do, like yesterday and I'm on a good weekend mood, I might have something extra on top of my usual breakfast if there is something I crave for I can find in the kitchen.

I have this "piah" as extra for my breakfast yesterday. I would not consider this "piah" is a healthy food. Once a while is fine to pamper yourself. Doesn't mean you have to eat healthy therefore have to give up all your favourite sinful food! You don't have to give up at all. In fact if you have it just once a while you will enjoy it more at that moment!

But careful don't let your craving over take you. You have to keep your mind strong enough to keep it in control.

One of the way to remove your craving for unhealthy food is to find something to do in order to divert your mind to some where else. Another way is to think of the cause and effect. Example: let said you are concern about your body weight. So think of how much more extra fat and calories you will put on into your body after the unhealthy food which will help to turn you off from it.

May good health be always with all of you!