1. Getting Fit Using Alternate Exercise

    October 17, 2013

    by Laura Green

    Well, age 34 is just a few months away (much fewer than I would like). The days when I would jog or swim a couple of miles a day are distant, dusty memories. Now, I get out of breath climbing the stairs out of the basement. But, I would like to get back into the healthy department, the question is, where should I start?

    Yoga

    Yeah, I always thought this was an “old lady’s” way of pretending to be in shape. Boy, was I wrong? I first became acquainted with yoga a few years ago when a middle-aged woman I knew – a breast cancer survivor – told me about the flexibility she had gained through yoga. I have never been flexible.

    Another exposure to this form of exercise was when I saw a 93 year old man reach down and touch his toes – with no trouble. He said that he was flexible enough for that because of yoga.

    Let me tell you, yoga is not “sitting funny” and chanting weird stuff. This non-impact exercise regimen has stretched parts of my body that I never thought could bend. It is ability based, so that old back injury from a car wreck is not in the least aggravated by my exercise. Regardless of your physical ability, size, age, and even inclination, you will find that yoga can build your core strength and improve muscle tone. All of this helps your circulation and lowers stress levels, too.

    Yoga doesn’t have to be overexertion, you work your muscles fairly hard and as a result you’re increasing the blood flow through your body. Pranayama, a breathing exercise can increase your heart rate and help supply nutrients and oxygen to your muscles. It all helps to boost your metabolism and everyone knows that a healthy metabolism contributes to the burning of excess weight and in turn will make you fitter.

    Tai Chi

    Tai Chi is a form of fitness more or less a moving type of yoga, You could refer to it as a sort of meditation in motion. The movements are adapted from martial arts and the movements of animals and birds in nature. The movements are arranged in “sets”. The movement is slow and graceful, and meditation is a key part in the exercise, or vital force in the body, to Taoism. But even if you don’t subscribe to the mysticism, Tai Chi is a great way to build your sense of balance and strengthen muscle groups.

    Tai Chi also features breathing exercises, “Qigong” can be practiced sitting, standing or lying down and can help mobilize and relax the body. Tai chi is a great way to reduce stress and increase circulation and muscle tone, a great way to get back into fitness.

    Fitness Retreats

    This is a bit of a different one, I would say the least popular most likely. But when you just don’t have the willpower to get youself doing the previous methods, or even just standard exercise, this is a great way to get fit again. The negative moniker greatly underestimates the good done by spas and camps. A day, a week, or a month at a weight loss clinic or spa can be the jump start for your weight loss and fitness regimen. There are reality shows based on this premise, with coaches that “urge” people to perform physical feats they never before would have attempted.

    However, not all weight loss camps and spas are like that. You’ll find that extreme exercise and dieting is not necessary when you have a little encouragement from a skilled coach and trainer. While the extreme features of televised fat camps may appeal to some, to others, weight loss and fitness just seem further away.

    Alternative exercise can be the perfect way to get back in shape if you haven’t already tried it. Just remember, it’s all about sticking with it, Perhaps getting older won’t be so bad, after all.

     

    Author Bio: Laura Green loves to write about the struggle of weight gain and how to get back into shape. She has recently booked herself an appointment at Yeotown in Devon, a health camp that provides yoga and other great fitness ideas.


  2. The Psychological Benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong Practice

    April 21, 2013

    Tai Chi

    Image Credit: Garry Knight

    by Dan Kleiman

     

    The evidence is in that slow movement, coupled with body awareness not only has astounding health benefits but amazing psychological benefits as well. Recently, the Los Angeles Times published a story about the widespread use of slow movement , awareness-based therapies, for the treatment of pain brought on by “…cancer and cancer treatments, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis and other diseases and conditions, in pain clinics and integrative medicine centers. These treatment plans include such routines as Tai Chi and Hatha Yoga.

    One of the main reasons that programs such as Tai Chi, Qigong and Yoga are so effective in managing pain is that the exercises help to relieve the depression often caused by chronic pain, greatly improving the quality of life. Continued practice not only keeps depression at bay but also improves confidence. In the above-mentioned study patients with chronic low back pain took a 12 week course of Hatha Yoga had significantly less problems with depression and disability than the standard care control group did. The same study using Tai Chi in treating the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis reported less pain, stress and a much greater awareness of their body and more confidence.

    Medical experts are divided as to why these treatments are so effective. The most common consensus among researchers however is that the exercises encourage parasympathetic relaxation responses that reduce the stress response, inhibit inflammation, promotes immune functions and stimulates healing. They believe that the slow, deliberate movements extend the benefits of cardiovascular exercise to a much deeper level, drawing on previously untapped resources.

    The graceful, choreographed movement sequences of Tai Chi, called the “solo form” begin the process of merging mind, body and spirit. While learning solo form Tai Chi, students learn to feel different internal qualities and their outward manifestations. These different “energies” are called the 13 Postures of Tai Chi. As you perfect the 13 Postures, you are better able to relax: you sink your energy, lengthen the spine, relax the joints and muscles and calm the mind.

    When combined with appropriate breathing exercises, in which the breath is in harmony with the movements, the internal musculature of the shoulders, lower back and legs will open , with each breath taken. This promotes stillness, sensitizes the mind to both internal and external perceptions, suppresses jagged, hurried thought processes and raises the spirit.

     

    Later on, students more to two-person exercises called Push Hands. In Push Hands, you engage in extension and retraction movements in response to another person. You learn to neutralize your fight or flight response by grounding the other person’s force, in a gradual, non-threatening, systematic progression of exercises.

    In this video, you can see how our typical response is to either tense up or run away when we are faced with a threat: http://youtu.be/dbt1nC9jypI

    Tai Chi trains you to respond in a completely different way. You learn to “sink your chi”, staying grounded, present, and connected to the reality of the situation when you are faced with a mental, emotional, or physical challenge.

    In Tai Chi Push Hands, you learn that forcing a situation to resolve in a pre-determined way won’t work. Instead, you have to go into each encounter “grounded” and “listening”, or engaged and with an open mind. The big difference with Tai Chi, though, is that you do practices that help you learn this idea in your body. It’s not just something you tell yourself.

    Where your solo form practice helps begin the healing process by gradually eliminating chronic pain, stiffness and/or depression, interactive practices allow you to go deeper into the psychological dimensions of your relationships with people all around you.

    Push Hands exercises also address problems with visual perception and balance, by introducing resistance, reaction time, and sensitivity to outside factors. There are currently many studies, and more being currently conducted, that illustrate the many health benefits, both physical and psychological that students of Tai Chi, Qigong, and Yoga receive. These exercises have been shown to not only be great for preventing illness and promoting psychological well-being, but more and more medical professionals are exploring ways to integrate these traditional practices into treatment programs for their patients.

     

    Author Bio: Dan Kleiman teaches Tai Chi and qigong to adults looking to slow down, relax, and improve their health. Try more of these practices through Dan’s free email-based course and you will have more energy in the next 30 days than you’ve had in the last year. http://dankleiman.com/get-moving/