Yoga: The Pros and The Cons

This past weekend, I attended a Massachusetts charity event for the “Warrior Within Yoga Project”. This organization provides free yoga classes for veterans and first responders (and their families) across Massachusetts.

There is much scientific evidence that yoga supports stress management, mental health, mindfulness, healthy eating, weight loss and better sleep. It improves energy and vitally through it’s deep breathing exercises. This was my first time participating in a yoga class and I can honestly say that yoga is not for the ‘faint of heart’. I thought that the ‘Downward Dog Pose’ was challenging because it requires a great deal of upper body strength, which I do not possess. The class performed more challenging yoga positions that involved squatting and being on all 4′s, which I found painful for my knees. On a more positive note, I found the “Big Toe and Bridge Poses easy to perform. Besides stretching and strengthening the hip extensors,the yoga instructor told us that these positions help to relieve anxiety and support optimal blood pressure levels. My favorite pose was the ‘Corpse Pose” which was done at the conclusion of the class. This pose helps to manage stress by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation.

I would like to incorporate the “Raised arm and Standing Forward Bend” poses along with high lunge poses into my physical therapy practice since they are relatively easy to perform in the standing position. These standing postures support respiration, hamstring, quadriceps and shoulder mobility and strength. When treating patients with osteoporosis, care must be taken not to overly flex and rotate the spine to avoid vertebral fractures.

Chair yoga classes are ideal for those who want the benefits of yoga but have ‘sensitive joints”. Yoga classes can be found at your local Y, community center or private yoga studio. When doing yoga at home (online), be sure to create a space that is clutter and distraction free. Having an empty wall near you to hold onto when performing the standing poses would be beneficial. Adding candles or incense will help to create a calm peaceful space.

Understanding Memory Loss

While attending a Neurocognitive Memory Loss course in San Diego, I took the Mini-Mental State Examination and was happy to find out that my score was optimal and that my occasional memory loss was due to task “overload”. It was suggested that using tools like meditation and stress management would be helpful.

We’ve all forgotten a name, where we put our keys, or if we locked the front door. It is normal to forget things once in a while. However, forgetting how to use the telephone or finding your way home may be signs of a more serious memory problem.

People with mild cognitive impairment ( MCI ) can take care of themselves and do their normal activities. MCI memory problems may include losing things often, forgetting to go to appointments and having more trouble coming up with words than other people the same age. MCI may be an early sign of more serious memory problems to come and it is important to see your doctor every 6-12 months.

We can take steps to help our memory by learning a new skill, following a daily routine, using memory tools such as calendars, to do lists, getting enough sleep, exercising and eating well, cutting down on alcohol consumption and socializing with others.

Certain conditions such as depression, blood clots in the brain, head injury, thyroid, kidney or liver problems may cause temporary memory problems which can improve when treated.

Dementia is the loss of your ability to think, remember and reason to such a level that it interferes with our daily life and activities. Symptoms may include problems with language, trouble reading or recognizing colors or paying attention. Some people experience changes in their personality and behavior. There are different forms of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia and mixed dementia. The two most common forms of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

Alzheimer’s Disease or a related dementia symptoms include making poor judgements and decisions a lot of the time, problems taking care of monthly bills, losing track of the date or time of the year, trouble having a conversation and misplacing things often and being unable to find them. Many may ask the same questions over and over again, get lost in places they know well, be unable to follow recipes or directions and begin to look disheveled due to lack of bathing or poor eating. Alzheimer’s disease changes the brain and causes large numbers of brain cells to die. Overtime chores like shopping, driving and cooking become very difficult. As the illness gets worse, someone with Alzheimer’s disease will need someone to take care of them. Certain medications can help slow down some of the symptoms.

Vascular dementia symptoms may begin suddenly due to changes in brain blood supply, often after a stroke. Controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol, managing diabetes and eliminating smoking can reduce the risk of having more strokes.

A neurologist is one of the health professionals that can diagnose the root cause of memory problems by using brain scans, urinalysis with urine culture, and a neuropsychology evaluation which includes memory testing, sensory testing, balance testing, language and math skills testing. Blood testing can include a complete blood count, comprehensive metabolic panel, B1, B6, B12, zinc, methylmalonic acid, folic acid, ammonia, HIV and syphilis testing.

FInding out what is causing your memory problems is crucial for getting the right treatment and support. Some memory problems get worse over time and It is important to plan ahead and make decisions about legal and financial matters as early as possible.

IRELAND’S GREY ABBEY : THE ULTIMATE HERBAL GARDEN

On the outskirts of Belfast Ireland, in the Ards Peninsula, there is a Cictercian monastery called ‘ Grey Abbey’. It was founded in 1193 by an Anglo Norman woman. It was built in the gothic style, on very fertile land. It was run by monks from the order of ‘Holm Cultram’.

Of particular interest to me is its vast herbal garden. Herbal medicine, also called botanical medicine, refers to using a plant’s seeds ,berries, roots, leaves ,bark or flowers for medicinal purposes. Herbalism has a long tradition of use outside conventional medicine. It is used today by herbalists,naturopaths, acupuncturists, nutritionists and chiropractors to treat and prevent disease .

The monks of Grey Abbey were largely vegetarian and lived by their labor; eating from their vegetable garden and using the herbs grown in their herbal garden in their infirmary. Some of the herbs grown were made into teas such as lemon balm and valerian which had sedative effects useful for inducing sleep. Borage flowers were added to wine to dispel feelings of melancholy . It is said that the monks smoked woodruff and drank wormwood to elicit a ‘ high’ feeling. Many of the leaves from St. John’s wort, feverfew and woundwort were rubbed onto wounds to facilitate healing.

For those interested in learning more about herbalism and natural healing, there are many online sources and books available. It is best, however, to consult with a licensed professional who has extensive knowledge of the use of herbal Medicine if you are seeking treatment for a medical condition.

You can learn more about Grey Abbey by viewing their website GreyAbbeyHouse.com

THE BENEFITS OF TAI CHI

THE BENEFITS OF TAI CHI
I decided to take a tai chi class at the YMCA. I wanted to learn a few new exercises that I
could do with my physical therapy patients. I learned that not only could it improve their
overall strength , balance and range of motion, but it can also lower their stress levels
and blood pressure, while improving their lung function and circulation. There have
been studies that show tai chi can reduce a senior citizen’s fall risk since it improves the
ability to sense the position of one’s body in space which declines with age.

Tai chi originated as an ancient martial art in China. It is a practice that involves a series
of slow gentle movements named for animal actions-for example “white crane spreads
its wings” in a meditative state of mind, with controlled breathing. Movements are never
forced. The muscles are relaxed rather than tensed, the joints are not fully extended or
bent, and connective tissues are not stretched stretched. Tai chi is said to unblock Qi
(the energy force) and encourage the proper flow of energy. Tai chi is said to also
promote the balance of the body’s opposite Yin and Yang elements.

Choose loose-fitting clothes that don’t restrict your range of motion. You need shoes
that won’t slip and can provide enough support to help you balance, but have soles thin
enough to allow you to feel the ground. Running shoes, designed to propel you forward,
are usually unsuitable.

While in the class, I had to modify some of the movements that involved balancing on
one leg due to the strain it put on my “old knees”. Tai chi can be easily adapted for
anyone, from the most fit people to those confined to wheelchairs or recovering from
surgery.

If you have a limiting musculoskeletal problem or medical condition — or if you take
medications that can make you dizzy or lightheaded — check with your doctor or
physical therapist before starting tai chi. Given its excellent safety record, chances are
that you will be encouraged to try it.

Consider observing and taking a class. Taking a class may be the best way to learn tai
chi. Seeing a teacher in action, getting feedback, and experiencing the camaraderie of a
group are all pluses. Contact your local senior center, recreation or community center to
inquire if they offer tai chi. For those with difficulty leaving the home, there are plenty of
videos to watch on YouTube or available for purchase.

Tai chi can be part of a multifaceted exercise regime. Performing different types of
exercises weekly (aerobic, weight lifting, dance, yoga, tai chi) along with following a
healthy eating plan will energize your life!

HOW TO MAINTAIN YOUR WEIGHT WHEN EATING AT A FORMAL EVENT

Happily, I recently flew to New York to attend my oldest niece’s wedding. I was excited for the wedding, but worried that all the unhealthy food choices would ruin the healthy diet plan that I had been following at home.

So, before attending the wedding, in my hotel room, I developed a plan of action. I knew it was important to stick to the Mediterranean diet which limits refined carbohydrates such as pasta, breads, potatoes and rice and therefore lowers your sugar intake. This diet emphasizes eating lean proteins and vegetables that have few saturated fats. It is the sugar and saturated fats that cause inflammation in the body which can lead to heart problems, joint pain and cancer.

Taking control of the amount of food I would be consuming was crucial to avoid weight gain. I promised myself that at the smorgasbord, I would fill at least one half of my plate with vegetables. Grilled vegetables would be ideal. It is best to avoid sauces since they have lots of sugars and fats. I knew pickles and olives were a safe bet. Olives are so nutritious, filled with omega 9 fats that help with heart and skin health.

I decided that I would avoid red meat and instead look for grilled fish and chicken dishes since they have fewer saturated fats. Asian dishes are generally healthier, being stir fried, rather than deep fried. The omega 3 fatty acids in fish are also helpful for heart, joint and brain health. Since I love salads, I plan on filling my plate with salad. Hopefully, I will be able to find a salad that is not already dressed. The dressings would add unnecessary calories. Spritzing the salad with lemon juice and/or olive oil would be a better option.

Now, for the main meal. I would choose a plain soup for the appetizer and avoid soup that is ‘creamed’. Instead chicken broth (without noodles) or vegetable soup is preferred. A small salad is also a good alternative. I would once again choose a main dish with a lean protein and a steamed vegetable on the side. Since sweet potatoes (not regular potatoes) are very nutritious, if offered, I might splurge and have a half of a sweet potato and a vegetable as a side dish.

Now, the hardest part is choosing a dessert without feeling deprived. Ideally, there would be a fruit cup option. I could eat it with a small piece of dark chocolate and a half a glass of red wine. That would satisfy my sweet tooth and provide me with the flavonoids (type of antioxidant) that protect the heart and brain by improving blood flow. I suppose if I wanted to save on calories, herbal tea would be a wiser choice than wine. I have also learned that I could order a decadent dessert (in addition to the fruit) and only taste a forkful of it. This would satisfy my craving for sweets and leave me feeling less deprived.

I am happy to report that I followed through with my eating plan of action, enjoyed my trip immensely and did not gain any weight. Those at my table were so impressed with my food choices, that I picked up some new clients for nutritional counseling.

WHAT IS FENG SHUI? HERE ARE THE BASICS

Feng Shui is the ancient Chinese practice that charts the balance of energy, or chi, via scientific calculations. The goal of Feng Shui is to invite positive chi (energy) into your home so that your life feels both energized and balanced. The space in your home and office reflects your life. Your life’s vision is reflected in your environment. Use the space in your home and office to create positive energy which can affect how you feel as well.

Feng Shui consultants advise their customers on how to use the 5 elements ( fire, earth, metal, water and wood) along with colors to increase energy in their environment to maximize wealth, fame, health, creativity and partnership.

Here are some simple ways to maximize the energy in your home:

Let’s start with the front door. The outside of the front door should be clear of clutter (as the rest of the house) so that the door can open freely and energy or chi can flow through. Be sure to remove anything that is blocking the door from opening all the way. Many consultants recommend painting the front door red to maximize the energy brought into the home. If the doorbell is not working, fix it. Also, remove any dead plants in the home and near the front door.

The first thing you see when you walk into your home is important. Entering the home through the garage, back or side doors is not ideal since what you usually see when you enter through these doors does not create positive energy. If you see the living room when you enter your home, it is best that the sofa be placed against a wall, not a window, to increase the feeling of security in the home. Living room chairs for visitors should be clean and the floors as well. In regards to the bedrooms, having a headboard for your bed creates a feeling of security. The desk and bed should be in line of sight with the room door. This allows one to see who is entering their space and gives one the security needed to be creative. It creates a “safe space”. Be sure to remove clutter in all rooms, including the basement.

Bring nature into your home by having a waterfall close to the front door. Metal chimes awaken your sense of hearing. Candles input the element of fire and energy into the home. Incense awakens the sense of smell. A fireplace and artwork with rocks and wood bring nature into the home. Plants cleanse the air in the environment.

Try using these tips to rearrange your home and hopefully you will receive the benefits of having more positive energy in your life. Have fun with it!

I would like to thank AARP and Julie Delene for providing us with this valuable information.

MEDICINE DURING THE REGENCY PERIOD OF ENGLAND

In the late 1700s, medical professionals believed that disease was caused by “evil in the air” known as Miasmas. Medical physicians often wore masks during their contact with patients so as not to breathe in the “bad aromas”. The public often closed their windows at night to keep the bad aromas out, since it was believed the aromas were more prevalent at night. In Jane Austen’s novel, Emma, Emma’s father, Mr. Woodhouse, rarely went out at night since he was preoccupied with his health.

Draining of fluid from a sick person was common since it was thought to balance the four bodily fluid elements. Leeches were used to drain the body of blood. Inducing vomiting and the use of enemas were popular. Sea bathing was recommended to reduce stress and cure chronic disease. Ointments were made from honey and mint and were oftentimes successful treatment modalities.

There were four classes of medical professionals. Physicians were gentlemen who had several months of non-patient training. They made house calls to the wealthy;, listening to patient’s lungs and taking their pulses and medical history. They prescribed medication. They did not perform surgeries. Surgeons had no formal training. They did manual work such as bandaging, amputations, and blood letting. Many barbers were surgeons. There was ineffective anesthesia at this time and hygiene was very poor. Antibiotics did not exist. Most patients died of infections rather than the disease itself. The Royal Navy employed surgeons rather than physicians on their ships. Apothecaries were not well respected. Apothecaries treated the poor and servant class. They treated their patients with herbal elixirs. Most medical treatments were trial and error. Medical manuals did not exist. Women were nurses, herbal healers and midwives. They were regarded as the “lowest” level of medical professionals. Midwives were kept very busy by the aristocratic class since most women in this class had at least eight children. (Abstinence was the only form of birth control.) Labor rooms were heated and new mothers were bed bound for weeks on a liquid diet which weakened their immune systems. There was a high rate of mortality during childbirth for mother and child.

Hospitals were very unsanitary. There were separate hospitals for eye ailments, dementia and venereal disease. Hospitals were filled with plagues including tuberculosis (consumption). The wealthy were treated at home, not in hospitals. Common reasons for ill health included obesity, gout, hernias and bone fractures. Contagions included cholera, tuberculosis of the lungs, smallpox, typhoid fever, typhus and yellow fever. (It is believed that Jane Austen had typhus as a child.) Better sewage, hand washing and more living space could have reduced contagion spread.

Florence Nightingale and Ignaz Semmelweiss were heroes during this time. They brought proper hygienic methods, including hand washing to the forefront reducing deaths from infection.

I want to thank Dr. Elizabeth Paquette from the Jane Austen Society of the Palm Beaches for this wealth of information.

DRINKING PORT IN THE REGENCY AND MODERN DAY PERIODS

Port was a popular drink in the 1800s throughout Europe, especially in England. Port is made from grapes in the Douro Valley near Porto (in Portugal). Port is 18-20% alcohol. It is fermented on grape-skins for 24-36 hours. Other spirits are then added to it. It is sweet and aged from 5-20 years. The older the port, the more expensive.

In the 1700′s, England imported wine from France, however, due to its “unfriendly” history with France, it began to import more and more port from Portugal. Regency gentlemen drank port after dinner, when the women retired to the sitting room. Women drank port punch which was watered down with water, lemon, sugar and spices. The author, Jane Austen, referred to her male characters drinking port , especially in her novel Pride and Prejudice.

Today, port is sold in liquor stores and many supermarkets. Port, like other alcoholic beverages, is a depressant in nature, however, can facilitate a feeling of relaxation, most desired by those who are stressed in our modern day society. Port contains flavonoids which protect the heart. It is often paired with nuts and dark chocolate which offer benefits to the neurological and circulatory systems. According to recent scientific research, alcohol should be consumed in limited quantities since it has been linked to breast cancer, liver and other inflammatory diseases.

The website www.cellartracker.com offers reviews of the different types and brands of port.

What Vegetables Were Popular During The Colonial Days?

Recently, I attended a day of workshops which focused on the customs of those who lived during the time of the American Revolution (18th Century). According to historian Jenna Schnitzer, we can learn much about what people ate by looking at the paintings and pictures of that time period.

Still life pics of “heirloom vegetables”revealed what was served at mealtimes. Potatoes were always an economical choice until the potato famine occurred. Hubbard squash was decorative and often served at the dinner table. The only cabbage eaten was the Savoy cabbage since it’s leaves are sweet and tender. This cabbage was grown locally and was fragile. It could not be exported. Kale, not curly lettuce, was also eaten. Turnip and beet greens were a staple and very nutritious since the leaves are high in vitamin B and C. Nowadays, most of us discard these greens. White stemmed chard was also available. Today, most chard in our supermarkets is red stemmed, and called “rainbow chard”.

The “look” of some of the vegetables has also changed. Most vegetables of that time period were tear dropped in shape. Turnips were short and stout. The names of fruits and vegetables have changed as well. For instance, the Pecker apple of the 1740′s is called the Pippin apple today.

The colonies had access to produce from foreign ports, including the seeds. Vegetables and seeds from France were imported. The seeds were planted and harvested in the colonies. Some vegetation was stored underground or in ice houses to be eaten in the winter months, when produce was scarce.

Vegetables were prepared differently back then. Cucumbers were cooked with butter and melon with salt and pepper for a sweet and savory taste. Pickling vegetables and making jam from berries were a necessity to insure food during the cold weather months.

Cooking with 18th century recipes gives us the opportunity to sample what foods tasted like during the American Revolution. It is the best way to time travel!

What I Learned From Gary Null Today

I had the pleasure of listening to talk show radio host Dr. Gary Null today at the New Life Expo in Manhattan, NY. Dr. Null is an internationally renowned expert in the field of health and nutrition and is the author of over 70 best-selling books on healthy living.

Dr. Null’s topic today was “the exchange of energy”. He believes that leading a healthy lifestyle comes from making the right choices. He believes that making the right choices brings positive energy into the body. He explained that besides getting energy from food we also absorb energy from our environment. Negative energy can enter our bodies through processed foods, foods filled with pesticides and by keeping company with negative people. He states that making “bad” choices such as sitting around, being on the our computer and phone (lack of exercise) as well as making unethical decisions can lead to premature aging.

He advocates for “free choice”, meaning one should make their own life choices rather than follow those choices made for us when we were young. Ignoring our inner voices will lead to frustration and bring negative energy into our bodies. Harmonizing with the right people and speaking out for what is right for society are ways to bring positive energy into our bodies. He encourages one to have a balanced life. Working excessively on one’s-career while ignoring one’s family and spiritual health can only do the body harm.

He suggests that people live in the moment, however, does state that staying in the same place for too long, when one should grow, is unhealthy and is usually the result of fear. Being responsible for ourselves and the effect we have on others is another way of bringing positive energy into our bodies. Having lots of new experiences through learning and travel makes us spiritually alive. Many of us ignore signs that something is wrong within our bodies and play the victim when we discover we have a health problem. He feels we should find solutions to our problems and not just dwell on them.

Embracing our authentic selves and bringing positive energy into our bodies is the best path to a long and healthy life.