Corporate Yoga Benefits

Yoga is often pursued as an exercise system- a way to get stronger and more bendy- but it is a powerful wellness practice as well. The NIH (National Institute of Health) reports that the number of Americans practicing yoga has doubled in the last ten years. This growth is attributed to the accessibility of yoga as a pathway to exercise, self-care and a healthy lifestyle. Because it starts with awareness and finding each individual at their unique comfort level and works to meet their specific needs - yoga can serve as the gateway to other health and fitness practices. As science catches up to what most practicing yogis already know and feel, we find that yoga can increase health and wellness in a very real way. Through the reduction of stress, clarity of breath and growth of self-awareness, yoga participants often find that the benefits of their practice add up to higher level of physical and mental well-being.

Physical Health

Yoga has a myriad ofhealth advantages, beyond the muscle tone and flexibility of a fit physique. It can serve to lower blood pressure, re-align joints, and help reverse the adverse affects of work-related body issues like back pain, carpal tunnel, and sciatica. International studies going back decades show yoga postures and exercises to be a successful therapy for the treatment and prevention of back ailments, joint and muscle conditions and some forms of asthma. A physical practice of yoga can decrease the major factors to common chronic health issues like heart disease, cancer and digestive disorders. Overall, scientific studies on the benefits of yoga against heart disease show that yoga may decrease high blood pressure, deter symptoms of heart failure, augment cardiac rehab, and truly diminish cardiovascular risk factors like pulmonary stress and obesity. In a country in which heart disease is a top cause of death, a yoga practice can slow the deterioration on heart health, and even improve it by more that 7%. All of this can equate to fewer trips to the doctor and more comfortable and focused work force.


Mental Health

Yoga is also being used with great success to treat mental health issues as well, relieving various degrees of depression, anxiety and sleep disorders. The practice elevates certain neurotransmitters and is shown to increase mood and lessen anxiety more than other types pf exercise, like jogging or aerobics. Yoga is also a great complimentary therapy to more traditional forms of treatment like talk-based analysis. Mental health disorders effect a wide range of the population, but even those who experience only relative stress and mood swings experience relief through a mindful yoga practice. The habit and practice of yoga, whether in group classes, private sessions, or consultations, also provides a structure of needed discipline and self study that are tools for the betterment of mental health not only for individuals but for larger relationships and communities.

 

Well-being

In conjunction with limiting factors that contribute to serious health conditions, and therefore lowering over-all health care costs, yoga can increase mindfulness, which is a term that describes awareness inside of the present moment and experience. Mindfulness can help individuals make shifts in diet, exercise and self care that can be incredible valuable to their over-all health. This self type pf self awareness is what yoga inherently provides that other fitness practices may not. As an organization who promotes mindfulness through the practice of yoga you will experience more commitment from employees- more inspired involvement and community bonds.  The kind of company that offers yoga is the kind of company you want to work for!

 

References:

Painter, Kim "Ancient Practice of Yoga now a Growth Industry." USA Today 3, March 2015 Published: usatoday.com. Web. 2nd, August 2015.

Raub, James A. "Psycopysiologic Effects of Hatha Yoga on Musculoskeletal and Cardiopulmonary Function: A Literary Review." The Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine Volume 8. Issue6 (2002): pp. 797-812. Print

 

Smoothasana!

Making a green smoothie every morning has made me feel happier and healthier.  You can get pretty creative with your smoothies but I have found simplicity keeps it easier to maintain on a regular basis.  I recommend making your smoothie with:

1/2-1 cup of liquid(water, fruit juice, or almond milk)

2 heaping cups of greens (I love kale and spinach)

1 cup of fruit(I usually mix it up with different fruits)

For your first recipe I would do a cup of pineapple and enough water so your blender is happy, two cups of greens (I did kale and spinach), a banana, and a handful of ice if you prefer your smoothie cold.  If you want it on the creamier side substitute almond milk for the pineapple, and add a tbsp of almond butter.

I also recommend 1 cup of green grapes because they are low in sugar and most blenders can blend them into juice very quickly(add water if your blender is not blending),2 cups of greens, 2 clementines(hello vitamin c), and a banana.  Ice optional.  A great trick is to put your grapes in the freezer. Less ice = less watery smoothie. 
 

To Juice or not to Juice? Is cleansing for you?

There are two common responses when you tell people that you are planning to do a juice cleanse. The first is filled with approval: That's so great! Cleanses are so good for you. You'll detoxify your body, clean out your system, and lose excess weight! The second, is more skeptical: What?! Why would you starve yourself? I've heard that cleanses don't even work- it's all water weight that you lose! While all sorts of people decide to take on juice cleansing for a wide variety of reasons, the debate is most heated in the Yoga and wellness community. So, where do you land in this split argument? Who do you believe?

 

To begin the conversation, let's start by defining what this 'Juice Cleansing' thing is. Fasting is usually defined as the practice of abstaining from solid sustenance for a set period of time. In the staunchest definition, this means water only, no caloric intake of any kind. The history of this kind of fasting is rooted in many different religious traditions. Muslims fast for Ramadan, a 30 day observance, in which they do not eat while the sun is in the sky. Christians have fast days, like Good Friday, two days before Easter Sunday. In traditional Judaism there are 6 different days of observed fasting. Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Jainism also observe fasting, often consuming neither food nor water for spiritual Holidays. In most of these circumstances the intension of forgoing or limiting food is meant to purify not only the body, but the soul, and to bring participants closer to their deities. 

 

Juice Cleansing or “detox dieting” is a much newer concept. While enthusiasts claim that juice cleansing has ancient origins, in it's current form, these kinds of Juice therapies really start to show up about 100 years ago in the 1920s. The process of a juice cleanse is similar to that of a Fast- on a cleanse you don't eat solid food, only the juice of fruits and vegetables. There are many different prescriptions for which kinds of juices you should drink during which days of a juice cleanse, but most recommend a mixture of fruit juices for their sugar-based energy and vegetable juices for their vitamin content and fiber. Some Cleanses include the milk of certain nuts and broths, eventually even adding raw solid food at the end of the plan. At its most extreme, you might take in juices with very low caloric counts, like cucumber juice or sunflower sprout juice. There is a popular version in which fasters only drink a mixture of lemon juice, cayenne pepper and maple syrup, which is sometimes recommended for more than 70 days. Juice Cleansing is seen by most as an alternative therapy applied for weight loss, physical purification, detoxification and the clearing of the digestive tract of held waste. 

 

The real question is: Does it Work? This boils down to two, separate issues: Is Juice Fasting healthy, and if so, is it effective? Many yogis who utilize Juice Cleansing site the concept of Sauca or Purity which refers to the philosophy of Ashtanga Yoga or the 8 Limbed Path. Sauca is one of the 5 Niyamas- personal practices, or 'dos' that make up the second branch of the 8 limbs to enlightenment. As good yoga practitioners we are supposed to purify the body and the mind equally. Different yogis apply Sauca to different degrees- anything from making sure you have showered, to eating raw or vegan, to receiving enemas and sending clothes through the cavities of the body to clean them out. 

If you do a juice cleanse, will it clean or purify your body? Well, your body is actually constantly purifying and detoxifying itself. In fact, every time you take a breath your cardiovascular system sorts out the oxygen you need to survive, and cycles out the carbon dioxide waste that you don't, removing that toxin from your body. Sweat pushing through your sweat glands presses stored toxins out of the skin and drips them away. Your liver detoxifies the body in several different ways. First by breaking down and digesting proteins and utilizing enzymes to burn away toxins stored in fatty tissue. Then by clearing your blood of other substances that can't be processed into nutrients and evacuating them through liquid waste. Your overall digestive tract is brilliant at waste removal, and a healthy tract that is being fed a balanced diet will do a perfect job of ridding your body of solid waste- both what is indigestible and also what is unneeded. In theory, Juice Fasting can aid your body in its pre-existing detoxifying mechanisms. If done correctly, juicing can help flush out fatty tissues- taking with them the toxins held inside, and many fruit juices help your body create enzymes which can help the liver do its job more effectively. The sheer amount of liquid you’re taking in can make the operations of both solid and liquid waste removal more efficient in the body. 

 

Or you could just drink a lot of water. Most scientific and medical sources believe that this form of Juice cleansing is sort of a scam, because many of the benefits could be achieved by eating the same dollar amount of those fruits and vegetables to gain more of their health benefits without losing the fiber needed to aid digestion. And drinking a lot of (often free) water along with a diet of such whole and unprocessed foods is much cheaper than drinking their juices. You need less of them, and you get more from them. And, if your body interprets your Juice Cleanse as starvation, it shifts gears and holds onto fats and excess liquid waste to help you survive the perceived famine- instead of clearing you out, it clogs you up. It has the inverse effect of that intended. Particularly if you are active, your metabolic process seeks a balance of calories and without them, the body can quickly go into starvation mode, effecting the important functions of the brain and the heart. 

So let's say that your Juice Cleanse might aid your body in its detoxification process.... will it help you lose weight? It seems that the answer to this question really depends upon what kind of weight your body is holding onto. Let's start with the clear understanding that your body needs a balanced degree of fat. Fatty tissue supports higher brain function, muscle rehabilitation and is essential in the construction of hormones that govern not only reproduction, but also glandular control of your metabolism and immune health. Fat is Good! Your body needs Fat to be healthy and do all the awesome things it does for you!

 

However, because of our long and successful adaptation process, human bodies have learned to store fats in large quantities to help us survive times of scarcity. We have been evolutionarily trained to crave and consume excess sugars and fats because those of our ancestors that stocked up, survived. Now that we live in a culture of abundance, such tactics are no longer required, and holding onto excess fats can put an undue strain on the heart, circulatory systems, muscular-skeletal system and the digestive organs. So, if you are holding onto extra weight in the form of fat that is stored, doing a Juice Cleanse can actually help clear the cells of your body of sugars and fats, that act like any other addictive drug in your system, and make you physically crave more of them. That is- if your cleanse has no added sugars and plenty of water included. Breaking this cycle can help you to change your eating patterns- both physically and mentally shifting your perspective on how and what you consume. Especially in cases in which the body has been holding onto fat in this survival-mode way - if it then believes you have hit a time of famine, it will start to utilize stored fats and your body shape might change as a result. However, if you go right back to consuming as you did before the cleanse, your body will just go right back to storing fat (in anticipation of the next cleanse/famine!)

 

Water weight also usually shifts when Juice Cleansing. Even if you don't feel it, most people are dehydrated or under-hydrated most of the time, in which case the body will retain extra water to help keep you alive in times of draught - (think of a camel storing water in its hump to survive in the desert.) When taking in so much liquid during a cleanse, your body becomes accustomed to feeling well hydrated and may let go of excess water weight that is previously held onto. Just like excess fat, however, if you go back to your old ways of under- hydration after a cleanse, your body will go right back to storing water as well. Along the same lines, if your digestive tract is clogged up with solid waste (usually in the small or large intestine) drinking so much liquid often with a high acid content like juice, can move things along, but generally the mass you lose in this process is unnoticeable. 

 

So really, if you're trying to lose weight, a Juice Cleanse can be a nice reset, but must be followed up by sustainable change in diet, sleep and exercise. A healthy body really has more to do with balance than exterior appearance, so if a cleanse or fast will help you find equilibrium, it might be a good idea. If you know it might throw off your balance- it might not be. It can be a taboo conversation, but those with eating and body issues show up in the yoga population in high numbers. This conversation about the practice and eating disorders is a sensitive one, because yoga can help heal illnesses like body dysmorphia and anorexia, but also because it can be used a weapon for self torture to encourage such maladies. As much as we all want to look good in our yoga pants, the saturation of the yoga culture with skinny- svelte beauties with incredible bodies is not easy to ignore, especially if you already have insecurities or mental illness in that area. Juice Cleansing can quickly become self hatred and deprivation hidden under the cloak of good health. 

 

Because the Tradition of fasting is rooted in religious and spiritual practices we can pretty safely assume that if you have the right intentions, juice cleansing has a good chance of bringing you closer to a spiritual connection to yourself or to whatever it is you believe in. And as far as general yoga philosophy is concerned, the body isn't to be viewed as a dirty thing that needs to be 'made-clean' or punished as in many puritanical systems. The point of fasting and purifying, as far as yogis are concerned, is to strengthen the physical powers of the body so that it can be better integrated with the mind and soul. This concept dates back many thousands of years ago to the first Indian Tantrics who sought to create a body as powerful and efficient as possible so that it could work in concord with the spirit. It is also important to remember that on the same 8 Limbed Path where we find Sauca (purity) on the second branch, Ahimsa (nonviolence) falls in the first. So all choices made towards purification must be grounded in nonviolence- that includes not imparting violence upon yourself. 

 

All actions are colored by the intentions behind them. Juice cleansing is just the same. Fasting can be a powerful tool, physically, mentally and even spiritually, but only if it is wielded with balance and care. 

 

Why you should stretch those hammies. A yogis insight for runners.

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  In my experience, the hardest person to get onto the yoga mat can be the one who needs it the most. Runners resist yoga like a child resisting medicine. There is a bit of a misconception that efficient runners shouldn't be mobile.  To be faster you need to be tighter.  This is the kind of thinking that causes injuries to manifest.  To move more swiftly and safely the muscles need to be pliable as well as strong.  Yoga is a well known vehicle for achieving that dynamic.  


    Often the image we associate with yoga is of limber yogis twisted up like contortionists.  In reality most poses are accessible maneuvers for everyone that marry the stretch to the strength.  Many postures utilize what is called an eccentric contraction of the muscle - actively increasing the engagement of the muscle as it lengthens.  {This type of muscular engagement creates greater range of motion as muscles can extend further with control. } Meaning yogis strive to cultivate equal flexibility and strength.


     The repetitive motion of the legs required for running can create excessive tension in the joints. This tension unnecessarily strains the knees and spine and can be crippling over time.  Tight or overdeveloped hamstrings also begin to pull at the lower back, robbing the spine of its innate buoyancy.  This is the beginning of a plethora of other issues that trickle up and down the body from the neck to the feet. Dense IT band tissue and inner thigh musculature can tug at the knees causing pronation and supination (the turning in and out) in the feet.  Continuous impact on the feet at an inward or outward angle with the increased force of running degrades the knees. As the body seeks to transfer pressure and weight the damage moves into the hips, into the low back, and - you get where I am going with this. Not stretching equates to the inevitability of not running.


     Beyond the immediate muscular benefits, yoga is also unique in its ability to enlighten areas of the body one might not otherwise acknowledge.  The muscle memory grown in a regular yoga practice serves runners as it will train the weaker muscles to engage and stop the stronger muscles from taking the bulk of the work. For example, Weak hip stabilizers- the muscles that turn in and out the legs - have been associated with an ailment known as runner's knee. When these smaller hip muscles don't support the proper alignment of the femur bone and knee they cause pain with every step. In yoga there are many postures that support the engagement of such muscles that are smaller and more elusive to feel in other activities.  These poses counteract the weakness by building strength while simultaneously addressing the tightness of overused areas. This helps to realign the bones and keep the moving body safe and stable.


    I could go on at length about all of anatomy jargon that supports yoga's benefits. Inevitably, what it comes down to is balance. For long term sustainability the muscles have to be inversely worked.  Bruce Lee said it perfectly: "Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind."


    Yoga will not only sustain your body and prevent injury, it will also increase stamina and mental focus.  Yoga encourages practitioners to breathe deeply while engaging the stomach.  This technique, called diaphragmatic breathing, trains the body to take in more oxygen while maintaining the engagement needed to perform successfully. Breathing this way will make it possible to run at longer distances and at faster speeds. The meditative quality of a good run is heightened by consistent yoga practice as well.  It is another way to increase mental clarity while striving to achieve new running goals.


    I'm not saying that it's easy.  My guess is that for most people,  the first time running was a challenge as well.  Like anything that is worthwhile, stretching takes commitment, consistency, and patience for the greatest results.  Yoga is a tool for exercising all of those qualities. {The benefits for runners far outweigh the excuses. } It's time to stretch those hamstrings and maintain a flexible mind.