Hatha yoga

YOGA AS EXERCISE

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YOGA AS EXERCISE

Yoga as exercise or alternative medicine is a modern phenomenon which has been influenced by the ancient Indian practice of hatha yoga. It involves holding stretches as a kind of low-impact physical exercise, and is often used for therapeutic purposes. Yoga in this sense often occurs in a class and may involve meditation, imagery, breath work and music.

Both the meditative and the exercise components of hatha yoga have been researched for both specific and non-specific health benefits. Hatha yoga has been studied as an intervention for many conditions, including back pain, stress and depression. In general, it can help improve quality of life, but does not treat disease.

A survey released in December 2008 by the US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that hatha yoga was the sixth most commonly used alternative therapy in the United States during 2007, with 6.1 percent of the population participating.

Yoga came to the attention of an educated western public in the mid-19th century along with other topics of Hindu philosophy. The first Hindu teacher to actively advocate and disseminate aspects of yoga to a western audience was Swami Vivekananda, who toured Europe and the United States in the 1890s (however, Vivekananda put little emphasis on the physical practices of Hatha Yoga in his teachings).

The physical asanas of hatha yoga have a tradition that goes back to at least the 15th century, but they were not widely practiced in India prior to the early 20th century. Hatha yoga was advocated by a number of late 19th to early 20th century gurus in India. In 1918, Pierre Bernard, the first famous American yogi, opened the Clarkstown Country Club, a controversial retreat center for well-to-do yoga students, in New York State. A hatha “yoga boom” followed in the 1980s, as Dean Ornish, MD, a medical researcher connected hatha yoga to heart health, legitimizing hatha yoga as a purely physical system of health exercises outside of counter culture or esotericism circles, and unconnected to a religious denomination.

Since then, hatha yoga has been used as supplementary therapy for diverse conditions such as cancer, diabetes, asthma and AIDS.    The more classical approaches of hatha yoga, such as Iyengar Yoga, move at a more deliberate pace, emphasize proper alignment and execution and hold asanas for a longer time. They aim to gradually improve flexibility, balance, and strength. Other approaches, such as Ashtanga or Power Yoga, shift between asanas quickly and energetically.

Yoga has roots in India. The foundational text for yoga is the Yoga Sutra. Religious articles from a variety of views and beliefs have been published to try to show that Yoga is leading people from their previous beliefs into eastern religions. Evangelical Christian leader Albert Mohler is a critic of yoga, saying ‘the embrace of yoga is a symptom of our post-modern spiritual confusion’.

Nearly all types of hatha yoga practices include asana, pranayama and savasana.

While much of the medical community views the results of Hatha Yoga research to be significant, others argue that there were many flaws that undermine results. Much of the research on Hatha Yoga has been in the form of preliminary studies or clinical trials of low methodological quality, including small sample sizes, inadequate blinding, lack of randomization, and high risk of bias. As of 2011, evidence suggests that Hatha Yoga may be at least as effective at improving health outcomes as other forms of mild physical exercise when added to standard care. What is found most concerning regarding the legitimacy of Hatha Yoga as a method of healing is the current lack of specificity and standardization regarding the practice of Hatha Yoga. One recent study examined the difficulties of implementing Hatha Yoga-based therapies and methods of healing without any detailed, standardized and vetted descriptions of the asanas promoted as being beneficial for healing. This research calls for the creation of supported intervention practices that could be distributed and applied for use in clinical practice for patients.

Hatha Yoga and Specific Mental Health Conditions

Anxiety and depression. A 2010 literature review of the research on the use of Hatha Yoga for treating depression said that preliminary research suggests that Hatha Yoga may be effective in the management of depression. Both the exercise and the mindfulness meditation components may be helpful. However the review cautioned that “Although results from these trials are encouraging, they should be viewed as very preliminary because the trials, as a group, suffered from substantial methodological limitations.” Also, in a 2010 Boston University study it was shown that the participants who practiced Hatha Yoga reported a more significant decrease in anxiety and greater improvements in mood than those who merely walked, suggesting that Hatha Yoga could be a potential therapeutic activity for people with certain disorders.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. No benefit.

Dementia. There is some evidence that exercise programs may help people with dementia perform their daily activities.

Hatha Yoga and Specific Physical Health Conditions

Back pain. There is evidence that Hatha Yoga may be effective in the management of chronic, but not acute, low back pain. The results of another study on the efficacy of Hatha Yoga therapy for chronic low back pain showed that at around 24 weeks the Hatha Yoga group had statistically significant reductions in functional disability, pain intensity, and depression compared to a standard 6-months medical treatment. It was also concluded from this study that there was a significant trend in the Hatha Yoga group decreasing their use of pain medication compared that of the control group.

Blood pressure. Although some evidence exists to suggest Hatha Yoga might help people with high blood pressure, overall this evidence is too weak for any recommendation to be made, and little is known of the safety implications of such an approach.

Cancer.  Practice of Hatha Yoga may improve quality-of-life measures in cancer patients. It is unclear what aspect(s) may be beneficial or what populations should be targeted. Hatha Yoga practice as part of cancer treatment has also shown improvement in biomarkers such as Interleukin 6. Stronger effects on biomarkers as well as quality-of-life measures is associated with more frequent Hatha Yoga practice. Hatha Yoga has no effect on the underlying disease.

Epilepsy and Menopause-related symptoms. No benefit for either.

Pediatric conditions. A systematic review concludes that there is insufficient evidence to support the use of Hatha Yoga for any indication in the pediatric population. No adverse events were reported, and most trials were positive but of low methodological quality.

Rheumatic disease. Only weak evidence exists to support the use of Hatha Yoga as a complementary therapy for helping people with rheumatic diseases, and little is known of the safety of such use.

Sports Related Physical Health. Increasingly Hatha Yoga is used to train sports-persons and athletes, to maximize performance, improve conditioning, and minimize injury. Hatha Yoga is used extensively within British soccer to minimize injury, with Manchester United star Ryan Griggs one of the most high-profile players to publicly incorporate it in his training regime.

The Mind-body connection – The therapeutic benefits of yoga has been explains that because of regulation of physical movement is a fundamental priority of the nervous system, focusing on and developing an awareness of physical movement can lead to improved synchrony between mind and body. This is beneficial, he says, especially for those suffering from psychological conditions such as depression and PTSD because an improved sense of connectedness between mind and body give rise to enhanced control and understanding of their “inner sensations” and state of being.

Yoga is a core component of the Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program. Drawing from recent research on the mental and physical benefits of practicing yoga, positive psychologists have begun to look deeper into the possibilities of utilizing yoga to improve life for people even in the absence of disease.

Although relatively safe, Hatha Yoga is not risk free. Sensible precautions can usefully be taken – for example beginners should avoid advanced moves, Hatha Yoga should not be combined with psychoactive drug use, and competitive Hatha Yoga should be avoided. When using Hatha Yoga as a treatment, patients should inform the teacher of their physical limitations and concerns. Functional limitations should be taken into consideration. Modifications can then be made using props, altering the duration or poses.

The practice of Hatha Yoga has been cited as a cause of hyperextension or rotation of the neck, which may be a precipitating factor in cervical artery dissection. A small percentage of Hatha Yoga practitioners each year suffer physical injuries analogous to sports injuries.

Kathy Kiefer

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YOGA AS EXERCISE

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YOGA AS EXERCISE

Yoga as exercise or alternative medicine is a modern phenomenon which has been influenced by the ancient Indian practice of hatha yoga. It involves holding stretches as a kind of low-impact physical exercise, and is often used for therapeutic purposes. Yoga in this sense often occurs in a class and may involve meditation, imagery, breath work and music.

Both the meditative and the exercise components of hatha yoga have been researched for both specific and non-specific health benefits. Hatha yoga has been studied as an intervention for many conditions, including back pain, stress and depression. In general, it can help improve quality of life, but does not treat disease.

A survey released in December 2008 by the US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that hatha yoga was the sixth most commonly used alternative therapy in the United States during 2007, with 6.1 percent of the population participating.

Yoga came to the attention of an educated western public in the mid-19th century along with other topics of Hindu philosophy. The first Hindu teacher to actively advocate and disseminate aspects of yoga to a western audience was Swami Vivekananda, who toured Europe and the United States in the 1890s (however, Vivekananda put little emphasis on the physical practices of Hatha Yoga in his teachings).

The physical asanas of hatha yoga have a tradition that goes back to at least the 15th century, but they were not widely practiced in India prior to the early 20th century. Hatha yoga was advocated by a number of late 19th to early 20th century gurus in India. In 1918, Pierre Bernard, the first famous American yogi, opened the Clarkstown Country Club, a controversial retreat center for well-to-do yoga students, in New York State. A hatha “yoga boom” followed in the 1980s, as Dean Ornish, MD, a medical researcher connected hatha yoga to heart health, legitimizing hatha yoga as a purely physical system of health exercises outside of counter culture or esotericism circles, and unconnected to a religious denomination.

Since then, hatha yoga has been used as supplementary therapy for diverse conditions such as cancer, diabetes, asthma and AIDS.    The more classical approaches of hatha yoga, such as Iyengar Yoga, move at a more deliberate pace, emphasize proper alignment and execution and hold asanas for a longer time. They aim to gradually improve flexibility, balance, and strength. Other approaches, such as Ashtanga or Power Yoga, shift between asanas quickly and energetically.

Yoga has roots in India. The foundational text for yoga is the Yoga Sutra. Religious articles from a variety of views and beliefs have been published to try to show that Yoga is leading people from their previous beliefs into eastern religions. Evangelical Christian leader Albert Mohler is a critic of yoga, saying ‘the embrace of yoga is a symptom of our post-modern spiritual confusion’.

Nearly all types of hatha yoga practices include asana, pranayama and savasana.

While much of the medical community views the results of Hatha Yoga research to be significant, others argue that there were many flaws that undermine results. Much of the research on Hatha Yoga has been in the form of preliminary studies or clinical trials of low methodological quality, including small sample sizes, inadequate blinding, lack of randomization, and high risk of bias. As of 2011, evidence suggests that Hatha Yoga may be at least as effective at improving health outcomes as other forms of mild physical exercise when added to standard care. What is found most concerning regarding the legitimacy of Hatha Yoga as a method of healing is the current lack of specificity and standardization regarding the practice of Hatha Yoga. One recent study examined the difficulties of implementing Hatha Yoga-based therapies and methods of healing without any detailed, standardized and vetted descriptions of the asanas promoted as being beneficial for healing. This research calls for the creation of supported intervention practices that could be distributed and applied for use in clinical practice for patients.

Hatha Yoga and Specific Mental Health Conditions

Anxiety and depression. A 2010 literature review of the research on the use of Hatha Yoga for treating depression said that preliminary research suggests that Hatha Yoga may be effective in the management of depression. Both the exercise and the mindfulness meditation components may be helpful. However the review cautioned that “Although results from these trials are encouraging, they should be viewed as very preliminary because the trials, as a group, suffered from substantial methodological limitations.” Also, in a 2010 Boston University study it was shown that the participants who practiced Hatha Yoga reported a more significant decrease in anxiety and greater improvements in mood than those who merely walked, suggesting that Hatha Yoga could be a potential therapeutic activity for people with certain disorders.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. No benefit.

Dementia. There is some evidence that exercise programs may help people with dementia perform their daily activities.

Hatha Yoga and Specific Physical Health Conditions

Back pain. There is evidence that Hatha Yoga may be effective in the management of chronic, but not acute, low back pain. The results of another study on the efficacy of Hatha Yoga therapy for chronic low back pain showed that at around 24 weeks the Hatha Yoga group had statistically significant reductions in functional disability, pain intensity, and depression compared to a standard 6-months medical treatment. It was also concluded from this study that there was a significant trend in the Hatha Yoga group decreasing their use of pain medication compared that of the control group.

Blood pressure. Although some evidence exists to suggest Hatha Yoga might help people with high blood pressure, overall this evidence is too weak for any recommendation to be made, and little is known of the safety implications of such an approach.

Cancer.  Practice of Hatha Yoga may improve quality-of-life measures in cancer patients. It is unclear what aspect(s) may be beneficial or what populations should be targeted. Hatha Yoga practice as part of cancer treatment has also shown improvement in biomarkers such as Interleukin 6. Stronger effects on biomarkers as well as quality-of-life measures is associated with more frequent Hatha Yoga practice. Hatha Yoga has no effect on the underlying disease.

Epilepsy and Menopause-related symptoms. No benefit for either.

Pediatric conditions. A systematic review concludes that there is insufficient evidence to support the use of Hatha Yoga for any indication in the pediatric population. No adverse events were reported, and most trials were positive but of low methodological quality.

Rheumatic disease. Only weak evidence exists to support the use of Hatha Yoga as a complementary therapy for helping people with rheumatic diseases, and little is known of the safety of such use.

Sports Related Physical Health. Increasingly Hatha Yoga is used to train sports-persons and athletes, to maximize performance, improve conditioning, and minimize injury. Hatha Yoga is used extensively within British soccer to minimize injury, with Manchester United star Ryan Griggs one of the most high-profile players to publicly incorporate it in his training regime.

The Mind-body connection – The therapeutic benefits of yoga has been explains that because of regulation of physical movement is a fundamental priority of the nervous system, focusing on and developing an awareness of physical movement can lead to improved synchrony between mind and body. This is beneficial, he says, especially for those suffering from psychological conditions such as depression and PTSD because an improved sense of connectedness between mind and body give rise to enhanced control and understanding of their “inner sensations” and state of being.

Yoga is a core component of the Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program. Drawing from recent research on the mental and physical benefits of practicing yoga, positive psychologists have begun to look deeper into the possibilities of utilizing yoga to improve life for people even in the absence of disease.

Although relatively safe, Hatha Yoga is not risk free. Sensible precautions can usefully be taken – for example beginners should avoid advanced moves, Hatha Yoga should not be combined with psychoactive drug use, and competitive Hatha Yoga should be avoided. When using Hatha Yoga as a treatment, patients should inform the teacher of their physical limitations and concerns. Functional limitations should be taken into consideration. Modifications can then be made using props, altering the duration or poses.

The practice of Hatha Yoga has been cited as a cause of hyperextension or rotation of the neck, which may be a precipitating factor in cervical artery dissection. A small percentage of Hatha Yoga practitioners each year suffer physical injuries analogous to sports injuries.

Kathy Kiefer

WHAT IS IYENGAR YOGA?

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WHAT IS IYENGAR YOGA?

 

iyengar-asana-bigger11Iyengar Yoga, named after and developed by BKS Iyengar, is a form of Hatha Yoga that has an emphasis on detail, precision and alignment in the performance of posture and breath control. The development of strength, mobility and stability is gained through the asanas.

Iyengar has systematized over 200 classical yoga poses and 14 different types of Pranayama (with variations of many of them) ranging from the basic to advanced. This helps ensure that students progress gradually by moving from simple poses to more complex ones and develop their mind, body and spirit step-by-step.

Iyengar Yoga often makes use of props, such as belts, blocks, and blankets, as aids in performing asanas (postures). The props enable students to perform the asanas correctly, minimizing the risk of injury or strain, and making the postures accessible to both young and old. Iyengar Yoga is firmly based on the traditional eight limbs of yoga.

Iyengar yoga focuses particularly on three aspects. Correct body alignment allows the body to develop harmoniously in an anatomically correct way so that the student suffers no injury or pain when practicing correctly. As all bodies are different and people have different weaknesses and strengths. Props were developed for use in Iyengar yoga; and are objects like wooden blocks, chairs, blankets and belts that help one adjust or support oneself in the different postures so that one can work in a range of motion that is safe and effective.

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An added benefit is that although the therapeutic aspects of asanas and pranayama have been known for centuries, the emphasis on correct anatomical
alignment and methods of working have refined the therapeutic aspects of Yoga. Thus practice of Iyengar yoga will often result in eliminating aches and pains, improve posture etc. but Iyengar Yoga can also be used to treat many ailments, including extremely serious medical conditions, under the supervision of a suitably experienced teacher. The other two key aspects of asana practice in the Iyengar system are correct sequencing in which there is a powerful cumulative effect achieved by practicing asanas in particular sequences. The concept of timings means postures are held for considerable lengths of time to let the effects of the poses penetrate deeper within the individual

Pranayama is started once a firm foundation in asana has been established as physically the student requires the alignment, flexibility, lung capacity and training necessary to sit and breathe correctly while practicing. Pranayama gives numerous physical benefits including toning the circulatory, digestive, nervous and respiratory systems, activating the internal organs and creating a feeling of energy and calmness. Equally importantly it also brings the mind and senses under control and makes the individual fit for the experience of meditation.

iyengar-yoga-centre-singaporeOne may, get the impression that Iyengar yoga is just gymnastics and deep breathing or only Asana and Pranayama. This is incorrect.      Asanas and Pranayama are merely used as the tools with which to master all 8 aspects of Astanga yoga. Mastery of the body is the gateway to mastery of the mind. Consider the following: The whole human being from the outermost skin to the innermost being (or soul) is interconnected. For example, if the body is ill, the mind also becomes depressed, lethargic and bad tempered and if the mind is stressed the body becomes tense. The intensity and depth to which Iyengar yoga is practiced on the physical level does affect and change the mind and spirit.

In doing yoga asanas the whole body and mind must learn to become involved. One has to spread one’s awareness to the smallest parts of the body simultaneously so the mind becomes alert, attentive and sharp. One learns to breathe smoothly deeply and evenly so one’s energy (prana) can flow without obstruction and one learns to make the mind quiet, passive and receptive thus promoting a meditative state of mind. This makes the body fit for Pranayama.

Through asanas one also learns an awareness and application of ethics – Yama and Niyama. For example one of the Niyamas is sauca (Purity). An example: iyengar-yogaBecause yoga builds up a very sharp awareness of the state of the body and mind, one becomes very aware of ones state of health and begins to nurture it. So after too much eating and drinking, the body suffers and the mind becomes dull. As one spends more and more time practicing yoga, the obvious contradiction and self-destructiveness becomes more difficult to reconcile and one begins to moderate ones eating and drinking, leading to a more pure lifestyle. Another example of this is the Yama of non-violence. Although superficially Yamas are social ethics and Niyama personal disciplines, both can be applied equally to any situation such as society or the physical body.  While doing Parsvakonasana one may experience pain in the front knee and assume it is at fault for causing one discomfort. But in reality the knee is causing pain because it is forced into an unnatural position by the thigh and buttock working lazily. So the buttock and thigh do the violence by being lazy but we blame the knee. The remedy is to make the buttock and thigh work correctly then the knee can function properly and the discomfort disappears. As one’s sensitivity in the postures increases one also realizes that not only the buttock and thigh but all parts of the body to a greater or lesser extent have had their role in the violence to the knee. This thinking can be applied to society where it is easy to find the roots of violence in unhappy homes, childhood neglect and poor education.

Pranayama is the essential prerequisite for correct true meditation.  It is theoretically possible to achieve a meditative state of mind by merely sitting and concentrating, in practice it is not possible for 99% of people. In meditation the mind is absolutely silent but razor sharp. Many people go to meditation classes, for many years even. But few achieve this state of consciousness; the mind has too many “portals.” It is like a sieve full of water. Whichever hole you block, water continues to pour out of the rest. The mind is too subtle, cunning and restless to be controlled and made still. Therefore, Pranayama is recommended as the breath is used to still the mind. Smooth subtle and controlled breathing is far easier to master than the mind and when the breath becomes smooth and steady so does the mind. Then one can learn to withdraw the senses from external objects and cultivate the state of mind where the experience of meditation can come.

imagesMeditation is a state of mind that cannot be learnt and thus the practice of sitting and attempting to meditate is not a guarantee of results in itself. Rather the foundations of self-culture have to be built through practicing the first five disciplines of yoga. The experience of meditation comes when the student is ready.

This leads to another keynote of Iyengar yoga: meditation in action. If one can meditate on a flame, grain of rice or other subject, why not meditate on the posture one is performing? So, as a student does yoga postures the mind learns to become aware of the different parts of the body. At first the mind moves from part to part but with training learns to become absorbed in all parts of the body evenly at the same time. One learns to refine one’s awareness and penetrate deeper into the body in order to achieve more accurate and thus effective and comfortable postures. So the mind is trained to achieve a meditative state of being. Although pranayama is the real key to preparation for meditation, the progress made is applicable to asanas which can be practiced to such a degree of refinement that one meditates in the posture.

In sum, the Iyengar method of Yoga may be said to define itself as different from other styles of Yoga by 3 key elements, namely technique, sequence and timing: (1) Technique means that in practice one learns ever finer adjustments in the alignment of how one performs one’s asana and pranayama; (2) Sequence refers to the sequences in which asana and pranayama are practiced. For example, by varying which postures are practiced after which, the mental and emotional effects of the practice can be intensified in a manner not otherwise possible in order to bring about changes to the whole being including ones spiritual evolution; and (3) Timing refers to the length of time spent in postures or pranayama.  Postures cannot be done swiftly or without awareness. It takes time to move into a posture and become stable. When this has been achieved then one remains stably for some time to intensify the depth of the posture and so extract its benefit. Otherwise the potential effects and benefits remain small compared to what is possible.

Kathy Kiefer

AEROBIC EXERCISE

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AEROBIC EXERCISE

Aerobic exercise (also known as cardio) is physical exercise of relatively low intensity that depends primarily on the aerobic energy-generating process. Aerobic literally means “relating to, involving, or requiring free oxygen”, and refers to the use of oxygen to adequately meet energy demands during exercise via aerobic metabolism. Generally, light-to-moderate intensity activities that are sufficiently supported by aerobic metabolism can be performed for extended periods of time.

When practiced in this way, examples of cardiovascular/aerobic exercise are medium to long distance running, jogging, swimming cycling and walking.

Aerobic exercise and fitness can be contrasted with anaerobic exercise, of which strength training and short-distance running are the most salient examples. The two types of exercise differ by the duration and intensity of muscular contractions involved, as well as by how energy is generated within the muscle.

New research on the endocrine functions of contracting muscles has shown that both aerobic and anaerobic exercise promote the secretion of  myokines, with attendant benefits including growth of new tissue, tissue repair, and various anti-inflammatory functions, which in turn reduce the risk of developing various inflammatory diseases. Myokine secretion in turn is dependent on the amount of muscle contracted, and the duration and intensity of contraction. As such, both types of exercise produce endocrine benefits.

In almost all conditions, anaerobic exercise is accompanied by aerobic exercises because the less efficient anaerobic metabolism must supplement the aerobic system due to energy demands that exceed the aerobic system’s capacity. What is generally called aerobic exercise might be better termed “solely aerobic”, because it is designed to be low-intensity enough not to generate lactate via pyruvate fermentation, so that all carbohydrate is aerobically turned into energy.

Initially during increased exertion, muscle glycogen is broken down to produce glucose, which undergoes glycolysis producing pyruvate which then reacts with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide and water and releases energy. If there is a shortage of oxygen (anaerobic exercise, explosive movements), carbohydrate is consumed more rapidly because the pyruvate ferments into lactate. If the intensity of the exercise exceeds the rate with which the cardiovascular system can supply muscles with oxygen, it results in buildup of lactate and quickly makes it impossible to continue the exercise. Unpleasant effects of lactate buildup initially include the burning sensation in the muscles, and may eventually include nausea and even vomiting if the exercise is continued without allowing lactate to clear from the bloodstream.

As glycogen levels in the muscle begin to fall, glucose is released into the bloodstream by the liver, and fat metabolism is increased so that it can fuel the aerobic pathways. Aerobic exercise may be fueled by glycogen reserves, fat reserves, or a combination of both, depending on the intensity. Prolonged moderate-level aerobic exercise at 65% VO2 max (the heart rate of 150 bpm for a 30-year-old human) results in the maximum contribution of fat to the total energy expenditure. At this level, fat may contribute 40% to 60% of total, depending on the duration of the exercise. Vigorous exercise above 75% VO2max (160 bpm) primarily burns glycogen.

Major muscles in a rested, untrained human typically contain enough energy for about 2 hours of vigorous exercise. Exhaustion of glycogen is a major cause of what marathon runner’s call “hitting the wall”. Training, lower intensity levels and carbohydrate loading may allow postponement of the onset of exhaustion beyond 4 hours.

Aerobic exercise comprises innumerable forms. In general, it is performed at a moderate level of intensity over a relatively long period of time. For example, running a long distance at a moderate pace is an aerobic exercise, but sprinting is not. Playing singles tennis, with near-continuous motion, is generally considered aerobic activity, while golf or two person team tennis, with brief bursts of activity punctuated by more frequent breaks, may not be predominantly aerobic. Some sports are thus inherently “aerobic”, while other aerobic exercises, such as fartlek training or aerobic dance classes, are designed specifically to improve aerobic capacity and fitness. It is most common for aerobic exercises to involve the leg muscles, primarily or exclusively. There are some exceptions. For example, rowing to distances of 2,000 m or more is an aerobic sport that exercises several major muscle groups, including those of the legs, abdominals, chest, and arms. Common kettlebell exercises combine aerobic and anaerobic aspects.

Among the recognized benefits of doing regular aerobic exercise are: (a) Strengthening the muscles involved in respiration, to facilitate the flow of air in and out of the lungs; (b) Strengthening and enlarging the heart muscle, to improve its pumping efficiency and reduce the resting heart rate, known as aerobic conditioning; (c) Improving circulation efficiency and reducing blood pressure; (d) Increasing the total number of red blood cells in the body, facilitating transport of oxygen; (e) Improved mental health, including reducing stress and lowering the incidence of depression, as well as increased cognitive capacity; and (f) Reducing the risk for diabetes.

As a result, aerobic exercise can reduce the risk of death due to cardiovascular problems. In addition, high-impact aerobic activities (such as jogging or using a skipping rope) can stimulate bone growth, as well as reduce the risk of osteoporosis for both men and women.

In addition to the health benefits of aerobic exercise, there are numerous performance benefits: (a)   Increased storage of energy molecules such as fats and carbohydrates within the muscles, allowing for increased endurance; (b) Neovascularization of the muscle sarcomeres to increase blood flow through the muscles; (c) Increasing speed at which aerobic metabolism is activated within muscles, allowing a greater portion of energy for intense exercise to be generated aerobically; (d) Improving the ability of muscles to use fats during exercise, preserving intramuscular glycogen; and (e) Enhancing the speed at which muscles recover from high intensity exercise.

Some downfalls of aerobic exercise include: (a) Overuse injuries because of repetitive, high-impact exercise such as distance running; (b) Is not an effective approach to building lean muscle; and (c) Only effective for fat loss when used consistently.

Both the health benefits and the performance benefits, or “training effect”, require a minimum duration and frequency of exercise. Most authorities suggest at least twenty minutes performed at least three times per week.

Aerobic capacity describes the functional capacity of the cardiorespiratory system, (the heart, lungs and blood vessels). Aerobic capacity refers to the maximum amount of oxygen consumed by the body during intense exercises, in a given time frame. It is a function both of cardiorespiratory performance and the maximum ability to remove and utilize oxygen from circulating blood. To measure maximal aerobic capacity, an exercise physiologist or physician will perform a VO 2 max test, in which a subject will undergo progressively more strenuous exercise on a treadmill, from an easy walk through to exhaustion. The individual is typically connected to a respirometer to measure oxygen consumption, and the speed is increased incrementally over a fixed duration of time. The higher the measured cardiorespiratory endurance level, the more oxygen has been transported to and used by exercising muscles, and the higher the level of intensity at which the individual can exercise. More simply put, the higher the aerobic capacity, the higher the level of aerobic fitness. The Cooper and multi-stage fitness tests can also be used to assess functional aerobic capacity for particular jobs or activities.

The degree to which aerobic capacity can be improved by exercise varies very widely in the human population: while the average response to training is an approximately 17% increase in VO2max, in any population there are “high responders” who may as much as double their capacity, and “low responders” who will see little or no benefit from training. Studies indicate that approximately 10% of otherwise healthy individuals cannot improve their aerobic capacity with exercise at all. The degree of an individual’s responsiveness is highly heritable, suggesting that this trait is genetically determined.

Higher intensity exercise, such as High-intensity interval training (HIIT), increases the resting metabolic rate (RMR) in the 24 hours following high intensity exercise, ultimately burning more calories than lower intensity exercise; low intensity exercise burns more calories during the exercise, due to the increased duration, but fewer afterwards.

Kathy Kiefer

REIKI AND MASSAGE THERAPY

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REIKI AND MASSAGE THERAPY

What is a Reiki massage? Reiki is not really a massage, but can be combined with massage for reiki healing.   Reiki healing is the usage of spiritual energy to heal a person’s aura or situation.

Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.

Reiki healing is the usage of spiritual energy to heal a person’s aura or situation.   The word “Reiki” actually translates to “Universal Life Force Energy.”   Massage is the process or rubbing or kneading different parts of the body for therapeutic reasons or purposes.

The word Reiki comes from two Japanese words –Rei which means “Gods Wisdom or the Higher Power” and KI which is “life force energy.” So Reiki is actually “spiritually guided force energy.”

A treatment feels like a wonderful glowing radiance that flows though and around you.   Reiki treats the whole person including body, emotions, mind and spirit creating many beneficial effects that include relaxation and feelings of peace, security and well-being. Many have reported miraculous results.

Reiki is a simple, natural and safe method of spiritual healing an self-improvement that everyone can use.

It has been effective in helping virtually every known illness and malady and always creates a beneficial effect. It also works in conjunction with all other medical or therapeutic techniques to relieve side effects and promote recovery.

An ancient Japanese massage technique, reiki is a formula to help stress reduction and promote healing. This is a hands-on healing technique through massage that generates life force energy flowing through the body. If the energy levels are low individuals can feel fatigue, experience negative emotions, and have physical complications with organs and glands. Various healing techniques that enable the qi and meridians to connect with the chakras in the body exist. These are all energy fields that, when depleted, result in emotional and physical ill health. Here you will learn what a reiki massage is and what it can do for you.

The patient is fully clothed and lays face up on a massage table. The practitioner places their hands in specific positions on the body, starting from the head and ending at the feet. These positions used depend on the energy levels of the patient, as there may be blockages in some organs more than others. The patient then lays face down so the practitioner can perform treatment on the back. The practitioner stores energy in their own body so the heat and flow can translate to energize the meridians, qi, and chakras in the body.

The main benefits are that the patient feels less stress and relaxed. Depending on the depletion of energy in the body, the patient may feel heat radiating from the practitioner. They also may feel a tingling sensation that is the energy coming to life and connecting within the body. As a relaxation technique, some patients fall asleep during the session. After treatment, the patient may feel sleepy yet as they move around, they will be energized more than before.

Reiki and massage are two separate things.   The usual treatment of Reiki massage begins at the head and works its way through the seven different chakras.   The hand placements coincide with these chakras or energy centers of the physical body.

Reiki massage has been used to help patients manage pain and to increase their quality of living. Reiki massage is different from normal massage because the practitioner does not knead or manipulate the tissues or muscles of the patient.   Instead the hands of the practitioner remain still, and the energy of healing is sent through the channels of the practitioner into the patient.

If you are nervous about your first massage treatment combining Reiki and traditional massage, there is no need.   The practitioner will not do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.   You remain completely clothed, as it is not necessary for there to be skin-to-skin contact.   Reiki massage can even be used to send energy to broken bones or injuries that are covered by casts and bandages.

Reiki is also used to treat conditions such as TMJ (also known as lock-jaw), muscle pain, tension, stress, injury healing, pain management and over 60 other medical ailments.   IN the Western world, there are four different areas of chakras of the body used for treatment.   They are the head, body, legs/fee and back, respectively.

Reiki treatments are said to be one hundred percent safe; they don’t incur any side effects or injuries.  There are sensations that are felt, but are different for different people. Some people experience a sensation of warmth or tingling.   Others experience a spirit of relaxation and balance.

Reiki is a form of faith healing developed by a Japanese Buddhist in the early part of the 20th century. Pronounced “ray-key,” this complementary therapy is known as a road to healing, and a system of   divine enlightenment.

The word “reiki” in Japanese roughly translates as “universal life form energy.” It would explain why reiki can only be   passed from master to apprentice, and why the theory behind this spiritual practice upholds that only a skilled reiki practitioner can absorb energy from the universe and then channel it into a patient in order to improve their health and well-being.   In this way it is much like touch therapy, with the reiki master acting as the conduit – removing bad energy and replacing it with good energy.   This channeling of good energy will then encourage the patient to heal.

The actual channeling  procedure involved in reiki works something like this: the reiki master holds their hands over the recipient’s body – sometimes actually making contact with the         body – and uses their spiritual expertise to administer the healing treatment.   Some schools of reiki prescribe specific spots on the bod y for hand placement; while others believe that the hands of the reiki master should be used to detect the right place to administer treatment.   This second school believes the practitioner should intuitively recognize places of imbalance in our bodies.

Reiki can be administered in one of two ways – either in person or via distance healing.

In-person – During an in-person reiki treatment, the client will be asked to lie down on a massage table or mat.   They remain fully clothed throughout the treatment and the practitioner never makes contact the patient’s skin.   The environment is totally relaxed, with candle light, soothing music and aroma-therapy are used to put the client in a totally relaxed state.   The reiki practitioner will transfer energy from their own hands to the client, by gently touching different areas on the client’s body.

Distance healing – the client is asked to set up a relaxing environment in their home or place of their choice.   The reiki practitioner will then transfer the energy from themselves to their patient from a distance.

While Reiki is spiritual in nature, it is not a religion. It has no dogma, and there is nothing you must believe in order to learn and use Reiki. In fact, Reiki is not dependent on belief at all and will work whether you believe in it or not. Because Reiki comes from God, many people find that using Reiki puts them more in touch with the experience of their religion rather than having only an intellectual concept of it.

While Reiki is not a religion, it is still important to live and act in a way that promotes harmony with others.

Kathy Kiefer

YOGA IN THE NEW AGE

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YOGA IN THE NEW AGE

 

What is yoga and New Age all about?   Is it for a select few or for everyone?   Are there benefits and if so what?

The Sanskrit/Hindu word “Yoga” means: “Yuj Atman Brahman ca,” (“To yoke to one’s individual Soul and Soul Source.”) The various (authentic) Yoga’s are the means by which Hindus achieve this Soul/Self-Realization: Karma Yoga (ethics), Bhakti Yoga (devotion), Raja Yoga (meditation) and Jnana Yoga (outer and inner study or enlightenment). There are other Yoga’s within these classic Hindu/Yoga’s, such as: Hatha Yoga (Hindu devotional postures).

It is Hatha that is, generally, distorted by the simplistic use of “Yoga.” With a vital ethical and devotional attitude (posture), the Hindu (or student of Hinduism) is now ready for the physical postures (asanas). The asanas represent a specifically Hindu worldview. “Hatha” refers not only to nature worship (moon; sun: tha) but also to the Hindu deities Siva, Vishnu (Hara; Hari).

The “Soul” purpose of the asanas is to create a healthy body, calm mind and emotions in order to enter the spirit realms. It is for this Soul purpose that, of all the Hindu/Yoga’s, Hatha Yoga was supposed to be kept, relatively, secret. Sages realized that the immature would emphasize the body, thus, completely distorting the spiritual intent. Feeling good at the expense of others is not an ethical choice.

New Age Yoga (NAY) is: Hot Yoga, Power Yoga and Gentle Yoga, to name few. There are especially arrogant individuals who even attach their own names to these Hindu disciplines. There are so-called 200 hour Certified Yoga Teachers and Yoga Therapists.

Imagine treating Baptism and Communion as an Underwater Therapy and Wine Tasting business! Envision a Fitness Rabbi, Diet Pope and Gaming Imam! Picture Hot Baptism (at your local gym), Power Mass and Gentle Genuflecting! How about a 200 hour Certified Communion Teacher greeting students with Hallelujah and denying any Christian connection? How about marketing Baptism pants to display one’s physical accomplishments! As ridiculous as this seems, this is exactly how callous, absurd and insulting is the NAY crusade.

How many also realize that, factually, the following are sacred Sanskrit/Hindu terms: Namaste, Karma, Mantra, Guru, Swastika and Chakras? How many are aware that Hindus invented the all-important zero? Along with Yoga, these Hindu terms have been co-opted and distorted beyond recognition. Unfortunately, not a week goes by that the press and Madison Avenue do not aid in reinforcing the abuse of these religious terms. NAY is bringing in big money.

In the “NAY sayers” dogma, Yoga is everything but religion. To them, Yoga is a physical exercise and, perhaps, an elite universal spiritual practice. The thoughtless cliché: “I am spiritual but not religious,” is a common deception. It is in this pseudo-spirituality that NAY gets very bizarre.

Covertly indoctrinating one into any religion is abusive. Scattering Hindu terms and displaying Hindu images into a so-called Yoga class should be cause for not only questioning the religion of the teacher but also the intent. And, “naturally,” it costs money for these “spiritual teachings.” Those who feel superior to the more religious should remember everyone is free to go into any religious service.

There are many established religions. Of course, a truly creative individual may come up with something new. However, stealing from an existing religion (and/or culture), then denying it, and profiting from it is the M.O. of the usurper. Repeated invasions of India have left many Hindus in a state of confusion, at best. Hindus have historically been “an easy mark” and are at fault for not learning and protecting their religion. Some Hindus simply give up: “If you can’t beat them, join them.”

Yoga is a set of exercises and meditations that come from Hinduism. Hinduism is a religion that begins in the 16th century BC. The purpose of Yoga is to reach nirvana – the state of bliss, which should be achieved through exercises, meditation and fasting. Many teachers of Yoga instruct their followers to repeat mantra during meditation. It is most often that people from Europe and USA do not even know what they are saying, and this can be very harmful for them. They also have breathing techniques which they call pranayama. Teachers of Yoga will explain those techniques as something beneficial, but it’s just the opposite. One breathing technique is called “Breath of the snake” and this technique really goes into occult. It is very dangerous to practice such techniques.

Teachers of Yoga usually belong to the class of Brahmins, and in Hinduism they consider themselves gods. Hinduism is a polytheistic religion. Some of their gods are real historical persons like Krishna, and others are false gods like Brahma, Shiva or Vishnu. They sometimes even consider animals to be gods.   Yoga teachers claim that with practicing of Yoga, a person can achieve peace, joy and the state of bliss, but that is impossible without true God, Jesus Christ. The peace cannot be achieved just with exercises and meditation. What brings true peace is a peaceful conscience, and only God can forgive sins.

There are websites, like Christians Practicing Yoga, where they use sentences from the Bible: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”(Philippians 2:12-13). They interpret this sentence as if person has to find his own way to salvation, but with “fear and trembling”. Teachings like this are completely wrong. Not only that you don’t have to practice Yoga, but you shouldn’t practice Yoga at all, exactly because of that passage in the Bible. Jesus never, in the whole New Testament, mentioned that Yoga or Hinduism is a way to salvation. On the contrary, Hinduism is a false religion.

The following passage from the Bible states: “Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10,7).  This passage appears to refer to all those gurus, avatars, yogis and others that were before Jesus, or that will come in the modern times.

There are many different types of Yoga like: Sahaja Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Sivananda Yoga, but all these differences come from different teachers, because Hinduism is practically a conglomerate of beliefs and practices. In USA they have society that promotes Christian Yoga. On their website you can find explanations like this one: “We become more spiritually healthy through the yoga practice by calming our minds and quieting ourselves to the point that we can tune out the world’s frequency and tune into God’s frequency.” To say something like that is absurd because Jesus Christ doesn’t have any frequency. What really brings peace is a Christian prayer and meditation. Christian meditation is when you adore before the Blessed Sacrament, when you pray in the Church or at home, when you read Bible or any other Christian book and meditate upon the meaning of what you have read. We all need peace and rest, and Jesus advised his apostles to get some rest. But it is wrong to seek peace in false religions and from false Gods because you are not going to get it.

In Hinduism, they also believe in reincarnation, and that is a belief that a man, after his death, reincarnates to another man who lives better or worse, according to his merits or sins from his past life. This teaching is unacceptable in Christianity. God created a man, and in his life he should determine himself for God, and live by his commandments. God gave us Salvation in his Son Jesus Christ, who suffered and died for us on the cross in order to set us free from sin and give us eternal life. This Salvation is a unity with God forever.

Yoga is a technique, and you can’t reach true peace with it, nor can you really find the truth, nor can you achieve salvation because it is a gift of Jesus Christ. All those Chinese and Indians who are saved were saved through Jesus Christ, although they maybe never heard of him.

 Kathy Kiefer

 

YOGA AND CHRISTIANITY

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YOGA AND CHRISTIANITY

The interpretation of the teachings of Jesus, from a yogic approach, is profoundly enlightening. It allows us to glimpse the state of consciousness from which they were imparted. Even more enlightening is the comparison of His words with those of other spiritual traditions; through this comparison we can feel one and only Truth, albeit dressed up with different symbols and imagery.

The Spirit, by definition, has no form; however, those who experienced the Spirit tried later to communicate It to others through specific images and rituals, teaching also how to reach that same experience. Unfortunately – something that seems to be part of the human nature – the followers of those people ended up believing that the road map was in fact the reality that it represented, resulting in the creation of rituals and dogmas, and making certain symbols sacred, and worshipping the messenger, instead of following his steps and emulate his spiritual realization. This is what we normally call an “institutionalized religion.”

What is yoga? For many in the West, yoga is simply a system of physical exercise, a means of strengthening the body, improving flexibility, and even healing or preventing a variety of bodily ailments. But if we inquire into the history and philosophy of yoga we discover that “much more than a system of physical exercise for health, Yoga is an ancient path to spiritual growth.” It is a path enshrined in much of the sacred literature of India. Thus, if we truly want a better understanding of yoga, we must dig beneath the surface and examine the historical roots of the subject.

Before we begin digging, we must first understand what the term “yoga” actually means. “According to tradition, ‘yoga’ means ‘union,’ the union of the finite ‘jiva’ (transitory self) with the infinite’…Brahman’ (eternal Self).” “Brahman” is a term often used for the Hindu concept of “God,” or Ultimate Reality. It is an impersonal, divine substance that “pervades, envelops, and underlies everything.”     It appears that one can trace both the practice and goal of yoga all the way back to the Upanishads, probably written between 1000-500 B.C.   One Upanishad tells us: “Unite the light within you with the light of Brahman.”    Clearly, then, the goal of yoga (i.e. union with Brahman) is at least as old as the Upanishads.

Yoga is an ancient spiritual discipline deeply rooted in the religion of Hinduism. This being so, we may honestly wonder whether it’s really wise for a Christian to be involved in yoga practice.

Many people today (including some Christians) are taking up yoga practice.  Yoga and Christianity have very different concepts of God.   The goal of yoga is to experience union with “God.” But what do yogis mean when they speak of “God,” or Brahman? Exactly what are we being encouraged to “unite” with? Most yogis conceive of “God” as an impersonal, spiritual substance, coextensive with all of reality. This doctrine is called pantheism, the view that everything is “God.” It differs markedly from the theism of biblical Christianity. In the Bible, God reveals Himself as the personal Creator of the universe. God is the Creator; the universe, His creation. The Bible maintains a careful distinction between the two.

 A difference between yoga and Christianity concerns their views of man. Since yoga philosophy teaches that everything is “God,” it necessarily follows that man, too, is “God.” Christianity, however, makes a clear distinction between God and man. God is the Creator; man is one of His creatures. Of course man is certainly unique, for unlike the animals he was created in the image of God.  Nevertheless, Christianity clearly differs from yoga in its unqualified insistence that God and man are distinct.   Clearly, Christianity and yoga are mutually exclusive viewpoints. But is every kind of yoga the same? Isn’t there at least one that’s exclusively concerned with physical health and exercise?

What Is Hatha Yoga?   Isn’t hatha yoga simply concerned with physical development and good health?    Hatha yoga is primarily concerned with two things: asana (physical postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises). But it’s important to realize that both asana and pranayama also play a significant role in Patanjali’s raja (or “royal”) yoga. What is the relationship of hatha to raja yoga?    The sole purpose of Hatha Yoga is to suppress physical obstacles on the Royal path of Raja Yoga and, therefore, Hatha Yoga is the ladder to Raja Yoga.

The physical postures are “specifically designed to manipulate consciousness into Raja Yoga’s consummate experience of samadhi: undifferentiated union with the primal essence of consciousness.”  These statements should make it quite clear that hatha, or physical, yoga has historically been viewed simply as a means of aiding the yogi in attaining enlightenment, the final limb of raja yoga. This is further confirmed by looking at Iyengar yoga, possibly the most popular form of hatha yoga in the U.S.   If all these things are so, it seems increasingly apparent that hatha yoga may ultimately involve its practitioners in much more than physical exercise. Although it may not be obvious at first, the ultimate goal of hatha is the same as every other form of yoga: union of the self with an impersonal, universal consciousness.

We’ve seen that yoga is an ancient spiritual discipline whose central doctrines are utterly incompatible with those of Christianity. Even hatha yoga, often considered to be exclusively concerned with physical development, is best understood as merely a means of helping the yogi reach the goal of samadhi, or union with GOD.

Yoga is not a religion, it has its roots in a Hindu culture, however, there is also a lineage of yoga that comes from a Sikh culture called Kundalini yoga. Yoga is not a Buddhist thing. They are not the same thing.  Buddhism is a separate practice that focuses mostly on meditation. However, there is much crossover now between all these practices.   We are all one in spirit and physical prayer and breath practice is not exclusive to the Hindu faith. It is contemplative prayer which is part of Christian practice.   The use of bodily postures to open us to God is already well-established in our own practice.  Being on our knees for example, invites our mind and our heart to be prayerfully present, kneel to express the transcendence of God.   Depending on what church one enters on Sunday, one will find a range of bodily postures expressing openness to God: genuflecting (bending one knee to the ground), bowing and kissing icons, sitting quietly in a circle with open hands, prostrating, and standing with hands raised high toward heaven. Gesture obviously unites mind and body and presents us whole to God.  Yoga is a way to help us fully inhabit our bodies and begin using them to more fully actualize what God calls us to be.

However, these mystics, in all cultures and religions, are the point of reference for the seekers of Truth, instead of the different religious hierarchies and authorities, very often more worried about preserving the inherited traditions and symbols (which substitute the true direct spiritual experience) and expanding their own influence in society.

There is no unique spiritual approach or path.  The relationship that one has with the Supreme will never have an equal; it will never be exactly the same as another person´s relationship. If, through development, we are able to come into contact with the Truth of our own Being, we will be immediately having a unique and exclusive relationship, without equal, with The Divine Being.” The fact that there are different spiritual approaches is what really enriches us all. From this stems the Hindu ideal of the Satsang or “Truth´s Company,” the divine communion in which we share the Truth, reaching a superior understanding through the comprehension of different points of view. The ideal “unity in diversity” also stems from this.

 Kathy Kiefer