Category: Uncategorized

Jul 23, 2018

What are the benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation.

Introduction:

When we talk of Yoga, as we have said before, people associate it with meditation rather than exercise. So I thought that for a change rather than continue with what both Yoga and Pilates can do for you, that in this blog that I would take a brief look at meditation. You may be pleasantly surprised at what this ancient art can do.

You will notice that in addition to having to concentrate your mind, that breathing also plays an important part in your meditation.

What are the benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation.

It is understood that in America over ten million people practice the art of mindful meditation. It is believed that this is due to people being able to enjoy living a life that is more productive and less stressful, which results in them enjoying a better life.

With such a large number of people turning to meditation, we have to ask ourselves why? The simple answer is because it works. It is of course much deeper than that, our generation has to absorb far more information, resulting in more stress than our ancestors.

Those who practice mindful mediation, do so for a number of differing reasons such as, reducing stress, a better more purposeful life, better awareness, the list can go on. However that is sufficient to give you a basic understanding why people have turned to this form of developing their mind.

Irrespective of your reasons, you are more in control of your life, the more that you know about your thinking. Mindful meditation, like music has a number of layers. Your awareness is concentrated on the here and now.

We often let ourselves become distracted, let ourselves wander into the past or the future, this results in us not focusing on the matters that are important now. By practicing mindful meditation we are given the power to direct our attention to the present. We are able to perform better, thus achieving more as our mental energy is increased.

Using mindful meditation allows us to not only increase our awareness and enjoy the present more, heightening our senses as we do so.

We are able to become more relaxed, as our awareness is increased, the threats of stress and other less helpful thoughts become easier to cope with.

Unlike our ancestors who rarely moved from where their birthplace, in today’s modern world it is not unknown for people to move on a regular basis, this causes us to not be able to form the number of long-lasting friendships, which previous generations enjoyed. By using mindful meditation we can have the mind set to help us cope, with a large number of the problems, which modern life brings with it.

The best way to describe what are the benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation, is that it exercises the mind, as Yoga can be said to exercise the body. It is suggested that you have a short period of meditation daily, this will gradually strengthen your mind, strengthening your thought process and awareness as you do so.

When you begin to practice meditation, you may well find that it is difficult for to sit quietly for say ten or fifteen minutes. Do not make excuses for not doing it, if you do, it makes resuming the meditation harder, the longer you think of excuses for not continuing.

If this is you, ask yourself, why did I start to meditate in the first place, whatever the reason, it will not be right or wrong. Be strong allocate a period, either first thing in a morning or at lunchtime, in time you will see the progress that you have achieved.

You may be interested to learn that I meditate, felt that I could not write this without trying it out. At the bottom of my garden is a summer house, which I have turned into my art studio. I sit in there and meditate, am only at five minutes at the moment, but it works, when I return to my office, I feel relaxed, very calm and full of go.

How often have we avoided thinking of our problems, as they have become too stressful, practicing meditation on a regular basis, help us to deal with problems by giving us an inner calm.

We are all aware of using our addiction to drugs, alcohol and even social media to avoid helping us to sort out our problems. By meditating on a daily basis, we are kept not only focused, but able to deal with our problems. Like many things in life, the more you practice the better you become.

Studies have found that the regular practice of mindful meditation has a number of benefits, these include amongst others:

Lowers the Blood Pressure

Gives you more energy

You enjoy a better night’s sleep

Stress related illnesses are reduced

Improves your ability to make better decisions

There are a number of other benefits, but it is felt that just listing the above will give you a general idea.

It is well-known that the body and mind are connected, if we are stressed so is our body, this is why mindful meditation helps to alleviate problems we suffer when stressed, as when we improve our mental health, we can reduce a number of our physical problems.

Studies have shown that when patients have used mediation instead of drugs, that the effect on the brain was the same with either treatment. This goes to show the power of this form of meditation. The studies were based on just two and a half hours of mediation a week, it was thought that a longer period would show even better results and improvement.

Practicing Mindful Meditation

To begin make sure that your clothing is comfortable

Find a spot which is without noise if possible, and sit somewhere which is comfortable.

Where you choose to meditate, is up to you, it can be indoors or out.

Begin with short sessions of say ten minutes. Once you are used to meditating the time can be increased to suit you. As I mentioned earlier I do five minutes at the moment.

If need be you can split your time into two sessions.

Let’s Get Started

If you wish you can sit in your favourite armchair, or even adopt the lotus position, if you are sitting own have your feet resting on the floor. Make sure that your spine is straight, but not tensed or stiff. Hold your head so that it hangs naturally, whilst gazing downwards. Let your hands rest on your thighs.

The majority of people seem to prefer to close their eyes, but you do not have too. This is a personal choice, which you must make. If you are happy with whatever you want to do, then do it. The main objective here is to be comfortable.

Begin by concentrating on your breathing, as mentioned in a previous blog, inhale through the nose, taking the breathe deep down into the stomach, exhale slowly.

When I do this, I can feel the air as it moves into and down my body. Must confess it feels invigorating. Whilst you must try to concentrate, do not worry if your mind wanders, just try to concentrate on you breathing.

When you have finished your meditation, open your eyes, or if open just relax, being aware once more of your surroundings.

Overcome Stressful Situations with Meditation

Doing meditation on a daily basis can help you deal with your daily stress, we all have periods most days when we have a stressful moment, it could be the children wanting things which you cannot afford, your partner wanting a meal out, when you want to stay. There are a number of things that occur daily which can cause you stress.

Whenever this happens, try to take deep breaths, sit quietly if you can for just a few minutes as you concentrate on your breathing. This will help you to relax. If it is possible taking a short walk, practicing your breathing as you do so. This is known as walking meditation and is a great way of getting your mind clear of stress.

Unlike the previous meditation, where we concentrated on our breaths, when we walk we concentrate on our steps, not the rise and fall of our breath, but how our feet move as we walk. Try counting to yourself ten steps at a time as you concentrate.

This time as you move you will notice the sights and sounds around you, let your thoughts drift back to your feet.

Instead of focusing on your feet and body, try instead to be aware of what is around you, the smells, the colours the general atmosphere.

More Techniques

Other techniques which help you to become more mindful and increase your awareness,

Meditate by Focusing on a Specific Object

This time, choose an object that you would like to observe and can see completely, begin by doing your breathing meditation for five minutes with your eyes closed. Open your eyes and focus on your chosen subject. Is it in the light or dark, is it of differing colours, notice what you can as you breathe slowly and deeply focusing all the time on our object.

Should your mind wander, return to the object of your awareness.

Body Scan Meditation

This is very useful in helping to keep your focus sharp, releasing tension as you finish the day, you are then helped too easily fall asleep.

Sit or lie where you feel most comfortable, you are going to concentrate on the areas of your body where you feel most tension.

Begin with five minutes of breathing deeply, with your eyes closed. Move your concentration to your body, as you become more aware, concentrate first on your feet and toes, moving up to the ankles, feet, thighs and then your body itself.

When an area feels tense breathe in concentrating on that area, then breathe out, spend as much time as you want too on these tense spots. Cover the entire body, this exercise not only relieves tension, it helps to calm the mind, and helps in dealing with stress.

Meditation by Counting

As you have done previously, find somewhere comfortable to sit, spend five minutes to relax, whilst you do your breathing meditation. Now inhale deeply, wait for a second, then while counting the number one in your mind, exhale. Continue doing this increasing the number each time, so from one go to two and so on. Cary on until you reach ten, then count backwards, until you reach one. Should you lose track of where you have got to with your counting simply start again.

How high you count to is down to you, as you breathe think of some exotic place that you would like to be. Take your time, relax and enjoy the new peace which you have found

Conclusion

Do try some of these meditation exercises, I am sure that you will be surprised by the results I know that I was.

As with all my blogs, what you read here is for information purposes only, and should be treated as such. If in doubt about trying these exercises please see your medical Adviser first.

Stay healthy

Stuart

Yoga and Pilates Benefits – What are they?

Introduction

This question is often asked by those who are thinking of studying Yoga or Pilates for the first time, or those who are just curious, as to what these two forms of exercise are. So just what are the Yoga and Pilates benefits, when you make a decision which discipline that you would like to follow.

There is however, nothing to stop you following both, working them alongside each other, or doing some exercises from one, then the other to suit your preferences.

Some people, will do mainly Yoga, with one or two Pilates sessions added in once or twice a week, others will reverse the process.

It really depends on what you want to get out of the two disciplines.

What are the differences between Yoga and Pilates?

Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that focuses on strength, flexibility and breathing to boost physical and mental wellbeing. The practice originated in India about 5,000 years ago, and has been adapted in other countries in a variety of ways.

Pilates places particular emphasis on core strength, aiming to strengthen the body evenly, improving general fitness and well-being, also improving your posture, muscle tone, balance and joint mobility

Both disciplines can use a mat. Whilst it is usual to use one for Pilates, a mat when doing Yoga exercises is more comfortable than just using the floor.

If, however you require your body to be strengthened and toned, then Pilates would be your choice. However, whilst both Yoga and Pilates can help you in building more strength, Yoga does not place as much emphasis on building strength and toning as Pilates does.

If, however you wish to do exercises to help you relax, then Yoga would seem more preferable than Pilates.

Yoga Exercises

The main components of yoga are postures (a series of movements designed to increase strength and flexibility) and breathing.

To confuse the issue, there are a number of different types or forms of Yoga, with differing poses and structures, these include:

Hatha Yoga – a basic form of Yoga, the classes are slow moving, requiring you to hold your breath for just a few breaths.

Vinyasa Yoga – this would suit those that like artistic movement, as this flows linking both breath and movement, in a way that reminds you of dance movements.

Other forms of Yoga include, Hot Yoga, Yin Yoga, Lyengar Yoga, Bikram Yoga and Kundalini Yoga to name but a few.

For the beginner there are a number of gentle exercises which you can start with, that are slow as well gentle.

Pilates Exercises

Whilst some Yoga exercises can be done on a mat, Pilates exercises are always done on a mat. If, however you are undecided about Pilates and wish to try out some of the exercises first, you could always use a rug.

If, however you find that you are comfortable with the exercises you can then buy a mat. A ball is also used in some of the routines.

However, Pilates can be done with no equipment whatsoever. It just depends on how deep you wish to go, just a few core exercises getting a flatter tummy, or the whole hog to impress your partner.

The Health Benefits

Both Yoga and Pilates Benefits, do have some similarities with regard to improving your health.

Are there any health benefits to Pilates? Those who practise regular Pilates exercise believe that it can improve posture, muscle tone, balance and joint mobility.

Classed as a muscle strengthening activity, this can help you to maintain a healthy weight.

For those who wish to lose weight using Pilates, these exercises should be combined with a healthy diet and activities such as walking and swimming.

Pilates can improve your general fitness and well-being, it is also believed to relieve stress and tension.

Yoga helps you to relax in a recognised way by improving your physical and mental health.

Research has shown that not only do regular sessions of Yoga help stimulate your immune system, it can also help with conditions such as…..

  • Arthritis
  • Asthema
  • Lower Back Pain
  • Diabetes
  • Blood Pressure
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Heart Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Headaches
  • And a number of other related illnesses.

Those who practice Yoga believe it enables you to get a better night’s sleep, improves your concentration and focus, reduces your stress levels, boosts your self-estem and respect and improves your feel good factor

In General

Pilates has something to offer people of all ages, levels of ability and fitness. It does not matter whether you are a beginner or an elite athlete.

Age, level of fitness and ability are no barrier to Pilates.

Yoga is a more gentle form of exercise, which apart from a mat does not require any other form of equipment. But some teachers do use a varied array of extra kit.

Some forms of Yoga are more physical demanding and power related these can get you very hot and sweaty.

In Summary

Yoga is now commonplace in leisure centres, health clubs, schools, hospitals and surgeries.

With all forms of exercise if you do have any doubts about your health then do seek medical advice first.

Both Yoga and Pilates benefits, will help you to achieve, a healthier you, enabling you to feel more relaxed and generally enjoying that feel good factor.

Practising both will enable you to get the right balance of benefits.

Whichever you choice, or both if you like, enjoy the experience and well-being, that either or both will bring.

Before you begin any form of exercise it is advisable to do some form of warm up exercises first.

As was said earlier if you are in any doubt about the state of your health,

PLEASE, DO SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE FIRST.

Which ever activity you choose, enjoy it, be healthy and happy.

Stuart

Yoga Pilates Weight Loss

Introduction:

Speak to any person who practices Yoga or Pilates, they will all claim that the regime which they are a devotee of, offers a number of outstanding physical benefits, these include Yoga Pilates Weight Loss.

To lose weight you normally need to create a deficiency in your calorie intake, this means burning off more calories than you consume.

It is surprising that Yoga Pilate Weight Loss does not involve the burning of numerous calories. But the gentle exercises that are involved on both Yoga and Pilates, help to achieve weight loss in different ways.

The programs which you undertake when studying either Yoga or Pilates, or indeed both, as some do, can assist you in losing weight as you learn to appreciate the functioning of the body, also to understand it better.

Pilates – Does it Help:

Created by Joseph Pilates in the 1920’s, the exercises use a mat, and can include the use of balls, resistance bands and rings. It is actually a program designed to tone the body, this in turn improves core strength, flexibility, co-ordination and muscle control.

In addition it also believed to promote better respiration, and a stronger back whilst increasing the circulation.

The American Council of Exercises says:

“The immediate physical benefits of Pilates are improved posture, leaner muscles and a flatter stomach”

Yoga – How it Helps:

Yoga is the very ancient of exercises  which uses poses or postures combined with controlled breathing and a spiritual mind set. The regular use of these postures helps keep the body, strong, loose and flexible.

The spiritual side of Yoga, which has its origins in Eastern philosophy, is intended to help the practitioner or student to be more mentally aware and balanced.

As a fitness regime Yoga continues to grow in popularity, with its combination in one practice, of emotions, presence of mind, and movement all connected by controlled breathing, many of these exercises can be carried out in small doses. Such as when you sit at your desk whilst taking a break from your computer.

There are a number of variations in the exercises or postures which are used in Yoga, differing forms also appear, you can do gentle, soothing practices which soothe both mind and body. You can also carry out power postures if you wish.

Weight-Loss Effects:

It is highly unlikely that you will lose weight by the torching of calories in either Pilates or Yoga. Yoga power burns for example will cause you to lose only three hundred to four hundred calories in an hour.

However as was stated earlier both Yoga and Pilates give you a new understanding of your body. It has been suggested in research that by doing Yoga exercises on a regular basis, you become more aware of what you eat. It is also believed that Yoga helps you to understand what your body is telling you, thus reducing the likelihood of overeating when you are stressed.

There have been no studies carried out which support losing weight by doing a series of Pilates exercises. However as Pilates is designed to build muscle, this in turn could help to burn off more calories. Becoming aware of your improved physique, could encourage you to not only eat less, but to be careful about what you do eat.

Mistaken Believes:

Do not be fooled into thinking that you will lose weight by just doing Yoga or Pilates exercises, you will need to have a calorie reduced diet, and also take part in other activities such as swimming and walking.

Whilst certain styles of Yoga can provide you with a higher calorie burn off. These are not best suited to the beginner. Those new to Yoga, should begin with the learner or beginner classes, slowly working up to the more advanced classes.

As was said earlier, whilst Pilates can help you build muscle, please ignore the promises of those who promise that by doing Pilates you will experience a significant loss of weight.

Conclusion:

Whilst it is a good idea to include in your general exercise and weight loss strategy, either Yoga or Pilates or both. It is also an idea to keep your focus on healthy foods, with sensibly sized portions.

You can alternate your Yoga/Pilates exercises with other forms of exercise, such as a visit to the gym or swimming pool.

Yes you can lose weight with Yoga and Pilates, but you must be aware that they are not just a one stop solution.

Be Healthy

Stuart

Reduce Back Pain – with Yoga and Pilates

Introduction:

It is hoped that it is understood that  the title to this post is somewhat general.  Anyone who has suffered, or is indeed suffering, will understand that any article to reduce back pain with Yoga and Pilates, is bound to touch on stopping it and preventing it.

It is not surprising that some eight out of ten adults suffer from some form of back pain.  In the majority of cases this is caused by poor posture, and the stress which is placed on our bodies every day.

Usually originating from the joints, muscles and vertebrae of the back, it is the result of aching, stiffness, tension or pain in these areas.

It is a known fact that Doctors and specialists recommend regular exercise and stretching to reduce back pain.

Many who suffer from back pain do exercises without consulting either a Doctor or a therapist, instead of relieving the problem, this can lead to making matters worse.  However mild the pain, you should always seek advice, as to which exercises you should undertake before doing any.

Yoga and Pilates To Reduce Back Pain

A common mistake made by those who suffer from back pain, is by staying in bed, or resting too long when the suffering begins.  This can hinder not help treatment.  Back pain relief is more effective when the sufferer remains active, as this not only soothes, but strengthens the muscles, this can not only reduce, but prevent future occurrences.

Stretching and resistance exercises which are recommended to aid back pain relief are used by both Yoga and Pilates.

Pilates – How Exercises Help

Using Pilates exercises can correct not only bad posture, but also relieve tight muscles. When  Joseph Pilates originally created the exercises it was to help in the rehabilitation of injured athletes.  These exercises are designed to help in the recovery from strain and injury to the back.

They  have been proved to not only reduce aching, but to stop back pain permanently, when regular exercise is undertaken.

It is important however, that the right exercises are chosen, the idea being that not only are the muscles strengthened, but that by stretching out the tensions, any future muscle stress is prevented.

Some of the specific benefits Pilates offers:

  • Your abs, or core muscles are strengthened
  • Shows you how to improve the alignment of your spine.
  • Makes you aware of your posture, by reducing the slouching habit.
  • Aids and improves your flexibility.

Yoga – How These Exercises Can Help

Whilst back pain, especially lower back pain, will affect the majority of people, it is often linked with a number of other conditions, including depression, arthritis and sciatica.  This affects our lives in general, including work, leisure time, sport and probably more importantly, time with our families

Here are three suggestions to relieve and stop back pain using Yoga.

  1. Be very careful that you do not sit for too long.

When you do sit try to be more upright, do not slouch or lounge in your chair.  When working at or on the computer sit upright with your back supported if need be.

Our bodies are not designed for us to sit about all day,  in fact researchers say that we should spend at least two hours standing daily.  If you do have to sit for long periods, either have a break and move about, or try one of two yoga poses, the tree pose or the chair pose. The body does need movement, try to do a little yoga when you are alone, it does not have to be a full blown workout.

As they say every little helps, as sitting badly encourages bad habits, in addition to back pain, this can lead to poor circulation, fatigue and poor digestion.

  1. Improve your Core Strength

When we talk about  improving your core strength, we do not mean just the abs, but the spinal muscles that keep you upright not forgetting the lower back muscles.

If you improve your posture more each day and by simple yoga practice gently work on your core, your core will slowly be strengthened.  Holding your head more erect also helps.

Something that I do when I am sat the computer for a while, is to rotate the neck several times in each direction, I can often feel the muscles cracking when I do so.  Make sure that you are sat upright and that the head is also held upright.  Not saying that this is either Pilates or Yoga, just something that I do, that works.  If desired you can even move the head backwards and forwards a few times.

3.     Do a Yoga Practice that is well balanced

To improve the health of your spine it is important that your yoga practice embraces all of the six movements of the spine.  These include back banding and forward folding, as in the Cat/Cow pose.  When doing both spinal twists and side bending do them to both the left and the right.

In addition to these poses, a balanced practice regime as we get older  helps us to maintain our mobility and vitality.

As well as the suggested poses, breathing techniques and meditation, play a role in the management of pain.

If by practising yoga, the pain in your back increases, please seek specialist medical help.

Conclusion:

To prevent getting back pain in the first place there are several things that you can do, some of which are also helpful in reducing the severity of back pain. If you keep your back strong and supple by doing the following:

  • Take regular exercise, such as going for a good brisk walk, or swimming.
  • Reduce stress levels to a minimum.
  • When you lift or carry, do so properly, by bending at the knees do not just reach forward to lift.
  • Always ensure that you maintain a good posture.
  • Do exercises designed to reduce, stop or control back pain.

Back pain is mainly caused by a number of factors, these include:

  • When bending doing so awkwardly.
  • Injuries caused by sporting activities.
  • Carrying items which are too heavy.
  • Muscles being over stretched or strained.
  • Carrying too much body weight, so you need to diet.
  • When driving, doing so for long periods, without a break, to ease your muscles.

As can be seen by these few notes this is a complex subject, there are a number of poses, postures or exercises in both Yoga and Pilates which can help, there is not enough space here to be even begin to explain them.

This article is for information purposes only, any medical or practical advice needed must be sought from those qualified to give it.

To a back pain free future.

Stuart