May 27, 2019

12 Minutes to Stress-Free! Written by Jessica Matthews

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Got 12 minutes? 3 Simple Strategies for Stress-Free Surrender!
Written by Jessica Matthews

Busy day at work? Hectic holiday season?  A growing to-do list? Whatever the reason might be, in this fast-paced world it’s not uncommon to find ourselves feeling stressed from time to time, especially as the end of the year draws near. These three simple strategies for stress relief, which when done together take just 12 minutes to complete, can help you to truly relax and unwind at the end of a long day.

Yogic breathwork in child’s pose (Ujjayi Pranayama in Balasana)- Numerous scientific studies have shown that pranayama, the practice of breath control, helps to increase relaxation, decrease feelings of anxiety, improve mental focus and enhance overall psychological well-being. Ujjayi breathing, a type of pranayama in which inhalation and exhalations are done through the nose, is a breath that is both relaxing and energizing. This diaphragmatic breath has been shown to increase oxygen consumption, as it is designed to be both a long and smooth breath in which air is guided gently in and out of the body through the nose without force, creating a soothing sound, almost like the sound of distance ocean waves. Pair this breath with child’s pose, a resting posture that helps to release tension in the back while also relieving fatigue and stress, and spend about two minutes quieting the mind and steading the breath while enjoying a few moments of surrender.

Legs up the wall pose (Viparita Karani)- Borrowing from restorative yoga, this posture helps to release tension from the lower extremities and reduce swelling in the legs and feet while also calming the mind and decreasing feelings of anxiety and stress. With your legs extended up the wall, use folded blankets or a bolster to help support the lower back as you come to stillness for five blissful minutes.

Seated meditation (Mantra Visualization in Anjali Mudra)- Clearing your mind after a long day can seem like quite the challenge, especially if you’re new to meditation, but by practicing anjali mudra, a comfortable seated posture in which the palms are pressed together at heart center with both thumbs lightly touching the sternum and the head slightly bowed forward, in time entering that meditative state of awareness will start to become much easier. Couple this stress-relieving asana with a mantra visualization in which you select a word or phrase that you repeat silently to yourself, allowing it’s meaning to radiate through your body, and in just five quiet contemplative minutes it can help you to quiet your mind and truly become grounded, present and fully attuned in the here in now.

This article is written by Jessica Matthews, MS, E-RYT, is an exercise physiologist, yoga teacher, group fitness instructor, personal trainer, adjunct professor, blogger and fitness personality. Jessica strives to open minds, ignite passion and inspire the world to health and fitness through purposeful movement, quality nutrition and kind words. She has been featured as a fitness expert on CNN and has been quoted in numerous publications including Shape, Self, Oxygen and Oprah.com. For more health and fitness information, follow Jessica at www.twitter.com/fitexpertjess

Which style of Yoga is best for me? By Jessica Matthews

Which style of yoga is best for me? With a number of different styles of yoga to choose from, it’s important to be familiar with some of the specifics of each in order to ensure that you select a style that is in lie with your unique health, fitness and wellness goals, as well as your particular needs and interests. Below is a general overview of five of the different style of yoga currently being offered (this is by no means a comprehensive list)-

Hatha- This term, which can encompasses a variety of physical types of yoga, is typically reflective of gentle, slower-paced yoga classes which are great for beginners as well as for those seeking a solid, foundational understanding of basic yoga postures (asanas) and breathing techniques (pranayama) to help reduce stress.

Vinyasa- Much like Hatha, this term may also be used to describe a variety of class styles. The term vinyasa in its Sanskrit roots means “to place in a special way,” as this style of yoga is comprised of breath-synchronized movements designed to create flow throughout the practice (this style of yoga commonly referred to as “flow yoga.”)

Ashtanga- Sometimes referred to as “power yoga,” this physically demanding practice is a great option for those looking for a more serious physical challenge, as it is devised of six series of asanas which increase in difficulty.

Bikram- Also commonly referred to as “hot yoga” (although not all hot yoga classes are Bikram classes), this practice is comprised of a set sequence of 26 asanas that are performed in a heated room. Bikram classes are typically 90-minutes in length, and because of this it’s important to keep hydration in mind, as it takes time for the body to acclimate to exercising in heat.

Iyengar- This style of yoga focuses on bodily alignment, and encourages the use of props to facilitate precise body position within each pose. Emphasis is placed on holding the postures longer (for several breaths) as opposed to quickly flowing from one posture to another, making it a suitable option to accommodate those with any special needs, such as previous injuries or structural imbalances.

Jessica Matthews, MS, E-RYT, is an exercise physiologist, yoga teacher, group fitness instructor, personal trainer, adjunct professor, blogger and fitness personality. Jessica strives to open minds, ignite passion and inspire the world to health and fitness through purposeful movement, quality nutrition and kind words. She has been featured as a fitness expert on CNN and has been quoted in numerous publications including Shape, Self, Oxygen and Oprah.com. For more health and fitness information, follow Jessica at www.twitter.com/fitexpertjess

 

Does Yoga Really Do a Body Good? By Jessica Matthews

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Does Yoga Really Do a Body Good? Writtten by Jessica Matthews

Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years, so one would assume it must provide some great benefits, right? Well over the last decade as the interest and demand for mind-body programming has continued to increase, so has the number of research studies conducted to examine the specific benefits that yoga has to offer.

Benefits of yoga
Studies have shown that regular yoga practice can improve muscular strength and endurance, flexibility and balance, which are often overlooked aspects of fitness. Yoga has also been shown to decrease the risk factors for chronic diseases, such as diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease, and also is effective in reducing chronic low-back pain, an issue which will affect nearly 80% of Americans at some point during our lifetimes.

Beyond the physical
In addition to the numerous physiological benefits, yoga also provides an assortment of emotional and psychology benefits. Yoga by definition means “union,” in essence the connection between body, mind and spirit. Yoga has been shown to reduce stress, promote relaxation, improve mood, and increase subjective well-being. Available research also indicates that stress-related diseases, such as hypertension, pain, cardiovascular disease, and depression are beneficially affected by regular participation in mindful exercise, such as yoga.

Can yoga do it all?
While the research regarding the physical benefits of yoga is in impressive, it is important to note that yoga was traditionally not designed to be a “one-stop shop” in regards to fitness. Research has supported this notion by studying and identifying the lack of aerobic activity that yoga provides. A study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise (ACE®), conducted by Poraci and Spilde at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, showed that that a 50-minute Hatha yoga practice provides no substantial aerobic benefit, as the number of calories subjects burned was comparable to that of a slow walk. Vinyasa-style or Asthanga yoga (often referred to as “power yoga”) on the other hand was shown to provide a mild aerobic workout, as a 50-minute practice burned 344 calories on average among participants.

These findings are not intended to deter individuals from integrating yoga into their current fitness program by any means. Instead, these findings help to shift the focus back to the numerous valuable benefits that yoga was intended to and does provide, which often times are the critical components that individual fitness routines are lacking.

 

This article is written by Jessica Matthews, MS, E-RYT, is an exercise physiologist, yoga teacher, group fitness instructor, personal trainer, adjunct professor, blogger and fitness personality. Jessica strives to open minds, ignite passion and inspire the world to health and fitness through purposeful movement, quality nutrition and kind words. She has been featured as a fitness expert on CNN and has been quoted in numerous publications including Shape, Self, Oxygen and Oprah.com. For more health and fitness information, follow Jessica at www.twitter.com/fitexpertjess.