Yoga Treatment for Serious Illness

The 5 Unexpected Health Benefits of Yoga
Practitioners tout yoga for its mind-body benefits—flexibility, toned muscles, reduced stress, among others. More recently, scientists have begun to test yoga’s effect on serious medical conditions. The results have been impressive enough that investigators expect yoga will soon become part of the standard treatment for a number of disorders.
Yoga
Photo: Thinkstock
Depression
Low brain levels of the neurotransmitter GABA are often found in people with depression; SSRIs, electroconvulsive therapy, and now yoga, it seems, can boost GABA. Preliminary research out of the Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard’s McLean Hospital found that healthy subjects who practiced yoga for one hour had a 27 percent increase in levels of GABA compared with a control group that simply sat and read for an hour. This supports a growing body of research that’s proving yoga can significantly improve mood and reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety.Heart Disease
Several trials have found that yoga can lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and resting heart rates, and help slow the progression of atherosclerosis—all risk factors for heart disease, says Erin Olivo, PhD, director of Columbia University’s Integrative Medicine Program.While almost any exercise is good for the heart, experts speculate yoga’s meditative component may give it an extra boost by helping to stabilize the endothelium, the lining of the blood vessels that, when irritated, contributes to cardiovascular disease. Since the lining is reactive to stress, and meditation can lower stress hormones, yoga may be causing a cascade of events that could reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Breast Cancer
Research is becoming clear on this: Women who do yoga during and after treatment experience less physical discomfort and stress. In 2007, Duke University scientists reported results of a pilot study in which women with metastatic breast cancer attended eight weekly yoga sessions. The doctors found that the women had much less pain and felt more energetic and relaxed.

Menopause
A preliminary study at the University of California, San Francisco, found that menopausal women who took two months of a weekly restorative yoga class, which uses props to support the postures, reported a 30 percent decrease in hot flashes. A four-month study at the University of Illinois found that many women who took a 90-minute Iyengar class twice a week boosted both their energy and mood; plus they reported less physical and sexual discomfort, and reduced stress and anxiety.

Chronic Back Pain
When doctors at the HMO Group Health Cooperative in Seattle pitted 12 weekly sessions of yoga against therapeutic exercises and a handbook on self-care, they discovered the yoga group not only showed greater improvement but experienced benefits lasting 14 weeks longer. A note of caution: “While many poses are helpful, seated postures or extreme movement in one direction can make back pain worse,” says Gary Kraftsow, author of Yoga for Wellness, who designed the program for the study.

Jax’s Recovery Water

 Recovery Water
 
This vitamin water is ideal for recovery post-workout or after a large bout of physical activity.  Blackberries and Cherries aid in replenishing oxygen in the blood while pomegranate and glutamine help to restore and repair muscle tissue damage.
 
 
 
 
Ingredients:
 
1/2 Pomegranate Seeds
1/2 Cup Blackberries
1 Cup Cherries (pitted)
5ml Glutamine Powder
Pinch Himalayan Crystal Salt
750ml – 1 litre Filtered Alkaline Water (or Purified water + 1 Tsp Fresh Lemon Juice)
 
Directions: 
 
1. Muddle blackberries, cherries and pomegranate in a small bowl and add to a large 1 litre glass or mason jar, add remaining ingredients and stir
2. Refrigerate for 4-6 hours

 

 
 
 

Yoga For Arthritis

When we say arthritis, you probably picture a crotchety old grandma with puffy knuckles bemoaning the weather. Guess again. Eight point four million adults under the age of 44 suffer from the disease, and swollen joints are a tiny part of the experience. Arthritis is actually an umbrella term covering more than 100 conditions that cause joint pain, stiffness, inflammation and more, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

The most common? Osteoarthritis: the wear and tear of the cartilage that cushions bone joints, causing pain in these areas. “Even when you’re young, you may see the beginning of wear-and-tear arthritis,” says Charles Matkin, director of the Satsang Yoga Center in Garrison, New York, and co-creator of the Healing Yoga DVD series. Symptoms include popping and snapping in your joints, sharp pain during movement, and resting aches. Yoga can’t cure osteoarthritis, but—with poses that help you realign your joints, reduce stress on these areas and improve your posture, all while developing and maintaining a full range of motion—it can prevent the disease from getting worse and also help relieve pain, Matkin says. ”By stretching the muscles, yoga can provide physical relief of symptoms around the affected joints,” write authors.

“Yoga reduces stress which is known to exacerbate arthritis. Yoga can improve coping and by altering perspective toward life provide spiritual solace.”

yoga

The findings, published in Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, drew upon nine previous studies published between 2010 and June 2013.

Study participants performed yoga at different regularity: some twice a day for one week, others once a week for up to 16 weeks.

Six of the nine studies found a positive correlation between yoga practice and patient quality of life, while the remaining three saw mixed results.

Authors concluded that “self-management and increasing physical activity is of paramount importance in management of arthritis” and recommended that more studies explore the link between yoga and arthritis.

A recent study by Arthritis UK exploring the benefits of yoga for low back pain, confirmed that the practice has various health benefits.

Chief investigator Professor David Torgerson, director of York Trials Unit who carried out the study, said: “Our results showed that yoga can provide both short and long-term benefits to those suffering from chronic or recurrent back pain, without any serious side-effects.”

Here are some poses I recommend:

Forearm Balance Variation

This variation is good for osteoarthritis in the hands, neck and shoulders. It helps realign your joints (when they are misaligned, the cartilage wears down more easily) and also opens up your upper body, helping you reduce stress on the neck and shoulder joints.

Using a strap, make a large loop and stick your arms through up to the elbows. Adjust the strap so it holds your elbows shoulder distance apart or a little wider. Put your hands in a prayer position and place your elbows on the edge of a counter or on the back of a chair that is waist-height or a little higher. Step your feet back as you bend forward at your hips. Keep your feet hip-width apart and parallel to each other. Bend your knees slightly and send your hips back (away from your elbows) to stretch your shoulders. Try to keep your hands pointing straight up, but if that causes pain, stick to an angle that works for you. Keeping your feet hip-width apart and parallel, walk them back, stretching your hips back away from your elbows in a straight line to open your upper back. Go only as far as you can breathe comfortably, making sure to keep shoulders away from ears so they don’t pinch into your neck. Hold for 10 to 20 breaths, then walk your feet back in. Repeat once.

Low Lunge Variation

This targets osteoarthritis in the knees, engaging and stretching your quadriceps and hip flexors, which will help prevent painful misalignment of the knee joints.

Roll up a plump blanket and carefully kneel down on it, pressing the tops of your feet into the floor to take weight off of your knees. Step your right foot forward, keeping it pointing straight ahead, until you start to feel a stretch in the front of your left thigh (about half a leg’s distance or a little more). Slide your left knee forward just past the edge of the blanket, keeping the blanket under your shinbone as an aid for leverage. Keep pressing the top of your left foot into the floor so your weight is on your shinbone, not on your kneecap. Keep your hands on either side of your front foot and walk your elbows or hands up onto your front thigh to deepen the stretch in your back thigh. Make sure that your front knee lines up with your ankle and hip (front foot still pointing straight ahead). Tip your hips up toward the ceiling, sending your tail down, only as far as you can breathe comfortably. Hold this for 10 to 20 breaths. To finish, walk hands back down and step your right knee back to where your left knee is. Repeat with left leg in front.

 

Single Leg Forward Bend

Try this for arthritis in the lower back. It stretches your hamstrings while strengthening your lower back muscles to improve arthritic-driven slouching.

 

Holding the back of a chair, step your right foot forward with a bent knee, and step your left foot back one leg’s distance while keeping your back heel grounded on the floor and your foot turned forward at a 45-degree angle. Make sure you don’t look like you’re standing on a balance beam—your feet should be hip-distance apart and your knees should align with the center of each foot. Press down into your feet. Remove your hands from the chair and place both hands on your hips, getting your spine as tall and straight as you can. Maintain that as you tilt forward with your hips, keeping your weight evenly distributed between both feet. Bring hands to the chair and, keeping your spine straight, straighten your front leg just a little, so you feel your hamstring muscles stretching in the back of your front leg. Hold for 15-25 breaths. Bend your front knee and use your legs, not your neck and shoulders, to step up out of the pose. Repeat with left leg in front.

Yoga and Strength: 10 Postures for Strength Athletes

Before diving into the ways in which yoga will increase your performance, let me first lay out a few guiding principles in how to approach yoga postures in the context of strength training:

#1. Yoga is NOT stretching.

 

yoga for athletes, yoga for strength athletes, best yoga poses for athletes

Or rather, it is not stretching as you may think of “stretching.” There are tons of articles out there telling you not to “stretch” or why static stretching will decrease performance, and they usually have a picture of a guy sitting on the ground sort of leaning forward over one leg with a rounded spine, half-heartedly reaching for his toes while gazing off into the distance.

 

Well, yes, doing that sort of “stretching” will certainly not promote any positive gains of any sort for your body. Most yoga postures, by contrast, are a series of focused isometric contractions coupled with specific breathing patterns that yield gains in flexibility, mobility, and strength.

 

#2. Yoga has potential applications for ANYONE.

 

You need not already be hyper-mobile or super-bendy to begin integrating yoga postures into your training. You also do not need to practice a minimum sixty minutes of yoga five days per week to get the benefits. There are dozens of variations and preparatory poses that can meet you where you are at, regardless of age, injury, athletic goal, or structural imbalance.

 

#3. Use Yoga on active rest days or after your training session.

 

In order to utilize yoga postures for the purpose of gaining strength and increasing performance, practice them after your training session so that your body has at least 24 hours to recover from the poses. Although yoga is restorative, it is still a very intense physical practice (when you want it to be) and your body, especially your nervous system, needs time to recover from it.

 

The 10 Essential Postures

 

I’ve selected the following ten postures to assist any strength athlete because of their ability to address the areas where so many of us often have limitations.Specifically, these postures will mobilize your hamstrings, decompress your vertebra, assist in relieving inflammation caused by a tight IT band, and allow for deeper hip flexion and rotation. They will also increase your ability to maintain thoracic extension in both seated and squatting positions. And the reduction in low back pain is a nice little bonus too. These postures can be used in this sequence or enjoyed individually after an intense training session.

 

In future posts we’ll dig into some of the finer details of each pose as well as some beginner modifications that make all of these accessible to anyone. But first, an overview of the ten best poses for strength athletes:

 

1. Triangle Pose

 

Primary Musculoskeletal Benefits:

  • Aids in developing and deepening the hip hinge movement pattern.
  • Direct application for kettlebell swing, deadlift, and kettlebell windmill.

 

yoga for athletes, yoga for strength athletes, best yoga poses for athletes

 

2. Extended Side Angle Pose

 

Primary Musculoskeletal Benefits:

  • Increases mobility in hip flexion, abduction, and external rotation.
  • Lengthening lats.
  • Direct application for all squatting patterns and overhead presses.

 

yoga for athletes, yoga for strength athletes, best yoga poses for athletes

 

3. Downward Dog

 

Primary Musculoskeletal Benefits:

  • Lengthens and mobilizes the entire superficial back line while decompressing spine.
  • Benefits ankle mobility and Achilles tendon.

 

yoga for athletes, yoga for strength athletes, best yoga poses for athletes

 

4. Low Pyramid Pose

 

Primary Musculoskeletal Benefits:

  • IT band and hamstrings. Try it and you’ll see what I mean.

 

yoga for athletes, yoga for strength athletes, best yoga poses for athletes

 

5. Warrior 1

 

Primary Musculoskeletal Benefits:

  • Thoracic extension coupled with shoulder and hip flexion.
  • Direct application for the front squat.

 

yoga for athletes, yoga for strength athletes, best yoga poses for athletes

 

6. Lunge Variation

 

Primary Musculoskeletal Benefits:

  • Lengthens side waist and psoas.
  • Awesome pose for anyone who sits more than two hours in a day.

 

yoga for athletes, yoga for strength athletes, best yoga poses for athletes

 

7. Low Lunge with Quad Stretch Variation

 

Primary Musculoskeletal Benefits:

  • Lengthens quadriceps while assisting deep knee flexion.
  • Also improves thoracic rotation.

 

yoga for athletes, yoga for strength athletes, best yoga poses for athletes

 

8. Pigeon

 

Primary Musculoskeletal Benefits:

  • Facilitates a much deeper hip opening.
  • Helps to alleviate low back pain in most cases.

 

yoga for athletes, yoga for strength athletes, best yoga poses for athletes

 

9. Shoelace

 

Primary Musculoskeletal Benefits:

  • Stretches butt muscles you forgot you had.
  • Amazing recovery tool after sessions with a high volume of hip-hinging movements.

 

yoga for athletes, yoga for strength athletes, best yoga poses for athletes

 

10. Reclined Spinal Twist

 

Primary Musculoskeletal Benefits:

  • Deep thoracic rotation while calming the central nervous system.

 

yoga for athletes, yoga for strength athletes, best yoga poses for athletes

 

How to Combine Yoga With Your Strength Training

 

I want to highlight two methods of integrating these postures into your training:

 

Method #1 - Add in one full day of yoga practice during a day when you would normally do a light workout or a day you would normally devote to active recovery. At the same time, add in fifteen minutes of yoga practice after training sessions. Pick just three or four poses each day and work on them. Focus on just these basic ten postures for now. You can add in all the other fancy poses later if needed.

 

Method #2 - For twelve weeks, scale back on the intensity of your training. Devote only two days per week to your strength training, preferably a short-duration total-body workout of a lighter than usual intensity utilizing exercises such as kettlebell swings, deadlifts, kettlebell front squats, TRX low rows, kettlebell overhead presses, Olympic lifts and variations, and Turkish get ups, or whatever lifts compliment your overall goals.

 

Aim to practice yoga five days per week, four days of just yoga, and one day of yoga combined with your strength training. Try a few group classes, and also practice on your own. For the first four weeks, you will probably feel as if you are getting weaker or not making any strength gains. But keep at it. Commit to twelve weeks and then transition back to Method #1, integrating yoga while adding intensity to your current program.

 

Give one of these methods a try and see what happens. I believe that In the long run you will be stronger and more importantly you will have increased the sustainability of your training.

 

Post any questions to comments, and keep an eye out for future articles on the adjustments, modifications, and nuances of each pose.

Vegan Chocolate Almond Protein Bars

Vegan Chocolate Almond Protein Bars

Vegan Protein Bars

INGREDIENTS

1 cup raw almonds
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
5 ounces plant-based vanilla protein powder (I like Garden of Life Raw or SunWarrior)
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup dairy-free chocolate chips (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare an 8 x 8-inch square pan by lining with parchment paper or cooking spray.
  2. Measure out 1/4 cup of the almonds, chop, and set aside for the topping.
  3. In a food processor, pour in the remaining 3/4 cup of almonds and the salt. Process until you have almond butter, several minutes.
  4. Add the oats, protein powder, and maple syrup, and process until smooth.
  5. Press mixture into the pan using the back of a spoon. Top with chopped almonds, pressing those into the bars.
  6. Place chocolate chips in a small glass bowl, and microwave until melted. Drizzle chocolate over the bars, and allow to set in the fridge for 20 minutes before cutting.
  7. Store uneaten bars in an airtight container in the fridge.

Why You Should Workout With Your Partner

Happy Valentine’s day! What better way to celebrate how much you love your partner than by going to the gym together, getting in a great sweat session, then divulging in a healthy meal and perhaps some treats too. But why hit the gym on a day that supposed to be all about chocolate, candies, cupcakes, and champagne? Well, because couples that sweat together, may in fact, be much more likely to stay together. Goal setters everywhere are joining health clubs, dusting off their yoga mats, and hitting the streets, taking on new workout programs and new fitness challenges. In celebration of these efforts, it’s time to consider how physical fitness can benefit not only you, but your romantic relationship. In particular, why not grab your partner’s hand and invite him or her to be your occasional (or regular!) workout buddy? A growing body of evidence suggests that couples who sweat together, stay together.

 

Need to be convinced? Check out the following research-based explanations for how couples who share in each other’s fitness efforts bring new life to their relationships and new energy to their workouts. Working out together can…

1.  Increase your happiness with your relationship. Lab studies show that after jointly participating in an exciting physical challenge or activity, couples report feeling more satisfied with their relationships and more in love with their partner (Aron, Norman, Aron, & Heyman, 2000). Exercise is a perfect example of the type of invigorating activity that can have these positive effects. It’s the physiological arousal, rather than the novelty or challenge of an activity, that drives romantic attraction (Lewandowski, & Aron, 2004). This suggests that sharing a fitness goal (such as training for a 5K or a triathlon), taking regular runs together, ballroom dancing, or having a date night at the gym can boost the quality of your romantic relationship.

2.  Improve the efficiency of your workouts.  A long-standing idea in social psychology is that the mere presence of someone else affects your ability to do an activity (Zajonc, 1965). For the workout-savvy, i.e., people who feel competent doing a particular exercise, bringing along your romantic partner may be a fantastic way to boost your energy output. Your partner’s presence will improve your speed, without you necessarily being aware of their influence (Bond & Titus, 1983). However, if you are just beginning to learn the art of the burpee or how to operate that fancy elliptical machine, better to workout solo. Your partner’s presence may interfere with your ability to complete this type of challenging task (Zajonc, 1965). Take some time to master the exercise then bring your partner along for a performance boost.

3. Make your partner fall in love with you.  Exercise induces the symptoms of physiological arousal: sweaty hands, a racing pulse, shortness of breath. These symptoms mirror, in many ways, the thrill of romantic attraction. Interestingly, people can easily mistake the two and misattribute physical arousal for romantic attraction (Dutton & Aron, 1974). You can use this to your advantage by inviting your romantic interest to workout with you. The results? A likely boost to your attractiveness in the eyes of your partner.

4.  Help you achieve your fitness goals.  When partners care about fitness, their own and their partner’s, they make it easier to achieve fitness goals. A recent study of heterosexual couples showed that average-weight husbands who care about fitness engage in more physical activity when their wives offer more supportive health-related comments ( Skoyen, Blank, Corkery, & Butler, 2013). Sharing in the ups and downs of an everyday morning walk, a tough bike ride, or a wild Zumba class, can provide the perfect context for such comments. One cautionary note: be sure not to rely too heavily on your partner when it comes to your own fitness goals. Such “outsourcing” of the mental effort required to complete fitness goals can reduce your own effort towards achieving those goals (Fitzsimons & Finkel, 2011).5. Increase your emotional bond with your partner. When you work out together, you create a context in which you can coordinate your actions. For example, you might lift weights in rhythm with your partner, match your own walking or running pace with your partner’s, or toss medicine balls back and forth. Such behavior creates nonverbal matching, or mimicry, which benefits both you and your partner (Stel & Vonk, 2010). Nonverbal mimicry helps people feel emotionally attuned with one another, and those who experience or engage in mimicry tend to report greater feelings of having “bonded” with their partner. Exercising together provides a nice chance to create connection, benefiting both your health and your romantic relationship.

In sum, fitness can be about you, or it can be about you and your partner, and why not share this aspect of your lives, either regularly or just on occasion, and see how doing so might give your relationship a new dimension and new life. Start on the most romantic day of the year! and get in a workout before the chocolate, candies, cupcakes, and champagne. Personally, one of my most favorite things in the world is working out with my significant other and we try to make time almost every single day.

Aron, A., Norman, C. C., Aron, E. N., McKenna, C., & Heyman, R. E. (2000). Couples’ shared participation in novel and arousing activities and experienced relationship quality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology78, 273-284.

Bond, C. F., & Titus, L. J. (1983). Social facilitation: a meta-analysis of 241 studies. Psychological Bulletin94(2), 265-292.

Dutton, D. G., & Aron, A. P. (1974). Some evidence for heightened sexual attraction under conditions of high anxiety. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology30, 510-517.

Fitzsimons, G. M., & Finkel, E. J. (2011). Outsourcing self-regulation.Psychological Science22, 369-375.

Lewandowski, G. W., & Aron, A. P. (2004). Distinguishing arousal from novelty and challenge in initial romantic attraction between strangers.Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal32, 361-372.

Skoyen, J. A., Blank, E., Corkery, S. A., & Butler, E. A. (2013). The interplay of partner influence and individual values predicts daily fluctuations in eating and physical activity. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 30, 1000-1019.

Stel, M., & Vonk, R. (2010). Mimicry in social interaction: benefits for mimickers, mimickees, and their interaction. British Journal of Psychology,101(2), 311-323.

Zajonc, R. B. (1965). Social facilitation. Science149, 269-274.

Healthy Valentines Day Bark

A perfect healthy (and inexpensive) gift for your Valentine.

Dark Chocolate Bark

Melt 100g of 85% dark chocolate with 1 tbsp melted coconut oil.

Stir in 1/4 cup almonds and 1/4 cup unsweetened dried cherries (you can also sprinkle a few on top).

Let cool. Break into small pieces. The perfect little treat.

Happy Valentines Day!

Winter Detox Green Soup

There is no better time to detox than in January and February. Not only has the holiday season come to an end but vacation season (as well as bikini season) is right around the corner! Personally, I also love to detox in January and February because it is too cold for parties, too cold for outings, and all I want to do is go to the gym, eat well, and stay healthy and happy so that I am ready for the exciting spring months! 

One of the best things on a chilly day, especially during a Polar Vortex, is soup. This is my favorite recipe and includes a lot of healing ingredients that will cleanse your system, rinse our your liver and your kidneys, and give your body the valuable nutrients it needs to sustain a healthy immune system during flu season. Enjoy! 

 

INGREDIENTS

1 large onion, peeled and sliced
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 turnip, peeled and chopped
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped
2 cups vegetable stock
2 large zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1-cm pieces
1 bunch of curly kale, rinsed and drained
Handful of spinach leaves

DIRECTIONS

  1. Saute the onion and garlic in a sauce pan with a little water or stock for 4 minutes. Add the turnip and sweet potato, and saute for a further 3 minutes.
  2. Add the rest of the stock, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in the zucchini and kale, and simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the spinach in at the end, and simmer for another minute.
  5. Pour the soup mixture into the blender or food processor, and blend till smooth.
  6. Return to the saucepan with heat on low, and add some freshly chopped curly parsley to garnish.

Pilates for Arthritis Pain Relief

Because Arthritis joint pain is caused by wear and tear on the joints you may not even consider exercising when you are hurting. To alleviate some of the pain and stiffness you are feeling, low impact exercises can be the best thing you can do.

Exercising the muscles that cushion sore joints can lessen the pressure on the joints. Some of these sore joints include: the hips, shoulders, knees, hands, and wrists.

The most common cause of arthritis joint pain is mal-alignment. A properly aligned joint with balanced muscle strength coming from opposing sides can reduce pain and support your activities that you enjoy.

What this means is that if you are strengthening the muscles in the thigh or front of the leg you also need to work the opposing group of hamstrings in the back of the leg.

Pilates exercises are designed to stretch and strengthen muscles groups at the same time. What this means is that the muscle groups that support your spine, knees, hips, and shoulders will be equally balanced. This corrective practice will, in turn, cause them to move more efficiently with less wear and tear, which equals less pain.

Stronger Muscles = Less Pressure on Joints = Less Pain!

Some sample Pilates exercises to help relieve the arthritis joint pain that you are feeling:

———————— Joint Pain Exercise for the Hips:

· Pilates leg circles are a great exercise to stabilize the pelvis while lubricating the hip joint and simultaneously stretching and strengthening those muscles of the hip and upper leg.

Leg circles are done by lying on your back with one leg extended out along the floor and the other can be extended almost to a 90 degree angle or modify by bending at the knee. Feel the femur or thigh bone heavy in the hip socket and rotate in circles keeping the torso anchored into the mat. Do this 5-8 times each direction.

————————— Wrist Joint Pain Exercise:

· Wrist/finger curls: One of my favorites to strengthen the wrist and increase finger dexterity is to do curls using a small dumbbell or weighted ball.

Leaning forward in a chair with your forearm resting on your thigh palm up and the back of the hand hanging off your leg. Roll the weight out to your finger tips and then slowly curl with your fingers and then make a fist around it as it curls into your palm. Do this 10 times on each hand.

————————— Shoulder Joint Pain Exercise:

· A great way to stabilize the shoulder joint is by doing scapular protraction and retraction exercises.

Standing with your arms extended at chest height, protract the scapula by reaching the arms out farther away drawing the shoulder blades apart. Retract the scapula by drawing or sliding the shoulder blades together. Complete 8-12 repetetions of this exercise in each direction.

————————– Joint Pain Exercise for the Knees:

Eve’s Lunge on the Pilates reformer is one of the best ways I have found to stretch and strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee joint. If this equipment is not available for you try doing a non-impact exercise such as leg extensions with a small soft ball.

Place a small ball between your knees as you are lying on your back. Extend your legs squeezing the ball more feeling your inner thighs working and your spine stretch flat into the mat. Bend your knees again to relax. Do this for 10-15 times.

————————-

Tips to begin any arthritis joint pain exercises:

1. Start slowly – Begin with low repetitions (4-8 times) and light weights (2-5 lbs).

2. Progress in small increments – after a week or two with no pain and soreness increase reps or frequency by a couple of reps or minutes.

3. Set goals you can achieve – If it’s only exercising one day per week then start there.

4. Work in a pain free range of motion. No Pain – No Gain is not allowed here!

Balance and Running

Balance is extremely important in running, and balance is easy to take for granted as a runner. One of the reasons human beings can’t run until they’re 2 years old is that they lack the required balance. Think about it: When you run you’re either airborne or have just one foot on the ground at all times, and your center of gravity, or balance point, is continuously moving forward. Only half of the energy your body uses during running actually goes toward forward propulsion. The other half goes toward preventing yourself from falling down.

You need two things to avoid falling down each time your foot strikes the ground during running: stability and balance. They sound like synonyms, but in this case they are not. Stability refers to a state of the body where little active balancing is required. It comes from the alignment of your body as your foot makes contact with the ground and the ability of the muscles whose job is to prevent your joints from collapsing on impact to do that job properly.

Balance refers to the neuromuscular skill of activating the muscles and adjusting your body alignment to keep yourself upright. It comes from the ability to anticipate and react to challenges to the body’s postural equilibrium.

Running experts talk a lot about stability and how to improve it, but they don’t talk a lot about balance. Obviously, the two attributes are interdependent. The more stable you are, the less balance you need. By wearing the right shoes, getting your stride right, and strengthening your stabilizing muscles, you can increase your stability as a runner and thereby reduce the energy you have to put into maintaining your balance.

However, you cannot eliminate the need for balance, and most runners — or at least most Western runners — are underdeveloped in this skill, such that they actually waste energy on balancing themselves. One reason may be that we get artificial stability from the smooth, paved roads we run on and the $125 shoes we run in. These factors act as crutches, almost literally, that enable us to get away with failing to fully develop our balancing skills. Whereas, for example, Kenya’s runners, who grow up running mostly barefoot on unstable surfaces, develop terrific balance and are thus able to devote more of their available energy to forward propulsion.

The essence of balance is, after all, relaxation. Consider the example of standing on a paddleboard on the water. The first time you do it, you will pour tremendous amounts of energy into tensing muscles throughout your body in the effort to stay upright, because your body has not yet learned how to skillfully anticipate and react to challenges to your equilibrium in that environment. After you’ve done it a bunch of times, however, not only will you have far more success in staying upright, but you will do so with a much smaller dedication of energy to the task. You will feel and be more relaxed on the board. Running is the same way. The better your balance becomes, the more relaxed you will run, and the faster you will be able to run with an equal dedication of energy to the overall task.

So, how do you improve your balance? Easy. Get off the roads occasionally and run on trails. Also do some barefoot running if you can. This will improve your balance while you run, without any need to perform “balance workouts” outside of running. You can also train your balance by incorporating equilibrium-challenging exercises into the strength-training sessions you’re already doing. For example, single-leg squats. Finally, you can add just one or two specific balance-training exercises to your existing strength workouts, such as standing on a wobble board.

That’s all there is to it.

If you have any questions about Balance or how to incorporate it in to your fitness or running plan, please visit my Contact page.