The extensive benefits of yoga are well publicised in modern media, and it has become a firm mainstay of Western culture. However for those who have never practiced yoga before, highly effectively poses that are particularly beneficial to the needs of athletes are easily accessible, and can make an effective additional to a post-training muscle-recovery protocol.
Yoga postures (asanas, to give the proper term) can be used like a personal toolkit, effectively targeting specific muscle groups. The muscle-stretching and lengthening benefits of yoga are particularly relevant as a post-training protocol, as muscle contraction and tightness can result in discomfort and increase the risk of injury.
Here is a simple yoga posture to target muscle tightness in the lower body and major leg muscles, providing excellent post-training recovery benefits in a matter of minutes.
Areas targeted: Shoulders, deltoids, lats, pectorals, hips, core, groin and thighs.
Warrior One pose (or veerabhadrasana) is excellent for relieving shoulder and upper back tension – and is particularly useful for those suffering from frozen shoulder. Providing thoracic extension paired with shoulder and hip flexion, Warrior One is excellent for improving balance and overall mobility.
It is also excellent for improving mobility and flexibility in the hip flexors and groin, so would be an excellent addition to any training plan for those experiencing weakness or strain in these areas.
Stand straight with your legs wide apart by a distance of at least 4 feet. Those with higher flexibility can adjust their stance accordingly to destabilise the movement if a higher intensity is sought. Turn your right foot out by 90 degrees and left foot in by about 15 degrees, ensuring the heels of the right foot is aligned to the centre of the left foot. Next raise both arms sideways to shoulder height, parallel to the ground, with your palms facing upwards.
Bend your right knee, with your right knee and right ankle forming a straight line. In this position, extend your arms further, and gently push your pelvis down to stabilize the movement. Hold the posture with an emphasis on maintaining straight arms and a strong upper body posture and straight spine. Hold the posture for as long as is comfortable. Breathing in, come upright and lower your hands down from the sides. Repeat the yoga posture for the left side.
The brain has similar needs to other organs. It needs glucose, oxygen and other nutrients. There are very real concrete benefits to exercising that directly affect the brain.
“I like to say that exercise is like taking a little Prozac or a little Ritalin at just the right moment,” says John J. Ratey, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of A User’s Guide to the Brain.
“Exercise is really for the brain, not the body. It affects mood, vitality, alertness, and feelings of well-being” according to WebMD.
The benefits of exercise on the brain include the following:
– One of the most exciting changes that exercise causes is neurogenesis, or the creation of new neurons. The new neurons are created in the hippocampus, the center of learning and memory in the brain, according to Oregon Health and Science University.
The course I am taking on Optimizing Brain Fitness
cites the following benefits:
– increased blood flow, oxygen and increased capillaries around neurons
– increased production of new neurons and more interconnections between them.
– protection of dopamine neurons from toxins in the environment
– leads to elevations in nerve growth factors.
– affects prefrontal executive processes, preferentially enhanced.
– brings about a positive balance in neurotransmitters just like in anti-depressants.
The Franklin Institute says that walking is especially good, because it increases blood circulation and the oxygen and glucose that reach your brain. Walking is not strenuous, so your leg muscles don’t take up extra oxygen and glucose like they do during other forms of exercise. As you walk, you effectively oxygenate your brain. Maybe this is why walking can “clear your head” and help you to think better.
Studies of senior citizens who walk regularly showed significant improvement in memory skills compared to sedentary elderly people. Walking also improved their learning ability, concentration, and abstract reasoning. Stroke risk was cut by 57% in people who walked as little as 20 minutes a day.
The Brain Optimizing course said that three walks of 45 minutes a week are enough to reduce chances of dementia by 50%.
An article in American Academy of Neurology Magazine stated that walking six to nine miles a week may preserve brain size and consequently stop memory deterioration in later life.
A study reported by The Franklin Institute said that in a four month trial the cognitive abilities of the participants were measured in four areas, memory, executive functioning, attention/concentration and psychomotor speed.
This group was compared with a group on medication. Compared to the medication group, the exercisers showed significant improvements in the higher mental processes of memory and in “executive functions” that involve planning, organization, and the ability to mentally juggle different intellectual tasks at the same time.
“What we found so fascinating was that exercise had its beneficial effect in specific areas of cognitive function that are rooted in the frontal and prefrontal regions of the brain,” said a researcher. “The implications are that exercise might be able to offset some of the mental declines that we often associate with the aging process.” (Emphasis mine.)
A short time frame is all that is needed to establish improvement
– just 6 months of exercise increases brain volume
– thus a decreasing brain volume with aging is really not normal, according to the Brain Optimizing course.
Osteoporosis literally means “bones with holes.” It occurs from bone losing calcium faster than it can be replaced. New bone creation doesn’t keep pace with the removal of old bone. The bone is weaker, less dense, and easier to break than healthy bone.
There are come common risk factors and you they are unchangeable. For instance, your sex. Women, especially post menopausal, are much more likely to develop osteoporosis then men, but men aren’t off the hook. There are at least 2 million men with osteoporosis and this will increase as men begin to live longer. The older you get, the greater the chance of developing osteoporosis. You’re also at a greater risk if any close relatives have had osteoporosis and Caucasion and Asian women are at a greater risk.
The reduction of sex hormones, estrogen for women and testosterone for men, also contribute to osteoporosis. Dietary factors associated with osteoporosis include low calcium intake, eating disorders and stomach bypass surgery. Certain medications, especially corticosteroids such as prednisone and cortisone, can contribute to osteoporosis.
Lifestyle choices also can put you at a greater risk for osteoporosis. Smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol, especially more than two drinks a day, will put you at greater risk, as will a sedentary lifestyle and a lack of exercise.
Bone fractures, especially of the hip and spine, are the most common complications of osteoporosis. A fall can easily break a hip, causing disability and even lead to death. Spinal fractures can occur with or without an injury. Sometimes a sneeze or cough can cause a fracture.
The best way to diagnose osteoporosis is to measure bone density. This can be done by a machine that uses low levels of x-ray to measure the strength of your bones. Your doctor can order this for you.
Osteoporsis can be treated with drugs called biophosphonates. Your doctor would have a choice of one of several of these drugs to treat you. Use of the sex hormones estrogen for women and testoterone for men can also be useful in treating osteoporosis. Some controversy exists over the use of these hormones. Your doctor will explain the risks and benefits.
So, to avoid osteoporosis, avoid excessive consumption of alcohol, don’t smoke, try to avoid falls, exercise regularly, and consume adequate amounts of calcium. It is recommended that the total daily calcium intake from diet or supplements not exceed 2,000 mg. daily for people over age 50. Consume adequate amounts of vitamin D, which is necessary for your body to absorb calcium. Talk to your doctor about what dose would be best for you.