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How to Warm up Your Yoga this Winter

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Winter yoga

Cold temperatures and icy streets dampen everyone’s motivation to move. It’s tempting to curl up with a cup of tea or coffee and just avoid everything until it warms up. But, as a yogi, you know that getting yourself to your mat always helps you feel better about yourself and helps you ignore the weather. So, you probably make even more of a priority to get to class when it’s miserable outside. Or, maybe you take that as your time to design your own home practice and focus on what works for you. By the end of the practice, the chill feels just a little less unbearable and you feel less like turning into an icicle.

But, yoga can do a lot more to brighten your winter than just help you get through it. Even if you aren’t taking class in a hot studio, the way you sequence poses and the intent with which you execute them can make your practice a wonderful tool for igniting your physical and mental inner fire.

Of course, some techniques to do this are common sense—you can move more quickly or focus on more difficult poses. And, there are a few twists on standard poses that also help rev up your time on the mat.

When you’re trying to craft a warming practice, the key is to find poses and sequences that raise your core temperature. Vigorous movement and breath help (think Breath of Fire or strong poses like Plank Pose). Adding a flow or vinyasa between poses is another great way to bring the heat. The more dynamic your practice, the faster it will heat you up.

Here are some yoga tips for winter:

1. Amp Up Your Warm Up

If you usually start with three series of Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar), try five. The flowing movements of this basic sequence are a great way to warm up your entire body. Plank Pose helps you engage your shoulders, core and back. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) gently releases your hamstrings. Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana) helps lengthen your calves. As you get the blood flowing through each muscle group, your core temperature will start to rise, getting you ready for the rest of your practice.

Must Read: 5 Easy Ways to Practice Mindfulness

Yoga to increase body heat

2. Use Core Power

Engaging your core muscles makes your body work harder in any pose, and that drives up your practice. Think of drawing your navel to your spine in each pose you perform. Imagine your abdominal muscles drawing together to help lengthen your torso as you move. And, add in core strengthening yoga poses like Boat Pose to your practice during the cold weather. You can add it early in your practice to help get your core going faster, or at the end if you prefer.

3. Add a Dynamic Twist

While not strictly classical yoga, many of the movements that have become part of the lexicon for styles like vinyasa and flow help you get warmer. Try moving from Downward-Facing Dog Pose to Plank Pose. Or, you can try starting in Downward-Facing Dog and bringing one knee to the opposite elbow. Repeat on the other side and switch legs for a total of eight sets on each leg. Think of contracting your core as you perform these movements. You can also add in your arms in poses like Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I). Draw your hands into fists and exhale powerfully as you bring your elbows by your sides. (This variation comes from yoga teacher Sadie Nardini).

4. Involve Your Breath

Warming yoga poses for cold winter days

Breathing is one of the fastest and most efficient ways to heat your body. With every breath you take, imagine the warmth traveling throughout your system, from your head to your toes. As you exhale, visualize that deep heat being retained in your body. Keep your breath deep and even—breathing faster doesn’t help. Instead, try to make each breath as deep as you can.

5. Use Visualization

It can also help to set a heat-related intention for your practice. Take a minute before you start your session to visualize a warm place, color or object. As you practice, put yourself into that image. Feel warm air on your face. Imagine your muscles loosening in the heat. At the end of the practice, take your time in Corpse Pose (Savasana) to let those feelings run through your body before you leave your mat or hit the studio door.

6. Be Practical

If you are practicing at home, you might want to wear warmer clothes than usual. If you are going to a studio, make sure you have plenty of warm layers so you don’t get chilled leaving the studio.

These are just a few ways to help your yoga heat you up inside and out. Do you have any other ways you warm up your yoga in cold temperatures? Please share them in the comments!

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The Ultimate Guide to Minimizing Neck Pain Caused by Office Work

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These days, just about everyone spends a significant portion of their workday sitting at a desk.

Spending hours at a time hunched over a computer or other device is terrible for your neck — that’s why nearly 50 percent of office workers have reported experiencing neck pain at some point during a 12-month period.

Most people are aware that their desk job is bad for their neck, but they don’t know what to do to fix it. For most of us, quitting our office jobs and embarking on a new, less posture-killing career path simply isn’t an option.

So, what do you do if you work a desk job but are tired of dealing with a sore, achy neck? For starters, you can give these tips a try.

Adjust Your Computer Monitor

One of the first things you can do to relieve neck strain is to adjust your computer monitor. Make sure it’s positioned directly in front of you and is raised to eye-level. If you have to look down to see your computer screen, the monitor’s too low.

While you’re adjusting your monitor, you should also take a look at the settings on your screen to make sure it’s bright enough. If you find yourself leaning in to read text on your screen regularly, you may also want to adjust the settings to increase the font size and make it easier to see.

Adjust Your Desk

In addition to changing the orientation of your computer monitor, you may also want to adjust your desk to make it a bit more ergonomic.

Make sure your work surface is high enough that you can naturally type while keeping your wrists neutral and forearms parallel with the floor.

Your desk should also be deep enough that you can slide your monitor back at least twenty inches away from your eyes.

Must Read: How To Burn Unwanted Calories At Your Desk Job

Get a Better Office Chair

A high-quality office chair is another important upgrade you might want to make to your workstation. You office chair should have a full back the reaches all the way to your shoulders (or higher). This will give you the support you need to avoid slouching forward.

Make sure the chair also comes with good lumbar support to help you maintain a neutral spinal curve.

Finally, make sure all aspects of the chair are adjustable. That way, you can raise or lower the seat and armrests to fit your body specifically.

Use a Phone Headset

If you have to talk on the phone regularly as part of your job, consider investing in a headset. That way, you don’t have to tilt your head to hold the phone in place while you type. Over time, this puts a lot of strain on your neck muscles and increases the risk of experiencing neck pain.

Do Some Desk Stretches

Research shows that regular stretches is better for minimizing neck pain than using anti-inflammatory drugs (both over-the-counter and prescription). Not only is stretching free, but you also get to avoid the potential negative side effects that come with using anti-inflammatory drugs.

The following are two good stretches to do while sit at your desk:

  • Chin tucks — Push your head forward and stick your chin out, then pull your head back and tuck your chin in (while keeping your neck straight), as though you’re trying to make a double chin
  • Side stretches — Tilt your right ear toward your right shoulder while extending your left arm down and out to the side. Hold for 30-60 seconds before switching sides.

Do these exercises every hour to keep your neck muscles nice and loose.

Don’t Use Your Cell Phone to Check Emails

Thanks to smartphones, it’s easy for coworkers and clients to get a hold of us at all hours of the day. This means we often end up spending more time than is ideal bent over our phones checking emails.

To minimize neck pain caused by staring down at your phone, set a rule saying you can only check emails on your office computer. If someone really needs to talk to you, they can call you. Otherwise, it can wait until you get back to your desk.

Stand Up

If your office will allow it, consider swapping out your regular desk for a standing desk. As long as its height can be properly adjusted, this can significantly minimize neck pain.

If you use a standing desk, make sure you’re still working on improving your posture. A standing desk won’t do you any good if you’re still slouching over it.

In addition to adjusting the height, make sure you’re standing with feet shoulder-width apart and your trunk upright. Your neck should be directly over your spine and your head should be directly over your neck. Avoid leaning forward over your desk if you get tired — instead, lean back against a stool (there are many that are sold with standing desks) to take a break without undoing all your hard work.

Work with a Professional

No matter how much work they do to try and upgrade your workspace, some people still struggle with job-related neck pain.

If this is the case for you, you may need to work with a professional to solve your neck issues for good. This is especially true if you’re dealing with a serious neck condition like limited range of motion, numbness, or severe headaches.

A chiropractor or physical therapist will be able to work with you to put together a plan to fix these issues once and for all.

Final Thoughts

Neck pain is a common side effect of working in an office. But, it’s definitely not inevitable. There are lots of things you can do to minimize neck pain caused by your desk job, starting with the suggestions listed above.

Author Bio: Natalie Thongrit is a freelance writer who focuses primarily on fitness, health, and wellness-related content. You can connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn, or check out her portfolio to read more of her work.

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Five Tips for Managing Sciatica at Home

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Home remedies for sciatica nerve pain

Anywhere from one to ten percent of the population currently suffers from sciatica. If you’re part of this group, you know how frustrating and debilitating it can be.

Sciatica pain is no joke, but there are lots of things you can do from the comfort of your own home to manage it and minimize your symptoms. Read on to learn about five different ways you can manage your sciatica pain without leaving the house.

1. Yoga

Medical experts generally agree that gentle yoga is one of the best things you can do to treat sciatica at home. This is especially true for people who sit for extended periods of time as part of their job.

Spending time stretching regularly helps minimize muscle stiffness, pain, and inflammation. The best yoga poses to relieve sciatica are those that target the legs, lower back, and hips. Some good poses to include in your routine include:

  • Bound angle pose — stretches the outer hips, lower back, and inner thighs
  • Cobra pose — stretches the lower back, chest, and hip flexors
  • Downward facing dog — stretches the shoulders, back, and hamstrings
  • Reclined pigeon pose — stretches the outer hip
  • Half lord of the fishes pose — stretches the outer hip and helps improve posture to minimize pressure on the low back

These poses can be helpful when you’re dealing with a sciatica flare-up. But, it’s also important to do them consistently, even when you’re not feeling any pain, to prevent muscle imbalances or tension that could trigger a flare.

2. Gentle Exercise

In addition to yoga, other forms of exercise are also beneficial for people who suffer from sciatica. When you’re in pain, working out is probably the last thing you want to do. But, remaining sedentary typically makes things worse in the long run.

You don’t have to run a marathon or lift super heavy weights to experience the benefits of exercise. Gentle movements that get the blood flowing are great for reducing inflammation and pain.

Some good exercises to do when you’re dealing with a flare-up include:

  • Walking
  • Pilates
  • Isometric exercises
  • Bodyweight exercises like squats and lunges

3. Hot and Cold Therapy

If you simply can’t bear movement, either in the form of yoga or another type of exercise, another inexpensive way to manage sciatica at home is to treat it with some hot and cold therapy.

Placing a heating pad — set to the low or medium setting — or hot water bottle on your lower back in 15-20 minute increments throughout the day can help loosen up your tight muscles and improve circulation.

If you don’t have a heating pad or hot water bottle handy, you can also benefit from soaking in a warm bath. You can even add some Epsom salts to the bath water to further minimize inflammation.

In addition to treating your pain with heat, you can also apply an ice pack to your back for 10-15 minutes at a time to help numb your pain. Many people like the alternate between heat and ice throughout the day when they’re struggling with a flare-up.

4. Capsaicin Cream

Capsaicin, the component of cayenne pepper that gives it its spicy flavor, has been shown to be an effective natural pain reliever. It works by depleting the body’s levels of substance P, a neurotransmitter that transports pain signals.

There are many creams that you can buy at your local drugstore that contain capsaicin. To see its pain-relieving benefits, look for a cream that contains between 0.025 and 0.075 percent capsaicin.

You can also make your own capsaicin cream by mixing powdered cayenne pepper with a carrier oil like coconut oil or sesame oil.

Whichever type of capsaicin cream you use, apply it to your lower back up to four times per day. It will probably cause a burning sensation when you first apply it, but that will subside with time. Be sure to avoid applying the cream to broken or otherwise irritated skin.

5. Turmeric

5 effective home remedies for sciatica

Another natural remedy that is highly effective for treating sciatica — and other forms of pain — is turmeric. Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which has powerful anti-inflammatory properties.

Many people like to add turmeric powder to their food or beverages. If you go this route, be sure to mix in some black pepper, too. Black pepper increases the bio-availability of curcumin.

You can also buy turmeric supplements at your local pharmacy or health food store. These supplements can be better than turmeric powder when you’re in the middle of a painful flare-up — they’re more potent and will take effect much faster.

You can continue to use turmeric powder, though, to prevent inflammation and future flare-ups.

Turmeric and turmeric supplements are generally considered safe. But, people who are taking blood thinners or diabetes medication, as well as those who suffer from gallstones, should avoid taking them without first talking to their doctor.

Conclusion

Sciatica is never pleasant to deal with, but these five at-home remedies can help you manage your pain and decrease your risk of experiencing future flare-ups. Give them a try the next time the pain strikes, or pass them along to a friend or family member who could benefit from them.

Author Bio: Natalie Thongrit is a freelance writer who focuses primarily on fitness, health, and wellness-related content. You can connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn, or check out her portfolio to read more of her work.

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5 Myths And Facts About Prenatal Vitamins

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Myths And Facts About Prenatal Vitamins

Pregnancy is time period when you need to take utmost care of your health. As you are supporting a new life within you, it is important to take care of your enhanced nutritional needs. Prenatal vitamins can help you to achieve this objective smoothly. As nutritional supplements, they are great sources of minerals and vitamins for pregnant women. Moreover, taking of prenatal vitamins regularly can help you to avoid various childbirth complications and bring a healthy baby into the world. However, there are several common myths about prenatal vitamins that sometimes prevent expectant mothers from deriving their full benefits.

If you too are confused about the facts and myths surrounding the prenatal vitamins, this article is for you. Here we present to you a clear picture about the myths and facts about prenatal vitamins.

#Myth 1.  Prenatal Vitamins Must Be Taken Before Pregnancy

Fact: This is a classic example of distorted truth. It is true that ideally, you should start taking prenatal vitamins a couple of months before you get pregnant. This helps your baby to fulfill its nutritional needs right from day one after you conceive. But if you have missed taking prenatal vitamins before the onset of your pregnancy, there’s no reason to believe that they won’t be helpful if you start taking them after you get pregnant. Yes, you can still benefit from taking prenatal vitamins even if you are already pregnant. The only thing is, the earlier you start taking them the better.

#Myth 2. All Prenatal Vitamins Are The Same

Fact: Prenatal vitamins can differ in their key nutrient composition. So, not all prenatal vitamins are the same. If you are not careful enough in your selection of prenatal vitamins, your body may not get all the essential nutrients it needs during the pregnancy period. Make sure that your bottle of prenatal vitamins contains all the important nutrients like folic acid, iron, calcium, vitamin D, DHA, iodine, zinc etc.

For many pregnant women, it’s a challenging task to determine which prenatal vitamins to take. Some of them randomly select a bottle of prenatal vitamin and expect to get the desired results. To make an informed decision about the selection of your prenatal vitamins, click here.

#Myth 3. Prenatal Vitamins Are Only For Those Pregnant Women Who Suffer From Mineral Deficiencies

Fact: Prenatal vitamins are meant to keep expectant mothers healthy and ensure proper development of the baby growing within the mother’s womb. Of course, prenatal vitamins help to overcome the nutritional deficiencies in the mother’s body. That doesn’t mean the mother is suffering from mineral deficiencies of any kind.

When you are pregnant, the nutritional requirement of your body increases. This happens as the baby growing inside you also derives its nutrition from your body. To fulfill this extra requirement, taking supplements during pregnancy is an easy and effective way out. So, whether you suffer from mineral deficiencies or not, regular intake of prenatal vitamins is necessary for you when you are pregnant.

#Myth 4. Prenatal Vitamins Are Not Required If You Eat A Healthy Diet

Fact: Most people tend to believe this common myth. But the fact is that eating a healthy pregnancy diet may not be enough to derive the minerals and vitamins that your body needs. Your body may not be able to absorb all the nutrients contained in the food you eat. Or, there may be a lack of a certain vitamin or mineral in your diet. It may also happen that your body may not get the adequate amount of a particular nutrient from the diet, though you may be following a healthy diet.

Prenatal vitamins help to fulfill any gap in your nutritional needs. So, make sure to take your nutritional supplements even as you eat a healthy diet.

#Myth 5.  The More Prenatal Vitamins A Pregnant Woman Takes, The Healthier The Baby Is Born

Fact: You need to take prenatal vitamins in the required quantity. The composition of prenatal vitamins ensures that your nutritional requirements are adequately met during your pregnancy. But if you tend to take more than the required amount, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get more benefits out of your bottle of prenatal vitamins.

The best route to follow is to make sure that you take your prenatal vitamins in the right amount. This will provide the maximum benefits to your growing baby. If you are not sure about the right amount of prenatal vitamins you need to intake, you can consult your physician and take advice about the same.

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