Tag Archives: Meditation

On Creating a Life, Where You Get Out of Your Own Way: My Own Story, PART 1

Last week I was bopping around NYC, on my way to an amazing little conference (more on that later), and …continue reading >

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Consumer Health Tips: Stroke

medical illustration depicting strokeStroke: Symptoms and causes
A stroke is a medical emergency, and prompt treatment is crucial. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or severely reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die. Early action can minimize brain damage and potential complications. Do you know the signs and symptoms of stroke?


Also in today’s tips …

Mental health providers: Finding one for your needs
If you’ve never seen a mental health provider, you likely don’t know what to expect, and you may not know how to find one who suits your specific needs. For example, some providers specialize in certain areas, such as depression, substance misuse or family therapy. Credentials may vary among providers. And they may work in different settings, such as private practice, hospitals, community agencies or other facilities. Here are some things to keep in mind as you search for a mental health provider.

Video: Take a break for meditation
Need a few minutes to relax? Get comfortable in your chair. Loosen any tight, uncomfortable clothing. Let your arms rest loosely at your side. Allow yourself to listen and relax.

Juicing: What are the health benefits?
Have you heard that drinking the juice from fruits and vegetables is better than eating the foods themselves? Actually, juicing is not any healthier, and there may be nutrition you’re missing by not eating whole fruits and vegetables. Here’s what you need to know.

Geographic tongue: Symptoms and causes
Geographic tongue is a harmless inflammatory condition affecting the surface of your tongue, giving it a maplike, or geographic, appearance. The condition can continue for days, months or years. It often resolves on its own but may appear again later. Learn more about the symptoms and causes of geographic tongue.

Want to Eat More Mindfully? Yoga May Help

The practice of yoga is nothing new; in fact, it’s been around for over 5,000 years, but only recently has it gained popularity in the United States. A 2016 Yoga in America market research study, conducted by Yoga Alliance and Yoga Journal, found that the number of yoga practitioners in the U.S. had increased to 36 million, up from 20.4 million in 2012. The awareness of the practice has grown as well; today, 95% of Americans are aware of yoga, up from 75% in 2012. Why the explosion of an ancient practice in the past four years? There’s a rising interest in health and wellness and consumers are looking for alternative therapies. And let’s face it — stress levels are at an all-time high and yoga has been shown to calm the nervous system and reduce anxiety. But what if there were other reasons to hop on your yoga mat beyond improving flexibility and reducing stress? What if yoga could help heal your relationship with food? Preliminary research shows that this mind-body practice may support mindful eating and disordered eating treatment.


Yoga and Mindful Eating

Yoga is much more than downward-facing dogs and sun salutations. In fact, the physical (asana) practice is just one tiny piece of what yoga is according to ancient yogic texts. Yoga also includes meditation, concentration, breath work (pranayama) among many other practices (known as the eight limbs of yoga). When we think about yoga in this holistic way as a mindfulness-based practice, it makes sense that yoga practitioners report improved self-attunement, awareness of feelings and a heightened attention to eating patterns.

A 2013 study looked at 87 adults who practiced yoga at a facility at least once per week and found that yoga tenure significantly correlated with mindful eating and fruit and vegetable consumption. The longer the students had practiced yoga, the more likely they were to engage in mindful eating. Students reported eating more slowly, paying attention to food portions, and being more conscious, disciplined and mindful with nutrition.

Anu Kaur, a Registered Dietitian, Wellness Coach and Yoga Teacher, says yoga “brings us to the ‘present’ experience and we learn to cultivate an attitude of openness, acceptance and curiosity. This process allows for the mind to build its capacity to observe thoughts and emotions as they arise, free of judgment. Over time, as we practice this self-acceptance ‘on the mat’ we can learn to do it ‘off the mat’ like with our eating.” One technique Kaur teaches her clients is how to practice deep breathing for three minutes before starting a meal. “If one practices following their breath and then slowing their breath down, there is a calmness that settles into the body. This experience of the relaxation response can be applied to mindful eating.”


Yoga and Eating Disorders

In the U.S., approximately 30 million people suffer from a clinical eating disorder at some point in their life, and many more struggle with body dissatisfaction and sub-clinical disordered eating. Body dysmorphia and body image concerns go hand-in-hand with disordered eating and yoga allows the opportunity to reconnect with one’s body, promoting body appreciation, respect and attunement.

A 2010 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health looked at 50 adolescents in outpatient treatment for eating disorders. They divided the participants into two groups — one receiving standard care and the intervention group, which included standard care in addition to private yoga sessions twice a week for twelve weeks. Both groups saw reductions in depression and anxiety but the yoga intervention group had significantly improved eating disorder behaviors, including lower food preoccupation.

Another study, conducted in 2009, looked at 50 women with binge eating disorder and the women who received a weekly yoga class plus encouraged daily home practice saw significant improvements in binge eating behaviors compared to the control group, which only received mindful eating education.

Diana Dugan Richards, Registered Dietitian and Yoga Therapist, suggests that yoga allows a client with disordered eating to experience being in the discomfort that usually turns them to food to cope. “Yoga encourages being in the chaos and intensity of physical sensation in a mindful and very present way. It involves intentionally slowing of breath, and being with the sensation, emotion, or feeling that is so intense they usually turn to food to numb or silence it. Then understanding, in time, the transient nature of the craving for food or desire to purge a feeling can be met with the steadiness of self-compassion.” Dugan Richards also notes that the effectiveness of yoga as an adjunct therapy really depends on the level of disordered eating and the person’s cognitive function.


Practicing Yoga

Yoga is not just what we see in the magazines. It’s not just for thin women with flat abs who can balance on her fingertips or place her foot behind their head. That’s not even close to what yoga truly is. And yet, the picture of yoga that gets painted in the media can create a sense of trepidation and deter people away from the practice. It’s important for people to know that yoga is for everyone and comes in all different shapes and sizes, just like we as humans do. If you’re not ready for the physical (asana) practice of yoga, try practicing meditation or deep breathing. Or, try a restorative yoga class where you hold poses for long periods of time while being fully supported by props, eliciting the relaxation response.

Many people report first trying yoga using an app, DVD or at the gym. Kaur recommends working with a yoga teacher one-on-one, especially if it’s your first time or if you have specific medical conditions. If you’re not able to do a private session, Kaur suggests trying a few yoga classes at a yoga studio first. “The environment, the community and often the intention of the teacher can offer support at another level. I always say that if the teacher or studio did not resonate with you, explore other yoga studios in your area. More likely than not they will find a place that could be a positive support system.”


Kara Lydon, R.D., L.D.N., R.Y.T., is a nutrition coach, yoga teacher and self-proclaimed foodie. She is a recipe developer, food photographer, writer and spokeswoman. Her food and healthy living blog, The Foodie Dietitian, features seasonal vegetarian recipes and simple strategies to bring more mindfulness and yoga into your life.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

Housecall: Spring cleaning and allergies

a young woman sitting on a couch, just about to sneezeTHIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES
Allergy-proof your home
Thinking about spring cleaning? If you have hay fever or allergic asthma, it’s also a good time to rid your home of what’s causing your allergies.

Long-term care: Early planning pays off
It’s best to talk about long-term care early — before a sudden injury or illness forces your hand, leading to a hasty decision. Here’s how to choose a facility, deal with finances and more.

Can exercising late in the day cause insomnia?
For some people, exercising within a few hours of bedtime may cause problems getting to sleep.

Are my annual colds really allergies?
Do you get a cold each spring and fall? It could be seasonal allergies. Learn how to recognize the signs.

Slideshow: A look inside your eyes
Anaphylaxis: Symptoms and causes
Psoriasis and your self-esteem
Video: Take a break for meditation

Muesli breakfast bars
English cucumber salad with balsamic vinaigrette
Chicken quesadillas
Turkey pesto melt

Is your lifestyle causing heartburn?
Heartburn can make your chest feel like it’s on fire. Consider these lifestyle changes to prevent heartburn:

  1. Lose excess weight.
  2. Stop smoking.
  3. Don’t wear tight-fitting clothes.
  4. Avoid heartburn triggers, such as alcohol, fatty foods, chocolate and mint.
  5. Don’t lie down soon after a meal.
  6. Raise the head of your bed.

Need practical advice on diet and exercise? Want creative solutions for stress and other lifestyle issues? Discover more healthy lifestyle topics at mayoclinic.org.

Nutrition-wise: Eat well to age well
Research on diet and aging may make you rethink what you put on your plate. Here’s what you should know.

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5 Apps That Will Help You Master Meditation

Even though it’s been around for thousands of years, meditation seems to be especially trendy these days. It’s part of the mindfulness movement that’s been gaining traction in the health and wellness world. And it makes sense that more and more people are actively seeking ways to manage their stress: A 2015 survey from the American Psychological Association found that overall stress levels have increased in Americans in recent years. These higher stress levels can affect mental and physical health in numerous ways: 39 percent of those surveyed reporting overeating or eating unhealthy foods in the last month due to stress, and 46 percent reported losing sleep over it.

Given what a profound affect stress can have on wellbeing, it’s no wonder that people are looking for innovative ways to get that moment of zen. Meditation studios have recently popped up in some of the country’s big cities (there’s Unplug Meditation in Los Angeles, MNDFL in New York City). But there’s also a variety of helpful meditation smartphone apps on the market. You may already know about Headspace, which is one of the most-downloaded mindfulness apps. But here are five new or under-the-radar meditation apps worth a try. Because, in addition to relieving stress, meditating can also improve concentration and benefits digestion as well as cardiovascular and immune health.


Cost: $2.99
While most apps in this space feature guided meditations, this brand new option—it launched in late March—focuses on your movement as way to help you achieve mindfulness. The app uses your phone’s gyroscope and accelerometer to measure your moves. In order for the app to work, you need to be moving in a slow, consistent motion (think swaying back and forth or walking slowly). Once you at you’re at the proper pace, the app will soundtrack your moves with soothing music. If you get distracted or your movements are interrupted, the app interprets that as a lack of mindfulness and reminds you to refocus. According to the makers of this app, this interactive meditation is one of the newest ways to approach the practice.


Cost: Free
Another app that offers interactive feedback is Muse. And while the app is free, it does require you to use Muse: The Brain Sensing Headband ($249) in conjunction with the program. The sensor-equipped headband monitors your brain activity while you mediate with a soothing soundscape (such as a rainforest or beach sounds) playing in the app. If you’re zoning out to beach sounds, for instance, the ocean waves get louder when you get distracted, and lower when you’re back in a calm zone. The app tracks your sessions so you can see your improvements and set weekly goals in your practice.


Cost: Free (with in-app purchases)
This app has been around for a couple of years, but its recent updates have given Sattva an improved experience. For Apple iPhone users, the app now works seamlessly with the Health app, using info on your heart rate and blood pressure (tracking these stats before and after each session). If you’re obsessed with numbers and data, this is the mediation app for you. It features a timer to help you time and track your sessions, and stats like your longest session and longest streak are also stored in the program. And if you’re the competitive type, you can compare your stats to your friends who also use Sattva.


Cost: $1.99
Inspired by the principles of Tai Chi, the makers of this app help you achieve calmness by incorporating touch as well as sound. You move your fingertip along a small, colorful blob around the screen while soothing sounds flood your headphones. The act triggers the body’s rest and digest response, which helps you regain focus and release stress in a calm manner. If you’re not a fan of guided meditations, this is a way to relax without the pressure of a voice leading (and possibly disrupting) you every step of the way.


Meditation Music
Cost: Free
If you’re an experienced meditator, you might not need any gimmicks to help you stay mindful through your practice. Enter this Android app, which strictly provides music as the soundtrack to your session. The app features a variety of ambient sounds (from a soft piano playing to mystic temple music) that promise to help you relax. Simply choose your preferred music, set the in-app timer and just say “ohm.” A gong sound will gently ring to let you know your session is about to end. And if you consider cooking a meditative process, use this app as your kitchen timer and the background music as you make dinner.