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Exercise Yoga

Stretching the Limits

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A surprising number of people believe stretching is a waste of time. Stretching
exercises relieve muscle tension, flush lactic acid out of your muscles (lactic
acid accumulates during high-intensity exercise, creating that “burning
sensation,” and can contribute to suboptimal muscle performance), and increase
your range of motion for longer strides and better athletic performance.

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Contrary to popular belief, stretching shouldn’t be the first thing you do when you are about to work out or play a sport. In fact, stretching cold muscles can result in pulls and injuries. Your best bet is to start with a five-minute
warm-up, consisting of a shorter, less intense version of whatever activity
you’re about to engage in.

After your warm-up, take a few minutes to stretch your major muscle groups, witha particular focus on the areas you are about to train. Each stretch should last about 30 seconds. In general, there is little benefit to stretches that last aslong as 60 seconds.

Every workout should end with a brief cooldown and stretching routine. Research
indicates that if you only have time to stretch once, you should make time after
your workout, when your muscles are warm and responsive to stretching. If you’ve
done your workout right, your heart rate will be at its peak and you’ll feel
warm and tired. The cooldown lets your heart transition to its normal rate and
lets your muscles adjust out of their contracted state, which can help prevent
strain and soreness.

Now that you know the benefits of warming up, cooling down and regular
stretching, never again underestimate the importance of the first and last few minutes of your workout.

For more information, go to
http://www.toyourhealth.com/mpacms/tyh/article.php?id=942

Source:dctyh@mail4.mpamedia.com

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Exercise

Tai Chi Chaun

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Tai means great, Chi means spirit and Chaun means fist

Tai chi chuan is Traditional, Simplified and an internal Chinese martial art, often practiced with the aim of promoting health and longevity. Tai chi chuan’s training forms are well known as the slow motion routines that groups of people practice together every morning in parks around the world, particularly in China. Some medical studies support its effectiveness as an alternative exercise and a form of martial arts therapy. Tai chi chuan is considered a soft style martial art — an art applied with internal power    to distinguish its theory and application from that of the hard martial art styles. There are many different styles of tai chi chuan, but most modern schools can trace their development to the system originally taught by the Chen family to the Yang family starting in 1820.

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Yang Chengfu in a posture from the Yang style tai chi chuan solo form known as Single Whip cir. 1931.

Overview
The Mandarin term “tai chi chuan” literally translates as “supreme ultimate boxing” or “boundless fist,” but may better translate to “great extremes boxing,” with an emphasis on finding balance between two great extremes. The concept of the “supreme ultimate” is the symbol of the Taijitu meant to show the principles of Yin and Yang duality of Taoist philosophy. Thus, tai chi theory and practice evolved in agreement with many of the principles of Chinese philosophy and Taoism in particular. Tai chi training first and foremost involves learning solo routines, known as forms ( taolu). While the image of tai chi chuan in popular culture is typified by exceedingly slow movement, many tai chi styles (including the three most popular, Yang, Wu and Chen) have secondary forms of a faster pace. The other half of traditional tai chi training (though many modern schools disregard it entirely) consists of partner exercises known as pushing hands, and martial applications of the postures of the form.

Tai chi chuan was created as a form of traditional Chinese martial arts of the Neijia (soft or internal) branch. Since the first widespread promotion of tai chi’s health benefits by Yang Shaohou, Yang Chengfu, Wu Chien-ch’uan and Sun Lutang in the early twentieth century, it has developed a worldwide following among people with little or no interest in martial training for its benefit to health and health maintenance. Some call it a form of moving meditation, as focusing the mind solely on the movements of the form purportedly helps to bring about a state of mental calm and clarity. Besides general health benefits and stress management attributed to tai chi training, aspects of Traditional Chinese medicine are taught to advanced tai chi students in some traditional schools.[citation needed] Some martial arts, especially the Japanese martial arts, use a uniform for students during practice. Tai chi chuan schools do not generally require a uniform, but both traditional and modern teachers often advocate loose, comfortable clothing and flat-soled shoes.

The physical techniques of tai chi chuan are described in the tai chi classics (a set of writings by traditional masters) as being characterized by the use of leverage through the joints based on coordination in relaxation, rather than muscular tension, in order to neutralize or initiate attacks. The slow, repetitive work involved in the process of learning how that leverage is generated gently and measurably increases and opens the internal circulation (breath, body heat, blood, lymph, peristalsis, etc.).

The study of tai chi chuan primarily involves three subjects. Traditional schools cover these aspects of tai chi practice simultaneously, while many modern schools focus on a single aspect, depending on their goal in practicing the art. These subjects are:

Health
An unhealthy or otherwise uncomfortable person will find it difficult to meditate to a state of calmness or to use tai chi as a martial art. Tai chi’s health training therefore concentrates on relieving the physical effects of stress on the body and mind. For those focused on tai chi’s martial application, good physical fitness is the first step in effective self-defense.

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Meditation
The focus and calmness cultivated by the meditative aspect of tai chi is seen as necessary in maintaining optimum health (in the sense of relieving stress and maintaining homeostasis) and in application of the form as a soft style martial art.

Martial art
The ability to use tai chi as a form of self-defense in combat is said to be the most effective proof of a student’s understanding of the principles of good Tai Chi. The study of tai chi chuan martially is the study of appropriate change in response to outside forces; the study of yielding and blending with outside force rather than attempting to meet it with opposing force.

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History and styles
Wu style being demonstrated at a tournament in Toronto, CanadaThere are five major styles of tai chi chuan, each named after the Chinese family from which it originated:

Chen style
Yang style
Wu or Wu/Hao style of Wu Yu-hsiang (Wu Yuxiang)
Wu style of Wu Ch’uan-yü (Wu Quanyuo) and Wu Chien-ch’uan (Wu Jianquan)
Sun style
The order of verifiable age is as listed above. The order of popularity (in terms of number of practitioners) is Yang, Wu, Chen, Sun, and Wu/Hao.The first five major family styles share much underlying theory, but differ in their approaches to training.

There are now dozens of new styles, hybrid styles and offshoots of the main styles, but the five family schools are the groups recognised by the international community as being orthodox. Zhaobao Tai Chi, a close cousin of Chen style, has been newly recognised by Western practitioners as a distinct style. The designation internal or nei chia martial arts is also used to broadly distinguish what are known as the external or wai chia styles based on the Shaolinquan styles, although that distinction is sometimes disputed by modern schools. In this broad sense, all styles of tai chi (as well as related arts such as Pa Kua Chang and Hsing-i Ch’üan) are therefore considered to be “soft” or “internal” martial arts. Many styles list in their history that tai chi was originally formulated by a Taoist monk called Zhang Sanfeng and taught by him in the Taoist monasteries at Wu Tang Shan .

When tracing tai chi chuan’s formative influences to Taoist and Buddhist monasteries, there seems little more to go on than legendary tales from a modern historical perspective, but tai chi chuan’s practical connection to and dependence upon the theories of Sung dynasty Neo-Confucianism (a conscious synthesis of Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian traditions, esp. the teachings of Mencius) is readily apparent to its practitioners. The philosophical and political landscape of that time in Chinese history is fairly well documented. Tai chi’s theories and practice are therefore believed by some schools to have been formulated by the Taoist monk Zhang Sanfeng in the 12th century, at about the same time that the principles of the Neo-Confucian school were making themselves felt in Chinese intellectual life. Zhang Sanfeng as a young man studied Tao Yin , Pinyin dÇŽoyǐn) breathing exercises from his Taoist teachers and martial arts at the Buddhist Shaolin monastery, eventually combining the martial forms and breathing exercises to formulate the soft or internal principles we associate with tai chi chuan and related martial arts. Zhang Sanfeng is also sometimes attributed with the creation of the original 13 Movements of Tai Chi Chuan. These 13 movements are in all forms of tai chi chuan. Its subsequent fame attributed to his teaching, Wu Tang monastery was known thereafter as an important martial center for many centuries, its many styles of internal kung fu preserved and refined at various Taoist temples.

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Exercise Healthy Tips

8 Secrets to Optimizing Your Exercise Plan

Simple ideas you can use to meet fitness goals in less time.
We’d be lucky if having the motivation to move was all it took to make exercise a part of our daily activities. When it comes to making motion an aim we often find ourselves face-to-face with the most persistent of obstacles. Here are some tips for conquering time when it threatens to bump exercise plans from your date book:

1. Book yourself.
Don’t have time for all this exercise? Sometimes it’s a matter of perception — other people’s. If coworkers, friends, or even family can’t understand why you take time for exercise but not for what they think is important, keep your priorities to yourself — but schedule your exercise in your date book. That way, when sticking to your guns on workouts, you can merely say you’re keeping a prior appointment.

2. Keep it interesting. Some people have a high tolerance for routine — and may even elevate it to ritual. But if your attention span is closer to monkey than monk, try to introduce variety into your workout on a regular basis. One way to do it: Change two things about your routine every week. It could be as simple as adding repetitions, resistance, or sets — or substituting one exercise for another. Change isn’t just an antidote to boredom, it allows you to continually challenge muscles in new ways, which makes you stronger faster.

3. Try slow motion. Want to try a difficult challenge that’s easy on joints? Lift a light weight only one time — but do it very slowly. Pick out a weight about half what you’d normally lift 10 times. Take 15 to 20 seconds to lift the weight, hold for another 15 to 20 seconds, then take another 15 to 20 seconds to bring it back down. The constant stress through the entire range of motion will work muscles in an entirely new way.

4. Judge gym transit time. Made the decision to join a health club? When choosing, follow the golden rule of gym location: Keep it within a 15-minute drive. Any farther and your chances of actually getting there for a workout drop considerably.

5. Spread the effort. If doing an entire full-body workout all at once is too fatiguing or demanding on your time, try doing only one part of the workout each day. If your workout has 12 exercises, for example, do the first three on Monday, the next three on Tuesday, and the rest on Wednesday. On Thursday, start the routine again. That way, you’re still doing each exercise three times during a one-week period without exhausting yourself with your routine.

6. Hold on to your gains.
While giving your muscles a chance to rest is important to making them stronger, there’s inevitably a point of diminishing returns when it comes to slacking off. How much rest is too much? A good rule of thumb is to expect about a 10 percent loss of your strength gains after about 10 days. The more training you’ve done, the slower your strength will decline. The bottom line: To maintain your gains, you need to keep exercising regularly.

7. Count backward. Problem: Strength exercises are no fun when the last repetitions are tough to do. Interpretation: If you’re challenging your muscles enough to want to quit, you’re probably doing them at just the right intensity. Mental trick: Your final repetitions will seem easier if you count backward from your target instead of forward from zero because you’ll be thinking about how few you have left, rather than how many you’ve already done.

8. Get off the floor safely. For exercises and stretches that require you to get on all fours, it’s easier to get back up again if you walk your hands back until you’re in a kneeling position, place one foot on the floor in front of you with your knee bent at about 90 degrees, then use your leg as a support for your hands as you stand or ease yourself into a chair.

From : The Everyday Arthritis Solution

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Exercise Yoga

Learn Healthy Breathing

The Right Breath
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You already know how to breathe, right? You do it every moment, every day, without even thinking about. Chances are, though, your breathing technique is not as healthy as you might think.

Most of us breathe too shallowly, too quickly. Our lungs and heart would greatly prefer longer, slower, deeper breaths. This is true for general health, and it is also true for managing stress. Deep breathing helps dissipate the fight-or-flight reaction so many of us experience when we’re stressed. It sends a signal to your brain to slow down, which results in hormonal and physiological changes that slow heart rate and lower blood pressure.

You might be surprised that there are lots of big books written on breathing method. That’s because proper breathing technique is crucial for everyone from athletes to people with asthma to yoga experts. But for us regular folk, there are only a few things you need to keep in mind:

1.In general, inhale slowly and deeply through the nose. A healthy inhale takes about five seconds.

2.In general, exhale slowly through the mouth. Empty your lungs completely. Good breathers focus more on thorough exhalation than on inhalation.

Engage your diaphragm for good breathing. The diaphragm is the sheet of muscle along the top of your abdomen that pulls your lungs down to draw in air, and then pushes your lungs up to expel carbon dioxide. With a good inhalation, your lungs puff up as your diaphragm drops. With a good exhale, your diaphragm rises. If you don’t feel this muscle moving, deepen your breaths even more.

Work toward breathing just six or eight deep breaths per minute. Most of us breathe more than 20 times a minute.

Breathe Away Anxiety
Proper breathing is particularly important during moments of great anxiety. At times like these, many people resort to chest breathing — the type of big, desperate inhales and exhales that make you rapidly puff up and deflate your chest, says Michael Crabtree, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania, and a licensed clinical psychologist.

To regain healthy breathing during periods of anxiety, he says, lie on the floor and place your hand on your chest. Using your hand as a gauge, try to reduce the amount of chest movement, while continuing to breathe normally. You don’t want your chest to move; you want the other parts of your body to take over the breathing — using your diaphragm instead of the big chest inhales and exhales. Do this for five minutes.

Be aware that chest breathing still has a purpose, but only in times of extreme emotional arousal or physical challenge. “Most Americans use chest breathing because of developing instincts from fight-or-flight conditions,” he says. It is in those types of physically dangerous situations that it is still necessary — not for everyday stress or anxiety. Proper breathing is particularly important during moments of great anxiety. At times like these, many people resort to chest breathing — the type of big, desperate inhales and exhales that make you rapidly puff up and deflate your chest, says Michael Crabtree, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania, and a licensed clinical psychologist.
From : Stealth Health.

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Exercise Healthy Tips

Learn the Art of Self-Massage

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Relax Yourself

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Massage helps reduce muscle tension and stiffness in numerous ways, including increasing blood flow to your muscles. Some research shows that regular massage may also boost immunity by stimulating the production of white blood cells. Massage helps you relax and improve your mental energy. It may also make you more productive at work.

One University of Miami study found that a brief self-massage at work reduced stress and boosted job performance. After a 15-minute massage, workers were more alert and could complete math problems faster and with more accuracy.

Fortunately, you have your very own massage therapist with you at all times — your hands! “Most people practice the art of self-massage without thinking about it, whether they are rubbing their forehead because of a headache, scrubbing themselves with a loofah sponge in the shower, or rubbing their feet after a long day,” says Anna Walsemann, a yoga and Oriental healing instructor at New Age Health Spa in Neversink, New York. “These are all simple and natural self-massage techniques.”

You don’t have to take a class to give yourself a proper rubdown. In this article, you’ll get the advice you need to reduce tension from head to foot — within seconds.

1. Every morning and evening, hammer out the kinks. Using your fists, gently thump the outside of your body, starting with your legs and arms, working from top to bottom. Then move inward to your torso and thump from bottom to top. “Pummeling your muscles and bones will help strengthen the body, stimulate blood circulation, and relax nerve endings,” says Walsemann. When done in the morning, this self-massage technique will waken and prepare your body — and mind — for the day ahead. When done before bed, it calms down the mind and beats out the stress and tension of the day. One warning: If you’re taking any kind of blood thinner, such as Coumadin (warfarin), avoid this one; you could wind up with bruising.

2. Rub your belly after every meal. Most of us do this instinctively, especially after overeating. Place one or both palms on your abdomen and rub it in clockwise circles. This is the same direction food naturally moves through your intestine, so your circular massage will help to stimulate digestion.

3. Rub yourself down before and after exercise. Massaging your body before your stretching, cardio, or strength training increases blood flow to the muscles. Massaging your muscles after exercise may help encourage waste removal and speed muscle recovery. Before exercise, use a pummeling motion with your fists to bring blood flow to your leg and arm muscles. After exercise, rub along your muscles with your palm or fist, moving in the direction of your heart.

4. Give your hands a massage every day — whenever you put on lotion. Start with the bottoms of your palms by clasping your fingers and rubbing the heels of your palms together in a circular motion. Then, with your hands still clasped, take one thumb and massage the area just below your other thumb in circular motions, moving outward to the center of the palm. Repeat with the other hand. Then release your fingers and use your thumbs and index fingers to knead your palms, wrists, and the webbing between your fingers. With one hand, gently pull each finger of the other hand. Finish by using your thumb and index finger to pinch the webbing between your other thumb and index finger.

5. Roll on a tennis ball whenever you feel tight. If your foot feels tense, stand with one hand on a wall for support and place the arch of one foot on top of the ball. Gradually add more body weight over the foot, allowing the ball to press into your arch. Begin to slowly move your foot, allowing the ball to massage your heel, forefoot, and toes. Note: If the tennis ball seems too big for your foot, try a golf ball instead.

You can also lie on the ball to get at that hard-to-reach spot between the shoulder blades or to soothe tension in your low back. For tight hips, sit on the ball, wiggling your booty around and holding it in any spot that feels particularly good.

Get on the Ball
6. Fill the bottom of a shoe box with golf balls and stick it under your desk at work. Whenever you need to take a trip to podiatric paradise, take off a shoe and rub your foot over the golf balls.

7. Whenever you take off a pair of high heels, sit on the floor and give your calves some attention. Elevating your heels all day long can eventually shorten your calf muscles. To release them, sit with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Grasp one ankle, placing your thumb just above your Achilles tendon. Press your thumb into the bottom of your calf muscle, hold for 5 seconds, and release. Move an inch up your calf and repeat the pressure. Continue pressing and releasing until you get to your knee, then switch legs.

8. Fill a tube-style athletic sock three-fourths full with uncooked rice, tie off the end tightly with a rubber band, and stick it in the microwave for 2 minutes. Remove the sock and rub it up and down your legs and arms for a gentle, soothing hot massage. Leave the sock filled with the rice; you can use it over and over. You can add spices to the rice if you wish to have a pleasant scent while massaging.

9. Use your hands to heel your neck. Once an hour, take a break from staring at your computer and clasp your fingers behind your neck, pressing the heels of your palms into your neck on either side of your spinal column. Massage the heels of your hands up and down in slow, deliberate motions. Then place the fingers of your right hand on your trapezius muscle along the left side of your neck just below the base of your skull. Press into that muscle, tilt your head to the left, and rub downward until you reach your shoulder. Repeat three times, then switch sides.

Finish by stretching your head back so the top of your office chair presses into your neck just below your skull. This also stretches out the front of your neck, which tends to get tight during deskwork. Hold for 20 seconds.

10. Open your sinuses with some finger pressure.
If you have clogged sinuses due to a cold or allergies, rub them with your index fingers. Start just above your brow line. Place your finger pads just above your nose, press down and rub outward, tracing your brow line as you go. Repeat two or three times. Then place the pads of your fingers below your eyes and to the sides of the bridge of your nose, rubbing outward and moving downward with each stroke. Now use your thumbs to massage your cheekbones, making small circles starting at the center of your face and moving out toward your ears. Finally, place your thumbs on your temples and massage them in small circles.

11. When your eyes feel tired from staring at your computer screen all day long, give them some heat.
Rub your hands together vigorously until you feel the skin on your palms begin to warm up. Then cup one hand over each eye, feeling the heat from your hands relax your eyes.

The Rubdown
12. When your feet are sore after a long day of standing, take off your shoes and socks, wash your feet, and give them a rubdown. Sitting on a comfortable couch or chair, thread the fingers of one hand through the toes of one foot, spreading out your toes and placing the palm of your hand against the bottom of your foot. Use your palm to gently rotate the joints of your forefoot forward and back for one minute. Then remove your fingers from your toes, hold your ankle with one hand, and gently rotate the entire foot with the other hand, starting with small circles and progressing to larger circles as your ankle warms up. Switch directions, and then repeat with the other foot.

13. Give yourself a bear hug to relax away shoulder tension. Cross your arms over your chest and grab a shoulder with either hand. Squeeze each shoulder and release three times. Then move your hands down your arms, squeezing and releasing until you get to your wrists.

14. Rub lavender oil onto your feet before bed. Lavender-scented oils are available at most health food stores. The smell of lavender and the gentle massaging motions you make as you work the oil into your feet will help you to unwind. An added bonus: The nightly oil treatment softens and hydrates any rough, dry spots on your feet. Once you’re done with your massage, put on a pair of socks to prevent the oil from rubbing off onto your sheets.

15. After tennis, cycling, rock climbing, and other arm-tiring sports, give your arms a pinch. Place your right arm across your chest with your elbow bent. Reach across your chest with your left arm and pinch your right arm’s triceps, near the shoulder, with the thumb and index finger of your left hand. Hold for a few seconds, release, then pinch again an inch lower on the arm. Continue pinching and releasing until you’ve made your way to your elbow. Then pinch your right arm’s biceps near your armpit and work your way in the same way down to the elbow. Then switch arms. This will release the tension in your muscles and help improve blood circulation.

16. When you have a headache, stand up, bend forward from the hips, and place your forehead on a padded chair. The chair will gently place pressure on your head as you relax in the forward bend. Hold about 30 seconds. When you rise, sit down and spread your fingers through your hair, making a fist. Gently pull the hair away from your head. Hold 2-3 seconds, then release. This stretches the fascia along your scalp, releasing tension. Continue to grab different clumps of hair all over your head, working from the top front of your head, progressing to the sides, and then to the back of your head. Once you have grabbed and released your entire scalp, return to work, feeling refreshed.

17. Keep a tennis ball on your desk and squeeze it regularly. The squeezing motion helps rejuvenate tired fingers and hands, and strengthens your hands for other self-massage techniques.

From: Stealth Health