Peace in the Pose: 6 Yoga Postures to Promote Grounding

03/18/2014

Yoga for grounding photoGrounding is a process of dynamic contact with the Earth. It allows us to become present in the here and now without our mind wandering to either the past or the future.

When we’re not grounded, we’re unstable, we fly off the handle, we daydream in a fantasy world. Our attention is constantly wandering. Without grounding we lose our course.

Grounding helps us to feel connection rather than isolation. It allows us to be useful, peaceful, and easeful in the present moment. Yoga can help us to get to this place. Here are some great poses to get you started. 

1. Knee-to-Chest Pose

Release your back down to the mat. As you exhale, draw your knees into the chest while keeping your back flat on your mat. Feel the back body releasing into the mat as you hug the knees tighter into the chest. Breathe deeply into hips and feel them opening a bit deeper with each breath. Feel the mat beneath you, holding up your entire body.

2. Full Wheel

Full wheel pose photo

Come to your back. Bend the knees and place your feet as close to your seat as possible. Place the hands by the ears with the fingertips pointing toward your body. Exhale all the air and inhale to extend the front of the body and the legs, lifting into full wheel. (See picture to the right.) With every breath, release the hands and the feet deeper into the ground beneath. At the same time, feel the chest, heart, and shoulders opening a bit deeper. 

3. Full Locust

Begin lying on your stomach with your arms at your sides. Rest your forehead or your chin on the mat. Notice any tension in the body, especially in the jaw, and release it. As your exhale, lift the chest and arms, keeping the arms alongside the body. Widen the collarbones and keep the chest lifted. Hold for 5-10 breaths and release back down to the mat. 

4. Mountain Pose 

Mountain pose is the ultimate grounding posture. Balance the weight of the body to all four corners of the feet. Spread the toes. Send the shoulders up, back, and down the back body. Close the eyes and hold for five breaths, feeling strong and tall in mountain pose.

5. Standing Forward Bend 

Head to knee yoga pose

Ease the monkey mind in standing forward bend. When you're not grounded down, you're much more likely to be filled with anxious thoughts. Fold forward and let the weight of the head open all the muscles along the spine as well as the shoulders. Close the eyes and breathe. 

6. Warrior 2

Stand with the feet a leg's length apart. Turn the right foot out and turn the left foot toward the side of the mat. Bend the right knee so it's directly over the ankle. Lift the trunk of the body directly over the legs and extend the arms alongside the legs, directly in front and behind you. Face towards your front arm. Hold for 5 breaths and then switch sides.

Credit all: iStock/Thinkstock

Read More: 7 Super Healthful Morning Rituals Paid For With Pocket Change

7 Herbal Teas for All That Ails You

03/14/2014

Chamomile-teaAs I've come to yoga, I've fallen even more in love with tea and all its health benefits. It's a natural cure for a host of ailments. So I decided to take an in depth look at the medicinal qualities of many of the teas I love. You can find a tea to treat whatever ails you.

1. Chamomile Tea

If you drink chamomile tea then you know its calming effects. That's why it's great for reducing anxiety and sleep disorders. Drink it before bed and it truly helps you get a good night's sleep. It also helps with annoying muscular twitches. Drink chamomile to reduce menstrual cramps naturally or if you have an upset stomach. It's also great for healing wounds faster.

2. Ginger Tea

Ginger is known to be great for settling your stomach. It's also a great natural cure for nausea caused by morning sickness and car sickness. It also freshens bad breath and helps with a sore throat. 

3. Peppermint Tea

This caffeine free tea rejuvenates your body without the jolt. It’s known as a natural healer that can soothe a sour stomach and relieve heartburn. If you’re starting to get a cold, it can even help loosen phlegm.

4. Dandelion and Chicory Root Tea

Dandelion and chicory roots are a match made in health heaven. Dandelion roots are blood purifiers that help both the liver and kidneys remove impurities. Chicory is good for digestion and cleansing the urinary tract and liver. The tea looks like coffee and has a rich taste without the caffeine.

5. Teeccino

Teeccino is an amazing invention because it tastes like coffee but it’s made of herbs, grains, fruits, and nuts, all roasted together in a similar preparation to coffee, according to Dr. Oz. And it’s caffeine-free, so for those in love with the taste of coffee that are sensitive to caffeine, it’s a good choice.

6. Licorice Tea

Licorice Tea has the warming bold taste of coffee but without the caffeine. Licorice has been used in food for its medicinal properties for thousands of years. It’s used to treat canker sores, ulcers, eczema, upper respiratory infections, and for weight loss. It’s also known to support adrenal health.

7. Fennel Tea

Flavoring herbal tea with fennel can help boost digestion and act as a diuretic, aiding in the removal of excess water and some waste. The fragrance of the tea may be calming to some people, and the volatile oils may possess antiseptic properties, assisting in the treatment of gastrointestinal infections.

Read More: Green Tea Not Created Equal 

From Cancer to Heart Disease: 6 Side Effects of a Vitamin D Deficiency

03/13/2014

Vitamin d deficient The body should naturally produce vitamin D when ultraviolet rays from the sun hit the skin, but in the winter it's impossible to produce vitamin D from the sun if you live north of Atlanta because the sun never gets high enough in the sky for its ultraviolet B rays to penetrate the atmosphere.

But don’t fret, you can still get ample vitamin D from the food you eat and it’s worth it because of the risks to your health if you're continually deficient. Let’s take a closer look. 

1. Aging Bones

A vitamin D deficiency is blamed for an increased risk of aging bones and fracture. A study in the journal Science Translational Medicine showed that not getting enough of the nutrient caused premature bone breakage. 

2. Rickets

Rickets is the softening of bones in children and it’s become more common in today's kids. Parents are constantly applying high SPF and kids just don’t play outside as much as they once did. 

3. Heart Disease

When sun hits the skin, it causes an increase in nitric oxide, a chemical linked to blood flow. Researchers found that when sunlight hits the skin the compound is released in blood vessels, which causes the blood pressure to drop. People living in Northern European countries like Scotland were actually more likely to die as a result of heart disease because they don't get enough sunlight.

4. Depression

Research results reported in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a vitamin D deficiency is linked to depression. The lower the vitamin D levels, the higher the risk of depression. And then there's seasonal affective disorder. According to the National Institutes of Health, "SAD is a mood disorder characterized by the predictable onset of depression in the fall/winter months, with spontaneous remissions in the spring/summer period."

5. Diabetes 

NIH has also studied the link between vitamin D deficiency and chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes. According to their research:

“Past observational studies have suggested that higher levels of vitamin D may be beneficial in preventing type 2 diabetes, but until this large, randomized and controlled clinical trial is complete, we won’t know if taking vitamin D supplements lowers the risk of diabetes,” said Anastassios G. Pittas, M.D., the study’s principal investigator at Tufts Medical Center, Boston.

6. Cancer 

Research in its early stages has also shown that incidence and death rates for certain cancers were lower among individuals living in southern latitudes, where levels of sunlight exposure are relatively high, than among those living at northern latitudes. 

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Photo: Credit both: iStock/Thinkstock

Read More: 8 Ways to Get Ample Vitamin D in the Winter 

Over-the-Counter Flu Treatments Could Spread Disease

03/12/2014

Flu treatments photoOver-the-counter cold and flu medications that reduce fever may make patients think they’re well so they go back to school or work prematurely. Researchers at Canada’s McMaster University concluded that when some patients reduce their symptoms with cold and flu over-the-counter medications, they may go back to their normal activities and spread the illness. 

Even though patients may feel fine and return to work or school, they may still be infected, according to the study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. While, according to WTOP, the study is thought to be a bit controversial, it found that nearly 1,000 people die each year by getting the flu from someone that took over-the-counter medications and thought they were better.

"We aren't saying don't take medication. That's not the message," David Earn, who specializes in mathematics and disease, said to NBC News. "Be aware that if you take this medication, there is this effective increase in transmission."

Just because you have a mild case of the flu, doesn’t mean that the person you infect will also get a mild case.

"Maybe you'll give your young child medication to make them feel better and because they feel better they might go jump in granny's lap and give her a hug and a kiss," Earn said to NBC.

We're currently in peak flu season though timing of the flu season is rather unpredictable in a number of ways. But it most commonly peaks in January and February. However, flu season can begin as early as October and continue to occur through May.

Photo: iStock/Thinkstock

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Read More: Can You Get the Flu From Your Cell Phone?

Travel Safe: What’s Dengue Fever and Should You Be Concerned?

03/10/2014

Dengue fever photoA Texas women died in October of dengue fever after a trip to New Mexico. The death brought to light the dangers of an illness that's endemic to the tropics and sub-tropics but has also taken victims in the U.S. It’s especially important to understand the signs if you’re someone who travels to regions where dengue fever is prevalent. 

"There are thousands of people who come back with dengue," Dr. Hal Margolis, chief of the CDC's dengue branch, said, reported on Everyday Health. "That's really the biggest problem."

More than one third of the population is at risk and 400 million people are infected with dengue fever every year. The only prevention is to avoid mosquito bites. 

CDC: Symptoms of Dengue Fever:

  • High fever and at least two of the following symptoms
  • Severe headache
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Rash
  • Mild bleeding like a nose bleed, gums bleeding, and easy bruising
  • Low white blood cell count

Go to an emergency room if your fever fades and you have these severe symptoms: 

  • Severe abdominal pain and persistent vomiting
  • Vomiting blood
  • Drowsiness or irritability 
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pale, cold, or clammy skin

There’s no vaccine or treatment drug for dengue fever so it’s best to eliminate mosquitoes, especially where they lay their eggs. Look for standing water in vases, dog bowls, flower planters, etc. Use repellent inside and outside of the house and sleep under a bed net at night. Also, make sure that screens on doors and windows don't have any holes in them.

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Read More: How the U.S. Eradicated Malaria: The South’s Deadly Killer

Is Simply Orange Actually Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice?

03/08/2014

Simly orange photoDon’t let the name fool you, Simply Orange isn't exactly fresh squeezed orange juice. There's much more to it.

“You take Mother Nature and standardize it,” says Jim Horrisberger, director of procurement at Coke’s huge Auburndale, Fla. juice packaging plant told Business Week. “Mother Nature doesn’t like to be standardized.”

Business Week reports that Coca-Cola is actually the maker of Simply Orange and other Minute Maid products. Currently, PepsiCo’s Tropicana holds 40 percent of the not-from-concentrate market, while Coca-Cola has 28 percent. Coke wants to demand 100 percent of the not-from-concentrate market because consumers are willing to pay a 25 percent premium for it. 

But the process of making Coke’s Simply Orange Juice is more sophisticated that you likely ever thought possible. Coke has a “Black Book” at their bottling plant in Auburndale, Fla.--it’s a top secret methodology for producing consistent orange juice 12 months out of the year, considering that orange season is only three months.

According to Business Week, “The Black Book model includes detailed data about the myriad flavors—more than 600 in all—that make up an orange, and consumer preferences. Those data are matched to a profile detailing acidity, sweetness, and other attributes of each batch of raw juice. The algorithm then tells Coke how to blend batches to replicate a certain taste and consistency, right down to pulp content. Another part of Black Book incorporates external factors such as weather patterns, expected crop yields, and cost pressures.”

Coca-Cola’s Brazilian partner Cutrale, processes the oranges, which are grown to Coke’s specifications. The juice is stored in silos and transported via a 1.3-mile underground pipeline where the juice is fresh pasteurized. Batches are separated into orange type, sweetness, and acidity and natural flavors and fragrances are added. 

"When the juice is stripped of oxygen it is also stripped of flavor providing chemicals. Juice companies therefore hire flavor and fragrance companies, the same ones that formulate perfumes for Dior and Calvin Klein, to engineer flavor packs to add back to the juice to make it taste fresh,” says Allisa Hamilton’s book, Squeezed: What You Don't Know About Orange Juice.

So if you’re craving fresh squeezed orange juice, your best bet is to make it at home or hit a local juice bar. 

Photo: ©Simply Orange Juice Company

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Read More: Are You Eating These 6 Unhealthy Health Foods?

A Mild Chill Is Good For Weight Loss

03/06/2014

Chilly photoBy mild chill, I’m not talking about the polar vortex that has sent temperatures below freezing throughout the country. In fact, my feet feel frozen solid even as I sit here typing away. So that kind of cold is just uncomfortable and it leaves us feeling hungry for the hearty fare that is in no way good for our waistline.

The mild chill that researchers are talking about is between 62 and 77 degrees F. Even when we crave a cozy office or a warm fire to heat up the room, it may not be good for weight loss, according to Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt, a biologist at the Maastricht University Medical Center. 

By keeping the room a little cooler, your body has to use more calories than it does when it’s cold. And it’s not because shivering burns calories, because remember we’re only talking about a mild chill here. 

"In the long term, that can have an effect on your energy balance and body weight," van Marken Lichtenbelt tells Shots. He and his colleagues outline the evidence for the idea in a commentary published Wednesday in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism.

When there’s a chill in the air your body activates what’s called brown fat. Brown adipose tissue (BAT) or brown fat is one of two types of fat (the other being white fat) found in humans. Brown fat contains a lot of heat generating mitochondria, better known as the power plant of the cell. When the body needs to raise your temperature, it burns brown fat. 

"What is needed is for the building to get more temperature variation over time, along with drifting temperatures," van Marken Lichtenbelt says on Shots. That can mean keeping the entire office a little cooler during the winter or varying the temperatures in different rooms, he adds.

This is all the more reason to turn down your thermostat just a bit in the winter and not make the room quite so cozy.

Photo: iStock/Thinkstock

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Read More: Is Your Schedule Conducive to Being Thin?

10 Antioxidant Rich Foods Worth Adding to Your Detox Diet

03/05/2014

FruitIf you want to get the most nutrient bang for your buck, what foods have the largest impact? If you're looking for a detox diet, what antioxidant rich foods make the biggest difference? These nutrient dense foods will boost your intake of vitamins and minerals. 

1. Grapes

If you're looking to clean up your diet, give grapes a try. Dark-colored grapes especially are loaded with phytochemicals that protect you against cancer and heart disease. They have the antioxidants anthocyanin and proanthocyanidin, which are especially great for immune health. Grapes are also loaded with vitamin C. 

2. Blueberries

Blueberries are among the most antioxidant rich foods on the planet. They repair cell damage, lower inflammation, and strengthen the immune system. 

3. Kale 

Why does everyone consider kale the ultimate superfood? Because it has 206 percent of your daily dose of vitamin A and 134 percent of your daily dose of vitamin C. Kale also has 33 percent of your daily allowance of calcium and 684 percent of your daily allowance of vitamin K. 

4. Walnuts

Walnuts are loaded with antioxidants. “Research suggests that walnuts can be a healthful part of the diet for the prevention not only of breast and other cancers, but also diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” says researcher W. Elaine Hardman, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry at Marshall University School of Medicine in Huntington, W.Va.

5. Maca

Maca is a nutrient dense superfood that's rich in calcium, magnesium, and B vitamins. It's also known for balancing hormones in the body when they go out of whack. 

6. Cocoa powder

Cocoa powder, found in dark chocolate, is full of flavonoids. In fact, it has 550 mg per serving. When tested against other superfruit powders, it had the highest antioxidant activity of all of them. 

7. Garlic

Garlic has ajoene, which is known for preventing blood clots. Garlic also has a number of other cardioprotective qualities. For example, it makes the arteries more flexible as you age. 

8. Broccoli

Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are known as super veggies because of a compound that neutralizes toxins in the liver and helps cleanse the system as a result.

9. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of the most potent sources of lycopene. Lycopene is a phytochemical found in red pigmented foods. 

10. Kiwi

Kiwi is great for fighting free radicals because it contains vitamins A and E. It's also good for immune health. 

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Read More: 9 Ways to Boost Your Antioxidant Action

4 Reasons Why Good Posture is SO Important

Good posture photoBefore I started practicing yoga I had pretty pathetic posture, but to be honest, I hardly even noticed. It wasn’t until I attended yoga teacher training in Asheville, N.C. that I first realized its importance.

I remember distinctly a yoga teacher used me as an example of how not to stand. I’m not gonna lie, she hurt my feelings but it was her tough love that motivated me to changes my tune and I’m certainly glad I did because good posture is infinitely important.

1. It makes you more confident.

It's the way that you carry yourself through the world. If you're hunched over, it looks like you lack confidence. So lift your head high and send your shoulders back.

2. It helps with circulation.

When your shoulders are pulled back and your head is lifted, it increases your lung capacity and allows you to breathe deeper. This aids in oxygen transport and circulation. 

3. It decreases the risk of injury.

If you're hunched over your computer for hours at a time, you're more likely to have lower back pain or back pain in general as a result. This can also lead to tight hips. 

4. It creates muscle tension.

Bad posture creates muscular tension in the body because the weight of the head and upper body is being supported by your muscles because your bones are improperly aligned. 

Photo: iStock/Thinkstock

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Read More: 6 Ways Sitting at a Desk Is Bad For Your Health

Head Lice: What Parents Need to Know

03/04/2014

Head lice photoHead lice are a year round nuisance for kids and parents alike. The number of cases usually peaks when kids go back to school in the fall. There’s an estimated 6-12 million cases of head lice infestation each year in the U.S. in kids ages 3-11 years old. Head lice are most common amongst preschool kids attending childcare and elementary school kids.

Head lice have nothing to do with bad hygiene, in fact, the tiny bugs are spread mainly through head to head contact with a person that already has head lice. Lice don’t fly or jump, they move by crawling.

These blood sucking bugs are the size of sesame seeds and are tan or grayish white in color. They attach themselves to the skin on the head and lay eggs. The eggs are called nits and they’re easier to spot on the head than the fast moving lice. Nits resemble dandruff, except unlike dandruff which can be dusted away, nits are stuck to the scalp. 

FDA-approved treatments for head lice include both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs, such as Nix and Rid, in the form of shampoos, creams and lotions. “Many head lice products are not for use in children under the age of 2, so read the label carefully before using a product to make sure it is safe to use on your child,” Patricia Brown, M.D., a dermatologist at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says.

Prevent Lice Infestations

  • Tell kids to avoid head-to-head contact.
  • Don’t share cloths, hats, combs, brushes, etc.
  • Vacuum the floors, rugs, and furniture where a person with lice has been sitting.
  • If one member of a family gets lice, check the other members of the family at least once a week.

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Read More: How Head Lice Works


Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on SereneKitchen.com. She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.


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