Tag Archives: health

Lose the Bouncy Ball Chair

Well, turns out that those icons of alternative office space — exercise ball chairs — didn’t hold up well with the scientists. You’ll burn at least four more calories per hour (hey, that’s a cookie a day), but it won’t fix your posture.

…a 2009 British study found that prolonged sitting on a therapy ball led to just as much slumping and “poor sitting position” as a desk chair.

Another study last year, by Dutch researchers [found that] the balls produced more muscle activity and 33 percent more “trunk motion.” But they also produced more spinal shrinkage.

“It is concluded that the advantages with respect to physical loading of sitting on an exercise ball may not outweigh the disadvantages,” the researchers wrote.

You’ll have to keep going to yoga.

The Claim: Replacing Your Desk Chair With an Exercise Ball can Improve Your Posture, NY Times

More Reasons to Get a Massage

Need an excuse to get a massage? Research shows that it’s good for your stress levels (duh), and immune system — and that the effects vary by type!

Volunteers who received [deep-tissue] Swedish massage experienced significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol in blood and saliva, and in arginine vasopressin, a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol. They also had increases in the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that are part of the immune system.

Volunteers who had the light massage experienced greater increases in oxytocin, a hormone associated with contentment, than the Swedish massage group, and bigger decreases in adrenal corticotropin hormone, which stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol.

Now, how do I get on this volunteer list?

Massage Benefits are More Than Skin Deep, NY Times

Pure Yoga Health & Wellness Nutrition Night

Lots of events in the air, it must be spring. Here’s one from Pure:

Come expand your nutritional knowledge at Pure Yoga’s Upper East Side location on Tuesday, March 16th. In celebration of National Nutrition Month, Pure welcomes area experts on healthy eating, drinking and living – including a private chef, juicing demos with recipes and samples, organic chocolates, beauty supplements and more!

Continue reading

How to Cure the Hiccups!

The CureDrink from the far side of a glass of water. Eat a spoonful of sugar. Get someone to scare you. Then pour the sugar water on your friend’s head, and come here to stop your hiccups.

Hiccups are caused by a spasm of the diaphragm, the breathing muscle that runs across the base of your ribcage like a trampoline. So, to stop the hiccups you have to get the muscle to relax. You can cure them in one deep breath.

Read the whole thing on the Huffington Post: How to Cure the Hiccups!

Data Entry While You Sleep

I want this:

The FitBit

The Fitbit. Attaches anywhere, measures everything. Calories burned in your rocking chair. Miles traveled up and down your staircase. Percentage of sleep that was uninterrupted. (Why limit OCD to your waking hours?)

The thing uploads your data, anytime you walk within 15 feet of the base station. (And it doesn’t make you subscribe to MobileMe.) It just gives you lots of pretty charts and graphs.

You can even make it a nutrition journal, if you have the discipline to write down every single thing that you eat. Supposedly that’s very revealing.

Does it come with an intern to wear it around for you?

Yoga for Bigger Bodies

Today’s Times has an article on yoga classes for plus-size people. Several teachers have started to offer “yoga for bigger bodies” — and it seems this is an under-served niche. Many of the interviewees said they felt intimidated, embarrassed, or ignored in yoga classes. Some poses are impossible for larger frames, and teachers don’t always know or offer variations. Nevertheless, one expert hated the idea of segregation:

“There’s something wrong that we’re doing as a community if people have to be shunted off to these classes designed for their size,” said Ms. McGonigal, 31, who has a Ph.D. in psychology and is an instructor at the Avalon Art and Yoga Center in Palo Alto, Calif. …Rather than creating separate classes for plus-size yogis, Ms. McGonigal said, she would prefer to see studios work harder to attract a broader cross-section of students to their open classes.

Oy. There’s nothing wrong with offering a tailored class. Yoga was originally taught one-on-one, with each pose being given to the student when he or she was ready. This includes physically ready. Since we’re mostly dealing with group classes here in the U.S., it makes sense to have similar bodies grouped together; the most difficult class to teach is the nefarious “open” level cash cow. I remember carefully planned lessons, thrown out the window when I had some motley crew of new beginners, stiff old men, injured athletes, and yoga professionals show up. There’s just not enough time to speak, adjust, or demo each variation for each person. In fact, some teachers wanted to start a yoga studio with classes for Vata, Pitta or Kapha constitutions — the Ayurvedic body types — but we joked that of course everyone would just go to the one to imbalance them further. (The firey people would by nature choose the most athletic class, instead of the one to cool them down; the heavy people would choose the calmer class instead of the one to fire them up.) Yoga for Bigger Bodies is kind of a start at a Yoga for Kaphas class.

I’d even love to see classes for less stigmatized characteristics like “Yoga for Flexible People” — cause often there’s hidden danger for these body types, too. (Loose people are often sinking into their joints at every opportunity, and need to shorten and draw back in their stance to build strength. More on this later.)

I just think “open” classes are mis-named anyways. They’re more like “somewhat self-led intermediate” classes because of the sheer numbers and unpredictability. Wouldn’t you rather have a class with more specificity?

But, I totally agree that it’d be nice to see a wider variety of shapes in the depictions of yoga. Using skinny, flexible women as 99% of our yoga models creates misconceptions that yoga is just for skinny, flexible women, or that the GOAL is to get skinny and flexible. And feminine. :) More on that later, too!

If you’re in New York, you have several options, of course. Two teachers mentioned by the Times were Megan Garcia of MegaYoga and Michael Hayes of Buddha Body Yoga. Both specialize in larger, overweight, and injured people, and teach classes at various studios around town. Megan also has a book if you can’t find classes in your area. And A Red Lotus has a great, searchable list of yoga classes for various special needs. If you know any other resources, please share in the comments!

Vitamins: Bitter Pills

Vitamins B(erry) & C(herry)
Vitamins B(erry) & C(herry)

Well, the New York Times has published another blow to the pharmaceutical / health food industry:

In the past few years, several high-quality studies have failed to show that extra vitamins, at least in pill form, help prevent chronic disease or prolong life.

The fifties marked the boom of science, and its miracles of white bread and infant formula, but the pendulum is swinging back to intuitive or traditional nutrition. Yes, you have to eat your vegetables:

Scientists suspect that the benefits of a healthful diet come from eating the whole fruit or vegetable, not just the individual vitamins found in it. “There may not be a single component of broccoli or green leafy vegetables that is responsible for the health benefits,” Dr. Gann said. “Why are we taking a reductionist approach and plucking out one or two chemicals given in isolation?”

Read the full article at The New York Times.

Super Smoothie

Smoothie!
Smoothie!

OK, random post because I am really excited about my breakfast. I have never been a smoothie person, I am not satisfied with breakfast until I get to chew something like Thai food or brussels sprouts, but this one is GREAT. It has about 25 grams of protein, which is right about a third of my attempted daily intake, and lasts me until lunch. I’ve had it every weekday for about three weeks, and my skin is rosy and taut like I’ve had a facial. This is double good, because the skin and the brain develop at roughly the same time, from the same type of cells, so if your skin is in good health you can trust that your brain is in good health. Dunno what the secret ingredient is, all of them are great. Here goes:

  • 12 oz. soy milk (unsweetened) — this has about 10 grams protein
  • 1 scoop protein powder (unsweetened) — another 15 grams protein
  • 1 scoop açai powder — this is a berry from Brazil that’s energizing
  • 1 large spoonful green powder — this has every vitamin and mineral you could possibly need
  • 1 large spoonful flax seeds — these have essential fatty acids, which are good for your brain and make the smoothie thicker
  • 1 large spoonful raw almond butter — also good for your brain, this makes it heartier so I’m not hungry again in an hour
  • 1/2 cup frozen berries — these add flavor, thickness, and anti-oxidants

Other notes:

  • You have to blend it for a while so the flax seeds get destroyed. They will still be a little chewy, which I like. If you want it even chewier you can add a little raw oatmeal. I love hand blenders cause they’re much easier to clean. I got the flax seeds in bulk at a food co-op.
  • The brand of protein powder you get will also affect the consistency. I first got Aria, a “women’s blend”, then Spiru-tein Banana (unsweetened), which is thicker but a bit less sweet and slightly more chemical in taste. (Might be the banana flavoring versus the vanilla.) Now I’m using hemp protein powder — I started to have allergic reactions to the whey proteins.
  • Get the açai online if you can, it’s expensive in the stores. In fact this whole smoothie is much more affordable if you can stock up online, at Trader Joe’s, or at a local health food co-op. Price per smoothie will be about $2 instead of $5.
  • Greens+ is the best green powder, it has everything from spirulina (the most complex protein your body can digest) to bee pollen (another rich protein / energizer). Trader Joe’s also has a version. Both taste like lawn clippings, so you need the berries to mask the flavor. Orange juice is another great pairing, but it has too much sugar for me; I feel a sugar crash an hour later.
  • Berries are high in anti-oxidants, which scoop up all the roaming, possibly pre-cancerous ions in your body.
  • Most of this stuff is enriched with vitamins, so you’re covered if you forget your multi-vitamin.
  • Don’t worry about the fats, they’re good fats.
  • There is argument on whether soy is actually good for you — the cons saying it’s so genetically modified that your body doesn’t even recognize it as food, storing it as fat. See for yourself. I still prefer it over regular, raw, rice, or almond milk. I could still try hemp milk.

Your brain uses vitamins and minerals to think, and deal with stress, which is why you need a lot of fruits and vegetables every day. That fact finally got me to take a daily B-vitamin (occasionally), but even better is getting vitamins and breakfast at once. Vitamins from whole foods are supposedly absorbed better anyways.

I’ve felt more energetic and less stressed in the past few weeks, so I’m giving the smoothie some credit. But, it might be the Golden Nuggets…

POSTSCRIPT — I ran out of almond butter, so I’ve been adding a big spoonful of raw sunflower seeds instead. Haven’t noticed a difference. I’ve also switched to flax seed oil, but I kind of miss the chewy flax seeds.