Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude.

Danskin Now Yoga Blocks and Strap Kit, Complete with Cancer Warning?

Posted July 25th, 2011 by Salina with No Comments

While preparing for a recent prenatal yoga class I realized that although I have quite a few extra mats lying around to offer to students who needed them, I only have two yoga blocks. I was expecting six students in a class including both expectant moms and dads and thought it would be wise to have blocks available to all students. The class was two weeks away when I made this realization and decided that I was not going have enough time to order blocks online from a wholesaler and be sure that they arrived before the class.

So, being the fantastic procrastinator that I am, a few days before the class while cruising Walmart with the family I ran off to check the workout aisle for yoga blocks. I was in luck! I spotted the Danskin Now Yoga Block and Strap Kit, $10.77. It included 2 blocks and 1 strap (which I didn’t really need but who can’t use an extra strap?). I grabbed two packages and headed to the electronics section to locate my husband and show off my sweet find.

The blocks arrived home in their plastic Walmart bag and were placed in a corner in the living room where they remained until approximately 10 minutes before I was heading out the door to teach the aforementioned class (procrastinator, remember?). I placed my 2 old blocks into my duffle bag, retrieved a package of new blocks from their corner, tore the package open, tossed the strap aside and as I was putting the blocks in the duffle two little pieces of paper floated out from between the blocks. One paper was the manufacture’s limited warranty – junk, tossed it aside – the other said “Warning”. So I took a second to read it (even though the warnings are usually something along the lines of, “this yoga block is not intended for building houses and we are not responsible if you build your house with it and the house falls down”). Imagine my surprise to find that the first of two warnings said:

“This product contains a chemical that is known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.”

WHAT?! I won’t bore you with the list of profanities I spewed after reading that right before I needed to head out the door. My first though was, “How the heck can they sell this if it causes cancer and just stick a piece of paper in there?” Then I read it again, “…known to the state of California…” why is California the only state that knows? I looked at it one more time, “…birth defects and other reproductive harm.” Yeah, I won’t be using these for my PRENATAL class tonight!

As I tossed the blocks and all the paper work back in the bag, with plans to return them to the store – thanks but, no thanks on the cancer blocks – I decided that I needed to research this a little bit more and that this might be a great thing to share on the site. If I had seen that warning sooner, I would not have bought the blocks in the first place maybe others would like to know before they buy.

Here’s what I found:
A Google search of the product name revealed little more then the fact that the blocks come in colors other then the green ones that I had purchased. Reviews on websites that sold the products were good, 4 and 5 stars. I started to wonder if I was crazy, does no one else care that these are “cancer blocks”?

But, with a little more digging I found a couple of posts on public forums about this warning. The general opinion of responders seemed to be that California is warning-crazy and that unless you were planning to eat the blocks there really is no danger. I was not really convinced, what do these people know, they are not experts, they are just regular people. So the search went on.

Then I came upon a similar warning on a website selling Natural Bamboo Yoga Blocks. It read:

California Prop 65 Required Warning Statement For Products Made Of Wood: Drilling, sawing, sanding, or machining wood products generates wood dust, a substance known to the State of California to cause cancer. Avoid inhaling wood dust or use a dust mask or other safeguards for personal protection. (Required as of Dec. 18th, 2010.)

Okay, that warning seems a little extreme considering that I would be the purchaser of the block and not the creator of the block. However, California Prop. 65, that was what I had been searching for.

What is California Prop 65? It is California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. Apparently the Act was created to protect the water and the citizens of California from and inform them of exposure to chemicals that are known to cause cancer and birth defects or reproductive harm. Under this act, the Governor of California is required to publish a list of chemicals that are known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity at least once per year. For more information on Prop 65, click here.

Although I find the warning about wood dust a little excessive, I’m not convinced that these blocks are safe. Perhaps if I had a list of the chemicals used in the creation of this block, or at least the chemical(s) in question, I could do the research and draw my own conclusion. In the meantime, I’m gonna go ahead and take California’s word for it and return these blocks to Walmart.

Now the hunt begins for yoga blocks free of carcinogenic chemicals!

What are the different types of yoga?

Posted July 5th, 2011 by Salina with No Comments

Q “What are the different types of yoga and what makes each of them unique?” -Anonymous

A There are many different types of yoga and many variations within these types. I don’t think that I could list every variation and what makes each unique, in fact, I’m sure I don’t even know every variation that exists, but I can tell you about some of the more common types.

Most often you will hear people refer to Hatha yoga. This is a very general term that refers to the physical practice of yoga or asana.

Vinyasa is a type of yoga in which the movements are synchronized to the breath. In this type of class the movements will flow together from one posture to another, you may also see it listed as a “Flow” class. No matter what level, in this type of class you will likely be moving most of the time.

Ashtanga yoga is Sanskrit for “The Eight Limbs of Yoga.” This is a style that uses four main concepts that, with practice, are believed will help the student achieve all eight limbs of yoga. These concepts include Ujjayi (victorious) Breath, Bandhas – the internal energy “locks” that control the flow of prana (life-force; breath), Vinyasa, and Drishti, which is a point of gaze or focus. Ashtanga teaches vinyasa in a progressive sequence of postures broken down into 3 parts Primary, Intermediate, and Advanced. The foundation of the entire series is Surya Namaskara (sun salutations) a sequence of movements that are the basis for any Ashtanga practice. As with any vinyasa class, there will be movement throughout and this constant movement will build heat within the body and you will likely work up a sweat.

Bikram yoga is a sequence of 26 specific postures performed in a room heated to 105°F with 40& humidity. The 26 poses are said to work every part of the body and give every part of the body everything that is needed to maintain health and proper function. Hot yoga is a variation on this type of yoga, where asana is performed in a heated room but often at a lower temperature (80′s or 90′s) and, from my experience, they are not performing the 26 poses of Birkram. If you are planning to take a hot yoga class, make sure that you drink plenty of water in the days leading up to the class and after class and bring a towel.

Yin yoga is a type of yoga designed to work the deep connective tissues and joints (yin tissues) of the body. According to this type of yoga will allow “new depths in postures, deeper ranges of motion, or and increased flow of energy…” This is a slower paced yoga where poses are held for five minutes at a time. Because the postures are held so long, there are obviously not as many postures performed within a practice session. Also, because the target is the deep “yin” areas of the body, there are not as many postures to practice overall in the yin style. This type of class can be deeply relaxing, opening, and challenging.

Some other popular styles that you might like to look into include Power yoga, Restorative Yoga, and Anusara yoga.

The styles I have mentioned above are only a drop the vast ocean of available types and methods of yoga. In addition, there is huge variation among teachers which is determined by their level of education as well as their personal styles of teaching and communicating; i.e., a class with a teacher who is certified and has trained for many months or years can vary greatly from one with a teacher who has only taken a few workshops.

If you are trying to decide what type of class to take, the best advice I can give is try a few different classes or videos in the varying methods. If you are looking into classes, check out websites or call places in your area. A lot of studios offer community classes at a discount or by donation. If you are looking at videos, check out your local library or online for free options.

A word of caution when finding information online, for as many good sources that are out there, there are at least as many poor ones. With any video, photos, or even in a class, use your common sense and listen to your body (if something is painful, don’t do it) and ask questions! Don’t assume that because someone is a yoga teacher that that they know everything or are always right. There are so many varieties out there because the same thing is not always right for each of us. The best way to find what is right for you is to try it out!

Do Ionic Detox Foot Baths Work?

Posted June 18th, 2011 by Salina

Q “Do those Ion/Ionic Detox foot baths that are offered at spas really help to detoxify your body, or is it a gimmick so that the spa can make money? I have been seeing these advertised more and more and lately Groupon and LivingSocial deals have featured them at various spas in my area. Any thoughts would be helpful. Thanks.” -Jenn F. in Raleigh, NC.

A There is some controversy around these systems and whether or not they actually work. Many people in the natural health community believe that these systems are great and that they can cure many health issues. Others believe that these systems are a scam.

It is said that our feet are extremely porous and as a result this is a good way to draw toxins out of the body. I am not entirely clear on the science behind these systems but I know that the process involves soaking the feet in a salt water bath containing an ionizer. Ionization of the water is supposed to somehow draw the toxins out of the body through the feet.

I have seen this done and on people and the resulting water, which is usually brown to dark brown. I have never had this done but I have talked to people who love this and swear that having it done in a series really helps them feel better.

One woman who had been cleaning her house with a lot of bleach, said that after an ionic detox the water smelled like bleach.

I know another woman who is on medication due to a kidney transplant. She had an ion foot bath and she feels that it was so effective that it altered the levels of medication in her system; which was not a good thing in her case.

My husband Derek had this treatment done twice. He did not feel any difference.

I am unable to draw a conclusion either way because I have never had it done and I have never taken the time to fully understand the process and why it is said to work. However, I am planning to do the research, have the treatment(s), and talk with people who provide this service and write an article for the website. I will definitely make sure that I let you know when that is done and what conclusions I am able to draw.

Thanks for your question. Hope this helps!

Poses to help lymph drainage?

Posted June 15th, 2011 by Salina with No Comments

Q “Do you know of any old lady poses to help lymph drainage, especially in the legs and to stimulate the spleen? My workout has become very limited as I have gotten very stiff in the past year.” -Patty A. in South Florida.

A Let’s begin with the second part of your question regarding stimulation of the spleen, since that will be the shorter answer. Spinal twists are beneficial for the spleen and other internal organs. This is because when you are twisting your torso the blood flow becomes restricted in the compressed area. When the twist is released fresh blood rushes into the tissues and organs on that previously restricted side. This blood rushing through the area can help flush out old blood and toxins that may have been collecting here. Side bending postures are beneficial as well, for the same reason.

Now, lets talk about the part of your question regarding lymph drainage in the legs. Because it flows in only one direction with no organs acting as pumps to help it get where it is going, lymph moves through the body slowly. It is pushed along by outside pressure on the structures of the lymphatic system, pressure such as muscle contractions, pressure changes within the body, and physical manipulation of the tissues. Which makes both yoga and massage good options for helping to move this fluid through the body.

When there is a build up fluid in the legs it may be a result of muscular inactivity, which can be caused by traveling, sitting for long periods without getting up to move around, etc.* Doing calf stretches throughout the day or on longs trips when you are unable to move around can keep the fluid moving in the right direction. Do this by flexing your ankles; reach the toes toward the shins and then pointing the toes toward the floor.

The poses listed below are great for helping drain fluid in the legs. A regular yoga practice, stretching, or exercise routine even for a few minutes a day can help keep the fluid moving and prevent the buildup of fluid in the future.

Viparita Karani (legs up the wall pose), lie on the floor with one side of your body close to a wall. Bend your knees, placing the soles of your feet on the floor. Bring your attention to your breath. When you are ready extend the leg that is closest to the wall up and then the other as you use your arms to turn your upper body away from the wall and your legs toward it. Your sits bones may not be right up against the wall and that is okay. Extend your legs up, with your feet toward the ceiling, and let them rest against the wall. Extend your arms out to the sides keeping them aligned with your shoulder joints. Think about lengthening through your spine from your tail bone through the crown of your head. Bring your focus to your breath and stay here for a minimum of 5 minutes, working up to 10 or 15 minutes when comfortable.

Salamba Savasana (supported corpse pose), find a stable chair to place your calves on while in Savasana. Lie on the floor with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor. Lift your feet off the floor resting the backs of your calves on the seat of the chair. Relax your arms down by your sides, palms facing up to the ceiling. Focus on your breath and try to relax more with each exhalation. Feel yourself sinking deeper into the floor. Remember to keep your jaw and face relaxed as well. If the chair is too much elevation for your legs, try using pillows and/or blankets to elevate the feet and legs. Elevation will help the lymph drain from the legs.

As I mentioned above, massage can also help move lymph through the vessels.
Here are some steps for massaging yourself that may help move the lymph along:

  • Begin at the bottom of your thigh by placing one hand on either side of your leg, just above the knee, with your thumbs meeting on top and your fingers toward the sides.
  • Use a “milking” action to squeeze your thigh; slowly working your hands up the thigh toward your hip.
  • Bring your hands back to the base of the thigh at the knee, separate your hands a little bit and work the hands up on either side of the thigh again, squeezing as you go.
  • Continue this action beginning at the knee and working up the thigh, separating the hands a little more each time, until you have gone all the way around the thigh.
  • Repeat this action on the calf, working from the ankle up to the knee.
  • Finally, repeat these steps as you work all the way up the leg from the toes to the pelvis.

When doing this, it is important to start with the thigh and work your way down the leg in sections as described; this opens the pathway for the fluid. If you were to being at the foot and work up the leg without working the area above first, the fluid you were attempting to work out of the foot would be blocked by the in the calf fluid above.

Having a full body massage or performing regular self-massage will help put pressure on the lymph vessels and will keep the lymphatic system flowing. Even the simple act of breathing encourages the movement of lymph through the body. The change in pressure within the abdomen and torso is enough to push the fluid along. So, any breathing exercises are a great way to keep the lymph moving as well as to help you relax and relieve stress!

* Swelling and fluid buildup can sometimes be a result of a more serious issue. I am not a doctor or a medical professional and my statements are my opinions based on my education and research and are in no way intended to replace or override the advice of a medical professional.

Vrksasana “Tree Pose”

Posted May 2nd, 2011 by Salina with No Comments

Tree PoseThis morning I was excited to discover that our new peach tree has tiny little peaches growing on it!  The sight of fruit on this brand new little tree has inspired me to introduce the “Pose of the Month”, which will be a regular feature on the website.  I am happy to receive questions, comments, or feedback as I am creating this site to help you.

In honor of my little tree, the pose for this month is Vrksasana – Tree Pose.

Vrksasana is a balance building posture. This pose also builds strength in the legs and ankles, helps increase flexibility in the hips, and with regular practice it can help build focus and concentration.

If you have inner ear problems or a balancing disorder do Vrksasana near a wall or a chair that you can use for support or avoid doing this pose. If you have uncontrolled high blood pressure, do not extend the arms overhead in this posture.

Steps for Planting Your Tree:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Begin standing at the top of your mat with the base of your big toes touching. Root all four corners of your feet into the floor – from the base of your big toes to the base of your little toes and from your inner heels to your outer heels. Bring your arms down by your sides; relax your shoulders down while maintaining the length in your spine. Take a moment to bring your focus to your breath.

Shift your weight on to your right foot while bending the left knee and lifting the foot off the floor. Bring the soul of the left foot either to the inside of your right ankle (with the toes touching the floor), calf, or thigh with the toes pointing toward the floor. Make sure to keep the foot above or below the knee so that there is no pressure on the joint.

Bring your hands to your hips and try to square your hips to the front of your mat; which may mean pulling that left hip forward. Press the left foot into the right leg and pull the muscles of the right thigh in to resist the left foot. Then allow that left knee to start opening out to the left, keeping the hips facing forward.

Work the left hip down away from the ribcage, pull the abdominal muscles in, lengthen the spine, and bring the palms together in front of the heart. Find a place on the floor or the wall in front of you to focus on; this will help with your balance. Keep the face soft and relax the jaw.

For more of a challenge, extend the arms overhead with the palms facing each other. Open the chest, roll the shoulder blades together, and pull the shoulders down away from the ears. You can bring your gaze up toward the ceiling.

Hold this for up to a minute before switching to the other leg.

Tip: If you practice with your children, encourage them to be their favorite tree. A mighty Oak might flex those muscles; a Weeping Willow may hang his head, have fun with it!

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