Yoga reduces pain in people with chronic non-specific lower back pain

Image: Yoga reduces pain in people with chronic non-specific lower back pain

Chronic non-specific lower back pain, a condition affecting thousands of people, is often treated using over-the-counter medicines that can do more harm than good. But did you know that there are safer and more effective natural treatments available for this condition? Studies have suggested that yoga is an effective way to treat chronic non-specific lower back pain.

To evaluate the effects of yoga on chronic lower back pain, researchers from Cochrane conducted a review of yoga and chronic non-specific lower back pain studies. The studies included in the review involved 1,080 participants aged between 24 and 48 who had chronic non-specific lower back pain. The trials were carried out in various parts of the world, including India, the U.K., and the U.S. The researchers also compared the effects of yoga classes that involve back exercises to non-back exercises.

The findings of the review showed that yoga practice may improve symptoms of lower back pain and enhance back-related function compared to other exercises. The researchers also noted that practicing yoga for three months may reduce pain and practicing it for over six months may improve back-related function.

“Our findings suggest that yoga exercise may lead to reducing the symptoms of lower back pain by a small amount, but the results have come from studies with a short follow-up,” said Susan Wieland, lead author of the study from the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The researchers concluded that practicing yoga may help reduce pain and improve back function in people with chronic non-specific lower back pain. They added that their findings will help people make better choices about their treatment options in the future. (Related: Treating chronic lower back pain with yoga and physical therapy.)

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Other natural treatments for lower back pain that you may have overlooked

There are many natural treatments for lower back pain. However, some of them, like the following, are often overlooked:

  • Release your feel-good hormones: Endorphins, one of the feel-good hormones, can be as effective as any synthetic pain medication. When the body releases these hormones, pain signals are blocked from registering with the brain. They also help relieve stress, anxiety, and depression – all of which are associated with chronic back pain and which often worsen the pain. Aerobic exercise, massage therapy, and meditation are some ways to promote the release of endorphins in the body.
  • Get adequate sleep: Although most people with chronic back pain suffer from sleeping problems, the lack of quality sleep also makes the pain worse. Thus, it is important to address sleeping problems, too.
  • Use cold therapy: Applying cold compress can help reduce lower back pain. It works by reducing inflammation, which is a common cause of back pain. It also acts as a local anesthetic by decelerating nerve impulses, which prevents the nerves from causing pain and spasms.
  • Use heat therapy: Like cold therapy, heat therapy can relieve lower back pain. It works by stimulating blood flow and inhibiting the pain messages being sent to the brain. You can take a hot bath or shower or use a heating pad or hot water bottle.
  • Stretch your hamstrings: Tight hamstrings also contribute to lower back pain as they stress the lower back and sacroiliac joints which, in turn, cause more pain. Try to gently stretch your hamstrings at least twice a day to relieve lower back pain.


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Yoga diet: Healthy foods for yoga practice

Diets to Improve Your Yoga Practice


Diets to Improve Your Yoga Practice

Most of us often wonder about the foods to eat before a yoga session. Especially, if you are a beginner, it is better to know what works and what doesn’t work as far as the diet one should eat before one’s yoga class is concerned. Here are 10 great foods to support your yoga practice that will give you a boost without having you bouncing off your mat!

Include Enough Proteins in Your Diet


Include Enough Proteins in Your Diet

Proteins are vital for the body and should definitely be included in one’s diet. Broccoli, soybeans, lentils, asparagus and spinach are some commonly found, protein-rich foods. Low-fat dairy products are also a rich source of protein. Ensure that your body receives the required amount of proteins daily.




You can consume juices that contain fruits or vegetables as a part of your yoga diet. You can get rid of the toxins in your body with the help of those juices. Also, you can feel refreshed after consuming them. Try to go for cucumber, kale or spinach juices.

Fresh Fruit


Fresh Fruit

Aside from being refreshing, delicious and constantly changing with the seasons, fresh fruits are generally high in fiber and antioxidants. They’re good for your health and they are a great way to satisfy your hunger during the day.

Lemon and water


Lemon and water

Put down the coffee and start your day with warm water with lemon. In addition to kick-starting your digestive system the healthy way, warm lemon water helps to alkalize the body, which helps control the development and spread of disease.




A banana contains soluble fiber, which digests slowly and won’t spike your blood sugar. Bananas are also stomach-friendly, and their natural sugars will help sustain you all through your workout practice.




The best thing about apples is that they contain sugar which gives you an instant energy boost. They also supply your body with fibre and vitamins. They also help to hydrate you, which is important before a workout.




Natural sugars are always preferable over other forms of sugar. Raisins can energies you before a yoga class with their natural sweetness.




Watermelon helps to hydrate you and energies you before you get ready for your yoga class.

Masala Chai


Masala Chai

Masala Chai is the perfect hot beverage which helps to balance all body types, making it the perfect pick-up without the caffeine jitters that coffee gives you. The spices used, such as black pepper, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, all help to provide relief from bloating and any digestive discomfort.




A good idea is to try a vegetable salad before your workout. Raw vegetables are foods that are alive and really refresh your system.

End Your Day with Ghee


End Your Day with Ghee

Ghee is clarified butter and is used medicinally in Ayurveda to balance the body and heal the digestive tract. It helps bind and eliminate toxins and provide relief from constipation.


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Yoga poses for full-body detoxification

Get fit this New Year with these yoga poses

Get fit this New Year with these yoga poses

With New Years on the horizon, let’s not forget that it’s time for some self-indulgence. And, what better, than a way to ensure that these celebrations are rubbed off in the healthiest ways? Let’s pledge that instead of welcoming this New Year with bloated body, sluggish feeling, and disastrous hangover after hours of dumping our bodies with sweets, alcohol, and junk food, we will kick-start the coming year with fitness and health.

Benefits of yoga


Benefits of yoga

In yoga practice, it is believed that each new breath is a new moment. The best way about yoga is you can start with it anytime, anywhere, like literally! These yoga poses for detox would see increased energy, balanced hormones, improved digestion, and weight loss, apart from feeling fabulous. Read on to know which yoga poses can ensure you spiritual detoxification!

Revolved chair pose


Revolved chair pose

You can start it right away while reading this. All you need to do is imitate a chair pose and bring your hands together at heart centre. Now breathe in to lengthen spine, and breathe out while twisting to the right (take left elbow outside of right thigh). Now repeat the breathing and start twisting on your left. Try this just 5 times a day on each side. This yoga pose is excellent in aiding digestion and stimulates the removal of toxins, while toning your abdominal wall.

Locust pose


Locust pose

A great pose to strengthen your spine and correct your back posture. Just lie down on your stomach with your hands in parallel to your legs, touching your hips. Now pull your head in upward pose, simultaneously pulling your feet and knees off the ground. Count 10 and then relax. Repeat this 5 times a day. The pressure on you abdomen encourages digestion, thus stimulating the release of unwanted things within your body.

Spine twist


Spine twist

This pose helps you relieve stress and detoxify your entire system. It initiates removal of unwanted toxins from your body, and stimulates fresh blood flow. Lie on your back with feet stretched outward. Now bring your palms at your shoulder level. Take a deep breath and pull your left leg over your right leg, and stretch your upper body in the opposite direction; twisting your spine. Stay in this position for at least five deep breaths, and then relax. Now repeat 5 times on each side.

Wide-legged forward bend


Wide-legged forward bend

Stand with your legs wide apart, matching exact distance with your shoulders. Now start bringing your head to touch the ground while slowly expanding the distance between your legs. Embrace pain only if your body allows. It is not necessary to be able to head-touch the ground on your first day. Keep your efforts till the time you achieve this position. This folding pose squeezes the belly stimulating speedy digestion and circulation of blood throughout the body.

Three-legged downward facing dog pose


Three-legged downward facing dog pose

All you have to do is stretch your hands, and steep your head inward below you heart, and stretch out your hips and legs outward. Now lift your left leg in the air in the downward dog pose and take deep breaths. Now repeat the breathing with right leg in the air. Try this out 5 times with each leg. This pose helps you mentally detoxify and stimulates the release of stress, sadness, depression and fear.

Plow pose


Plow pose

This yoga pose requires you to lie straight on your back with arms by your hips. Now take a deep breath and pull your legs straight above your chest level, and slowly try to touch the ground by your head. Keep trying until you succeed. At first your belly might not approve, but soon it will give in, trust me. Benefits of this pose include, back muscle stretching, posture improving, proper functioning of ovaries, bladder and kidney. It also increases metabolism.

Shoulder stand Pose


Shoulder stand Pose

Another pose that will help you instantly help you in cleansing your body off toxins. Start with lying on floor on your back. Bring your legs to your stomach now stretch them upward. Now bring your hands to support either side of your spine and help pull your belly in right angle position with the ground. Stay in this pose for 5 deep breaths, and then relax. Now repeat this 5 times.

Boat pose


Boat pose

Want to lose that belly layer fast then try out this excellent pose that also helps in solving breathing problems. Sit down with your knees bent, and pull back your spine to touch the ground. Once you achieve this position, stretch out your legs outward. Now pull your upper body to touch your feet. Keep trying till you achieve the boat pose. Hold on for 20 second and then release your legs. Try this 5 times.

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How to Safeguard Your Bone Health Naturally

Story at-a-glance

  • Worldwide, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50 will experience an osteoporosis-related bone fracture; 20 percent of those who break a hip die in the first 12 months following the fracture
  • Weight-bearing exercises are particularly important for the prevention of osteoporosis, which is characterized by porous and fragile bones. Eating a diet of real food, and getting sufficient amounts of specific nutrients is also important
  • For the obese, frail elderly and/or those struggling with poor mobility and low fitness, the nitric oxide dump, blood flow restriction training and whole body vibrational training can be particularly helpful

By Dr. Mercola

Osteoporosis is a common problem, affecting an estimated 1 in 10 women worldwide at the age of 60.1 By the time a woman reaches the age of 80, she has a 2-in-5 chance of developing osteoporosis. In most people, sometime during your 30s your bone mass will start to gradually decline. For women, that bone loss can significantly speed up during the first decade of menopause.

Statistics suggest that, worldwide, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50 will experience an osteoporosis-related bone fracture. In 2000, there were 9 million osteoporotic fractures, including 1.6 million hip fractures — a quarter of which occurred in men — which can lead to a significant decline in health and quality of life. Hip fractures can also be life-threatening. Twenty percent of those who break a hip die in the first 12 months following the fracture.

Statistics also reveal that osteoporosis is becoming more prevalent. In the decade between 1990 and 2000, the number of hip fractures increased by 25 percent worldwide.2 So, what can be done about this problem? It’s important to realize that osteoporosis is preventable by “proper living,” meaning eating right, getting nutritional movement and effective exercise.

Weight-bearing exercises are particularly important for the prevention of osteoporosis, which is characterized by porous and fragile bones. Unfortunately, drugs are typically the first-line remedy recommended by conventional doctors. This is tragic, considering these drugs do more harm than good.

The Case Against Osteoporosis Drugs

For example, oral bisphosphonate osteoporosis drugs such as Actonel, Boniva and Fosamax, are associated with a two-fold increased risk of esophageal cancer.3 Research also shows that, over time, these kinds of drugs will actually worsen your condition, because all you’re doing is fooling your body into producing denser but weaker bone.

This may sound like an oxymoron, but here’s how it works: Healthy bones maintain strength from a continual process of bone breakdown and bone rebuilding. Osteoclasts are cells that break down bone; osteoblasts are the cells that rebuild it. Healthy bone undergoes a dynamic process of cyclical removal of unhealthy bone and replacement with new bone. This is how they remain strong.

In osteoporosis, the net rate of bone resorption (breakdown) exceeds the rate of bone formation, which results in a decrease in bone mass. Bisphosphonates and similar drugs do not actually help your body build new bone. These drugs work by killing off your osteoclasts, which halts the normal bone repair process since you now lack the cells that break bone down.

The end result is increased bone density, but denser bone is not stronger! Eventually your bones become weaker and more prone to fracture. In women who have been taking a bisphosphonate-type drug for five or more years, their bones have literally lost the ability to regenerate and this is why many are still faced with more brittle bones and fractures.

Your Lifestyle Largely Determines Your Osteoporosis Risk

While diet certainly plays an important role, weight-bearing exercise is one of the most effective remedies against osteoporosis.4 For example, the walking lunge is a great exercise for building bone density in your hips, even without any additional weights. It is an absolutely extraordinary exercise and doesn’t cost anything to do. You can use YouTube to find demonstrations of how to do it properly.

Balance-building exercises like yoga and Tai Chi are also recommended. As long as you have strong muscles, bones and steady balance, your risk of falling is minimized. Should you fall, your chances of actually breaking a bone are also dramatically reduced.

Needless to say, the earlier you start exercising, the better — provided you keep it up. Exercise is really a lifelong lifestyle component, not a temporary fix for any particular problem. That said, even if you’re older, you can still improve your bone health. It’s never too late to start exercising. It just gets a bit more challenging, since you’re starting at a lower level of fitness with each passing year of inactivity. Below I’ll offer some effective exercise alternatives that can be particularly helpful if your fitness level is low. As noted by Fight Aging:5

“The research materials … argue that the majority of people are not aware of the degree to which they are harming themselves, and that efforts should be taken to correct this … In our technological society of cheap calories, easy transportation, and replacements for physical labor, most people eat too much and exercise too little.

That becomes ever more pronounced over the years … This has a cost when it comes to health … Avoidable damage done to health over the long term is often referred to as secondary aging. It includes … accelerated loss of muscle resulting from lack of exercise. Near everyone in later life fails to exercise sufficiently, as demonstrated by study after study showing improvement in the muscle and health of even very old people following modest resistance exercise programs.”

Exercise Naturally Builds Stronger Bones

Aside from walking lunges, high-impact exercises such as sprinting and jumping are also effective, as is weight training.6,7 In one 2014 study,8 women between the ages of 25 and 50 who performed a minimum of 10 “flea leaps” in a row, twice a day for four months, significantly increased the bone density in their hipbones.

An earlier study9 found hopping and weightlifting increased bone density in the spine by 2 percent. Weight training targeting both the upper body and legs was particularly effective. Keep in mind that you’re not restricted to any particular type of exercise though. For example, you don’t have to use weight gym equipment if you don’t want to. Other examples of high-impact weight-bearing exercises recommended by the U.S. National Osteoporosis Foundation include:10

  1. Dancing
  2. High-impact aerobics
  3. Hiking
  4. Jumping rope
  5. Climbing stairs
  6. Playing tennis

Lower impact weight-bearing exercises, which are a safer alternative if you’re frail include:

  1. Low-impact aerobics
  2. Stair-step machines
  3. Fast walking

Similarly, in lieu of weights, you can use just your body weight, elastic exercise bands or functional movements such as raising and lowering your body onto your tippy toes. Three other exercise alternatives worth mentioning that can be particularly helpful if you’re severely obese, old and frail, recovering from an injury or otherwise struggle with mobility, balance and low fitness are Whole Body Vibrational Training (WBVT), blood restriction training and the nitric oxide (NO) dump.

Whole Body Vibrational Training — An Excellent Choice for the Elderly

WBVT using a Power Plate is a safe, natural way to improve bone strength and density, thereby warding off osteoporosis. Best of all, it’s gentle enough even for the disabled and elderly, who may not be able to engage in exercises like leaping, hopping, sprinting or weightlifting.

In one six-month-long study,11 WBVT was found to produce a significant increase in hip area bone density in postmenopausal women, while conventional training was only able to slow the rate of deterioration. Another more recent study12 found that postmenopausal women who used a vibration platform for five minutes, three times a week for six months, increased their lumbar spine bone density by 2 percent. The control group lost about 0.5 percent of theirs in that same timeframe.

Blood Restriction Training Also Minimizes Injury Risk

Another technique you can try — which is also excellent for the elderly, or athletes recovering from an injury — is blood flow restriction or Kaatsu training. I’ll publish a full-length article on this in the near future but, in brief, it involves performing strength training exercises while restricting venous blood flow (but not arterial flow) to the extremity being worked.

A significant benefit of the method is that you can do strength exercises using just 30 to 50 percent of the weight you’d normally use while still reaping maximum benefits. It’s said blood flow restriction training can stimulate muscle growth and strength in about half the time, using about one-third of the weight, compared to standard weight training.

In the video above, Dr. Jim Stray-Gundersen, a leading proponent and teacher of Kaatsu in the U.S., discusses the method and its benefits. The American College of Sports Medicine claims you need to lift a weight that is at least 70 percent of your single rep max (1RM) to produce muscle growth,13 but studies assessing low-intensity exercise in combination with blood flow restriction have shown you can go as low as 20 percent of 1RM and still reap the benefits.

For most, 20 percent of 1RM is lighter than a warmup, virtually guaranteeing you will not sustain any kind of injury. Indeed, blood flow restriction training is used to rehabilitate the old and infirm in Japan, allowing them to rebuild muscle and regain some of their lost mobility.

Nitric Oxide Dump — A Great Exercise for Aging Muscles

Another exceptionally safe way to improve your muscle strength and general fitness is the nitric oxide dump — a revision and, I think, significant improvement of my Peak Fitness program. Instead of doing 20 minutes’ worth of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) on an exercise bike or elliptical machine, you can reap the same or better benefits doing four simple body movements that take just three minutes.

These exercises should ideally be done three times a day, and do not require weights of any kind. For a full demonstration, see the video above. Even though this exercise is only a few minutes, it will make you short of breath. Please be sure to breathe only through your nose, not your mouth. This is my new favorite high-intensity exercise and, unlike other high-intensity exercises, can be done every day unless you need to recover. Start with 10 repetitions of each movement and work your way up to 20 with the following:

  • 10 deep squats, raising your arms parallel to the floor as you squat deeply, getting your butt back as far and as low as possible while still making sure your knees stay behind your toes
  • 10 alternating perpendicular arm raises, stopping when your arms are the height of your shoulders
  • 10 stationary jumping jack motions. You’re not jumping; just moving your hands overhead, and touching hands on the upper and lower portions of the movement. Make sure your arms come up behind your head and not in front. This requires you to pinch your shoulder blades together
  • 10 overhead shoulder presses, making sure to keep your chest out and shoulder blades pinched together

How the Nitric Oxide Dump Can Benefit Your Health

Do each set in rapid succession, without resting in between. When you’re done, you’ll have completed a total of 120 to 240 movements. Done three times a day, with at least two hours in between each session, you’ll end up doing 360 to 920 movements a day. This exercise will:

  • Trigger the release of NO, a gas with antioxidant properties that protects your heart by relaxing your blood vessels and lowering your blood pressure, stimulates your brain, kills bacteria and even defends against tumor cells
  • Stimulate anabolic muscle building in addition to thinning your blood, making it less likely to clot and improving your immune function. NO is a potent bronchodilator and vasodilator, so it helps significantly increases your lungs’ oxygen-absorbing capacity
  • Give you more exercise benefits in a shorter time. You get more benefits from this exercise than you would get from most things you do in a gym in an hour. And, if you do it three times a day, that means you may be getting three to 10 times the metabolic benefit you’d get by going to the gym. Not that going to the gym is unwise; it’s just that your body needs exercise throughout the day
  • Stimulate mitochondrial function and health. Mitochondrial decline is closely linked to reduced cardiorespiratory fitness, and decreased resting mitochondrial ATP production may be involved in the development of insulin resistance with aging. By forcing your mitochondria to work harder, exercises such as this one will trigger your body to produce more mitochondria to keep up with the increased energy demand, and promote mitochondrial function and health

Older Adults Benefit From High-Intensity Exercise

While you must certainly start any exercise program at a level appropriate for your current condition, it would be a mistake to dismiss HIIT altogether. Recent animal research suggests HIIT can be safe and effective even in older populations, and may actually help reverse frailty. (As mentioned, the nitric oxide dump exercise is an excellent alternative to other HIIT programs.) As noted by study co-author Dr. Bruce Troen:14

“We know that being frail or being at risk for becoming frail puts people at increased risk of dying and comorbidity. These results show that it’s possible that high-intensity interval training can help enhance quality of life and capacity to be healthy … Increased mitochondrial biomass allows you to utilize oxygen more efficiency [sic]. With HIIT, we saw both mitochondrial increase and an improvement in muscle quality and fiber size in these mice …

Those four mice who had exhibited the kinds of deficits that correlate to frailty in humans improved to a completely robust level. The HIIT actually reversed frailty in them. Because the performance measures for the mice are directly relevant to clinical parameters, we think this program of exercise is quite applicable to humans. We’re laying a foundation so we can do this in people and so we can understand how to tailor it to individuals so they can successfully implement this.

Exercise stresses the system and the body can respond beneficially. We believe that the intensity of individualized HIIT provides a more significant but manageable stress so the body responds more robustly to these short, vigorous periods of exercise. In other words, you get more bang for your buck.”

Other Important Lifestyle Factors That Help Protect Your Bone Health

Getting older doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get weak and frail. Your lifestyle plays a decisive role here, and exercises such as those discussed above are effective means by which you can prevent osteoporosis. That said, you’ll also want to pay attention to your diet.

Processed foods produce biochemical and metabolic conditions in your body that decrease bone density over time, so avoiding processed foods is definitely an important part of the equation. Certain nutrient deficiencies can also contribute to weak and brittle bones. Among the most important are animal-based omega-3 fats, calcium, vitamins D and K2, along with magnesium. Following is a summary of some of the most important general guidelines for maintaining or increasing your bone strength:

Avoid processed foods and soda, which can increase bone damage by depleting your bones of calcium. By ditching processed foods, you’re also automatically eliminating a major source of refined sugars and processed fructose, which drive insulin resistance. It will also provide you with a more appropriate potassium-to-sodium ratio, which is important for maintaining bone mass.

Increase your consumption of raw, fresh vegetables, ideally organic. If you find it difficult to eat the recommended amount of vegetables you need daily, you can try vegetable juicing.

Optimize your vitamin D levels, ideally from appropriate sun exposure. Vitamin D builds your bone density by helping your body absorb calcium. If you use an oral supplement, make sure you’re using vitamin D3 (not D2), and that you’re also increasing your vitamin K2 intake.

Consider making your own fermented vegetables using a special vitamin K2-producing starter culture, or supplementing with vitamin K2 if you’re not getting enough from food alone. Vitamin K2 serves as the biological “glue” that helps plug the calcium into your bone matrix. Also remember to balance your calcium and magnesium (1-to-1 ratio).

Avoid sitting and incorporate as much nonexercise movement into each day as possible.

Get regular exercise. Ideally, your fitness program should be comprehensive, providing the necessary weight-bearing activities for bone health while also improving your cardiovascular fitness and fat-burning capabilities with high-intensity exercises, along with gentle balance- and flexibility-boosting exercises such as yoga, Qigong and Tai Chi.

How To Exercise To Reduce Inflammation (And Avoid Creating More)

When it comes to reducing inflammation, we often turn to a healthy diet, hot baths, and nourishing massages. While there’s nothing wrong with beating inflammation using these tactics, exercise is also an effective way to lower inflammation. In fact, one study that followed 4,000 middle-aged people over a 10-year period found that those who exercise for two and a half hours per week lowered their inflammation by 12 percent.

But when it comes to lowering inflammation, which types of exercise are best? Here’s what the experts say.

Go for a walk.

When your body is inflamed, whether it’s from intense exercise or something else, a light walk is an excellent way to reset. “I tell my clients, especially the ones who tend to really push themselves, to ease up a bit and just go for a long walk when their body is really dreading a tough workout,” says Michelle Cady, health coach and FitVista founder. “Walking is a great way to let your muscles recover—it brings down inflammation by sending fresh blood and oxygen throughout your body, pumping the lymphatic system for waste removal, and gently restoring your digestive system if it feels off.”


Want to take your walk to the next level? Immerse yourself in nature and go for a hike. “Find a safe trail, bring a friend, and go on an easy one-hour ramble through the woods,” says Cady. “Just like walking, easy hiking stimulates muscle recovery and reboots your system. As an added bonus, ‘forest bathing,’ or time spent surrounded by trees, lowers the body’s cortisol stress-response (which is linked to inflammation) by up to 20 percent.”

Foam roll.

While it does have core-strengthening benefits, foam rolling is often considered a recovery tactic, and for good reason: It helps with muscle soreness, improves flexibility, improves sleep, helps with digestion, and lowers inflammation. “To reduce inflammation with a foam roller, lie on a roller and use gravity to apply pressure to a muscle,” says Nicholas M. Licameli, physical therapist at Professional Physical Therapy. “The roller is pressed into the muscle belly, and the user rolls up and down the length of the target muscle.”

Do yoga, meditate, and deep breathe.

This one probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but the power of deep breathing and yoga as an inflammation-busting tactic can’t be underestimated. “Deep, controlled breathing and meditation induce a state of physical and mental relaxation,” says Licameli. “This is incredibly helpful when you want to lower inflammation in the body.”

Diabetes Management: A Work in Progress

 snow footprint



There’s a blizzard outside and today we’re snowed in. In Rochester, NY where I grew up, we rarely had snow days. Being close to Canada and having snow for almost 8 months of the year meant the city was well equipped to meet extreme weather.

But here in New York state, it’s been snowing in snowballs. It’s been too cold to go outside, too cold to go anywhere and did I mention… it’s frigging cold out there! I am not sure what I was thinking leaving behind endless summers ,but it’s been quite a shock to my blood sugar levels. I really thought I had things down but I’ve realized that my diabetes management is still a work in progress.

In spite of the cold, I went into the city this week to meet with Craig Kasper the creator of the Bravest Podcast. Craig also lives with type 1 and created the podcast so he could learn and explore what it is that enables people to live extraordinary lives in spite of their diabetes.

In the interview, we talked about levels of bravery. As our discussion progressed I shared that acceptance continues to be a process. There was that moment of diagnosis, where I felt like I had to swallow a bitter pill, the long years of denial where I kept thinking that controlling my diet and walking up hills would cure me, the moment where I gave myself my first injection through a rain of tears, the day where I knew I needed to change my management strategy by splitting my basal dose and finally yesterday pulling up a ½ unit of bolus insulin into a syringe and taking the plunge.

insulin pen

Living with Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA) is no picnic. A friend recently commented that it’s easier to calculate your insulin to carb ratio when your beta cells don’t produce any insulin. Living with LADA is like playing roulette. Some days the ball lands on the money and other days I leave the table in despair.

The only way I get through each and every wonky moment is with the varied practices of yoga. I love working with the medium of sound in my practice because sound is so direct and immediately calms and centers me.

Working with sound in yoga is called mantra. The word mantra comes from two words, manas, meaning mind and trayati meaning freedom. A mantra is a sound, which frees the mind by giving the mind a focus so it’s naturally drawn out of its preoccupation with thoughts, ideas, and beliefs.

I know it’s natural to be obsessed with thoughts about the ins and outs of daily management. In working up to that first bolus injection I would sit down to meditate and replay worst case scenarios over and over.

That thought loop went on for days until I caught myself. It’s up to me to stop my need to identify with the thought by asking myself; what kind of investment do I have in that thought? Can a thought make me happy? How can a thought, which has no substance or dimension get the better of me?

It’s like trying to catch a snowflake. Impossible!

And it’s not about stopping the thought either. Try and banish any thought, another impossible task.

Mantra is such a profound way to bring the mind into a one-pointed focus, it can be chanted out loud or internally. Each nuance has a different effect on the mind and body. Chanting audibly affects the pituitary gland, the master gland in the body. It vibrates during chanting which tones and tunes all the other glands in the body. It also affects the vagus nerve which is responsible for increasing immunity

Chanting out loud increases the length of exhalation too. The longer the exhale the calmer the nervous system. Finally, mantra increases our ability to recognize that moment of getting lost in a thought. Thoughts come and go. It’s the thinker of the thoughts that matters.

For today’s practice join me in a simple chanting practice with the sound, om.


Instead of Punishment, This School Teaches Mindfulness and Yoga — With Stunning Results

Back in the 70s, during my grammar school years, I vividly remember a disturbing incident. I was in the school office when I heard the male principal screaming at a student behind a closed door. I don’t know what the student had done to be on the receiving end of such a rant, but I do remember my heart racing and a feeling of terror that the anger would somehow be turned toward me. Needless to say, I high-tailed it out of that office as quickly as possible, relieved to have escaped. The thing is, this scenario was considered utterly ‘normal’. Thankfully, corporeal punishment wasn’t practiced in my school, which would have been far more terrifying.

Kids Yoga







Unfortunately, many students can relate to this story today. Corporeal punishment is alive and well in 19 states throughout America, with many schools resorting to increasingly harsh measures to deal with unruly students. But studies have shown, time and again, that verbal and physical punishment simply don’t work — both actually cause more behavioral problems in the long-run. There has to be a better way — and a Baltimore-based organization thinks it’s found the answer: empowering communities and schools through yoga, mindfulness and self-care practices.

Changing Young Lives for the Better with Mindfulness Practices

“Imagine this… instead of sending your children to their room kicking and screaming, taking away their iPad for a week, or giving them a time-out in the corner, you ask them to spend a few minutes alone to meditate and work through the anger, frustration, stress, or other emotions causing them to act out.

“This new form of discipline is now a huge success at several schools, and those schools are seeing some major changes among students.”

~ Sandi Schwartz in “Can Teaching Kids Mindfulness Replace Discipline?

Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore, United States, doesn’t have a detention room or an active punishment policy for disruptive kids. Instead, there is a Mindful Moment room, where students are encouraged to participate breathing practices or meditation to “calm down and re-center.” They are also given the opportunity to talk through what happened with specially trained aides.

Created in partnership with the Holistic Life Foundation, a local nonprofit organization that focuses on nurturing wellness of children and adults in underserved communities, the Mindful Moment room has significantly helped reduce the rate of suspensions — with exactly zero in 2015, and none so far this year. For over ten years, the foundation has also run the Holistic Me program, which offers after-school mindfulness and yoga classes for kids from pre-kindergarten through the fifth grade.

The Mindful Moment room is filled with lamps, plush pillows and bean bags — a far cry from the usual bleak, windowless detention rooms of the past. Essentially, it’s a space where students are safe and supported as they learn deep breathing exercises, meditation and mindfulness techniques.

“It’s amazing,” said Kirk Philips, the Holistic Me coordinator at Robert W. Coleman. “You wouldn’t think that little kids would meditate in silence. And they do.” [source]

Not only are suspensions now nonexistent, but students themselves are recognizing the benefits of the program.

“Before a big exam, one 5th grader talks of using breathing techniques: ”I took deep breaths to stay calm and just finish the test. When everybody around you is making a lot of noises just trying to tune them out… and be yourself, do your breathing.” [source]


Another student used the exercises he learned through the school program when he was angry at home.

“This morning I got mad at my Dad, but then I remembered to breathe and then I didn’t shout.” [source]

Andres Gonzales, co-founder of Holistic Life Foundation, adds:

“We’ve had parents tell us, ‘I came home the other day stressed out, and my daughter said, “Hey, Mom, you need to sit down. I need to teach you how to breathe”.’ [source]

The foundation also tutors and mentors the kids, along with educating them about the environment. Students are involved in cleaning up nearby parks, creating gardens and visiting local farms. They also train kids to help run yoga sessions as co-teachers.

Whichever way we look at these programs of mindfulness, yoga and empowerment, they’re nothing less than a win-win — for the students, school and community as a whole.

Women’s Sexual Freedom and Enjoyment is Being Hijacked: 30 Million Women Want To Know Why

30 million women in the United States are suffering from chronic pelvic pain.  Which means that 30 million women are suffering from debilitating and embarrassing symptoms such as urine leaking, painful sex, weak or non-existent orgasms and pelvic organ prolapse. (1-3) This is the silent female health epidemic that no one is talking about  

I often wonder why is it that women are continuously relegated to the sidelines and many times ignored and mistreated by doctors. Is it gender bias stereotypes? Is it ignorance? Is it the “not in my back yard syndrome” or is it simply conditioning that needs to be shattered?

Regardless of the reasons, women who suffer from chronic pelvic pain find themselves isolated and depressed. A substantial number of these women report low quality of life and secondary symptoms such as depressionanxietylow libido and difficulties in their sexual relationships. (4-6)

Who wouldn’t be depressed, if every time they coughed, sneezed, jumped or laughed they leaked urine, or if every attempt at love making made them cringe at the thought of the pain, or if little things like lifting your kids or carrying groceries increased pressure so much inside your privates that you held back from an active life and doing the things that bring you joy.

The medical community, pharmaceutical and the media have sold women a bill of goods. There’s a belief that the only way to fix our “lady parts” problems is through surgeries, medications or pills, and it’s not our fault that we have been conditioned to think this way. After 14,704 pelvic healings, I see women who’ve received experimental drugs, Botox injections to their vaginal walls, and mesh surgeries that failed. Frankly, the side effects of these drugs and surgeries are many times worse than the symptoms the women were originally feeling. (7)

In fact, most doctors don’t understand how to treat chronic pelvic pain naturally and are still putting a band-aide on women’s pain and pelvic health by recommending opioids, surgeries and vaginal Botox injections, all of which have vey little evidence as to their efficacy and carry high risk associated with them. (8) In my NYC healing center, women report to me that their doctors have downplayed their symptoms and some doctors have actually told them “your pain is in your head,” or “go home, relax and have a glass of wine.”

There’s confusion among doctors because typically the lady parts in women who suffer from chronic pelvic pain look normal. In actuality, 40% of all gynecologic laparoscopies surgeries are performed to determine the cause of chronic pelvic pain and up to 15% of women of all women go to their doctors because of chronic pelvic issues.  So women are doing their best to find answers to their female problems, but the medical industry is falling short. Doctors are rarely taught about the pelvic floor in medical school, so they so often lack the education and expertise to help these women naturally. They resort to what they know, pills, surgeries and injections. (9) Most of the pelvic surgeries in my opinion are unnecessary. Even the most astute doctors overlook the real culprit of women’s pelvic pain, leaking, prolapse and abdominal pain… “the pelvic floor muscles.”

Our pelvic floor muscles or vaginal muscles are highly innervated, vascularized, and complex, and are susceptible to injuries.  The pelvic floor muscles are involved in what I call the 5 functions of life. They support our organs, close off our urinary sphincters, enhance sexual function, stabilize our hips and spine and act as a sump pump for the pelvis. The pelvic floor muscles or the vaginal muscles are also the deep connectors to the upper and lower extremities and when there’s an issue with them, such as scaring from births, episiotomies, spasms, trigger points or they are too weak or too tight, they can contribute to symptoms such as urinary and fecal incontinence, sexual pain, pelvic organ prolapse and low to non-existent orgasms.(10)

Research has shown that very few doctors, during routine gynecological exams, perform a digital exam of the pelvic floor muscles, the area where the women are experiencing most of their pain and symptoms. (11)

Here’s the truth –  your lady’s parts can be healed through integrative and holistic practices that include massagesexercisesyoga, and meditation and mindfulness training.(12,13)As a matter of fact, The Center For Disease Control and National Institutes of Health have recommended natural therapies such as pelvic floor muscle training as the fist line of defense in resolving symptoms related to leaking and pain.(14,15) As a woman who suffered from chronic pelvic pain and leaking after the birth of my daughter, and as a woman whom the medical community failed, I knew I had to change the conversation around pelvic healing. I scoured the earth, educated myself and read hundreds of research papers and books. I had to go deep into my own pelvic floor healing to find natural ways to heal and cure myself from my own debilitating condition.  You might be thinking how did she do it? I did it through natural and integrative therapies such as pelvic massages, exercises, breath work, yoga, meditation, bodywork, and mindfulness.  We all know the value of eastern medicine and also know that traditional physical therapy works for many ailments. These therapies such as yoga, mindfulness, massage and acupuncture can also be applied to lady parts with tremendous success.(16) The great news is that with the proper guidance you can learn how to do the massages, exercises and techniques on your own and conquer your pelvic condition naturally, and become the most vibrant and pain-free version of yourself.

Yoga Offers Supportive Care for Lung Cancer Patients

the pros and cons of exercise for lung cancer patients, Chinese researchers suggested that studies on physical activity in this patient population focus on methods such as Tai Chi and yoga.

Researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston answered that call with a feasibility study of a dyadic yoga program for lung cancer patients and their caregivers, which was presented at the ASCO 2017 Palliative and Supportive Care in Oncology Symposium in San Diego.

 The Reading Room checked in with lead investigator Kathrin Milbury, PhD, on the results of the study, and also with physical therapist and yoga therapist Jaimie Perkunas, DPT, founder of Yoga is Therapy in Tucson, Arizona, on how lung cancer specialists can guide their patients to the appropriate yoga programs.

Partner Poses

Milbury’s group looked at the effects of their intervention on quality of life (QoL) and physical function versus a waitlist control group. Patients in the study had stage I-III non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and were undergoing 25 fractions or more of intensity-modulated radiation therapy for 6 weeks.

“This program was particularly designed to address physical symptoms (e.g., dyspnea, fatigue) and psychological needs (e.g., distress, blame) common among lung cancer patients and their caregivers, a vulnerable yet understudied population,” the team wrote in a 2015 paper.

The dyadic yoga program was based on the Vivekananda yoga program. MD Anderson has an ongoing research collaboration with the Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (VYASA), a yoga research foundation and university in Bangalore, India, Milbury noted.

 “The Vivekananda program allows us to tailor our yoga interventions to the type of cancer, so the program for the breast cancer patients is different than for the lung cancer patients. Some of the other yoga schools, like Iyengar, tend to be a bit more rigid, while other types of yoga are too fast moving. This program lets us adapt the sequence of physical postures to the patient populations’ needs.”

The yoga program consisted of 15, 60-minute sessions with four main components:

  • Joint loosening with mindfulness training
  • Physical postures (called asanas) paired with deep relaxation techniques
  • Breath work (called pranayama) with sound resonance
  • Meditation and guided imagery

“With these patients undergoing radiation, we wanted to focus on keeping the upper chest flexible,” Milbury said of the asana work. “We focused on a lot of chest-opening exercises to loosen up the muscles around the lungs. In general, there was more emphasis on stretching the upper body.”

As for the meditation and guided imagery, “we also focused on the needs of the population. Most of these patients are smokers, and with smoking-related etiology, there tends to be a lot of self-blame. So we focused on the idea of self-acceptance — compassion toward self and their partners.”

Sessions were jointly attended by the 26 pairs of patients and caregivers. The mean age of patients was 66.7, while the mean age of caregivers was 59.3. The vast majority of patients had stage IIIA and IIIB disease, with 57% having an ECOG status of 1.

 The dyads in the intervention group attended a mean of 12 sessions, with 65% attending a dozen or more. All participants rated components of the yoga program as very beneficial or beneficial, the researchers reported.

In terms of efficacy outcomes for the intervention, there was a statistically and clinically significant improvement for patients based on the 6 Minute Walk Test or 6MWT (478 m for the yoga mean versus 402 m for the control group (>70 m3P<0.05).

The intervention patients also reported significant improvements in QoL domains, including physical function, stamina, and mental health (P<0.05), and clinically significant differences in symptoms at the end of radiotherapy, such as less distress, sadness, dyspnea, and fatigue, as well as better sleep.

One of the potential adverse events of radiotherapy in lung cancer patients is acute radiation pneumonitis, and the breathing techniques in the yoga program offered any benefits for patients who experienced symptoms such as breathlessness and cough.

“We found that the yoga intervention buffered against an increase in breathlessness,” Milbury said. “We weren’t able to eliminate this adverse event, but we were able to significantly buffer against it. Also, some patients experienced coughing, so we modified some of the yoga program components. For example, for some patients, lying flat on the ground in a supine position induced coughing, so we modified by propping their head up and so forth.”

As for the caregivers, “marginally to clinically significant” differences were seen in vitality (VT) and role performance (RP) versus waitlist controls, the authors noted. However, they pointed out that “based on dyadic analyses, [caregivers’] increase in VT and RP were significantly associated with patients’ 6MWT (P<0.01).”

While the randomized, controlled study was deemed feasible, study limitations included the racially homogenous sample (89% white patients; 100% white caregivers), the lack of a stringent control group, and the small sample size.

Milbury said the group is now in the process of seeking funding for an efficacy trial with a more stringent control group.

“We’ve known for some time that yoga can have a wide range of benefits for people who practice it,” commented Andrew S. Epstein, MD, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, a designated ASCO expert. “Ideally, the findings of this study will encourage people with advanced cancer and their caregivers to practice yoga.”

Into Practice

According to a 2014 Canadian study on yoga for health-related QoL, “patients across groups reported strong preferences for the following components of yoga: small class sizes, cancer-specific group, stretching, breathing practices, meditation, and physical postures for strength conditioning and restorative poses.”

While MD Anderson offers an in-house yoga program with classes that meet those criteria, many lung cancer patients will have to seek yoga outside their care facility. Given the incredible popularity of yoga – now estimated to be a $27 billion industry with more than 20 million practitioners in the U.S. alone — and the wide variety of yoga styles, how can lung cancer specialists best guide their patients to appropriate classes?

Milbury suggested that patients avoid yoga classes that contain the labels “power,” “hot,” or “flow,” as these will most likely be too vigorous for lung cancer patients. She also said patients may want to steer clear of gym-based classes versus those held at a dedicated yoga studio, as the latter will likely mean more individual attention. And she advised clinicians to emphasize that a patient should discuss the class style with the yoga teacher prior to attending.

Finally, “I’d recommend staying in the realm of gentle yoga,” she explained. “It’s also important that the yoga class focus on breathing exercises. Unfortunately in the West, a lot of the yoga classes are very focused on strengthening. That’s good to an extent, because lung cancer patients do experience deconditioning, so some strengthening is good, but the chest openers and breathing exercises have a lot of benefit for this population.”

Perkunas cautioned that sometimes classes called gentle can still be in the “flow” style, which consists of moving from one pose to the next fairly quickly. She advised directing patients to certified yoga therapists, through organizations such as the International Association of Yoga Therapists.

‘Yoga Therapy’ vs ‘Yoga’

What’s the difference between yoga therapy and yoga? As explained by yoga therapist Gary Kraftsow, writing in Yoga International, yoga therapy “fundamentally focuses on … clients’ needs. [A yoga therapist’s] job is to understand why their clients have come to see them and determine what they can do to support them … Therapists look for ways to help their clients reduce or manage their symptoms, improve their function, and help them with their attitude in relation to their health conditions … therapists choose yoga techniques in relation to how they will specifically benefit individual clients.”

Perkunas explained that when she has worked with lung cancer patients, they generally come to her post-treatment: “They are looking for a way regain a sense of trust with their bodies — to get back in touch with their bodies after this life-changing event.”

While she and the patients will often focus on asanas that promote chest opening, they will also look for ways to rebuild overall strength and mobility. But patients aren’t necessarily looking to improve QoL directly, Perkunas added.

“When I’ve worked with lung cancer patients, they are more interested in managing their physical symptoms — aches, pains. As a result of their ongoing [yoga] practice, they often notice they sleep better, they have less anxiety, they feel more relaxed. So these are benefits that come with a yoga practice, but they aren’t necessarily the person’s primary interest.”

Perkunas advised that clinicians focus more on yoga to regain strength and mindfulness: “Be careful not to set up expectations that yoga will fix or cure their symptoms. Yoga is not a cure-all, but it is an effective management tool for symptoms.”

Finally, Perkunas pointed out that yoga does have a spiritual and philosophical component to it that may not appeal to all patients. She suggested having patients experience a variety of yoga teachers to determine which style of teaching works best for them. Again, directing patients to a dedicated yoga therapy class may be the best option.

Of course, cost may be an issue as patients are likely to have to pay out-of-pocket. “I have people who call me and, after talking, we determine that I charge more than they are willing to pay,” Perkunas noted. “I’ll refer them to classes in the community, with teachers that I trust, that may be better for their budget. Asking around in your community is a route to finding an appropriate class.”

11 Things Better than Drugs or Supplements for Healing

11 Things Better than Drugs or Supplements for Healing

Natural medicine doesn’t just involve “nutraceuticals,” but extends to modalities like yoga and acupuncture that an increasing body of peer-reviewed research shows can be superior to drugs. 

Natural medicine is an amazing field, full of inspiring stories and an ever-accumulating body of scientific research to support its increasingly popular views on health. In fact, at we specialize in dredging up from the National Library of Medicine’s 27-million citation deep, seemingly oceanic database, highly promising clinical pearls indicating not only the value of natural substances in disease prevention and treatment, but sometimes their clear superiority versus drugs. Considering correctly prescribed medications are one of the top 3 causes of death, what’s not to like about safe, effective food-based alternative like that?

But our project, and natural medicine at large, is not without its challenges, one of which is that it is quite easy to get caught up in the allopathic model of treating surface symptoms, albeit naturally.  This ‘natural allopathy,’ if you will, entices people to look for ‘natural cure’ shortcuts and Band-Aids (‘nutraceuticals’) instead of address the deeper issues associated with avoiding, limiting and addressing environmental exposures, reducing stress, and improving diet and exercise, for instance. In a culture that pops hundreds of millions of doses of drugs and supplements on a daily basis, it is increasingly difficult to break free from the powerful psychological pull to ingest something — be it a natural or synthetic “magic pill”; its effects real or imagined — instead of address the underlying problems.

This is also why part of our project is to identify peer-reviewed published research from biomedical journals indicating that there are therapeutic actions, from walking to yoga, dietary changes to exercising, that are at least as effective and often superior to conventional drug-based treatments.

So, here is a good smattering of data that edifies the notion that sometimes, we do not need to “take anything” to stimulate our body’s innate self-healing abilities, as non-invasive therapies – including doing nothing (i.e. watchful waiting) — can accomplish favorable results:

  1. Colored light versus Benzyl peroxide for Acne: A combination of blue and red light irradiation therapy was found superior to 5% benzoyl peroxide in treating acne vulgaris without side effects. [i] Another study found blue light irradiation therapy alone as effective as 5% benzyl peroxide in the treatment of acne, but with fewer side effects.[ii]
  2. Dietary changes versus Drug Treatment for Hypertension: A high fiber, low sodium, low fat diet is superior to the beta-blocker drug metoprolol in hypertensive type 2 diabetic subjects. [iii]
  3. Acupuncture and moxibustion versus pharmaceutical treatment for Sudden Deafness: Acupuncture and moxibustion therapy was found to be superior in treating sudden deafness as compared with the routine drug-based therapy.[iv]
  4. Acupuncture versus Drug Treatment for treating Migraines: Acupuncture treatment exhibited greater effectiveness than drug therapy with flunarizine in the first months of therapy for migraine and with superior tolerability.[v]
  5. Dietary changes versus high-dose steroid for Crohn’s disease: An elemental diet is as effective as high dose steroid treatment in improving Crohn’s disease activity in children, while superior in supporting the growth of the children.[vi] Two additional studies found similar results in adults with mild-to-moderately active Crohn’s disease.[vii] [viii]
  6. Aromatherapy massage versus Tylenol for Menstrual PainAromatherapy massage on the abdomen was found superior to Tylenol for alleviating menstrual pain in high school girls.[ix]
  7. Hypnosis versus Valium for AnxietyHypnosis during embryo transfer is as effective as diazepam in terms of pregnancy ratio and anxiolytic effects, but with fewer side effects.[x]
  8. Yoga technique versus Antidepressant Drug for Depression: Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (a rhythmic breathing technique) was found superior to the drug imipramine in the treatment of depression.[xi]
  9. Yogic intervention versus Drug treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Yogic intervention consisting of poses and breathing exercises was found superior to conventional treatment in diarrhea-predominant IBS.[xii]
  10. Foot Reflexology versus Drug treatment for Insomnia: Foot reflexology (Wooden needle technique) was found superior to the drug Alprazolam in the treatment of insomnia.[xiii]
  11. Watchful waiting versus Drug treatment for childhood Ear Infection: Watchful waiting compares favorably to immediate antibiotic treatment for some children with non-severe acute otitis media.[xiv]

This sampling reflects only a minor subset of data within our Therapeutic Actions index, one of six databases on the open access site.  Presently, we have 216 distinct actions indexed, which can be viewed on our Therapeutic Actions Display Page. You may be surprised how simple conscious acts such as chewing your food thoroughlylaughingor a walk in the forest can produce healing responses within the human body.

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