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Benefits of Yoga You Didn’t Know About

Benefits of Yoga You Didn’t Know About

Yoga is often seen as an exercise that will help you get flexible, strong, age gracefully, improve balance, and combat stress.

Although this is all true, I have found the most profound benefits are those that happen at a deeper level. With over seven years of teaching experience, I’ve learned that the most profound benefits of yoga you may not know about are:

1. Deeper Awareness and Enhanced Listening Skills

So many of us are accustomed to telling our body what to do, without giving it credit for all it does for us and how we are actually feeling in the moment. We live at a rapid pace where it’s not customary to ask our body how it feels. Rather we force, shove, and push our bodies to do things that may be the opposite of healthy and helpful for our body and mind. The practice of yoga is primarily focused around sharpening our awareness of our body and giving gratitude for all that our body does for us.

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So many of us get angry when our body can’t do as many push ups as we want, or move as fast as we’d like. It’s rare to take a moment and thank our body for all that is does for us,(such as the daily acts of living so many of us take for granted). When we start to slow down, and tune in to our body, we gain a keener sense of awareness for what our body can do, and we learn to treat it with respect. Instead of forcing our body into a shape it’s not meant to go into, we learn to listen to what our body is telling us, and to act appropriately based on that feedback.

The longer you practice yoga, the more you start to learn that the practice has nothing to do with how far you can get into a pose. It has everything to do with how present you are while in the pose, and actually listening to the feedback your body gives you. In effect, yoga helps sharpen our listening skills.

2. Acceptance and Self Love

There are many poses that are extremely difficult to get into. It may look easy on the outside but can be deeply challenging from the inside. For example, a simple forward bend can be challenging and we may even feel embarrassed that we cannot touch our toes. However, the practice of yoga has nothing to do with touching our toes. If you think about it, there is no reason on earth to touch your toes. You will not be any healthier or happier if you do.

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However, in our goal-oriented society, it makes sense that people want to reach a “maximum” point of a pose based on what is illustrated on the cover of a yoga magazine. Although misguided, it makes sense that most of us strive to look like the cover of a magazine, when in actuality, we don’t even know why we want that. It’s a psychological conditioning that makes us think we are not good enough the way we are, and if only we can perfect a pose then we might like ourselves better. The truth is, nothing you do on the outside will make you like yourself better. It needs to come from the inside.

The yoga practice has a great way of teaching us this is, if we choose to practice in a thoughtful manner. In yoga the main practice is to learn to practice acceptance for where your body is in this moment, and to give love and thanks for all that your body can do for you. As you begin to practice this on your mat, this philosophy begins to pour into your life leading to greater self acceptance and self love in every area of your life.

This is one of many reasons why yoga is so powerful. Although yoga is not goal oriented, perhaps if there was a “goal” to yoga it would be greater self-love. As we enhance the love for ourselves, we can send that love out to the world. This is where the transformation of yoga lives. When we treat ourselves better through acting compassionately and with love to ourselves, we are then able to give this kind of compassion and love to everyone around us. This is the power and ultimate benefit of yoga.

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 3. Less Reactive and More Peaceful

Most people have natural reactions when thing don’t go the way we plan. For example, you might find that you swear or get angry if you someone cuts you off in traffic. You might feel depressed when you have a fight with a family member, and then elated when you get your hair cut or make a new purchase. The practice of yoga teaches us to find a more peaceful steady balance no matter what is happening. Thus if you are in a pose that is challenging and you feel like you can barely do it, your state of mind is still peaceful which is represented by the calm and steady breath.

Likewise, if you are in the maximum stretch of a pose, instead of feeling like you are better than everyone else, the idea is to maintain that same deep calm breath, whether you love or hate the pose you are in. Through training ourselves to maintain a steady breath and steady state of mind no matter what comes our way in the yoga class, the same psychological principles start to make their way into our life. Life will always have ups and downs, but at the core, the question is: can you maintain a steady grace? Even through the moments of happiness and sadness, can you maintain a deep sense of stability and humility no matter what comes your way? This is the kind of deep peace that a continued yoga practice starts to create, if you practice with a mentality of awareness. Awareness is key. Having the intention to practice being peaceful, less reactive, and more harmonious with your body, and releasing your need to compete, is where the greatest benefit resides.

The truth is you can go to yoga and strengthen your ego, your reactions, your vanity, and self-hatred. Or you can consciously go into yoga with the mental mindset that in this room you will practice being present, gentle, kind, and listening to your body’s feedback. The real benefit of yoga is truly determined by the mental mindset you choose to sculpt and strengthen.

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There is no secret, the greatest benefit of yoga is in the mentality you chose. So before going to your next yoga class, (or if you’re brand new), all you really need to know is that you are perfect as you are. Allow the class to be an opportunity to take care of your body, to practice listening to what your body is telling you, and to let go of your need to compete, judge, and criticize. All you need to do is show up, be present, and to the best of your ability listen to your body (even if that means ignoring the teachers instructions!)

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8 Things to Watch for If You’re Considering Being Vegetarian

8 Things to Watch for If You’re Considering Being Vegetarian

Vegetarianism has been around for a long time, finding favor with many people, including Pythagoras clear back around 580 B.C. It’s been presented as one of the most healthy diets around, including being touted by the Egyptians to the point of abstaining from meat and animal clothing due to karmic beliefs. The vegetarian society (vegsoc.org) defines vegetarianism as:

“Someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with, or without, the use of dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish* or by-products of slaughter.”

While it’s pretty obvious that there are multiple benefits to following a vegetarian diet, it’s always good to be informed about the cons of this dietary choice as well.

Outlined below are several things you might want to be aware of before you say good-bye to meat forever. Whether you are a current vegetarian, or contemplating making a shift, keep in mind these 8 things to keep yourself healthy.

1. You could suffer from B12 vitamin deficiency

The B vitamins are especially important for stress management, adrenal health, and brain function. Vegetarians in particularly are at risk for B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is attached to the protein in animal products and without enough B12 you can suffer from depression, fatigue, and an inability to concentrate.

Due to its attachment to animal proteins, B12 is the hardest for vegetarians to obtain when they don’t eat dairy or eggs in their diet. This essential little vitamin can be found in some algae and has been added to some yeast, but research doesn’t currently provide enough information to say whether or not these forms of B12 are of good quality and can provide adequate supplementation.

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The body is unable to make this vitamin, meaning it has to be taken in through food or supplementation. Essential for making red blood cells, DNA, nerves and various other function in the body, a Harvard Health Medical report in January of 2013 found symptoms of a B12 deficiency can present in sneaky ways including depression, paranoia, delusion, and loss of taste and smell.

2.  You could suffer from higher states of anxiety/depression, lower sense of well-being

According to a CBS Atlanta report, vegetarians suffered from a higher rate of anxiety and depression than their counterparts. Read the full report here. Depression and/or anxiety can be a result of many possible deficiencies including essential vitamins and amino acids you can find only in meat products, including Omega-3s from wild caught salmon.

Without the correct supplementation and proper understanding of diet, including the importance of micro and macro nutrients, depression and anxiety can become a serious problem, bringing down the overall health and well-being of vegetarians.

Even though reports on health and lifestyle show vegetarians have a lower BMI and lower consumption of alcohol and drugs, it also shows they suffer from more chronic illnesses and more visits to the doctor than their meat eating counterparts.

3. You could suffer from excess weight

When you go vegetarian it opens up a lot of food, but just because there isn’t any meat in front of you, it doesn’t mean it’s necessary healthy. Though pizza and beer technically fall under the vegetarian diet, it’s not a healthy choice for your waist line.

Just because being a vegetarian is associated with a healthier lifestyle in many cases, doesn’t mean it’s always true. Making bread and pasta your staples and not understanding where your protein sources should be coming from, can pack on body fat, which increases your chances of health issues such as diabetes and chronic inflammation.

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If the choice to go vegetarian happens on a whim without the proper understanding of food control, portion, and nutritionally dense alternatives you can find yourself reaching for vegetarian foods, which could cause serious problems down the road. Nuts are a good example, but just because something is touted as healthy, it doesn’t mean, your should eat it in excess.

Eating too many calories in fat will still cause you to gain weight. Eating too many calories in carbs will cause you to gain weight. Eating too many calories in protein will cause you to gain weight. See a pattern here? Not to mention you’ll miss out on important nutrients the body needs by over-eating in one area and under-eating in another. Re-read number 2.

4. You could have a higher risk of heart disease

Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables should be a goal we all strive for, but when you cut out meat, you also cut out what is known as complete protein, which you find in animal by-products. Complete means more than just the essential amino acids, it means those amino acids contain dietary sulfur. Without enough dietary sulfur, which is found almost exclusively in fish and pasture feed grass beef, the body will struggle with the biological activities of both protein and enzymes.

The effects cascade downward, effecting bones, joints, tissues, and even metabolic issues. In short, a low intake of sulfur associated with a vegetarian diet can result in high blood levels of homocysteine, which may lead to blood clots in your arteries, blood clots raise your risk of stroke and heart attack. To read the full report click here.

5. You could suffer from low cholesterol

I know, at first you’re thinking, wait, low cholesterol is a good thing. Yes, it is, when it’s LDL cholesterol, which you get from eating an unhealthy diet, but low HDL (good cholesterol) can cause serious health issues. HDL, according to the mayo clinic, is in every cell in our body and can help fend off heart disease, not enough of it though, and too much LDL can go the other way, will be building up plaque in the arteries and leading to heart disease.

Cholesterol, the good kind, is actually vitally important to the making of every steroid hormone in the body! There are six, and without cholesterol the body is unable to convert hormones, and it can cause damage in the endocrine system.

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A vegetarian without a balanced diet, meaning enough protein, enough veggies, and enough good fats, could disrupt his or her adrenals, which are directly connected to the endocrine system and the body’s ability to make and synthesize the hormones your body needs. The six major hormones in the body help do everything from metabolizing carbohydrates, to the electrolyte balance, to making sure if you’re a woman you can carry a healthy baby through pregnancy.

6. You could suffer from lower bone density and osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis, the disease where the bones get thinner, weaker, and fractures become a high risk with day to day movements. It’s often associated with the older generation, but your risk for osteoporosis increases with a lower bone density. Bone density can be directly related to diet and lifestyle, along with many other factors.

When it comes to eating a vegetarian diet it’s possible to miss getting enough of the right nutrients, causing the bones to begin to break down. If your vegetarian diet isn’t balanced and providing you with the correct nutrients and the means to absorb the correct nutrients, your body could begin to break down.

Recently, Professor Tuan Nguyen of Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research led a review of both Australian and Vietnamese research around the bone density of vegetarian versus their meat eating counterparts. Helping Professor Nguyen was Dr. Ho-Pham Thuc Lan from Pham Ngoc Thac University of Medicine in Vietnam. The review was designed to sort though years of research surrounded by discrepancies and inadequate clinical data.

At the end of the review, with vegetarianism rising to around 5% of the populace in the western continents, and with wide spread osteoporosis reports – 2 million in Australia and closer to 54 million in America – the decrease in bone density of vegetarians is a serious issue which needs to be addressed, if you’ve cut meat and animal by-products out of your life.

7. You could be at a higher risk for colorectal cancer

Cancer seems to be running rampant through America, and it’s within everyone’s best interest to do all they can to keep their body healthy and happy to prevent cancer from finding a place to grow. In most studies it’s been found vegetarians are at lower risk for cancer, but a European Oxford study with over 63 thousand men and women in the United Kingdom found the risk for colorectal cancer higher in vegetarians than in meat-eaters.

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Extra care needs to be taken when establishing a diet to ensure the body is receiving and able to up take all the important nutritional benefits and requirements from food.

8. You could end up eating more processed food

Depending on how deep you choose to go as a vegetarian, it could create the need to substitute a lot of food and recipe ingredients in your diet, but what happens when you cut out meat, eggs, and dairy and your recipe calls for meat, eggs, and/or dairy? You have to end up using a “healthy” vegetarian alternative which include stabilizers, thickeners, and various other ingredients you can’t pronounce.

Lauren from Empowered Substance puts it into a great perspective with her comparison of Earth Balance, a vegetarian approved butter replacement compared to butter. She points out the ingredients in Earth Balance consist of: Palm fruit oil, canola oil, safflower oil, flax oil, olive oil, salt, natural flavor, pea protein, sunflower lecithin, lactic acid, annatto color. Meanwhile, the ingredient list in butter, is much shorter. It’s butter.

That’s only one example. To appeal to the vegetarian lifestyle food manufacturers have found alternatives which fall under vegetarian, but aren’t necessarily healthy for you. Consider baked goods, which though vegetarian can be filled with more sugars and binders than regular baked goods with diary products. It’s the same with vegetarian items like mac and cheese, without using real cheese you may just be getting oil and thickeners, without even the smallest amount of nutritional value.

The reality is, most vegetarian substitutes contain the same junky alternatives which even meat eaters should be avoiding to remain happy and healthy.

On one final note, whichever lifestyle you choose to work with, remember anything in excess – including protein and animal by products – isn’t healthy for the body. It takes a wide spectrum of food and nutrients to keep the beautiful body you travel around in all day running in prime condition.

 

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