Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mindfulness...An Alternative To Painkillers

According to a recent study in JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association), mindfulness based approach for stress-reduction and chronic back pain showed results "...may be as effective as cognitive therapy, or opioid medication for relieving chronic back pain".

Whether you're an instructor or yoga student, we've all felt the incredible benefits of yoga and the mindfulness the practice cultivates.  What's exciting is to see what we already know be proven by science.  

If you or anyone you know struggle with chronic pain of any sort, the article detailing this study, its findings, and how it works is a must read.  Click here to read the full article.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations) and Your Health

Read below to see what Yoga Journal is saying about Surya Namaskar!

It turns out, you don’t have to commit to a full hour of practice to reap yoga's many benefits. Just 20 minutes of flowing through Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations) have tremendous effects on wellness and can even get you out of a mental slump, according to a recent study in the International Yoga Journal.

Researchers divided 124 college students with high stress into a Surya Namaskar–practicing group and a control group that did not participate in yoga or any other stress-reducing activity or exercise. At the end of two weeks, the daily sun saluters reported a quiet mind, feelings of rest and joy, and less worry than the control group. A boost to your mood is only 20 minutes away.


In addition, Sun Salutations involve every system in the body while invoking the power of the sun. Just a few of the physical benefits of Sun Salutations are;

  • Helps lose weight
  • Helps strengthen muscles and joints
  • Gives glowing skin
  • Ensures a better functioning digestive system
  • Helps cope with insomnia
  • Ensures regular menstrual cycle
  • Brings down blood sugar levels
  • Reduce anxiety

So whether it's two rounds or 20, carve out time to honor the sun and ignite your fire within by performing Surya Namaskar daily.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Yoga And Respiratory Health

Hatha Yoga is the combination of physical postures and yoga breathing practices that are designed to help the body and mind maintain overall equilibrium. The health of your respiratory system affects all the other systems of your body. Many of Hatha Yoga’s practices are especially helpful for maintaining the health of this vital system.

Both yoga asanas and yoga breathing exercises maintain the health of your respiratory system overall. In general, asanas that move your spine in all directions of movement, and that stretch and strengthen the muscles all around your upper torso, will help support your respiratory system by keeping respiratory muscles strong and flexible. And yoga breathing practices that lengthen your inhalation and exhalation, such as gradual lengthening of equal breath, or that include rapid inhalations and exhalations, like Kapalabhati (Skull Shining breath), can exercise your breathing muscles even more. 

Yoga asanas, breath awareness, and pranayama can help with mild asthma and COPD by improving breathing efficiency and decreasing inflammation. Yoga teacher Baxter Bell’s students report that their regular yoga practice has been helpful for exercise-induced asthma, which can affect younger adults, but can also arise in older adults.  

CAUTION: Yoga has mixed reviews on its benefits for moderate to severe asthma. For this specific condition, we recommend working with a very experienced teacher.  

Yoga as Exercise 

In addition to keeping your respiratory muscles strong and flexible, you can use your asana practice to reverse changes to your body due to aging, physical habits, injuries, and scoliosis, that negatively impact your ability to breath. These include structural changes to both muscles and fascia of your chest as well as the chest wall bones and thoracic spine. 

In general, yoga exercises can reverse changes by: 

1. Improving your posture by strengthening spinal muscles. 

2. Increasing movement in your chest and spine by regularly stretching your chest muscles all directions. 

3. Improving the flexibility and strength of your respiratory muscles and fascia by regularly practicing a combination of well-balanced asana sequences and breath practices. 

You can also use yoga asanas to target specific problem areas. For example, if you are developing a rounded thoracic spine, adding more dynamic and static back bending postures into your practice can help reduce the rounding. You can also use asanas to strengthen weak chest muscles around your lungs. For example, you can use Phalankasana (Plank), Side Plank, and Upward Plank poses to strengthen the muscles around your chest wall and active back bending poses, such as Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) or Urdva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog Pose), to strengthen your back and front chest muscles.

Yoga for Breath Awareness 

Your ability to breathe in a healthy way can be compromised by unhealthy breathing patterns, such holding excessive tension in your abdominal muscles. However, by practicing breath awareness with special attention to the movements of your chest and belly, you can learn about your particular breathing patterns and potentially identify any problems. 

In normal, healthy breathing, as you inhale, your chest and ribs will expand slightly and your belly will rise up or bulge forward, and as you exhale, your belly will relax back and your chest and ribs will relax back toward center. Although not common, there are two different breathing patterns that occur in some people that can be problematic:  

Chest Breathing. Instead of your belly expanding on your inhalation and relaxing back on your exhalation, there is no movement in your belly at all. All the movement during respiration is in your chest alone.  
Reverse Breathing. Instead of your belly expanding on your inhalation, it actually sucks in during the inhalation and your chest expands dramatically. And on your exhalation, your belly rises as your chest relaxes.

To observe your own breathing patterns:  

1.     Set yourself up in a comfortable reclined pose, such as Savasana (Supine Relaxation Pose) or Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Cobbler’s Pose), or a comfortable supported seated pose, such as Easy Sitting Pose with your back against the wall.
2.     Take a moment to relax completely and breathe naturally, with an easy, relaxed breath.
3.    Keeping your breath easy and relaxed, turn your awareness to your chest and belly as you inhale and exhale. Just watch. Is your belly rising/expanding/bulging with your inhalation and relaxing back with your exhalation? Or is something else going on?
If you do identify a problematic breathing pattern—or think that you have—unless you are a very experienced practitioner of pranayama, it’s best for you to work with your yoga teacher or yoga therapist to change your breathing habits. Your present pattern of breathing is likely to be a well-established one. And an expert will not only be able to observe your breathing with a trained eye but will also have techniques available to effectively coach you to change your ingrained habits. 

Yoga Breath Practices 

 A well-rounded yoga breathing practice that includes calming, balancing, and simulating practices, can promote the health of your respiratory system by improving the strength and flexibility or your chest muscles and fascia as well as improving the alignment of your ribs and spine. In general, you’ll benefit from actively challenging your diaphragm with practices that extend the length of the inhalations and exhalations, and that include inhalation and exhalation pausing. 

In addition, recent studies have shown that pranayama is effective in improving lung function in those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD. For this condition, equal lengthening of the inhalation and exhalation is recommended. 

Finally, yoga breathing exercises that calm your nervous system, such as extending the exhalation or pausing at the end of it, add the benefit of lowering overall stress, which can be particularly helpful to people who are challenged by a respiratory condition.

Stress Management with Yoga

Like the rest of your body, your lungs and the rest of your respiratory system need down time to rest and repair. In the rest-and-digest state, your respiratory system will get a good rest, because you don’t need as much oxygen in this state. Therefore, your lungs and respiratory system won’t need to work as hard! And, of course, spending time in the rest-and-digest state provides the optimal setting for the system to heal from problems and repair itself. 

So spending time in the rest-and-digest state provides an important break that will foster the health of the entire system. In addition, reducing stress also has positive effect on your immune system, which could lower your chances of getting infections of the respiratory tract, from your nose and mouth all the way into the deep part of your lungs. 

Because many people with chronic respiratory conditions experience ongoing anxiety or other negative emotions related to their condition, those who have breathing problems can improve the quality of their lives by practicing stress management. This will help quiet your mind and calm your emotions as well as resting your respiratory system. However, if you have respiratory system problems, meditating on your breath can actually cause stress if you worry about breathing. So if this is the case for you and you want to meditate, we recommend either choosing a different type of focus, such as a mantra, or using a simple guided meditation. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Low Back Pain? Doctors Say Try Yoga!

Try yoga and call me in the morning

Low back pain affects millions of adults each year, presenting a major global health burden. In a significant departure from traditional recommendations, the American College of Physicians (APC) has published new guidelines in the Annals of Internal Medicine encouraging non-pharmaceutical therapies like yoga, mindfulness meditation, tai chi, and massage as first lines of treatment.
Low back pain is one of the leading causes of physician visits, and the number one reason for missed work days. It can be acute, lasting up to 4 weeks, subacute, lasting between 4 and 12 weeks, or chronic, lasting 12 weeks or more. In spite of its considerable prevalence, low back pain is often attributed to nonspecific factors, meaning that there is no identifiable cause. This also means that there is no clear cut treatment.
Research has shown that low back pain may be attributed to a number of factors including obesity, depression and anxiety, injury and structural, anatomical and biomechanical factors. But this is only part of the story. We are now beginning to recognize low back pain as a biopsychosocial condition, rather than purely a medical one. This has lead to a greater acceptance of creative treatment strategies that move beyond the traditional use of pain killers, some of which are highly addictive. Unfortunately, given the ubiquity of potential causes, there is no single treatment that can cure low back pain.
The ACP guidelines are based on a review of randomized controlled trials and systematic reviews of noninvasive pharmacological and nonpharmacological therapies for back pain published in English language journals between January 2008 and November 2016. To be considered, studies needed to include the evaluation of the reduction or elimination of low back pain, and assess functional improvement, quality of life, work disability and the return to work, time between episodes, adverse effects, and patient satisfaction.
Based on these criteria, when it comes to acute or subacute low back pain the ACP recommends that physicians and patients opt for nonpharmalogical treatments that involve heat, movement, massage, acupuncture, or spinal manipulation as the first course of action. If pharmacological treatment is necessary, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or skeletal muscle relaxants may be used in lieu of opiates or other pain killers.
For chronic low back pain, the ACP recommends exercise, and treatments including mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), yoga, tai chi, progressive muscle relaxation, and/or psychological approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy and biofeedback. The report finds that yoga may improve pain and functioning relative to usual care and education, and be favored over general forms of exercise.
In the event that pharmacological options are warranted, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are again recommended, with opiates only being used when the benefits outweigh the risk. (Note: the US Food & Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control made stringent recommendations in 2016 limiting the use of opiate pain killers).
Of the mindfulness-based treatment options, MBSR has been found to have the strongest evidence in support of pain relief and functional improvement. MBSR uses a combination of mindfulness meditation, yoga, and attentional exercises that cultivate present-moment awareness and non-judgment to create a greater sense of acceptance and wellbeing. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2016, researchers found that MBSR and cognitive-behavioral therapy were just as effective as pain killers in reducing the symptoms of low back pain.
A growing body of research of the use of yoga in the treatment of low back pain also confirms that yoga may be effective in relieving symptoms. This is consistent with a review and meta-analysis published in the Clinical Journal of Pain in which individuals participating in a yoga program reported significantly reduced short-term (roughly 12 week) and long-term (approximately 12 month) pain and back-specific disability compared to controls. There were no differences between groups for health-related quality of life.  No serious adverse events were reported.
ACP recommendations concur that yoga and other mindfulness practices may benefit those with chronic back pain, and provide a satisfactory alternative to general exercise and traditional forms of drug therapy. The report cautions that the quality of evidence is generally low due to methodological issues in the research, and emphasizes that therapies be administered only by those with sufficient training and experience.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Dr. Suhas at The Personal Health Summit

(click link above if trouble viewing)

Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar's interview with Global Health Collective on Ayurvedic Healing!

This is a must see interview! Dr. Suhas has a wealth of knowledge and explains the intricate science of Ayurveda in a way that we can all understand.  His knowledge and passion is infectious!  

Find out more about Dr. Suhas by visitng his website:

Thursday, February 16, 2017

New Study! Yoga Relieves Chronic Pain

Image result for yoga

Yoga for Pain Relief: Yoga Offers Effective Relief for Back Pain, Fibromyalgia, and Other Chronic Pain Issues Study Finds

Chronic pain is one of the most common afflictions impacting American adults, with 126 million of us experiencing persistent, recurring, often severe and debilitating pain every year.  Standard pain care, often consisting of medication, tends to provide only partial or temporary benefit.
Also, with addiction to opiate painkillers reaching staggering proportions, health providers and consumers are more actively seeking complementary approaches like yoga for relief. A new review of the evidence published in Mayo Clinical Proceedings, suggests that yoga may play an important role as an effective antidote, particularly for back pain.
Among adults in the U.S, back pain (28%), joint/arthritis pain (21%), neck pain (14%) and headaches (14%) are among the most common. To deal with this pain, a 2012 national survey suggests that a large proportion of Americans (30-40%) turn to some form of complementary care such as yoga, tai chi, and qigong (10.1% combined) meditation (8%), massage therapy, acupuncture, and manipulation (16.6% combined), and natural products or supplements (17.7%) in any given year.  These complementary approaches are most often used to manage back pain (14.3 million), neck pain (5 million), and arthritis pain (3.1 million).
Due to this extensive use of complementary approaches, a group of researchers from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health reviewed the clinical research to see which approaches might be best suited for primary care patients presenting with back, neck, and joint pain, and fibromyalgia.
To do so they examined all of the randomized controlled trials (RCTs) published from January 1, 1966 through March 31, 2016. To make findings relevant to US primary care providers, these studies were limited to trials either conducted in the US, or including American participants.
Yoga May Relieve Chronic Low Back Pain
A total of 6 RCTs were identified in which yoga was used to relieve low back pain. For purposes of their review, yoga was defined as a mind and body practice with origins in ancient Indian philosophy in which techniques such as physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation were combined.
These studies included 596 adults (mostly female) who attended group classes of 60-90 minutes in duration in which either hatha, viniyoga or iyengar yoga was offered. The number of sessions ranged from 12 to 24, with classes being held either once or twice a week, and home practice often being recommended.
When compared with usual care, 2 studies suggested that yoga was associated with improvements in pain and function, however these results varied when comparing yoga with exercise or stretching. Three additional studies found that yoga was linked with modest reductions in pain and functional disability when compared to either a wait list or educational control group. No adverse events were reported.
Massage and Manipulation May Reduce Neck Pain
To date there are no RCTs examining the effectiveness of yoga for relieving chronic neck pain. Of the studies using complementary approaches, 4 assessed the use of massage to relieve neck pain and disability. In one study, adult participants randomized to 10 massage therapy sessions over 10 weeks reported significant improvements in neck pain and disability compared to a no-treatment control group.
Similarly, other studies showed that regular massage sessions were associated with improvements, with greater benefits demonstrated for those who received 60-minute sessions 2 to 3 times per week compared to those who attended a session weekly.
Of the 3 studies in which spinal manipulation was tested as an intervention for neck pain, findings were mixed, with some studies reporting improvements following spinal manipulation, while others finding little to no effect.
Yoga Linked to Reduced Knee Pain Associated with Osteoarthritis
Only one, quasi-experimental trial of the effects of seated yoga on osteoarthritic knee pain has been published to date. Participants were elderly adults (mean age 80 years of age), and predominantly men (68.7%). Compared to a convenience sample of matched controls assigned to either a Reiki or an attention intervention, yoga group individuals reported substantially better reductions in pain, stiffness, and functional disability. No adverse events were reported in this study.
Yoga Helps in the Management of Fibromyalgia
A single study of 53 women (average age 53.7 years, 92.5% white) compared the effectiveness of yoga for relieving fibromyalgia symptoms compared to a waitlist control group.  Participants attended 8, 120-minute classes, once per week for 8 weeks. Outcome data showed significant improvements in fibromyalgia symptoms for the yoga group at the end of the study, with no adverse events reported.
Unfortunately, very few of the trials reviewed published safety data. Of those that did, the most common incidents reported were minor muscle or joint soreness in the yoga and tai chi studies, some gastrointestinal upset in tests of dietary supplements, and minor pain and/or bruising in the acupuncture trials. The absence of consistent reporting makes it difficult to draw definitive conclusions about the safety of these complementary forms of care.
As is consistent with most reviews of complementary therapies in general, and yoga in particular, conclusions are hampered by a number of methodological issues, the most notable being small, homogeneous (white, female, older adults) samples. Small sample sizes are more prone to false negative results, and homogeneous samples limit the extent to which we can generalize results to a more diverse population of individuals in primary care settings. In addition, most complementary approaches lack standard treatment protocols, making it difficult to determine which aspects of the intervention are effective, and the dosage necessary to attain an effect. Continued, well-funded and rigorous trials will be needed to provide a clear account of how these approaches work, why and for whom.
Bearing that in mind, the results of this systematic review suggest that yoga and other complementary alternatives may provide safe, moderately effective alternatives for pain relief. This is good news for the millions of adults seeking to reduce or eliminate their reliance on painkillers, and other pharmaceutical treatment options.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Dinacharya: A Routine to Align Our Natural Rhythm

by Manas Kshirsagar, BS, CAP, Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner 

From an Ayurvedic perspective, following a dinacharya, or daily routine, aligns us with nature’s rhythms each day. There is new evidence that demonstrates that our genes may have, over time, lost their ability to hear the natural circadian rhythms of nature. Doctors are only now beginning to understand exactly how important it is for the body to stay in rhythm with nature. In our modern high-tech world, it is becoming a challenge to align our body with the laws of Nature. Our priorities have shifted from being existential to being very concerned with to-do lists, work schedules, finances, etc. Many times, we are so bent on our daily activities that we ignore our health and well-being in order to achieve what we believe is of utmost importance at that particular moment. With social media and cell phones giving us instant access to anyone in the world, these “distractions” may take us out of balance and we lose alignment with the rhythms of nature.
So, how do we realign our routines with the rhythm of nature? Daily responsibilities and stress aside, following this simple dinacharya will help us get on track. We can start slowly by implementing our routine in a manner that is not stressful to us or our schedule. If easy, eventually we can accommodate all the best Yogic techniques and use them as tools to keep our mind, body and spirit balanced!
Outline of Ayurvedic and Yogic Daily Routine for Healthy Adults
Morning 5:30-8:00 a.m.
  1. Arise early in the morning, preferably 30 minutes before sunrise.
  2. If easy and natural, evacuate bowels and bladder. If this is not natural, try taking Organic Digest Tone and/or Premium Amla Berry before bed.
  3. Clean and brush the teeth.
  4. Clean, or scrape, the tongue with a tongue scraper.
  5. Clean the eyes by sprinkling with cold water.
  6. Drink a cup of hot water, or a glass of warm water with a teaspoon of honey (honey should never be heated and one should purchase unpasteurized, unheated honey*), or drink a glass of fruit juice at room temperature.
  7. Perform Abhyanga, a warm-oil massage, for 7-10 minutes. Abhyanga can be a daily practice. We recommend at least twice a week and especially on the weekends.
  8. Brief warm-up exercises, stretches, Yoga postures, or 5-10 Sun Salutations for 10-12 minutes.
  9. Bath or shower, preferably with warm water. Begin with a comfortable temperature and, if you can do so comfortably, gradually lower the temperature as low as possible. Favor washing your head and hair with cooler water — regardless of prakriti, this is something that helps to reset the nervous system first thing in the morning and enliven prana!
  10. Wear clean and comfortable clothes, suitable to season and activity.
  11. Practice the Transcendental Meditation® technique or the meditation of your choice.
  12. Enjoy a well-cooked, light breakfast such as stewed apples or poached pears.**
  13. Work, or study.
Mid-Morning 10:30-11:30 a.m.
Have a soothing drink: warm water, or herbal tea; and, if hungry, a snack: fresh fruit, fig bar, etc.
Afternoon 1:00-2:00 p.m.
  1. A well-cooked lunch consisting of balanced foods. Check out these dosha dietary guidelines.**
  2. Take a brief rest after lunch for about 10-15 minutes, away from work and stress.
  3. Work or study.
Mid-Afternoon 3:30-4:30 p.m. Have a soothing drink: warm water, herbal tea, Organic Vata Tea, etc.; and a snack: fruit, fig bar, etc.
Evening 6:00-7:00 p.m.
  1. Physical exercise of choice for 20-30 minutes. Preferable exercises are Sun Salutations, Yoga postures, swimming, or brisk walking.
  2. Leave an interval of 20-30 minutes between exercise and dinner.
  3. Dinner consisting of balanced foods.**
  4. Brief walk for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Relaxing recreational activities.
  6. Early to bed: 9:30-10:30 p.m. The ideal is eating three hours prior to sleep. At a minimum, leave about a 60 to 90-minute gap between dinner and going to bed, as this will aid digestion and allow for deeper sleep.
* Ayurveda recognizes that heated honey changes form and is very hard to digest. It is, in fact, considered quite problematic. Infants and small children should not be given raw, unpasteurized honey. Read more about Honey Under Heat.
**Breakfast, lunch, and dinner should support a balanced diet according to your individual constitution, daily requirement, and season. Take the vpk® dosha quiz to learn more about your unique combination.
Manas Kshirsagar is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner. He comes from a Rig Vedic Bramhin tradition with an extensive Ayurvedic background. He graduated from Aloha Ayurveda Academy and completed his BS in Health and Physiology from Maharishi University of Management. He is an acclaimed Wellness Consultant, and expects to complete his Master’s program (Ayurveda & Integrative Medicine). He has worked as an Ayurvedic Consultant at MAPI and the prestigious Raj Panchakarma center in Fairfield, IA. He is a Health Educator who is passionate about health and fitness. He has worked with clients of all age groups and specializes in Lifestyle Medicine. Providing a holistic approach to medicine, his philosophy of healing revolves around Diet, Yoga, Meditation, Detoxification, Nutrition & effective Stress Management. Appointments available at Serenity Spa I Soul Yoga near Sacramento, CA.

The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.