Healthy Concepts

It’s now two and a half years that I have been writing articles for Nature’s Pathways Magazine. I’ve always enjoyed educating others about the benefits of nutrition. Nature’s Pathways has passionate and educated readers, and I have enjoyed writing articles for your consideration. I hope you’ve enjoyed them as well.

We live in a time of unprecedented access to information. One might think that it would be easier to learn the truth about any topic. But while we have access to more than enough information, we don’t often have access to reliable and accurate context. People are more confused than ever. So I thought that in this last article I would give you my bullet points of advice for going forward. These are the important things that could be foundational in your thinking. Of course these are simply my opinions and I have found them to be very helpful.

  • Distinctions matter. It’s the details that reveal the difference. This is your process of discovery as you pursue better health, you must dig deeper to understand human health and nutrition. The more you know the better choices you will make. Better choices lead to better outcomes.
  • The single most important first change people should make is to improve omega-3 and omega-6 balance. Our cells cannot function properly without sufficient omega-3. Everything else works better with a proper omega-3 level. (You can test for this.)
  • Seek out better food and better diet. Make it a principle to reduce refined sugars, grains and fats. Move away from packaged foods and prepare more meals at home. Buy cleaner food when you can.
  • With regard to medications: We are highly overmedicated in the U.S. We willingly take every drug that is prescribed because we think our health is at risk. The truth is that many of the drugs we take for common conditions do not lead to better health outcomes. I believe that many of the challenges people have may actually be attributable to the chronic use of medications as the only solution for health challenges.
  • Nutrients are not drugs. Nutrients don’t treat disease. Nutrients nourish the structure and function of your body. Don’t think disease; instead think nourish your cells, tissues and organs. It is through providing your body with targeted nutrients that regeneration and maintenance can take place. Better functioning leads to less disease.
  • Question everything, at least at first. We all need others we trust. Be it our doctor, mechanic or nutritional advisors, we all need services and products. So make sure to do your due diligence upfront. Reliable providers want their customers to be informed. Once you develop a knowledge base it gets easier. But in the beginning, look for the distinctions.
  • Be flexible. As you explore your nutritional options, be willing to learn and change. Do the best you know at any given point. Be willing to experiment and try different or new products. Then pause and evaluate your outcomes. Adjust and make changes as needed. Proceed and then reevaluate. Make changes and proceed. Over time your nutritional program becomes more and more suited to you.
  • Watch out for medical claims. By law, nutritional companies cannot make disease claims (with very few exceptions). If products are promoted to cure, treat or prevent disease, these are disease-treatment claims and they are illegal and unlikely to be true. I do not trust any company who either does not understand the law or is willing to ignore it. This is a red flag for me.
  • Nutritional supplements are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Good companies willingly follow FDA Good Manufacturing Practices and provide truthful information. But there are many companies that operate illegally until caught. There are many ways products can be subpar and/or adulterated. You should vet the companies that get your business.
  • Transparency and certifications. This is an important emerging trend. Being transparent means that companies share their distinctions with their customers. One important component of this is third party certifications. These might include non-GMO, organic, vegan, kosher, sustainable and so on. Certifications can help you make distinctions. Certifications help companies prove that they are committed to various standards.

Using these principles will help you be more successful as you develop your nutritional program. The best program is the one that works for you. That is your process of adventure and discovery. 


If you have benefited from my articles, then you should follow me on HealthQuestPodcast.com. We cover these and more important topics related to the science of nutrition. Every month I record and publish numerous podcasts where we explore nutritional topics in depth with the best experts in natural health. You can listen to the interviews and read the articles anytime, 24/7, using any web browser. We even have our own app for iPhone and iPad just for listening. It has been my pleasure to write for you and I wish you all the best success.

We often think of stress as a bad thing: we are “stressed out” because we have too many things to do and it leads to a feeling of burnout or fatigue. But good things can also cause stress: a new home, new baby, vacation, family coming home for the holidays. This kind of stress, also known as eustress, is a positive form of stress that can have a beneficial effect on health, motivation, performance, and emotional well-being. When we are in a state of eustress, endorphins are released. These are the same chemicals that are responsible for “runner’s high” — they make us feel good! However, sometimes even these good stressors add up and eventually the scale is tipped so that we experience too much of a good thing and we burn out.

So, how do we tip ourselves over to eustress from distress in this busy, commercialized and yes, downright stressful time of the year?

First, let’s take a look at what is involved with stress and stressors. There are important stress hormones that our bodies produce and use when they need them, such as in an emergency situation. These hormones are epinephrine and norepinephrine, and they are often referred to as the “fight-or-flight” hormones that are released when the body is under extreme stress. During this type of stress, much of the body’s energy is used to combat imminent danger, and these hormones help the body muster the energy it needs to either stay and fight or take flight. The neat thing about these hormones is that as soon as you stop needing them, they stop being produced — they don’t hang around in your system causing havoc, instead they go away once the crisis has been averted.

There is a third hormone, however, that isn’t so accommodating. Cortisol is consistently being created and released by the adrenal glands in response to minor stressors. The problem with this is that unless you have a physical way of releasing stress — moving, physical activity, dare I say exercise? — the levels of cortisol continue to build up in your body. Eventually, the adrenal glands become fatigued. Some common signs of chronically elevated cortisol levels include mood swings, forgetfulness, anxiety, difficulty concentrating and weight gain. Sound familiar? We tend to shrug this off by saying stress is a part of life, but chronically high cortisol can be quite dangerous to your health.

One of the ways to seek support for our bodies in times of chronic stress is to utilize adaptogenic herbs. As their name suggests, adaptogens help the body adapt to stress, regardless of its cause, by normalizing cortisol levels and supporting those tired, overused adrenal glands.

In addition to lowering cortisol and supporting adrenals, research suggests that adaptogens: have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties; naturally enhance our mood by working to lower anxiety; have antidepressant properties; help normalize the immune system, the nervous system, and blood sugar metabolism; and, improve energy, stamina, muscle tone and strength.

Perhaps the most important of the adaptogens is ashwagandha (withania somnifera), an herb that has long been used in the Ayurvedic tradition, and in more recent decades has been adopted into Western herbal practice. It is thought to be one of the most effective adaptogenic herbs for lowering cortisol levels, with both calming and energizing effects. Recent studies have shown that ashwagandha may be effective in reducing anxiety, while its anti-inflammatory properties have shown promise in studies linked to rheumatoid arthritis. In one trial, it was found to increase four immune system cells, indicating a change in immune cell activation.

Ashwagandha isn’t necessarily the tastiest of herbs, so finding good ways to disguise it in great-tasting, healthy foods is a fabulous way to incorporate this adaptogen into your daily life.

Note: This information is not intended to suggest that you should replace any current treatment with ashwagandha. Always discuss your care with your trusted health care provider.

Ashwagandha Date Treats

Recipe from Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients into Foods and Remedies That Heal

Recommended eating: 2-3 per day • Yield: 40 balls

Ingredients

1½ cups pitted and chopped dates

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1/3 cup ashwagandha powder

2/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (plus extra for rolling)

¼ cup tahini

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

½ teaspoon orange extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

1 teaspoon ginger powder

Directions

  1. Soak pitted dates in 2 cups hot water for 30 minutes.
  2. Strain dates well.
  3. Place dates and remaining ingredients into a food processor. Blend until it forms a consistent paste.
  4. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  5. Roll the paste into teaspoon-size balls and roll in coconut.
  6. Store in refrigerator and eat within one week. 


References: “Anxiolytic-Antidepressant Activity of Withania Somnifera Glycowithanolides: An Experimental Study.” Bhattacharya, S.K., Bhattacharya, A., Sairam, K., and Ghosal, S. Phytomedicine. 2000.

“Efficacy & Safety Evaluation of Ayurvedic Treatment (Ashwagandha Powder & Sidh Makardhwaj) In Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients: A Pilot Prospective Study.” Indian Journal of Medical Research. Kumar. G., Srivastava, A., Sharma, S.K., Rao, T.D., and Gupta, Y.K. 2015.

“Adaptogens in Medicinal Herbalism: Elite Herbs and Natural Compounds for Mastering Stress, Aging, and Chronic Disease.” Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions/Bear. Yance, D.R. (2013).

“Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients into Foods & Remedies That Heal.” Carlsbad, CA: Hay House Inc. de la Foret, R. 2017.

No one wants to think about it, but it’s again time for cold, snow and ice. Weather experts predict a very volatile winter for northeast Wisconsin during the 2017-2018 winter, with temperatures fluctuating 30 to 40 degrees in just a few days. Frequent changes like that make it difficult to plan for activities and what to wear. Too many layers and you’re dying from heat, too few and you’re an ice pop!

Luckily, Mother Nature has provided humans with a wonderful solution: alpaca clothing! Alpaca fiber has a hollow core. In cold weather, that air pocket retains body heat and provides a protective barrier of warmth. Alpaca fleece has even been used in subzero temperatures to prevent emergency communication electronics from seizing up. Sounds perfect for Wisconsin’s extreme winter weather. Clothing made with alpaca fiber works just like the insulation in your house — it keeps your body temperature regulated for comfort.

If you wear alpaca as your base layer, you will discover that you will need less layers, even in temperatures that are not constant. For example, when wearing alpaca long johns you will find that you are comfortable indoors as well as outdoors. Alpaca clothing does not have to be bulky and thick in order to keep you warm. You can be warm and pretty. Alpacas come in 22 natural colors and shades. Black is the most difficult to source while white is the most common. White alpacas tend to have a softer “handle” because of their finer fibers. White fiber also takes dye very well. This makes white fiber the first choice for many designers. So, while you won’t find a pink, blue, green or gold colored alpaca in someone’s barn, you will find lovely colored hats, scarves, gloves, sweaters and blankets made from dyed alpaca fiber.

Although relatively new in the U.S. market, South American designers have been utilizing alpaca in their clothing for years. As North Americans, Europeans and Asians learn to value the amazing properties of this fiber, demand is increasing. This has led to more stylish designs and better quality finished products. Clothing designer Ralph Lauren has just announced that the U.S. Olympic athletes will be wearing winter accessories, gloves, hats and scarves made from U.S. grown alpaca!

Alpaca long johns are the perfect solution for everyone. They are especially helpful for linemen, city workers and outdoor enthusiasts who spend a great deal of time in the extreme cold weather. Senior citizens can also benefit greatly from wearing them. As we get older we also get colder. This is caused by a decrease in blood flow throughout our bodies, which is part of the natural aging process. Lightweight alpaca long johns will regulate your body temperature far better than traditional long johns. They can be worn all day long. Not only will seniors be kept warm and comfortable, but they can even lower the heat setting in their homes. This will result in cost savings. According to the Alpaca Owners Association, alpaca fiber is also considered hypoallergenic. It is not scratchy and is a renewable resource as alpacas are sheared annually.

Alpaca clothing is the perfect way to be prepared for our Wisconsin winters! 

Ingredients

Strawberries

A banana

Cottage cheese

A black gel icing pen

Directions

  1. Take the top off a strawberry (i.e. the leaves)
  2. Slice a second slice from the top of the strawberry
  3. Slice a disc from a banana
  4. Spread one side of the banana with cottage cheese (relatively thick, as this will become the beard)
  5. Place the strawberry slice on a serving plate
  6. Add the slice of the banana on top, cottage cheese side down
  7. Take the gel icing pen and add 2 dots on the edge of the banana slice to look like eyes
  8. Place the remaining part of the strawberry on top as Santa’s hat
  9. Repeat for as many Santas you wish to make! 

It’s a fact: People today are living longer. Although that’s good news, the odds of requiring some sort of long-term care increase as you get older. And as the costs of home care, nursing homes and assisted living escalate, you probably wonder how you’re ever going to be able to afford long-term care. One solution that is gaining in popularity is long-term care insurance (LTCI).

What is long-term care?

Most people associate long-term care with the elderly. But it applies to the ongoing care of individuals of all ages who can no longer independently perform basic activities of daily living (ADLs) — such as bathing, dressing or eating — due to an illness, injury or cognitive disorder. This care can be provided in a number of settings, including private homes, assisted-living facilities, adult day care centers, hospices and nursing homes.

Why you need long-term care insurance (LTCI)

Even though you may never need long-term care, you’ll want to be prepared in case you ever do because long-term care is often very expensive. Although Medicaid does cover some of the costs of long-term care, it has strict financial eligibility requirements — you would have to exhaust a large portion of your life savings to become eligible for it. And since HMOs, Medicare and Medigap don’t pay for most long-term care expenses, you’re going to need to find alternative ways to pay for long-term care. One option you have is to purchase an LTCI policy.

However, LTCI is not for everyone. Whether or not you should buy it depends on a number of factors, such as your age and financial circumstances. Consider purchasing an LTCI policy if some or all of the following apply:

  • You are between the ages of 40 and 84
  • You have significant assets that you would like to protect
  • You can afford to pay the premiums now and in the future
  • You are in good health and are insurable

How does LTCI work?

Typically, an LTCI policy works like this: You pay a premium, and when benefits are triggered, the policy pays a selected dollar amount per day (for a set period of time) for the type of long-term care outlined in the policy.

Most policies provide that certain physical and/or mental impairments trigger benefits. The most common method for determining when benefits are payable is based on your inability to perform certain activities of daily living (ADLs), such as eating, bathing, dressing, continence, toileting (moving on and off the toilet) and transferring (moving in and out of bed). Typically, benefits are payable when you’re unable to perform a certain number of ADLs (e.g., two or three).

Some policies, however, will begin paying benefits only if your doctor certifies that the care is medically necessary. Others will also offer benefits for cognitive or mental incapacity, demonstrated by your inability to pass certain tests.

Comparing LTCI policies

Before you buy LTCI, it’s important to shop around and compare several policies. Read the Outline of Coverage portion of each policy carefully, and make sure you understand all of the benefits, exclusions and provisions. Once you find a policy you like, be sure to check insurance company ratings from services such as A. M. Best, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s to make sure that the company is financially stable.

When comparing policies, you’ll want to pay close attention to these common features and provisions:

  • Elimination period: The period of time before the insurance policy will begin paying benefits (typical options range from 20 to 100 days). Also known as the waiting period.
  • Duration of benefits: The limitations placed on the benefits you can receive (e.g., a dollar amount such as $150,000 or a time limit such as two years).
  • Daily benefit: The amount of coverage you select as your daily benefit (typical options range from $50 to $350).
  • Optional inflation rider: Protection against inflation.
  • Range of care: Coverage for different levels of care (skilled, intermediate and/or custodial) in care settings specified in policy (e.g., nursing home, assisted living facility, at home).
  • Pre-existing conditions: The waiting period (e.g., six months) imposed before coverage will go into effect regarding treatment for pre-existing conditions.
  • Other exclusions: Whether or not certain conditions are covered (e.g., Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease).
  • Premium increases: Whether or not your premiums will increase during the policy period.
  • Guaranteed renewability: The opportunity for you to renew the policy and maintain your coverage despite any changes in your health.
  • Grace period for late payment: The period during which the policy will remain in effect if you are late paying the premium.
  • Return of premium: Return of premium or nonforfeiture benefits if you cancel your policy after paying premiums for a number of years.
  • Prior hospitalization: Whether or not a hospital stay is required before you can qualify for LTCI benefits.

When comparing LTCI policies, you may wish to seek assistance. Consult a financial professional, attorney or accountant for more information.

What’s it going to cost?

There’s no doubt about it: LTCI is often expensive. Still, the cost of LTCI depends on many factors, including the type of policy that you purchase (e.g., size of benefit, length of benefit period, care options, optional riders). Premium cost is also based in large part on your age at the time you purchase the policy. The younger you are when you purchase a policy, the lower your premiums will be. 

 

What is aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is the art of using highly concentrated essential oils for holistic health. These oils are extracted from herbs, plants and trees. They provide both healthy and damaged cells in our body with oxygen and nutrients, and even protect our DNA. Many people use aromatherapy to promote a healthy mind, body and spirit.

Benefits of aromatherapy

Healing benefits

Science continues to prove what our ancestors have known all along: that aromatherapy oils may help modulate occasional pain and inflammation, help with stress, support a healthy immune system, ease cold and flu symptoms, rid your home of mold and germs, neutralize toxins, give you energy and balance, make you feel rejuvenated, and even repair and purify your mind and body.

Studies have also confirmed that essential oils may have the ability to interfere with abnormal cells or pathogens. The best part is, the oils remain harmless to normal cells and tissues while only targeting the abnormal ones.

Germ-fighting benefits

Research done at Weber State University proves that viruses, fungi and bacteria cannot live in the presence of many oils, including cinnamon, oregano and clove. These oils have the ability to disrupt the life cycle of bacteria and cause viruses to be unable to replicate.

The studies found the Thieves oil recipe to have a 99.96 percent kill rate against airborne bacteria. Thieves oil is a common aromatherapy recipe used for keeping your home free from germs, and the air pure and healthier to breathe. Check out the recipes below for how to make your own Thieves oil for aromatherapy.

Ways to use essential oils

Essential oils are very potent and only a small drop can be quite powerful. It’s best to dilute the oil by using a carrier oil, alcohol (like vodka) or water when you mix them. Two commonly used carrier oils are almond and jojoba.

Food-grade essential oils can be used for cooking as well as on your skin — but be sure the oils are food grade before you add them to your dish. Most essential oils on the market are perfume grade and contain many harmful toxins. If you plan to use the oils simply for topical purposes, it’s still smart to be sure they are high quality or therapeutic grade.

Listed below are a few proper ways to use essential oils for aromatherapy.

  • Diffuse – A diffuser creates a healing environment since it continually emits the pleasant aromatic scents of essential oils into the air you breathe. Three ways to diffuse essential oils are with a plug-in unit, a candle lamp or an ultrasonic nebulizer. A plug-in diffuser uses refill pads, the candle lamp uses a glass bowl with a candle underneath, and the ultrasonic nebulizer uses high-frequency vibration to convert essential oils and water into a fine cool mist.
  • Massage – Human touch and bodywork combined with the healing power of essential oils creates positive effects on our body systems. It is a relaxing experience that helps balance the mind, body and spirit. Peppermint oil, for example, is great for relaxing tense muscles. Add 2-3 drops to an ounce of carrier oil before applying topically.
  • Sprays and lotions – Mix essential oils with a carrier oil, water or alcohol to use as a body spray or air freshener. You could also find a non-scented lotion and get creative with your very own scent and healing properties. This is a much healthier option than synthetic perfume, creams and chemically laden bathroom sprays.
  • Mouthwash – You can use essential oils to help with bad breath, toothaches or sore throats. Just add one drop of oil (anise, for example) and two teaspoons of cider vinegar to a glass. Mix well and then fill the glass with warm water. Stir and rinse your mouth with the mixture twice daily.
  • Bath – Add 4-8 drops to your bath for a relaxing experience. Be sure to agitate the water with your hand before you get in. Lavender is an especially relaxing and calming oil to try.
  • Inhalation – Depending on what you are trying to accomplish with aromatherapy oils, you may simply receive healing benefits from their smell. Aromatherapy scent inhalers or inhalation beads can offer stress, head relief, sleep and sinus help. But, you could also put a few drops on a handkerchief and sniff. Also, try adding 2-3 drops of oil to a bowl of steaming hot water. Put your face over the bowl and breathe normally for a few minutes.

AROMATHERAPY RECIPES

Blending essential oils is an art. Have fun with it and get creative! Use them for laundry, cleaning, romance, health concerns, well-being, meditation and more. It will take some education, practice and time to figure out what combines well together and the benefits of those combinations.

Always use caution with highly concentrated botanical oils and remember to dilute. Have fun and enjoy the many benefits aromatherapy has to offer!

Cleansing Thieves Oil

  • Clove - 30 drops
  • Lemon - 25 drops
  • Cinnamon - 10 drops
  • Eucalyptus - 5 drops
  • Rosemary - 3 drops

Sleep

  • Sage - 2 drops
  • Ylang Ylang - 1 drop
  • Neroli - 20 drops

Acne

  • Lavender - 6 drops
  • Tea Tree - 5 drops
  • Geranium - 1 drop

Stress

  • Bergamot - 10 drops
  • Lavender - 4 drops
  • Orange - 4 drops
  • Rose Geranium - 1 drop
  • Ylang Ylang or Chamomile - 1 drop

Anxiety

  • Bergamot - 15 drops
  • Lavender - 5 drops
  • Geranium - 7 drops
  • Frankincense - 2 drops
  • Neroli - 5 drops
  • Rose - 5 drops

Curb Cravings

  • Mandarin - 40 drops
  • Peppermint - 12 drops
  • Ginger - 12 drops
  • Lemon - 20 drops

Wake Up

  • Basil - 1 drop
  • Lemon - 2 drops
  • Ylang Ylang - 2 drops

Cold & Flu Relief

  • Lemon - 1 drop
  • Eucalyptus - 2 drops
  • Rosemary or Hyssop - 1 drop

Energy

  • Peppermint - 1 drop
  • Rosemary - 1 drop
  • Cinnamon - 2 drops

Headache Relief

  • Peppermint - 3 drops
  • Lavender - 3 drops
  • Chamomile - 3 drops

Cheer Up

  • Lime - 1 drop
  • Grapefruit - 1 drop
  • Lemon - 2 drops
  • Tangerine - 6 drops

Pure Air

  • Tea Tree - 1 drop
  • Grapefruit - 1 drop
  • Lemon - 10 drops

Carpet Deodorizer

  • Lavender - 20 drops
  • Tea Tree - 10 drops
  • Lemon - 10 drops
  • Baking soda - 16 ounces

Fresh Breath

  • Peppermint - 2 drops
  • Myrrh - 1 drop
  • Tea Tree - 1 drop

The human body never ceases to amaze me. Every aspect of us is so intricately intertwined. If one body system of ours is subpar, it can lead to a domino effect of additional issues. Everything is connected, which means the source of the problem may not be evident right away. Likewise, a dysfunctional posture can cause a chain reaction. If you have poor posture, odds are, other areas of your body are suffering because of it.

“Our necks and backs hurt, and poor posture is the No. 1 culprit,” says Janice Novak, M.S., author of the book, “Posture, Get it Straight!”

The basics of posture

When we slump or hold our heads forward from center, our lungs become compressed, and the muscles in our back and neck are forced to work a lot harder to support the demands being placed on them. Over time, the muscles adapt to the increased demand by increasing the resting tension and growing in size to meet the demand. Regular and prolonged flexion (forward bend) of the neck leads to a reduced range of motion and loss of functionality in muscles that have become mechanically disadvantaged by the poor posture.

Posture in humans is a predictable indicator of overall health and well-being. When your posture is misaligned, your entire body is affected, which can lead to dysfunction. Here are some of the symptoms and conditions that have been linked to poor posture:

  • Decreased range of motion in the neck
  • Increased tension in the neck
  • Headaches
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
  • Hypertrophy of the upper trapezius muscles
  • Back pain
  • Postural kyphosis (exaggerated curve of the spine)
  • Decreased lung capacity
  • Heart disease
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Poor circulation
  • Pinched nerves in the brachial plexus
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Arthritis
  • Constipation and indigestion
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased quality of life and lifespan
  • Neurological problems

Today, nearly everywhere we look we can see people displaying poor posture; particularly forward-head posture (FHP).

“It is an epidemic or, at least, it’s very common,” Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, told The Washington Post. “Just look around you, everyone has their heads down.”

Cell phones and other hand-held devices aren’t helping

According to comScore’s 2016 U.S. Cross Platform Future in Focus report, the average American adult (18+) spends 2 hours and 51 minutes on their smartphone every day. Yikes! That’s roughly 86 hours a month of added stress on our body just due to a device. Not to mention the exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs), which is an entirely different topic all on its own.

Millions of Americans, both children and adults, are at risk of developing poor posture due to FHP or “text neck.” But cell phones and other hand-held devices aren’t the only issue. Sedentary lifestyles and jobs that require a lot of driving, sitting or other repetitive activities also pose a higher risk for developing poor posture.

So, what can you do?

The first step in correcting poor posture is awareness. Pay attention to your posture throughout the day. Write yourself a note to remind yourself of good posture and place it in multiple places where you’ll see it regularly. Stretching and strengthening the compromised muscles is also a great way to improve posture and reduce pain. Another great way to slow down and even reverse the effects of poor posture is through regular massage. A massage therapist can provide a postural assessment, demonstrate stretches and strengthening exercises, and can work the muscles that have been mechanically disadvantaged due to poor posture. Ongoing massage relieves pressure points and provides greater range of motion in joints and muscles. This allows your body to position itself in a more natural, and less painful way, which in turn brings you improved health and well-being. 

 

Our bodies are ingenious at ensuring our survival. People who have lived through adversity and whose bodies have adapted are experts in crises and conflict. In situations of immediate danger, they are most prepared to succeed. However, the adaptations our bodies make in response to adversity are designed to allow us to survive; they are less helpful if the goal is to thrive. Consequently, practices such as yoga that invite the body as an ally in recovery and growth are essential.

Psychiatrist and researcher Bessel van der Kolk writes that positive adaptations to adversity become maladaptive when we are not able to process our experiences and return our bodies to a state of equilibrium. Long after a traumatic event occurs, our bodies continue to orient toward that trauma, often resulting in prolonged stress response, hypervigilance, dissociation or shut down, exaggerated emotional reactions, expressive language difficulties, lacking or inaccurate awareness of internal states (such as emotions, hunger, fatigue, pain, pleasure), and intrusion of trauma-related sensations and memories.

Because trauma lives in our bodies, they must be included in recovery. Yoga is especially promising because it works directly with body systems that are disrupted during trauma, and it builds connections between the mind and body that are critical to resilience. Numerous studies have demonstrated yoga’s effectiveness as a mental health intervention, including for anxiety, depression, stress, eating disorders, substance abuse, schizophrenia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and complex trauma (see “Moving to Heal” by Jennifer West for a review and bibliography).

Nevertheless, how we bring our bodies into recovery is key. In “The Body Keeps the Score,” van der Kolk writes that symptoms of trauma “can be transformed by having physical experiences that directly contradict the helplessness, rage and collapse that are part of trauma, and thereby regain self-mastery.” Therefore, we conclude with several questions to consider on your own or to discuss with teacher(s). These questions are likely helpful to any practitioner. However, they are especially relevant if your aspiration is trauma resilience or if adversity has been part of your story.

Knowing it’s the right time and choosing the right yoga practice:

  • How much practical stability, emotional reserve and physical wellness do I currently have and might I need to add yoga to my life?
  • What does my support system look like? Who will I turn to if I experience difficult memories or emotions?
  • How physically demanding would I like the practice to be? (There is yoga for seniors, for athletes, for paraplegics, for brain injury survivors, etc.).
  • Would I like to practice at a gym, in a studio, privately, as part of my mental health therapy? What can I afford?
  • Identifying potential triggers or power imbalances:
  • Who are you practicing with? Men and women? Will the group be consistent, or might new students join at any time?
  • Are the exits clearly marked and accessible?
  • What is the teacher’s background? How well do they understand trauma?
  • Do you feel comfortable with your teacher? Do you feel at ease being yourself around them?
  • Does the teacher offer choice? Do they push you to “try harder” or “stay longer”? How comfortable do you feel saying “no” to your teacher, taking for an “easier” option, modifying or resting during class?
  • Does the teacher seem to be interested in achieving certain poses, or do they offer space for you to have your own unique experience in your body?
  • Does the teacher use physical assists?
  • Does the teacher practice with you, or do they watch or walk around the room while students practice?
  • Does the teacher use Sanskrit? Do they include spiritual or religious language or practices?
  • Are the music, scents and lighting consistent? Are they distracting or triggering?

As Dr. Judith Herman asserts in “Trauma and Recovery”: “No intervention that takes power away from the survivor can possibly foster her recovery, no matter how much it appears to be in her immediate best interest.” May this guide aid you in taking the brave step of exploring being in your body. May your yoga practice always be empowering. May you find there respect and celebration of the wisdom you hold! 

 

In 2018, at the age of 63, the individual monthly health insurance premiums can start at $1,000 per person as shown to the right.

The $12,000 annual premium cost is a big burden, but when you add the potential $7,350 maximum out-of-pocket cost when you need expensive medical care, the total annual cost burden is $19,350.

The current law offers no tax credit or cost-share reduction if you make over $49,000 per year. If you make less than $49,000, you can receive substantial tax credits to lower your monthly premium. Cost-share reductions start below $30,000.

If there is any silver lining in these high costs, it is that more of us as consumers are beginning to realize that it is up to us to reform health care and insurance.

We cannot wait for the government to solve our problem of higher costs. 2018 will be the year that moves us to change as we seek out health care and insurance that offers us better health at lower costs. 

 

1. Throw a green holiday party.

  • Send electronic invites instead of mailing them.
  • When serving snacks or a meal, get out the good china instead of buying “cheap” disposable dinnerware. Your guests are worth it!
  • Provide clearly marked recycling containers.

2. Reduce food waste.

  • Make a list, and check it twice! This will reduce the risk of impulse buying and help you remember what ingredients you already have.
  • Be realistic when preparing food — do you really need four different desserts?
  • Send guests home with leftover containers.
  • Whatever food is left can most likely be composted.

3. Send e-cards or recycled-content cards. Recycle paper cards and send electronic holiday cards to reduce paper waste.

4. Give the gift of togetherness: No-waste gift ideas. Sometimes the most cherished gifts we can give are our time, love and energy. Consider making a charitable donation in someone else’s name. Or, give an experience or an event to remember.

5. Take reusable cloth bags on shopping trips.Thousands of bags end up in our landfills during the holidays. Reduce the number of bags by bringing reusable shopping bags for holiday gift shopping. If you do use plastic bags, be sure to recycle them at your local grocery or retail store, not in your curbside bin.

6. Give quality gifts. Durable products last longer and save money in the long run. Cheaper, less durable items wear out quickly and create more landfill waste.

7. Use earth-friendly gift wrapping alternatives, such as:

  • Scarves, handkerchiefs, cloth napkins, kitchen towels or bandanas.
  • Old posters and maps.
  • Newspapers (the comic section is great).
  • Give a present in a present (place gifts inside reusable containers like cookie tins, flower pots and baskets).
  • Make a “treasure map” to find an unwrapped gift hidden elsewhere in the house.
  • Wrap gifts in your children’s, or your own, artwork.
  • Use reusable or reused gift bags.
  • Replace ribbons and bows with natural evergreens, berries and dried flowers (keep them as decorations or compost them after the gifts are unwrapped).

8. Use rechargeable batteries. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, nearly 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Rechargeable batteries reduce the amount of potentially harmful materials thrown away, and can save money in the long run.

9. Turn off or unplug holiday lights during the day. This saves energy and lights last longer. Recycle unwanted or broken strings of lights through a scrap metal collection, not in your curbside bin.

10. Recycle your live Christmas tree. When the holiday season is over, recycle your holiday tree and wreath at your local yard waste collection site.

Quick fact

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, household waste increases by more than 25 percent. Added food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons — it all adds up! 


Reference: United States Environmental Protection Agency. EPA. https://www3.epa.gov/epahome/hi-winter.htm.

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