Category Archives: Health

You only have one you, and this stuff’s important! Bright minds, fit bodies, vibrant lives – why not?

Benefits of Bicycling

I recently picked up a funky one-speed cherry red beach cruiser for getting to and from my cousin’s house in the mornings.  It saves her the extra time coming to pick me up and I get a good 30 minutes of serious riding in to set the day off on an endorphin-filled start.  The health benefits of cycling are pretty obvious (see below) – and if you’re in a position where cycling can be your main mode of transportation, your carbon footprint shrinks considerably.

If only Honolulu were a more bike-friendly city!

The environmental and social benefits of bicycling are well-documented, as are the economic advantages – a potential $7 billion, if city dwellers in the north central midwest were to use bikes for short trips alone.  Still, biking culture tends to only appeal to young, well-educated, creative, affluent groups of people, most especially those living in cooler climates.

I may not always be smiling while I’m huffin’ and puffin’ on the road, but once I get to my destination, I’m considerably more stoked on life 😉   And for that, I’m grateful.

Want to read a bit more on the individual health benefits of cycling?  Checkout this article from Discovery News:

Cyclists are a diverse group. Some of us ride fat tires down rocky trails, some of us ride road bikes up burly hills, some of us ride for sport and some of us ride just for fun. Some ride for the adrenaline rush and some ride their bikes for basic transportation. But all of us can take advantage of the healthy benefits of cycling, even if we never ever buy a single item made from spandex.

Bicycling, along with being the most efficient mode of human locomotion, is also one of the best all-around activities for improving our health. From head to toes, cycling’s health benefits are hard to beat.

7 Health Benefits of Cycling

1. Cycling is good for your heart: Cycling is associated with improved cardiovascular fitness, as well as a decrease in the risk of coronary heart disease.

2. Cycling is good for your muscles: Riding a bike is great for toning and building your muscles, especially in the lower half of the body – your calves, your thighs, and your rear end. It’s also a great low-impact mode of exercise for those with joint conditions or injuries to the legs or hips, which might keep them from being active.

3. Cycling is good for your waistline: You can burn a lot of calories while biking, especially when you cycle faster than a leisurely pace, and cycling has been associated with helping to keep weight gain down. And cycling has the added benefit of ramping up your metabolism, even after the ride is over.

4. Cycling is good for your lifespan: Bicycling is a great way to increase your longevity, as cycling regularly has been associated with increased ‘life-years’, even when adjusted for risks of injury through cycling.

5. Cycling is good for your coordination: Moving both feet around in circles while steering with both your hands and your body’s own weight is good practice for your coordination skills.

6. Cycling is good for your mental health: Riding a bike has been linked to improved mental health.

7. Cycling is good for your immune system: Cycling can strengthen your immune system, and could protect against certain kinds of cancers.

Even with all of these health benefits to cycling, some of us may ride them just for fun. I know I do. Why do you ride a bike? Let us know in the comments below.

The Omega Institute

(The third in a series of catch-up blogs inspired by a weekend at the Omega Yoga Service Conference.  Check out the first blog on Nikki Myers, Addiction and Authenticity or the second blog on Jnana Yogis, Kelly McGonigal and Bessel Van Der Kolk.)

Atmosphere informs much of our experience.  Being stressed out at a busy train station is a world away from feeling stressed in the middle of a field.  The physical spaciousness does wonders for our mental landscape, and suddenly those stress reactions seem to dissipate into the woods.

I’m uber grateful for the surroundings of The Omega Institute last weekend, which comes fully equipped with a world-renowned sustainable living center, sauna, forest, volleyball net, garden, library, meditation hall, delicious food, a lake, easy parking, and a whole lotta history of hosting brilliant events.

More on Omega

Omega is a place to explore the extraordinary potential that exists in all of us as individuals and together as a human family.

Omega was founded on the holistic worldview that the well-being of each of us is deeply connected to the well-being of all living things. Since 1977, we have offered diverse and innovative educational experiences that inspire an integrated approach to personal and social change. Omega, a nonprofit organization, continues to be at the forefront of human development. We nurture dialogues on the integration of modern medicine and natural healing; design programs that connect science, spirituality, and creativity; and lay the groundwork for new traditions and lifestyles.

Each year, more than 23,000 people attend workshops and educational programs delivered by hundreds of teachers, artists, healers, and thinkers on the leading edge of their disciplines. With special attention to our key initiatives in sustainability, women’s leadership, veterans care, and service, we bring awareness to issues that must be addressed in order for our society to heal and flourish.

Whether it’s a creativity workshop at our 200-acre Rhinebeck, New York campus, a yoga retreat in Costa Rica, or a conference in New York City, our lifelong learning programs provide tools for the art of living, and motivation to cultivate greater health, joy, and peace at home and in the world.

 

Shivagakomarpaj – The Old Medicine Hospital

One of the most renowned Thai massage schools in the country, Shivagakomarpaj has been offering residential training for fifty years now.  Although The Old Medicine Hospital (Shivagakomarpaj is the name of the original founder of Thai Massage; you can understand the simplification of the institution’s name for Westerners) is not quite as well-known or sparkly as Wat Po, fellow massage healers have given pretty lukewarm reviews of Bangkok’s most popular massage institution.  During my training four years ago, the staff were friendly and thorough, the accommodations comfy and affordable, and the techniques we learned were amazing (especially amazing to receive!).

I’ve been massaging since I can remember.  My grandmother always needed Swedish/Shiatsu shoulder love, and my aunty would request back-walking on the regular .  Taking organized trainings like the one at Shivagakomarpaj really helped solidify some of skills I’d been developing independently, it opened up all sorts of doors to new techniques, and explained a lot of the physiology and philosophy behind the sets.  If you’re curious about the history and practice of Thai massage click here.

So, in celebration of their fiftieth year serving the global community, KOR PUN KAH!

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My training at The Old Medicine Hospital brought me to new levels of flexibility, lymphatic detox, and comfort with intimacy – spending a full week kneading flesh and manipulating body parts will definitely do it!  But the sweetness doesn’t end there.  With all these new Thai tricks under my (light loose fitting) sleeves, I’ve been able to offer healing massage to colleagues in the Middle East and private clients here in New York, a grounding blessing these last several weeks.

SABAI DEE ~~~

Heartfelt Prezzies (& Summer Sangria Recipe)

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The last few days I’ve been showered with the sweetest presents from friends (I think I should be “about to leave New York” more often!  Though it is sad to be going, it also means I’ve been spending a lot more time with the people I hold dear to me ;)).

Yesterday one of my oldest friends made the trek out to Brooklyn and provided a most delicioso addition to our little dinner party: Summer Sangria (recipe below).

Then today, a dear yoga sister gave me this handmade necklace of quartz and rudraksha, on the left.  It’s almost as stunning as the woman who made it!

Big shining heart thanks – more for the friends than for the presents of course, but I’ve already blogged about awesome friends 🙂

Summer Sangria Recipe, courtesy Tamara Acoba

1 bottle of red wine

.5 liter of ginger ale

  • A handful of blueberries
  • A few handfuls of strawberries, quartered
  • 1 kiwi, peeled and cut into small pieces
  • Ice
  • (optional: raspberries, peaches, lemon)
  • Mix and let sit for twenty minutes before serving and, voila!  You have yourself a most thirst quenching summer bevvie.

Not sure if red wine is good for you?  Check out what the Mayo Clinic has to say on the matter:

Red wine and resveratrol: Good for your heart?

Red wine and something in red wine called resveratrol might be heart healthy. Find out the facts, and hype, regarding red wine and its impact on your heart.

By Mayo Clinic staff

Red wine, in moderation, has long been thought of as heart healthy. The alcohol and certain substances in red wine called antioxidants may help prevent heart disease by increasing levels of “good” cholesterol and protecting against artery damage.

While the news about red wine might sound great if you enjoy a glass of red wine with your evening meal, doctors are wary of encouraging anyone to start drinking alcohol. That’s because too much alcohol can have many harmful effects on your body.

Still, many doctors agree that something in red wine appears to help your heart. It’s possible that antioxidants, such as flavonoids or a substance called resveratrol, have heart-healthy benefits.

How is red wine heart healthy?

Red wine seems to have even more heart-healthy benefits than other types of alcohol, but it’s possible that red wine isn’t any better than beer, white wine or liquor for heart health. There’s still no clear evidence that red wine is better than other forms of alcohol when it comes to possible heart-healthy benefits.

Antioxidants in red wine called polyphenols may help protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart. A polyphenol called resveratrol is one substance in red wine that’s gotten attention.

Resveratrol in red wine

Resveratrol might be a key ingredient in red wine that helps prevent damage to blood vessels, reduces “bad” cholesterol and prevents blood clots.

Most research on resveratrol has been done on animals, not people. Research in mice given resveratrol suggests that the antioxidant might also help protect them from obesity and diabetes, both of which are strong risk factors for heart disease. However, those findings were reported only in mice, not in people. In addition, to get the same dose of resveratrol used in the mice studies, a person would have to drink over 60 liters of red wine every day.

Some research shows that resveratrol could be linked to a reduced risk of inflammation and blood clotting, both of which can lead to heart disease. More research is needed before it’s known whether resveratrol was the cause for the reduced risk.

Resveratrol in grapes, supplements and other foods

The resveratrol in red wine comes from the skin of grapes used to make wine. Because red wine is fermented with grape skins longer than is white wine, red wine contains more resveratrol. Simply eating grapes, or drinking grape juice, has been suggested as one way to get resveratrol without drinking alcohol. Red and purple grape juices may have some of the same heart-healthy benefits of red wine.

Other foods that contain some resveratrol include peanuts, blueberries and cranberries. It’s not yet known how beneficial eating grapes or other foods might be compared with drinking red wine when it comes to promoting heart health. The amount of resveratrol in food and red wine can vary widely.

Resveratrol supplements are also available. While researchers haven’t found any harm in taking resveratrol supplements, most of the resveratrol in the supplements can’t be absorbed by your body.

How does alcohol help the heart?

Various studies have shown that moderate amounts of all types of alcohol benefit your heart, not just alcohol found in red wine. It’s thought that alcohol:

  • Raises high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol
  • Reduces the formation of blood clots
  • Helps prevent artery damage caused by high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol

Drink in moderation — or not at all

Red wine’s potential heart-healthy benefits look promising. Those who drink moderate amounts of alcohol, including red wine, seem to have a lower risk of heart disease. However, more research is needed before we know whether red wine is better for your heart than are other forms of alcohol, such as beer or spirits.

Neither the American Heart Association nor the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommend that you start drinking alcohol just to prevent heart disease. Alcohol can be addictive and can cause or worsen other health problems.

Drinking too much increases your risk of high blood pressure, high triglycerides, liver damage, obesity, certain types of cancer, accidents and other problems. In addition, drinking too much alcohol regularly can cause cardiomyopathy — weakened heart muscle — causing symptoms of heart failure in some people. If you have heart failure or a weak heart, you should avoid alcohol completely. If you take aspirin daily, you should avoid or limit alcohol, depending on your doctor’s advice. You also shouldn’t drink alcohol if you’re pregnant. If you have questions about the benefits and risks of alcohol, talk to your doctor about specific recommendations for you.

If you already drink red wine, do so in moderation. Moderate drinking is defined as an average of two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women. The limit for men is higher because men generally weigh more and have more of an enzyme that metabolizes alcohol than women do.

A drink is defined as 12 ounces (355 milliliters, or mL) of beer, 5 ounces (148 mL) of wine or 1.5 ounces (44 mL) of 80-proof distilled spirits.

Vipassanaaaaaahhh (revisited)

About a year and a half ago, I attended my first Vipassana session – 10 days of silent meditation at an ashram in Igatpuri, India.  A week later, I was able to interview S.N. Goenka at the Vipassana center in Mumbai.  It sounds surreal just seeing it typed out!

I was reminded of how long ago that was when a classmate gave a presentation on this lineage in my psych class last week.  “Gratitude” can hardly cover the way I feel about my experience there, a milestone in healing, transformation and perspective.  Whew, what an amazing 10 days!

Here is a link to my “review” of the experience, and below you’ll find a full length film featuring the use of Vipasana in jails in India (they are also being used in jails in America, as well as in schools).  Worth a watch to see just how evolutionary meditation can be!

Grateful for DNA Readings!

A few months ago, I sent my spittle to a company called 23 And Me.  It sounds a bit strange, I know.

Why would I spit (quite a bit) into a little plastic collector, add a splash of some unknown chemical, shake it all up, then send it back across the country to some lab in California?  Well, I’ve always been curious about how accurate my family’s oral recount of our ethnic history could be (and what about genetic predisposition for diseases?) – 23 And Me is the go-to company for public DNA exploration.

Today I got the results . . .

Good news: I don’t have any of the mutations they can read for breast cancer.

Potential bad news: I may have Hemochromatosis (HFE-related), a condition that makes processing iron complicated (thankfully I mostly gave up red meat ages ago!).

There are all kinds of things to explore on their website now that I know my genetic code (D4b2a2) – apparently, I’m 74.29% similar to a Japanese person,

  • Haplogroup: D, a subgroup of M
  • Age: 45,000 years
  • Region: Americas, Asia
  • Populations: Native Americans, Yupik, Chukchi
  • Highlight: People carrying mitochondrial DNA from haplogroup D may have been among the first to reach the tip of South America.

I perused my potential drug response dangers, and found out my Neanderthal composition!  In a few more days, I’ll know even more . . . and once my dad gets on board, I’ll be able to trace my patriarchal line as well.

Science is rad.

The company is 23andme.com, and they were even featured on Oprah – so there’s some credibility for ya!

Spelty Slopey Goodness

Thanks on Sunday: Cortelyou Market’s fresh baked goods.  Spelt banana muffin sweetened only with agave?  Yes please.

Gratitude this morning: Park Slope livin’! I won’t be in this hood for much longer so today I decided to check out a few of the local perks.  A stack of pancakes, bottomless coffee, and a few moments in an antique store.  Tres Slope.

Spelt Benefits!

Spelt, an ancient cereal grain, is a distant cousin to wheat. It has a nutty, slightly sweet flavor. Use spelt flour as a substitute for wheat or white flour when baking bread. Because spelt flour contains gluten, you are less likely to compromise the texture of baked goods. Compared to wheat flour, spelt flour is richer in many nutrients, such as protein and minerals.

High in Niacin

Spelt flour provides approximately 5.5 mg of niacin or vitamin B3 per 100-g serving, 5 percent more niacin than hard winter wheat flour, according to an article published in 2008 in the journal “Acta Scientiarum Polonorum.” The recommended daily value for niacin is 20 mg. A 100-g serving of spelt flour meets 27.5 percent of the daily value for this nutrient. Like other B-vitamins, niacin aids in energy metabolism. It also has additional functions in the human body, such as helping to make sex and stress hormones in the adrenal glands. Niacin is also needed to improve circulation and reduce cholesterol levels in the blood.

Rich in Minerals

According to an article published in the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry” in March 2005, when researchers analyzed and compared nine dehulled spelt samples to five soft winter wheat samples, they found that the spelt offered a higher amount of certain minerals, such as copper, iron, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus. These minerals are naturally high in the bran of the spelt grain. The human body needs these micronutrients to perform a variety of functions and to support healthy nervous, cardiovascular, skeletal and immune systems.

Other Benefits

Spelt flour has a high water solubility, making it possibly easier to digest for those with a wheat intolerance. Spelt and whole spelt flour offer more soluble fiber than both standard and durum wheat flours, according to an article published in “Food Chemistry” in March 2000. Soluble fiber is particularly beneficial for lowering blood cholesterol and regulating blood sugar levels, according to MayoClinic.com

Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/309814-what-are-the-benefits-of-eating-spelt-flour/#ixzz2ObjsncND