In our pursuit of health (the state of being free from illness or injury) we discovered the magic of meditation, the wonderful benefits of prayer, and the infusion of mind, body, and spirit through the consumption of tea. In this pursuit, we have come across various writings, videos, and artistic presentations which can further these efforts. To be of additional service to you, we have compiled an assortment of these works which you may find helpful. Please enjoy as we have.
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How Breathing Better Can Improve Your Health
It’s something you do between 12 and 20 times a minute, and 17,000 to 30,000 times a day or more. We’re talking about breathing — and if you’re not suffering from any type of congestion or illness, you probably don’t even realize you’re doing it.
But the fact that most people don’t even think twice about their breathing could mean that you’re missing out on something that could have a big impact on many different aspects of your body’s health and wellbeing. Here are four ways to use different breathing techniques to improve both your physical health and state of mind.
Breathing Techniques for Muscle Tension Relief
Try this breathing technique first thing in the morning – yes, even before your first cup of coffee. This morning breathing technique can help minimize muscle tension throughout the entire day.
- Stand up straight and bend forward at the waist. Bend knees slightly, letting your arms hang limply, close to the floor.
- Inhale slowly and deeply, and return to a standing position by slowly rolling your body up, lifting your head last.
- Exhale slowly as you return to your original position.
- Stretch your muscles a little, and repeat.
Breathing Techniques for Side Pain
Many people who exercise, especially runners, experience intense side pain known as side stitches. Side stitches are basically diaphragm spasms, and like other types of muscle cramps, they’re thought to occur from the strain associated with the accelerated breathing from exercise. The good news is, the better you get at exercising, the less likely you’ll be to experience debilitating side cramps.
But in the meantime, practicing deep “belly breathing” while running in particular can reduce the stress on the supporting ligaments of the diaphragm and can help relieve side stitches. Belly breathing simply means you’re using your stomach instead of your chest. Chest breathing is associated with shallow breathing, while belly breathing is associated with deep, productive breathing.
Before you hit the trails with your running partner, here’s how to figure out how to belly breathe. Simply lie down on the floor and place a hand on your belly. Breathe deeply. If you feel your hand rise and fall slightly with your breathing, congrats, you’re belly breathing! If your chest is moving instead of your stomach, you’re not breathing deeply enough, and need to adjust.
While you’re running, keep breathing deeply and every once in a while, take a very deep breath and forcefully exhale, pushing all the air out of your lungs. While you exhale, drop your shoulders, shake out your arms, and relax. Take another deep breath and continue on your run.
Breathing Techniques for Increased Energy
If you’re used to heading straight for the coffee pot every morning, give this a try instead. The Stimulating Breath Technique is a caffeine-free way to give your body and mind an extra little boost.
This traditional breathing exercise is used often in yoga, and stimulates the diaphragm. It’s also known as the “Bellows Breath,” and signals the body to become more alert. It’s described as being able to energize the body, clarify the mind and “clear away the clouds.”
Here’s how to do it: Sit up tall, and relax your shoulders. Keep your mouth closed and inhale rapidly through your nose with quick, short breaths (exhale quickly as well). Try doing that for about 10 seconds. Take a 15-30 second break and breathe normally. Repeat several times.
Breathing Techniques for Relaxation
Do a Google search on ‘breathing techniques for relaxation’ and you’ll find a million people telling you a million ways to find peace through breathing – it’s enough to stress anyone out. What to make of it all? The truth is, breathing really can help relieve stress. Here’s how.
While many of us zone out in front of the television at night to relax, we’re not really effectively combating stress or reducing the harmful effects of stress. In order to do that, we need to activate the body’s natural relaxation response. The relaxation response is a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress (e.g., decreases in heart rate, blood pressure, rate of breathing, and muscle tension).
But how do you activate the natural relaxation response? According to the American Institute of Stress, the answer’s easy. Focused, abdominal breathing. Abdominal breathing (or belly breathing, as we mentioned before) increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the nervous system, causing a state of calmness.
Practicing focused breathing 20 to 30 minutes each day can work wonders in reducing stress and anxiety. And we’re not talking about taking a 30-minute nap. The point of focused breathing is to feel connected to your body, and be present and aware of the feeling of your worries drifting farther and farther away.
The AIS endorses several breathing techniques, including one called the Quieting Response, a quick, six-second exercise that utilizes visualization and deep breathing to stop stress in its tracks.
Per the AIS, here’s how to do it:
- Smile inwardly with your eyes and mouth and release the tension in your shoulders. This is a powerful muscle release in the places where most people hold their muscles tense.
- Imagine holes in the soles of your feet. As you take a deep breath in, visualize hot air flowing through these holes moving slowly up your legs, through your abdomen and filling your lungs.
- Relax your muscles sequentially as the hot air moves through them up your body. When you exhale reverse the visualization so you “see” hot air coming out the same holes in your feet. Repeat throughout the day whenever you need to feel calm and relaxed.
From doctors and therapists to yogis and athletic trainers, many professionals in many different fields believe strongly in the benefits of deep, mindful breathing. While these techniques might have different effects on different people, you can never go wrong when you take a moment to calm the mind, and take a breath.
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Blue light emitted by smartphones and laptops accelerates blindness by making a molecule in our eyes toxic, according to a new study
- A new study found that blue light can cause macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of blindness.
- Blue light harms our vision by damaging the eye’s retina, the researchers say.
- The study found that blue light turns a molecule in the eye into a poison that kills photoreceptor cells, which do not regenerate.
- Special sunglasses that filter blue light might help, but specialists aren’t sure how much good they actually do.
Staring at screens all day isn’t good for us — we know this. It can cause eye strain, sometimes called computer vision syndrome, and the light is so bright it can mimic sunlight, mess with our hormones, and prevent us from feeling sleepy.
And according to a new study, published last month in the journal Scientific Reports, the blue light emitted by our phones, tablets, and laptops might increase our chance of becoming blind. Previous studies have found that blue light is harmful, but researchers from the University of Toledo say it can make molecules “toxic.”
The team found that shining blue light on eye cells transforms vital molecules into a cell-killing poison that can lead to age-related macular degeneration, one of the biggest causes of blindness worldwide.
“We are being exposed to blue light continuously, and the eye’s cornea and lens cannot block or reflect it,” Ajith Karunarathne, an assistant professor in the university’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry who helped write the study, said in a press release.
“It’s no secret that blue light harms our vision by damaging the eye’s retina,” Karunarathne said. “Our experiments explain how this happens, and we hope this leads to therapies that slow macular degeneration, such as a new kind of eye drop.”
Macular degeneration occurs when photoreceptor cells in the retina die. They do not regenerate, so “when they’re dead, they’re dead for good,” said Kasun Ratnayake, a doctoral student researcher who also wrote the study.
The photoreceptor cells need molecules called retinal to sense light. But the researchers found that blue light can cause retinal to change and kill photoreceptor cells by dissolving some of their membranes.
The team added retinal molecules to other body cells — like cancer cells, heart cells, and neurons — which also died when exposed to blue light. Without the retinal, blue light had no effect on the other cells, the researchers said.
“No activity is sparked with green, yellow, or red light,” Karunarathne said. “The retinal-generated toxicity by blue light is universal. It can kill any cell type.”
The researchers also found that a molecule in our eyes and body called alpha-Tocopherol, a natural antioxidant, stops affected cells from dying. But as we age or our immune system takes a hit, we lose the ability to fight against the toxic-retinal attack — and that’s when the damage occurs.
Karunarathne suggested using special sunglasses that filter UV and blue light to try to combat the effects, but experts are unsure whether they do that much good.
You can also try to avoid smartphones and laptops when it’s dark — something you should be doing anyway if you want to get a good night’s sleep.
“Every year, more than 2 million new cases of age-related macular degeneration are reported in the United States,” Karunarathne said, adding: “We hope to find a way to protect the vision of children growing up in a high-tech world.”
(Reuters Health) – Teens who spend lots of time surfing the web, playing games and chatting with friends on smartphones and tablets may be more likely to develop ADHD symptoms than youth who don’t, a U.S. study suggests.
Researchers followed more than 2,500 Los Angeles high school students over two years, asking about symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and their digital media habits.
None of the students had ADHD symptoms at the start of the study. Teens who reported frequent use of a wide variety of digital media platforms at the start of the study, however, were about 10 percent more likely to develop ADHD symptoms within the next two years, researchers report in JAMA.
“This study raises new concerns whether the proliferation of high-performance digital media technologies may be putting a new generation of youth at risk for ADHD,” said senior study author Adam Leventhal, director of the Health, Emotion, & Addiction Laboratory at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
“While digital media use in moderation might provide some benefits, like access to educational information or social support, excessive exposure to digital media entertainment could have adverse mental health consequences,” Leventhal said by email.
Older forms of screen time – like television watching and playing video games on consoles – have long been linked to an increased risk of ADHD and other emotional and behavioral problems, especially when teens are engaged in these activities for hours on end. But less is known about the long-term health effects of all the apps on smartphones and tablets.
A lot may depend on how often teens are being interrupted by beeps and buzzes from their phones, how they engage with their devices, and what types of social interactions they have in real life, Levanthal said.
Adolescents who are constantly getting notifications to check a message or do something with an app may lose their ability to focus and stay engaged in tasks like schoolwork for long periods of time, he said. Binge-watching videos, meanwhile, might interfere with the development of patience, impulse control, and the ability to delay gratification.
None of the students displayed symptoms of ADHD at the start of the study. Researchers assessed them with a standard questionnaire asking about symptoms like difficulty organizing and completing tasks, trouble remaining still or staying focused on activities.
Over the next two years, researchers surveyed teens every six months to see how often they did 14 different digital activities including texting, streaming videos or music, and sharing on social media.
High frequency users did these activities many times a day. Among 51 students in this category, about 11 percent developed ADHD symptoms by the end of the study.
Another 114 participants reported high frequency use of seven digital activities, and about 10 percent of these students also developed symptoms of ADHD during the study.
But among the 495 teens who didn’t do any of these activities frequently, slightly less than five percent developed ADHD symptoms.
The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how lots of screen time might directly cause symptoms of ADHD. It’s also possible some participants had undetected symptoms of ADHD when they joined the study or that teens who developed symptoms gravitated toward digital media as a result.
Even so, the results add to the evidence suggesting that parents should regulate how teens use smartphones and tablets, said Dr. Jenny Radesky, author of an accompanying editorial and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor.
“Rather than focusing on a time duration, I recommend that parents take stock of their family’s usual day, and identify where some downtime or single-tasking could occur,” Radesky said by email.
“Parents can take the lead and show their kids when and where they choose to create boundaries around media use (for example, putting their phone away during meals, or car rides, or setting an evening device curfew), and have their kids do the same,” Radesky advised.