Research Proves that Yoga Helps Us Live Longer

We’ve all heard that yoga is good for us. Right? And we don’t need to read the research to know that there are specific things about the practice that contribute to a better life. Things like:

  • Pain relief
  • Self-acceptance
  • Nixing negative self-talk
  • Body awareness
  • Learning to be full— grateful, mindful, and thankful

And more!

We even know that yoga is amazing at actively reducing stress. But what you may not know, is that it’s scientifically proven to do so; that there is a huge correlation between those who do yoga, and those who live longer. Here’s why:

Breath = Improved Mental Health

In an American research study conducted in 2009, researchers concluded that conscious “breath work can affect longevity mechanisms.”[i] They also provide clinical evidence that links yoga breathing to the positive treatment of “depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and for victims of mass disasters.”[ii]

Poor mental health is associated with a decreased life expectancy, but the opposite is also true. If you can improve your state of mind by practicing yoga, then you’re making conscious and mindful strides towards a longer, healthier life.

Meditation = Stress Relief + Clarity

Another research study conducted in 2009 found that meditation can ultimately be linked to slower cellular aging. The idea is this: how slow or fast one ages is determined primarily by one’s telomere length. The telomeres in a person who experience consistent stress are significantly shorter than those who perceive themselves to be “stress-free.”[iii]

“We can actively change the length of our telomeres by changing our lifestyle habits.”

Meditation is an effective way to reverse the aging process by helping to assist us in dealing with our stress, and enabling us to think more clearly about what we prioritize.

Exercise = Decreased Body Mass + Medication

Yoga lowers your body mass index (BMI). In 2011, the International Journal of Yoga published a research study that concluded that regular and consistent yoga practice was a predictor of “lower body mass index and reduced medication use in women over 45 years.”[iv]

Since both higher body mass indexes and regular commercial medication use has been linked to a shorter lifespan, this means that yoga helps you to live longer.

So there you have it! Three scientifically-proven ways that yoga helps us increase our longevity.

Namaste.

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References:

[i] http://www.readcube.com/articles/10.1111%2Fj.1749-6632.2009.04394.x?r3_referer=wol&tracking_action=preview_click&show_checkout=1&purchase_referrer=onlinelibrary.wiley.com&purchase_site_license=LICENSE_DENIED_NO_CUSTOMER

[ii] http://www.readcube.com/articles/10.1111%2Fj.1749-6632.2009.04394.x?r3_referer=wol&tracking_action=preview_click&show_checkout=1&purchase_referrer=onlinelibrary.wiley.com&purchase_site_license=LICENSE_DENIED_NO_CUSTOMER

[iii] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04414.x/full

[iv] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3193658/

Mental Toughness for Young Athletes

Physical strength is a quality that most athletes strive for. They train for it, they eat for it, and they live a life that contributes to healthy growth and repair.

But what about mental strength?

The kind of strength it takes to keep competing, even when it becomes more difficult than it was when the commitment was originally made? To be consistently focused on the desired result, to know that each experience brings wisdom and builds character, and to have the bandwidth and energy to remain motivated and inspired? To have the skills and support to be able to handle the pressures and demands that today’s young athletes are subject to?

Mental Toughness for Young Athletes

This type of toughness—mental toughness—is what clearly separates athletes who succeed in all areas of their lives (not just in sports), and those who don’t. A great definition of mental toughness (taken from Building Mental Toughness) is as follows:

“A mental ability to overcome adversity and persevere through difficult and challenging situations or circumstances, to remain focused on the goal.”1

So how do we emphasize mental toughness and teach our kids that our minds are more powerful than our bodies will ever be?

One way, is to help your child or athletes routinely ask themselves the following questions:

  • What routines can you implement into your daily life?
  • How do you get focused for each day?
  • Are you aware of your goals and targets?
  • Do you have a plan of attack?
  • How do you respond to stressors?
  • Do you remain strong under pressure?

This helps young athletes to stay positive, and focus on their own process.

Tips and Tools for Mental Resilience

Other ways to improve one’s mental resilience, is to:

Breathe: Remember that increased oxygen lends to a calmer, more relaxed state of mind. Learning to consciously breathe in times of stress can be a fabulous tool to not only teach young athletes, but every adolescent.

Exercise: This may sound redundant when referring to athletes, but exercise that isn’t part of their daily or weekly program can be stress-relieving and enjoyable. Yoga and Tai Chi are both examples of highly beneficial supplementary exercise programs.

Be present: By not multitasking, young athletes are better able to be in the moment and consciously enjoy it. Mindfully keeping oneself in the present is another great tool for anyone, not just athletes.

Stay focused: This is important in maintaining mental toughness. Staying focused on the original intent and desired result can help aid in decision-making and prioritizing.

Manage expectations: Start small, and build to bigger and better goals. By making goals realistic, you increase your chances of attaining them, which builds self-confidence and drive.

Practice positive self-talk: Mostly, because negative self-talk will only be harmful. Positive self-talk increases self-confidence, which is paramount when it comes to succeeding as an athlete.

Get out of your comfort zone: Surprisingly (or not), stretching your comfort zone results in higher confidence and lends to a better variety of experiences. When equipped with the right tools to navigate the expansion of one’s comfort zone, the results can be thoroughly enjoyable and confidence-boosting, and assist in building mental toughness.

Keep perspective: Above all, remind young athletes that life is about more than the game. It’s about friends, family, experiences, and growth. One loss is not the end of the world—grow from it. Not being able to participate in a particular event will not end your dreams—learn from it.

Reinforce to your young athletes that mental toughness is a skill that’s cultivated—and the people that focus on it and mindfully improve upon it will ultimately reap the rewards.

Namaste.

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References:

1- http://buildingmentaltoughness.com/what-is-mental-toughness/

4 Yoga-Inspired Smoothie Recipes

If you’re practicing yoga on a regular basis, chances are you’re a fairly health-conscious person. So at Parallel Yoga, we’ve come up with 4 smoothie recipes fit for a yogi! The following smoothies are delicious, nutritious, and full of yoga-inspired goodness.

Please give them a try and let us know what you think!

Green smoothie

Green from A to Zen

As the name may imply, this smoothie has everything in it to get your body to where it needs to be. It can serve as a full meal replacement, and because the nutrients are blended, it can be absorbed and used by your body almost immediately. (No heavy digestion necessary!)

Between this smoothie and your deep, conscious breathing, you’re giving your body an excellent start to the day. Throw a little yoga class in there, and your body will love you. Go find your zen with this smoothie.

Ingredients

  • Handful fresh spinach
  • 1 kale leaf
  • ½ cup frozen blueberries
  • ½ cup frozen pineapple
  • 1 cup coconut water
  • 1 scoop unsweetened hemp protein powder (like Vega)
  • 1 tsp. chia seeds and/or shredded coconut (to garnish)

Method

  1. Combine first 6 ingredients in blender.
  2. Blend until smooth.
  3. Sprinkle with chia seeds (or coconut) to garnish, and enjoy right away.

 Banana oatmeal smoothie

Breathe & Banana

This banana-heavy smoothie is chill and full of protein and potassium—a mineral imperative for great heart health, and for facilitating the conduction of impulses in nerve cells.

“Deficiencies of potassium have been linked to an increased risk of hypertension, kidney stones, osteoporosis, carbohydrate intolerance, stroke and cardiovascular disease.” (1)

This smoothie is a great heart helper!

Ingredients

  • 1 frozen banana (peeled)
  • ¼ cup rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp. almond butter
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 tbsp. chopped walnuts and/or a sprinkle of oats (to garnish)

Method

  1. Combine the first 4 ingredients in blender.
  2. Blend until smooth.
  3. Garnish with a walnuts (or oats), and drink immediately.

 Raspberry smoothie bowl

Yin/Yang Smoothie Bowl

Sometimes you want smooth, and sometimes you want a little crunch. This smoothie bowl gives you the best of both worlds!

Ingredients

  • 1 frozen banana (peeled)
  • 6 frozen strawberries
  • ¼ cup pomegranate seeds
  • ½ cup vanilla soy milk
  • 1 tbsp. chopped pecans (to garnish)
  • 1 tbsp. Pepita (pumpkin) seeds (to garnish)
  • 1 tbsp. hemp hearts (to garnish)

Method

  1. Combine the first 4 ingredients into a high-speed blender (like a Vitamix).
  2. Blend until thick and smooth, adding a little more soy milk if necessary.
  3. Spoon into a bowl, and garnish with pecans, pepitas, and hemp hearts.
  4. Eat with a spoon, and love every second of it.

*If you want even more crunch, feel free to add some granola.

 Smoothie

The Tropi-Calm

Similar to Breathe & Banana, the Tropi-Calm is a calming, muted smoothie that is high in vitamin C and iron—both of which need each other to be absorbed properly. Think of this smoothie as centered, balanced, and perfect for restoring harmony in your body.

Enjoy.

Ingredients

  • 1 banana
  • ½ cup frozen pineapple
  • 1 mandarin orange
  • 1 cup pure coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp. unsweetened, shredded coconut (to garnish)
  • 3 chopped dried apricots and/or slice of orange (to garnish)

Method

  1. Blend first 4 ingredients well.
  2. Pour into glass, and garnish with coconut, apricots and orange slices.
  3. Drink immediately!

References:

1- http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/potassium-good-body-6475.html

 

Yoga for the Brain

Any yogi out there knows that yoga works to tone muscles—all muscles—even muscles you didn’t know you had. (Am I right, or am I right?!) BUT: yoga is also a brain toner. Although today’s society places enormous value on being physically fit, a happy and healthy life is about achieving and maintaining a solid degree of mental health, too.

You might not see it, but our brains need fitness!

Yoga is amazing for working on the state of our mental health, and for many reasons. These include the following:

The very nature of yoga is mentally calming.

Think about it: yoga is a slow practice, with many poses held for a minute or longer. You are encouraged to breathe, clear your mind, and to focus on yourself. There is often calming, meditative music accompanying the class, and no one is forced to do anything that might be outside of what might be realistic for their own body.

If you come to class with your mind racing, you can pretty much bet money that it will not be when you leave, not that we’re encouraging gambling.

Yoga for the Brain

Yoga incorporates physical poses with mental strength and stability.

Often while being talked through a specific pose, the instructor will ask students to clear their minds, focus on the pose, breathe through it, and to acknowledge then send away outside thoughts not pertaining to the moment.

This builds mental strength.

When you can recognize a random thought, and mentally be capable of pushing it away for the purpose of maintaining a clear and positive mind, that’s amazing! By practicing yoga, we learn how to control negative thoughts and how to create and seek positive ones.

Honestly, it’s like free therapy with a side of stretch.

It forces you to breathe, and take a minute.

For those of us who are a little (or a lot) type-A, we sometimes need to be told to chill. We value lists and productivity and usually forget to take time to just be.

Yoga helps with that!

Think of savasana. Unless you want to be busted getting up and leaving in the last 5-10 minutes of your class, you have no choice but to lie down, get comfortable, and zone out. And? It’s considered just as valuable, if not more, than the rest of the class was.

Savasana

Many poses allow for increased blood circulation to the brain.

Poses such as forward fold, downward dog, wheel, and others inherently increase blood flow and therefore oxygen to the brain. By being in a position where your head is physically below your heart, your brain reaps the rewards of extra oxygen circulation.

I mean, if our brain was where our feet are, we’d probably all be geniuses and very mentally healthy. Yoga helps us switch it up every once in a while!

Here’s the bottom line: yoga is not just a physical practice—it’s a mental one, too. The more you attend yoga, the stronger you can become everywhere. We might be a little biased at Parallel Yoga, but we think yoga should be covered by our medical plans. Right?! (Maybe we should all lobby for this…)

Namaste. Go feed your brain some yoga!

3 Big Reasons You Should Take Care of Yourself First

Even writing this title made me initially feel kind of selfish, because somewhere along the line, we’ve been taught to take care of others first, and ourselves second. But lately, I’ve been learning that this is a recipe for disaster. Because as much as you might want to make sure every little thing  is perfect for everyone else, the fact is, it will never be close to great if you’re exhausted, resentful, and unrealistic about how much you can take on.

It’s exactly like you hear in every single airplane spiel you’re forced to endure before taking off: in the case of an emergency, put the oxygen mask on yourself first; help others around you second. Here are 3 reasons why practicing self-care is not only necessary, it’s critical:

burn out

If You Don’t, You’ll Burn Out

Sure, you may attend every PAC meeting out there, make homemade scones for breakfast every morning, and throw the best dinner parties on your block. But have you meditated lately? Or just sat and consciously breathed for a few minutes? Or attended a yoga class?

Running around and making everyone else’s life easy and breezy may be fun, and you might enjoy the praise, but you will burn out. Make sure to take the time to get proper rest, eat nutritious meals, and do a little soul searching once in a while.

If you don’t, you’ll feel it sooner or later.

Good Mental Health is the Foundation of a Good Life

No one can improve this but you—you need to make a specific, conscious decision to be mentally and emotionally healthy. Everyone strives for physical health, but what about mental health? Mental health is more important, because if you do encounter a physical health problem down the road, good mental health allows you to maintain a positive attitude and make good decisions for yourself.

To make sure you stay on the path to good mental health, practice it daily. Write in a journal every night. Be thankful. Show others that you’re grateful for their love and support. Attend yoga classes regularly, and do other forms of exercise, too.

Working out definitely lends to increased physical health, but even more important, it helps to strengthen your mind.

Earthy background and design element depicting the words "We are

You Teach Your Children and Partner to Respect Themselves

When other people see you make the consistent and conscious decision to take care of yourself first, they will naturally want to do the same. Show your family that meditation is a worthy practice. Cook great, healthy food and eat it regularly. Teach your children how to close their eyes and breathe in deeply to help calm themselves, or even just to feel better.

It’s so important that we practice what we preach around our families; it’s the only way to ensure that good self-care habits are routinely part of our family life. The last thing we want to do is teach our kids how to be stressed out or grow up needing to be viewed as perfect. So don’t! Instead, show the people around you (the ones you actually love and care about) that you value self-care.

Namaste.

5 Ways to Create a Zen Space at Home

We all need a space in our homes to dedicate solely to mental and physical health. Why? Because whether you lead a busy and stressful life or a simple and relatively drama-free one, having a space where you can find Zen, meditate, breathe, stretch, and commit to your yoga practice if only for 5 minutes a day is important, and should be prioritized.

You don’t need a large space for this. If you’re thinking that we’re suggesting you dedicate an entire room to this concept (although that would be awesome), we’re not. But we all need a quiet corner to seek peace and tranquility on a daily basis.

Here are 5 ways to carve out a calm space in your home, so that you can get your Zen on as often as you’d like:

Carve out a Corner

Simple spaces

Find a space in your house where you can be by yourself. If you’re a parent, this usually means the bedroom or another room that your kids don’t frequent often. (Because let’s face it—we love them, but they are the opposite of Zen-promoting.)

The space you choose should be one you love, and one that makes you feel good. Once you nail down a space, make it your own. Here’s how:

Let in the Natural Light

Open those blinds, crack the windows, and let the fresh air and light shine in. Light is proven to immediately affect mood. Think about it: are you generally happier on a dark, blustery day, or a sunny, light one?

Natural light plays a major role in regulating mood and even our hormones. Without the benefit of consistent natural light, we can suffer health consequences, such as depression, insomnia, and weight gain.

Go Green

go green

Keeping some greenery thoughtfully placed around your space may help you feel more Zen. We are naturally connected to the earth, and her creations can help us feel calm and in sync with nature.

Countless studies have found that benefits to keeping plants in indoors spaces include lower blood pressure, increased attentiveness, lessened anxiety, and increased environmental mindfulness. If you think your space is too small, check THIS out and get creative.

Keep it Simple

This is imperative. Think of any yoga studio you’ve ever been in: a resounding theme is one of wide, open spaces, simplistic décor, and flat, clean walls. Even the colours are similar: generally, light colours and simple/no textures.

When you live in a simple space, it gives your brain less external stimuli to work through, and more time to process other things. (It’s like your digestive system: give it a ton to work with, and all your energy is diverted to processing food. If you eat simply with the idea that less is more, your energy can be reserved for other bodily processes, and not just focused on digesting that huge meal.)

Tailor your Tunes

Any yogi would agree that music plays a massive part in the Zen-making experience. So making sure your tunes are in line with your intentions—to be calm, focused, and introspective—is an important part of cultivating a space where you can collect yourself and increase the Zen.

Because we all need to feel Zen every day, for at least a few minutes. Right? If you’ve read through this blog post and are unsure of what exactly ‘Zen’ is, then click HERE.

Namaste.