Turns out (once again) mother was right. For all the times I was reproved for slouching, I could of been strengthening my back and developing flat bikini worthy abs if I had only listened. Not to mentioned avoided the dreaded slouch lines permanently creased into my stomach now. Darn it!
Practicing good posture is a (relatively) easy way to strengthen your abs and entire core area and tighten that gut. For great posture: stand straight and hold your head and neck back, lift your chest up, keep your shoulders back, slightly pull your pelvis forward and breath in deep from your lower abdominals. For the best results, engage your abdominals throughout the day in everything you do and listen to the pilates gurus and suck in your lower abs while doing sit-ups and crunches.
Yoga is to the nineties as aerobics was to the eighties. There are similarities: both increase flexibility, both build strength, both develop muscle tone and both are a great excuse to wear something cute (if lycra G-strings were ever considered cute).
The big difference, of course, is that yoga offers something intangible. Possibly best classified under the umbrella of spirituality, it’s an innate awareness of our interconnectedness to the environment around us. To ensure that yoga doesn’t get Jane Fonda-rized, the Green Yoga Organization can help us to stay grounded to the true meaning of yoga.
You know you’re getting old when you start experiencing back pain. If middle-age had a calling card, I think it’s safe to say that chronic back pain would be it. As a child, I remember my father being hit every so often, and for a couple of weeks he’d be doubled over and super grouchy. Occasionally he’d seek relief from a chiropractor. Here in the States, it seems people prefer to load up on pills or use high-tech (and highly expensive) gadgetry.
I’m not here to tell anyone how to treat their pain, but it’s interesting to note that Americans spend a whopping $86 billion on back pain each year!
For those of us without that kind of coin, Forbes has some tips that might ease back pain while going easy on the pocketbook.
Prevention. That’s the most commonly used buzzword when it comes to skincare. Washing your face with the proper soap prevents clogged pores. Using the right moisturizer prevents wrinkles. Great advice if you’re just starting out, but what about those of us who’ve already overzealously worshipped the sun or partied a bit too much during college? What then?
The most common answers to this question “a healthy diet”, “at least eight glasses of water perday” and “plenty of rest”. But can healthy eating, adequate hydration and lots of sleep undo the effects of sun damage and a few too many Marlboro lights?
Here’s one for the pseudoscience file. Psychologists worldwide are increasingly buying in to the idea that a return to nature is the panacea for all of our human problems. Bogus? Well, I’m not a psychologist, but I know that there’s no single answer to our problems as modern humans.
I have worked with hundreds of at-risk teens in the woods and sat in countless meetings with their therapists. What I’ve found is that nature certainly has a place in rehabilitating people — especially teens — who have difficulties managing the crazy lifestyles we lead. What we shouldn’t be doing is diagnosing new diseases based on our lack of connection with nature and working forward with people from there. My favorite new diagnosis is “global warming anxiety”.
If you’re the type who looks to the New York Times Best Sellers list for reading ideas, you’re probably feeling very enlightened this week. Human awakening is a dominating theme on this week’s Paperback Advice grouping (four books out of ten, to be exact), celebrating the Skinny Bitches, the concept of a better world and Oprah.
Oprah Winfrey wrote a bestseller? What can’t she do?
She didn’t. (At least not yet.) But two of the top ten titles are the works of author and spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle, who’s teaming up with the talk show goddess to offer an exclusive online class on his latest guide, A New Earth.
Mmm… corn. How wonderful does a great, big, sweet, freshly barbequed yellow ear of corn sound to ya (especially one spliced with virus genes, and genetically engineered to include a little bit of insecticide in every kernel)? What? You don’t like virus genes? Oh, and come on — you really can’t even TASTE the Roundup residue. Okay, okay. So, maybe that’s not so wonderful. But regardless of wonderful, that’s exactly what 75% of the corn grown in the United States is: Genetically Modified (GMO). I’ll say it again: 75% percent. Out with the kitchen apron and in with the lab coat. And the worst part is, though you may have heard of GMOs, knowing whether or not you’re eating them is a different story, since the U.S. currently has no labeling requirements on food crafted from biotechnology.
Corn, soy, canola and cotton — these are the big four to remember. Aside from being the largest crops grown on American soil, they’re also the crops most frequently grown using Genetically Modified Seeds. Referred to as GE (Genetically Engineered) and GM or GMO (Genetically Modified), these new “plants” are made up of DNA that’s been spliced with all kinds of different genes in the hope of making the crop hardier and more profitable. “Potatoes may be spliced with chicken genes, tomatoes spliced with fish genes, corn spliced with ‘virus’ genes, pigs spliced with human genes… bacteria, insect and animal combinations, and various plant combinations [are] produced.” (via Safe 2 Use)
Yoga postures are often named for mythological figures in the hope that practicing them might help us attain some of their heroic attributes. The story of the fish Matsyendra highlights the virtues of concentration and stillness — and offers a parable for the transformative power of yoga.
According to the ancient tale, the Hindu deity Shiva was on an island, explaining the mysteries of yoga to his consort Parvati. A fish near the shore remained motionless and listened with rapt attention. When Shiva realized that the fish had learned yoga, he blessed it as Matsyendra, Lord of the Fishes. The fish then took a divine form, came on land, and assumed a seated spinal twisting posture that allowed him to fully absorb the teachings. Yogic lore credits this twist, called Paripurna Matsyendrasana (Complete Lord of the Fishes Pose) with such important benefits that it is one of the few asanas described in a seminal 14th-century manual on yoga called the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. This classic guide anoints Matsyendra as the first human teacher of hatha yoga and says that the posture dedicated to him fans the gastric fire, cures all diseases, and awakens kundalini shakti, the dormant feminine energy coiled at the base of the spine in the form of a serpent. Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose) is a milder version of this twist.
For those of us looking to find an excuse, any excuse, not to ride our bikes — too far, too hot, too many cars, helmet hair — spare a thought for our bicycled brethren, or “wheelmen”, of the late 1800s, who braved “rutted roads of gravel and dirt and faced antagonism from horsemen, wagon drivers, and pedestrians”. It’s a great opportunity to pay tribute to our two-wheeled predecessors of The League of American Bicyclists (who lobbied for paved roads, amongst other things) by partaking in Bike to Work week, running May 12-16, or for the more unfit/realistic among us, Bike to Work Day on May 16th. The Bike to Work efforts are part of The League of American Bicyclists broader Bike Month initiative. Their website offers 50 ways to inspire us all to ride bikes, ranging from the serious to, quite frankly, the rather silly. Suggestions include: riding with your child to school (good idea); planning a cycling vacation (sure); wearing spandex to your next board meeting (I think this one’s more of a deterrent); renting a classic bicycling movie (couch potatoes love the vicarious biking experience); and decorating a cake with a bicycle theme (surely this one is a cop out!). Maybe I’m being harsh. Or maybe the League just has a wicked sense of humor.
If you need more encouragement, here’re a few suggestions of my own. Riding a bike will help you: save money — with gas heading to whopping $4 a gallon, driving a car is expensive but riding a bike is free; lose weight — downing a caramel latte and a muffin on your morning motor vehicle commute adds calories, whereas a 30 minute bike ride burns 150 calories or more; and finally, saving the environment — forget your age or your shoe size, your carbon footprint is the figure du jour, and as peddle power generates no carbon emissions, you can feel good about planetary well-being.
As for me, I thankfully have an excuse. I’m working from home next week. True story.
You know how it is with celebrities. We want what they have. Keira Knightley shops with a Anya Hindmarsh tote. Must own. Cameron Diaz buys a Prius in powder blue. Must drive. Brad Pitt volunteers in New Orleans. Must donate. Lindsay Lohan wears black spandex leggings for a month. Okay, we’re passing on that one. But you know what I’m saying: celebrities wield immense power to make us mere civilians suggestible to (almost) anything, even… exercise.
Who better to inspire us to hit the gym or ride a bike or something than Britney, Mario and Kim? And here are all the sweaty details. (Hooray — finally, some positive news surrounding Ms. Spears!) It seems the songstress of toxic fame (that’s a reference to one of her songs, I’m not just being mean) has impressed her trainer Marx Corliss with her dedication, shedding 15 pounds in four weeks by way of 500 abdominal exercises a day. Ouch. Well, that’s one way to burn off all those Starbucks beverages and Cheetos.
Remember when the term “supermodel” meant something? Namely, Linda, Christy, Naomi, Claudia, Cindy and Kate? Now the word is so overused, there must hundreds of so-called “supermodels” in the skies, on the runways and at the end of cigarettes. Well, the same thing is happening with “superfoods”. Suddenly, there seems to be a lot of them out there. Like mushrooms. But are they really a “superfood”? Let’s see…
Before we embark on their health giving properties, here’s a bit of interesting background on the ‘shroom, kindly sent to us by Mushroom Matrix. Did you know that mushrooms are neither a plant nor an animal, but in fact have their own kingdom? In the 1960s, they were given special classification as the “Kingdom of Fungi”. With an estimated 1.5-2 million species on earth, fungi could theoretically outnumber plants 6 to 1. And just like animals, they inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide.
It’s that time of year again. Just as all the trees burst forth with flowers and brilliantly colored buds open wide to catch the warm sun, I, in turn, blossom into a sneezing, watery-eyed, allergic phlegm-ball. Nature can be so cruel.
Seasonal allergies are the result of excessive immune response to substances that are not normally harmful — like pollen. Daniel Gagnon, the medicinal herbalist for Herbs Etc., puts it well: “Think of it as having a fly in the house. Instead of using a fly swatter to get rid of it, a shotgun is used to dispose of the intruder. You may get rid of the fly, but the damage to the room will be extensive.” The damage Daniel is referring to is the unfortunate result of a stressed out immune system, often leading to compromised immunity and weakened adrenal glands. Annoying sniffles aside, fighting allergies often leaves the body tired and more exposed to new allergies as well as illness.