Friday, May 30, 2014

Bad Workout Habits

       8 Bad Workout Habits You Can Fix Today

Most of us are proud – and rightfully so – when we exercise. It’s not always easy, or fun, but we know it’s the right thing to do for our long-term health and mental well-being.

However, bad habits can make workouts less effective than they should be. Below are 8 of the most common exercise pitfalls that may be negatively affecting your gym time.
(But if you do find yourself falling into one of the bad fitness habits listed below, don’t beat yourself up! There’s plenty of time to adjust your routine to get its maximum benefit.)

1. Not feeling the burn

More commonly known as “undertraining,” not pushing yourself (i.e. feeling the burn) is a bad habit that can render a workout far less effective as it might otherwise be. Undertraining can include bad form or posture on various exercises or going through reps so quickly that your muscles aren’t properly challenged.

2. Overdoing it

On the flip side, however, many exercise aficionados think if working out some is good, working out MORE is better. This isn’t always the case.  Known as “overtraining,” committing yourself to too much activity can result in pulled muscles and weight room accidents. To ensure you’re not overdoing it, listen to your body and try to balance a gumption to improve with healthy caution.
 3. Not warming up
This is probably the most common bad habit around the gym – after all, you feel fine before you work out, and often don’t experience pain directly afterward.  (Two days later can be a different story.) But a warm-up routine is essential when preparing your body for a workout. Go through a full range of motion for every muscle group both before and after exercising. This will give your body the best chance for good health during the workout and good feeling after it.

4. Not drinking enough water

There is a reason water fountains are so common in gyms.  Becoming dehydrated is a major problem for exercisers – especially those engaging in particularly challenging workouts. As we sweat, our body discards toxins and cools itself through sweat. If we fail to replenish our body’s water (and remember, human bodies are over 50 percent water!), we risk lethargy, thirst, lightheadedness, and accidents.

5. Not varying your routine

When regularly going to the gym, it’s easy for people to get in a groove. Forgetting to vary the routine, however, can prevent you from getting the full benefit of a balanced workout (cardio, strength, etc.) as well as creating oddly over- and under-built body regions.
Why not try our intermediate AMT workout?

6. Having unreasonable expectations

Nothing proves to be a better demotivator than starting a routine with unreasonable expectations. While exercise goals are encouraged, good health is a long-term, continual process. If you head into the gym assuming you’ll be able to lose 10 pounds in a week, you’ll push yourself too hard and burn out fast. Develop goals that are reasonable, achievable, and long-lasting.

7. Not eating enough

People who exercise in order to lose weight may find it counterintuitive, but fasting before a workout can actually lead to a weight gain – low blood sugar makes you feel sluggish, which can lead to a less intense, shorter session.

8. Sitting between sets

While you should (as we noted above) listen to your body, you also need to maintain an elevated heart-rate during a workout in order to burn calories and attack fat. It’s very tempting to take a few moments of rest between reps, but in general, you should limit “down time” as much as possible. 

(NOTE: If you feel lightheaded or unbalanced, however, stop whatever you’re doing immediately.)


Sunday, May 4, 2014

How to safely open their hips without injuring their knees

Protecting your knees during yoga
Lotus Pose (Padmasana) is a supreme position for meditation, and Lotus variations of other asanas can be profound. However, forcing the legs into Lotus is one of the most dangerous things you can do in yoga. Each year, many yogis seriously injure their knees this way. Often the culprit is not the student but an overenthusiastic teacher physically pushing a student into the pose.
 Figure 1/Safe Knee Placement
 Figure 2/Unsafe Knee Placement
Fortunately, there are techniques that make Padmasana much safer to learn. Even if you don't teach full Lotus, you can use the same techniques to protect students in related postures, such as Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana (Half-Bound Half-Lotus Forward Bend)
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
and Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Pose)

These poses can do wonders for the hip joints and the muscles around them. Unfortunately, many students feel a painful pinching sensation in the inner knee in all of them. To understand why, and how to prevent it, consider the underlying anatomy.

The problem starts at the hip joint, where Lotus and its relatives require an astounding degree of mobility. When you move from a neutral, seated posture, such as Dandasana (Staff Pose) to Baddha Konasana, the ball-shaped head of the thighbone must rotate outward in the hip socket about 100 degrees. Bending the knee and placing the foot in preparation for Janu Sirsasana requires somewhat less external rotation, but as a student bends forward in the pose, the tilt of the pelvis relative to the femur brings the total rotation to about 115 degrees. 

Padmasana requires the same amount of external rotation (115 degrees) just sitting upright, and the angle of rotation is somewhat different, making it more challenging for many students. When we combine the Padmasana action with a forward bend, as we do in Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana, the total external rotation required at the hip joint jumps to about 145 degrees. To put this in perspective, imagine that if you could turn your thighs out 145 degrees while standing, your kneecaps and feet would end up pointing behind you!

If a student can achieve all of this outward rotation at the hip in Lotus, they can then safely lift the foot up and across onto the opposite thigh without bending the knee sideways (see Figure 1). Some people with naturally mobile hips can do this easily, but for most people, the thighbone stops rotating partway into the pose. This limitation may be due to tight muscles or tight ligaments or, in some cases, to bone-to-bone limitations deep in the hip. 

When the femur stops rotating, the only way to get the foot up higher is to bend the knee sideways. Knees are not designed to do this-they are only designed to flex and extend.

If an overzealous student continues to pull the foot up after his thigh stops externally rotating, or if a student or teacher forces the knee downward, the thighbone and shinbone will act like long levers that apply great force to the knee. Like a pair of long-handled bolt cutters, they will pinch the inner cartilage of the knee between the inner ends of the femur and tibia. 

In anatomical terms, the medial meniscus will be squeezed between the medial femoral condyle and the medial tibial condyle. In layman's terms, the inner ends of the thigh and shin will squeeze the inner cartilage of the knee. With even moderate force, this action can seriously damage the meniscus. Such injuries can be very painful, debilitating, and slow to heal.

Poses like Baddha Konasana and Janu Sirsasana can cause similar pinching. In these postures, we do not usually pull up on the foot, so the problem comes mainly from the lack of outward rotation of the thigh relative to the pelvis. Let's first look at Baddha Konasana.

Remember, to stay upright and stable while placing the feet in Baddha Konasana, the heads of the femurs will turn strongly outward-about 100 degrees-in the hip sockets. Because this requires so much flexibility of the entire hip region, many students instead allow the top rim of the pelvis to tilt backward while placing the feet in Baddha Konasana. They move the thighs and pelvis as a single unit. 

This requires little rotation of the heads of the femurs in the hip sockets, and it demands little flexibility. It also defeats the aim of mobilizing the hip joints and causes the entire spine to slump.

As a teacher, you may find yourself instructing the slumping student to tilt the top rim of the pelvis forward in order to bring them upright. If their hips are loose enough, this instruction won't create a problem; the pelvis will tilt forward, the thighs will remain externally rotated, and the spine will come upright. But if the hips are too tight, the femurs and pelvis will roll forward as a single unit. 

While the thighbones rotate forward, the shins will not, resulting in the aforementioned pinching in the inner knees. This explains why some students do not feel any knee pain in Baddha Konasana until they attempt to tilt the pelvis completely upright.Some students complain of knee pain only when they bend forward in poses that require external rotation. 

That's because a forward bend like Janu Sirsasana demands even more external rotation at the hip joint. Again, in the tight student, the pelvis and femur roll forward as a single unit, pinching the inner knee. Of course, in either Baddha Konasana or Janu Sirsasana, pushing the knee(s) downward makes the problem worse, because tight muscles make the femur rotate forward as it is pressed.

Now back to Lotus Pose. Forcing the knees into Padmasana by lifting up on the ankles can also injure the outside of the knee. When a student lifts the shinbone without adequately rotating the thigh, it not only closes the inner knee, it opens the outer knee, overstretching the lateral collateral ligament. If a student then forcibly turns the feet so the soles point upward (which people often do to get the feet higher up on the thighs), they can worsen the strain. 

This action of turning the soles actually pulls the anklebone away from the knee, creating a chain reaction all the way up to the lateral collateral ligament.

What's the solution? First, use common sense. Never force a student into Lotus or related poses, and discourage students from forcing themselves. Teach students not to push into pain, especially knee pain. Do not adjust the pose by pulling on the foot or ankle, nor by pushing down on the knee. Instead, either teacher or student should apply firm outward rotating action to the thigh, turning the femur around its long axis, using the hands or a strap.

If your student already has knee pain but can do basic standing poses comfortably, teach these poses first, with careful alignment. This can bring her a long way toward recovery. When you reintroduce problem seated poses such as Baddha Konasana and Janu Sirsasana, use the hands or a strap to apply the same outward rotating action described above for Lotus.

For students who are ready to learn Lotus, introduce it gradually, working from poses that require less external rotation at the hip (such as sitting in Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana without bending forward) to those that require more (such as full Padmasana). Wait until last to introduce poses that require the most external rotation (forward-bending variations of full Padmasana). As students are learning these poses, teach them to rotate their thighs outward either with a hands-on adjustment or a self-adjustment. Instruct them to monitor and avoid pinching sensations in the inner knees. 

Encourage your students to go slowly, be patient, and persist. In time, they may be able to sit comfortably and meditate deeply in Padmasana. If not, remind them that true meditation lies not in some specific posture but in the spirit of their practice. Help them find a posture that suits them, then guide them to settle in and experience the stillness that is yoga.

Why our joints cracking and popping?

There are two reasons why our joints crack and creak. One is that bones are rubbing together, and the other is that the bones of a joint are fixated. We will examine these one at a time.
Rubbing Bones
Most of the joint sounds we hear are due to bones rubbing. This is "friction popping." When we snap our fingers, we press our thumb and middle finger together hard enough to create friction. Then we try to overpower this friction with other muscles of the hand. This opposition of forces slightly bends the bones of the finger and thumb. When the two fingers finally slip past one another, the bones rebound violently and vibrate briefly, like tuning forks. This creates the snapping sound. 

The snapping of our fingers is not at all painful or harmful, but sometimes we inadvertently create these popping sounds in other joints, such as our elbows. When our elbow briefly "catches" and then pops, it can be quite surprising and even slightly painful if the vibrating bones press a nerve. 

The popping sound has the same cause as finger snapping: the two bones of the elbow are temporarily in friction, and when they release, they vibrate violently and we hear a "pop." 

A similar but more alarming instance of friction popping takes place in the knee. More specifically, it occurs in our patella, or kneecap. The patella sometimes rides up on the side of the groove it glides in and temporarily sticks there. It is being held on the lip of the groove by the pull of the thigh muscles. 

This is much like snapping our thumb and finger, but this moment is very brief because as the knee bends and moves, the patella loses its precarious balance of forces and "pops" violently back down into the groove where it belongs. There is nothing really harmful in this; the patella is not injuring the ligaments or cartilage. 

But it can be alarming for our knee to lock up for an instant and then release. At worst, there is a slight twinge to the tendon around the patella because it was stretched briefly. 

The most common place to hear friction popping is in our neck. Most of us can roll our heads and hear these sounds, although they are not as loud here because the forces of friction are not as great. The bones involved are the facets of the cervical vertebrae-typically several of them, which is why the noise sounds "crunchy," like walking on pebbles.
Is It Bad for You?
If our elbow or knee inadvertently pops, there is nothing to worry about. There is just enough slack in our joints that these twinges are inevitable, and no harm is done. But there is little value in consciously trying to make these sounds happen. Just as it takes a certain effort to snap our fingers, many people can pop their hips over and over by doing sit-ups or leg lifts. 
Other people can do similar things with their knees. This is not desirable. Even our thumb gets sore if we snap it enough. If a student insists on popping a joint repetitively, the joint may become inflamed and painful. This is because the body is trying to minimize the friction by swelling the fluid sacks that line our joints. These sacks are called bursae, and their inflamed condition is called bursitis. Bursitis most frequently occurs in the small joints of the shoulder and elbow. 

Bursitis is less likely to occur in the patella, but eventually the cartilage can become worn and irritated. This condition is called chondromalacia, and it makes the knee painful to bend.
What to Do?
If a student can pop a hip each time they do leg raises, they should try one of the following variations to avoid creating friction in the socket.
    1. Do leg raises with knees bent.
    2. Experiment by holding the legs slightly apart.
    3. Don't allow the legs to come too close to the 
        floor when bringing the feet down.
Friction in the patella can sometimes be avoided by turning the foot out slightly in Warrior poses and triangles. But due to a unique bone structure in every individual, it sometimes may be more helpful to turn the foot in, rather than out. Frequently, the strain on the patella also can be relieved by stepping backwards into Warrior, rather than forward. 

Stepping backward relaxes the strain on the bent front patella, allowing it to slide as it should with minimal friction.
Friction pops sometimes occur in the elbow or shoulder when practicing Chaturanga or Upward Dog. Asking a student to take their hands wider and their elbows out can help. This variation requires more strength to perform, so beginners may need to hold themselves on the knees, rather than feet. 
Joint Fixation
The second cause of joint popping is fixation. The bones of a fixated joint are temporarily stuck together due to suction, not friction. When this vacuum is broken, we hear a popping sound.
An everyday example of fixation is when the bottom of a glass of water sticks to the surface it is resting on. When two hard, smooth surfaces have a film of fluid between them, they can create a vacuum by forcing the fluid out to the edges. As long as the seal of fluid remains unbroken, the vacuum remains. If we are careful, we can lift quite a heavy plate by fixating a glass to it. 

Most of the joints of the body are ideally shaped for fixation to occur. The ends of the bones are lined with hard, smooth cartilage and the joint itself is filled with synovial fluid. This fluid is necessary to lubricate the joints and minimize friction, but if a joint is immobile long enough, then some of the fluid between the bones squeezes out and a temporary vacuum, or fixation, occurs. 

The most common places for fixation to occur are the fingers, toes, and joints of the spine and ribs. When fixation occurs, we typically feel "stuck" or "tight." This is because are joints are not moving. People who crack their knuckles are breaking the fixation that occurs in their fingers. People who "crack" their spines in a spinal twist are doing the same thing. It feels good to them, and there is no harm in it.
Know the Difference
There is an important difference between releasing fixation and friction popping. Once a fixation has been released, the joint will not pop again until it has rested, immobile, for some time. This is because it takes time for fixation to reoccur even when conditions are right. A glass of water, for example, will not instantly fixate to a plate. Releasing joint fixations is actually beneficial, because it allows the free functioning of the joints. 

Friction popping is not like fixation. It can be created at will. We can snap our finger and thumb as often as we like. If you or your students are able to repetitively pop a hip, knee, or neck, then it is undesirable friction popping. The occasional friction pop will do no harm, but be mindful that it does not become habit or a nervous twitch. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Is Milk Thistle Good for the Liver?

Our bodies face immense detoxification challenges in modern society. Auto exhaust, secondary cigarette smoke, alcohol, drugs, industrial solvents, pesticides, and even some of the water and food we consume are a constant burden on the organs that cleanse and detoxify our bodies (i.e., liver, kidneys, lungs, colon, etc.) Positive lifestyle choices, such as exercise and a healthy diet, certainly contribute to strengthening these systems. However, when pushed to the limit and beyond, these organs of detoxification require support.

The liver is our primary organ of detoxification helping remove toxins that can damage other organ systems, including the heart, blood vessels, eyes, and skin. Acting as an important filter and through a complex set of steps, the liver either neutralizes toxins and removes them from the bloodstream or converts them into water-soluble forms that can be excreted by the kidneys or fat-soluble forms that can be excreted by the bowels. Proper liver function is critical to healthy cholesterol metabolism and even has an influence on the way a woman's body metabolizes estrogen.

While alcohol and diseases such as hepatitis are among the more obvious deterrents to healthy liver function, its performance can become sluggish and compromised even in those without diagnosed liver disease. Toxic build-up can lead to fatigue, headaches, poor digestion, skin problems, and even impaired immune function. 

Milk thistle extract, with its active component silymarin, is nature's own liver supporter and protector. Already an established herbal treatment for conditions such as alcohol-related liver disease and chronic hepatitis, it has proved itself to optimize the function and maximize the detoxifying and cleansing potential of the liver.

Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) produces small hard fruits (sometimes referred to as seeds) from which highly concentrated extracts in herbal supplements are made today. While milk thistle seeds were used to promote liver health as far back as 2,000 years ago, modern use of the herb began in 1968 with the discovery of the bioflavonoid complex silymarin. Researchers discovered that its health benefits largely reside in this complex and has led to the development of highly concentrated extracts that are standardized to 80% silymarin.

Milk thistle extracts and silymarin exert their benefits in the following ways: 

Cell Protection: 
Directly aids liver cells by binding to the outside of cells and blocking the entrance of certain toxins. In addition, toxins that are already in liver cells are neutralized by silymarin. These actions also help protect against dangerous chemicals, such as carbon tetrachloride, alcohol, acetaminophen, and some commonly prescribed medications. Boosts Antioxidant Activity: 
It is particularly useful for increasing production of glutathione—a powerful antioxidant produced by the body, as well as increasing the levels of other antioxidants, such as superoxide dismutase. Cell Regeneration: 
Alcohol abuse, chronic hepatitis, and even commonly prescribed drugs , such as cholesterol-lower ing medications and antidepressants, can injure liver cells. Silymarin has the unique ability to help regenerate damaged liver cells. Anti-fibrotic Actions: 
Fibrosis is a process that occurs in the liver cells due to inflammation. The most common contributors to this process are alcohol abuse and chronic viral hepatitis (both B and C). By acting as a blocker, silymarin not only helps maintain liver health, but slows the progression of irreversible liver damage, also known as cirrhosis.

The best news is that studies show standardized milk thistle extracts are supportive of the primary treatment of liver diseases. I've been recommending milk thistle extract for years as a leading therapy for patients with alcohol abuse and/or alcohol related liver disease.

Another group of patients benefiting from on-going milk thistle extract treatment are chronic hepatitis B or C sufferers. While powerful antiviral and immune-stimulating drugs have become the standard in successful hepatitis C treatment, milk thistle extract provides a gentle insurance policy to stave off further liver injury and assist in the eventual return to more optimal liver function.

Use of milk thistle extract is not just limited to those with liver disease. It may help prevent the potential liver-damaging effects of certain medications, such as acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antidepressants, and cholesterol-lowering medications. Those with multiple chemical sensitivities, as well as those exposed to chemical toxins on the job, would also benefit from long-term use of milk thistle extract.

Finally, milk thistle extract is a safe focal point of any cleansing program. By increasing bile production (important for carrying toxins to the intestines for elimination) and increasing antioxidant activity, milk thistle extract helps promote liver cleansing and insures the best possible detoxifying action. 

The selection criteria to consider include a concentrated and standardized extract that contains 80% silymarin, as well as its quality and how bio-available it is to the liver. One product that meets all of these conditions is Thisilyn® from Nature's Way. 
A pioneer in milk thistle products in the U.S.,Thisilyn® is a well-researched extract that has been shown to dissolve quickly, making it easier to enter the blood stream and liver cells.

The clinically-proven dose of milk thistle is based on a daily dose of 420 mg of silymarin,usually delivered in three divided doses, and equates to 175 mg of Thisilyn® three times per day. 

Milk thistle extracts are very safe and virtually devoid of any side effects. Some persons may experience a mild, transient laxative effect during the first couple of days of use. This will usually cease within 2 to 3 days.