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Yoga Helps Stroke Survivors Regain Balance, Coordination and Independence

The benefits of yoga continue to stretch across all walks of life. From teenagers needing a boost in self-esteem, to breast cancer survivors needing to relieve anxiety, yoga is not something to shun as some kind of weird activity with heavy spiritual undertones.

According to a recent study in Stroke, a journal of the American Heart Association, stroke survivors reduced their level of post-stroke disability by participating in a regular yoga routine. Survivors of a stroke often lose balance and coordination due to the damage that can arise within the brain. This leads to a greater risk of falling, potential dependence on a caregiver, and an increase in stress and tension that can contribute to depression and anxiety.

In the study, two groups of stroke survivors practiced yoga or yoga and relaxation. The other group, the control group, just received standard post-stroke medical care. After a battery of tests, both the yoga and the yoga and relaxation group showed improvements in balance, coordination, and reported feeling independent and empowered.
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Yoga Hits a Home Run With Baseball Players

Evan Longoria used yoga to rehab his left foot

Major League baseball players are coining the phrase “flexibility is the new strength” and adding yoga, stretching, and Pilates to their off season and spring training regimes. Baseball manager Joe Maddon said in 2007, when yoga was first introduced as an official part of the training program, that he expected yoga and stretching to soon be as mainstream as weight lifting for strength, and his assumption is now a reality.

The Devil Rays’ third basemen Evan Longoria is one player who first took yoga seriously as a way to find a little peace and contentment through the stressful baseball season. Needing to rehab his left foot, Longoria focused on functional movements and stability therapy, adding that doing yoga in a hot room for over an hour was no easy task, but also provided many benefits beyond peace of mind.

Many other baseball players have followed the lead of Longoria and used yoga or Pilates as part of their offseason training. Jimmy Rollins practiced yoga following an injury and went on to playing 142 more games after making a strong comeback. Jim Thome practiced both yoga and Pilates to better prepare his 41-year-old body for playing first base, and Alex Rodriquez, Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson have also reportedly added more flexibility to their training.


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Common Yoga Misconceptions Clarified

The following is a compilation of some of the most common misconceptions about yoga I come across, and my responses to them.

“I can’t even touch my toes, how am I supposed to do yoga?”

This is a very popular fear and misconception that keeps people from trying yoga for the first time. While flexibility is important to perform certain poses, no teacher expects a new student to be super limber. Flexibility comes with time and practice; it is not a requirement to walk in the door.

“Yoga is too hard.”

Some styles of yoga are very challenging, however other styles such as Hatha, Yin and Restorative Yoga are gentle, and offer a great starting point to build up strength and stamina for harder classes.

“Just sitting there and breathing is not my thing, I need something more active.”

If you want a hard workout that challenges every single muscle group and more, seek an Ashtanga, Power Vinyasa or Bikram Yoga class. These classes are not for the timid and do require a moderate to high level of fitness to attend.


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Yoga for Chefs, Prep Cooks and Other Kitchen Workers

Standing for eight hours while hovering over a counter with a butcher knife in one hand and a sauté pan in the other can put the kibosh on the kebobs.

Chefs, prep cooks and other kitchen workers will find the following yoga poses helpful in maintaining vitality so their energy doesn’t sink like a tired soufflé.

Poses to Practice in the Kitchen

For a tight lower back, place both hands shoulder width apart on the edge of a clean and solid counter. Step back about a leg length in distance from the counter and fold forward from your hips so that your spine is parallel to the floor with both arms straight. Hold this stretch for up to one minute while breathing deeply. Repeat as often as you can throughout your work shift.


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Yoga for Inflexible Men

I see it quite often. Women drag their reluctant husbands to yoga only to find them wilting in a puddle of sweat. At the end of class, while the women glow and prance nimbly out of the studio, the men, hobbling to the door, are left feeling defeated.

Men are typically so much stronger than women, yet some struggle gravely in yoga. So why is this?

Flexibility vs. Strength

While men might be stronger overall, women tend to be more flexible. Many yoga poses require less brawn and more give to finesse. Often, men are programmed to muscle through physical challenges, relying on rote strength and manliness to get the job done. In yoga, women take the path of least resistance, using their litheness as an advantage.

When the bones of the body are correctly aligned in a yoga pose, little effort is needed to maintain the pose. However, bones can only be aligned properly if the muscles surrounding them are limber enough to permit it. Tight muscles tend to pull bones out of alignment, therefore causing one to use more energy to hold the pose for an extended amount of time. And since yoga poses are often held for durations of up to three minutes, wasting energy due to improper alignment can sap anyone’s strength in a hurry.


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