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Mindful Yoga Can Reduce Risky Behaviors In Troubled Youth

For some young people, dealing with life stressors like exposure to violence and family disruption often means turning to negative, risky behaviors – yet little is known about what can intervene to stop this cycle.

But one long-term study by the University of Cincinnati looks at the link between stressful life events and an increase in substance abuse, risky sexual behaviors and delinquency in a diverse population of 18- to 24-year-old youths. The research also sheds light on distinct coping strategies that can lead to more positive outcomes.

As part of a 10-year study looking at risk-taking and decision-making – or the lack thereof – Jacinda Dariotis, UC public health researcher, spent 12 months focusing on early life stressors as a predictor of risky sexual behavior, substance abuse and delinquency for more than 125 at-risk youths. Surprisingly, she found a small number of the youths were already engaging in constructive coping behaviors on their own that will have positive outcomes later in life.

But what about the majority of troubled youth who cope by engaging in negative, risky and dangerous behaviors?

Results from the most recent segment of Dariotis’ study were presented at the American Public Health Association conference in Atlanta, under the title,”Stress coping strategies as mediators: Toward a better understanding of sexual, substance and delinquency-related risk-taking among transition-aged youth.”

The study revealed that in spite of early life stressors, positive coping behaviors, either learned or self-generated, can actually have a protective effect.

“We found that many of these youths who had endured stressful life events and otherwise would have fallen into the risky behavior trap could actually have positive outcomes later in life because they chose to join in prosocial physical activities, yoga or mindfulness meditation,” says Dariotis.

Risky outlets

During the study, Dariotis looked at the disconnect between the youths who had intended to have positive influences in their lives but continually found themselves engaged in behaviors that had negative outcomes. She found a link between stressful life events and increased risky unprotected sex, violence and substance abuse.

“We took a holistic approach, looking at these issues from a social and biological perspective,” says Dariotis, also director of UC’s College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services Evaluation Services Center. “In addition to question-and-answer information, we collected urine samples for drug use confirmation and testosterone levels early in the study to see how hormones played out in negative behaviors.”

According to Dariotis, testosterone can be influential in dominance and aggressive behaviors, but if directed through prosocial behaviors like sports, yoga or healthy competition it can have very positive outcomes.

“If you are the star on your sports team you are succeeding,” says Dariotis. “You can also be competitive academically where you succeed by competing with your peers.”

It’s not that testosterone itself is all bad but it depends on how it is channeled, she adds.

The right track

Before joining UC as an associate professor of research, Dariotis spent the last decade at Johns Hopkins University gathering most of the data that includes neuroimaging and weekly questioning for hundreds of youth from all walks of life.

“I’m particularly interested in teaching at-risk youths to regulate their thoughts, processes and emotions,” says Dariotis. “The neuroimaging allows us to see what’s activated in one’s brain while at rest or performing tasks to help us understand the intersection between hormones, brain structure and activity.”

Dariotis found that at-risk youth who voluntarily spend their time reading books, playing sports or engaged in avoidance coping behaviors were twice as likely to avoid risky sexual behaviors or substance abuse. An example of avoidance coping behaviors, she says, is not thinking about a bad event that had occurred and instead, thinking about what could be better.

Dariotis found youths who were unable to develop positive coping strategies were much more likely to turn to greater risk-taking behaviors that included unprotected sex or sex for money, substance abuse, violence and crime.

Saving time, money and lives

Participating in weekly mindful yoga intervention programs as part of the current study taught the youths how to take control of their breathing and their emotions and helped them develop healthier long-term coping skills.

“These findings highlight the importance of implementing positive coping strategies for at-risk youth particularly for reducing illicit drug use and risky sexual behavior,” says Dariotis. “Mindfulness-based yoga programs designed to improve the ability to cope are needed at earlier ages in schools to help vulnerable youths channel their skills more effectively.”

Given the relative low cost of such programs and easy adaptations to different populations and settings, Dariotis says the return on investment may be substantial especially if they can reduce arrests, repeat offenses and other negative outcomes for risk-taking youth.

Story Source:
Materials provided by University of Cincinnati.   Date:December 7, 2017
Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:
Jacinda K. Dariotis, Frances R. Chen, Douglas A. Granger. Latent trait testosterone among 18–24 year olds: Methodological considerations and risk associations. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 2016; 67: 1 DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2016.01.019

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3 Ways To Practice Living In The Now

If you haven’t read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, you’re missing out. This philosophic and somewhat spiritual book is a game-changer, which is probably why it spent years on the New York Times bestseller list and sold more than 3 million copies in North America alone.

I won’t give away too much here, but the general thesis of the book is that in order to achieve enlightenment, one really has to learn how to live in the now. It sounds simplistic, but Tolle elaborates on the idea to explain how far-reaching the consequences of future- and past-focused thinking actually are.

Whether you’ve read the book or not, you’re probably familiar with the concept of living in the now. It’s heralded as a solution to many of life’s problems, and yet for most of us, being entirely present is an immensely difficult task. If you’re struggling to live in the now, here are five tips for refocusing your thinking and re-immersing yourself in what IS, rather than what has been or what will be.

Focus on Your Breathing

It’s been said over and over again, but focusing on your breathing is a fantastic way to get into the present moment. When you focus intently on your inhales and exhales, you develop an awareness of your body that helps you to feel more rooted in exactly where your body is at this particular point in time. I could get into all the metaphorical reasons that breath is so central to yoga and other spiritual pursuits, but that’d be another article entirely. For now, suffice to say that training your mind to focus on the breath can be absolutely beneficial.

Some techniques to try include breathing up and down the spine (that is, focusing your mental energy along the spine as you inhale and then exhale), inhaling and exhaling in a deliberate, rhythmic manner, and noticing the way air comes into your body cool and leaves it warm.

Get Into Your Body

Have you ever noticed that when you’re forced to focus on a difficult physical task, such as moving a large piece of furniture or racing with a friend, your mind zooms in on the task at hand? This is because these adrenaline-pumping states force us into the now. One can hardly ruminate on past loves while she is focusing all of her attention on staying afloat when her canoe turns over.

Obviously, you don’t want to create dangerous situations for yourself, but difficult physical tasks that require all of your attention are a fabulous resource for jolting you into the now. Pick a favorite type of exercise and, as long as you’re physically able, take it to the next level. This is why yoga and mindfulness are so interrelated. The goal of yoga is to take you into the present moment, where you’re forced to focus on balancing and maintaining your form, and out of the caverns of your mind.

Watch Your Mind

It goes without saying that meditation is closely bound to living in the now. However, it can be very difficult for some people to achieve productive meditation. If you struggle with clearing your mind, try this little trick: Start to look at meditation not as clearing your mind, but watching your mind.

By this, I mean you should learn to observe your thoughts. Sit and meditate as if watching yourself from just above your head (your crown chakra, if you’re into that kind of thing). Learn to observe your brain no matter what happens. If a thought drifts in, take note of it and recognize it immediately. Then consciously let it go.

This extends into your daily life as well. Watch your mind in such a way that each time an angry or toxic thought enters your mind, you can immediately acknowledge it and dismiss it. Over time, this ability will result in healthier relationships, a better self-image, more realistic thinking and a generally more enlightened way of being.

By: Maggie McCracken       March 25, 2017
 
Follow Maggie at @MaggieBlogs
 
source: www.care2.com


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A 5-Minute Breathing Exercise To Reduce Stress

In yoga, we try to balance the flows of energy and awareness as we raise prana, or breath. Pranayama (“conscious breathing”) creates this balance by linking the body with the mind. Pranayama is the inhale, the exhale, and the suspension of the inhale and exhale. Performed correctly and gradually is to be freed from all disease.

In essence, without the breath, yoga would be no different than our traditional Western forms of exercise. The breath is the tool that unites body with mind. When linking breath with movement, we gradually develop a relationship with the length, depth and pace of our inhale and exhale. This synchronicity creates balance. Now let’s see what this mind-body connectivity hoopla is really all about!

To deepen your yoga practice, try this 6-step process once a day for 30 days:

  1. Pick your favorite seated yoga posture. Secure yourself safely in the posture.
  2. Close your eyes and breath naturally for a moment. As you do so, acknowledge your slowing pulse, become aware of how still your mind and body are, and absorb your connection to your entire being
  3. Now, deepen your breath, inhaling the breath from your belly into your chest. Feel the strength of your life force.
  4. Exhale slowly and completely through your nostrils, being patient with your release
  5. Still holding this posture, breathe deeply for at least 90 seconds. Watch the heat build. This is how we detoxify and purify the body.
  6. Notice any sensations and discomfort that arise in the body. Notice the mental discomfort as the ego wants to escape from the posture. Every breath is a source of valuable information for you.

 

d16c0-yoga-meditation-woman-mountain

Pranayama is also a powerful tool for developing mindfulness and witness consciousness.

The average person has between 40,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day.

(Take a moment to soak in thought #60,001.)

So what determines whether you’re having 40,000 or 60,000 thoughts?

You guessed it: the length, depth and pace of your breath.

The mind spends the majority of its time replaying memories of the past or projecting how events or moments in the future will unfold. These repetitive thought-cycles carry an emotional charge. Those that are negative and fear-based enslave us in negative habitual patterns of unconscious and subconscious behaviors.

And that kind of thinking certainly takes the fun out of life, doesn’t it?

In yoga, we call these Samskaras. As long as these particles containing these emotions, thoughts or desires are within, we will continue to be influenced by them at an unconscious level.

The past is our guide to healing. The breath is our tool for healing and transformation.

All we have is the present moment, which empowers conscious choice and transformation from the inside out.

So, maybe you’re not a yogi or yogini. Even so, a daily pranayama practice is one of the most valuable resources you have for your overall health and well-being. Conscious, mindful breathing allows you to organically raise energy levels in your body while activating the relaxation response, all designed to bring you maximum vitality.

Take five minutes for yourself every morning for a little mindful breathing and see how that elevates your workout, reduces stress, and helps you realign inside and out.

This is pranayama!


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Three Ways To Fight Disease With Your Mind

Three psychological approaches which improve health at the cellular level.

Practising mindfulness meditation, yoga or being involved in a support group have positive impacts at the cellular level in breast cancer, a new study finds.

The study, conducted at Canadian cancer centres, found that breast cancer survivors who practised meditation and yoga or took part in support groups had longer telomeres, part of the chromosome thought to be important in physical health.

Dr. Linda E. Carlson, who led the study, said:

“We already know that psychosocial interventions like mindfulness meditation will help you feel better mentally, but now for the first time we have evidence that they can also influence key aspects of your biology.”

The role of telomores — protein complexes that book-end the chromosomes — is not fully understood, but shortened telomores have been linked to cell ageing and disease states.

Dr. Carlson continued:

“It was surprising that we could see any difference in telomere length at all over the three-month period studied.
Further research is needed to better quantify these potential health benefits, but this is an exciting discovery that provides encouraging news.”

The study divided 88 breast cancer survivors into three groups (Carlson et al., 2014).

One group took part in eight weekly mindfulness meditation classes that lasted 90 minutes, which also included some gentle Hatha yoga.

Participants continued their mindfulness practice at home for 45 minutes a day.

Happy Thoughts

Another group went to a ‘Supportive Expressive Therapy’ group in which they talked openly about their concerns for 90 minutes over 12 weeks.

The aim of the group was to help the women express both positive and negative emotions with each other along with building mutual support between group members.

A third group — the control — took a single 5-hour stress reduction class.

The results showed that while telomore length had shortened in the control group, it was maintained in the support and meditation groups combined.

One of the study’s participants, Allison McPherson, who was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, said:

“I was skeptical at first and thought it was a bunch of hocus-pocus.
But I now practise mindfulness throughout the day and it’s reminded me to become less reactive and kinder toward myself and others.”

Another breast cancer survivor who took part, Deanne David, said:

“Being part of this made a huge difference to me.
I think people involved in their own cancer journey would benefit from learning more about mindfulness and connecting with others who are going through the same things.”


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10 Ways To Restore Energy When You’re Exhausted Or Burned Out

BY MARISSA HÅKANSSON      APRIL 5, 2013

You have the power to cultivate energy within your body in any moment. Even when you’re exhausted, burned out and feel like you’ve got nothing left to give, your body can guide you to a space of greater vitality, inner strength and wellbeing.

Here are some strategies that I’ve used in my own life to do just that:

1. Rest when your body says rest.

It’s important to follow your body’s cues on when you need to rest rather than pushing yourself beyond what you can handle and then crashing. If in doubt, rest. When you listen to your body and give yourself the rest you need, you’ll rebuild your energy over the long-term.

2. Cultivate stillness within you.

There’s an incredible healing power in stillness. Prioritize creating quiet spaces in your day where you can simply be still. Really allow yourself to feel the stillness around you, letting it soak into your body. Notice that you too, that you also hold a stillness within the core of who you are.

3. Practice whole-body breathing.

Each day, take time out to breathe consciously. Feel your breath inside your body and notice how far it reaches within you. With each inhalation and exhalation, feel your breath extend further into your body (until it feels like every cell in your whole body is breathing). Then relish that feeling of life within your body.

4. Nourish your body wholeheartedly.

Be conscious and heartfelt in how you nourish your body by choosing foods that feel inherently good for you. Notice which foods provide a sense of restoration and healing in your body. And if you’re unsure, ask your innermost self what your body needs in this moment.

5. Explore gentle and restorative movement.

Integrating gentle movement into your day can help you connect more fully with your body and self. Light walking, stretching, restorative yoga, and similar activities can be wholly supportive of you regaining energy in your body and life. Explore various types of movement and see what feels right for your body.

Yoga

6. Have compassion for your self.

We gain energy from love and compassion. Be gentle with yourself when you’re exhausted, and treat yourself kindly. Be kind in your thoughts and feelings towards your self as well as in your actions. Feel love and compassion in your heart and extend that warmth to yourself regularly.

7. Stop doing what drains you.

You’ll instantly feel lighter and more alive when you choose to stop doing what drains you. Be aware of how your body responds to various things, people, places and experiences in your life; genuinely consider whether they support and fulfill you, or deplete you of energy.

8. Nurture what inspires you.

The feeling of inspiration is energizing in itself. Get clear on what truly inspires you by checking for that feeling of energy deep in your body. It may show up as a burning desire or an inner knowledge of your truth, but once you’ve found it, feed and nurture it through your thoughts, energy, and actions.

9. Be vigilant with your time.

Learn to guard your time like the precious gift that it is. Choose wisely in how you spend it, ensuring that you schedule plenty time and space to care for yourself. Don’t be quick to give it away, but when you do, be sure to give it willingly from a place of wholeheartedness.

10. Look for a deeper meaning.

When you can see meaning in your experience of exhaustion or burnout, you’ll instantly feel lighter. Get curious about the lesson in this challenging time. When you do, you’ll feel a genuine appreciation for your experiences, knowing that you’ll grow and evolve as a result, and be able to contribute more fully to this world.


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9 Ways to Get Your Energy Back

Running on fumes? Here’s how to stop feeling so tired all the time.

By Peter Jaret     WebMD Feature     Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD

You’re only as old as you feel, the saying goes. But what if you feel old, tired, and rundown?

Fatigue is a common complaint, especially after people hit middle age. Fortunately, there are plenty of simple ways to boost energy. Some even slow the aging process.

Here’s how to refill your tank when your energy levels sputter.

1. Rule out health problems.

Fatigue is a common symptom of many illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, anemia, thyroid disease, and sleep apnea. Talk to your doctor if you feel unusually tired.

Many medications can contribute to fatigue. These include some blood pressure medicines, antihistamines, diuretics, and other drugs. If you begin to experience fatigue after starting a new medication, tell your doctor.

2. Get moving.

The last thing you may feel like doing when you’re tired is exercising. But many studies show that physical activity boosts energy levels.

“Exercise has consistently been linked to improved vigor and overall quality of life,” says Kerry J. Stewart, professor of medicine and director of clinical and research exercise physiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “People who become active have a greater sense of self-confidence. But exercise also improves the working efficiency of your heart, lungs, and muscles,” Stewart says. “That’s the equivalent of improving the fuel efficiency of a car. It gives you more energy for any kind of activity.”

3. Strike a pose.

Although almost any exercise is good, yoga may be especially effective for boosting energy. After six weeks of once-a-week yoga classes, volunteers in a British study reported improvements in clear-mindedness, energy, and confidence.

It’s never too late to try, either. University of Oregon researchers offered yoga instruction to 135 men and women ages 65 to 85. At the end of six months, participants reported an increased sense of well-being and a boost in overall energy.

4. Drink plenty of water.

Dehydration zaps energy and impairs physical performance. “Our research shows that dehydration makes it harder for athletes to complete a weight lifting workout,” says Dan Judelson, PhD, assistant professor of kinesiology at California State University at Fullerton. “It’s reasonable to think that dehydration causes fatigue even for people who are just doing chores.”

Dehydration has also been shown to decrease alertness and concentration.

How to know if you’re drinking enough water?“Urine should be pale yellow or straw colored,” Judelson says. “If it’s darker than that, you need to drink water.”

5. Get to bed early.

Lack of sleep increases the risk of accidents and is one of the leading causes of daytime fatigue. The solution: Get to bed early enough for a full night’s sleep.

When people enrolled in a 2004 Stanford University study were allowed to sleep as long as they wanted, they reported more vigor and less fatigue. Good sleep habits may also have important health benefits. Centenarians report better than average sleep.

If you do fall short on shut-eye, take a brief afternoon nap. Napping restores wakefulness and promotes performance and learning. A 10-minute nap is usually enough to boost energy. Don’t nap longer than 30 minutes, though, or you may have trouble sleeping that night. A nap followed by a cup of coffee may provide an even bigger energy boost, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

source: webmd.com