Yoga

Yoga is a form of exercise that benefits your body, mind, and soul.  Its combination of muscle-focused strengthening exercises, breathing, and relaxation techniques have been proven to reduce tension and stress and help individuals who practice it be healthier mentally and physically.

Yoga has been proven to provide reliefe for arthritis, asthma, pain, high blood pressure, and depression.  It can ease the symptoms of diabetes, heart disease, and even migraines and other chronic headaches.  Yoga has even been shown to have positive results for those suffering from multiple sclerosis and other neural conditions.  Yoga also has the added benefit of improving self-esteem, concentration, and the immune system.

Yoga was developed in the country of India.  It is as much a spiritual practice as it is an exercise, and preaches love, compassion, and tolerance in addition to calming the soul, body, and mind. It was  originally designed in order for the followers to have a deeply spiritual experience.  Whether you are seeking the spiritual experience or not yoga can provide you with a path to healthier living, because no matter what else yoga is, it helps you feel better in both your body and your mind.
To do yoga, you either need to go to a yoga studio or class or buy an instructional yoga video.  For the woman who is more reserved, because of the nature of some of the positions involved, trying it first with a video inside your own home might be advisable.  Whether you go to a studio or practice yoga from home, it is best to invest in an exercise mat, which can be attained at nearly any store that has a small fitness department or sports section.

The most wonderful thing about yoga is that even if you have very little time – 15 minutes every morning, or 30 minutes at the end of each week – you will still notice the benefits of practicing yoga.  The physical motions of yoga will improve the function of your body; the breathing exercises of yoga will help you remove the stress from your life; the clearing of your mind will help you concentrate and stay more sharply focused.  These benefits are experienced even once you have completed your yoga practice.

Adding yoga to your fitness plan is a great place to start for those who are feeling the pressure of the world. What you may discover is that the more you practice yoga, the more you want to practice yoga.  You’ll find it easier to relax, you’ll notice improved flexibility; you may even begin to notice a new calm about you that stays with you.

For the over 40 woman, I would strongly recommend that you include yoga in your fitness program.  As you know, as women get older they start to lose muscle mass and also bone density.  The practice of yoga is a great way to combat these occurrences especially for women who don’t feel capable of dealing with the more stressful forms of exercise. Idealy yoga should be seen as an addition to your fitness routine rather than as a substitute of any other forms of exercise.

Try not to be intimidated by the mental picture you may have developed of yoga.  Often times we see yogi practitioners who are able to coax their bodies into impossible positions. We find this intimidating as we think we could never be able to do that. Well my resposne to that is, you are not expected to be able to do that, least right away.  like anything else, start with small steps and you will eventually be surprised at what you will be able to achieve. The key is to Start.

Rest

When people, even the experts, talk about health, they talk a lot about movement.  Get up and exercise, get off the couch, walk to the store, park further from your office, take the stairs – MOVE! MOVE! MOVE!  What many people fail to realize is that there is another equally important component to good health — and that is getting good rest.

Rest, both in the form of good, healthy sleep, and plain old down time are both critically important to good health – and something women over 40 rarely get enough of or prioritize the way they should.  Women in their 40s are more likely to be working, raising kids, and taking care of aging parents, which means even less time for taking care of themselves.

Studies have shown that poor sleeping habits and not getting enough sleep have been linked to obesity, high blood pressure, and decreased heart health.  Getting good sleep is literally a lifesaving activity, as much as getting exercise.

To rest well, you need to be able to put away the stresses of your day.  That can be very difficult and sometimes impossible in the world we live in.  There are things you can do, though, that will help.

First of all, eliminate any chemical contributions to your poor rest.  Do you drink a lot of caffeine (coffee, tea, soda) throughout the day or late in the afternoon?  Do you drink energy drinks to get you through the day?  Eliminate the sources of caffeine in your diet; a cup or two of coffee in the morning is fine, but after that you should switch to water and vegetable juice.

Second, learn to let go of stress.  When you are stressed out, you don’t rest well. Meditate.  Get a massage.  Leave work at work.  Turn off the TV if the news is making you crazy with worry.  Get out with some girlfriends and blow off some steam.

Third, improve your diet.  Reduce the amount of sugar and simple carbs you are eating.  They will make it more difficult for you to rest well. Increase the amount of whole grain fiber, fruits, and vegetables.  Eat oatmeal for breakfast instead of skipping or having white toast.  Eat a small piece of chicken and some broccoli for dinner instead of spaghetti made with white flour noodles.

Finally, exercise.  If exercising exhausts you, do it at the end of the day so that you will go to bed ready to rest.  If exercising exhilarates you, do it in the morning to help you get through the day without your caffeine crutches and you’ll still feel more like sleeping at the end of the day.

Try to practice preparing yourself for rest at nights. We often get into bed so weighed down we cannot sleep and even if we sleep, we don’t really get rested.  Try to carve out some quiet time for yourself, maybe 15-30 minutes before you get into bed. Do some deep breathing and relax your mind and body.  You will be pleasantly surprised at the difference it makes to the quality of your rest.

Massage

Getting a massage from a professional, licensed massage therapist (not just having your husband rub your back for a few minutes) is more than just an indulgence.  In fact, massage should be seen as a component of your overall fitness.  There’s more to massage therapy than just pampering and relaxation. Massage can also be beneficial for those who have undergone heart bypass surgery (aids recovery, reduces pain and swelling, and aids in circulation) and may improve the function of the immune system by helping the body rid itself of toxins.

According to the American Association of Massage Therapists, massage therapy can effectively treat many health concerns, including back pain.  Massage treatment for back pain has been so effective, according to research, that it can actually reduce the sufferer’s reliance on medication and other more invasive medical treatments.

Massage is also very helpful for breast cancer survivors, both before and after surgery.  Not only is it therapeutic for helping breast cancer survivors deal with the traumatic emotional effects of breast cancer, but specially trained massage therapists can perform special massages that help drain lymph nodes and keep swelling and other painful symptoms.

There are several different kinds of massage techniques, depending on your health needs.  Swedish massage uses long, gentle strokes and kneading mostly for relaxation and stress relief.  Deep tissue massage uses much stronger pressure to help aid in the recovery from injury or to relieve chronic pain. Sport massages target specific areas of the body to keep the muscles loose and flexible to help prevent injury.  Reflexology massages are massages specifically focused on the hands and feet.

Massage can be an indulgence, yes, but it can be so much more than that.  Massage can help increase circulation, improve your posture, relieve tension headaches, and even lower blood pressure. Just try getting a massage and see how much lower your blood pressure is!

We women often put ourselves last on the list of priorities, and massage may be something you would not dream of indulging in, because of time or money.  If you are worried about time, schedule just 30 minutes – a lunch hour – for a massage.  If you are worried about money, ask for a gift certificate for a massage for your birthday or Mother’s Day.  Once you’ve experienced the benefits massage offers, you’ll find a way to make it a regular part of your health and fitness routine.

Relaxation technique meditation

Meditation is a form of biofeedback that allows you to use your own mind in order to consciously relax your body and let go of mental stress.  Meditation can be a useful tool in improving your health, your well-being, and your mental fitness.

meditation 150x150 Relaxation technique meditationReduced stress can also have a positive impact on your physical health and your weight.  Especially in the fast-paced world we live in, there is little time to relax and unwind.  Meditation can help us get there faster and with better results.

Meditation is not intimidating or difficult; in fact, without even realizing it, you probably use certain conscious relaxation techniques.  If you’ve ever faced a big test or stressful moment at work, or perhaps you’ve been sitting in the dentist’s chair waiting for the sound of the drill, you start doing things to help yourself stay calm.

You might try taking deep breaths or massage or wring your hands; when you choose to make meditation a part of your every day life, you will find relaxation a much easier place to get to even when you’re not facing dental work.

Meditation is a lifestyle change, not just an exercise. It requires commitment from you and dedication to practice meditation each day.  There is no right way to meditate; do what works best for you.  The only thing you will really need is 15 minutes of uninterrupted time in which to practice.

The practice of meditation is the practice of emptying your mind of its clutter.  Stop thinking about work, school, children, the fight you had with your husband, your annoying neighbor, this month’s bills…clear your mind.  It won’t be easy in the beginning, but even just taking that 15 minutes to try will help you.

Eventually, you will find methods that work for you.  Lighting candles, playing soft music, burning incense may all help trigger your ability to relax.  Eventually, you may literally feel the world’s worries slip from your shoulders.  You may find that you can get to state where the world around you can happen, but you don’t notice it.  You may even fall asleep.

At the very least, however, what you will experience is a few minutes in which you are focused on you.  No outside worries or responsibilities, just an influx of positive energy that refreshes you and makes it possible for you to go back out and keep conquering the world.