Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Yoga For the Mind, Body and Spirit

Our daily lives are constantly plagued with mounds with stress. The majority of us find ourselves working ourselves to the grave just trying to become successful and please everyone. We spend our days running around in pure panic like a chicken with its head cut off when we really should take some time out for ourselves.

In comes the ancient practice of yoga. It has been around for more than 5,000 years, and currently, close to 11 million Americans are enjoying its health benefits and making yoga far from some hipster trend.

Most Westernized yoga classes focus on learning physical poses, which are called asanas. They include some form of breathing technique and meditation techniques as well. Some yoga classes are designed purely for relaxation, but there are styles of yoga that teach you how to move your body in new ways. Choosing one of these styles of yoga offers the greatest health benefits by enabling you to develop your flexibility, strength, and balance.


Styles of yoga, such as ashtanga and power yoga are more vigorous and helps improve muscle tone. Iyengar yoga, which focuses on less movement and more precise alignment in poses, can provide strength and endurance benefits. The diversity of asanas can strengthen a variety of muscles throughout the body.


Contrary to belief, you don’t have to be able to stretch like a gymnast to take a yoga class. The whole point of yoga is for you to learn about your body and how you can become more flexible over time. Participants of all ages can improve their flexibility just by safely stretching your muscles with asanas.

Stretching releases the lactic acid that builds up with muscle use and that causes stiffness, tension, pain, and fatigue. It increases the range of motion and the lubrication in the joints and provides a sense of ease and fluidity throughout your body.

Slouching or hunching over causes bad backs and unsightly seating positions. With increased flexibility and strength in yoga comes the fix for better posture. Most of the standing and sitting poses develop core strength because you're counting on your deep abdominals to support and maintain each pose. With a stronger core, you're more likely to sit and stand correctly by increasing your body’s awareness.

Concentration and mood

Breathing exercises help calm and relieve all of the added stress that you accumulate throughout the day and you can practice deep breathing exercises anywhere at any time. Deep breathing boosts oxygen levels to the brain and ultimately puts you in a better mood.

You can essentially practice yoga anywhere. Taking a deep breath to calm yourself after a stressful situation is just one of the many ways to squeeze in a little extra yoga throughout your day. It’s amazing to find out just how much better your mind, body and spirit will feel after practicing yoga every day.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Japan Limited on Water, Food, and Supplies

The death toll rises as more people are being found after the devastating events that took place in Japan. The 9.0-magnitude earthquake and countless aftershocks that caused a shoreline-crushing tsunami and an evolving crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has also left many survivors without the necessary supplies for survival.
The Japanese government is doing its best to rush doctors and aid supplies to thousands of people left without food, water and shelter in the aftermath of a catastrophe that hit northeast Japan.
Images online and various news programs show people lined up for water, canned food, and some stores rationing food sales to 10 items per person. In other areas, the 100,000 personnel deployed by the government are attempting to rescue survivors stranded by the flood waters and mountains of debris.
The leaking radiation from Koriyama in the Fukushima area where the crippled nuclear power plant is located has forced people out of the region. According to Japan’s NHK television on Tuesday, already over 3,000 are confirmed dead and more than 10,000 are missing and feared dead.
Supplies of gasoline are also running low and expressways have been closed off to all vehicles except for emergency traffic. There is a definite need for clean water, food and blankets, and for those who have lost everything, basic things like soap and toothbrushes.
Millions of people are in need of food, water and electricity, while relief efforts are complicated by the widespread destruction of infrastructure, but people can still contribute efforts to help.
Here are just some of the ways you can help provide the basics necessary for those effected by the tragedy in Japan.
American Red Cross: Emergency Operation Centers are opened in the affected areas and staffed by the chapters. This disaster is on a scale larger than the Japanese Red Cross can typically manage. Donations to the American Red Cross can be allocated for the International Disaster Relief Fund, which then deploys to the region to help. Donate here. You can also donate by texting REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 toward relief efforts.
Globalgiving: Established a fund to disburse donations to organizations providing relief and emergency services to victims of the earthquake and tsunami. Donate here.
Save The Children: Mobilizing to provide immediate humanitarian relief in the shape of emergency health care and provision of non-food items and shelter. Donate here.
Salvation Army: The Salvation Army has been in Japan since 1895 and is currently providing emergency assistance to those in need. Donate here.
Americares: Emergency team is on full alert, mobilizing resources and dispatching an emergency response manager to the region. Donate here.
Convoy Of Hope: Disaster Response team established connection with in-country partners who have been impacted by the damage and are identifying the needs and areas where Convoy of Hope may be of the greatest assistance. Donate here.

International Medical Corps
: Putting together relief teams, as well as supplies, and is in contact with partners in Japan and other affected countries to assess needs and coordinate our activities. Donate here.
Shelter Box: The first team is mobilizing to head to Japan and begin the response effort. Donate here.
Keeping Japan in your thoughts and prayers is also needed. The Japanese government says 15,000 people have already been rescued and 450,000 have been evacuated nationwide. Of the missing, many may have been washed out to sea by the 10-meter tsunami.

Reposted from Surf Bakersfield Magazine.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Focusing On What Is Pertinent

What was once the great equalizer that opened doors for anyone wanting to better themselves and that bridged racial, social, economic, and geographic divides is now waning in its availability for the masses.

College tuition in many states is on the rise lately, and if further cuts to education take place, every college bound student should just get ready to kiss their shot at financing their education goodbye.

Young students attempting to chasing their dreams and trying to reach their goals primarily depend on the cost of higher education, but when tuition keeps rising every year, how can anyone afford to go to school.

Combining loans, grants, income from family members and hoping that they can pay for some of their college costs are the tactics that students have to go through every year, and it’s just getting worse all of the time.

The Institutional Research Program at the University of California in Los Angeles reported in their annual Freshman Survey that of the 62 percent whose choice was affected by the economy, 55 percent are at their first-choice college, compared with 69 percent of those not affected by the economy. The affected students are more likely to be living at home or attending college close to home. Fourteen percent of them report major concerns about financing their education.

As a college student today, I hear the stories about how everyone is just trying to make it from semester to semester. Students end up picking up part time jobs at fast food stops and commercial retailers in the attempt to pay for expensive books and the ever increasing insanely high tuition.

Many other students end up at two-year colleges or no college at all, because of concerns about costs. Two-thirds of the students who do happen to get into four-year universities collect debt up to their eyeballs and spend years after graduation trying to pay it all off.

We tell our youth that education is the way to go all the time, because for the most part it’s completely true if you want to achieve some sort of success. The problem is that we give them advice that is leading to a steadily unobtainable goal.

My full concern isn’t about whether or not I’m on the waitlist for half of my classes, although class unavailability due to budget cuts in the education department are impeding on graduation rates, but that the majority of the American population can’t even get into the colleges in the first place solely because of financial problems.

You might say that financial aid would cover the costs for college if you don’t have enough money, but that isn’t always so for the middle class. The middle class often suffers the most suffering from an average $30,000 upon graduation from loan collection.

A lot of middle class families haven’t been told that The American Opportunity Tax Credit, a recently renewed item in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Art, allows Illinois families a credit of up to $2,500 per student on their 2009 and 2010 tax returns. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, less than half of eligible Illinois families claimed the credit on their 2009 taxes. As for the rest of the middle class in America, we’re just screwed.

Our government is not helping anyone out by making it so the future generation can’t take care of themselves let alone the aging part of the population. The last time I checked, you need a college degree to become a physician. I wouldn’t want to completely run out of those.

Reposted via So Educated.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Most Important Start to Your Day

When you’re running late in the morning, the last thing on your mind is eating a proper breakfast, but just taking a few extra minutes to pour a bowl of Cheerios would benefit you more than you think.
Here are some of the reasons why eating breakfast is valuable to your health.
You get your essential nutrients.
Skipping meals only guarantees that you will not get all the necessary nutrients that you will need to function throughout the day. Many of us already do not meet the essential vitamins and minerals needed daily, and skipping breakfast surely doesn’t help.
Eating Breakfast gives you a better attention span.
If you find yourself zoning out in class or at work, a small breakfast can help you focus on the task at hand. You gain more strength and endurance, and studies on those who do not eat breakfast before work are unable to work as hard until lunchtime. Studies on children reveal that they are unable to complete school work. Eating a healthy breakfast has also been linked to better learning ability and memory functions.
You can maintain a healthy weight.
Skipping meals is always a no-no if you are ever trying to lose or maintain healthy weight. People who skip breakfast are shown to choose less nutritious and convenience foods to curb their ravenous appetite by the time lunch creeps around. Poor eating habits lead to eating at awkward times, like throughout the evening. Those people end up storing extra calories during the evening hours as the metabolism slows down and end up weighing more because of it.
It puts you in a better mood.
Eating breakfast can reverse the effects of fasting, which are irritability and fatigue, which hints the name “break-fast.” Being in a crappy mood can last up to 16 hours, and no one really wants to feel bad all day or be around someone that feels like they want to rip your head off.
It helps you maintain good health.
Eating breakfast in the morning can lower cholesterol, which reduces the risk of heart disease, increase your metabolic rate, and prevent obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Research has shown that people who eat breakfast consume less dietary cholesterol than people who don’t eat breakfast. The people who skip breakfast also have a metabolic rate four to five percent below normal, which may lead to an expected weight gain of eight pounds per year (one pound every seven weeks).
As long as you avoid the processed and fatty foods at breakfast you’ll be good to go. Omit the breakfast sandwiches and you will prevent yourself from consuming 560 calories and an extra 32 grams of fat. Oatmeal, cereal, fruit, eggs or even a natural smoothie would suffice for a great tasting breakfast. You’re just better off in the long run if you choose to participate in the most important meal of the day.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Growing Fuel in Our Backyard

Imagine producing fuel that powers planes, trains and automobiles with the same elements that makes your lawn grow. Well in Cambridge Massachusetts, a biotechnology company says it can do just that.

A genetically engineered organism, invented by Joule Unlimited, secretes diesel fuel or ethanol wherever it finds water, sunlight, and carbon dioxide. The company claims that it can manipulate the organism to produce the renewable fuels at extraordinary rates, and can do it in both larger and smaller facilities at costs equivalent to the most economical fossil fuels.

This is a great short-term solution until we find something more “green” that lowers our energy emissions even more so after it’s used. This is a positive step in the right direction toward being energy independent.

According to Joule Unlimited’s website, the company claims to be able to produce 15,000 gallons/diesel and 25,000 gallons/ethanol per acre per year. The company claims that the diesel that they produce is different from biodiesel, but that they have “developed and patented a highly-efficient process for converting waste CO2 directly into liquid hydrocarbons, requiring no processing, cracking or refining.”

The company says by doing this they “cut out the middle man” of having to derive their fuel from vegetable, animal or algal oils and fats that depend on raw material feed stocks, costly harvesting and downstream processing making everything more affordable.

Obviously many are skeptical of Joule Unlimited’s claims, but further research into this subject can iron out all of the details. I’m also usually not a fan of synthetic biology or genetically engineered products, but if these claims are true and further research and development is done to further this technology, we can solve so many of our problems and stop the constant worry over severing ties with foreign oil.

On Feb 23 oil prices rose to their highest levels since September 2008 due to worries from traders that protests in Egypt and Libyan unrest could spread across the Middle East.

The rise in prices has been driven by violence in Libya, where rebels and forces loyal to the North African nation's leader, Moammar Gadhafi, continued to escalate.

Even the most recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico caused by B.P. has had U.S. citizens and government officials crying out for alternative energy plans.

The Deepwater Horizon Spill that was a result from failed safety measures from BP had an estimated 62,000 barrels per day, and later a tapered spill with 53,000 barrels, of oil flowing from the sea floor for three months after a wellhead explosion.

Images of tar balls washing up on the shores of the Gulf, oil sheen trails seen in the wake of fishing boats, wetlands marsh grass remains fouled and dying along with oil covered marine life and speculations that the recently dead baby dolphins washing on shore in the same area also had something to do with the devastating spill plagued the minds of America and started to make us think about other possible energy sources.

Even if this Mass. based company’s idea falls short of what it says it could be, I think that it’s at least worth a shot to look into it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Benefits of Drinking Coffee

Put a pot of coffee on and grab your favorite mug. That cup of Joe in the morning isn’t as bad for you as you think. Here’s something to combat those comments that say coffee is harmful to your health.
If you’re anything like me, taking a thermos of the good stuff to work in the morning is almost essential for your day. In fact more than half of adults in the U.S., or 54 percent, are habitual coffee drinkers, according to the National Coffee Association. 146 billion cups of coffee are actually consumed in the U.S. each year. That’s nearly three times more than tea.
According to an issue of the Harvard Health Letter, coffee drinkers may be at lower risk for blood pressure, cancer, cholesterol, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease.
Coffee also contains antioxidants and in 2009, two coffee studies suggested that coffee-drinking men seemed to have a lower risk of advanced or lethal prostate cancer than other men. Middle-aged people who drank moderate amounts of coffee — three to five cups a day — had the lowest risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease later in life compared to less (or more) frequent drinkers.
Sadly with all of these benefits that come along with sipping that steaming cup of java, there are still some downsides to coffee
According to the web site myfoodapedia.gov, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, adding the extra trimmings will really cost you. A 6-ounce cup of black coffee contains just 7 calories, but dare I say add some half & half and you’ll get 46 calories.
If you favor your cup of Joe with a liquid nondairy creamer, that will set you back 48 calories. A teaspoon of sugar will add about 23 calories, and I don’t even want to get started about the extra calories in your favorite Frappuccino from Starbucks.
If you consume a lot of coffee, you may head to the bathroom more often. Caffeine is actually a mild diuretic which make you urinate a little more than you would without it. Coffee also contains acids that can make heartburn worse.
Unless you are caffeine sensitive, and you don’t mind the extra bathroom trip, drinking two or three cups of coffee a day is fine. It stimulates mental alertness, it has become a big part of American life, and to be honest, I just think it tastes good.