I've never much been into yoga. I know it can be good for your health, but it's never been something I've been passionate about. Yes, I've dabbled in and out of it to try to understand what people love about it, but it's just never been my thing.
I can see how it would be good for flexibility, strengthening, toning, and stretching. It can also supposedly be relaxing as you follow your breath. I've never mastered inhaling and exhaling comfortably while flowing in and out of the yoga poses. I find myself having to take two inhale/exhale cycles to every one that I'm instructed to have. It's also supposed to be meditative, but if I'm going to meditate, I'd rather be sitting still and not working so hard getting in and out of poses. Many people say it's even spiritual for them. I have a friend who said it helped her get through the loss of her husband. I don't yet see how that happens.
There are so many different types of yoga: Bikram, Yin (or Deep), Hatha, Iyengar, Kundalini, and Power, to name a few. I've tried Bikram from a Groupon offer. After the first few times, I had zero desire to finish the remaining classes. There are way too many people crowded into a very small, hot (105+ degrees!) space with a lot of flinging sweat and sweat pools in too-near proximity for my taste. It's also the same routine every time, and I like variety. For me, Bikram is just not a lot of fun and I'm all about doing things that are fun!
I've also tried Yin Yoga which is my favorite. With this style yoga, you hold one position for 3-5 minutes and use a lot of equipment (bolsters, sand bags) to deepen the stretch. It feels calming and restorative. I went to this class somewhat regularly, but unfortunately it was cancelled, so now I don't do any yoga.
I do have a few yoga DVDs at home that I've bought over the years trying to get into a practice. This week my husband and I are on vacation in Hawaii and he decided to bring one of our DVDs to try to do it every morning. He has even less of a practice than I do, but he thought perhaps we'd have more success doing it without the time demands we have at home. Personally, I'd rather just get up and run in the morning, but my husband wanted us to do yoga first and then run. He thinks it helps his runs because it loosens him up. As much as I'd be fine not doing it, I hate to miss out on anything, so I've been doing the yoga with him.
While I've been on vacation (and a few days before we left), I've been a little under the weather. I've had a hoarse voice and nagging cough that flares up at night. I don't feel sick (maybe just a little more tired than usual), but my voice was practically non-existent for a few days and every night my cough has been waking me up around 2am. I have to get up for an hour (it seemed better if I was upright) and take a few lozenges before trying to go back to sleep.
Yesterday morning, my husband decides to play a different yoga routine than we've been doing. Midway through, I am doing a certain pose and I begin to cough uncontrollably. I'm not sure what the position is called that causes this attack. For those in the know, you might be able to understand if I describe it.
I started in Warrior pose (a lunge with my left leg forward and my left arm out in front and right one in back). I then twist to the right, put my left arm to the ground, and my right arm high in the air (see photo). During the session, but particularly in this position, It was hard for me to breathe because of the congestion in my chest. I'm trying to do the inhale and exhale as instructed but I can't get enough air in to last long enough.
I'm coughing so bad that I have to get out of my pose and run to get a lozenge. I'm wondering what the heck is this yoga doing to me—it's making me worse! At this point, I have the sudden need to grab a tissue because my nose is running. After about a minute of bodily mayhem, the episode is done and I head back to the yoga video.
Fast forward a few hours later and I realize that my voice is no longer hoarse. I feel like I have more energy. My throat feels clear. The true test, I know, will be nighttime.
Well, it's morning now and I did not have one cough through the night. Considering how bad my cough has been for the past few nights, this is a big deal and feels quite miraculous. I feel completely well. I am absolutely convinced that there was something about that yoga pose (and possibly the flow leading up to it) that cured me. I don't know how it happened physiologically, but it happened.
My husband is still sleeping now, but as soon as he wakes up, I'm ready to put in the DVD and see what other health benefits I can get from this thing called yoga. I will definitely be turning to yoga rather than throat lozenges the next time I have a cough!
Many of my friends, clients, and Four Quadrant Living readers are strong advocates and practicers of yoga. I'd love to hear from you. Do you have a yoga practice? What motivates you to do yoga? What is your favorite style of yoga? How regularly do you practice? What health benefits does it give you? Chime in below and help this new yoga believer see what's possible.
Please share your comments and questions below.
Update: I have heard from several people on what pose I was doing when the coughing fit happened. They say it was Utthita Parsvakonasana (extended side angle pose).
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I'm excited so many of you are up for joining the 4QL July Plank Party!
Here's what we are doing. For the month of July, we are doing a plank a day. What's a plank? It's a great way to tone your abdominals, back, glutes, and shoulders.
Set the goal to do planks at least 5 days a week. If you want to be an overachiever, you can do it everyday, but for those just starting out, I would recommend taking a day or two off—at least in the first few weeks. I'm committing to planking Monday through Friday.
You will have greatest success if you join the party with a friend. I have a group text message set up with my friends, Julie and Christy. We text every day and say "done" just to hold ourselves accountable. If you can't find a planking buddy, you have the 4QL community to cheer you along. Just post your successes on this page below in the comments section or on our Facebook page.
We will be doing 5 minutes of planking.
1. Elbow plank
2. Side plank
3. Elbow plank
4. (Other) Side plank
5. Straight arm plank
In the beginning, you will likely not actually be in plank position for the full 5 minutes, unless you have been doing planks for a while. Just try to hold the plank for as long as you can during the minute. If you can only hold it for 10 seconds to start with, that's perfectly okay. Rest for a few seconds and then try again until the minute is up. You can also do a modified plank by putting your knees on the floor. You will still feel your abdominals working.
In between minutes, take about 20-30 seconds to regroup (or more if you need) and then start your next minute. If you prefer to break up your 5 one-minute sets of planks throughout the day, that's okay too. Perhaps you do a one-minute plank in the morning, another at lunch, and so on. The idea is to just do it. However works best for you is the right way to do it.
Planking with the correct form is essential. We don't want you to get injured doing this. Be very careful about not sagging when you do it because that puts strain on your lower back. Concentrate on tilting your pelvis and contracting your abs and glutes.
- Lie face down on the floor (mat, carpet, or grass) resting on the forearms, palms flat on the floor.
- Push off the floor, raising up onto toes and resting on the elbows. Your elbows should be in line with your shoulders.
- Keep your back flat, in a straight line from head to heels.
- Tilt your pelvis and contract your abdominals to prevent your rear end from sticking up in the air or sagging in the middle. Contract your abs by imagining someone is about to punch you in the gut. Hold for 60 seconds. If you can't make it to 60 seconds, hold for 5 to 10 seconds and rest for 5; continue for 1 minute. Modify by placing your knees on the floor.
- Lie on your right side with your legs straight.
- Prop yourself up with your right forearm so your body forms a diagonal line.
- Rest your left hand on your hip.
- Brace your abs and hold for 60 seconds. If you can't make it to 60 seconds, hold for 5 to 10 seconds and rest for 5; continue for 1 minute. Be sure your hips and knees stay off the floor.
Straight Arm Plank
Same as elbow plank in form, but your hands, rather than forearms are on the mat. Arms are straight.
Don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions. Just post your questions below.
Okay, who's in? Chime in below and sign on for the 4QL July Plank Party! Tell a friend to join the fun!
Be sure to get your free eBook to find out how you are doing in each of the four quadrants, plus get practical tips including 5 Steps to Mindfulness, 12 Tips for Fad-Free Eating, 6 Ways to Closer Connections, and 9 Ideas to Detox Your Home. Sign up in the box at the upper right of this page.
Sometimes I feel like the Environment quadrant is the ugly stepchild of the four quadrants. When I'm talking about the four quadrants, people seem the least interested in the Environment in the context of health. It's not as much in our awareness when we think of healthy living. Each week, I blog about one of the four quadrants so that each one is covered in a month. This week, it's time to feature the Environment. Rather than focus on something specific related to the environment like I usually do, this blog is about giving a general shout-out to it and bringing it into the spotlight. Today, the Environment is the belle of the ball.
Of the four quadrants, the environment is the one that people think least relates to their own health. There is a lot of focus on the Body quadrant as it relates to health—nutrition, exercise, sleep. There is a fair amount of focus on the Mind quadrant and its connection to health in the form of stress management. Although we may not think about Relationships in terms of our connection to health, we get it. When we spend time with toxic people, we don't feel good. In contrast, the Environment is seen as somehow separate from us. It is viewed as external rather than internal. But the truth is, we are intimately connected to our environment. If we keep the environment healthy, we keep ourselves healthy.
According to the World Health Organization, 25% of health problems are caused by environmental factors. Toxins in the environment have been linked to numerous diseases and health conditions, including asthma, allergies, premature birth, learning disabilities, early puberty, diabetes, reduced fertility, and even many cancers.
Environmental factors that affect our health can be found everywhere—both indoors and outdoors, as well as at work and at home. We ingest the toxins in many ways—through our skin, nose, mouth, and ears. This includes polluted air and water, excessive noise, radiation, hazardous wastes, chemical-filled cleaning products, pesticides, and food and food container contaminants. Some we have control over and some we don’t, but the idea is to lower our toxic load where we can— to do our best to make our environment healthy so that we can be healthy.
According to the Federation of State Public Interest Research Groups, scientists have found more than 100 potentially dangerous industrial chemicals and pollutants in the body of the average American. Read that sentence again. That's scary. Many of the chemicals used in products are introduced into our society and are only later realized to be harmful to our health. Unintentionally, we are the guinea pigs for these chemicals, and the price is high. For example, DDT and PCBs, once used abundantly, were banned in the 1970s when it was recognized how harmful they were. What chemical that is commonly used today will we find out in the future is actually toxic to our health?
I think about the Environment quadrant in connection with health in a variety of contexts. For example, I think about it in terms of cleaning up my personal environment which includes using green cleaning products in my home, using air purifiers to clean the air, removing shoes to keep toxins out, and gardening organically to keep chemicals out of my yard. I also think about it in terms of cleaning up the larger environment which includes reducing my use of plastic bottles, carrying my own reusable shopping bags, stopping catalogs, being kind to wildlife, and using less energy. In addition to greening my personal and expanded environments, I also think about the Environment in terms of the solace and peace it provides me. Creating my home as a safe and clean sanctuary is not only good for my physical health, but also my mental health. Being out in nature is also good for my health. Studies show that even just five minutes of exercising outdoors can be beneficial to us—increasing our self-esteem, improving mood, and decreasing anxiety. There are many ways that our health is intertwined with our environment.
if you are ready to dance with the belle of the ball instead of ignoring the ugly stepchild, here are some ideas from past blogs and the Four Quadrant Living website to help you create an environment that can promote your health. You can just read through the list as a reminder or click on the links if you want more detail.
- Environment Topics - reduce, reuse, recycle, stop catalogs, clean green, properly dispose of toxic waste, use less energy and water, walk or bike instead, say no to plastic, save lives (adopt & spay), travel lightly, simply be (in nature)
- Plastic At Home, Really? - say no to plastic, use cloth instead of paper napkins, be creative with gift wrap, print on both sides
- Shoeless Sanctuary - leave shoes at the door, clean green, avoid non-stick cookware, remodel green, set bugs free, get an air cleaner, garden organically
- Don't Judge A Weed - garden organically
- Free Space, Free Mind - remove clutter (a decluttered environment makes for a decluttered mind)
- Frying the Birds - be kind to wildlife
- My Love Affair with a Mountain, Peace by Nature - find solace (and health) in nature
What changes can you make in the Environment quadrant to promote your overall health?