Yoga and Pilates

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Restore, Renew, Rebuild

13 Benefits of Yoga ~ Supported by Science

Derived from the Sanskrit word “yuji,” meaning yoke or union, yoga is an ancient practice that brings together mind and body.

1. Yoga Decreases Stress.

Yoga is known for its ability to ease stress and promote relaxation.

In fact, multiple studies have shown that it can decrease the secretion of cortisol, the primary stress hormone.

One study demonstrated the powerful effect of yoga on stress by following 24 women who perceived themselves as emotionally distressed. After a three-month yoga program, the women had significantly lower levels of cortisol. They also had lower levels of stress, anxiety, fatigue and depression.

Another study of 131 people had similar results, showing that 10 weeks of yoga helped reduce stress and anxiety. It also helped improve quality of life and mental health . When used alone or along with other methods of alleviating stress, such as meditation, yoga can be a powerful way to keep stress in check.

2. Yoga Relieves Anxiety

Many people begin practicing yoga as a way to cope with feelings of anxiety. Interestingly enough, there is quite a bit of research showing that yoga can help reduce anxiety. In one study, 34 women diagnosed with an anxiety disorder participated in yoga classes twice weekly for two weeks. At the end of the study, those who practiced yoga had significantly lower levels of anxiety than the control group. Another study followed 64 women with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is characterized by severe anxiety and fear following exposure to a traumatic event. After 10 weeks, the women who practiced yoga once weekly had fewer symptoms of PTSD. In fact, 52% of participants no longer met the criteria for PTSD at all. It’s not entirely clear exactly how yoga is able to reduce symptoms of anxiety. However, it emphasizes the importance of being present in the moment and finding a sense of peace, which could help treat anxiety.

3. May Reduce Inflammation

In addition to improving your mental health, some studies suggest that practicing yoga may reduce inflammation as well.

Inflammation is a normal immune response, but chronic inflammation can contribute to the development of pro-inflammatory diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. A 2015 study divided 218 participants into two groups: those who practiced yoga regularly and those who didn’t. Both groups then performed moderate and strenuous exercises to induce stress. At the end of the study, the individuals who practiced yoga had lower levels of inflammatory markers than those who didn’t. Similarly, a small 2014 study showed that 12 weeks of yoga reduced inflammatory markers in breast cancer survivors with persistent fatigue.

Although more research is needed to confirm the beneficial effects of yoga on inflammation, these findings indicate that it may help protect against certain diseases caused by chronic inflammation.

4. Could Improve Heart Health

From pumping blood throughout the body to supplying tissues with important nutrients, the health of your heart is an essential component of overall health.

Studies show that yoga may help improve heart health and reduce several risk factors for heart disease.

One study found that participants over 40 years of age who practiced yoga for five years had a lower blood pressure and pulse rate than those who didn’t.

High blood pressure is one of the major causes of heart problems, such as heart attacks and stroke. Lowering your blood pressure can help reduce the risk of these problems. Some research also suggests that incorporating yoga into a healthy lifestyle could help slow the progression of heart disease.

A study followed 113 patients with heart disease, looking at the effects of a lifestyle change that included one year of yoga training combined with dietary modifications and stress management. Participants saw a 23% decrease in total cholesterol and a 26% reduction in “bad” LDL cholesterol. Additionally, the progression of heart disease stopped in 47% of patients. It’s unclear how much of a role yoga may have had versus other factors like diet. Yet it can minimize stress, one of the major contributors to heart disease.

5. Improves Quality of Life

Yoga is becoming increasingly common as an adjunct therapy to improve quality of life for many individuals. One studies have looked at how yoga can improve quality of life and reduce symptoms in patients with cancer. One study followed women with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy. Yoga decreased symptoms of chemotherapy, such as nausea, vomiting, while also improving overall quality of life.

A similar study looked at how eight weeks of yoga affected women with breast cancer. At the end of the study, the women had less pain and fatigue with improvements in levels of invigoration, acceptance and relaxation.

Other studies have found that yoga may help improve sleep quality, enhance spiritual well-being, improve social function and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in patients with cancer.

6. May Fight Depression

Some studies show that yoga may have an anti-depressant effect and could help decrease symptoms of depression. This may be because yoga is able to decrease levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that influences levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitter often associated with depression.

In one study, participants in an alcohol dependence program practiced Sudarshan Kriya, a specific type of yoga that focuses on rhythmic breathing.

After two weeks, participants had fewer symptoms of depression and lower levels of cortisol. They also had lower levels of ACTH, a hormone responsible for stimulating the release of cortisol. Based on these results, yoga may help fight depression, alone or in combination with traditional methods of treatment.

7. Could Reduce Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is a persistent problem that affects millions of people and has a range of possible causes, from injuries to arthritis. There is a growing body of research demonstrating that practicing yoga could help reduce many types of chronic pain.

In one study, 42 individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome either received a wrist splint or did yoga for eight weeks.

At the end of the study, yoga was found to be more effective in reducing pain and improving grip strength than wrist splinting.

Another study in 2005 showed that yoga could help decrease pain and improve physical function in participants with osteoarthritis of the knees .

8. Could Promote Sleep Quality

Poor sleep quality has been associated with obesity, high blood pressure and depression, among other disorders. Studies show that incorporating yoga into your routine could help promote better sleep.

In a 2005 study, 69 elderly patients were assigned to either practice yoga, take an herbal preparation or be part of the control group. The yoga group fell asleep faster, slept longer and felt more well-rested in the morning than the other groups.

Another study looked at the effects of yoga on sleep in patients with lymphoma. They found that it decreased sleep disturbances, improved sleep quality and duration and reduced the need for sleep medications.

Though the way it works is not clear, yoga has been shown to increase the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness. Yoga also has a significant effect on anxiety, depression, chronic pain and stress — all common contributors to sleep problems.

9. Improves Flexibility and Balance

Many people add yoga to their fitness routine to improve flexibility and balance.

There is considerable research that backs this benefit, demonstrating that it can optimize performance through the use of specific poses that target flexibility and balance. A recent study looked at the impact of 10 weeks of yoga on 26 male college athletes. Doing yoga significantly increased several measures of flexibility and balance, compared to the control group. Another study assigned 66 elderly participants to either practice yoga or calisthenics, a type of body weight exercise. After one year, total flexibility of the yoga group increased by nearly four times that of the calisthenics group.

10. Could Help Improve Breathing

Pranayama, or yogic breathing, is a practice in yoga that focuses on controlling the breath through breathing exercises and techniques.

Most types of yoga incorporate these breathing exercises, and several studies have found that practicing yoga could help improve breathing.

In one study, 287 college students took a 15-week class where they were taught various yoga poses and breathing exercises. At the end of the study, they had a significant increase in vital capacity. Vital capacity is a measure of the maximum amount of air that can be expelled from the lungs. It is especially important for those with lung disease, heart problems and asthma.

Another study in 2009 found that practicing yogic breathing improved symptoms and lung function in patients with mild-to-moderate asthma.

11. May Relieve Migraines

Migraines are severe recurring headaches that affect an estimated 1 out of 7 Americans each year. Traditionally, migraines are treated with medications to relieve and manage symptoms. However, increasing evidence shows that yoga could be a useful adjunct therapy to help reduce migraine frequency.

A 2007 study divided 72 patients with migraines into either a yoga therapy or self-care group for three months. Practicing yoga led to reductions in headache intensity, frequency and pain compared to the self-care group.

Researchers suggest that doing yoga may help stimulate the vagus nerve, which has been shown to be effective in relieving migraines.

12. Promotes Healthy Eating Habits

Mindful eating, also known as intuitive eating, is a concept that encourages being present in the moment while eating.

It’s about paying attention to the taste, smell and texture of your food and noticing any thoughts, feelings or sensations you experience while eating.

This practice has been shown to promote healthy eating habits that help control blood sugar, increase weight loss and treat disordered eating behaviors.

Because yoga places a similar emphasis on mindfulness, some studies show that it could be used to encourage healthy eating behaviors.

One study incorporated yoga into an outpatient eating disorder treatment program with 54 patients, finding that yoga helped reduce both eating disorder symptoms and preoccupation with food. Yoga was found to cause a decrease in episodes of binge eating, an increase in physical activity and a small decrease in weight.

For those with and without disordered eating behaviors, practicing mindfulness through yoga can aid in the development of healthy eating habits.

13. Can Increase Strength

In addition to improving flexibility, yoga is a great addition to an exercise routine for its strength-building benefits. In fact, there are specific poses in yoga that are designed to increase strength and build muscle.

In one study, 79 adults performed 24 cycles of sun salutations — a series of foundational poses often used as a warm-up — six days a week for 24 weeks.

They experienced a significant increase in upper body strength, endurance and weight loss. Women had a decrease in body fat percentage, as well.

Based on these findings, practicing yoga can be an effective way to boost strength and endurance, especially when used in combination with a regular exercise routine.

12 Benefits of Pilates ~ Supported By Science

The Pilates Method of Body Conditioning is complete coordination of body, mind and spirit.

~Joseph Pilates

1. Pilates improves your memory and makes you smarter.

Several recent studies have proved that exercise improves neurogenesis – creation of new brain cells – as well as protects existing cells by prompting in increase in B.D.N.F. production – a nerve protecting compound that some scientists call “Miracle-Gro” for the brain. The changes are mostly noticeable in the hippocampus, the region responsible for memories and learning.

Another group of researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign reported in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health that people have significantly superior brain function after a mindful movement practice like Pilates or Yoga compared to aerobic exercise.

2. Pilates trains your brain.

Learning new activities is a proven brain-training technique. Scientists have discovered that learning new activities increases the density of white matter in the brain (the fibers that let neurons communicate.) If the neurons are formed but they don’t connect then eventually they die without any benefit to brain health so this white matter is extremely important.  A Pilates routine provides just the effect we are looking for by challenging the body and mind at the same time.

3. Deeper muscle activation means better function of the nervous system.

Every time we move we use several specific areas of our brain. The brain then sends an impulse through the spinal cord to muscle fibers (the process is more complicated than that and requires a bunch or words that my spell checker doesn’t even know.)

When you learn to voluntary engage certain muscles (like deep core activation in Pilates) you fire a movement chain that might have been asleep for a long time. Did you know that your core consists of 29 muscles and not just a six-pack? Learning to use them is a cleansing rinse for your nervous system. 

A healthy nervous system means better communication between your brain and other parts of your body as well as the release of stress-fighting and mood-boosting hormones.

4. Calm mind and emotions with Pilates.

You have probably heard a lot about the benefits of mindfulness meditation for your mind and body. To sum them up, meditation:

relieves anxiety and depression, helps treat insomnia, sharpens the mind,

uncovers creative thinking, relieves stress,

helps with chronic pain management, reduces negative emotions,

helps fight addictions and instill positive habits,

lowers blood pressure and improve cardio vascular health.

When most of us think about meditation we imagine a Buddhist monk or a New Age person chanting in solitude. But perhaps we are wrong as we envision only one way that mindfulness can enter our lifestyle.

According to Ellen Langer, one of the pioneer researchers of mindfulness,

Though the concept originates in ancient Buddhist, Hindu and Chinese traditions, when it comes to experimental psychology, mindfulness is less about spirituality and more about concentration: the ability to quiet your mind, focus your attention on the present, and dismiss any distractions that come your way.

Pilates lets you concentrate your attention on one thing – your body. Whether you want it or not, you have to clear your mind of any distractions if you are performing Pilates coordination work on the Mat or if you are just visualizing an inner spring in your core that your instructor is talking about.

Pilates lets you reap all the benefits of meditation without actually sitting still and feeling like you are wasting your time. You can gain mindfulness benefits only if you are comfortable with what you are doing. Some enjoy the peacefulness of a traditional meditation while others get better results from a mindful movement that cleanses the mind while exercising the body.

5. Pilates relieves stress tension in our body.

Pilates relieves tension built up in the muscles through gentle stretching and gradual conditioning. An energetic Pilates workout will let you metabolize stress hormones built up in your muscles. And fascial release techniques that many Pilates instructors use in their classes today will help you loosen tight muscles that are not responsive to passive stretching. When you get stress out of your body, you also get it out of your mind.

A body free from nervous tension and fatigue is the ideal shelter provided by nature for housing a well balanced mind, fully capable of successfully meeting all the complex problems of modern living.

~Joseph Pilates

6. Pilates and Yoga tame your stress.

While it’s important to drive stress out of your body, it’s even more important to prevent stress from entering your mind. If you don’t address the cause of stress (the way you perceive situations and respond to them) you won’t be able to have lasting stress relief.

Research about the benefits of Pilates to tame stress is pretty much non-existent but Yoga has been proven time and time again to be a powerful stress reliever. While Yoga and Pilates are quite different, they still share several similarities especially if taught as a mindful movement practice as we do at FIERCE.

Yoga and Pilates poses embody steadiness and ease, they teach you to find opposition inside your body and use it to gain greater control of the body.

 When physical demands are met with steady breathing and mindfulness the nervous system responds by maintaining activation while keeping an underlying sense of calm. This response lets us face our day-to-day stress with clarity and respond to it without getting overwhelmed.

7. Pilates makes you happier.

If you love Pilates then it will make you happier.

When our body is positively stressed, like when you go through a favorite workout, endorphins are released into the body that make us feel good. If you enjoy your workout and stay focused on it instead of letting your mind wander somewhere else you will feel happy and calm at the end.

Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness.

~Joseph Pilates

8. Pilates makes you more creative.

A creative and open mind lets us experience life fully and come up with inventive ways to deal with life’s challenges.

Exercise and mindfulness meditation each have proven to improve creativity. When you combine the two in a Pilates workout you get even better results for your mind and your body.

9. Pilates lets you control your emotions.

Our emotions and breathing are closely connected. A recent study by Pierre Phillipot (as cited by Psychology Today) showed that different emotional states are associated with distinct breathing patterns. Think of how your breathing changes when you face something frightening as opposed to something pleasant. There is no major breakthrough in this finding, just common sense.However, the interesting part of the study was that different breathing patterns evoke certain emotions. You can basically breathe yourself into calmness or anxiety.

Above all, learn to breathe correctly.

~Joseph Pilates

Breath is one of the six fundamental Pilates principles. Learning to control your breath is probably the biggest benefit of Pilates since many of us are “lazy-breathers”. The techniques that you learn in a Pilates class can also be used in different life situations to calm your mind or get through a stressful situation.

10. Mindful Movement helps release emotional tension.

Any mind/body professional can tell a lot about your personality by simply looking at your posture and observing your movement. Over time we store our emotions and anxieties in our body. We clench our jaws when we want to yell, slouch when we feel inferior or shy, and tighten our hips to suppress emotions of sadness and fear.

Pilates practice lets you release your muscles and gain control of the deep core muscles that tend to be closely connected to your emotional baggage. When you release muscles that hold your emotional tension you also let go of the emotional baggage that you’ve been carrying around for who knows how long.

11. Pilates teaches you to be yourself.

The modern world puts us under a lot of stress because we constantly feel the need to conform to certain standards. We constantly have to push our boundaries to meet a deadline, be a better parent or look an act according to modern-day standards.

Pilates teaches us to respect our body and be content with it. Pilates practice is focused on working within your range of motion and building up your strength and flexibility gradually. Interesting enough, once we become confident in what we are doing we find strength and motivation to move to the next level. However, our progress is not propelled by comparing ourselves to someone else but rather by setting our personal standards and priorities that are meaningful to us.

When we learn to respect our bodies this way we also learn to do the same with everything else in our lives. We start living according to our priorities and desires, instead of keeping up with the Joneses.

12. Become more confident.

In her TED Talk, social psychologist Amy Cuddy discusses how the “power” posture boosts confidence levels. I hope you listened to your Mama when she told you to sit up straight and straighten up because it is the exact posture that makes us more confident. Pilates is all about good posture and proper body alignment. Of course, good posture is important for your health but you will also gain the confidence benefit from it.

Through the Pilates Method of Body Conditioning this unique trinity of a balanced body, mind and spirit can ever be attained. Self confidence follows.

~Joseph Pilates

"It's not about being good at something, it is about being good to yourself."

In Health and Happiness, Holly

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Fierce offers a variety of options to suit your needs. We offer both private and semi-private sessions...

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This is where we start. A complete consultation one on one with me. I will ask you about your life. Very detailed and very informative session that allows me to understand what you deal with daily, who you are, what patterns you have established, healthy and not healthy, everything from sleeping patterns, food consumption to daily routines.  This consultation also serves as a purpose to inform me if we are a good fit. If we will work well together. I only accept clients that are truly ready for transformation. My time, training, investment in you is a premium service and I only accept clients that are ready and willing for that transformation. I am outcome based. I deliver results. Are you ready?


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