Shred the Slopes: Asana for Skiers + Snowboards

By Kelsey Frazier

#WinterIsComing, and with it skiing and snowboarding season! Prepare for success and prevent injury this season by cross training with yoga. The slow, controlled movement of yoga asana creates greater awareness and agility in the body and strengthens both the major and supporting muscles involved in charging down the mountain. The following yoga postures will help you optimize your performance without injuring yourself by stretching the hip flexors and knees, strengthening the ankles, and improving balance and coordination. Add these poses to your routine before or after your day on the mountain.

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Let us know how these yoga postures help you this winter season in the comments below. Hashtag your yoga photos with #AbleandWell to show us your routine in action!

All Systems Go: How Yoga Affects the Systems of Your Body

By Kelsey Frazier

 

Wellness can be defined as a balanced lifestyle where all systems — body, mind, and soul — work together at their highest capacity. Naturally, due to our human nature, it’s easy to become imbalanced due to the effects of our environment, personal life, work, diet, and more. Yoga has proven itself time and time again to be a great counter to these influences, restoring the body to a more balanced state. Scientific studies have proven these effects, citing yoga as a great benefit to the respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic, nervous, digestive, endocrine, and muscular systems. Here’s how:

Respiratory System

We’ll start with the lungs. Breathing is perhaps the primary facet to a yoga practice. In yoga the breath is linked to prana, or life energy, and is largely responsible for moving prana through the body. Pranayama, the yogic practice of controlling the breath, works to maximize this energy in the body. These practices improve lung function, maximize intake of oxygen and create more efficient exhalations. More efficient breathing = less wasted energy = higher function.

Circulatory System

Yoga has been shown to boost levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the tissues and thins the blood by making platelets less sticky. This cuts the level of those clot-promoting proteins in the blood which often lead to heart attacks or stroke.

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Lymphatic System

Your lymphatic system is largely responsible for immunity and circulation within the body. When you contract and stretch muscles in yoga postures you increase the drainage of lymph (a viscous fluid rich in immune cells) which assists the lymphatic system in fighting infection, destroying cancerous cells, and disposing of toxic waste products.

Nervous System

The nervous system is the primary communication system in your body. The brain sends signals to the body via the nervous system using electronic impulses transmitted via nerves. Bundles of fibres form the large nerves, and yoga asana has actually been shown to stretch and purify these bundles. Yoga has also been shown to stabilize the nervous system in response to stress, allowing us to live calmer more well-adjusted lives. Thus, in practicing yoga we are reducing stress in the body and thus reducing the chance of disease in the long run.

Muscular System

Many of us spend our days at desk jobs, while others can be found staring at their phone screen throughout the day. Some of us push our bodies with physical exercise on a regular basis leading to tight and fatigued musculature.  As a result, we often develop muscular imbalances. “When you start to understand these imbalances, you start to understand the genius of yoga poses,” Ray Long, MD, orthopedic surgeon, sports-medicine specialist, and author of the book series The Key Muscles of Yoga and The Key Poses of Yoga says. “When they’re done with proper alignment, you simultaneously stretch the muscles that tend to be tight or overactive and strengthen the muscles that tend to be weak or underactive.” Many people start taking yoga because they’re tired of muscular tightness. It’s easy to see why.

Digestive System

Think back to our discussion regarding stress relief. Ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation—all of these are caused and exacerbated by stress. When you practice yoga you reduce stress in the body, ultimately reducing the chance of these digestive issues. Yoga also eases the symptoms of constipation and lowers the risk of colon cancer by facilitating more rapid transport of food and waste through the bowels. *insert poop emoji here*

Endocrine/Hormonal System

Your glands are responsible for the secretion of hormones which work together as messengers in the body, telling your systems when to turn on and off. They affect your metabolism, emotions, growth, sexual development and functioning. Yoga takes pressure off of the glands, particularly the adrenal gland, relaxing the stress response and shifting the body into a state of relaxation. It’s in this state of  relaxation that the body is able to recalibrate and return to it’s natural, balanced state. This, in turn, reduces the likelihood of stress related diseases.

Immune System

#WinterIsComing.  Boost your immunity for the cold months ahead with yoga! Asana and pranayama have great effects on immune function, but it’s meditation that takes the cake. According to Yoga Journal, meditation has “a beneficial effect on the functioning of the immune system, boosting it when needed (for example, raising antibody levels in response to a vaccine) and lowering it when needed (for instance, mitigating an inappropriately aggressive immune function in an autoimmune disease like psoriasis).”

…and there you have it! A comprehensive look at how Yoga affects every system in the body. Ready to step on the mat?

Why Yoga? A Basic Guide to the Benefits of Yoga

By Kelsey Frazier

In today’s day-in-age it seems as if yoga is everywhere and #EveryoneIsDoingIt. According to a study performed by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance, a whopping 36.7 million people are practicing yoga in 2016 as compared to 20.4 million people in 2012. Of those 36.7 million, 72% of practicioners are women and 28% are men. It’s predicted that a total of 80 million people will at least try yoga in 2016. Needless to say: that’s a lot of people. Two conclusions can be drawn from this data: either they all drank from the same batch of CoolAid (unlikely) or there must be something to this whole Yoga thing. We’re going with the latter.

There is a plethora of scientific data regarding the benefits of yoga — from improved flexibility to lower blood pressure, increased lymphatic and adrenal health, a greater ability to focus, and an overall boost in general happiness. Yoga also provides great cross-training benefits for athletes and those of us who work out on a regular basis.  The best thing about Yoga is that its benefits do not discriminate. Whether you’re an athlete, simply looking to get a good stretch, or someone suffering from chronic pain or illness, yoga is applicable and accessible to everyone. How does it work? Let’s take a look…

1. Cultivates Longevity in the Body

In many ways, yoga is similar to drinking from the fountain of youth. Stepping on the mat and moving your body in a conscious way 2-3 times a week keeps joints lubricated and prevents cartilage breakdown, building a strong foundation for staying agile into your later years. Increased blood flow during yoga practice keeps your heart strong and helps to rinse toxins from the bloodstream, lowering your risk of diseases like heart attack and cancer. Yoga also lowers cortisol and adrenaline levels, encourages weight loss, and improves sensitivity to the effects of insulin, all which decreases your risk of heart attack and organ failure. In other words: making a regular yoga practice a part of your life is a simple method of maintaining your body in it’s highest functioning state. If that doesn’t make you want to hop on a mat, I don’t know what will.

2. Provides Stress Relief

Think back to 10th grade biology. Remember learning about the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight) vs. parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest)? Both systems are a part of the overall autonomic nervous system, which controls the function of the heart, liver, intestines, and other internal organs. The sympathetic nervous system activates in times of stress, creating tension and tightness in the body, raising blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar levels. The parasympathetic nervous system counters these effects, slowing the mind, decreasing heart rate, and creating sensations of ease in the body.

Research has identified stress as a major contributor to migraines, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, and more extreme issues like heart attacks, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Yoga works to counter these issues by activating the parasympathetic nervous system through meditation, breathwork, and general efforts to focus on the present moment. Even more strenuous yoga techniques (think: sun salutations, advanced poses, and breath retentions), which activate the sympathetic nervous system, actually lead to greater relaxation when followed by relaxing practices. In other words, yoga is the closest thing to an all-natural “chill pill” there is.

3. Provides Additional Support for the Major Systems of the Body

Science has taken a great interest in yoga over the past decade, resulting in proof that it can and will benefit your body on both a surface and cellular level. Studies have shown that yoga helps all systems of the body in one way or another. From increased respiratory function, to improved circulation, lower stress levels, regulated hormones, greater immunity, and overall flexibility and strength, yoga does it all. Dive into greater detail and learn just how yoga affects each system by clicking here.

4. Makes for a Great Workout

Yoga is a great workout — or at least it can be, if that’s what you’re looking for. Step into one flow based yoga class and you’ll see why — the combination of demanding poses such as Chaturanga or downward dog and an emphasis on constant movement will have you sweating in no time at all. These classes can boost your heart rate into the aerobic range, helping you burn calories. But don’t be fooled into thinking you have to sweat in a yoga class to make it worth your while. Studies have shown that even calmer classes improve cardiovascular conditioning, lower your resting heart rate, improve oxygen intake, and increases endurance.

5. Empowers You Take Control of Your Life

Every time you step onto your mat you declare yourself an active participant in your life. Too often we are led to believe that life “just happens” and we’re left to deal with it as it comes. Yoga teaches us that it’s what we do for ourselves that matters and we can take control whenever we want. Think of yoga as a toolbox, giving you everything you need to make the changes you want and need in your life. The more you practice the more you see your intentions and goals begin to manifest themselves. In other words…yoga is a slippery slope to a more fulfilling life. Sign us up for the ride.