Maybe we don’t need so much sleep after all

The only thing more worrisome than our lack of sleep is how stressed out we are by our lack of sleep. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, insufficient sleep is a public health problem. The agency goes so far as to link lack of sleep to health issues such as obesity, high blood pressure, depression and diabetes and even “motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, and medical and other occupational errors.”

It’s no wonder we’re worried about not sleeping the recommended eight hours each night. But a new study has found that maybe we don’t really need as much sleep as we thought.

The modern theory on sleep deprivation is that healthy amounts of sleep went down the toilet along with the invention of the lightbulb. Once artificial light came along, people no longer listened to natural cues about when it was time for bed. Today’s explosion of electronic gadgets and round-the-clock work schedules has exacerbated the problem.

But a new study published in the journal Current Biology took a look at the sleep patterns of three communities that serve as good examples of what life was like in the developed world before lights and distractions. Researchers evaluated the sleep habits of people in three tribes — the Hadza and San tribes in Africa, and the Tsimané people in South America — that currently live without electricity or any other modern electronic innovations that have been linked to poor sleep. And guess what? They sleep even fewer hours each night than most Americans, yet they don’t suffer from any issues of obesity, diabetes or occupational errors.

Researchers found that the people in these hunter-gatherer communities were relatively fit and healthy. Even without lightbulbs to keep them awake, they stayed up three to four hours past sunset often with only a small community fire to provide light and warmth. On most days they rise at least an hour before the sun. On average, the members of these tribes sleep for about six and a half hours each night — less than the average American.

Perhaps most importantly, the members of these tribes were not stressed about sleep. Despite sleeping less than the amount recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, they did not worry about their lack of sleep. And while chronic insomnia affects 20 percent to 30 percent of Americans, only 2 percent of the hunter-gatherers had trouble sleeping. The San and the Tsimané did not even have words for sleep problems in their languages.

The takeaway from the study is that we should all quit worrying about the numbers and focus on getting the amount of sleep we need to wake up feeling refreshed.

credit: Jenn Savedge

What is hypnobirthing?

Advocates of hypnobirthing prize the technique’s emphasis on getting out of the body’s way during childbirth and allowing it to perform its natural processes.

Today, more than 50 percent of women giving birth in hospitals choose to have an epidural during childbirth, a testament to just how many women are terrified to go through labor and delivery naturally. Sure, many hospitals recommend new moms take Lamaze classes before their babies are born, but much of that education flies out the window when the first really painful contraction hits. Another lesser known birthing method, hypnobirthing, could help those women who’d like to have a natural childbirth but are just too scared. The method is based on knowledge that fully accepts and acknowledges those fears.

Hypnobirthing operates under the concept that muscles under tension create the experience of pain; conversely muscles that are in a relaxed state do not. “It’s like when you lift your arm without holding anything in your hand – it doesn’t hurt,” explains Rivkah Estrin, childbirth educator and postpartum doula, who herself practiced hypnobirthing successfully though five deliveries. “But if you’re holding something extremely heavy in your hand and then you try to lift your arm, then you feel it.”

So how does hypnobirthing work?

The method allows you, over the course of your pregnancy, to practice relaxation techniques that allow your uterus to function as it’s intended to. “The first part of the process is just about releasing your own fears and understanding the mechanics of the labor process,” Estrin says. “The more you know and the more you educate yourself, the more confident and relaxed you are.”

You can either take a local class or if one isn’t offered near you, buy the book “HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method” together with the guided meditation CDs. “You practice every night — either by doing guided meditations with your partner or alone. The more you use those meditations, visualizations, and affirmations, the more you end up really believing them, and the more empowered you become,” Estrin says.

Then, during labor itself, you create the environment that is most calming for you. For Estrin, it was dimmed lights with candles lit. She found that place within herself where she was most relaxed and allowed herself to breathe through a contraction — or a surge as it’s referred to in hypnobirthing. “I felt pressure but no pain,” Estrin says. “I still feel like that labor and delivery was the most amazing thing I’ve ever done.”

There are two kinds of hypnobirthing — the Mongan method (named for Marie “Mickey” Mongan, who pioneered hypnobirthing) and HypnoBabies, which uses the same method for hypnosis used by people preparing for surgery without anesthesia (called hypno-anesthesia).

What advice would Estrin give to new moms interested in learning more about the method? “Absolutely pursue it, learn about it, educate yourself, and become your best advocate,” she says. “It’s about advocating for yourself. Don’t be afraid of asking questions or changing providers, who will allow to have the birth be what you want. It’s with any learned skill in life — once you’re educated and empowered, the fear really goes away and you focus on what you can do to assist your body in its natural process, rather than get in the way.”

Credit: Chanie Kirschner

Men and woman literally see the world differently

A new study shows that the sexes really do see the world differently. Men notice small details and moving things while women are more sensitive to color changes.

Guys’ eyes are more sensitive to small details and moving objects, while women are more perceptive to color changes, according to a new vision study that suggests men and women actually do see things differently.

“As with other senses, such as hearing and the olfactory system, there are marked sex differences in vision between men and women,” researcher Israel Abramov, of the City University of New York (CUNY), said in a statement. Research has shown women have more sensitive ears and sniffers than men.

“A recent, large review of the literature concluded that, in most cases females had better sensitivity, and discriminated and categorized odors better than males,” Abramov and colleagues write Tuesday (Sept. 4) 2015 in the journal Biology of Sex Differences.

Abramov and his team from CUNY’s Brooklyn and Hunter Colleges compared the vision of males and females over age 16 who had normal color vision and 20/20 sight — or at least 20/20 vision with glasses or contacts.

In one part of the study, the researchers asked the volunteers to describe different colors shown to them. They found that the guys required a slightly longer wavelength of a color to experience the same shade as women and the men were less able to tell the difference between hues. [Your Color Red Really Could Be My Blue.

The researchers also showed the participants images made up of light and dark bars that varied in width and alternated in color so that they appeared to flicker, a measure of participants’ sensitivity to contrast. Compared with the women, the male volunteers were better able to identify the more rapidly changing images made up of thinner bars, the researchers said.

Abramov explained in a statement these elements of vision are linked to specific sets of thalamic neurons in the brain’s primary visual cortex. The development of these neurons is controlled by male sex hormones called androgens when the embryo is developing into a fetus.

“We suggest that, since these neurons are guided by the cortex during embryogenesis, that testosterone plays a major role, somehow leading to different connectivity between males and females,” Abramov said. “The evolutionary driving force between these differences is less clear.”

Previous research found that men and women also focus differently. In experiments at the University of Southern California, researchers found that men are likely to fixate on the mouth of a person in conversation and also are more likely to be distracted by movement behind that person. Meanwhile, women tend to shift their gaze between a speaker’s eyes and body, and they are more likely to be distracted by other people, the researchers found.

credit/source: livescience


Astronomers discover gigantic structure one-ninth the size of the observable universe

The sheer size of our universe is just about unfathomable, so you can imagine the surprise that researchers must have experienced when they recently discovered a structure within our universe that measured 5 billion light years across. That’s more than one-ninth the size of the entire observable universe, and by far the largest structure ever discovered.

In fact, this mysterious structure is so colossal that it could shatter our current understanding of the cosmos.

“If we are right, this structure contradicts the current models of the universe,” said Lajos Balazs, lead author on the paper, in a press release by the Royal Astronomical Society. “It was a huge surprise to find something this big – and we still don’t quite understand how it came to exist at all.”
Just what is this massive structure? It’s not a single, physical object, but rather a cluster of nine massive galaxies bound together gravitationally, much like how our Milky Way is part of a cluster of galaxies. It was discovered after researchers identified a ring of nine gamma ray bursts (GRBs) that appeared to be at very similar distances from us, each around 7 billion light years away.

GRBs are the brightest electromagnetic events known to occur in the universe, caused by a supernova. Their detection typically indicates the presence of a galaxy, so all of the GRBs in this ring are believed to each come from a different galaxy. But their close proximity to one another suggests that these galaxies must be linked together. There is only a 1 in 20,000 probability of the GRBs being in this distribution by chance.

A mega-cluster of this size shouldn’t be possible, at least not if you think in terms of our current theories. Those theories predict that the universe ought to be relatively uniform on the largest scales, meaning that the sizes of structures shouldn’t vary by much. In fact, the theoretical limit to structure size has been calculated at around 1.2 billion light years across.

If the Hungarian-American team’s calculations are correct, then this giant new structure– which measures in at over 5 billion light years across — would blow that classic model out of the water. In fact, either the researchers’ calculations are wrong on this, or scientists will need to radically revise their theories on the evolution of the cosmos.

Needless to say, this GRB cluster discovery has the potential to cause a sweeping paradigm shift in astronomy. At the very least, it reminds us just how small our view of the universe really is.

Source:Bryan Nelson

What is your real age?

Your biological age could be a better indicator of your health than your true age.
Forget the candles on your birthday cake; there’s a good chance your biological age could be younger — or older — than your chronological age.

Researchers have defined a signature of 150 RNA genes that indicate healthy aging. Using a “healthy age gene score” derived from that data, they are able to calculate whether people are more at risk of age-related disease, such as Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis. These researchers say biological age can differ substantially from true age, and it’s a better indicator of a person’s health.

“We use birth year, or chronological age, to judge everything from insurance premiums to whether you get a medical procedure or not,” said lead author James Timmons from King’s College London in a statement. “Most people accept that all 60 year olds are not the same, but there has been no reliable test for underlying ‘biological age’.”

In the new study, published in the journal Genome Biology, researchers analyzed genetic material from healthy 65-year-olds to discover the genes that showed signs of healthy aging.

The researchers then used this healthy age gene score to follow a group of 70-year-old subjects. Their theory tested out. Those with higher scores had better overall health, including two key indicators of longevity, cognitive function and kidney function.

Specifically, they found that people with Alzheimer’s disease had lower gene scores.

“This is the first blood test of its kind that has shown that the same set of molecules are regulated in both the blood and the brain regions associated with dementia, and it can help contribute to a dementia diagnosis,” said Timmons. “This also provides strong evidence that dementia in humans could be called a type of ‘accelerated ageing’ or ‘failure to activate the healthy ageing program’.”

Because early intervention is so critical with Alzheimer’s, researchers say this healthy age gene score can be used to help decide which patients are entered into preventive clinical trials long before clinical symptoms appear.

Assuming the study results hold up, having a diagnostic tool to determine Alzheimer’s risk would be tremendously useful, said Eric Topol, a cardiologist/geneticist at Scripps Health, in an interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune.

“They took a pretty systematic approach, but it’s going to require considerably more work,” Topol said. “It’s more in the discovery phase and they have to validate it … What they’re hunting for is a worthy hunt; whether they have it, it’s still very preliminary.”

By: Mary Jo DiLonardo


Solar Sunflower harnesses power of many suns

The latest in solar power comes to us from Swiss inventors working for Airlight Energy, Dsolar (a subsidiary of Airlight), and IBM Research in Zurich, reports Ars Technica. It’s called the Solar Sunflower, and like its namesake, it tracks the sun and cools itself by pumping water through its veins like a plant.

Aside from its aesthetically-pleasing design, the Solar Sunflower also makes use of some innovative technology. It uses something called HCPVT (Highly Efficient Concentrated PhotoVoltaic/Thermal) to generate electricity and hot water from solar power. Basically, this method entails using reflectors to concentrate the sun, as well as highly efficient photovoltaic cells (known as gallium-arsenide photovoltaic cells) to convert that concentrated solar energy into electricity.

Though concentrated solar thermal power and PVs are nothing new to the solar power industry, the Solar Sunflower incorporates these technologies in a novel way that represents a few ingenious engineering breakthroughs.

According to Gianluca Ambrosetti, Airlight’s head of research, the Solar Sunflower’s reflectors concentrate the sun “to about 5,000 suns.” In other words, the difference between this technology being classified as a death ray as opposed to a solar array is merely a matter of how the reflectors are angled. For instance, during one test, Airlight used the reflectors to melt a hole in a lump of iron. It gets extremely hot, and dealing with those high temperatures is how the Solar Sunflower really sets itself apart.

Photovoltaic cells used by the Sunflower have a max operating temperature of around 105 degrees Celsius, which is significantly less than the melting temperature of iron, let alone the heat of 5,000 suns. To counteract this, the Sunflower makes use of a hot water cooling system invented by the project’s IBM collaborators. Basically, this consists of pieces of silicon packed with microfluidic channels that are stuck to the backside of the PV cells. Water pumps through these highly efficient microfluidic channels to absorb all that heat.

Here’s where things get really efficient and innovative, though: rather than piping all that scorching-hot water through a radiator to dissipate the heat (and thus waste it), the team instead uses that hot water as a power source itself, to heat homes or drive industrial processes. The end result is a device that produces about 12kW of electricity, along with 21kW of thermal energy.

Even though that doesn’t amount to a huge amount of energy (the 12kW of electricity is only enough to power a few homes, for instance), it is nonetheless highly efficient. The real obstacle to the implementation of the Solar Sunflower is its cost. Its gallium-arsenide photovoltaic cells, though more efficient than standard PV cells, are not cheap. Add up construction costs and the costs of the fancy cooling system, and the design isn’t going to be able to financially compete with less innovative but sure-fire solar energy harvesters already on the market.

It does have an aesthetic appeal, however. And the innovation at the heart of the design could lead to future advances that might eventually lower the costs. At the very least, the Solar Sunflower adds to the list of highly-efficient alternatives to non-renewables now available to consumers.

credit: Bryan Nelson

The universe is ringing like a large bell

Ever since the Big Bang, the universe has been ringing. And scientists are just now picking up.

At least, that’s the idea being presented by Lawrence Mead and Harry Ringermacher, two physicists at The University of Southern Mississippi. According to their calculations, the universe has been acting like a giant bell that was rung by the Big Bang, and it is still oscillating to this day, still rippling the fabric of spacetime.

The pair made their discovery while attempting to plot a graph that described the scale of the universe against its age. Their measurements made the most sense when understood in terms of an undulation or “ringing” of the universe that is gradually slowing in its rate of oscillation over time, much like the fading reverberation of a bell that has been rung.

“We found there was more than one such time – in fact multiple oscillations with a frequency of about 7 cycles over the lifetime of the universe. It is space itself that has been speeding up its expansion followed by slowing down 7 times since creation,” explained Ringermacher (who, given his role in this discovery, doesn’t have an ironic name at all).

“The ringing has been decaying and is now very small – much like striking a crystal glass and hearing it ring down,” described Mead.
The theory doesn’t challenge the notion that our universe is expanding overall — a universal expansion is still happening, say the scientists — but the pace of this expansion appears to speed up or slow down depending on where we are in the cycle of oscillation.

These oscillations are also happening on extremely large timescales, each taking over a billion years to occur. So they aren’t something that can be felt in any tangible sense from our experience. So no spacetime tidal waves or space-quakes are expected to suddenly start knocking down buildings or spinning planets out of orbit. But our understanding of how the universe has been shaped since its inception at the Big Bang could certainly be rocked by the discovery.

Ringermacher and Mead acknowledge that their finding must first be reviewed by independent analyses before it can be confirmed, but it at least goes to show that we still have a lot to learn about the behavior and origin of our universe.

credit: Bryan Nelson


everybody say AUM


“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
The Holy Bible

In its simplified jist, the Superstring Theory states: at its’ ultimate indivisible level (all) matter is made up of wiggly energy strings that may mingle or migrate away from other strings.
And the Superstring Theory is by majority an accepted and established facticity.
Which implies that you and I and the roof under which we are right now are, essentially, at the fundamental level, made of twisted vibrating energy waves. So what is it that makes us and other things different?
It is the rate of vibration of these strings.
Everything in the universe is made up of pure pulsating energy vibrating at its’ own personal frequency, called resonant frequency. (A secret of matter which makes up one of the seven Hermetic Principles: everything is in motion; everything vibrates.)
As Pythagoras put it, everything from atoms to celestial bodies produces sound vibrations. There is an underlying harmonic principle behind everything.
Even as we sit still and silent, our cells are buzzing a frequency as our strings vibrate.
But as human species, our hearing is limited to the audibility range of 20-20,000 vibrations (20 Hz-20 kHz). Which is merely 2% of available sounds, the rest being cut off from our ears as sub or ultra sonic.
Sound effects over matter and the environment have been proven by many:
Ernst Chladni-German Scientist and father of modern acoustics provided visual proof of sound vibrations over sand, creating geometric patterns.
The Swiss Doctor, Hans Jenny, who carried out cymatic (wave phenomenon) experiments.
Dr. Masaru Emoto, Japanese scientist, who proved how different positive sounds create the most unique geometric water crystals.
The French Bio-energitician Fabian Maman, who discovered that the benign human voice was capable of detonating even rogue cancer cells, destabilizing them and energizing healthy ones.
In fact even as far back as 1665 in recent history, the Dutch scientist Christian Huygens discovered the phenomenon of Entrainment – synchronizing an object to a particular vibration- by means of one powerful object upgrading the vibration of another lesser vibrating object.
Hence, it is a proven fact that :
Different frequencies produce different sounds.
These sounds have different form correlates (as seen by oscilloscopes).
Sound energy has the power to alter molecular structure.

Of Ages Past
The sound A-U-M is not a copyright of any religious denomination. It predates religion- is as old or as new as the eternal Dharma that runs the web of the wide, wide world. It is an existential sound.
But credit must be given where it is due and as regards this, full credit goes to the Pre-Vedic Rishis or sages of yore, who , while surfing in mystic ecstasy the quantum non-local hyperspace, heard this Anahat Nad or Unstruck Sound.
Unstruck- as it was not produced by two objects striking each other.
As they abided in the primal energy-pool of existence, they heard this trinity of sounds ringing out clearly; a trinity that arose from the uber-dynamic, silent-stillness of the Absolute Unity. (Or as the Hindus put it simply- the Brahman)
These three sounds rose up from beyond the boundaries of existence.
And just as there are three primary colors in nature that give rise to all subsequent ones; these three are primary sounds, which in various permutations give rise to all others.
From that supra-conscious plane, the rishis brought this arch string sound to the gross planet for the benefit of all sentient creatures, so that one would anchor in it, and thereby elevate to the divine reality of which this was a living symbol. They gave us Nada Yoga, or Yoga of Sound.
Sanskrit has never been a linguistic language. It was always a phonetic, sound-driven means of communication, intended to cause the cells to beat at a higher frequency, to reach a higher level of consciousness.
And since it was known even then as it is now, that sound travels almost five times faster in water than through air, the physical human apparatus was deemed an optimum conductor of sound energy, 70% of it being constituted by water.
This triad is pregnant with the mysteries of creation and all existential truths. Since it is existential, it is unbound by time, meaning it contains the past, the present, the future in a continuum of eternity.
A-U-M can respectively mean the waking, dreaming and dreamless state. And the fourth element- the silence that follows the three, signifies the Turiya- the state of superconscience.
The ancient Indian text Kathopanishad states: Whoever knows this, obtains whatever he wishes.
It has also been said : He who knows this becomes the gratifier of desires.
Kindly note, the stress is on knows, as opposed to chants, repeats, drones…etc.
And why so?
Because this esoteric triple sound attunes us to the secrets of matter on the physical axis (knowing which one can have mastery over) and attunes us with the higher cosmic reality to which we are all connected (not just random acts of factory production after all, eh).
Where A= creator, U= preserver, M= destroyer.
It is the power behind all and everything, therefore, it liberates.
It has aptly been called the Pranava in Hinduism, as the vibrations swim discreetly throughout the vital breath, prana.
But it has been erroneously mistaken to be a word- which it is not.
It is an intonation, one literally has to fall into tune with it. In it.
And in so doing, we feel each and every cell of ours pulsating actively, for therein we are in harmony with the cosmos.

The Power and the Glory
Since the universe is infinite, each of us- I/You/He/She/It, are the centers of it actually.
And as all sounds emanate out from a point, in attuning to this primal vibration, we too become centers of creation. The very source itself. The heartbeat of existence. That’s one more secret uncovered.
By default, any mantra needs intrinsically to be without any meaning. It needs intrinsically to be just pure sound, that which invokes a feeling.
Therefore, A-U-M.
It is added as a catalytic prefix to all Buddhist and Hindu mantras, lest they render ineffectual.
Just as all sounds have a form corresponding, they have a “feeling” correlate as well. Thus, mantras do away with the thinking process and incite only feeling. A mantra will (gradually) open up a thought-free zone wherein only feelings prevail, making it hospitable for the higher consciousness to descend.
New Age Gurus like Osho suggest that A-U-M is something we strive to become, not monotonously chant x times. Mindless number-oriented repetition only induces sheer ennui, lethargy and well, instant sleep. Not worthy consequences of so omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent a mantra.
The slower we take it, the deeper we move in into innerspace, and the more alert/aware we are, we find it permeating our cellular level, entering our heart chakra. And then, the purpose has been fulfilled.
We need not make any more effort here on, we feel it! We hear it! We be it!! Ultimate!!
But we must start where we are now, here, (which is technically nowhere). So we must first intone it to get anywhere.

Benefits of A-U-M
ჱ Intoning the mantra allows a freeflow of natural pranic energy throughout the body, thereby removing energy blockages, resolving stress and tension.
ჱ Entrainment of the body at the atomic level increases resonance and wholeness. The cells heal and regenerate on their own, regaining their purity.
ჱ A realignment and rebalance of spiritual/emotional/physical bodies takes place. As it clears and empties the mind of toxicity (translate as thoughts), there is an ascension of energy to the higher chakras or planes of consciousness.
ჱ Alpha and theta brainwaves are impacted and stimulated to therapeutically decelerate the rate of respiration, heartbeat and bp. An overall peaceful calm ensues; anxiety, insomnia, indigestion, depression, trauma and pain are all holistically dealt with.
ჱ Diseases occur when there is disharmony in the body. The purifying effect of the tri-sound is a serious disease deterrent.
ჱ Human sound therapy has been seen and proven to be effective in treatment of life threatening cancer and even being used as a palliative cure.

By listening and/or sounding the holy A-U-M, one is adding to the already potent pool of cosmic vibration, an energy system that has been since space-time energized by all those whose rhythms were one with the universe. We can aggrandize that rich tradition by personal application, both for self-gain and the larger good.
For everything we say or hear has an effect on us, others, the environment.
So every time you and I get that natural urge to spit out our favorite four letter word, let’s become a tad bit aware and breathe in these three syllables instead (and tune into the famed Pythagorean music of the spheres).
Feel it now-
Everybody Say A-U-M.


Yoga:the breastcancer recovery key

Breast cancer survivors have a lot to think about when it comes to their recovery. There are often suggestions from doctors on what kind of food to eat, or how often to exercise in order to help reduce the chance of recurrence. But for breast cancer survivors, sometimes just the thought of exercise can make them want to sit down and rest. A cancer survivor is often weak from the treatments he or she has gone through.

Consistently, cancer survivors’ average fitness levels are about 30 percent lower than those of sedentary people without a cancer history. That’s why I think the findings of a new study that I just completed will help these patients. The results, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, show that yoga is beneficial in many ways to breast cancer survivors. Yoga provides graded exercise that can be tailored for individuals who have been sedentary, and the postures can be modified to accommodate functional limitations.

It is widely known that yoga benefits your health. Many people who practice yoga experience gains in flexibility, feel more relaxed, sleep better, have stronger muscles and also might even see a drop in their blood pressure. What my colleagues and I at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center concluded in our study is that inflammation for cancer patients also dropped when they routinely practiced yoga. [Yoga Holds Benefits for Breast Cancer Survivors]

My study was a randomized, controlled trial (RCT) of 200 women who are breast cancer survivors. I compared a 12-week hatha yoga intervention with a wait-list control condition, which is a group who did not do yoga during the study. We collected questionnaires and fasting blood samples at beginning, immediately post-treatment, and 3 months post-treatment — with both groups. Participants ranged in age from 27 years to 76 years old, and had completed cancer treatment within the past three years. We chose these participants who were at least two months past their surgery or last radiation treatment, whichever occurred last. Women in the yoga group participated in two 90-minute weekly sessions, while participants assigned to the wait-list control group were told to continue performing their usual activities, and to refrain from beginning any yoga practice. After their final assessment, they were offered the yoga classes, meaning everyone had the chance to join yoga after the study ended.
When we began this study, we hypothesized that participants who participated in yoga would have decreased inflammation, depressive symptoms and fatigue in contrast to those participants in the wait-list control. After reviewing the outcomes of all women in the study, we now know that our hypothesis was correct.

Immediately post-treatment, vitality was higher in the yoga group compared to the control group. At 3 months post-treatment, the yoga group’s fatigue was lower, vitality was higher, and the inflammation markers in their blood that we tested for (IL-6, TNF-α, and IL-1β — which are pro-inflammatory markers) were lower for yoga participants compared to those in the control group. What we also discovered is that the more a woman participated in yoga, the greater the benefits in fatigue, vitality and inflammation reduction.

Despite the fact that our participants’ weight did not change and our trial did not include aerobic or resistance exercise, pro-inflammatory cytokine production decreased significantly in yoga participants compared to the wait-list group. This is important, because inflammation enhances risk in many age-related diseases including heart disease and diabetes, and also increases the risks for cancer recurrence.

Another benefit of this trial was that we showed yoga can help cancer survivors get better rest. Previous studies have shown that up to 60 percent of cancer survivors report sleep problems during survivorship, a rate that is two or three times as high as similar adults without a cancer history. The problem with that is disturbed sleep elevates inflammation, as well as fatigue, and thus the improved sleep reported by yoga group participants likely contributed to the positive changes both at the beginning of the trial and through the 3-month post-treatment visit.

While our study may underestimate the entire list of potential benefits of yoga, the results show that yoga can have a significant benefit, and therefore I recommend that all breast cancer survivors consider adding it to their exercise plan.


which meditation technique is best for you?

The data is in, and meditation works; not only does it help us live happier, less stressful lives, but it has measurable effects on physical health too. But if you’ve tried and (feel like you’ve) failed at meditating, it might be because you haven’t found the right meditation type for you. Below, you’ll find seven different ways “in” to a meditation practice; the benefits of each type are similar once you are practicing regularly — whether you find your way into meditation via walking and chanting, taking a class from a Transcendental Meditation teacher, or via meditation paired with your existing faith.

The most important part of meditation is not doing it a certain way, wearing particular clothes while doing it, or being in a specific place — or whatever your preconception of the “right” way to meditate is. It’s about finding what works with your life. Unlike a spin class, there are no rules you have to follow (though it’s useful to get a grounding in how other people meditate). There is only the regular practice and sticking with it, day-by-day. Think of meditation more like making a positive, life-long shift to a healthy eating, rather than a specific diet program (with celebrity endorsement and a thick book) that you follow for a month and then abandon. A truly beneficial meditation practice will take time and persistence.

So check out the styles of meditation below, and try them out — play with what works for you, and what doesn’t. Don’t be rigid about what meditation is, or looks like, or what you think it’s going to feel like. Ask yourself questions: Do you like to move, or does stillness work better for you? How about vocalizations? Do you want to focus on something or nothing? Your particular way into meditation may be different, but the stress relief, reduced anger, feelings of well-being, lowered blood pressure, and other benefits are available to everyone

Focused meditation is an umbrella term for any kind of meditation that includes focus on some aspect of the five senses, though visualizations are the most popular. Focusing on an image of a flower, a flame, or moving water are all ways to keep the mind gently focused so you are less likely to become distracted. You can also try concentrating on the feel of something — your fingers against each other, the way your breath feels moving in and out of your body, or the alignment of your spine. Focusing on a simple sound (a gentle gong, a bell, or music) or sounds from nature are another option.

Guided meditation is a focused meditation that is led by someone other than yourself and usually includes one or more of the techniques in focus meditation, above. You will get led through breathing instructions and some kind of visualization, body scan, or sound, or perhaps a mantra (see below).

Spiritual meditation is interchangeable with what most of us understand as prayer. If you are already part of a spiritual tradition, this may be an easier way into meditation, because you have already been practicing some elements of it. You can try it as an extension of what you already do in your place of worship if being in the church, sanctuary, mosque, hall or synagogue helps you dive into a quieter, more reflective state, or you can conjure up that feeling at home or in another place. Start with the words you have heard or said yourself, but instead of stopping at the end of a prayer or song, keep sitting quietly. You can ask a question and listen for an answer — sometimes people feel that an answer comes from outside of them; or you can enumerate what you are grateful for. Use your experience of prayer to access that quiet, meditative mind space.

Mantra meditation is when you use a sound or a set of sounds, repetitively, to enter and stay within the meditative state. It may seem like a contradiction to make noise when meditating, because many people have the idea that meditation equals silence, but that’s not the case at all, and mantras have a long history within the tradition. Of course, you can chant quietly, or even whisper your set of words, draw them out, make them more sing-songy, or even quite loud. You can say them in your head and maintain outer silence. You can choose a word or words in any language: (Peace and love and happiness, for example), or a sound like “Ohm.” You can make up sounds or words if you like or take them from another language; the sound or words you choose are really up to you and are simply a way to prevent distracting thoughts.

Transcendental Meditation (often abbreviated as TM by practitioners) is the type that’s most likely been studied by scientists when you hear about the various physical and mental benefits to meditation. With over 5 million practitioners worldwide, it is considered the most popular form of meditation, with the bonus being that it is usually easy to find free or low-cost classes in most places. It is a little more formalized than some of the other meditation types mentioned here, but it useful for beginning or exploring meditation if you are new to it. According to their site, TM is: “… a simple, natural, effortless procedure practiced 20 minutes twice each day while sitting comfortably with the eyes closed. It’s not a religion, philosophy, or lifestyle.”

Movement meditations are exactly what they sound like; instead of sitting quietly, you get to move around the room, the house, a woodsy path, or the garden (or wherever) — usually in a relatively simple and calming way. Walking meditation, most types of yoga, gardening, and even basic housecleaning tasks can be moving meditations. This meditation type is great for people who already sit all day at work and want to move and meditate when not at a desk, and for those people who find sitting still to be a distraction from being able to meditate at all.

Mindfulness is a type of meditation that is an ongoing part of life, rather than a separate activity. A great way to address stress in the moment it is happening, and over time becomes more like a mental skill than a time separate from the rest of life. It can be easier to get into a mindful state of mind if one has already been practicing meditation separately.

Credit:Starr Vartan