Thursday, March 19, 2015

Yoga Is Fun!

(Photo by Terry Doyle)
Yoga is fun.

From the time I squeeze myself into the yoga pants that I would never wear outside the yoga studio, through my awkward Adho Muka Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog) and tippy Vrikasana (Tree Pose), yoga makes me smile, even outright giggle at times. It also makes me sweat, stretch, and relieves my stress.

Many experts claim yoga increases core strength and balance, both important as we grow older. And flexibility exercises are touted as “ideal” for women. I know my clothes fit better since my year in yoga practice, and I can slip on a pair of fancy heels without having to sit on the edge of my bed to do it. Tighter tummy and balance improvement from Bandhasana (Bridge Pose) and Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana (High Plank Pose) while listening to violin music in a 75degree room is fun.
I haven’t left the snowy northeast so the yoga studio provides a weather escape several times a week. It’s warm, the music is relaxing and people speak kindly there. Class begins in Sukhasana (Easy Pose) and the instructor talks of coming to my mat and leaving the outside world. She reminds me to focus on myself and to set my personal intention each day. My yoga practice then has meaning specifically for me. I find that my intentions are often the same: 1) I want to be kinder to myself and to other people, so I focus on letting go of judgments and trying to just love myself and other people. 2) I forget to be thankful for many things in my life, so I set my intention to be mindful of that, during practice and throughout my week. Then I reach and stretch and lift and twist and bend, responding the best I can to the directions given. It feels good to move a bit more smoothly and with more grace and power every session.

To be fair, it is humbling when some women are wrapping their hands around their ankles in Uttanassana (Standing Forward Bend) when I’m pushing to reach my shins. And the day I fell out of Garudasana (Eagle Pose) and knocked over the 19 year old next to me was a little embarrassing. But I retreat to my mat and settle into Balasana (Child’s Pose) eyes closed, smiling to myself because I’m wearing bright blue yoga pants today, and that in itself is fun.

(Thanks to Dawn for sharing her enthusiasm about yoga. )

Saturday, March 14, 2015

For Every Publicized Hero, There Must Be Thousands We Never Hear Of

We can tell everyone our exact location when 9/11 happened.  We can list the people who helped with the injured and those who were killed:  firemen, policemen, Red Cross workers-some of whom we knew personally like Wally Jewell.

But with all the anniversaries of this tragedy, I never knew about a large group of people who came immediately to answer the call for help.

Put in perspective, the evacuation of Dunkirk during the Second World War took 9 days and saved 339,000 British and French soldiers. But these people, never acknowledge in any press release that I've seen, rescued over 500,000 people  in fewer than 9 hours that day. It was the largest boat lift in history.

 And what kind of heroes were they?  Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. As Romain Roland said in this video, "A hero is a man who does what he can." And another of the boatmen said, "Everyone has a little hero in him.  It'll come out if needed."

Watch this video narrated by Tom Hanks to see what I mean: " The Untold Story of 9/11."

(Our thanks to Penny W for sending this to us.)

Why Not Make This Your First Do-It-Yourself Spring Project: Tom and Claudia's Garage

OK, I might not think of a garage makeover as the first project on my spring 'to-do' list.  But, wait a minute!  This would be an eye-popping addition to enjoy each time I pull into my fantastic, newly-designed garage. Have a nicer car than my trusty minivan?  Even better, your vehicle will be happy here. 

Here's Tom and Claudia's  garage.  Are you jealous yet?

How did they do it?  In his own words,
 "The material comes in 12x12 inch squares and snaps together. It is called Race Deck flooring made in Utah. (  I picked out the colors, called the company with my garage dimensions, and they figured out how many pieces I needed. No prep was needed to the floor except to sweep. 
As for the wall decor, we put my old Steelers posters, car pictures and a painting I did years ago. Oh, the surf board, I bought at a garage sale when we lived in Ft Lauderdale, couldn't pass it up for $5.00. No, I don't surf, never have!!!!
So, to make a long story short, we decorated the garage together.
(Our thanks to Tom and Claudia for sharing their creation.  It's amazing!)

So What Is Epigenetics and Why Should We Care?

(Microsoft ClipsOnline)
According to the famous Dr. Mehmet Oz and Mike Roizen, MD of the Cleveland Clinic, epigenetics
is "your epic ability to assert control over your DNA by switching certain genes on and silencing others.  They point out that genes can't be changed, but whether they are switched on or off is in our power to control by "changing your gene expression."

Epigenetics is a new field, but thousands of researchers have published articles on it in the last decade.

Amazingly, this can be accomplished by doing consistently what many of us are already doing-sporadically. You might be doing all six of their suggested gene switchers  already.

1.  Eat less saturated fat.  Foods like red meat, ice cream, hard cheeses activate the gene that makes the body store fat in your belly; it urns on genes that promote inflammation, and it turns off cancer-fighting genes.

2.  Switch on cancer-fighting genes.  Foods like broccoli, garlic, Brazil nuts, cruciferous veggies, green tea, soy and turmeric all switch on the cancer-fighting genes.

3.  Put on your sneakers-or your bathing suit  Why?  Regular exercise affects the activity of over 5,000 genes.  Doing30 minutes a day will help your body, brain, and blood sugar.

4.  Relax.  Hard to do, right? But researchers at Mass General found that meditation, yoga, mindfulness all create changes in DNA immediately.  These changes target the genes governing immunity, inflammation, blood sugar control, and the body's ability to burn fat and sugars for energy.

5.  Connect with friends and loved ones.  According to researchers at the U of Chicago, loneliness can alter the workings of over 200 genes.  People who said they felt more alone had extra activity in 78 genes that boost inflammation and reduced activity in over 100 genes that control inflammation and fight viruses.

6.  Pinpoint your purpose.  People who indicated in a UCLA study that they were happy and also had meaningful lives had more low inflammation, virus-fighting genes switched on.  Finding purpose? Belonging to an organization that matters to you or spending time  doing something that you believe contributes to your community or the larger world can accomplish this.

Want to learn more.  The authors cite two books:  Reprogram Your Genes and How To Hack Your Own DNA.  Or find some articles in scientific journals on studies that have been done since 2005.

(All information here including 99% of the text  is from "Six Ways to Switch On Your Healthy, Happy Genes" by Drs. Oz and  Roizen. Arizona Republic, March 9, 2015.)

Do you want some more suggestions?  See  "The Alphabet of Happiness"  at

(Our thanks to Joan D. for sending us the "Alphabet of Happiness." )