Monday, 5 December 2011

What Yoga Accessories Do You Need When You Take Up Yoga?

Thinking of Taking Up Yoga?

We all know that exercise is good for us, but there are so many classes and physical activities out there to choose from that can be hard to know which one would be the best for us to take up.  One type of exercise that is really popular and is very good for fitness, flexibility and relaxation is yoga. There are several different types or styles of yoga to choose from, such as Hatha, Iyengar, Vinyasa, Kundalini, Ashtanga and, if you like it hot, Bikram yoga. Do some research on the different yoga styles and see what appeals to you, and see if there are any suitable yoga classes being run in your area.  Go and meet with the yoga teacher before you sign up, as it is important to feel comfortable with their style of teaching and the level of the class.  One of the best things about yoga is that is a holistic form of exercise that promotes emotional balance and relaxation as well as physical health and fitness. Yoga is also an exercise that you can do at home and there are plenty of Yoga dvds to choose from that you can follow and will help you perform the various yoga poses. So now that you have chosen your teacher and booked your class, what yoga accessories are you likely to need to get the most out of your yoga class?

Yoga Mats and Yoga Blankets

One of the best parts of starting any new activity, such as yoga, is that it a great shopping opportunity!  One of the first things that you need to think about buying, if you are going to be serious about yoga, is your very own yoga mat. What type of yoga mat that you go for depends on what style of yoga that you have decided to take up, your age and physical health, whether you want to have an eco-yoga mat, budget, and of course what color and designs appeal to you. Sticky yoga mats have a textured, non-slip surface that stops the mat from moving when you are exercising, which could potentially lead to an accident.  Sticky yoga mats can be bought in most sports shops and yoga studios, come in a veritable rainbow of colours and you can also buy sticky yoga mats that have a variety of different designs on them. You can also look online for your perfect sticky yoga mat, and Amazon has a great range for you to choose from today.  If you are elderly or suffer from joint or skeletal problems, you might want to think of buying an extra thick yoga mat, as the extra padding will cushion your knees, elbow and spine.  Thicker yoga mats are also more comfortable for some of the more active types of yoga, such as Ashtanga, when you might need a bit of a softer landing! If you are concerned about the effects that some of the nasty chemicals found in PVC can have on your health, you can also buy eco friendly yoga mats that are made from materials that do not contain potentially toxic phthalates, dioxins, heavy metals or phenol. These mats are also produced in a way that is sustainable and better for the environment and the workers who produce them.  To keep your yoga mat clean and smelling fresh as a daisy, you can also now buy special yoga mat spray, which will disinfect, clean and destroy all the bacteria on your yoga mat without degrading or damaging it in any way.

Yoga Blocks

Another yoga accessory that you might think of buying is a yoga block. You would use a yoga block to help you to perform your yoga poses more easily, and can be very helpful for people who are injured, are not very flexible and for ladies who are pregnant, as a yoga block helps to align the body correctly , support your weight and give you stability.  Yoga blocks can be made in a variety of materials such as dense foam or cork and they come in a variety of different sizes and colours.  You can also buy yoga blocks in packs, if you need to get several yoga blocks.

Yoga Straps

Your yoga class or yoga practice at home may include the use of a yoga strap.  Yoga straps are used to add an extra challenge to your yoga exercises, as they can help to extend certain stretches and increase resistance when doing strength training. Yoga straps can help you to maintain certain poses for a longer time period and let you achieve some of the more challenging poses. Yoga straps can be bought in a variety of materials, lengths, colours and resistance levels.

Yoga Bolsters and Yoga Meditation Cushions

Some yoga poses may need you to use a yoga bolster.  Yoga bolsters are filled cushions that help with supporting your body and being able to adopt some of the more advanced yoga positions. Yoga bolsters are usually round, oval or square in shape, and can be covered in a variety of coloured fabrics. The best type of filling for a yoga bolster is cotton, as some of the cheaper and synthetic fillings can lose their shape and firmness over time.  Like all things, with yoga bolsters and other yoga accessories you get what you pay for, so paying a bit extra for a quality yoga bolster is a good investment if you are planning to be serious about your yoga.  Many yoga classes also incorporate a session of meditation for relaxation at the end and this meditation is also a wonderful thing to add to your home yoga practice. To help you meditate and drift deeply into relaxation, you can buy a huge selection of yoga meditation cushions in lots of different styles, sizes and colours.

Yoga Kits

If you are a complete beginner in yoga, you can also buy yoga kits. These are great because you get all the yoga accessories that you need to get going in one pack.  A beginners yoga kit will typically contain a yoga mat, a yoga block, a yoga strap and maybe a yoga bag and a yoga dvd.  What you get in your yoga kit depends on how much you want to pay, but you can get yoga kits in a wide range of colours, in a variety of materials and containing different assortments of yoga accessories

Yoga Mat Carriers and Yoga Bags

Of course, once you have bought all of your wonderful yoga accessories, you will need to buy a yoga bag or yoga mat carrier to pack it all in and take to yoga class with you. What type of yoga bag or yoga mat carrier you get depends on what you like, but there is such a wide range of styles, colours and materials to choose from that you are bound to find one that you really like
A great place to find amazing yoga accessories is online, so choose the best yoga accessories for you on Amazon today. Then you will have all the yoga kit that you will need and are ready to embark on your wonderful new journey to health and relaxation through yoga.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

What Are the Health Benefits of Fenugreek?

They say that you are what you eat and more and more these days it is being recognised that we can boost our health and improve illnesses and health conditions by changing our diets.  There are some herbs and spices, however, that we can start putting in our food that will have more health benefits than others.  Fenugreek is one of these magic culinary spices, and has been shown to have very many health benefits. Luckily, you can still get these great benefits even if you don’t like curries and spicy foods as these days fenugreek can be purchased as a supplement in most health food shops.  There have been no side effects recorded from taking fenugreek supplements, but be careful if you are pregnant as taking it can bring on labour.

Fenugreek is a very versatile plant as the whole of it is used, with the leaves being eaten as a vegetable and the seeds being used as a spice.  It is cultivated around the world in Mediterranean regions and belongs to the plant family Fabaceae.  The biggest grower of Fenugreek these days is India, but it also grown widely in Bangladesh, Argentina, Spain, Morocco, France, Egypt, China, Pakistan and Nepal.

Fenugreek has been known and used in cooking since antiquity and the name is derived from the Latin for ‘Greek hay’ and it is also sometimes called wild clover.  Charred remains of the plant have been excavated from a dig dated to 4,000 BC at a site called Tell Halal in Iraq and dried out fenugreek seeds were found stored in the tomb of the boy king Tutankhamen to flavour his favourite dishes in the afterlife.  Fenugreek seeds are widely used as a spice in Indian cuisine and are known as methi. The seeds can be used raw or they can be toasted. Widely utilised in making curry sauces and pickles, they are a deep golden yellow in colour and cube shaped.

So why is including fenugreek in your diet so beneficial?

Arthritis  -  fenugreek is thought to be very useful in reducing the pain and symptoms of arthritis because of the correlation between its wide use in Indian cooking and how relatively free of arthritis much of the Indian population is.  To alleviate arthritis pain drink a cup of tea once a day brewed from fenugreek leaves, or swallow a couple of grams of seeds with warm water when you first get up in the morning and before you have a drink or clean your teeth.  Known as Hu Lu Ba in Traditional Chinese medicine, fenugreek seeds are believed to soothe and heal pains in the joints and also have no side effects.

Boosting The Immune System – fenugreek is a rich source of Vitamin C and other antioxidants, which really help your body as they help to clear out all the free-radicals that can damage your cells.

Common Colds – for those of you who suffer from regular colds, you might want start eating curry regularly as fenugreek contains an effective antiviral that helps to prevent colds starting and if one does take hold can help alleviate debilitating and annoying systems such as coughing, sneezing, running noses, and sore throats.  It is also a useful herb to help with getting rid of all the mucous that can build up when you have a really nasty cold.

PMS and Menopause – one of the compounds contained in fenugreek is diosgenin, which has very similar properties to oestrogen. Therefore, it is thought that adding the herb to your cooking can help with some of the more distressing symptoms of PMS and the menopause such as hot flushes, and can even help to raise your libido!

Increasing Milk Supply – fenugreek seeds are regarded as galactagogue, and are consumed by nursing mothers who are having trouble producing in order to stimulate their milk supply. 
Diabetes – medical trials have been conducted that have shown that taking fenugreek seeds can ameliorate many of the symptoms of both type-1 and type-2 diabetes, by helping to reduce serum glucose and also by increasing glucose tolerance.

Constipation – if you suffer from constipation you may find that including fenugreek in your diet could help as it has a lot of dietary fibre.  One way to use it to help with your constipation is to swallow a few seeds at bedtime with a glass of warm water.  Your problem should then sort itself out the next morning.
So as you can see, you can use fenugreek in your cooking or take supplements to help improve many different health conditions and give yourself a much needed boost.

Disclaimer:  Please be aware that any information given in this article should in no way be used to replace advice given to you by your medical practitioner.  Anybody suffering from a medical condition or is at all concerned should always consult their doctor before changing their diet or starting to take any form of dietary supplement.  Also be aware that while consuming fenugreek or taking fenugreek supplements is generally regarded as being good for you, there are no guarantees that your health will improve.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Can Taking Zinc Help To Cure A Cold?

What Is A Common Cold?

Are you suffering from a cold at the moment?  If you are, then you are definitely not alone, and you are probably looking at up to seven days of feeling ill and miserable. These viral infections are known as the common cold for a reason, as on average adults catch two to four of them a year, and young children can catch as many as ten, probably because their immune system’s are not as well developed as an adult’s.  You are more likely to catch a cold during the chilly winter months, and women are more likely to develop a cold than men.  The common cold is a minor virus infection, and as there are over 200 viruses that can trigger a cold, you are unlikely to build up immunity to them all. So what symptoms can you look forward to when you develop a cold? Typically the symptoms of a cold are coughing, sneezing, sore throat, streaming eyes and nose, and a general feeling of being unwell. If your cold is more severe you may experience a high temperature, aching limbs and headaches.  Common colds are self-limiting infections and your symptoms will more than likely subside within a week, but you may be surprised to know that for all the medical expertise and knowledge we now have in the world, there is not yet a cure for the common cold or anything to really prevent them developing.

Is Zinc an Effective Cold Remedy?

The cold virus is easily spread by coughing and sneezing, and you can also pick up a cold by touching surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus.  So one way to help ward off a cold is to wash your hands frequently, and try and avoid putting your hands near your mouth and eyes.  There are also some supplements that are supposed to boost your immune system and help you to resist catching cold such as Vitamin C and echinacea, but their benefits have not been proven and they will not cure your cold.  However, experts have now announced that they believe that taking the essential mineral zinc, in the form of zinc tablets, lozenges or syrup, within a day of your cold symptoms starting may help you to recover more swiftly from your symptoms and even help you resist catching the cold in the first place.  The Cochrane Systemic Review collated data from 15 different trials that involved 1360 people and compared the efficacy of zinc against a placebo for treating the common cold.  The trials found that more of the patients who had been given zinc to take every couple of hours during the course of their cold were symptom free after seven days than the cold sufferers who had taken a placebo. It was also found that the children who had been given zinc lozenges or zinc syrup to take daily for at least five months had contracted colds less frequently and had also missed less days of school.  However, all the trials were based on different criteria, the length of the trials were different as were the dosages of zinc given, so the experts have found it difficult to reach a conclusive view of exactly how successful zinc is in combating the symptoms of the common cold.

 How Does Zinc Work Against Colds?

So how do the health experts think that the zinc works against the cold virus? It is thought that zinc works on the cold virus by coating it and stopping it from getting into the body through the delicate lining of the nose.  Tests in the laboratory also showed that that zinc helped by stopping the cold virus replicating itself, which would mean that it could not spread through the body and cause infection. The results from the trials also suggested that taking zinc could help to boost the immune system, and also lessen the severity of the cold symptoms being experienced. These trials show that taking zinc could be a very beneficial addition to the fight against the common cold, as although there are currently lots of OTC cold remedies on the market, most of them do not put a stop to the symptoms of the cold or diminish their severity.  So should we all rush out and start taking zinc supplements so that we can recover from our colds more quickly and even prevent them altogether? The researchers who amassed the data for the Cochrane Systemic Review and the health experts have been cautious about making any recommendations about the use of zinc, as they came to no firm conclusions regarding the optimal dosage, formulation or length of time that the zinc should be taken. Some of the patients who took the zinc during the trials experienced some unpleasant side effects, such as nausea, diarrhoea and an unpleasant aftertaste, that were not felt by those taking the placebo. So before zinc can be universally regarded as a common cold remedy by medical professionals, further research needs to be done on the dosage, treatment length and possible adverse side effects.

However, if you would like to see if you could help to ward off colds or reduce the severity of your cold symptoms by taking zinc, you will find that there are already many different zinc supplements on the market.  You can buy zinc syrup, tablets, sprays and lozenges, although allowing zinc lozenges to dissolve slowly in your mouth is one of the best ways to absorb the mineral.  You can also buy supplements that combine zinc with Vitamin C, other minerals or echinacea, most of which are designed to boost your immune system and fight off infections, such as colds.  If you have any underlying chronic health conditions or are at all concerned about starting to take zinc supplements, you should consult your medical practitioner.  Of course, the most natural way to get enough zinc is to ensure that your diet contains adequate supplies of zinc rich foods.  Oysters are a very good source of zinc, as is red meat, crab, lobster, turkey, the brown meat of chicken, nuts, some beans and dairy products.

Hopefully further medical trials will go on to prove that zinc can help to ward off the common cold and alleviate the symptoms, and that we can then say that we are a bit further forward in finding a cure for the common cold.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Why Use a Herbal Toothpaste? – Meswak Toothpaste

Do you ever think of using natural products when you are thinking of your oral hygiene? Have you thought about what type of toothpaste you use when you brush your teeth in the mornings?  For years I have used the branded toothpastes that you can buy in the supermarkets, but somehow, whatever the promises on the side of the tube, my mouth never felt as fresh as I would like it to be.  However, one day my friend told me about a herbal toothpaste that she had started to use regularly and how much it had improved her bleeding gums.

The name of the toothpaste that she showed me was Meswak toothpaste, sometimes called Miswak toothpaste, and could be found in my local Asian shop.  I have started to use it every time I brush and already my mouth is feeling better and fresher.  So what is Meswak toothpaste?  Meswak toothpaste is a herbal paste that is derived from a shrub found throughout India, Asia, Africa and the Middle East called Salvadora persica.

Salvadora persica is also known as the toothbrush tree and local people would break off a small twig from the shrub to clean their teeth on a daily basis, and it was noticed that although many of these people had poor diets they still had excellent teeth and healthy gums.  Scientific research was undertaken and it was found that Salvadora persica had great natural antiseptic properties. Miswak was also recommended for use to promote oral health by the World Health Organisation in 1996.

Because of these wonderful healthy benefits it was decided to create toothpaste from the toothpaste tree and this paste is now call Meswak toothpaste.  Commercial brands contain many harsh chemicals, such as fluoride, artificial colours and sweeteners and sodium laurel sulphate that can have detrimental effects on our health when we ingest them into our bodies.  Meswak is a completely natural way to clean your tooth, and contains only natural ingredients.  It is also a suitable paste to be used by vegetarians, vegans and even the kids!  It does not have the minty taste that we generally associate with cleaning our teeth and freshening our breath, but I find that Meswak toothpaste has a fairly mild flavour with a hint of liquorice.

So if you want to move away from manufactured products, full to the brim of nasty chemicals, and start using more natural oral hygiene products, why not try out some herbal toothpaste?  If they do not stock Meswak toothpaste in your local supermarket or you do not have a local Asian shop, then have a look online.  You can find it easily on Amazon and will soon be able to clean your teeth and keep your teeth and gums healthy naturally and also be able to rest in the comfort that you are not putting any more harsh chemicals into your body.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Why You Should Eat That Tuna Sandwich?

Age-related macular degeneration or AMD is the most common cause of blindness in the old. Although there are currently around 200,000 sufferers in the UK alone, a suprisingly large number of adults have never heard of this devastating eye condition which impairs people's central vision. However, there is a bit of good news, as study undertaken at Harvard has revealed that if you eat oily fish, such as tuna, on a regular basis you will be lowering your risk of developing AMD by about 42%.

So what is so special about oily fish like tuna in helping to prevent age-related macular degeneration? Well, oily fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are also known to help protect you against heart attacks, help lower cholesterol, improve mental agility, reduce the symptoms of PMS and  help soothe the pain of arthritis. To gain this 42% protection from developing AMD, you would need to eat 1-2 portions of tuna or other oily fish every week.

If you are one of those people, however, who do not like fish, omega 3 is found in several other foods and you can also now buy omega-3 fish oil supplements.  So next time that you go out for lunch, make sure that you order that tuna sandwich or maybe make yourself some sardines on toast?