The Yoga Place Blog

Raising Global Consciousness

Improve your brain function and risk of mental disease with exercise ... and preferably with yoga that is structured a specific way

I realised that in my last blog I had made the statement that exercise was one of the best known ways of reducing the risk of Alzheimer's disease without giving any evidence. ( I correct this with charts below)

Yet exercise provides more than just a reduction is aged related mental diseases - it produces a whole host of improvements in brain function .... as long as it is creating increased blood flow that contains growth hormones to your brain. So not all exercise is equal for all functional outcomes.

If you have limited time to exercise, in my opinion, you would be hard pressed to find something that delivers more than a "breath" and "mindfulness" centric yoga practice that combines dynamic strengthening physical work that specifically generates growth hormones in a class where a large proportion of the class is "inverted" so that the increased blood flow and hormones are driven to your brain.

These two criteria eliminate a lot of what has now been come to be called yoga. I will deal with the "inversion logic" in this post and the "breathing" and "mindfulness" in a following post.

To give you an example, I have calculated that on average students spend 47% of the first 300 breaths of the asana part of the class in an inverted position. In the equivalent part of of an Iyengar or Bikram class this would be zero.

Eating Right for your Brain - cut Alzheimers by 40%

As we live longer and longer the threat of developing brain disease like Alzheimers increases rapidly.

While exercise is one of the most important factors for maintaining overall health diet is right up there too as evidenced by the latest research that indicates that eating the right diet cuts the risk of developing Alzheimers by 40%

The Story Of Bottled Water

The History of bottled water is a case study that demonstrates many points about being human. This 8 minute animated stick person video from Anne Leonard, who came to fame with a similar video called The Story of Stuff, tells a story about how a major industry developed around a product that is essentially free.

In the USA over a third of bottled water is essentially bottled tap water. In the majority of blind taste tests that compare tap water with bottled water, tap water comes out top. In similar comparisons that measure cleanliness tap water again wins out over bottled water.

So why do we buy bottled water when we can get it free from the tap? Anne suggests that companies have used fear and disinformation. I suggest that evolutionary "status needs" also play a role. And then there is also portability - people like to take water with them when they exercise.

I have been approached by many companies to stock bottled water here but I have refused on the grounds of the pollution created by the plastic bottles.

Enjoy the video

Study suggests that multivitamins may raise breast cancer risk - Solution: eat a healthy and varied diet

Study suggests that multivitamins may raise breast cancer risk

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Many people take multivitamins in the hopes of thwarting disease, but a new study finds that older women who use multivitamins may be more likely than non-users to develop breast cancer.

In the U.S., for example, it's estimated that half of adults routinely use a dietary supplement, often a multivitamin. And studies show that one of the primary motivations is the belief that supplements will protect them from chronic diseases.

In a decade-long study of more than 35,000 Swedish women who were between the ages of 49 and 83 and cancer-free at the outset, researchers found that women who reported multivitamin use at the study's start were 19 percent more likely than non-users to develop breast cancer. That was with factors like age, family history of breast cancer, weight, fruit and vegetable intake, and exercise, smoking and drinking habits taken into account.

Until more is known, a woman's best bet is to get her vitamins and minerals from a well-balanced diet rather than pills, advised lead researcher Dr. Susanna C. Larsson, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

"If you eat a healthy and varied diet," she said, "there is no need to use multivitamins."

Mom's diet may alter infant's allergies - eczema and Wheeze

Greater intake of green and yellow vegetables, citrus fruit, and veggies and fruits high in beta carotene (generally those colored red and orange) may lessen the risk of having a baby with eczema (itchy, dry, red patched skin), Dr. Yoshihiro Miyake at Fukuoka University and colleagues found.
Foods high in vitamin E, found in some green vegetables, similarly may lessen the risk of having a wheezy infant, they report in the journal Allergy.

Yoga and Ayurveda, as opposed to manufactured functional foods, are the gateway to health

Health is the product of the harmonic coherence between our own individual environment/nature and the larger environmet/Nature. This is a dynamic process. It is not something that is fixed. Therefore it is not something that is amenable to mass marketing and "one size fits all" manufactured solutions based on reductionist thinking like functional foods. Read More...

Rediscovering Ancient Wisdom to save the human Race

His blind faith in the validity of scientific research as indisputable truth is not born out by John Ioannisis's work that has demonstrated that most published research findings are false.

Chemical used in Plastic bottles may be harming your children - US government health agency

If you or your children are drinking bottled water from a plastic bottle, feeding from a plastic baby bottle or infant formula from a can you might want to stop this ASAP.

This Tuesday a US government draft report warned that a bisphenol alos known as BPA, a chemical used in some "plastic food and drink packaging, including baby bottles may be tied to early puberty and prostate and breast cancer".

The draft findings come from the National Toxicology program which is part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

In Canada there are reports that the Canadian Health minister is about to declare BPA a dangerous substance. This would make it the first regulatory body in the world to make this determination.

As you might expect there are divergent opinions of the draft results between the chemical manufactures and environmental activists who have long warned about the potential harmful health effects the chemical.

According to Reuters,

"The American Chemistry Council industry group said the conclusions confirmed that human exposure to bisphenol A is extremely low and noted no direct evidence that exposure adversely affects reproduction or development in human"

And from the environmentalists,

"NTP's decision corrects the scientific record. It reflects a significant body of science showing that BPA may play a larger role than previously thought in a host of common health problems," Anila Jacob of the Environmental Working Group said in a statement.
You can read the full Reuters report on the story here

Alan McCrindle
Director, The Yoga Place

Your prenatal yoga classes are benefiting you baby's heart as well as you new research suggests

Here is some good news if you practising prenatal yoga a couple of times a week - new research presented at the 121st annual meeting of the American Physiological Society on Monday 7th April 2008 reports that "When the mom exercises during pregnancy, the unborn baby gets the same type of training effect that you would see in an adult - so you see the lower heart rate and also improved heart rate variability, which is evidence of improvements in the nervous system of the heart."

Dr. Linda E. May, from Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, and her colleagues tested the hypothesis that foetuses exposed to exercise in the womb have better autonomic function compared with that of foetuses not exposed to exercise.
How often and for how long and at what intensity do you need to exercise to see these benefits? Probably more than once a week.
In the pilot study the researchers compared a group of 5 women who performed moderate intensity aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes, 3 times per week, with another group of 5 who had no regular exercise regime. They measured the foetal heart rate and heart rate variability between 28 to 36 weeks of pregnancy.
Foetuses exposed to maternal exercise had significantly lower heart rates than foetuses not exposed to exercise. At each stage of pregnancy, the differences between the average foetal heart rates of the two groups were statistically significant. Foetal heart rate variability was also significantly higher in the exercise group than in the non-exercise group.
"Maternal exercise may be the earliest intervention to improve the heart of children and possibly the best," said Dr May.

Is your diet keeping you healthy or is it one of the reasons why you are sick?

By: Alan McCrindle

I am posting this in response to a question that was raised from my post where I wrote about fructose as a hidden poison in our diet.

The person who raised the question asked me if there was a link between food and health. He had already made the experiential link between what he ate and his emotional state.

I have tried to keep the explanation as simple as possible it as simple as possible.

The fact that it is not common knowledge that what we eat (what, when, how much etc.) is one of the key drivers of disease is scandalous.

If you want to see how food effects health at a very gross level, look at statistics on how a country's disease profile changes as it becomes Westernised and its population switches from its traditional diet and lifestyle to a western diet and lifestyle. You will see that the population starts getting the same chronic diseases that we get in the west - chronic diseases that they very rarely suffered from in the past.

The specific chronic diseases we suffer from are a product of our diet and lifestyles and our our genetic propensity.

What do I mean by genetic propensity? Our western diet and lifestyle leads to chronic inflammatory disease. How this inflammatory disease expresses itself in the body depends on individual genetics. The inflamation is the environment that switches on the gene/s that manifest the specific disease.

The key point to understand is that genetic predisposition for a specific disease does not mean that it has to manifest. That gene needs to be switched on to activate the disease process. The switch is the environment and a key factor for controlling that environment is diet and lifestyle.

Ayurveda - the traditional medical system from India - has a very well developed understanding of these links. Good health is based on good digestion.

In Ayurveda we see that diseases like chronic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis etc. are essentially different manifestations of an inflammatory environment that started in the digestive tract.

Lets say that have a chronic inflammatory disease that has manifested itself as arthritis. If your GP treats it symptomatically with say a COX two inhibitor (anti-inflammatory drug) - without fixing the problem that is causing the inflammatory environment - the inflammation will simply show up somewhere else as say heart disease. To remove the problem you have to remove the cause not supress the symptom.

So why does a western diet and lifestyle cause these problems? Why don't they manifest as readily with traditional diets and lifestyles?

If you want to understand this from an evolutionary / genetic perspective realise that our body/mind systems are the product of millions of years of evolution. Over 99.999..% of that period we lived a very different lifestyle and ate very different food tahn what we do now. Our bodies are a product of their historical environmental conditions. So we are fundamentally a machine designed to run on a specific food, exercise, sleep mix.

You can think of your body as a vehicle. Some are designed like tractors, some like sedans and some like high performance sports cars. A tractor is slow and steady and does not need much maintenance. A high performance sports car will give great performance but it needs much more maintenance than a tractor. Irrespective of the type of vehicle however it will last longer if it is driven carefully, given the right fuel, oil and water and serviced appropriately.

And on the subject of the importance of using the correct fuel you can think of the impact of running your existing car on a petrol plus ethanol mix. If you use a mix of say 5% ethanol and 95 percent petrol you car will run pretty much the same as on pure petrol. There will be a small power loss and you will need to use slightly more fuel to travel the same distance. However if you use a 20% ethanol 80% petrol mix you will not only suffer a larger power drop and fuel consumption, but your engine will slowly be damaged.

If we stick with this analogy of an ethanol plus petrol fuel mix, we can ask ourselves what types of foods do we have in our diets that are like ethanol - something that will work as fuel but that we historically weren't designed to use as fuel.

Some foods such as wheat and milk have only been around since we domesticated plants and animals - about 8,000 to 10,000 years. This has not been long enough for the body to evolve to deal with these foods effectively. Many health problems can be eliminated by removing these foods from ones diet. Refined sugar is another example.

If you want to see the drastic health effects that food can have you need look no further than the Australian Aborigines. Until just a few years ago they were living a hunter gather life eating non processed foods. Their body systems have had no time to adapt to eat many of our foods.

As a result the rates of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease etc are at epidemic proportions in the aboriginal population.

If you ask western medicine why the aborigines are suffering form these diseases they will tell you that the cause is their diet - processed western food, especially sugar.

So why is it that western medicine blames the aboriginal health problems on food, but then seems to completely ignore this as a casual factor in the non aboriginal population.

There are many reasons, but one of the most obvious is that pharmaceutical companies play a large role in how the medical profession approaches and treats disease.

Pharmaceutical companies make money from patented drugs. They can't make money from food and lifestyle changes because they can't be patented.

Western medicines are primarily "refined foods" - Natural foods that have been refined to isolated the "active ingredient".

So in the west we use "refined foods" to make major changes to the way the body works supposedly to cure disease.

If refined foods have such a major impact on body function when classified as a medicine, it should come as no surprise that they are having exactly the same sorts of effects when we eat them as "normal food". Most of what we eat today is processed or refined food. Food additives fit in here too.

It is a scandal. The food industry is making us sick with processed foods and the medical system is trying to patch us up with refined foods. I am not suggesting that there is a conspiracy or premeditation - simply an inconvenient lack of awareness.

Unfortunately change will be difficult because our whole society is based around convenient processed foods and "quick fix" - take a pill - medicine.

It is not easy to be healthy in our society and it is becoming harder by the day - we have to work for health - it cant come from tablets. We have to exercise our bodies to make them function properly. We have to sleep them enough for them to repair themselves properly. We have to protect them from stress. In our increasingly 24/7 time poor society this is becoming harder and harder to do.

Much of the increase in the rate of depression can be linked back to increased stress levels. Expect this to increase.

And thanks to a process called epigenetics, we are locking future generations into even worse health outcomes - but I won't go there now.

Insights from Ayurvedic medicine rediscovered - taking drugs with the right foods makes them work better

Western medicine is slowly rediscovering the wisdom of Ayurveda.

I have just been reading an article on the BBC website called Right foods 'may help drugs work' with the subtext - Combining medicines with the right food could improve the effectiveness of drugs and reduce the costs of treating patients, experts say. This was based on research by oncologists at the University of Chicago treating breast cancer patients. They discovered that simply taking the cancer drug with food, rather than on an empty stomach, increased it's availability in the body by 167%. And taking it with a fatty meal increased it by 325%.

In Ayurveda prescribing "medicine" is not simply a case of prescribing a regime of take X tablets, Y times a day for Z days. It is far more sophisticated. The type of discovery made by these oncologists is old hat.

To start with, if "medicines" are prescribed, the patient will be given specific overall dietary and lifestyle regimes either with or usually before the drug regime is commenced. The reason for this is that food itself is medicine and, body function is effected by variables such as exercise, sleep, environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity, sound etc. as well as mental and emotional states. In many cases, drug therapy will only be prescribed after the practitioner has observed the effects of these basic changes on the patient because they by themselves may be sufficient and/or the results of their practice will act as a diagnostic tool to guide the practitioner develop a more effective "drug" regime.

It appears that we often forget that it is not drugs that cure. Rather, it is the body that cures itself. The body has inbuilt feedback loops and mechanisms that maintain health. Disease occurs when these systems fail. In Ayurveda we seek to help the body re-establish these health systems. This often is more a case of identifying the "causative factors" behind the malfunctioning of these systems and "removing" them rather than "adding" powerful drugs that risk weakening the body system and creating further malfunctions.

If "drugs" are prescribed to the patient many factors are taken into consideration that affect how those drugs will react and the body system they will target. So for example when the drugs are taken (time of day, before eating, while eating, after eating), the carrier agent that delivers the drug (water, honey, fat, alcohol, ginger, etc change the effect of the drugs action), synergistic herbs (that facilitate the action of the main herbs) and digestive hers (ones that facilitate digestion or elimination) - these are all factors taken into consideration.

So Ayurveda has a rich established theoretical framework for enhancing the delivery of "drugs" to patients that might provide western medicine with ways to deliver drugs in the future that are more effective and/or mean that we get the same results using less drugs.

What we ned to do now is design some research to test these insights.

Unfortunately there are a couple of factors in our society that I feel will make this approach difficult to research and put into practice.

First, most medical research is either performed or funded by pharmaceutical companies. Any treatment regime that reduces the consumption of the drugs that they manufacture will reduce their profits. Given this we cannot expect these firms to sponsor or directly engage in research that actively looks at treatment protocols that reduce drug consumption and their profits. Neither can we expect them to participate in research that might discover these protocols or non patentable protocols that substitute for patented profit making protocols.

In the second instance the structure of the medical system is inappropriate for the Ayurvedic approach. Six minute consultations do not give the practitioner enough time with the patient to either do the type of in-depth investigation that is necessary to unearth the possible causative factors, or to educate and coach the patient on appropriate remedial changes.

Thirdly, patients live in a time poor society and may not either have the life skills necessary to make the changes (they may not know how to cook) or access to the facilities required to make these changes. It is far more likely that a patient will choose a system that offers quick relief from symptoms that requires no changes other than popping a few pills over one that requires inconvenient changes to diet and lifestyle and offers slower change. Our society is used to immediate results with the minimum effort.

The fourth point relates to patient psychology. Sick people are usually anxious about their condition. A quick diagnosis and something to take or a invasive procedure gives the feeling that the doctor knows what they are doing and taking action to help them. In comparison, being told to try something such as "stop eating sugar, wheat and dairy products and come back next week and lets see how things have changed" can easily be interpreted as the doctor doesn't know what is wrong or that there is no positive action being taken. The well know placebo effect is a clear demonstration of this process in action.

Fifth, Western trained medical doctors do not have either the training or mindset to practice with an Ayurvedic approach. In essence, Ayurveda sees the body as a complex adaptive system subject to what we now recognise as systems theory, chaos theory and complexity theory. These are more complex forms of cognition and seeing the world that the reductive science that informs current medical training.

Sixth, unfortunately Ayurveda has not yet reframed itself using the language of information and systems theory. The fact is that most Ayurvedic practitioner are unaware of these terms which themselves have only recently been added to the lexicon. This makes it harder for "outsiders" to comprehend the great insights that Ayurveda has to offer and it makes it difficult for Ayurveda to frame them in ways that might make them easier to think about researching.

So while Ayurveda has some rich insights in the the practice of medicine - and particularly the maintenance and enhancement of health, as distinct from the treatment of disease - these insights are only likely to be rediscovered accidentally. And even then it is unlikely that they will be recognised as rediscoveries of processes that are already known and being practiced. It is much more likely that they will be reported as new breakthroughs or discoveries.

The Hidden Poison in our Food - Time for a tax on frucose

Wouldn't we all like to find a single culprit for our Obesity epidemic - especially something that was easy to change.

And wouldn't it be even better if the same solution also reduced type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and other chronic inflammatory diseases like arthritis and heart disease - and it gave people more energy and made them feel better.

It seems like the culprit has been identified if we can believe Dr Robert Lustig, a professor of Pediatric Endocrinology at UCLA San Francisco. According to him, Fructose is the cause.

In an interview with Norman Swan on Radio National's Health report yesterday (9 July 07) he went as far as saying "we're being poisoned to death, that's a very strong statement but I think we can back it up with very clear scientific evidence".

Since 1970, our consumption of fructose has gone from less than half a pound per year to 56 pounds per year in 2003 - thats an increase of more than eleven thousand percent. Now I feel safe to call that a massive jump and not feel like I have exaggerated.

So what is fructose and why is it so bad? Fructose is a fruit sugar. Normal table sugar or sucrose is 50% fructose. And why it is so bad is that is that it can only be metabolised in the liver and it is a liver toxin.

Without going into the details here, what happens in simple terms is that long term consumption of fructose sets in train a positive feedback loop that over-rides the normal negative feedback loop that controls energy balance in your body. This doesn't only cause you to overeat, but it also prevents your body from speeding up to burn off the extra calories - and because of this you not only overeat which keeps keeps the feedback cycle going, but you have low energy, feel lousy and have no inclination to do any exercise.

So basically, fructose that is added to food during the manufacturing process is behind our obesity problem.

Fructose follows the same metabolic pathway as alcohol with very similar consequences. In fact it would be fair to call fructose "alcohol without the buzz".

To quote Dr Robert Lustig again, "In fact fructose because of the way it's metabolised is actually damaging your liver the same way alcohol is. In fact it's the exact same pathway, in fact fructose is alcohol without the buzz".

Given that alcohol consumption is banned for under 18's and there is a tax on alcohol to mitigate for the increased health costs that are associated with it's consumption, it looks like we have a clear cut case for taxing fructose and possibly even banning it in children's foods.

The implications of this evidence are huge - the fact that many children are being poisoned on a daily basis by consuming fructose and no one is acting is tantamount to condoning and being complict in child abuse on a massive scale.

Now that we have the information we have to act or we stand guilty at a moral level and possibly even a criminal level.

I find it difficult to understand why the press haven't picked this one up and run with it. I can imagine the headlines - Our children being poisoned , PM knows but fails to act

I have sent emails to John Howard and Kevin Rudd and their respective Health Ministers - Tony Abbot and Nicola Roxon, and I have suggested to Norman Swan of the Health report that maybe he can get other Radio National programs to pick up the story such as Rear Vision, In the National Interest, Life Matters, Saturday Extra