23 Feb

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What is Binaural Beat Therapy? How Can It Enhance My Brain?

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 DISCLAIMER: This article is not a substitute for professional medical, fitness, or dietary advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider before undertaking or modifying any healthcare intervention. Please read our disclaimer.

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By Chris Sovey, DPT, PT, RN,BSN

I’m sure I will never fully grasp the magnificence of the human body. It is a truly remarkable machine. In particular, the possibilities within the human brain are endless. Considering it is similar to a central processing unit of a computer, I’ve made it a primary focus of my studies. My interest in health first started with the gut, which eventually transpired to the brain.

The growing list of diagnosable mental health disorders continue to rise in raw numbers.  It is my opinion that long term solutions to anxiety, depression, and other common mental health ailments will NOT come in the form of a pill. While pharmaceuticals may provide temporary symptomatic relief, there are several other interventions that are worth exploring during a road to recovery. Binaural Beat Therapy is one of those options.

Binaural beat therapy is a form of audio entrainment that typically uses stereo headphones. When you play two steady tones at slightly different pre-determined frequencies, your brain interprets this as a “beat.” The two frequencies are played separately in each ear. Through complex mechanisms, your brain can induce various brainwave states that may result in physiological changes.

Binaural1Because of this, researchers have been interested in the effects of binaural beats for anxiety reduction, concentration, and hypnosis (1),(2). While most studies have been small test group pilot investigations, the initial results for the above purposes are promising (1),(2).

Most of the studies of binaural beat therapy started around the early 1970s, and continued into the 80s. Soon after, the research apparently halted, and dropped out entirely. However, there appears to be a renewed interest in brainwave entrainment since the 1990s. Dozens, if not hundreds of companies now offer a variety of binaural beat therapy digital downloads. Most of these feature music superimposed upon binaural beats.

While this is aesthetically pleasing, I really only care about the results. I purchased several of the “Brain Sync” company downloads previously, but now I frequently search for free products on YouTube. Simply search for “Binaural beat,” and you’ll find some simple, isolated binaural beat tones.

There are various brain wave states that may be influenced by binaural beat therapy, including: Alpha, Beta, Theta, Delta, and Gamma. Each have their own purposes for various roles in human function.

Personally, I often attempt to influence my brain into a Theta state using binaural beat therapy. I combine this with imagery. I imagine things I wish to come to fruition, and how this will occur. When I am successful, I often feel like I am floating, almost in a dream-like state, but yet fully awake. This has been my experience so far. I’d love to learn more about brainwave EEGs in the future, and possibly measure my own brainwaves more closely.

For descriptions of the individual brainwave states, click here.

If you are interested in brainwave entrainment, I recommend starting with a daily session of the 30 minutes for about 2 months. Keep a journal of how you respond to binaural beat therapy. I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments section below!

Sources:

(1) Binaural Auditory Beats Affect Vigilance Performance and Mood 

(2) Binaural-Beat Induced Theta EEG Activity and Hypnotic Susceptibility 

 Images: by Allan Ajifo

16 Feb

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Easy solutions for bunions, flat feet, plantar fasciitis, hallux valgus

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Foot4

 DISCLAIMER: This article is not a substitute for professional medical, fitness, or dietary advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider before undertaking or modifying any healthcare intervention. Please read our disclaimer.

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By Chris Sovey, DPT, PT, RN,BSN

It’s interesting how often we ignore the importance of the foot related to our every day health. We brush our teeth, spend gobs of money on skin products, and yet we turn a blind eye to the first object that strikes the ground every time we take a step.

I’m a Physical Therapist, and I’m often confronted by several patients with hip or knee pain. However, no previous practitioner has considered the potential role of the foot in their dysfunction. The knee is a relatively simple joint, similar to a hinge on a door. Meanwhile, the foot / ankle complex is made up of more than 32-33 joints, depending on your reference. The hip is heavily influenced by the position of the foot and lower leg. If you have flat feet, the arch of the foot (equivalent to a bridge), has collapsed. Where the foot goes, the hip and knee typically follow.

My goal with the above video is not to “cure” any chronic dysfunction in your foot. Anyone who claims they can do so is probably lying. However, I do believe we can maximize what we have available to us, and frequently reduce the need for unnecessary surgeries. If you have a dysfunctional joint, (i.e. your big toe), I often take the strategy of increasing the function of all the surrounding joints. For instance, I will mobilize all the metatarsals around the big toe, strengthen the small muscles of the foot, and make sure we are doing everything necessary to move through the center of the foot.Foot5I highly encourage everyone to consider foot health as part of our daily maintenance. I frequently use two products as part of my routine: Yamuna Foot Wakers, and  Franklin Balls*. Considering that we take thousands of steps with our feet every day, we want our feet to be strong, adaptable, and mobile. This is how they are designed. If we still lived purely in nature, we would be barefoot. Our feet would mold to a variety of surfaces. We would jump, push, etc. But now our feet are confined to shoes. Much of this footwear is not appropriate and eliminates the mobility that is frequently present in our mid/forefoot.

The thing I love about the approach in the above video is the freeing nature of dealing with chronic dysfunction. You have more power than you realize to improve your own health. You just need the drive and correct tools. The above video outlines my daily foot routine to maximize function of my feet and reduce unnecessary dysfunction. Personally, I do this because of a torn labrum in my L hip. I know that improving foot mobility and functional strength will help me to function better. Function is the name of the game. It is no longer about brute strength or 3 sets of 10 reps. That information is outdated. Function is about moving with grace, fluidity, and an awareness of your dynamic center. Watch the above video for more functional movement patterns. Be sure to subscribe to our mailing list for more useful self-health empowerment articles.

*The product links above are affiliate links. I will receive a small compensation to keep the website running if you purchase through those links. 

09 Feb

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Are Biofilms a Major Missing Part of Chronic Disease Treatment?

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 DISCLAIMER: This article is not a substitute for professional medical, fitness, or dietary advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider before undertaking or modifying any healthcare intervention. Please read our disclaimer.

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By Chris Sovey, DPT, PT, RN,BSN

So you’ve ventured into the realm of probiotics. Perhaps you’ve taken the plunge into rabbit hole of your own microbiome. I then pose the question: have you heard about biofilms? Most people have not caught wind of them yet. I only came across biofilms due to my battles with chronic sinusitis. So what are they? Biofilms are an aggregate of microorganisms that are surrounded by a thick matrix of proteins, polymerase, and other binding substances.

This gives the microorganisms inside the biofilm a protective barrier in which they can reproduce and remain safe from external threats. So why does this concern you? Well, biofilms frequently occur within humans as well as throughout our environment. In hospitals, an organism known as Pseudomonas aeruginosa commonly adheres to a surface and forms a biofilm. This infection can also occur internally as well. In some cases, this has resulted in mortality rates as high as 65% (5).

I equate biofilms to a castle wall. Suppose you have an infection. This time however, it is surrounded by a biofilm (castle wall). The invaders (antibiotics or other antimicrobials) will not be able to recognize the infection as a threat. They remain undetected or undeterred by the immune system. Needless to say, this is a serious conundrum in the field of medicine. Even increasing the doses of antimicrobials will do little to thwart the complexity of biofilms.

As we throw endless amounts of antibiotics offensively against the biofilms, they remain unhindered, and “mature” by expanding (3). The microorganisms inside the biofilm can do as they please without concern of eradication. While troubling, it is fascinating to consider how this occurs. Recent microbiology research has demonstrated that bacteria have the ability to communicate with each other, even to complimentary species. This is known as quorum-sensing (1). By connecting with one another, bacteria can determine their chances of success to overcome a host (your immune system.) They can also carry out a variety of other actions that are still poorly understood.

Below is an excellent illustration of how a biofilm works (Click to enlarge). Note the cyclical nature of the process, and why it can be a real issue to eradicate.

Biofilm1

 

(Click to enlarge in new tab)

On a more personal level, I believe that biofilms are highly linked to chronic sinusitis, Lyme disease, and more. I don’t have a peer reviewed study to back this up, because I don’t believe it has been studied yet. However, every functional medicine practitioner I have worked with typically makes significant gains with their clients if biofilms are addressed.

If you suspect biofilms may be a part of your own struggles, Dr. James Schaller’s Book, “Combating Biofilms: Why Your Antibiotics and Antifungals Fail,” is an excellent resource.

You might wonder: what do we do to address biofilms? Well, we have to break down the castle walls. This is typically done by “biofilm busters.” There are hundreds of different options to accomplish this task. Some may be more appropriate than others for an individual.

The top 4 “biofilm busters” I’ve found to work effectively in my own life are:

Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE): This is not to be confused with grapeseed extract, which has similar properties. The active components of GSE have been shown to exhibit strong antimicrobial and biofilm busting properties (7).

Garlic: Allicin is a potent biofilm buster and antimicrobial. There is a significant amount of research supporting the antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties of garlic as an adjunct to other treatments.

Syntol AMD: Syntol is a product by Arthur Andrew Medical that uses proteolytic enzymes to break down the walls of a biofilm. I have personally found it highly effective against biofilms and candidiasis in my own clients.

Clove Bud Oil: Clove Bud Oil contains a component known as Eugenol. Run a PubMed search on Eugenol to see how hot this is in the research. It is highly effective against Candida albicans biofilms (6).

For additional information on these biofilm busters, watch my YouTube video above. If you found the video helpful, subscribe to our mailing list above, as well.

WARNING: If you break open a biofilm, understand that the organisms that were inside now have free reign. Be prepared to deal with these organisms swiftly with the appropriate antimicrobials. Discuss this further with your (knowledgeable) healthcare provider.

Another resource worth exploring is Bonnie Bassler’s TED talk: “How bacteria communicate.”

Sources:

(1) The Involvement of Cell-to-Cell Signals in the Development of a Bacterial Biofilm

(2) Staphylococcal Infections: Mechanisms of Biofilm Maturation and Detachment as Critical Determinants of Pathogenicity

(3) How Staphylococcus aureus biofilms develop their characteristic structure

(4) Influence of clove oil on certain quorum-sensing-regulated functions and biofilm of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Aeromonas hydrophila

(5) In Vitro Management of Hospital Pseudomonas aeruginosa Biofilm Using Indigenous T7-Like Lytic Phage

(6) In vitro activity of eugenol against Candida albicans biofilms

(7) Grapefruit juice and its furocoumarins inhibits autoinducer signaling and biofilm formation in bacteria

Images by: D. Davis and CDC

02 Feb

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Should I Use a Postural Shirt Or Back Brace To Help My Posture?

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IMG_0822

 DISCLAIMER: This article is not a substitute for professional medical, fitness, or dietary advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider before undertaking or modifying any healthcare intervention. Please read our disclaimer.

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By Chris Sovey, DPT, PT, RN,BSN

IMG_0824-e Most people want a quick fix for all their physical ailments. A pill for every ill. Poor posture is apparently no different.  In response, new products are appearing on the market to influence proper posture. This new “posture sportswear” industry is booming, and these companies sure are not hesitant to slap a hefty price tag on their products.

I can’t say enough that improving posture is hard work. It requires dedication, time, and consistent effort. A few minutes of stretching is not going to counter 8-10 hours of sitting at a sedentary job. The same is true with postural sportswear. While they may assist you in a comprehensive  postural program, they certainly will NOT solve your issue long term. Lifestyle changes will. Physical therapy, stretching, and other modifications in your work environment will.

The same thing goes for back braces in regards to low back pain. They give your body an external stabilizer. While this may be beneficial if you are a power lifter or if you’ve had an acute herniated disc, it makes postural muscles lazy. In the long term, they will atrophy. To start, do anything you can to modify your workstation. Get a treadmill desk if at all possible if you have a desk job. I know it may seem like an extreme measure to ask an employer, but how much is your back worth to you? I’ve written a lot more about posture in the article below. Also see our YouTube video on how to loosen up a stiff low back.

Be certain to subscribe to our mailing list for more helpful integrative health articles.

See our recent guide to posture here 

26 Jan

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How To Avoid Health Scam Artists and Save Money

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stethoscope

 DISCLAIMER: This article is not a substitute for professional medical, fitness, or dietary advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider before undertaking or modifying any healthcare intervention. Please read our disclaimer.

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By Chris Sovey, DPT, PT, RN,BSN

Like many others, my family and I have experienced the ongoing battle of chronic health disorders. In the process of rebuilding our health, we are frequently faced with the daunting task of assembling a healthcare team that fits our individual needs. You may be able to relate.

In terms of finding a quality practitioner, I have to stop and ask myself a series of questions before ever surrendering to the care of another person. I’ve learned these things from my own (costly) mistakes. I’m hoping these guidelines will serve as a basis for you to avoid scams, questionable treatments, and quacks.

If you’ve read some of my previous articles, you may note that my definition of a quack or fraud is quite different than the average person. I’ve lost nearly all faith in Western Medicine for the management of chronic disorders. Chronic disease is too complicated. Most western practitioners have little time, knowledge, or desire to effectively treat these diagnoses. So instead, we have a system of symptom management that never accurately addresses the root cause. This leaves many patients feeling helpless. They begin to search for answers elsewhere, only to be disappointed by fraudulent and shoddy treatments in the “natural” health field.

DoctorsSo what is a person to do? I think it is time we turn to practitioners who have a burning curiosity to provide quality care in a system that is frequently void of such a practice.

What is quality care? This is individual to the person, however, it usually includes some sort of accountability to understand the personal needs of the client. In other words, treatment and diagnosis that consists of a cookie cutter approach is likely not top notch.

I should note there are exceptions to the rule. I believe Western Medicine has fantastic uses in emergency medicine and cardiology. There are some forward thinking integrative health practitioners going against the grain as well who assist others along a health journey. You just have to know the right questions to ask. Hence this article:

CHOOSING THE MOST APPROPRIATE PRACTITIONERS FOR YOUR TIME AND MONEY

FOR MORE ELABORATION ON THE QUESTIONS BELOW, PLEASE SEE THE ABOVE YOUTUBE VIDEO.

Important questions to consider when choosing a healthcare practitioner:

  1. Are their results or clinical findings reproducible with repeat testing?
  2. Are their diagnostics or treatment plans empirically verifiable?
  3. What is their reputation in the community?
  4. What sorts of continuing education or extended learning has the practitioner participated in?
  5. How well do they listen to you?
  6. Will they provide you with patient references?
  7. What are their past results with the particular affliction you are dealing with?

I should note that some of my most positive experiences with healthcare practitioners have been with those who require out of pocket expenses. This is not always the case, however. It just seems that the majority of the “top-of-the-line” practitioners tend to avoid dealing with third party payers.

For more information on how to choose the most fitting healthcare practitioner for your needs, see the video above. What have your experiences been with locating a healthcare practitioner or fits your needs? What questions did you ask? What strategies did you use? Please comment and discuss below.

Images by: Seattle Municipal Services and Dr.Farouk

19 Jan

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Reduce Stress & Muscle Tension With Progressive Muscle Relaxation

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Shavasana2

 DISCLAIMER: This article is not a substitute for professional medical, fitness, or dietary advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider before undertaking or modifying any healthcare intervention. Please read our disclaimer.

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By Chris Sovey, DPT, PT, RN,BSN


The following video is the final continuation of our 4 part series on meditation. Be sure to review all the previous types of meditation from the past 3 weeks. Download them, implement them regularly, and most importantly, subscribe to our YouTube channel and mailing lists to receive more self-empowerment tools like these in the future!

As stated in part 1 of this series, progressive muscle relaxation is an invaluable tool to decrease acute stress, reduce muscle tension, and further turn off the “fight-or-flight” response. I have personally written and recorded an additional free guided-meditation practice.

A High-Fidelity, 192 Kbps audio MP3 of this meditation can be found here

If you missed part 1 of our meditation series, it can be found here.

Part 2 can be found here.

Part 3 can be found here.

Here is the YouTube Video of part 1 in the meditation series. It outlines an introduction to meditation:

Here is the YouTube Video of part 2 in the meditation series. It demonstrates a guided mindfulness meditation practice.

 

Here is the YouTube Video of part 3 in the meditation series. It demonstrates a deep breathing meditation practice.

If you prefer a written version of the above meditation practice, it can be found below:

TRANSCRIPT:

ShavasanaHello, and welcome to a progressive muscle relaxation tutorial by Chris Sovey. This meditation is part 4 of a 4-part meditation series. This particular meditation is primarily designed to assist in the reduction of acute stress and muscle tension. Please see the description in the link below. This production is copyright 2015 by Chris Sovey of Healthy Consumer, LLC. All rights reserved. This meditation is available as a free download for personal use in the link below. Let us begin.

Start by finding a comfortable room with no distractions. Turn off your cell phone and other electronic devices. Pick a time of day where you know there will be at least 20 minutes where you will not be interrupted.

If it is not possible to find a quiet room, it is ok. Just try your best to minimize external stimulation.

Begin reclined or lying on your back in a comfortable position. Your knees should preferably be straight but could be slightly bent, with a pillow under your knees if that is safe and comfortable for you. Legs are gently spread and palms face towards the ceiling. The back of the neck is long.

First, take note of any obvious tension in your body. Shake your arms and legs a little, as to wring out any miscellaneous stress from your day.

Next, tune into your breath. Take note of its rhythm. Observe its depth. Is it shallow or deep? Does it flow with ease, or is it labored? Just observe for a few moments, without judging or changing it.

First start with 5 expansive breath cycles.

Inhale… 2… 3… Exhale… 2…. 3… 4… 5… 6… [x5 cycles]

Continue breathing deeply and easily. Don’t force the breath. Let it flow in and out of the body as naturally as possible.

Now …. Tune into the feet. Let’s focus on our contract-relax cycles. We will combine the contractions and relaxations with breath to enhance the effect.

Inhale: flex all the toes on both feet. Hold, hold. Exhale, relax.

Next, move up to the ankles. Inhale. Flex all your toes and point both ankles down. Hold, hold. Exhale, relax.

Next, tune into the calf muscles. Inhale. Flex your toes, point your ankles, and squeeze your calf muscles. Hold, hold. Exhale, relax.

Focus your attention on the front and backs of your thighs. Inhale. Flex your toes, point your ankles, squeeze your calf muscles, and contract the front and back of your thighs. Hold, hold. Exhale, relax.

Continue up to your pelvic floor, the deep muscles between your thighs. Inhale, draw up all the previous muscles in both legs, and engage the pelvic floor as if you were sucking up water through a straw between your legs. Hold, hold. Exhale, relax.

Now turn to your gluteal muscles and front of the groin. Inhale, draw up all the previous muscles in both legs, engage the pelvic floor, and activate the gluteal muscles and the front of your groin. Hold, hold. Exhale, relax.

Move to the lower abdomen. Inhale deeply into the abdominal cavity, expanding in all directions. Draw up the muscles of the foot, ankle, leg, glutes, groin, and now the abdomen. Hold, hold. Exhale, relax.

Notice any tension in your chest and neck. Inhale. Active your leg muscles, the pelvic floor, groin, glutes, abdomen, and draw in the muscles of the chest and neck. Contract the front, sides, and back of the chest walls. Hold, hold. Exhale, relax.

Note the position of your shoulders. On an exhale. Let them melt into your supporting surface. Inhale: Legs, pelvic floor, groin, abdomen, chest, neck. Squeeze the front and back of the shoulders, draw your arms into your side body. Hold, hold. Exhale, relax.

Observe any tension in the forearms, wrists, or fingers. Inhale, active all the previous muscles, squeeze the arms into the side body, engage the forearm, wrists, and reach through the fingertips with energy. Hold, hold. Exhale, relax.

Lastly, move up to the face. Inhale, contract all the previous sets of muscles, scrunch the face, purse the lips, Hold, hold. Exhale, relax.

Do one last full body contraction together. Inhale, Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze!! Releasing all tension, and relax.

Continue to breath deeply and easily, for as long as you need. When you are ready, return to the room, and open your eyes.

Perform this practice several times a week, as a regular discipline, to help prevent accumulated stress or tension in the muscular system.

 

Photos by: Teakwood and Kah Wai Sin:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/teakwood/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/kahwaisin/

 

12 Jan

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How To: Deep Breathing Meditation Tutorial For Relaxation

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Meditation4

 DISCLAIMER: This article is not a substitute for professional medical, fitness, or dietary advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider before undertaking or modifying any healthcare intervention. Please read our disclaimer.

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SUBSCRIBE TO US ON YOUTUBE!

Check back every Monday for more empowering health articles!

By Chris Sovey, DPT, PT, RN,BSN


The following video is a continuation of our 4 part series on meditation. Be sure to check back the next Monday for part 4, and free downloads of all the audio files for use on your mobile device, etc.

As stated in part 1 of this series, deep breathing meditation is an invaluable tool to decrease acute stress, turn off the “fight-or-flight” response, and decrease the response of your sympathetic nervous system. I have personally written and recorded an additional free guided-meditation practice.

A High-Fidelity, 192 Kbps audio MP3 of this meditation can be found here

If you missed part 1 of our meditation series, it can be found here.

Part 2 can be found here.

Here is the YouTube Video of part 1 in the meditation series. It outlines an introduction to meditation:

Here is the YouTube Video of part 2 in the meditation series. It demonstrates a guided mindfulness meditation practice.

 

If you prefer a written version of the above meditation practice, it can be found below:

TRANSCRIPT:

Meditate3Hello, and welcome to a deep breathing and body relaxation tutorial by Chris Sovey. This meditation is part 3 of a 4-part meditation series. Please see the description in the link below. This production is copyright 2015 by Chris Sovey of Healthy Consumer, LLC. All rights reserved. This meditation is available as a free download for personal use in the link below. This recording may contain subtle background sound effects or music to assist in your relaxation. However, they will be kept to a minimum. Let us begin.

Start by finding a comfortable room with no distractions. Turn off your cell phone and other electronic devices. Pick a time of day where you know there will be at least 20 minutes where you will not be interr upted.

If it is not possible to find a quiet room, it is ok. Just try your best to minimize external stimulation.

Begin seated in a comfortable position. You could be slightly reclined, but still internalizing the concept of an erect posture, as to not fall asleep. If you wish to lie down, do so with the concept of internalizing upright posture.

First, take note of any obvious tension in your body. Shake your arms and legs a little, as to wring out any miscellaneous stress from your day.

Next, tune into your breath. Take note of its rhythm. Observe its depth. Is it shallow or deep? Does it flow with ease, or is it labored? Just observe for a few moments, without judging or changing it.

Take note of any stressors floating through your mind, and just let them be. Return to your breath. Gently begin to deepen your breath. We’re going to pace the breath now and deepen the exhalation. This will assist the body in entering a relaxed state.

Lets do this together. We will inhale for 3, exhale for 6 seconds.

Inhale… 2… 3… Exhale… 2…. 3… 4… 5… 6… [x4 cycles]

The exhale may feel too long to you. This is normal, as we spend a great deal of our day with significantly shortened breath cycles. Adjust the breath cycle slightly if needed.

Inhale… 2… 3… Exhale… 2…. 3… 4… 5… 6…

On an inhale, the breath begins in the nares, travels down into the trachea, and expands through the chest, in all directions. Your sternum lifts, and your diaphragm drops down into the abdominal cavity. The feeling of the breath continues all the way down into the pelvic floor. Release any tension along this descent.

Inhale… 2… 3… Exhale… 2…. 3… 4… 5… 6…

Slowing down your stressful day, appreciating this precious time you have set aside for yourself. You deserve it. No worries about what is left for today or what is to come tomorrow.

Inhale… 2… 3… Exhale… 2…. 3… 4… 5… 6…

Checking in with your posture, being certain to maintain an upright posture the entire cycle of this practice.

Inhale… 2… 3… Exhale… 2…. 3… 4… 5… 6…

Continue this cycle as needed, as long as it feels right for you. Come back to this practice daily, and you will be amazed what a regular practice can do for you.

Photos by: Ian Burt and Kah Wai Sin:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/oddsock/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/kahwaisin/

05 Jan

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How To: Mindful Meditation Tutorial With Body Scan

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Meditation2

 DISCLAIMER: This article is not a substitute for professional medical, fitness, or dietary advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider before undertaking or modifying any healthcare intervention. Please read our disclaimer.

–==FOLLOW HEALTHYCONSUMER ON FACEBOOK!==–

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Check back every Monday for more empowering health articles!

By Chris Sovey, DPT, PT, RN,BSN


The following video is a continuation of our 4 part series on meditation. Be sure to check back the next 2 Mondays for parts 3 and 4, and free downloads of all the audio files for use on your mobile device, etc.

As stated in part 1 of this series, mindfulness meditation is an invaluable tool to improve mental performance, reduce stress, and more. I have personally written and recorded a free guided-meditation practice.

 

A High-Fidelity, 320 Kbps audio MP3 of this meditation can be found here

If you missed part 1 of our meditation series, it can be found here.

Here is the YouTube Video of part 1:

If you prefer a written version of the above meditation practice, it can be found below:

TRANSCRIPT:

Meditation3Hello, and welcome to a mindful meditation tutorial by Chris Sovey. This meditation is part 2 of a 4-part series. Please see the description in the link below. This production is copyright 2015 by Chris Sovey of Healthy Consumer, LLC. All rights reserved. This meditation is available as a free download for personal use in the link below. All future recordings of this series will include background music. However, due to the nature of mindful meditation, music has been omitted from this recording.

Let us begin.

Start by finding a comfortable room with no distractions. Turn off your cell phone and other electronic devices. Pick a time of day where you know there will be at least 20 minutes where you will not be interrupted.

If it is not possible to find a quiet room, it is ok. Just try your best to minimize external stimulation.

Begin seated in a comfortable position. You could be slightly reclined, but still internalizing the concept of an erect posture, as to not fall asleep. For this reason, it is also recommended to avoid lying down completely, unless this is a physical necessity for your body.

First, take note of any obvious tension in your body. Shake your arms and legs a little, as to wring out any miscellaneous stress from your day.

How are your feet? Pause here for a moment and observe. Start with your right big toe. What do you notice? Now, sequentially move to each of the remaining toes on the right foot.

Repeat the same process on the left foot, starting with the big toe.

Move up to the soles of your feet. What do you notice?

Move on to the ankles. What are they saying to you?

Remember: Meditation is a discipline. Any time you feel distracted, simply acknowledge the distraction or thought, and return to your meditation.

Focus your attention on your calves. Rest here in awareness for a while.

Let go of “clock” time and just be present.

What are your knees telling you? Rest here in awareness.

As you shift your awareness to your thighs, some people may notice a great deal of tension here if you have been sitting a lot today. Take note of this, but do not judge any observations.

What do you notice about your hips?

As you move to your lower abdomen and groin, begin to tune into your breath. Is there a gentle, rhythmic rise and fall of the abdomen, or is it still and contracted? Is your breath making it all the way down into this area during an inhale?

Continue up to your mid-abdominal region.  Tune in closer to your breath pattern. What do you notice? Is your breath labored or difficult? Soft and steady? Anxious or calm? Shallow or deep?

Whenever you feel distracted, continue to refocus. Return to your breath. It is your anchor point. Your constant.

Whatever your experience with the breath, don’t try to change it. Just stay present. Distractions will continue to appear in your awareness, but just watch the thoughts flow past you, like a leaf gliding along a river.

What does your chest tell you about your breath? Is there any tightness or discomfort here? Or does your chest expand and fall with ease? Tune into the rib cage, and all the muscles surrounding it. Notice the small muscles between your ribs as you inhale, and exhale.

Begin to shift your awareness into the back of your neck. Stay present for a few moments. And what comes to your awareness when you focus on the back of your head, the occiput?

Continue to observe the breath as it travels through your trachea. Trace the breath all the way from your nose or mouth, all the way down into the abdomen. Notice if your abdomen and chest expand in all directions, or not?

Observe any tension in the muscles of your face. Still breathing. Being present.

Shift awareness into your shoulders … what do you notice? Travel down into your upper arms, into the palms, into the fingers. Always anchoring your awareness with breath.

And now, continue to observe your breath freely, with no restrictions. Return to any area of the body that needs more attention. And at your own pace, when you are ready … You may open your eyes, and return to your day.

 

Images by: https://www.flickr.com/photos/alicepopkorn and https://www.flickr.com/photos/wiertz/6093566215

29 Dec

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How To Meditate: A Beginner’s Tutorial

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HaPe_Gera-Meditation

 DISCLAIMER: This article is not a substitute for professional medical, fitness, or dietary advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider before undertaking or modifying any healthcare intervention. Please read our disclaimer.

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By Chris Sovey, DPT, PT, RN,BSN


References for this article can be viewed in my linked articles.

Thank you for your interest in meditation. I don’t normally do this, but I would like to sidetrack for a quick second and thank our fans for the recent YouTube milestone. As of this writing, we reached 1,000 subscribers. This was very exciting for us, and I am grateful to all those who subscribed. If you have not subscribed to our YouTube channel yet, please do so here to continue receiving helpful health-empowerment articles, such as these.

This initial video will be an introduction into the practice of meditation. This is part 1 of 4 of a meditation series I will be posting over the next 4 weeks. In the above video, I explain the following:

  • What is meditation?
  • What are the benefits of meditation?
  • 3 common meditation practices supported by research.
  • Deciding which type of meditation best fits your needs.
  • A brief explanation of each of the 3 practices.

Meditation is a timeless practice adopted by nearly every culture. Most civilizations recognize the power of the mind-body-spirit connection, and have created practices to enhance this embodiment of self.

I define meditation as “A self-discipline of focus that typically involves tuning into a specific inward detail of one’s existence.” It can be spiritual or secular. Hence it fits the needs of nearly everyone. There is no one size fits all approach. That is why so many different types of meditation have evolved over the years. I also would say that the popularity of these individual practices wane and wax, like the phases of the moon. This is true of most things in the health realm.

Some of the benefits of meditation include:IanBurt_Meditation

  • Stress reduction
  • Improved concentration performance
  • Decreased depression / anxiety, improved mood
  • Improved cardiac health
  • Improved cognitive function
  • Decreased impulsiveness

HERE ARE 3 TYPES OF MEDITATION SUPPORTED BY THE LITERATURE

Mindfulness Meditation

SEE OUR DETAILED MINDFULNESS MEDITATION ARTICLE HERE

SEE HOW MINDFULNESS MEDITATION IMPROVES DEPRESSION HERE

  • A process of turning inward with typically a single focus, i.e. the breath.
  • Can be done anywhere, “urban mindfulness.”
  • If performed regularly, there is a significant benefit assisting with depression and stress.It may improve clarity of thought.
  • The focus is not to change breath (or other focal point), but to observe it… without judgment.

References for this article can be viewed in my linked articles.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

  • It is particularly beneficial for acute stress / anxiety / muscle tightness
  • Select a starting point and systematically work up/down your body
  • Example: Inhale and contract the toes for 2-3 seconds. Exhale and relax. Inhale, contract the toes and ankles. Exhale and relax. Continue all the way up to the crown of the head, progressively increasing the amount of muscle groups contracted.
  • Typical process: Contract-relax for 2-3 seconds; coordinate with breath.

References for this article can be viewed in my linked articles.

Deep Breathing Meditation

  • Done with the intention of purposely changing breath patterns to induce a parasympathetic (relaxation) response
  • Typically performed with a 1:2 – Inhale: Exhale ratio
  • Can be performed for a deep cleansing of stress
  • Known to significantly improve blood pressure / anxiety.

References for this article can be viewed in my linked articles.

BE CERTAIN TO SUBSCRIBE TO OUR MAILING LIST TO RECEIVE UPDATES ON THE CONTINUATION OF THIS MEDITATION SERIES OVER THE NEXT 4 WEEKS. CHECK BACK EVERY MONDAY FOR THE NEXT PART OF THE MEDITATION SERIES!

Images by: HaPe_Gera and Ian Burt from Flickr Creative Commons under Attribution License.

15 Dec

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Rethinking Posture: The Basics

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IMG_0822

 DISCLAIMER: This article is not a substitute for professional medical, fitness, or dietary advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider before undertaking or modifying any healthcare intervention. Please read our disclaimer.

–==FOLLOW HEALTHYCONSUMER ON FACEBOOK!==–

SUBSCRIBE TO US ON YOUTUBE!

Check back every Monday for more empowering health articles!

By Chris Sovey, DPT, PT, RN,BSN


I know I’m stating the obvious, but: We sit a lot… and it’s killing us. We wake up and get ready for the day. Once we’re on our way, the average commute time for a worker in the U.S.A. is 25.4 minutes (2). That’s just about enough time for a physiological response in the body to tighten up our postural muscles. Then when we get to work, we often sit for up to 8-12 hours. At lunch we sit. On the way home we sit. Once we are home, we need to unwind, so what do we do? We sit (and watch TV or something similar.)

It is a vicious cycle, and it is not without consequence. As we sit for such excessive amounts of time, we significantly increase our risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, type II diabetes, and all cause mortality (3). I can’t stress enough how important it is to IMG_0824-eget up and move around… frequently. I know this can be difficult for some due to the nature of their jobs, but we must do our best. Even more disturbing, a significant amount of the population in the U.S. is unaware of their actual amount of time spent sitting (1). As a Physical Therapist, I strongly urge people to get up and move, even if it is something as simple as going to the bathroom, or walking outside for 5 minutes every hour. Every little bit helps. When I am blogging, doing paperwork, etc., I set a timer for every 25 minutes, and take a 15 minute break. I get my blood flowing with a few exercises or gentle stretches.

The more we sit, the more difficult it is to obtain a healthy posture. Our spine and heart typically suffer the most. Through the above video (and my previous tutorial), I’ve outlined a good start to rebuild your posture. There are a variety of paths you could take to help with this. I love Pilates, and think (if taught properly,) is one of the most useful tools to improve your seated posture. Posture really has to start in the positioning of the pelvis. We cannot simply “pull our shoulders back.” The pelvis is our foundation for the rest of the spine. Everything builds on top of it. We must first correct tight hips / pelvis positioning before trying to address things further up the chain. Build yourself from the ground up. I frequently go as low as assessing for dysfunction in the foot with clients. Make sure there is no dysfunction there first in standing.

Everyone will be different. This depends on their own physical limitations or structural difficulties in their body. Frequent movement, body work, Pilates, stretching, yoga, can all be useful tools to help you improve. Regular interval training is extremely beneficial for cardiac health as well.

SOURCES:

(1) Which population groups are most unaware of CVD risks associated with sitting time?

(2) Average Commute Times

(3) Role of Low Energy Expenditure and Sitting in Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome, Type 2 Diabetes, and Cardiovascular Disease.

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