Can Yoga Help With Pain?

by Sandra Helpsmeet

Many of the students that I work with in classes, and even more so in private lessons, come to yoga wanting to know if it will help with their pain. Sometimes their pain has a specific origin, a condition or injury. In this case, understanding that condition will guide the yoga that may be appropriate for them and may help the associated pain. But that is not what this article is about. The pain we are looking at here is the “no one has been able to shed light on the reason for it” pain. Can yoga help me with this pain? Maybe. Likely, at least to some degree. And at the least, it can help one manage and cope with the pain.

Yoga has several aspects to it that are fundamentally a good deal for working with pain. First, yoga is mindful movement. Second, it requires and encourages breath. If you are not moving mindfully, and you are not breathing with a full exhalation, you are probably not doing yoga.  Both mindful movement and authentic breathing with a full exhalation encourage what used to be called the relaxation response and is now more commonly called ‘down regulation’. This means that the autonomic nervous system, the mechanism in our bodies that winds us up into ready, active, take-care-of-business, even fight or flight mode, and then when the emergency or demand has passed, settles us down into rest mode, tends to be balanced by mindful movement and authentic breathing.

The nature of pain is that the body tends to take it as a signal that something is trying to heal, and so guarding forms around the painful area to try to stabilize and protect it. Compensation also happens when other muscles try to stand in for the painful area or the tight muscles that are guarding the pain. This guarding and compensating creates tension, which tends to expand, deepen, and add to the experience of the pain. The guarding and compensating also inhibits the breath in that area. The problem with this is that our breath is like an internal massage that helps keep tissues soft and juicy. Working mindfully and with the breath in yoga can soften the guarding and allow the breath to move through the painful area, opening the area to increased blood and lymph flow. Often this alone can lessen the pain.

Another way yoga can be an antidote to pain is by turning on and strengthening the structural support muscles in the body. These are the muscles that support the bones in naturally good posture. When these muscles are asleep or insufficiently strong, the surface muscles try to take over, but this is not a job they are prepared to do over the long term. They become tired and tense. For example, if one sits at a computer or drives an automobile for a long time in a position that rounds the back instead of allowing it to extend naturally, the head is forced forward. The heaviness of the head, which would normally be supported atop the spine in natural alignment, is thrown forward and the muscles of the upper back, shoulders, and neck are forced to try to support it. This is a recipe for neck pain and upper back pain. Yoga’s ability to teach us how to support our bodies most naturally will eventually create better core strength and postural support that will alleviate the cause of this pain.

The mind can also play a part in how we perceive and feel pain because what we think can create tension in the body, and thinking it more creates more tension. A friend of mine calls this ‘pre-purchasing your pain’. I am worrying about going to an event where I have a responsibility, and as I think about how awful it will be and how I will mess it up, I create more clear images in my mind of the worst version of that event, and that reinforces my mind’s tendency to think more about it, and pretty soon I have given myself a headache. Yoga can help us in several ways to interrupt or change this inclination to think out into the future and pre-purchase pain. Focusing on our body brings us into the present moment, which makes it easier to not think into the future. Tapping into structural support muscles and exhaling fully bring us into greater down regulation, which also brings us more fully into the present. Practicing yoga over time increases these skills and our ability to be working quite a bit in a pose while allowing and encouraging other parts of us to relax.

Water Sense: Savvy Practices for Your Home

Did you know that the average American household uses 260 gallons of water per day? With only 1% of water on Earth being fit for consumption, this is a startling revelation. By being more informed about your own water use and tweaking some personal habits, you can cut down on your usage and save money on a monthly and yearly basis. The following facts and tips will provide you with a smart start. So turn off the faucet and let the revolution begin!

Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth …
… and save 3,000 gallons of water/yr. This habit alone will help you save a hefty amount of water, but by investing in water-efficient and high-performance appliances, you will save even more water (not to mention money). EPA-sponsored programs such as WaterSense and EnergyStar point out which products on the market are the best in cutting down on water consumption while offering superb performance when it comes to water systems, fixtures, and accessories. WaterSense is labeled only on programs and products that meet or surpass water performance and efficiency criteria. More information is provided on this at http://www.epa.gov/watersense/index.htm.

Invest in high-efficiency toilets for a household of four …
… and save $2,000 in water bills on average over the lifetime of said toilets. Since toilets account for almost 30% of inside residential water usage, it is exceedingly important to replace old toilets and properly maintain existing ones. If you’re in the market for a new toilet, WaterSense labeled toilets and compost toilets make for excellent choices. WaterSense toilets could conserve about two billion gallons of water/day across the country if everyone used one. Likewise, compost toilets use very little water for flushing and have come a long way in the thirty years since they first came on the scene. Today, compost toilets are similar to other toilets in both look and feel. Areas that benefit most from them include suburban, rural, and unsewered ones. Another low-flush toilet is the dual flush. The dual flush operates on the principle that the amount of water used is in proportion to the amount of matter needed to be flushed. It uses a full flush for solid waste while using a smaller flush for liquid waste. For more information on these wonderful alternatives, take a look at http://www.epa.gov/watersense/pp/het.htm.

Switch over to high-efficiency shower heads …
… and gain a water savings of 25-60%. Faucets and showerheads are necessary to maintain and replace for water conservation. Since water faucets use over one trillion gallons of water/yr. in the U.S. and make up for more than 15% of indoor residential water use, it is imperative to keep them in tiptop order. WaterSense labeled faucets and accessories can decrease a sink’s water flow by 30% (if not more) without hurting its performance. Just think: If WaterSense labeled faucets and accessories were in place in every American house, over 60 billion gallons of water and more than $350 million in water utility bills would be saved per year!

Compared to faucets, showerheads take up just a little more of water use in the U.S., making for 17% of total indoor residential use. Additionally, they account for over 1.2 trillion gallons of water consumed each year. To cut down on personal water use, older showerhead models should be replaced, as models prior to 1992 have flow rates of 5.5 gpm (gallons per minute). In contrast, today’s high-efficiency models have flow rates that are under 2.4 gpm. Besides installing high-efficiency faucets and showerheads, another savvy practice to always keep in mind is repairing leaks in faucets, showerheads, toilets, and pipes. For more tips, visit http://www.epa.gov/watersense/products/showerheads.html.

Install a high-efficiency washing machine …
… and expect to use 30-50% less water and 50% less energy per load when washing clothes. In contrast, the average washing machine uses approximately 41 gallons of water/load and is the next-to-largest water user within the home. If each and every American household used water-efficient appliances, the U.S. would save over $18 billion/yr. and more than three trillion gallons of water/yr. If you’re looking to update your washer, EnergyStar models make for some great water-savers. But an even better buy for a washer is one that boasts a low water factor. A water factor is the rate used to measure a washer’s efficiency; it stands for the number of gal/cycle/cubic feet that a washer uses. For example, if a washer uses 24 gallons of water with a 3 cubic ft. capacity of laundry, it will then have a water factor of 8 (# of gallons divided by cubic ft.). Thus the logic goes that the lower the factor is, the more efficient the washer will be. For additional information, check out http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/reduce-hot-water-use-energy-savings.

National Geographic.com Gives Us Some Good Pointers When Being Water Savvy…

• According to recent reports, nearly 5% of all U.S. water withdrawals are used to fuel industry and the production of many of the material goods we stock up on weekly, monthly and yearly.

• It takes about 100 gallons of water to grow and process a single pound of cotton, and the average American goes through about 35 pounds of new cotton material each year. Do you really need that additional T-shirt?

• The water required to create your laptop could wash nearly 70 loads of laundry in a standard machine.

• Recycling a pound of paper, less than the weight of your average newspaper, saves about 3.5 gallons of water. Buying recycled paper products saves water too, as it takes about six gallons of water to produce a dollar’s worth of paper.

• All of those flushes can add up to nearly 20 gallons a day down the toilet. If you still have a standard toilet, which uses close to 3.5 gallons a flush, you can save by retrofitting or filling your tank with something that will displace some of that water, such as a brick.

• Most front-loading machines are energy- and water-efficient, using just over 20 gallons a load, while most top-loading machines, unless they are energy-efficient, use 40 gallons per load.

• Nearly 22% of indoor home water use comes from doing laundry. Save water by making sure to adjust the settings on your machine to the proper load size.

• Energy Star dishwashers use about 4 gallons of water per load, and even standard machines use only about 6 gallons. Hand washing generally uses about 20 gallons of water each time.

Moisturizer Matters

It’s winter, and your face has been sending you the signals that it needs some care. Staying in tune with your skins changing needs and choosing moisturizers carefully can make a big difference in your skin’s health.

Moisturizers should provide both humectant and occlusive protection to skin. Humectants draw moisture from the atmosphere to the skin, and occlusives form a seal on the skin to lock existing moisture in. Dr. David Simon, co-founder of Ayurvedic spa The Chopra Center, suggests, “Don’t put it on your skin if you wouldn’t put it in your mouth. Anything you put on your skin will be absorbed within 20 to 30 minutes… into the tissue layers of your body.”

Dry Skin
Symptoms: skin feels tight after cleansing, may start to flake and tends to wrinkle.

Treatment: seek a moisturizer with heavier occlusives such sesame, avocado, or almond oils or butters.

Sensitive Skin
Symptoms: skin gets blotchy in cold wind, blushes easily.

Treatment: ingredients like coconut oil, lavender, German chamomile, or olive oil will provide anti-inflammatory, soothing properties.

Oily Skin
Symptoms: larger pored, thicker skin that tends to be prone to breakouts.

Treatment: eliminating all oils or occlusives isn’t necessary and can even be damaging to skin. Instead, look for lighter moisturizers with emphasis on humectants and stimulating emollients such as safflower or sunflower oils.

Winter Care For Dogs: 3 things to watch for

by Melissa Kullman – Master Groomer, Puckabee’s Eco-Friendly Grooming

Wisconsin winters take their toll on our four-legged family members, and because our pets don’t complain, we sometimes forget that their needs change through the year. Some of the most common winter problems that ail our pets are the simplest to treat and prevent.

Dry Skin
Heating our homes not only dries our skin but our pets, too. Many dogs and cats suffer from dry skin. Whether it’s due to allergies or dry winter air, there are a few easy ways to treat and prevent this problem. Feeding a high quality dog food supplement that contains not just vitamins and minerals, but digestive enzymes, probiotics and omega 6 are essential.  Intestinal wellness is the secret to healthy skin and coat, as well as overall health and wellness. Fido-Vite is a locally produced supplement that guarantees their product or your money back (www.fido-vite.com).

Herbs are also a great way to treat dogs and cats. Plants like nettle and oats are just a couple of herbs that make a huge difference when it comes to your dog’s or cat’s skin. Our eco-friendly salon, Puckabee’s, offers a skin soother treatment that includes an oatmeal bath and fresh organic herbal infusion rinse. *Remember, when bathing at home use a shampoo that is plant based and chemical free to avoid further irritation.

Cracked/Dry Paw Pads
Walking over those salted sidewalks irritates your dog’s paws by drying the pads and causing painful cracks. Change to a pet friendly sidewalk salt, and apply Nose to Toes balm to pads to rehydrate, soothe, and protect before and after walks. Nose to Toes balm was created by a local herbalist specifically to soothe a wide variety of skin irritations (cuts, dry noses, hot spots, etc.) for dogs and cats. Since it’s all natural and chemical free, you don’t have to worry about your dog ingesting the balm.

Chill & Frostbite
Consider getting your dog groomed more frequently during the winter months. Hair that picks up snow gets wet and becomes matted quickly. These matts dry slowly, leaving your dog feeling chilled. Excessive matts lead to one of two things: a very short (and chilly) haircut or a lot of painful combing.

Puckabee’s Eco-Friendly Grooming uses products that are biodegradable, plant based, cruelty free, chemical free, and locally made. For questions about products and services, please call 715.514.1003 or stop in the salon at 24 South Barstow Street, Eau Claire.

11 Scary Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

Think your home is safe? Think again. In today’s quick and convenient world, the air you breathe indoors may actually be worse than the air outside.  According to the EPA, it is estimated that indoor air pollution can be up to eight times worse than the air you breathe outside. With as much time as people spend at home, this is scary news. The following are unexpected, but potent sources of air pollution.

Got a Little Dirty Laundry?
Getting your clothes clean can be an awfully dirty process. Ingredients in laundry products containing artificial fragrances and perfumes can emit as much dryer vent and laundry room pollution as exhaust from running vehicles. This phenomenon happens because, unlike tailpipes and smokestacks, dryer vent emissions are unregulated. To ensure that your lungs are breathing in clean air, choose plant-based, unscented laundry detergents instead of commercial ones — and ditch the fabric softeners and dryer sheets.

Keeping Your Home Truly Clean
Ammonia and bleach are two well-known commercial cleaning agents commonly used in general housekeeping.  Although they get the job done, they also create hazardous levels of ozone. Other store-bought cleaning supplies share potentially harmful, questionable ingredients found in other commercial products like air fresheners, candles, and bath products. Going green is the best way to ensure that your home is actually clean. DIY cleaning options, such as cleaning with white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and baking soda, will not only be easy on your pocketbook, but your lungs and general health as well.

Catastrophic Carpeting
Wall-to-wall carpeting is one of the scariest things you can have in your house if you’re prone to asthma or allergy attacks.  Known for trapping dust and dander, carpets are terrible at maintaining indoor air quality. In addition, commercial carpeting can emit VOCs, while carpet padding may contain traces of hormone-disrupting, flame-retardant chemicals. For those seeking a solution to problematic flooring, they can choose between better carpeting and hardwood flooring. Green Label carpeting products emit fewer VOC levels, while vacuums with HEPA filters do an outstanding job of ridding carpets of harmful particles. Hardwood and bamboo floors are a better alternative to carpeting and can simply be damp-mopped to abolish dust particles.

Freaky Furniture
Did you know that your furniture has the potential to freak your health out? The scary truth is that furniture fashioned from particleboard and plywood may emit VOCs due to the glues and binders used in making those products. For products such as these, it is recommended that they be sealed with AFM Safecoat Seal in an effort to reduce the amount of toxic compounds in the air. If you’re in the market for new furniture, however, your best bets are lead-free second hand furniture or Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood products.

Shower Water
While most people have heard about installing filters for drinking water, how many have heard about installing ones for the shower? It is recommended that installing both kinds of filters can help prevent the onset of cancer. During a single 10-minute shower session, your body can absorb one hundred times more chlorine than after consuming one gallon of that same water. Filter-less showers and poor ventilation causes chlorine to become airborne and travel throughout your house. For an easy fix, invest in a NSF/ANSI Standard 177: Shower Filtration Systems — Aesthetic Effects filter. Also, conducting a water test will alert you to harmful levels of other contaminants. If other contaminants are found, make sure to buy a filter that is certified to remove them.

A Behemoth of a Basement
Two of the biggest air pollutants in basements are radon and paint cans. While radon can be tested for, paint cans cannot. Paint cans, regardless of being sealed or open, can emit VOCs. Dealing with paint cans is easy. Simply relocate them in an unattached garage or shed and recycle old paint at a waste-collection facility.

Holiday Décor
In 2009, a study published by Ground Water Monitoring & Remediation discovered that Christmas ornaments, such as plastic “polyresin” ones, have the potential to pollute the air with a possible human carcinogen technically known as the industrial solvent 1, 2-dichclorethane (DCA). Although holiday décor makes for a merrier home, it may not make for a healthier one. By substituting commercial ornaments with ones fashioned from glass, fabrics, and other natural materials, you can rest easy at night known that your beautiful home is safe as well.

Printer Problems
Did you know that using your computer’s printer can pollute your air? Apparently, the ink cartridges within them are known to give off VOCs and contaminants known as glymes. Glymes stem from the glycol family are used in some chemical carpet cleaners. Since 2011, the EPA has taken a stronger stance against these solvents, asserting that glymes have been linked to higher rates of miscarriage. For those of us with printers, the best way to deal with them is to print at home only when necessary and to ensure that your printing area is well ventilated.

Aromatherapy
A lit candle can be scenic and, if scented, enhance one’s mood. Sadly, though, that same candle can pollute one’s lungs with some of the same chemicals that come out of tailpipes. Most manufactured candles today emit chemicals such as alkanes, alkenes, benzenes, and toluene. However, your scenery and senses can be satisfied without costing your health by going au natural. Beeswax candles and organic pure essential oils are the quickest fixes for this hairy situation. An added benefit for using beeswax candles is that they emit negative ions that actually cleanse the air.

Creepy Cosmetics
Looking like a million bucks may cost you in the long run. With today’s commercial assortment of cosmetics, deodorants, perfumes, and beauty products, looking good has never been so detrimental. While your enticing aroma and ruby-red lips may turn a few heads, your skin and lungs bear the brunt of artificially perfumed and fragranced ingredients. The good news, though, is that you can still stun the world while keeping your body free of questionable chemicals. An online database sponsored by the Environmental Working Group (Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database) compares and rates current shampoos, soaps, lotions, and other products on its site. Another thing you can do is to scrutinize the ingredients list and stay away from any products that cite “parfum” or “fragrance”.

Cooking with Ease
Convenient cookware, such as nonstick pans, may be mess-free, but not necessarily chemical-free.  Polytetrafluoroethylene is the chemical used in making non-stick cookware. When the coating on a non-stick pan has been nicked or scratched though, polytetrafluoroethylene is released into the air and, over a chronic period of exposure, can up your chances of obesity, thyroid disease, and ADHD. When the surface starts showing signs of wear and tear, it is essential to replace your pan with something like untreated stainless steel, domestic cast iron, or stoneware.