Alternate Nostril Breathing Benefits by Dr. Timothy McCall

Is Alternate Nostril Breathing Really Just a Placebo?

 

A Response to The Atlantic by Timothy McCall, M.D. 

As many of you have heard, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton used yogic alternate nostril breathing to help get over her electoral defeat. She’s been singing the praises of the ancient pranayama technique in her bestseller What Happened as well as on CNN. This caught the attention of James Hamblin, MD, a senior editor at the venerable magazine The Atlantic. In his article, “How Alternate-Nostril Breathing Works,” Dr. Hamblin sets the tone early: “When I came to the part in Hillary Clinton’s new book where she describes how she treated her anxiety with a practice called alternate-nostril breathing, I thought, that sounds impossible. I tried breathing through only one nostril at a time. I couldn’t do it.” “Then I read a little further and saw that she recommends using her fingers to cover one nostril. Got it. Okay, that makes it much easier.” Later Hamblin wonders why the practice could possibly be calming? “Inducing partial suffocation,” he writes, “isn’t the most intuitive anti-anxiety ritual.” What Hamblin proves with this last piece of snark is that he actually knows next to nothing about the subject he is addressing. If you are practicing pranayama and are feeling short of breath, you are doing it incorrectly. That’s why yogis recommend—even more than for other practices—that you learn pranayama directly from a teacher. That’s especially true if breath holding is involved as Clinton, probably unwisely, recommended (the practice is usually contraindicated in people with heart disease, asthma, etc.). Of course, knowing little or nothing about the subject rarely stops some physicians and skeptics from dissing a wide variety of holistic health measures from yoga to acupuncture. Even well-meaning doctors are sometimes quoted in the press saying things like they are not surprised that some study found yoga effective because exercise is good for you, as if that were the total explanation.

Dr. Hamblin is willing to dismiss the various “studies” (in scare quotes to emphasize their dubious nature) in support of alternate nostril breathing. He rejects the scientific research cited by CNN because the studies mostly had small numbers of participants and were published in journals like the International Journal of Yoga, which “conceivably has some degree of pro-yoga bias.” But what Hamblin most effectively uses to skewer alternate nostril breathing is a quotation from Clinton’s book: “The way it’s been explained to me,” she wrote, “this allows oxygen to activate both the right side of the brain—which is the source of your creativity and imagination—and the left side—which controls reason and logic.” Hamblin gleefully responds that given the stress she was under when she wrote the book: “She has more pressing concerns than considering how inhaled air goes down into the lungs, where oxygen is transferred to capillaries filled with blood that then go to the heart. The heart has a single left ventricle, and it shoots blood up to the head, oxygenating the brain’s hemispheres with the same blood.” And, of course, in this regard, the good doctor is absolutely correct. The explanation Clinton gave, that she more than likely got from a yoga teacher, is not quite right. And probably that teacher heard it from his or her teacher and passed it on with the best of intentions. There is, in fact, research that suggests that breathing through the left nostril preferentially stimulates the right hemisphere of the brain, and vice versa. This and another study by the same author, David Shannahoff-Khalsa of the University of California- San Diego’s Center for Integrative Medicine, elaborate 

on the link between hemisphere dominance and the breath cycle, which flips between dominance by the right and left nostrils several times per day. Both were published in The International Journal of Neuroscience, which admittedly could have a pro-neuroscience bias. It is also known that right nostril breathing stimulates the sympathetic nervous system’s (SNS) fight or flight response. Left nostril breathing has similarly been linked to the parasympathetic nervous system’s (PNS) “rest and digest” response. Alternate nostril breathing could thus help balance these two branches of the autonomic nervous system, potentially helping a condition like anxiety typically associated with dominance of the SNS over the PNS. Like Hamblin, New York Times science writer William Broad, in his infamous book The Science of Yoga—in which he among other things asserted that yoga started as a sex cult, could make you fat, and results in hundreds of strokes and many deaths per year—seems to attack the dumbest things he could find that anyone has said about the practice. In suggesting that the profession has turned a blind eye to yoga injuries, Broad quoted one Indian guru that most western yogis have never heard of who said that yoga is as safe as mother’s milk as if that were the party line. Despite all the book’s shortcomings, Broad correctly pointed out, for example, that Kapalabhati breathing does not increase the oxygen levels in the brain. I’ve personally heard that canard several times over the years in yoga classes. Or consider the commonly-invoked explanation that yoga shoulderstands can improve thyroid function by increasing blood flow to the gland. As far as I know there is not a lick of scientific support for this notion. Having been in an O.R. and seen a scalpel cut into the thyroid, it’s hard for me to imagine an organ with a better blood supply even without going upside down. What is known is that the yoga tradition tells us that shoulderstand can help the gland’s functioning as, for example, in the case of hypothyroidism. But there seems to be a strong temptation among teachers to not want to depend on the tradition alone but to dress up their claims in science-y language. And that is precisely what opens the door to science writers like Broad and Hamblin— looking for a click-worthy, man-bites-dog hot take—to spread misinformation about yoga in influential places like The Atlantic and The New York Times. Here’s my suggestion: If you are a yoga teacher and are not that well-schooled in science, tread carefully. Realize that the people who taught you may also have not understood physiology or medicine that well. Be careful when propagating 

scientific-sounding information that may not be accurate. For some scientificallyminded students, a single bogus claim could lower their opinion of you and maybe of yoga itself. If you have read research on yoga that had an interesting result you want to discuss with your students, by all means do so. If possible, also mention where and when the study was published. If all you did was read a news story about it, say that. Acknowledge your sources, whether a claim comes from the yoga tradition, your teacher, or is the fruit of your own personal yoga practice or teaching. It may not sound as impressive as invoking science, but it’s a lot less likely to get turned on you or on the ancient practice you love by a skeptical journalist or scientist in your midst. And for the record, the yoga tradition, my teachers, my own direct experience as a long-time practitioner and yoga therapist—and a growing body of scientific research—suggest that alternate nostril breathing can be a most valuable tool for improving health and well-being. I do it every day. 

Study with Dr. McCall

http://www.drmccall.com/uploads/2/2/6/5/22658464/is_alternate_nostril_breathing_really_just_a_placebo_2.pdf

How Yoga Can Help Break Negative Thought Patters

From Mind Body Green

In case you're looking for another reason to hit the yoga studio, here's some interesting science that will get you rolling out your mat: According to recent research out of the University of Waterloo and published in the journal Mindfulness, practicing just 25 minutes of yoga can have positive effects on your brain function, mental health, and energy levels.

 

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For the study, researchers asked 31 participants to practice hatha yoga for 25 minutes, followed by 25 minutes of meditation, followed by 25 minutes of reading quietly. The researchers found that the combination of yoga and meditation—but more so yoga—led to an increase in cognitive function, gave participants more energy, and helped them control impulsive emotional responses and habitual thinking patterns. 

"There are a number of theories about why physical exercises like yoga improve energy levels and cognitive test performance," said lead study author Kimberley Luu. "These include the release of endorphins, increased blood flow to the brain, and reduced focus on ruminative thoughts. Though ultimately, it is still an open question."

Effectiveness of Yoga for Low Back Pain

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Yoga is as effective as physical therapy to treat mild to moderate chronic low back pain, research finds, including for some underserved patients with more severe functional disability.

A new study used a randomized trial of 320 predominantly low-income, racially diverse adults ages 18 to 64 with nonspecific chronic low back pain (cLBP).

Participants took 12 yoga classes, 15 physical therapy visits, or an educational book and newsletters about managing back pain, followed by a 40-week maintenance period with yoga drop-in classes or home practice for the yoga group, and physical therapy booster sessions or home practice for the physical therapy group.

The findings, reported in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, show that about one-half of participants in both the yoga and physical therapy groups reported reduced pain and disability, compared to about one-fifth of participants in the education group.

The yoga and physical therapy participants were about 20 percent less likely to use any pain medication at 12 weeks compared to the education group.

“Finding that yoga is as effective as physical therapy for chronic low back pain is important in that yoga can be performed long-term at home or in group settings where there is social support, it has additional mental health benefits, and may be a cost-effective alternative,” says Janice Weinberg, biostatistics professor at Boston University School of Public Health

https://knowridge.com/2017/08/yoga-rivals-physical-therapy-for-chronic-low-back-pain/

 

Meditation and yoga can ‘reverse’ DNA reactions which cause stress

Mind-body interventions (MBIs) such as meditation, yoga and Tai Chi don’t simply relax us.

They can ‘reverse’ the molecular reactions in our DNA which cause ill-health and depression, according to a study by the universities of Coventry and Radboud.

The research, published today in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, reviews over a decade of studies analysing how the behaviour of our genes is affected by different MBIs including mindfulness and yoga.

 

Experts from the universities conclude that, when examined together, the 18 studies — featuring 846 participants over 11 years — reveal a pattern in the molecular changes which happen to the body as a result of MBIs, and how those changes benefit our mental and physical health.

The researchers focus on how gene expression is affected; in other words the way that genes activate to produce proteins which influence the biological make-up of the body, the brain and the immune system.

When a person is exposed to a stressful event, their sympathetic nervous system (SNS) — the system responsible for the ‘fight-or-flight’ response — is triggered, in turn increasing production of a molecule called nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB) which regulates how our genes are expressed.

NF-kB translates stress by activating genes to produce proteins called cytokines that cause inflammation at cellular level — a reaction that is useful as a short-lived fight-or-flight reaction, but if persistent leads to a higher risk of cancer, accelerated aging and psychiatric disorders like depression.

According to the study, however, people who practise MBIs exhibit the opposite effect — namely a decrease in production of NF-kB and cytokines, leading to a reversal of the pro-inflammatory gene expression pattern and a reduction in the risk of inflammation-related diseases and conditions.

 

The study’s authors say the inflammatory effect of the fight-or-flight response — which also serves to temporarily bolster the immune system – would have played an important role in mankind’s hunter-gatherer prehistory, when there was a higher risk of infection from wounds.

In today’s society, however, where stress is increasingly psychological and often longer-term, pro-inflammatory gene expression can be persistent and therefore more likely to cause psychiatric and medical problems.

Lead investigator Ivana Buric from the Brain, Belief and Behaviour Lab in Coventry University’s Centre for Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement said:

 

“Millions of people around the world already enjoy the health benefits of mind-body interventions like yoga or meditation, but what they perhaps don’t realise is that these benefits begin at a molecular level and can change the way our genetic code goes about its business.

“These activities are leaving what we call a molecular signature in our cells, which reverses the effect that stress or anxiety would have on the body by changing how our genes are expressed. Put simply, MBIs cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our wellbeing.

“More needs to be done to understand these effects in greater depth, for example how they compare with other healthy interventions like exercise or nutrition. But this is an important foundation to build on to help future researchers explore the benefits of increasingly popular mind-body activities.”

The Science Is In, And Yes — Yoga Helps With Depression

by Leigh Weingus, mbg Yoga & Fitness Editor

We've long suspected that yoga has a positive impact on mental health, and we know it works miracles on our physical health. Recent research even found that yoga has the ability to alter our DNA.

But a series of new studies on yoga and mental health saw one conclusion across the board: Practicing yoga regularly reduces symptoms of depression. The first study, conducted out of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, looked at the effects hatha on 23 male veterans who practiced twice per week for eight weeks. Not only did the veterans report enjoying the classes, but they saw reduced depression symptoms after two months of yoga.

Another study out of Alliant University in San Francisco that looked at the effects of Bikram yoga on a group of women between the ages of 25 and 45 found similar results: When these women practiced twice per week for two months, their depression symptoms decreased.

Two more studies presented in the same meeting—one on mildly depressed university students, the other on chronically depressed people who had been resistant to depression—found the same thing: When it comes to mental illness, yoga heals.

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/yes-yoga-cures-depression

Reiki for Postpartum

Check out this article from the IARP

Benefits of Reiki for Moms with Postpartum Depression

Nearly every new mom feels slightly depressed or overwhelmed at some point during the first few days that follow delivery. However, some women experience a more severe form of depression, known as “postpartum depression.” Postpartum depression is a significant problem worldwide, affecting 10 to 15 percent of women around the globe. Women dealing with this condition may try to alleviate their symptoms by taking medication, getting plenty of rest and attending counseling sessions. However, research has also shown that Reiki may be beneficial to women with postpartum depression.

How Reiki Can Help

Reiki offers several benefits for moms suffering from postpartum depression. Some of the potential benefits of this therapy include:

Lower perceptions of stress.

People who participate in Reiki sessions often report feeling less stress. Because stress is one of the most significant factors contributing to postpartum depression in new moms, relieving stress may help to improve the symptoms of depression.

A chance to relax.

Reiki sessions give new mothers a chance to relax and recharge. This can be especially beneficial to mothers who have depression accompanied by feelings of anxiety.

A better sense of balance.

Many clients who participate in regular Reiki sessions report feeling more mentally and physically balanced. This change may help mothers with postpartum depression to overcome their negative mental state.
Research studies support the efficacy of Reiki sessions for depression in general. It is likely that these benefits will translate to postpartum depression as well. Below is some information about some of the research studies that have been conducted on the effectiveness of Reiki for people with depression.

Effects of Reiki on Depression, Anxiety and Pain

In a study conducted by researchers at the University of Southern Maine, researchers evaluated the effect of Reiki treatments on measures of pain, depression and anxiety. Individuals participating in the study were divided into two groups: a control group and an experimental group that received Reiki treatments. Measures of depression, anxiety and pain improved significantly among members of the experimental treatment group.

Efficacy of Reiki at Benefiting Mood and Well Being

In this study conducted by the University of London, patients underwent two to eight weeks of 30-minute Reiki sessions. At the end of the study, researchers found that participants who were experiencing high levels of anxiety and depression experienced an overall improvement in mood.

8 Benefits of Meditation

Keep an eye on our schedule for new meditation offerings coming later in summer!

 

8 Ways Meditation Can Improve Your Life

By Kristine Crane for US News

Meditation reduces stress.

“Meditation is mind without agitation,” Narasimhan says. Stress creates agitation and is something most of us deal with on some level. And it’s increasing, given the rising use of anti-anxiety medications, notes Stanford University researcher Emma Seppälä. Meditation allows people to take charge of their own nervous system and emotions. “Studies have shown improved ability to [permanently] regulate emotions in the brain,” adds Seppälä, who is also the associate director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford. “It’s very empowering.” 

It improves concentration.
“I’m more centered and focused in everything I do. I don’t find myself getting as distracted anymore,” says Sara Robinson of Indianapolis, who did the Sahaj course last February. The ER nurse and sky-diving instructor adds that multitasking is easier. At least one study has shown an improved ability to multitask, Seppälä says. “Meditation has been linked to a number of things that lead to increased ability to focus, memory … We’ve seen this at the level of the brain.” Greater concentration is related to the increased energy meditation provides. “It connects you with your real source of energy,” Narasimhan says.

It encourages a healthy lifestyle.

“I tend to want more things that are better for me,” Robinson says, adding that she eats more fresh foods and has cut out nearly all alcohol. She also stopped smoking. Susan Braden, who lives in Takoma Park, Maryland, and also did the Sahaj course, says the practice has made her apply the Hippocratic oath — “First, do no harm” — to herself. “You just want to put good things in your body,” she says. That means “closest to what’s natural. So if it doesn’t look like a tomato, I wouldn’t eat it.” Braden also gave up coffee, replacing it with tea.

The practice increases self-awareness.
Before Zaccai Free, a District of Columbia resident, began meditating in college two decades ago, he had a very short fuse – to the point, he says, of wanting to commit acts of violence. Meditation taught him to recognize his own anger and become more detached from it. It cleared his mind and calmed him down, he says. Mostly, “it made me more comfortable in my own skin,” adds Free, who does many types of meditation, including Sahaj, Agnihotra, laughter and walking meditations. “When you take more time to dive inside yourself, you are more comfortable showing who you are.”

It increases happiness.

“Meditation puts you on the fast track to being happy,” says Ronnie Newman, director of research and health promotion for the Art of Living Foundation, the umbrella organization for the Sahaj meditation course. Studies have shown that brain signaling increases in the left side of the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for positive emotions, while activity decreases in the right side, responsible for negative emotions, Newman says. The other benefits of meditation, including increased self-awareness and acceptance, also contribute to improved overall well-being.

Meditation increases acceptance.
Braden was a high-profile senior policy advisor in the State Department, constantly on the go to trips around the world, until seven years ago, when she was struck by multiple sclerosis. She turned to meditation, and her world view flipped. “I have a disease which really brings you back to yourself,” Braden says. “Meditation helps me accept that. You explore your inner self and realize that’s just as big as traveling to Burma.” For Braden, learning to meditate has been harder than learning Arabic. “It’s a lifetime job. But it changes how you feel life, and it’s made it more enjoyable for me,” she says.

It slows aging.

Studies show that meditation changes brain physiology to slow aging. “Cognition seems to be preserved in meditators,” says Sara Lazar, a researcher at Harvard University. Lazar adds that meditators also have more gray matter – literally, more brain cells. Lazar’s colleague, Elizabeth Hoge, did a study that showed that meditators also have longer telomeres, the caps on chromosomes indicative of biological age (rather than chronological). That meditation lengthens life “may be a bit of a stretch,” Hoge says. “But there is something about meditation that is associated with longer telomeres … [perhaps that] it reduces stress and its effects on the body.”

The practice benefits cardiovascular and immune health.
Meditation induces relaxation, which increases the compound nitric oxide that causes blood vessels to open up and subsequently, blood pressure to drop. One study, published in 2008 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, showed that 40 of 60 high blood pressure patients who started meditating could stop taking their blood pressure medication. Meditation also improves immunity. “I hardly ever get sick anymore,” Robinson says. “I don’t think I’ve had a cold since I started this.”

 

What To Expect During a Reiki Treatment?

The International Association of Reiki Professionals shared this article about what to expect in a Reiki session.

How long is a Reiki session?

A session is generally one hour. 90 minute sessions may be available in some cases.

Will I be lying down on a massage table or sitting?

Reiki is usually performed on a client who is fully reclined comfortably on a massage table. It also may be performed on a client who is semi-reclined on a massage chair or recliner. If you have mobility or pain issues please communicate these to your Practitioner so they may make you your most comfortable for the session.

Am I clothed during my Reiki session?

Yes. Unlike a massage therapy session, you will be fully clothed. Unless, of course, your Reiki Practitioner is also a licensed Massage Therapist and you are receiving both massage and Reiki, then you would speak with your practitioner about your preference. But for a Reiki session only, you will want to wear loose fitting comfortable clothing.


You can see the rest of the article at their site

What is Reiki & How Do I Know It Works?

Pronounced “ray-kee,” Reiki is an energy medicine practice in which the practitioner places her/his hands on or near the person receiving the treatment, with the intent to transmit ki, or a life-force energy. Reiki is an ancient practice that originated in Japan and although not scientifically proven, many individuals find Reiki improves the flow and balance of the body’s energy. Many individuals receive Reiki on its own or in combination with other therapies, such as massage. Typically, individuals receive Reiki fully clothed and in a comfortable position either sitting or lying down. 

Read More

Reiki Level I Training & Certification

Reiki is a powerful healing modality that restores balance and removes energetic blockages. In Yogic, Reiki, and Energy philosophies it is said that what shows up in the body began in the mind and heart. Reiki is an effective way to reach the root causes and, blockages, and old beliefs to make space for healing, peace, and balance.

In this training you will

  • Learn The Origins of Reiki
  • Understand How Reiki Works
  • Learn simple mediations to help your practices
  • Receive the Level I Reiki Attunement
  • Have lots of hands on practice with yourself and class mates
  • Receive a certificate confirming your training
  • Have a clear 21 day plan to deepen your personal practice

This training is offered by Adam Schifferli, RYT, Advanced Usui Reiki Master Healer Teacher, and Kundalini Reiki Master Teacher

Contact us with Questions!

Mindful Hatha Yoga

Mindful Hatha Yoga is an all levels class that offers pranayama (breathing  techniques), yoga asanas (postures), and deep restful relaxation and meditation for a full risch practice that will leave you feeling stretched, opened and connected. Practice mindfullness within your practice and experience the richness of each breath, each movement and each pause. Make some room in your life for stillness.

This class is open to any practicioner