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    News — balance

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    Live upside down for a moment.

    Remember when you were a kid and you loved being upside down?  You liked to play "tick-tock-I'm a clock" while your mom, dad, or older sibling hung you upside down by your ankles.  Well, those days aren't gone.  Inversion poses or inverted positions are still in!  Not only that, but they are good for you.  Basically, inverted poses are positions where your head is below your heart.  Some examples of inverted poses include a hand stand, head stand, plow pose, standing forward bend/fold, downward dog, legs up on the wall, and happy baby pose.

    So, why is it that we should do this more often? Well, for one, it brings more oxygen to the brain.  Now, I don't know about you, but to me that sounds like a great reason to do these for a few minutes a day. 

    Here are a few other reasons:

    1. It helps with balance. 

    2. It builds self-confidence. 

    3. It gives you a different perspective of the world.  Check out life upside down for a few moments.  Notice the sky or the trees. Take a moment and breath.

    4. It shifts your organs and gives them a bit of different space for a moment. 

    5. It helps the spine and disks between the spine.  Did you know that we can potentially shrink as we age, because our disks get smashed and withered away?  We need to give them a break more often.  Inverted poses will help with this.

    6. It strengthens the core muscles.  When we move up and down into our inverted poses, we are engaging these core muscles even more. 

    7.  It improves circulation!  Again, our hearts, brains, and lungs are going to thrive when we get into inverted positions.  Blood flows throughout our body, and the more oxygen we send to our cells throughout the body, the better we feel and the healthier we are.


    Alright, so now what? Get into a few positions every day...even if it's only for 5 minutes...and enjoy. You could even try meditating in an inverted position.  Give it a shot.  If anything, it will give you a boost of energy in a healthy, free way. 




    Yoga in Taiwan

    I discovered that yoga is alive and well in Taiwan.


    Last year, my husband, daughter, and I spent a year in Taiwan. My husband and I were teaching English to Taiwanese students, while my daughter learned Mandarin at a small school up in the mountains. Now, when I say that we were teaching English, I mean that we were teaching English as a completely foreign language....not a second language. In other words, everything had to be translated and learned. Chinese characters had to be translated into letters, letter sounds had to be learned, and sometimes-actually a lot of times-things were lost in translation, because some things just couldn't be translated word for word.


    Well, while I was teaching words such as lion and mouse, and sentences such as: "I can help you," I came up with this idea to teach the English words while doing yoga. Why hadn't I thought about this before? The children ages 8-12 really got into it. At first, they were a teensy bit shy, but when they realized that they could move around rather than all sit at their desks in rows, they were pumped up. They learned the word elephant, by getting into elephant pose, sucking up pretend water, and hosing down their friends with the water. When things got crazy, I had them get into mouse pose. They learned the phrase "quiet as a mouse" in a friendly, peaceful way.



    Obstacle courses are fun.

    Growing up, my brother, sister, and I would spend hours and hours outside creating obstacle courses.  We'd take some usual household materials, such as broomsticks, mops, chairs, stools, ladders, and ropes and put together our obstacles.  Brooms or mops across chairs made excellent high jumps (or we would also have to crawl under the jump as another obstacle).  Ladders were for climbing or jumping, and ropes were great for tug-o-war if there was a tie at the end. The obstacles that a child can create are endless. 

    Obstacle courses are a great way to get kids active with a fun purpose.  Even for adults, obstacle courses can be fun or a great way to get in a training, especially if you don't have the space or time to get in a long workout.  Obstacle courses can include push-ups, sit-ups, hopping on one foot, skipping, jumping, crawling, climbing, and just about anything.  They can also be done indoors or outdoors.


    Remember the days when we pretended to be spies looking for a secret passageway? Well, obstacle courses are a great way to relive those memories and maybe prepare yourself for a real boobie trap!  Talk about the coordination, balance, and focus that are required with an obstacle course. Oh, and that's not all.  The fact that you are refining your gross motor skills and fine motor skills is a bonus-all without realizing it.  Just talking about this makes me want to rearrange my furniture into an obstacle course right now!

    Comparing Balance Devices.

    There are so many cool balancing devices out there, and I thought I'd do a quick comparison of the pros and cons. 

    First there's the balance bike. Pretty great workout for the legs, and great hand-eye coordination practice for kids.  This bike is so cool for kids who want to tool around town a bit faster than walking, and way more fun than running.  It's small and fits in the trunk of a car.  It's also a great way to encourage kids to ride a bike and gets them riding a bike without training wheels probably faster than normal.  My niece went straight from the balance bike to a regular bike with pedals (and no training wheels) in less than a day, and she just turned 5!  Not great with babies or toddlers just learning to walk. Unfortunately, this bike is also a bit too small for adults.  Why don't they have one in my size?


    Then, there's the balance board with the ball roller underneath.  So, this balance device is hard-core.  If you are a skate-boarder, this may be the board for you.  But, beware...it's challenging and can even be dangerous because you can slip and fall quite easily.  Not a great thing to have with little kids, but awesome for older kids looking for that challenge. 



    The all-time balance ball.  These have been around forever, and they are great to have in the house as an extra chair.  I remember hearing one time that they are a good replacement for the office chair, as you can totally workout your core while working on work-related desk projects.  I also remember using them at the gym for total body workouts. Besides tossing or kicking them around, young kids have a tough time with them, as they are pretty big.  And your dog may mistake one for a fetching ball.  If they get a hole in them, it's a bit challenging to fix. They're great for the pool and outdoors.


    The balance board.  This board is great for the whole family to use.  Even toddlers and Grandma will enjoy the challenge.  The balance board is open-ended and perfect for taking yoga poses to the next level.  It can be used indoors and outdoors and doesn't take up a lot of space.  No helmet is required.  It looks intimidating, but it doesn't bite.  Just be careful that your rabbit or panda doesn't get ahold of it.  It's made of wood and will look quite delicious to those who enjoy gnawing on bamboo or maple.


    There are a number of other balance devices out there, and they all have their benefits.  I guess it's up to you to figure out which one would be most compatible with your family and lifestyle.  Heck, if you have the room, get them all and enjoy. 


    Balance device or not?

    O.k., so you see them everywhere! Balance balls, balance boards, balance cushions, balance bikes are appearing everywhere left and right.  Why are they so great?  Did you know that doing the same exercise on a balance device makes you even stronger?  Research tells us that balance boards and balance balls engage more muscle fibers in the body.  For example, the lower back muscles use 42%-70% more exertion when on a balance device.  Now, how about those abs?  They say that 22%-34% more exertion takes place when on a balance board or ball.  Quads get a whopping 61%-84% more exertion, calves about 17%-51% more compared to exercises done without those balancing devices. 

    Why didn't we know this years ago?