Mood Boosting in the Heat

Mood Boosting in the Heat

I have been depressed and anxious for as long as I can remember. My mom passed away when I was six and my father raised me on his own from there. He was fifty-five when he had me and struggled to connect with a young daughter. Whether it is chemical or simply the longing for deeper nurture, my mood has suffered. I have participated in many sports from a young age and I think that was the only time I felt high enough to get through that week or month. As I got older I became interested in running, always needing to have the fastest mile in school. That turned into long distance running, which I recovered from with hot baths or saunas. I was never necessarily interested in yoga from a young age, but when I heard about hot yoga, I knew that was for me. Any time I step into a sauna, or sit and bake out in the sun until I’m sweating, or practice any sort of exercise in a hot setting, I feel somewhat euphoric. I strive for these euphoric states. I have lived in the high highs and the low lows. I struggle with living in the middle, the everyday. A recent study has found that increasing your body temperature through spending time in a hyperthermic chamber, has benefited depressed patients, in noticeable numbers. A University of Arizona associate professor of psychiatry, Dr. Charles Raison, became interested in the relationship between body temperature and mood. This emerged from his study of Tibetan Buddhist monks living in the Himalayas. He was intrigued by the monks’ tummo meditation practice, in which they use specialized breathing techniques to increase their body temperature. This gave Dr. Raison the idea of utilizing a hyperthermic chamber to test depressed patients’ moods. To take us back for a moment; the 1927 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine went to an Austrian doctor with an unusual obsession. Julius Wagner-Jauregg had been treating bouts of dementia in people with advanced syphilis by injecting them with blood from a malaria patient. The induced malarial fevers, he reported in 1917, curbed their dementia. The new hyperthermia study included 30 people with mild depression. About half the group went through a body-warming treatment that elevated their body temperature to about 101.3 degrees Fahrenheit for a little over an hour using infrared lights and heating coils placed a few feet away. The other group went through a procedure that was staged to look similar, but didn’t heat their bodies as much. After that single session, the volunteers returned to the lab for weekly psychiatric evaluations for six weeks. Both groups saw improvement in their depression symptoms. But...

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Take a Deep Breath, Relieve Your Stress

Earlier this year, after I lost my temper and began arguing with my partner, he took a moment of pause and said, “Take a deep breath.” Even in my anger, I knew he wasn’t trying to be patronizing, he simply knew I was irritated and wanted to help me relax. This is his thing; he spends 15 minutes every morning meditating. But I don’t. I suffer from an all-too-common condition. Anxiety, depression, PTSD, ADHD, whatever the doctors have offered to diagnosis it as, I know it simply as: I can’t quiet my mind. Meditation has always felt like something that just wasn’t for me. You contorted yourself into uncomfortable positions, you had a mantra, you sat still for long periods of time. I couldn’t imagine making that a part of my life. And yet, in the midst of that fight, I decided to try. I took a deep breath. And then another. And then, a space opened up. I realized that you didn’t need to repeat some secret mantra or contort yourself into full lotus. You just needed to breathe. Just inhale, and exhale What works for me and many other beginners is called “coherent breathing”. It is a simple practice of inhaling for a count of six, and then exhaling for a count of six. For those just beginning the practice, it can be helpful to start at a count of three, working up with each new breath. You can be sitting upright or lying down, whatever is most comfortable; there’s no particular posture you need to assume to make it effective. To help narrow your focus on your breathing, you can place one or both hands atop your belly as you breath, feeling your abdomen rise and fall with each breath. When you take a moment to sit down and breathe, you may start worrying about things you have to get done that day, people you have to call, emails you have to respond to. Just come back to the awareness of your breathing. The longer you are able to keep your focus on that and nothing else, the more effective it will be at calming you down and relieving the stress of the day. Focus on your breath and the heavy stuff slips away. It sounds so simple, but there’s a complex biological process at work when you breathe deeply. During times of stress, we tend to breath in rapid, short breaths. Under duress, the oxygen levels in our bloodstream increase, carbon dioxide levels decrease and your blood’s pH comes out of balance. How breathing calms us down “Consciously changing the way you breathe appears to send a signal to the brain to adjust the parasympathetic...

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Fountain of Youth

Fountain of Youth

Mindfulness—that awesome reality check that let’s you know just how little control you really have over your mind—is still worth the effort, and here’s why. Meditation literally transforms cortical tissue in the brain – good. Mindfulness meditation has also been discovered to influence key aspects of human biology connected to cellular and body aging – very good. Cue choir, trumpets and fireworks. We all know that stress causes lots of physiological changes in the body, but did you know stress actually leads to premature aging? Scientists use telomeres – the ends of our chromosomes – as an indicator of cellular age. The length of the telomere shows how quickly a cell is aging. Therefore, when a telomere erodes away, the chromosome begins to degrade, signaling the cell to cease dividing or to die. Not good. So how can we change the length of our telomeres and our life? Scientists have found meditation to be an effective way to both slow the erosion of telomeres and repair and re-lengthen them. In fact, Elizabeth Hoge from Harvard University found that people who meditate have longer telomeres, and possibly longer lives [1]. Theories differ as to how exactly meditation boosts telomere growth, but more than likely it has something to do with the fact that meditation simply reduces stress. Everyone ages, some quicker than others, depending on the amount of stress they are regularly managing. Come lengthen your life with Hot 8 Yoga’s new Invigor8 Meditation practice Monday through Friday after your favorite morning classes! See you on the...

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