Yoga/Meditation Technique of the Week: Wide Legged Forward Bend Pose

The wide legged forward bend pose is very straight forward, but like most yoga poses, it can be challenging at first. This pose particularly challenges the hamstrings, gluteus muscles (aka butt muscles), lower back and shoulders. By first mastering the wide legged forward bend pose, you will better prepare yourself for the very challenging and advanced shoulder stand pose.

First of all, you will want to work on the positioning of your feet. Depending on your height and flexibility, you will position your feet closer or further apart. Your feet should be between 3-4 feet apart (the taller you are, the wider you should position your feet). Feel free to experiment with your positioning and know that this is completely flexible. After you have placed your feet at a distance in which you feel comfortable, take a deep breath and slowly bend from your hips and reach your head to the ground.

As you bend, you will want to support your upper body with your hands, arms, and shoulders. Reach your hands down to rest on either side of your head. Your forearms should be perpendicular to the floor while your elbows create a 90 degree angle. Depending on your flexibility, your head may not reach the floor completely. In that case, you can let your head dangle if it feels comfortable on your back, but do not lose the stiffness in your upper body. Your upper body should be engaged at all times in the pose.

As you bend, really concentrate on lifting your hips upward while folding your upper body downward to the ground. This stretching in opposite directions will be difficult, but is necessary to achieve the full results of the pose. Let yourself relax in the pose as long as it feels comfortable-- no more than 30 seconds. Breathe deeply as you unfold and return to a standing position. Bring your feet back in together to rest under your body and lift your hands above your head to stretch your back and shoulders.

To achieve flexibility in your movements you will also need flexible clothing. This Nike top is perfect for the practice of yoga.

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Exercise Routine Do's & Don'ts: Pushing Your Workout to the Limit

This week's exercise tips actually lead into one another. If you perform the "do" to the maximum, then you'll ironically enough beg for the "don't". Pushing yourself to the limit, in an intelligent way—a way that your body is ready for, gives your muscles the best chance to build at an impressive rate. Subsequently, once you have beaten your body up, you will need to invest in the downtime required for the muscles to regenerate. So, check out the advice below to make your workouts more effective and your body that much more powerful.

The Do

Perform drop sets to completely burn the muscles. Going to failure and then dropping the weight and performing the same movements will break down the muscle entirely. As a result, although the drop sets will seriously fatigue you and decrease your ability to put up considerable weight each set, they will give you the depth of burn you need to truly work out the entire muscle and not just a smaller portion of it. Despite its effectiveness, electing to do this type of workout each time you exercise a specific muscle is a mistake; instead, use it periodically—once every two weeks or so—to give your training variety and the boost it needs to stay fresh and progressive. Sample drop set: Chest press beginning with 50 pound dumbbells to failure. Then pick up 35 pound dumbbells and go to exhaustion. Then do a final set with 20 pounds. Make sure you have a spotter, or perform these on machines.

The Don't

Do not, under any circumstances, avoid rest. Too many people, especially those looking to get in shape quickly or train for something coming soon, overlook the importance of rest days. Adequate rest is not just the normally recommended 72 hours between working out each muscle, but it also, and more critically, entails taking one entire rest day, one with little to no designed training whatsoever. General rule is to have one day off per week. Resist the urge to just do abdominals or light cardio. Take the day off, eat healthy, and plan your next six days of workouts. Your body will make gains and pay you back tenfold. Best of luck.

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The Best '80s Workout Videos: 29 Minute Beginners Workout

It may be over 20 years old but a great 80s workout video that will have you sweating is the "29 Minute Beginners Workout." The "29 Minute Workout" has several different videos that were released in the series, but the beginner's workout will definitely give you an awesome workout.

When you first start the video you may have to get past the cheesy workout clothes and 80s hair, but if you pay attention to the exercises being done you'll find you are working up a sweat in no time! The workout features aerobic exercises that work to whittle away the pounds and fat in under 30 minutes.

If you are short on time, the "29 Minute Beginners Workout" is still a great choice for a workout video. Performing this video will get you a full body workout that you will feel the next day in under 30 minutes. Best of all, since it is geared toward beginners and intermediates, there are no tricky exercises or moves to catch on to. Everything is very straightforward and easy to learn.

This 80s workout video is led by Deborah Lee who is an accredited fitness instructor that had quite a resume of fitness experience before instructing this video. She does a good job of taking the workout slow enough so that beginners can catch on, but still keeping a pace that will get your heart rate up.

The workout starts with a short warm up, as every workout video should. It then goes into a program of low impact aerobics and calisthenics to get the body burning fat and those pounds melting off. The workout ends with a cool down segment so that you don't pull any muscles and cool down the right way.

The "29 Minute Beginners Workout" is not for everybody. If you have been exercising for quite some time and you consider yourself pretty advanced then this workout is not for you. However, if you are a beginner to the workout scene, or only workout every once in awhile, although this tape is old, it is definitely a good one to add into your workout rotation!

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Living Healthy on a Budget: Natural Healing

Living healthy on a budget isn't just about exercising or preventing diseases. It's also about natural healing. And, let's face it; during this time of the year, there are a lot of colds that need healing. While you can shell out $20 or more dollars buying various cold medicines, you can also find natural healing ingredients in your kitchen. Not only does this save money, but it's also a much healthier way to soothe cold symptoms. Whether you're congested, have a sore throat, or an upset tummy, there are items in your kitchen that can help you feel better.

Let's start with the first symptom most of us encounter with a cold - the sore throat. A sore throat can be an absolute nightmare. It bothers you all day, but can be even worse when you're trying to sleep. To help soothe a sore throat during the day, try sucking on hard candies, having a cup of hot chocolate, or eating chicken noodle soup. At night, try swallowing a tablespoon of honey before bed. The honey will coat your throat and help relieve the soreness for a longer period of time.

Next on our cold symptom list is congestion. I've found that the best natural relief for congestion is hot beverages. Tea is a great choice. Apple cider is even better because the strong spices can help clear your nose as the liquid clears your throat. Another way to help loosen the congestion in your nose is to pour boiling water into a large bowl, place your head over the bowl, and put a towel over your head to keep the steam in. The steam will help loosen the mucus. For even better results, try adding torn mint leaves or another strong herb or spice to further help relieve congestion.

Last, but not least, those upset tummies can even be treated in the kitchen. Ginger, for example, is a wonderful way to soothe and upset stomach. Drinking a glass of ginger ale made with real ginger will not only soothe the tummy, but help relieve gas as well. Another option is to drink peppermint tea. Peppermint is said to relieve an upset stomach and can also help with congestion and a sore throat as well.

Yoga/Meditation Technique of the Week: Upward Hamstring Position

This position is not a yoga pose per se, but rather has been borrowed from the strength and stretching-centered doctrine of pilates. However, pilates and yoga intersect in some major ways, and this position is certainly an important crossover.

The upward hamstring position concentrates on the stretching and strengthening of hamstrings. The flexibility of hamstrings is a very integral part of the practice of yoga, and improvement in yoga really depends on our hamstrings. A huge variety of yoga poses hinge on our ability to condition the strength of our hamstrings and also their flexibility. As such, mastering this position over time will lend to improvement in the practice of yoga. Begin lying on the ground with your back on the mat. Your legs should be stretched forward, your toes pointed upward, and your arms stretched above your head on the ground.

Take a deep breath and slowly raise your right leg off of the ground, bringing it as close to perpendicular to your upper body as possible. At some point, you will not be able to lift it upward any longer. At this point, you will reach both of your hands upward to grab hold of your foot. If you cannot do this because your hamstring is too tight, you can use a yoga strap (wrap the strap around the arch of your foot and grab hold of each of the strap ends in your hands). Lightly pull your foot downward with your hands so you can feel a tight stretch in your hamstring. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and release back to the ground. Switch sides to stretch your left hamstring.

As time goes on, you will notice a huge improvement in your hamstring flexibility. You will be able to practice this position without the use of a strap, and you will notice your legs giving much less resistance. This is great, but always remember to challenge yourself.

Stretchy athletic pants are important when practicing yoga and pilates, as well as simple stretching positions like the one described above. Try these Puma athletic pants if you find yours to be too restrictive.

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Exercise Routine Do's & Don'ts for the Week: Listen to your Body During Workouts

Allowing yourself to become extremely intense during a workout normally permits you to reach your goals and make the gains you desire. However, within that intensity must reside a calmness that lets you understand what you are doing and allows you to make good decisions. Blindly pacing yourself through a workout without regard for how you do it and what it creates could cause serious issues down the line. So, in order to avoid some common pitfalls, check out this week's exercise do and don't.

The Do

Focus on breathing. Many people breathe erratically while running or lifting weights. What they fail to realize is that oxygen flow impacts you abilities. Rather than rushing air in and out at irregular intervals, which normally causes early fatigue and dizziness, try breathing slow and steady. Generally speaking, pull air in through the nose and exhale through the mouth. When lifting weights, breathe in while recovering and preparing the weight and out when exerting energy. If running or doing other cardio workouts, try breathing one breath in for every three steps taken. While no perfect formula exists, you'll be considerably more balanced if you pay attention to how you breathe. A calmer approach will produce greater gains.

The Don't

Never ignore pain. The old saying "No pain, no gain" couldn't be more wrong. Sure, a hard workout will stress the muscles and break them down, but you will know the difference between a workout reaction and pure pain. Pain, which is essentially your body's way of warning you of trouble, should make you stop what you are doing; thus, leave your pride at home. Often times, a slight adjustment in your form or resistance will eliminate the pain; however, if it persists, stop immediately and consult a trainer and/or doctor. The goal is to generate life-long fitness. If you try to "man up" and push through legitimate pain, you'll have long-term injuries that obstruct your health and fitness for years.

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At-Home Workout of the Week: Fifteen Minutes to Better Shoulders

Broad, defined shoulders makes everybody feel better. Not only does your posture improve dramatically and your general strength increases, but your clothes fit better too! And if you are willing to invest fifteen minutes a day, twice a week, you can get the squared off, rounded shoulders you've always wanted. All it takes is a little dedication, some true fortitude, an open space in your home, a chair and some dumbbells. Just simply follow the workout below.

Warm-up: Spend three minutes doing a series of jumping jacks, arm circles, both forward and backward, and then begin jogging in place. Then do a small series of static stretches that focus on your posterior and anterior shoulder.

Set 1: Standing Military Press: Using appropriate dumbbells, press one arm over your head at a time. When that arm returns to the original position, press the other up. Repeat up to 15 repetitions on each side. Your palms should face forward at the bottom of the press and inward at the top.

Set 2: Upright Row: With palms facing in and the dumbbells at your waist, pull them up to your chin in a slow, controlled motion. Your elbows should remain above your hands during the entire movement. Focus on your posture and form, and do not overdo the weight.

Set 3: Seated Shoulder Fly: While seated in a chair, lean forward so your ribs just make contact with your quadriceps, and hold the dumbbells down between your legs and the chair. Using your elbows as a lead, pull the weight up and back, squeezing your back shoulder muscles together. A slow pace is critical, and heavy weight is not needed.

Set 4: Straight-Arm Shoulder Fly: Using an extremely light weight, stand with the weights at your waist. Raise them up with straight arms in front of you to chin height and lower them down. Then raise them laterally to shoulder height and back down. Repeat the sequence.

*Notes: Have a variety of weights. Do heavier weights with fewer repetitions for greater size; do lighter weight with greater repetitions for tone. You determine the number done in each set, but make sure the last three are difficult.

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Weekly Guide to Creative Long Distance Runs: Mental Preparation

Running is a tremendously physical activity that tests your every muscle, and it challenges, to no end, your cardiovascular endurance. If pushed hard and done right, you'll feel exhaustion like never before, but, afterward you'll experience a perfect euphoria that enlightens your life, relieves stress, and enhances your health.

However, as physical as it may be, there is a considerable mental side to the sport that often gets overlooked. And much like the actual run training, the psychological portion needs attention, and it requires you to give some of your focus to the mental approach involved in your workout.

So, to keep your running fresh and creative, try mixing in a day dedicated solely to your mental preparation. First, set out in a rather relaxing setting. Do not run in traffic or in a competitive pack, as the exterior distractions will disallow you from going inward and uncovering the self-awareness you need to make the workout successful.

Next, designate a given time or distance. This should not be a terribly short run; instead, make it one where you can find a true pace that is consistent and maintainable. You need time for your body to fall into sync with your mind, thus allowing your physical side to function effortlessly while you spend your energy on mental tactics.

Now, as you run, begin to concentrate. Attention spans vary from person to person, so permitting yourself to live in the moment, not focusing on future goals or numbers but rather keeping the present as your guide, will get you to a level of thinking not previously possible. If you cannot keep the concentration level high, try doing it in manageable chunks. Make adjustments mentally that will give you the best chance for success.

Once you have captured the concentration, focus in on your breathing. Keeping your breath consistent and in harmony with your foot falls can create a cadence that will generate a personal running rhythm. Smooth, effortless breathing will ease tension and make the experience of running long distances that much more satisfying.

In the end, dedicate time to your mind.