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Pregnancy and Depression

1 in 4 depressed during pregnancy

Pregnancy and YogaAbout 1 in 4 women get depressed during pregnancy and many are afrtaid to take any antidepressant medication. Now it seems that acupuncture can help even though it does not help with normal depression.

A recent study

controlled study conducted by Stanford University on 150 depressed pregnant women tested the effect of acupuncture specific for depressive symptoms compared to acupuncture in general and to massage.


After 2 months, the benefits of depression specific acupunture were significant compared to the controls. Because the results were as effective as medication, it means that women do not have to just rely on drugs to alleviate their pregnancy depression.

Many women find Yoga practice helps them feel good during pregnancy; however, I do not know of any empirical data as of yet to back up my anecdotal observations.

How your Flexibility affects your Arteries

"Happy New Year Heart Attack"

Heart attacks are more common during the winter months than in any other season. A study of death certificates published in Circulation in 2004, confirmed the association of heart-attack deaths during the winter. The results were referred to as “The ‘Merry Christmas Coronary’ and ‘Happy New Year Heart Attack’ Phenomenon.”

Paschimotanasana Test of Your Arteries

Why heart-attack deaths surge during the winter holidays is not clear, but cardiologists have some informed guesses. A new study published in the journal Heart and Circulatory Physiology suggests, that there may be a way to test at least one element of your heart’s health right in your own home, right now. Sit on the floor with your legs out in front. Bend from the hips. Can you touch your toes? If you can, then your cardiac arteries are probably flexible.Paschimotasana with help

The study recruited 526 healthy adults between the ages of 20 and 83 and had them perform the forward bend test described above, and measured their extensions precisely. Researchers sorted the subjects into either the high-flexibility group or the poor-flexibility group.

Next, researchers estimated how flexible their arteries were. Supple arteries let the blood move freely. Stiff arteries make your heart work harder and over time could lead to a greater risk for heart attack and stroke, according to researchers at North Texas University.

Correlation if over 40

The researchers found a correlation between inflexible bodies and inflexible arteries in subjects older than 40. Adults with poor forward bends tended to have arterial stiffness. The study concluded that “a less flexible body indicates arterial stiffening, especially in middle-aged and older adults.” This correlation was not found in those under 40.

Arterial stiffening does not necessarily lead to arterial disease, Mr. Yamamoto says. Some arterial stiffening is inevitable with age; but the stiffer your arteries, the less efficient your heart is. Mr. Yamamoto says, that alterations in the composition of muscle tissues in the lower back could be occurring in the arterial walls at the same time.

Good News

The good news is that increasing your flexibility might somehow loosen up your arteries. That was the unreplicated finding of a small study at the University of Texas at Austin in 2008. The study examined whether weight lifting increased arterial stiffness. (It didn’t). The control group stretched. They were not expected to change cardiac function, but over the course of 3 months they increased the flexibility of their arteries by about 20 percent.

Mr. Yamamoto and his researchers are conducting a large study to determine how stretching affects the arteries. Until the results are in, Mr. Yamamoto says, it’s best to consider your flexibility as a probable indication of your arterial elasticity. “If you can touch your toes in the sit-and-reach test, your flexibility is good,” he says. Tight arteries are not necessarily diseased arteries; they’re just not fit.


For those of you who practice Yoga regularly it seems I have just found another reason for you to keep it up. If you are new to Yoga now is a good time to start.

Coffee drinkers develop less diabetes

Tea and Coffee

Tea and coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes,according to new evidence. And the protection is may not form caffeine because decafinated coffee has the greatest effect. Researchers looked at 18 separate studies involving about 500,000 people. Results revealed that people who drink three or four cups of coffee or tea a day reduce their risk by 20%. Decaffeinated coffee reduces their risk by 33%.Coffee drinking

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes usually starts after the age of 40 and develops when the body does not produce enough insulin or the insulin does not work properly. The treatment usually includes a healthy diet, increased physical activity and medication. Each additional cup of coffee or tea consumed in a day cut diabetes risk by 7%. Instead of caffeine, other compounds in coffee and tea - like magnesium or lignans and chlorogenic acids - may be involved.Hatha Yoga Class with Gauri


"The identification of the active components of these beverages would open up new therapeutic pathways for the primary prevention of diabetes mellitus....If such beneficial effects were observed in interventional trials to be real, the implications for the millions of individuals who have diabetes mellitus, or who are at future risk of developing it, would be substantial." said Dr Victoria King, of Diabetes UK. "What we can be sure of is that the development of type 2 diabetes is strongly linked to lifestyle, which means that many cases could be prevented by keeping active and eating a healthy balanced diet that is low in fat, salt and sugar with plenty of fruit and vegetables."

The Best Exercise for Healthy Bones

Healthy Bones?

A special section of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine detailed a continuing controversy in the field of sports science about exactly how exercise works on bone and why sometimes, it doesn’t. “There was a time, not so long ago,” when most researchers assumed “that any and all activity would be beneficial for bone health,” says Dr. Daniel W. Barry, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado, at Denver, who has studied the bones of athletes and the elderly.

Human skeleton - esqueleto humanoRecent Research

Recent findings are showing that competitive swimmers had lower-than-anticipated bone density, and that competitive cyclists sometimes had fragile bones and, finally, some studies suggest, that weight lifting did not necessarily strengthen bones much. Too much endurance exercise may actually reduce bone density. In a study by Dr. D.W. Barry, competitive cyclists lost bone density during a long training season. Dr. Barry says that it’s possible that exercise that is too prolonged or intense may lead to too much calcium loss through sweat. The endocrine system may interpret this loss of calcium as serious enough to start leaching the mineral from bone.

The Best Exercise

The current message about exercise and bone building may be that the best exercise is to simply jump up and down. "Jumping is great, if your bones are strong enough to begin with,” Dr. Barry says. “You probably don’t need to do a lot either.” (If you have a family history of osteoporosis, check with a doctor.) Woman jumping, skipping - mujer saltando

Hopping also aids in balance, which may be as important as bone strength in keeping fractures at bay. Dr. Barry says, “fragile bones don’t matter, from a clinical standpoint, if you don’t fall down.

Why Exercise Makes You Less Anxious

Exercise Creates new Brain Cells

Researchers at Princeton University recently made a remarkable discovery about how neurons respond differently to stress than to inactivity. Scientists have known for some time that exercise stimulates the creation of new brain cells (neurons) but not how, precisely, these neurons might be functionally different from other brain cells.

Exercise creates a Calm Brain

Preliminary results presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Chicago, showed that experimental rats had created, through running, a brain that seemed biochemically, molecularly, calm when presented with stressful situations.

Downward dog in an Ashtanga Yoga Class

How Exercise Remodels the Brain

For years, it has been a given that exercise enhances mood. But how exercise might directly affect mood and anxiety — psychological states — was unclear. Now, thanks to improved research techniques scientists are beginning to tease out how exercise remodels the brain, making it more resistant to stress. At the University of Colorado, Boulder, scientists have examined the role of the neurotransmitter serotonin, considered to be the “happy” brain chemical. The view of serotonin has been undermined by this and other research. In those experiments, rats exposed to a laboratory stressor, showed increased serotonin activity in their brains. But those rats, that had run for several weeks before being stressed, showed less serotonin activity and were less anxious and helpless despite the stress.

Moderate Exercise reduces Effects of Oxidative Stress

Researchers have looked at how exercise alters the activity of the dopamine neurotransmitter in the brain, and on the antioxidant powers of moderate exercise. Anxiety in people has been linked with excessive oxidative stress, which can lead to cell death, including in the brain. Moderate exercise, appears to reduce the effects of oxidative stress. In an experiment at the University of Houston, rats whose oxidative-stress levels had been artificially increased were extremely anxious when faced with unfamiliar terrain during laboratory testing. But rats that had exercised, even if they had received the oxidizing chemical, were relatively calm under stress. When placed in unfamiliar circumstances, they didn’t run and hide, like the unexercised rats. They casually explored.

Positive Stress of Exercise

“It looks more and more like the positive stress of exercise prepares cells and structures and pathways within the brain so that they’re more equipped to handle stress in other forms,” says Michael Hopkins, affiliated with the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory Laboratory at Dartmouth, who has been studying how exercise differently affects thinking and emotion. “It’s pretty amazing, really, that you can get this translation from the realm of purely physical stresses to the realm of psychological stressors.”

Virabhadrasana Yoga Center Madrid

Don’t Quit, Keep Exercising

The stress-reducing changes evoked by exercise on the brain don’t happen overnight. In the University of Colorado experiments, rats that ran for only three weeks did not show much reduction in stress anxiety, but those that ran for six weeks did. “Something happened between three and six weeks,” says Benjamin Greenwood, a researcher in the Department of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado. Dr. Greenwood added that it was “not clear how that translates” into exercise advice for humans. We do not know how intense the exercise needs to be. Dr. Greenwood says, the lesson is “don’t quit.” Keep running or cycling or swimming or doing Yoga. You may not feel a magical reduction of stress after your class, if you haven’t been exercising. But the molecular biochemical changes will begin, Dr. Greenwood says. And eventually, he says, they become “profound.”

See the New York Times

Why Doesn’t Exercise Lead to Weight Loss

Exercise and Slimming

Just because you exercise it doesn’t necessarily mean that you lose weight. A study published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine in September reported disappointing weight loss results. 58 obese people, in the study, completed 12 weeks of supervised aerobic training without changing their diets. The average weight loss for the group was a little more than 3 kilos, and many lost barely half that.

Calories from Fat or Carbohydrates

Apparently, few people lose weight with exercise alone, they must also change their eating habits. A study from the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver tries to explain why. The researchers studied several groups of people. Some were lean endurance athletes; some sedentary and lean; some sedentary and obese. The researchers could tell whether the calories expended were in the form of fat or carbohydrates. Burning more fat than carbohydrates is desirable if you want to lose weight, since the fat comes from body fat stores.



To their surprise, the researchers found that none of the groups, not even the athletes, experienced “afterburn.” They did not use additional body fat on the day when they exercised. Actually, many of the subjects burned slightly less fat over the period when they exercised than when they did not.

Heart Rates for Fat Burning

To reduce your body fat, and maximize fat burning, The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, recommends a range of heart rates. “Heart rates of between 105 and 134” beats per minute, Carey said, represent the fat-burning zone. “It’s probably best to work out near the top of that zone,” he says, “so that you burn more calories over all” than at the lower end.

How to Keep it Off

How to keep it offThankfully, exercise helps, physiologically, to keep off body fat once it has been lost, through resolute calorie reduction. Exercise seems to reset certain metabolic pathways that blunted the body’s drive to replace the lost fat. So don’t stop running marathons or participating in bike races, yet. The exercise keeps it off once you’ve lost it!


Meditation 'eases heart disease'

Researchers say heart disease patients who practise  meditation have reduced death rates

The American Heart Association said they had assigned 201 African Americans randomly to meditate or to change their lifestyle for a nine year study.The research was carried out by the Medical College in Wisconsin with the Maharishi University in Iowa. The results shoe the meditation group had a 47% reduction in deaths, heart attacks and strokes. The research was funded by $ 3.8 million grant from the National Institute of Health and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.Heart Disease

The benefits of Meditation

The average age of the men and women was 59 years and they all had a narrowing of the arteries in their hearts.

The group that practiced meditation did so twice a day for 20 minutes.The group that changed their lifestyle received classes in risk factors for heart disease, dietary modification and exercise. Besides the reductions in death, heart attacks and stroke in the meditators, they also had significant reduction blood pressure and psychological stress.

Apparently, this is the first controlled trial to show that long-term practice of meditation reduces the incidence of clinical cardiovascular events such as heart attacks, strokes and death. Dr. Schneider, lead author of the study, said that the effect of the trial was like adding a new class of drugs for the prevention of heart disease.


meditación en Puenteareas

More Studies Needed

"However, in order to fully assess the differences …. meditation could have on heart patient's lives, we need to see research confirming it in a far bigger study and with other ethnic groups."

The drugs don’t work


"A new assault by a leading psychologist on Prozac-style antidepressants claims they are worse than useless."The Emperor's New Dr

A new book by Dr Irving Hirsch, "The Emperor’s New Drugs" (Bodley Head), challenges the claims of the drug industry regarding SSRIs or Prozac-like medication. It seems that the evidence is accumulating that SSRIs are no better than placebos and in many cases worse.


David Let Them Eat ProzacHealey, Professor of Psychiatry has exposed the often false claims regarding SSRIs in his books - " Let them Eat Prozac" 2004 and "The Antidepressant Era" 1997. We have bought into the 'myth' that depression is widespread and that it can be treated by SSRIs. Take a look! You may be very surprised.

Does Exercise Improve Cognition ?

Exercise changes the Brain

It has been known for a long time that exercise changes the structure of the brain and affects thinking. A groundbreaking finding was published ten years ago by scientists at the Salk Institute in California showing that exercise stimulates the creation of new brain cells. But there are still some important questions to resolve, like whether exercise should be strenuous to create new brain cells. What about weight lifting? Should it be aerobic?  Are the cognitive improvements temporary or permanent?

human brain mri scans-cerebro humano

What Exercise makes you Smarter?

The American College of Sports Medicine, studied 21 students at the University of Illinois to see how well they could memorize a string of letters and then pick them out from a list flashed at them. Immediately afterwards they were asked to perform one of three things for 30 minutes —run on a treadmill, lift weights or sit quietly, — before doing the letter test again. After a 30-minute cool down, they were tested once again. A few days afterwards, the students came back to try the other two options. The students were much quicker and more accurate after they ran than with the other two options, and they performed better when tested after the cool down. “There seems to be something different about aerobic exercise,” says Charles Hillman, an associate professor in the department of kinesiology at the University of Illinois and an author of the study..

Brisk walking or Stretching?

Similarly, in studies with elderly people, performed by scientists at the University of Illinois, assigned a six-month program of either stretching exercises or brisk walking. Those who did the  stretching improved their flexibility but did not improve on tests of cognition. Those who practiced brisk walking did.

Pattabji Jois teaching Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga

Why Does the Exercise need to be Strenuous?

Why does exercise need to be aerobic to improve brain function? “It appears that various growth factors must be carried from the periphery of the body into the brain to start a molecular cascade there,” so that new neurons and brain connections are created, says Henriette van Praag, an investigator in the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging. To create new brain cells, “you need a fairly dramatic change in blood flow,” like what happens when you run, cycle or swim. Weight lifting, produces “growth factors in the muscles that stay in the muscles and aren’t transported to the brain,” van Praag says.


The current research findings suggest that,  “It would be fair to say that any form of regular exercise should be able to maintain or even increase our brain functions [if ii is aerobic].” says Chauying J. Jen, a professor of physiology at National Cheng Kung University, in Taiwan.. What we need to keep in mind is that there are many kinds of exercise and their effects may be quite different. As we become better informed we can choose our own combination of exercise practices - aerobics, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga of Pattabhi Jois, Power Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, swimming. tennis etc., each type for its specific contribution to health and wellbeing.

See Gretchen Reynolds in the New York Times, 16/09/2009.

Yoga and Psychotherapy

Psychology and Yoga

therapy session-sesion de terapiaI have used psychotherpay techniques with Yoga students and many different Yoga techniques with psychotherapy clients over the past 16 years or longer. As both practices are concerned with improving individual quality of life and personal happiness and fullfilment, I see no conflict between the two.


Sigmund FreudFreudianism

Yoga and Freudianism were not the best of friends; but,  more recent research suggests that we are not trapped by the past. We keep developing and changing with time. Our current understanding supports the possibility of personal growth and development.

American Psychological Association

The American Psychological Association has published a review of some favourable studies of Yoga used in psychotherapy. So slowly divergent world views start coming closer together. Each informs the other. "The evidence is showing that Yoga really helps change people at every level," says Stanford University health psychologist and Yoga instructor Kelly McGonigal, PhD. I have quoted from their article on my web page.

Our approach to teaching Hatha Yoga

Much of Hatha Yoga is improperly taught

So many of our new students arrive poorly taught. No one has adequately corrected their asana practice. Over the years we had found that many students suffered unnecessary discomforts and micro injuries as a result of poor instruction. Simple practices such as the sun salutations if taught improperly can result in back ache and eventual injury.

Anatomically adjusted PracticeRembrandt's Anatomy lecture

We chose to provide an informed teaching of the yoga postures in our Hatha Yoga classes. For this reason we made anatomically informed asana pratice an integral part of our Hatha Yoga teacher training programmes.  We insist that our students learn an anatomically corrected yoga practice and all of our teachers are instructed how to detect a poor practice and the ways to correct it. Each student is unique. Her body has particular capabilies and limitations that must be considered when teaching Hatha Yoga. One generic practice routine is insufficient and will usually result in some students suffering unnecessarily.

heat exhaustion

What about room Temperature

Some of our students who have tried Bikram Yoga ask us about the best temperature for Yoga practice. Generally speaking a comfortable range between 20º - 25º C. is fine. The body stretches better as its muscles warm up with effort. Of course, what you find most comfortable will be quite personal.

Isn't 40º or 50º better?

Not really according to research on physical performance at Life Fitness, above a certain temperature the human body experiences thermal stress.

"Exercise can be safely performed on warm - and even hot - days. Certain precautions should be taken, however, including wearing proper attire, performing a sufficient warm-up and cooldown, ensuring adequate fluid intake and reducing the intensity or duration of workouts on extremely hot and humid days."
Robert Girandola, Ph.D.


'Yoga Center' Madrid Launches its Blog

Launching our Blog of Yoga & Health

I am proud to announce that we have finally launched our very own blog. As I headed our founders page with Heraclitus' wise words -"You can not step into the same river twice", I want to say that we at 'Yoga Center' Madrid are now stepping into a 'new waters' with our blog.spyglass

Bilingual Yoga Blog

I am launching it in two languages, Spanish and English, not only to keep you all better informed of the what is happening in the international community of Yoga, health, well being and spirituality; but, also because I can write to you more openly and freely in English and I believe that I can contribute much more if you let me speak to you in English as well as Castellano.

The Yoga Movement

I propose to share with you my opinions about Yoga, its practices, teachings and traditions. I hope sometimes to surprise you and perhaps challenge some of your favourite myths.

The Yoga community started out as a counter-cultural movement, that claimed to be above dogmatism, prejudice, exploitation and excessive consumption. It had faith in individual transformation and development, personal discipline and altruism. If, as we enter the 21st century, we don't stand up for our form of ethical humanism then we will have failed our original mission to assist in bringing global peace and universal brotherhood a bit closer for all.

I will share with you many of my personal interests and pet peeves related to our global predicament and the modern assaults against humanism.

Senior Teachers

Some of our senior teachers will also be blogging their experiences regarding teaching and practicing Yoga. Look for their blogs in the coming weeks. I have also invi¡ted important teachers and Swamis from around the world to participate.

'Yoga Center' Madrid Web Dialogue

I hope that you enjoy this web conversation. As the beginning of a new adventure, I look forward to discovering more about what Yoga and holistic health mean to you.