Friday, October 23, 2009

Can working out help you avoid or recover from a cold or flu?

My latest Science of Willpower column on Psychology Today is a response to a wonderful article in the NYT:

"A recent New York Times article by Gretchen Reynolds asked and answered the question: Does exercise boost immunity? The answer may surprise some, and its lessons extend well beyond the world of working out."

My Science of Willpower class starts at Stanford this Monday (still time to register, through 10/26) -- I look forward to blogging some of the interesting insights and questions that come up!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pain Solutions Article on Yoga for Pain Relief

Pain Solutions put online their recent article about yoga for pain relief by Yoga Journal editor Kelle Walsh. Walsh interviewed me and Timothy McCall, MD, about how yoga can help people with pain:

Perhaps most important, yoga makes it easier to tune in to what’s happening in your body. “People learn to reject the body when they are in pain,” McGonigal says. “They feel betrayed by their body and the fact that the body is getting in the way of their life.” When you slow down and tune in, though, McCall says, you’ll begin to notice that the pain “changes all the time. It goes up and down with the breath, the time of day. You start to notice that variation. And when you go in and actually feel the pain — instead of your emotional response to it — you may begin to notice that you can alter it.”

Read the whole thing, then check out the book....Google books has the first 3 chapters!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Does being in a happy relationship make you gain weight?

Interviewed for this article on whether being in a happy relationship saps willpower to lose weight/stay at a healthy weight. (personally, I'd prioritize a happy relationship over losing weight)

"Happiness Takes the Cake" Boston Globe October 15, 2009

Unfortunately, we have been trained over the years to reward ourselves with food, says Kelly McGonigal, a health educator and PhD at Stanford University. “If you celebrate your good mood with high-fat foods, recent research suggests that the brain gets tricked by the fat molecules into ignoring signals of fullness, so you keep eating,’’ McGonigal says.

Although it’s tempting, McGonigal warns me that my ticket back to Skinnyville is not making myself miserable. In fact, she explains that stress, fear, and depression are triggers for eating even more.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Tips for Modifying Yoga Poses

Below is a handout for this Sunday's yoga teacher training workshop at Avalon Yoga Center. We'll spend the class exploring what these strategies look like in action, applying them to challenging and contraindicated poses.

Teaching Methods: Exploring Modifications and Alternatives

Strategy 1: Simplify the pose and/or offer support. (Often easy to describe while teaching without requiring demonstration or one-on-one help)

Teaching Challenge: Choose a pose and figure out 2 simple ways to make it easier. (e.g., keeping legs straight rather than bent or vice versa; putting knees on ground; taking a wider or more narrow stance; using a block or blanket or strap; changing arm position to require less strength or flexibility)

Strategy 2: Change the foundation/orientation of pose. (More complicated to explain—typically requires teacher demonstration or one-on-one help)

Teaching Challenge: Choose a pose and find 2 other foundations/orientations for it. (e.g. from standing or seated to reclining, upside down to right side up, etc.). Ex: camel, bow, and bridge are nearly identical postures, just with different foundations. Students with injuries, sensitivities, or contraindications (e.g. lying on belly or back when pregnant) may prefer one over the others.

Strategy 3: Offer alternatives from a functionalist perspective. (If the alternatives are familiar to students or easy to demonstrate, can be worked in class without much disruption; some may require one-on-one help)

Teaching Challenge: Identify four actions/benefits/qualities of a pose or movement (e.g. breath effect, what is stretched, what is strengthened, effect on attitude, effect on energy—calming, stabilizing, or energizing). For each benefit, find an alternative pose or movement.

General Teaching Tips:

• Be supportive in the face of student “failure.” Ignoring a student’s complete inability to approach or hold a pose is not responsible teaching.

• Don’t teach to the “top” of the class. Aim to offer a practice in which the “average” student can approach most of the things you suggest without having to do extreme modifications or alternatives.

• Don’t be afraid to be creative. Modifications and alternatives don’t need to look like the original pose, as long as you can explain the benefit and purpose.

• Pay attention to pose action and effects in your own practice. You will discover relationships between poses that you can use to develop modifications and alternatives.

• Use your alternatives and modifications as preparatory practices for challenging poses. This gives students a vocabulary of options if they discover they cannot do a pose with a steady breath, body, and mind.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Change Your Posture, Change Your Mind and Mood

Check out my latest column on Psychology Today-- Change Your Posture, Change Your Mind and Mood.

"Quick, notice your posture as you read this. Are you slumped at your desk, shoulders curved forward, spine rounded? Or sitting up straight, with a tall spine but relaxed shoulders?

How you're sitting may be influencing how you're feeling - not just in this moment, but throughout the day. A recent study in the European Journal of Social Psychology (Brion, Petty, & Wagner 2009) looked at how posture influences self-confidence....."