Yoga poses can improve flexibility, breathing and muscle tone.

Yoga Benefits for High-Endurance Athletes

People from all different corners of the sports world utilize yoga poses for their plethora of benefits. From relieving tension to enhancing flexibility, the ancient practice can help athletes improve performance on the field, in the pool, on the track or wherever they get active. It can be especially beneficial to high-endurance athletes in these ways:

Tones Muscles
Though a gentle practice, yoga has the capacity to help you boost muscle tone. It works every part of the body, and after a few sessions of yoga poses you may find that your hamstrings, quadriceps, biceps and other muscles are firmer and more pliable. Additionally, nearly all of the postures work to strengthen the core, not just by working the abdominal muscles but also massaging the intestines.

Increases Flexibility
Flexibility is important for any sport, in terms of both performance and reducing risk of injury. The postures gently stretch the muscles, ligaments and tendons and loosen the joints for heightened form and balance, which in turn lead to greater flexibility. These stretches also serve to improve your posture by exposing your body to a variety of motions – many athletes experience soreness and stiffness from conducting the same motions repetitively.

Improves Breathing
High-endurance sports, such as swimming and running, require you to maintain steady breathing throughout long periods of activity. Yoga poses can help you achieve this by teaching your body to inhale and exhale naturally and comfortably while deepening and lengthening the breaths. This can both increase stamina and steady the heart rate.

"The ABCs of Yoga for Kids: A Book for Coloring" teaches children the alphabet and yoga poses at the same time.

Author Helps Children Learn their ABCs with Yoga Poses

Yoga benefits people of all ages, from tiny tots to the elderly. The mindful meditation, soothing postures and deep breathing promote not only physical health but also mental, emotional and spiritual wellness. But author Teresa Anne Power has come up with a unique new way to use the ancient practice to help the youth – she has written a book that helps teach children the letters of the alphabet while introducing them to yoga.

Power, who resides in Los Angeles, has been practicing yoga for about 25 years and has spent nearly a decade teaching it to kids in local organizations and schools. She created "The ABCs of Yoga for Kids: A Book for Coloring," combining her passion for yoga and her interest in teaching children. It takes the form of a coloring book, and it uses each letter of the alphabet to introduce a yoga pose that starts with the same letter. Children can not only exercise their artistic abilities by coloring in the pictures of kids doing these yoga poses, but they can also practice their alphabet and learn how to conduct these postures.

But The ABCs of Yoga for Kids is more than just a book, it's actually based on an organization by the same name that promotes yoga and healthy living in general among youngsters. Power even travels the country to help spread word of the initiative, and in summer 2014 she took to Newark, New Jersey, to visit the Montessori Community School. The author led a group of young children in a fun session of yoga poses, according to the Newark Advocate. The room was filled with the sounds of cows mooing, frogs croaking and playful singing and laughter. While the kids were busy having fun, Power knew that there were really practicing their alphabet as they engaged in physical activity and received the many benefits of yoga.

"A lot of people don't realize kids are getting the same benefits from yoga as adults," Power told the source. "And there's something about it that's just fun. They don't even know the benefits they are getting. It helps everybody. They don't need to have any special athletic abilities."

Firefighters can use yoga to enhance their performance and safety when saving lives on emergency calls.

Firefighters Embrace Yoga Benefits for Mental and Physical Health

Some people are under the impression that yoga poses are only for those obsessed with religion or health, but the practice can benefit people of all interests, creeds and professions. It may seem like an unlikely pairing, but firefighters are becoming increasingly active in the yoga world. The soothing exercise, with its gentle postures, deep breathing and mindful meditation techniques, can have an immense positive effect on these life-saving men and women, particularly in these two aspects:

Stress relief
Firefighting is a high stress job. Not only do these professionals experience apprehension and anxiety over running into burning buildings and risking their lives for the sake of others, but it's also a very consuming job that requires long hours, overnight shifts and being on-call at all times of the day. Post-traumatic stress disorder can also pose a whole array of issues for those who have seen some truly chilling things. Yoga poses are among the most stress-relieving exercises out there. The postures can improve blood flow, which helps to ease the nerves, while mindful meditation helps one accept and heal from negative thoughts and feelings.

Physical benefits
Firefighting can be tough on the body, so the gentle practice of yoga makes for a nice complement for the roughness of the profession. It also has many physical benefits that can help firefighters improve performance and stay safe when out on an emergency call. Yoga poses improve balance, flexibility and body awareness, which can be helpful in getting out of a sticky situation and even save lives. The breathing exercises serve as a form of breath control training – the deep breathing principles involved in yoga are the same that firefighters utilize to enhance oxygenation.

Researchers have found that meditation techniques can enhance memory function.

Can Meditation Techniques Help Improve Memory?

Meditation benefits the mind in more ways than the scientific world has yet to discover. But the known perks include relief from anxiety, increased concentration and even relief from insomnia. Another major perk that has been unearthed in recent years is meditation's ability to help enhance memory function.

You don't have to have a memory disorder such as dementia or cognitive impairment to experience how meditation can improve your memory function. Even mentally sound people only use a small portion of their gray matter and memories, leaving much more to be explored and utilized. It may even be especially useful for upcoming generations, which many believe will continue to have diminished memories due to the role of technology. But researchers have proven that mindful meditation techniques may have great benefits for memory.

About the Study
University of California at Santa Barbara researchers conducted a study in which 45 undergraduate students took either a nutrition or a mindfulness class. Each met for 45 minutes, four times each week for a duration of two weeks, meeting with experienced professionals in the respective fields. Both before and after the classes, the participants took the Graduate Record Examinations – standardized tests for graduate school applications - in addition to memory tests.

The Conclusion
The researchers discovered that the mindfulness-trained group had improved scores on the GRE after conducting two weeks of meditation techniques, while the nutrition group did not. For example, the meditation group had a score of 460 at the beginning of the study, and that score raised to 520 during the GRE second exam. This led researchers to conclude that taking time to breath deeply, process one's thoughts and find calm can be even better for cognitive and memory function than cramming to memorize information. 

Mindful meditation techniques can boost your creativity and help you reach your artistic goals.

Meditation Techniques Support the Creative Thinking

It's well known that meditation benefits the mind and body in a variety of ways, from reducing anxiety to enhancing concentration. A lesser known perk of practicing mindfulness is that the technique can also help promote creative thinking, whether you're artistic at heart or a left-brained individual.

How Mindful Meditation Supports Creativity
Meditation benefits the mind in ways that can translate to your artistic abilities. Firstly, the mindfulness and breathing exercises enhance the creative mind by helping you obtain mental clarity. This can cleanse you of negative thoughts that have hampered your ability to create in the past, and it help you find greater insight into yourself and the world around you. Additionally, the practice can enhance your ability to focus and improves patience, two skills that any professional artist knows are essential for finishing a creative project.

Scientific Proof Behind the Claim
While many people have reported enhanced creativity, there is also scientific proof. Researchers from Leiden University in the Netherlands conducted a study into how meditation techniques affect two main elements of creativity: divergent (the development of new thoughts) and convergent (the development of solutions) thinking.

The study asked participants to complete creativity tasks that measure imaginativeness before and after conducting one of two different types of meditation – either open monitoring such as mindfulness that involves opening up to all thoughts and sensations or focused attention that requires concentrating on a specific thought or object and blocking out everything else. The findings revealed that those who engaged in open monitoring meditation performed better on creative tasks.

Children with juvenile arthritis can turn to the healing affects of yoga poses for relief from joint inflammation and pain.

Yoga Benefits for Kids During Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month

As we enter the latter half of Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, it's a great time to explore this often neglected condition and the therapeutic effects of yoga poses. Many people think of older adults and the elderly when it comes to arthritis, but the disorder is actually made up of a variety of arthritic conditions that destroy the joints, cartilage, bones and muscles. It can greatly hamper movement among people of any age, and when it affect children 16 and under, it's referred to as juvenile arthritis.

The exact cause of joint inflammation that is the overarching symptom of this condition is still unknown, and there are no cures for juvenile arthritis. However, there are ways to control pain, reduce inflammation and enhance quality of life. Medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help, but there are natural treatments.

Supports Range of Motion in Joints
Yoga poses are gentle on the body, which is ideal for people with limited movement due to joint inflammation. It also works to increase joint function by promoting the flow of synovial fluid, which is found in the joints and allows for smooth movement of the bones. The ancient practice can also strengthen the cartilage in the joints that support muscles and, by helping people reduce their body weight, relieve the joints of pressure that can enhance inflammation and pain.

Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Juvenile arthritis can greatly affect the mood of young ones. The pain and disability can lead to anxiety and frustration. That's where yoga can help. The soothing movements, mindful meditation techniques and breathing exercises have been used for thousands of years to clear the mind and enhance a sense of tranquility. Children who engage in a regular yoga routine may find with time that they are better able to control their emotions and, in effect, better cope with their juvenile arthritis.

Eases Body Aches and Pains
People of all ages can turn to yoga for relief from pain. It do so by easing the anxiety and stress that often reinforce pain as well as promoting self-healing. As Maureen McBeth, a physical therapist at Baltimore's Mercy Medical Center, told Everyday Health, yoga poses can directly affect inflammation.

"There has been research to measure cytokines, which are markers in the body that indicate inflammation," McBeth said. "Cytokines have actually been found to decrease after people do exercises like yoga."

Research has shown that yoga benefits children living with autism spectrum disorder.

Can Yoga Help Children with Special Needs?

You don't have to be the parent of a special needs child to understand that these youngsters need a unique learning environment geared toward their disabilities. Those who live with autism, attention-deficit disorder, down syndrome and other social and learning disabilities often have great trouble dealing with change, maintaining focus, sitting still and interacting with others. There's a multitude of ways to help these young ones learn to live with their conditions, from occupational therapy to learning disability educational programs, and yoga poses may also prove beneficial for special needs children.

The effect of yoga poses on those with special needs has been a topic of growing interest over the years. According to an April 2010 study published in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, researchers looked into the effectiveness of yoga as a form of therapy for kids suffering from autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Those with ASD tend to show symptoms such as notably abnormal development in communication and social interaction. The study involved a low number of participants (six ASD patients), but the results were significantly consistent: After two years of yoga practice, participants showed great improvement in at-home behavior, familial relationships and ability to focus.

The researchers postulated that the guided imitation that students engage as they learn to replicate the instructors' postures stimulates neuron activation that works to improve the children's sense of self. It's no surprise, considering that people of all ages and capabilities have used the deep breathing exercises, gentle stretches and mindful meditation to enhance the mind-body connection and reach a place of calm and tranquility.

Runners can use the soothing stretches, deep breathing exercises and mindful meditation to help them improve their performance on the track.

Yoga for Enhancing Your Performance as a Runner

Summer is finally upon us, which means it's time to embrace the warm weather and build up a sweat with some of your favorite outdoor pastimes. For many people, this is the time of year to get out their jogging shoes – running is one of the top summer sports. But there's more you can do to prepare for the strenuous activity than lacing up your sneakers – turn to yoga poses to improve your performance.

Yoga benefits the body in a wide variety of ways, many of which can directly benefit your experience as a runner. One of the biggest perks is that it improves flexibility, which helps to keep you limber for those long jaunts and prevent injury related to pulling a ligament or muscle. The practice works to increase balance – as you conduct the gentle postures, whether they're complex or for beginners, you will begin to notice that you have a greater awareness of your own posture and stability. This can prevent spills during races and help you maintain a safe and efficient posture.

Breathing exercises involved in the practice can aid you in your ability to control inhalation and exhalation while running. Additionally, yoga is known to boost improve energy by focusing on proper flow of ki and boost circulation throughout the body, which may help you maintain stamina. Additionally, as yoga practitioners continue to take classes and enhance the connection between the mind and body, they often find themselves feeling more confident in themselves. And, as any runner knows, a certain level of confidence and trust in one's own abilities is essential for this sport.

Researchers have found that the most effective form of meditation for relief from stress is nondirective meditation.

New Study Shows How Mindful Meditation Techniques Promote Stress Relief

Meditation techniques have been used for thousands of years to help calm the mind and promote serenity. But only in the past few decades have scientists begun looking into the science behind the soothing practice. Now, a group of researchers from multiple academic institutions have collaborated to determine once and for whether directive or nondirective meditation is more beneficial and how each affects the brain.

Scientists from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology as well as Oslo and Sydney universities found during their clinical trial that nondirective meditation, such as mindfulness, is the most effective form of this ancient practice. Non-directive meditation, which is used in Dahn Yoga classes, involves a relaxed focus of attention, allowing your mind to wander and letting your thoughts pass through you without judgment. This is in contrast to directive meditation, which requires you to concentrate your attention on specific thoughts or breathing in order to suppress other thoughts.

For the study, the researchers asked participants to distinguish between directive and nondirective meditation. Of those who could, 14 subjects were selected to take part. Each was placed in an MRI machine and then engaged in nondirective meditation before taking a rest. Then, they went on to practice directive meditation techniques.

The team monitored the brain activity of the subjects and discovered that, when they let their minds wander and drift through random thoughts, emotions, images and so on, there was a significant increase in the areas of the brain associated with emotion and stress processing as well as attention and memory retrieval. Directive meditation, on the other hand, showed much less brain activity in these areas.

Many people find that they are more compassionate, calmer and kinder thanks to yoga poses.

Can Yoga Make You a Nicer Person?

Many practitioners use yoga poses for weight loss, stress relief, increased balance and enhanced flexibility. But the exercise has a plethora of benefits for the mind and emotions, and people who engage in the soothing practice often find that it makes them nicer. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Holistic Nursing found that yoga poses can make people more patient and kinder in general. Researchers surveyed more than 1,000 practitioners from all over America, and the results revealed that 87 percent felt like being part of a studio made them feel happier overall, while 67 percent reported an improvement in their personal relationships since they began practicing thanks to being more patient, observant and aware of one's self. Consider these ways yoga can help you become more pleasant and kindhearted:

Greater Self Awareness
The soothing postures, meditation and breathing exercises involved in yoga help you slow down among the bustle of everyday life. The practice gives you the opportunity to look inward and teaches you to be in tune with your own thoughts and emotions. By doing so, you can understand why you feel the way you do – what set on your feelings of anger or sadness – allowing you to think twice before lashing out at someone else.

Increased Mindfulness
In the same way that yoga poses can give you a greater grasp of your own self, they can help you become more observant of other people's emotions. Mindful meditation is ingrained in the practice, and it can help you clear your mind of negative thoughts and see the world around you in a clearer, more accurate way. You may find yourself beginning to better understand your interactions with people and how your actions affect others, which can lead to greater compassion and kindness.

Better Ability to Remain Calm
Reduced anxiety and stress are among the most obvious benefits of yoga. People who engage in the practice find themselves feeling calmer and more peaceful on a day-to-day basis, which can help you keep your cool which difficult conditions arise. Rather than respond with anger or disdain, you can turn to deep breathing exercises to get through your negative emotions, accept the situation for what it is and embrace the moment.

Where Dahn Yoga practitioners share their experiences