The Abdominal Wall and Attraction to Potential Partners

Have you ever been at the gym doing crunches and planks with your buddies and had no idea what you were doing? When you start talking about what you are working out, you are discussing abs, or abdominal exercises. Most often what we are talking about when working out or exercising is the rectus abdominis muscle via crunches and leg ups or even planking. This muscle becomes more visible as body fat percentage lowers and is sought after each New Year by men everywhere, only to remain illusive due to its dietary requirements (it has more to do with body fat with muscular strength). You may think this is the sole perpose for a man’s existence, but it is not.

The abdominal region is far more complex than one muscle. The abdomen, or lower thorax contains severals layers of muscular tissue that interweave to hold your organs in place and keep your spine upright so you can walk. These muscle tissues interweave to form the necessary support for an upright spinal column. I’ll talk more about the “6-pack” rectus abdominis muscle in a moment.

Obliques, Ribs, and Organs

abdominal 2 (GRAY)

The ribs are an often forgotten power center for posture within the body. They contain several muscular connections to bones and tissue around them. They do this to take tension from the spine by using accessory muscles. There is a massive connection between the accessory muscles and the diaphragm. These acessory muscles help us to breathe.

The Three Forgotten Abdominal Muscles

They are the internal and external obliques, which means diagonal and the transverse abdominis These muscles are responsible for the wall of muscle tissue underneath the rectus abdominis. These are all abdominal muscles. Together they muscles support the lower back and the organs of the thorax (chest cavity).

The Pyramidalis muscle, Linea Alba, and Hip Flexors (more forgotten abdominal muscles)

The pyramidalis is another abdominal muscle connects to the pelvis in two places (this is the V at the bottom of the rectus abdominis. It inserts into the linea alba via a pointed connection halfway between the belly button and the pubic bone. The linea alba is the fibrous muscle that runs up the center of the abdomen. It inserts into the diploid process at the bottom of the sternum. The linea alba is compose mostly of white collagen connective tissue. Linea Alba means “white line” in Latin.

The hips flexors and perineum are two more important muscle groups. The muscles create support for the back in concert with the abdominals. The hip flexors, in particular, have a huge amount of interaction with the spine. The hip bones connect the abdominals and the ribs .

Female Type Pelvis
Male Type Pelvis

Back onto the ‘6 Pack Abdominal Muscles”

The rectus abdominis is the top layer of muscle tissue visible and is the most common sought after muscle for looks. It is thought to provide an indication of health for prospective mates, but I wasn’t able to find any evidence for this assertion.

There is a surprisingly giant gap in the research when it comes to research about the attraction of the opposite sex. Statistically speaking, men value physical attractiveness more than women and women value similarities more than physical attraction. If you are overweight, you are more likely to be attracted to overweight members of the opposite sex.

One final, very interesting finding is that men are more attracted to novelty, and women to familiarity (read the article).

More and more evidence is arising that attraction is genetic. First, Behavior does not create homosexuality. It occurs natually and is genetic. Second, in our courtship of partners, we seek similar genetics to our own. Add social influences that help to determine what we find attractive, including fashion, perceptions of success, etc on top of these biological factors. Dive into the research. See for yourself.

Conclusion: Advice for Stretching the Spine

You can see how connected the muscles of the abdomen are with the hip flexors, ribs, spine, and diaphragm and how all of these muscles work together to create posture. All of these muscles are responsible for the health of the spine and in many ways the organ tissue in the thorax (stomach, kidneys, etc). Make sure you stretch your legs and hips to really get your spine mobile and strong!

I’ll do a separate article on the hip flexors next week. And visit again soon! You can subscribe to get an email update every time I publish an article.

References:

  1. Sex Differences in Attraction to Familiar and Unfamiliar Opposite-Sex Faces: Men Prefer Novelty and Women Prefer Familiarity (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-013-0120-2)
  2. On the Fashionable Sexiness in Aesthetics (https://www.ijac.org.uk/images/frontImages/gallery/Vol._3_No._4/2.pdf)

Human Shoulder Anatomy and Physiology

grays_shoulder_anterior

There are 3 bones in the human shoulder, or glenohumeral joint; the humerus, the clavicle, and the scapula. These bones are stabilized by 15+ muscles, depending on how you count them. These muscles function to stabilize the joint. This is what allows you to type, swing, and grasp with utter precision. Homo sapiens shoulder is precisely mobile, but lacks the stability and strength of our great ape cousins.

Gray's Shoulder Joint Depiction
Gray’s Anatomy

The muscles and bones of the shoulder joint work very closely together. They are very often depicted together in anatomy books because of how they functional in unison. The human shoulder joint is nothing short of incredible as a feat of natural evolution. It is a major evolutionary advantage over our primate cousins. Human beings the ability to climb, sprint, and perhaps most incredibly to throw objects accurately over large distances in conjunction with the excellent eye-sight of homo-sapiens sapiens because of our shoulders. And we can still climb, but must use our legs dominantly.

The Clavicle and Scapula are both considered to be part of the shoulder girdle, the structure that supports the appendages of the upper body. The shoulder provides stability for the neck, or upper third of the spine.

Bones of the Shoulder

Scapula – wing bone, or blade bone connects the humerus and clavicle and lies on the back of the rib cage. The name derives from early Roman times when it was thought that the bone resembled a trowel or small shovel.

Humerus

Humerus – the humerus is a long bone of the shoulder joint, connecting the shoulder girdle to the forearm.

Clavicle – also known as the ‘collarbone’, it is the first bone to ossify in an embryo, and connects the sternum to the scapula. It rotates upon its axis like a key when the shoulder is abducted. It is also the most commonly fractured bone.

Tendons and Ligaments of the Shoulder and Armpit

Gray's Shoulder Tendons

The Glenoid cavity is a shallow depression in the scapula, that connects to the head of the humerus and allows for the arm-bone’s articulation, forms the basis for the ball and socket joint and is held in place by the head of the biceps tendon. The rotator cuff also reinforces this joint with the supraspinatus tendon.

The Rotator Cuff consists of four primary tendons: the supraspinatus muscle, the infraspinatus muscle, the teres minor, and the subscapularis muscle. The tendons of these fours muscles merge to form the rotator cuff tendon.

Gray's Rotator Cuff Ligaments

The Coracoacromial ligament connects the coracoid process (the hook like structure on the shoulder blade) and the acromion (the highest profusion of the shoulder blade). This ligaments helps to shield the head of the humerus.

The AC Joint, or Acromioclavicular joint is the joint at the top of the shoulder that connects the acromion to the the collar-bones. There are several acromioclavicular ligaments as you can see in the image on the right and they are organized to provide added stability to the joint and to house the bursa and synovial fluid that allows the joint to articulate easily.

The conoid ligament connects the clavicle and the coracoid process further stabilizing the collar bone to the shoulder blade.

The caracohumeral ligament connects the coracoid process to the humerus.

Together, these ligaments stabilize and support the shoulder joint, allowing for the extreme mobility that we humans enjoy. However, the large amount of smaller ligaments and tendons sacrifice a certain amount of stability for this increased mobility and range of motion.

Shoulder Muscles

  1. Deltoid – responsible for lifting the arm and giving the shoulder its range of motion. Often this muscle is separated into 3 sub-muscles, anterior, lateral, and posterior as they are able to innervate separately.
  2. Teres Major – A small muscle that runs along the lateral border of the scapula and connect to the humerus.
  3. Teres Minor – extends laterally and obliquely from the head of the humerus to the scapula, underneath the Teres Major. This rotator cuff muscles rotates the head of the humerus and stabilized it as it moves in space.
  4. Supraspinatus – connects the scapula to the humerus and abducts the shoulder and arm.
  5. Infraspinatus – connects from the medial side of the scapula to the humerus to aid in stabilizing the shoulder. A thick layer of muscle on the outside of the shoulder blade and is the main external rotator of the shoulder.
  6. Subscapularis – Directly opposes the infraspinatus muscle on the interior of the shoulder blade. It rotates the humerus medially and adducts it, preventing the displacement of the humerus during motion.
  7. Serratus Anterior – originates on ribs one through eight and connects to the medial interior edge of the scapula. The serratus anterior muscles work in conjunction with the latissimus dorsi to lift the shoulder blades and pull them forward and are one of the primary core support structures for the shoulder. Shoulder injuries often occur in yoga because this muscle is not fully contracted, especially in Chaturanga.
  8. Subclavicus – A small muscles that lies between the clavicle and the first rib that draws the shoulders down and forward.
  9. Pectoralis Minor – a thin and flat muscle in the upper torso that lies underneath the pectorals major and originates in the second, third, and fourth ribs. (sometimes the 5th rib instead of the 4th). This is the primary chest muscle that assists in lifting the shoulders.
  10. Sternocleidomastoid – the primary visible neck muscle that rotates and turns the head and neck. It inserts at the sternum and clavicle and travels up to the mastoid at the temporal lobe of the skull.
  11. Levator Scapulae – the main function of this muscle is to lift the scapula, originates in the neck C1-C4 and travels down to the medial border of the scapula. Works in a state of near unison with the serratus anterior muscles.
  12. Rhomboid Major – connects the shoulder blade to T2-T5 of the mid spine. It is slightly deeper than the trapezius and slightly inferior to the rhomboid minor. Together with the serratus anterior and pectorals minor, it connects the shoulder blades to the rib cage.
  13. Rhomboid Minor – Also connects scapula to the spinal vertebrae, but superior (higher) than the rhomboid major and slightly smaller. Connects C7 and T1 to the shoulder blades. Oftentimes this muscle is completely fused with the Rhomboid major.
  14. Trapezius – a large paired surface muscle in the shape of a diamond, connecting the occipital lobe to the shoulder blades and travels down to the lower thoracic vertebrae. It helps to move the scapula and the arm. Because it connects both the spine and the shoulder blades, this muscle can be one of the primary causes of neck tension in the body.
  15. Latissimus Dorsi – a large flat muscle one the back that originates in the mid and lower back and travels all the way up to the head of the humerus. Is it the largest muscle in the upper body and is implicated for cardiac support and is also an accessory breathing muscle. Tightness in this muscle has been shown to be a primary contributor to back pain.

Nerves of the Shoulder Joint

Gray's Brachial Plexus

The Brachial Plexus is a network of nerve tissue that supplies the arm and shoulder with innervation. Branches of the plexus, in particular from C5-C6, supply the majority of the muscles of the shoulder. The plexus continues down the arm to form the radial, ulnar, and median nerves of the arm.

Blood Vessels of the Shoulder

The blood Vessels of the shoulder function very similarly to the nerves (often in the body, nerves and blood vessels run in parallel to make the innervation of the muscle tissue more accessible to the nervous system. The Auxiliary artery becomes the brachial artery at the upper arm and continues down the arm to become the radial and ulnar arteries. Most of the blood vessels of the shoulder branch off the auxiliary artery.

Rotation in the Shoulder

BursaShoulder bursitis is a common cause of shoulder pain and occurs when the rotator cuff tendons are impinged, or unable to articulate properly. The shoulder bursa is extremely important as it creates smooth range of motion for the arm and shoulder to travel.

Rotator Cuff – the rotator cuff tears are another common cause of shoulder pain, usually cause by a tear in the supraspinatus muscle.

Range of Motion – As I discussed earlier, the shoulder’s range of motion is largely allowed for by the tremendous amount of ligaments, tendons, and muscles that work together to mobilize the arm. This comes at the sacrifice of stability. The stability of the shoulder comes from the muscle tissue, which can limit the range of motion in the shoulder, which may be healthy for the skeleton, especially under large amount of duress. It is easy to see this limited range of motion in body builders, whose muscles have gotten large enough to impede the motion of the shoulder. An appropriate balance between stability and flexibility is what we are looking for in yoga (or at least I am looking for this balance) so that the joint can have maximum longevity.

All References from Wikipedia.org

Anatomy of the Femur Bone: The Pillar of Support for the Human Skeleton

Femur

Introducing the most Massive and Strongest (in most ways) Bone in the Human Body

There are 62 bones in the legs: 10 trunk/hip bones, 14 ankle bones, and 38 foot bones. The femur (thigh) is the largest and strongest of these bones. Most land mammals capable of jumping also have femur bones, also lizards, frogs, and other tetrapod vertebrates. Its length on average is 26.74% of a person’s height, a ratio found in both men and women and most ethnicities with only restricted variation.

A Few Femur Bone Stats

  1. the Femoral neck sits at a 125 degree angle
  2. Femurs can resist 1,800-2,500 pounds of stress
  3. Vehicular accidents are the primary cause of breakage

The Greater Trochantergreater_trochanter_grays

The Great Trochanter is a large, irregular, quadrilateral eminence on the upper portion of the femur bone. This portion of the bone has several, extremely important muscle insertions for the thigh and hip bones:

The lateral surface, quadrilateral in form, is broad, rough, convex, and marked by a diagonal impression, which extends from the postero-superior to the antero-inferior angle, and serves for the insertion of the tendon of the gluteus medius.

Above the impression is a triangular surface, sometimes rough for part of the human_ape_femurstendon of the same muscle, sometimes smooth for the interposition of a bursa between the tendon and the bone. Below and behind the diagonal impression is a smooth triangular surface, over which the tendon of the gluteus maximus lies, a bursa being interposed.

The medial surface, of much less extent than the lateral, presents at its base a deep depression, the trochanteric fossa (digital fossa), for the insertion of the tendon of the obturator externus, and above and in front of this an impression for the insertion of the obturator internus and superior and inferior gemellus muscles.

Reference: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_trochanter)

The Lesser Trochanter

The Lesser trochanter is on the underside of the femoral head and also has several muscular insertions: The Psoas Major on bottom and the Illiacus on top.

The Femoral HeadFemur_insertion_point

The Femoral Head is the highest part of the femur bone, support by the femoral neck. It inserts as a ball/socket joint into the Hip/Ilium via the structure depicted to the right.

The Femoral Neck

The Femoral neck usually sits at a 120-135 degree angle with some variation. A fracture of this area is known as a hip fracture and happens during aging. This structure supports the head of the femur bone and its insertion into the hip.

femur_pic_grays_2The Femoral Body

The Shaft of the femur is somewhat curved and has a protruding ridge called the linea aspera (rough line). The area of the bone supports the strongest muscle tissue in the body, including the hamstrings, Quadriceps, and thigh musculature. The Vastus Laterallis (outer quadricep) and adductor magnus (inner thigh muscle) connects into the linea aspera.

Lower Portion of the Femur

lower_femur_graysThe Lower portion of the femur bone consists of two condyle (from the Greek word for knuckle), lateral and medial that create the surface for the upper tibia bone and the knee-joint. Coated meniscus tissue layers on top of the bone and provides synovial fluid for frictionless movement within the knee. The medial (inside) condyle is the larger than the lateral due to its increased weight-bearing. 

How the Femur Bone affects your Holistic Health

Femur bone fractures correlate with increased disease in the elderly. It is safe to say that the femur bone is an organ that houses much of the mineral deposits for the body. Therefore, as we age and the bone tissue become more porous, this bone become one of the primary areas of decomposition.

One of the primary aspects of bone health is acquiring enough calcium to maintain bone density. Most calcium is available via leafy green vegetables, notably kale, bok-choy, and broccoli. Sodas and carbonated beverages make it harder for the body to absorb calcium and should be avoided by those with osteoporosis (orthoinfo.com). Vitamin D is an important catalyst for absorbing calcium into the bloodstream.

Phosphorus is another vital nutrient to maintain bone health. Nuts, Sesame Seeds, peanut butter, parsley, crab and prawns are all foods high in phosphorus. Don’t feel like you have to eat meat or drink milk to get these essential nutrients.

References:
  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Femur_neck
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_trochanter
  3. https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/staying-healthy/calcium-nutrition-and-bone-health

Mula Bandha | मूल बंध (Bandhas part 1/4)

mula bandha

The Mula Bandha and the Perineal Muscles

Sanskrit for “MULA” – मूल

In Sanskrit, Mula means “root”, foundation, origin, source, and beginning. Bandha means energy lock, binding together, or posture. Mula bandha is the root of the body, the excretion point and the bottom of the spine. This is perineal muscle group and terminates between the coccyx and tailbone.

Strengthening the perineal muscles has a variety of effects, including greater control over sexual organs through strengthening the area between your sphincter and your sex organ. It is also healthy for digestion and excretion, two very important functions within the body.

Mula Bandha assists the body in breathing, most specifically with exhaling.

The pubococcygeus muscle is the primary agonist muscle to the perineal, and activates as a part of the levator ani muscle group. This is the muscle connects to the base of the spinal cord to contain energy within the spinal cord.

Bulbospongiosus muscle is a superficial muscle of the perineum, in both males and females covering the bulb of the sex organ, or Bulbospongiosus_Femalevaginal wall and penis shaft. Then it connects to the front of the anus in two symmetrical parts. This is said to be the orgasm muscle, contributing to erection, ejaculation, and closes the vagina during intercourse. It is extremely important to the functioning of the sex organs and the muscles of excretion.

Mula Bandha – The interlocking of interlockings

Mula bandha is the primary bandha in yoga, it is said to seal energy into the spinal cord. Iyengar said that while one is working with the mula bandha, they are focused on the root of existence and creation. Ideally, you can practice this after an inhale, while you retain your breath. Squeeze your sex organs up and in while holding your breath for a few moments, then release. A 5 count can work well to start, then start working between exhale and inhale, when the breath has left the body completely, then engage the bottom of your diaphragm as the exhale completes, or essentially squeeze the exhale out. This is your Mula Bandha.

Perineal muscle activation is one of the most important and beneficial parts of a yoga practice, particularly involving inversions. Contraction of these floor muscles allow the abdomen to move in space without too much consequence, especially handstand will force it to strengthen in ways that the muscle would not normally need to.

Practice activating, then resting the mula bandha in breathing exercises with Kumbhaka (space between breaths) and during poses like warrior 2, standing splits. Find some time to experiment and strengthen the muscle during your practice.

The mula bandha is the Muladhara shakra of tantric traditions. I am not a big fan of the tantric traditions to I mostly ignore the chakras.

The Other Bandha’s interlockings, or muscle groups

Part 2: The Uddyiana Bandha

Part 3: Jalandhara Bandha

Part 4: Jihva Bandha

References for the Mula Bandha

  1. Wikipedia – Perineum

What Does Cold Weather do to Your Body?

Cold 1936_Pneumonia_prop_strikes_like_a_man_eating_shark

Cold Weather and Lower Temperatures Affect the Human Body

The Human Body is made to deal with the Cold

Cold Temperatures stress the body, but the human body is meant to adapt to colder conditions. You see, low temperatures stress the body; but in a way, it is a very psychological phenomenon. It happens in your mind. The way that you react mentally can have a big effect on how the stress of cold affects you. However, for this article we will discuss primarily the physiological response of the human body to low temperatures.

Over time, the body will adapt to colder conditions. Even brief exposure to low temperatures lead to increased levels of norepinephrine and cortisol, lymphocytosis, decreased lymphoproliferative responses, decreased levels of TH1 cytokines and salivary IgA, and increased lactate levels during exercise. It takes time for the body to de-stress itself in the cold.

Does Exercising Help in the Cold?

Exercising in the cold doesn’t seem to help too much. It can for a short period of time though. Just try not to sweat! Exercising exhausts the bodies energy reserves for immediate heat. Though in general, exercising is a good way to keep the immune system strong. Sweating also causes the body to lose heat quickly.

It seems that previous exposure to cold temperatures is one of the few things that helps the body to adapt. But acute exposure of the skin can have a huge effect on the body’s immune response, so be sure to keep your skin covered in colder temperatures until your body has adapted. They say it takes about 2-3 weeks for your body to adapt to those lower temperatures.

The Cold and the Human Heart’s Health

Cold weather and Cardiovascular Health

People die more often of heart and respiratory diseases in the winter. Vasoconstriction increases blood pressure during the bodies cold-stimulus response. The decrease in cellular plasma also creates a lot more work for your heart.

The Body’s Response to Cold over Time

Exposure to cold causes the sympathetic nervous system to heat the body by constricting blood flow to the extremities and superficial tissue. The body then begins to constrict the flow of the immune system, as well as the nervous system. As the nervous system restricts flow, the extremities lose blood flow until frostbite and more serious, permanent damage occurs.

Who do Mammals Shiver?

Why do you Shiver when it’s Cold Outside?

Over time, the blood pressure increases to cope and the body begins to shiver at a certain point. Once you are shivering heavily, you are at the point where you can get frostbite, or even hurt yourself because the body convulses so strongly. But this can also happen well above frostbite temperatures due to the body’s tolerance level. As people get older, they shiver less, which results in a more rapid drop of temperature upon exposure.

Here’s how Shivering works Neurologically:

Located in the posterior hypothalamus (brain) near the wall of the third ventricle is an area called the primary motor center for shivering. This area is normally inhibited by signals from the heat center in the anterior hypothalamic-preoptic area but is excited by cold signals from the skin and spinal cord. Therefore, this center becomes activated when the body temperature falls even a fraction of a degree below a critical temperature level.

Humans heat themselves Naturally by Burning Fat

Humans also have regulatory neurotransmitters and hormones to help the body burn fat for heat when the body is cold. This is primarily how the newborn and elderly bodies create heat. As we get stronger immune systems, the body shiver response gets stronger, apparently.

Injuries from cold temperatures:

frostbite, hypothermia, heart attacks due to decreased blood flow

References

  1. Human Responses to Cold
  2. Cold exposure and winter mortality from ischaemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, respiratory disease, and all causes in warm and cold regions of Europe

  3. The Association of Cold temperature and low humidity with increased occurrence of respiratory tract infections

  4. Exposure to cold and respiratory tract infections [Review Article]

  5. Cold Exposure Human Immune Responses and Intracellular Cytokine Expression
  6. Acute Cooling of the Surface of the Body and the Common Cold
  7. Immune Responses to Exercising in a Cold Environment

  8. Can Exercise Make Us Immune to Disease?
  9. Cross-Talk between the Immune and Endocrine Systems

Common Cold Wiki

No antibiotics, Cough Meds are BS… eat some candy:

Possible explanations may include temperature-induced changes in the respiratory system,[42] decreased immune response,[43] and low humidity causing an increase in viral transmission rates, perhaps due to dry air allowing small viral droplets to disperse farther and stay in the air longer.[44] The apparent seasonality may also be due to social factors, such as people spending more time indoors, near infected people,[42] and specifically children at school.[37][41]

There is some controversy over the role of low body temperature as a risk factor for the common cold; the majority of the evidence suggests that it may result in greater susceptibility to infection.[43] Herd immunity, generated from previous exposure to viruses, plays an important role in limiting viral spread, as seen with younger populations that have greater rates of respiratory infections.[45]

Poor immune function is a risk factor for disease.[45][46] Insufficient sleep and malnutrition have been associated with a greater risk of developing infection following rhinovirus exposure. Due to their effects on immune function.[47][48] Breast feeding decreases the risk of acute otitis media and lower respiratory tract infections among other diseases,[49] and it is recommended that breast feeding be continued when an infant has a cold.[50] In the developed world breast feeding may not be protective against the common cold in and of itself.[51]

The Sciatic Nerve: A River of Energy Suppyling Human Legs

Sciatic Nerve

The Anatomy of the Sciatic Nerve

Also known as the ischiadic nerve or ischiatic nerve, the Sciatic Nerve is the largest nerve in the human body. The Sciatic Nerve runs down the leg behind the bicep femoris and powers the thigh muscles.By KDS4444 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53368293

The nerve begins in the Sacral Plexus Gray Sacral Plexus

 

 

 

 

 

 

as you can see from contrasting the above depictions of the nerve. Notice the outer thigh innervation and middle leg innervation from the upper nerves in the second photo. Contrast that to the inner thigh/back-leg innervation from the lower set of nerves. The sciatic nerve is a combination of the nervous tissue from L4 to S3 and continues down the leg to branch into the Tibial Nerve and the Common Peroneal Nerve at the popliteal fossa.

The Sacral Plexus and the Greater Sciatic Foramen

Here is a fantastic depiction of the sacral plexus and the nerve’s points of joining and separation through the Greater Sciatic Foramen which is covered by the piriformis. Here prentice-hall-sacral-plexusis a great view of the coccyx and sacral plexus which runs down the back of the leg. As the nerve travels, it is hammocked by the piriformis and then the bicep femoris before it branches. You can see a really great example of the support of the bicep femoris below

Posterior-View-of-the-Lower-Limb-Anatomical-Course-of-the-Sciatic-Nerve
Posterior-View-of-the-Lower-Limb

 

You can also see that as the nerve travels, it branches below the bicep femoris and the popliteal fossa which is also known as the knee pit. The biggest bone in the body, the femur supports and protects the sciatic nerve. We could definitely get into more detail about the branching of the nerve, but for now, let’s stick with the major components, we can get more specialized later.

 

Implications for your Yoga Practice

  1. If you haven’t started finding ways the stretch the muscles surrounding and supporting the biggest nerve in your body, its time to start. Finding ways to relax and stretch the piriformis and strengthen the sciatic nerve should be one of the primary goals of your practice. A healthy sciatic nerve will be most helpful in maintaining a pain-free leg!
  2. It is necessary to work into the layers of muscles surrounding the nerve tissue to truly release tension from it. This means that although an adjustment from a chiropractor might help in the short-term, you should be focused on re-aligning the leg muscles in your daily posture to create space for the sciatic nerve.
  3. Your hamstrings can be the primary instigator of your back pain! Quadriceps are filthy culprits as well! Find ways to stretch your legs and your back will often carry less tension as a result. And legs stretches can allow you to stretch the back in deeper ways. There are certain points inside of your hip/sacrum connection where your back and your legs are the same thing!
  4. This is a huge reason why downward dog feels so fantastic. You get to stretch the muscles around your biggest nerves! Downward can be one of the most sustainable yoga poses. It shouldn’t hurt! Just uncomfortable at first.
  5. Just to take the downward dog thing further, this is also why sun salutations are such a universal stretches in yoga and so good for relaxing the nervous system. I think sun salutations might be one of the best exercises you can do for your back.

15 Yoga Asanas for your Sciatic Nerve

  1. Hero’s Pose
  2. Downward Dog
  3. Foward Fold
  4. Sun Salutation A
  5. Low Lunge
  6. High Lunge
  7. Pyramid Pose
  8. Warrior 1
  9. Eagle Pose
  10. Triangle Pose
  11. Revolved Triangle Pose
  12. Half-moon
  13. Revolved Half-moon
  14. Half Pigeon
  15. Finishing Ashtanga Streches

References

Foot Reflexology Chart

Movement Shapes Your Body

Foot pain from your spine?

Your Foot Bone’s Connection to your spine

How can I break my Neck in my Foot

 

Five of Yoga’s Heart Benefits (Heart Health)

Yoga's Heart Benefits

5 of Yoga’s Heart Benefits

Yoga’s Heart benefits are rather robust, ranging from increased circulatory function to decreased heart rate, to reduced cortisol levels in the bloodstream. Considering modern western yoga’s intensity, I think it is quite obvious that the longer duration vinyasa classes can have aerobic component to them.

Cardio-vascular disease affects more than 1 in 3 Americans, making it the most deadly disease in the United States. 600,000 Americans die of heart disease every year. Coronary Artery disease is the most deadly disease in the world.

Breathing through the nose helps to strengthen heart tissue, bronchial tubes, lung tissue, and the valves of the heart. Check out my previous article on breathing through the nose.

1. Cortisol (Stress) Regulation

“Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is produced and released by the adrenal gland and functions as a component of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in response to stress. Hatha yoga promotes physical relaxation by decreasing activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which lowers heart rate and increases breath volume. We believe this in turn has a positive effect on the HPA axis,” said Curtis. (PsychCentral) Studies differ in talking about the role of yoga in regulating cortisol, but all agree that it helps with the regulation of stress hormones. It also helps in the way that stress is perceived having drastic effects on how stress is processed by the body. Yoga essentially helps these circulatory functions to achieve higher levels of function by increasing flow.

“Cortisol and the stress response have known deleterious effects on the immune system. High levels of perceived stress and increases in cortisol have been found to lengthen wound-healing time in healthy, male adults.”

2. Lower Blood Pressure

“Elevated blood pressure is a powerful predictor of congestive heart failure and other Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) outcomes” (Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research). Plaque builds up in the walls of arteries and makes it harder for blood to flow. Yoga helps to relieve this by increasing circulatory function through purifying the blood stream through oxygenation, which also helps with metabolism. Hypertension is one of the leading causes of stroke, which yoga has been clinically shown to reduce.

“Yogic practices significantly reduced systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, mean arterial pressure, and orthostatic tolerance.”

3. Improved Circulation

Circulation of hormones and various chemical messengers throughout the body is necessary for new tissue growth, tissue repair, and anti-inflammatory disease prevention. Myokines are excreted during muscle contractions, which could be a major reason why the increased duration of stretches is so beneficial for healing. During yoga, joints are used in full range of motion and articulation helping to soak them in new oxygen, blood, and nutrients, assisting with osteoporosis and arthritis.

“Yoga increases blood flow and levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells which allows for more oxygen to reach the body cells, enhancing their function.”

4. Lowering Cholesterol

Yoga helps to control cholesterol and hypertension. The relationship between the growth of plaque within arteries is still being explore in conjunction with yogic exercises, but several clinical studies have shown that yogic exercises reduce the speed at which the plaque builds-up, a process known as atherosclerosis.

5. Improved Heart Rate Variability

“There is also evidence that yoga practices help increase heart rate variability. Heart rate variability is an indicator of the body’s ability to respond to stress flexibly.” One of yoga’s heart benefits is the ability to perceive stress differently. This affects the entire hormone system, including the stress response system. We are continuing to learn more about how yoga benefits our bodies in this way.

5 of the Best Foods for Heart Health

  1. Salmon
  2. Blueberries
  3. Dark Chocolate
  4. Citrus
  5. Broccoli, Spinach, and Kale

Quotes about Yoga’s Heart Benefits

American Heart Association

“The more energy you put into it, the more you’re going to get out of it,” she said. “After 12 weeks, you may see a dramatic increase in exercise functionality, and blood pressure and cholesterol levels may decrease.”

American Osteopathic Association

“Between lowering blood pressure, increasing circulation, and lowering bad cholesterol, it’s no wonder that yoga helps to lower a person’s risk of heart disease.”

MedicineNet

“Your heart beats approximately 60-80 times per minute at rest.
100,000 times a day.
more than 30 million times per year.
and about 2.5 billion times in a 70-year lifetime!”

References:

  1. http://www.ijcep.org/article.asp?issn=2348-8093;year=2016;volume=3;issue=2;spage=57;epage=58;aulast=Pal
  2. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2013/743504/
  3. http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S0066-782X2009000600008&script=sci_arttext&tlng=en
  4. https://academic.oup.com/cardiovascres/article/38/2/332/299270/Effect-of-respiratory-rate-on-the-relationships
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3978938/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3415184/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3573542/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3939525/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3193654/
  10. http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/1/1/e000085
  11. https://bmccomplementalternmed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12906-016-1286-7
  12. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2225411017300172
  13. http://www.osteopathic.org/osteopathic-health/about-your-health/health-conditions-library/general-health/Pages/yoga.aspx
  14. http://www.medicinenet.com/aerobic_exercise/article.htm
  15. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/Yoga-and-Heart-Health_UCM_434966_Article.jsp#.WYDdWf_yvq0

Human Bone Anatomy | Osteology

human bone anatomy

What are Bones?

Bones are not inanimate rock like structures in the human body; bones are organs that produce red and white blood cells, store minerals, enable mobility, and provide structural support for the body. They are lightweight, strong, and hard, and function within the body in many different processes, including autoimmune function. , There are two types of mineralized osseous tissue, or bone tissue, cortical and cancellous, and gives the bones rigidity and a coral-like three-dimensional internal structure. Other types of tissue found in bones include marrow, endosteum, periosteum, nerves, blood vessels and cartilage.

Primary Nutrients

Most literature proposes Calcium and Vitamin D as the primary nutrients for healthy bones.

Calcium is important in bone creation and repair. Your muscles, organs, and nerves also need calcium to function properly; nerves use sodium to pump electricity through nerves in the form of action potentials. Calcium helps to keep these actions potentials from excessively firing by working in concert with GABA receptors, most notably in high intensity auditory transduction. (http://phys.org/news/2007-03-calcium-life-death-nerve-cells.html). Leafy greens, fish, and some fruits are great sources of calcium.

Vitamin D is a group of secosteroids responsible for intestinal absorption of primary nutrients such as calcium, iron, and zinc. Vitamin D is synthesized in the skin is the primary way that the body produces the nutrient; though it acts as a hormone because the nutrient travels to become active in the liver and kidneys. Vitamin D has a significant role in calcium homeostasis (balancing) and production in the kidneys and liver. It also affects neuromuscular and immune function.

Protein, magnesium, Vitamin K, and phosphorus are also suggested as beneficial nutrients for bone health.

Bone Structure

Bone tissue, bone marrow, blood vessels, epithelium, and nerves make up the different types of bone cells. Tissue includes Osteoblasts and osteocytes, which are involved in the creation and mineralization of bone; osteoclasts reabsorb bone tissue. The mineralized matrix of bone tissue has an organic component of mainly collagen called ossein and an inorganic component of bone mineral made up of various salts. Bone tissue refers bone_layer_imagespecifically to the bone mineral matrix that forms the rigid sections of the organ. There are two types of bones: cortical and cancellous. Cortical bone tissue create hard exteriors for protection while cancellous bone is more spongy and allows for the metabolic processes on the interior of the organ; the two are biologically identical, but the expression of their microstructures are specialized.

Bone marrow is flexible tissue and reproduces red and white blood cells as well as lymphocytes that support the immune system. Cores of marrow in the heads of long bones create about 500 billion red blood cells per day in hematopoiesis. 4% of human physiology is bone marrow; so about 5 pounds if you weight ~125. The body creates two types of marrow: red, the only type in the body at birth; and yellow, which increases in proportion during the aging process. Transplants can cure extreme diseases and is one of the primary reasons why stem cells can be so beneficial. The body stores marrow in the femur, hips, vertebrae, and ribs.

Osteo Factshttp://training.seer.cancer.gov/index.html

At birth, there over 270 bones in the body, which during the aging process turn into 206 by fusing together (joining). The biggest is the femur
(thigh) and the smallest is the stapes in the inner ear.  The hard cortical tissue (outer layer) comprises 80% of mass and networks of trabecular marrow comprise the rest. Bones are mineral reserves for the body and marrow stores fat. They are metabolically very active and work in tandem with the digestive system, immune system, and endocrine system in balancing nutrients, defending against disease, and releasing hormones, respectively. 22 bones fuse together after birth to form the skull. 26 aligned, specialized bones called vertebrae make up the spine, protect the spinal cord, and form the primary support structure for the body.

 

Aging and Osteoporosis

The problems arising from bones occur in osteoporosis, fractures, arthritis, tumors, and infections can affect the organic tissue. Fractures are breaks in tissue, from repetitive force or trauma. Aging causes osteoporosis; the body stops producing the necessary amount of building material for the body and literally means “holey bone” (porosis meaning hole). Tumors and malignancy’s can occur in various forms in bone tissue as well. This makes it much easier for the bones to fracture.

Cancer

Cancer can also occur in tissues structures and is a common site for it to metastisise to. Several primary cancers occur within the bones and some even within the marrow, such as Leukemia and multiple myeloma. The tissue distorted by cancer is normally more prone to fracture and weakness, which becomes particularly painful when it occurs in the spine.

References:

  1. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00317
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bone_marrow
  3. https://askabiologist.asu.edu/bone-anatomy
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroregeneration
  5. https://www.nof.org/patients/what-is-osteoporosis/
  6. http://www.innerbody.com/image/skelfov.html

The Anatomy of Nose Breathing

nose breathing

Why is Nose Breathing Important?

Nose breathing is the most essential part of yoga. It is also poorly understood in modern culture. Breathing through the nose is nasal_cavityphysiologically much different than breathing through the mouth; there is far more space in your nasal cavity than in your mouth to start. There is also a filtration system in the nose that doesn’t exist in the throat. You can see this on the right; the tongue takes up the vast majority of the space in the mouth and the nasal passageway is very small at certain points. The mouth actually makes for a more narrow and less effective breathing passageway, especially when you consider the benefits of the pressure system that exists in the nasal cavity. Your body craves breathing through the nose, especially while you sleep! Human breaths are more powerful through the nose.

There are studies that have shown all kinds of benefits of breathing through the nose; it is even considered the proper method for breathing by the scientific community. “[Nose breathing] increases circulation, blood oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, slows the breathing rate and improves overall lung volumes ” Swift, Campbell, McKown  1988 Oronasal obstruction, lung volumes, and arterial oxygenation.

Breathing through the nostrils has also been proven to improve brain function; opposite nostril breathing stimulates the opposite hemisphere of cortex and the nervous passageways in the cortex (ie left nostril nasal cavity side viewbreathing is associated with stimulating right brain activity).

There is also significant research being done on the relationship between the prefrontal cortex and the passageways to the lungs. It is being shown that there are major correlations between ADHD and sleep disorders and breathing habitually through the mouth. Information beyond the clinical applications for sleep apnea where hard to find; obviously the health need ($$) for assistance with sleep apnea is somewhat sizable, therefore there is more research done around it. However, it has been proven that alternate nostril breathing affects the brain’s physiology; there are some extremely close relationships between specific portions of the brain and the respiratory pathways, especially in the hindbrain (medulla and pons).

There is an ever-increasing body of research on the relationship between sleep apnea, asthma, and on the negative effects of breathing habitually through the mouth. Nose breathing is more protective and efficient at fueling the human body’s need for oxygen; however, the passageway is relatively easily obstructed. The mouth has been shown to be more efficient at releasing carbon dioxide quickly than the nose, although exhaling through the nose has notable benefits for the mucus membrane and cilia of the nose. Let’s explore how the nose is a powerful filtration system for the lungs.

Filtration Systems

When I was 25 I visited Beijing with some of my friends from the time that I studied abroad in Paris. While I was there, I noticed myself continually nose breathing due to the large particles in the air. I was fairly deep into my yoga practice so I was used to breathing through my nose for long periods of time, but I instinctively understood that breathing through my nose would help to filter the air and keep the large bronchitis and cancer causing particles out of my trachea and mouth.

“The nose serves as the only means of bringing warm humidified air into the lungs. It is the primary organ nose breathingfor filtering out particles in inspired air, and it also serves to provide first-line immunological defense by bringing inspired air in contact with mucous-coated membranes that contain immunoglobulin A (IgA).”

The nose assists in stimulating the immune system. The changes in pressure stimulate the physiological processes associated with the maintenance of the mucus membrane and help to retain oxygen in the lungs. It also provides humidity and heat for the air entering the lungs, as well as increased filtration from the cilia and small hairs that line the nose. In the picture above, you can see the olfactory(smell) nerves and the organization of blood vessels within the nasal cavity. Overall, it is a good idea to concentrate on breathing through the nose, whether sleeping, awake, or even during milder forms of exercise.

Why is this important for yoga?

This information helps to explain a large portion of why yoga is so beneficial for the body. Breathing intensively through the nose for one to two hours creates space for the habit of constantly breathing through the nose. This is probably the biggest reason that in clinical studies, sleep quality of subjects who practice yoga is higher. Breathing’s relationship to the functioning of the brain is also interesting; some studies have shown that yawning helps to cool the brain, but the act of yawning is probably far more complex than that simple generalization.

Questions?

How does nasal breathing affect the hippocampus and memory?

How does nose breathing affect the hypothalamus and the regulation of your emotions through the endocrine system?

What parts of the brain does yawning cool?

What portions of the cortex received the greatest benefit from breathing through the nose? How about the mouth?

These questions, at least as far as I can tell, science has yet to answer. But we do have clinical evidence that yoga positively affects mood disorders, PTSD, anxiety, depression, and there are a lot of very positive findings between yoga and cardiovascular health, while simply nasal breathing is proven to positively affect the heart and lung tissue. It is probably just a matter of time before we discover more of the benefits of yoga and of nose breathing.

Don’t be a mouth breather! 🙂

 

References:

  1. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/874771-overview
  2. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/store/10.1111/j.1398-9995.1999.tb04402.x/asset/j.1398-9995.1999.tb04402.x.pdf;jsessionid=AECDFA5F44190494D5E7B315E7A6FEB2.f01t03?v=1&t=ilmeorkg&s=c4bc17315db2cd2d969feca8ad933515fa409e02&systemMessage=Wiley+Online+Library+will+be+unavailable+for+up+to+3+hours+on+Saturday+19th+March+2016+from++11%3A00-14%3A00+GMT+%2F+07%3A00-10%3A00+EDT+%2F+19%3A00-22%3A00+SGT+for+essential+maintenance.++Apologies+for+the+inconvenience.
  3. http://care.american-rhinologic.org/nasal_physiology
  4. http://medind.nic.in/iad/t05/i4/iadt05i4p251.pdf
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8063359
  6. http://journals.lww.com/neuroreport/toc/2013/12040
  7. http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/acm.2005.11.711