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Try yoga for moms and moms-to-be p6 Fit exercise into your schedule p8 Matters of the heart p10

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Moms need a good stretch, too

Relax and enjoy some the many benefits of yoga pre-natal or post-natal Katie Harris


veryone’s heard of yoga, and most of us have tried it in some form. But how many of us really know what yoga’s all about? The physical and mental benefits of yoga have made it one of the most popular exercises worldwide, for women, men and children of all ages and abilities. Specialized yoga classes have become increasingly popular in northern Colorado, and for us moms, there are more and more options becoming available. Whether prenatal, postnatal, or a veteran mom, there’s a class out there that’s right up your alley. Prenatal yoga Those exciting and anxiety-ridden months before giving birth can be hard to fill between low energy levels and exercise restrictions. Prenatal yoga calms the mind and relaxes the body and, when practiced correctly, it’s completely safe for mom and baby. According to Victoria Clarke, prenatal yoga instructor at Northern Colorado Women’s Clinic, the goal of prenatal yoga is to prepare a woman’s mind for birthing. “The focus is on the mind even more than the body,” says Clarke. “Prenatal yoga is about calming techniques and relaxation.” Like all types of exercise, prenatal yoga is what you make it. Krista Allen, director of Holistic Yoga School International, says pregnant women who are new to yoga should avoid using yoga to increase flexibility, which could result in torn ligaments or tendons, and should focus on breathing instead. Prana Yama breathing, practiced in yoga, is similar to the breathing technique, Lamaze, which has been used by women during labor for decades. In addition to teaching breathing techniques, Allen says that yoga can help move babies into optimal fetal position, and away from the back wall of the mother’s stomach cavity. Allen advises pregnant women to seek an experienced prenatal instructor before starting classes. 


Postnatal yoga The period after giving birth is one of the most stressful physically and mentally in a woman’s life. Luckily, there are many types of yoga classes that cater to the needs of new moms. “The big thing I hear a lot is core muscles,” says Jake Van Vonderen, business director of Old Town Yoga. “Yoga is great for bringing back that core stability and bringing back integrity to the hips and pelvic region.” Van Vonderen says gentle yoga classes are the way to go during the postnatal period. These classes involve comfortable poses being held for longer periods of time, in a more restorative manner. Christi Sullivan, owner of Loveland Yoga and Core Fitness, also focuses on reactivating core muscles after childbirth. “I am teaching people how to fire this [core] unit back up, and reeducating the muscles to come back on properly at the right time,” says Sullivan. Sullivan advises moms to wait the recommended 6 to 8 weeks after giving birth before beginning or resuming yoga exercises. Yoga for moms Moms with kids of all ages are using yoga to become better moms. Stress-relief, relaxation and improved immune health are just a few of the reasons moms turn to yoga. “For moms the meditation is really, really helpful I think,” says Allen. “The reason yoga is practiced is to prepare the body to relax. It helps to be centered and calm when being with children.” The physical benefits are numerous as well, and can be enjoyed no matter what your experience and ability levels are. “Yoga benefits all the different systems of the body, resulting in weight loss, muscle toning, balance, cardiovascular health, nervous and endocrine system improvements, and it also really helps to improve the im-

mune system,” says Allen. Restorative, slow paced classes are best for anyone just starting out. As you gain experience, classes utilizing more advanced poses for strength and cardiovascular health can be found at local yoga studios as well.

Resources Local yoga centers with experience in mom and family classes: Belle Yoga, Fort Collins, 970-222-1322 Gentle/restorative, kids yoga, prenatal Fort Collins Recreation 970-221-6655 Family yoga at Northside Aztlan Community Center Holistic Yoga School International, Fort Collins 970-222-6355 Gentle/restorative, private/semi-private prenatal Kids Crave Yoga, 720-732-1980, Kids yoga Loveland Yoga and Core Fitness Loveland 970-292-8313, Gentle/Restorative Northern Colorado Women’s Clinic, Fort Collins, 970-493-7442 Prenatal Old Town Yoga, Fort Collins 970-222-2777 Gentle/restorative, prenatal Om Ananda Yoga, Fort Collins, 970-581-8825 Gentle/restorative, kids yoga, mommy n me, prenatal.



Redefine the workout

Finding ways to fit in exercise despite a busy schedule Ly nn Utz man-Nichols


hether you’re a new mom who just had a baby or a veteran with older kids, it’s hard to find time to exercise. One solution is to redefine exercise and workouts. Take a practical approach to exercise Throw away the old notion that true exercise is going to the gym, attending a class, or going on a long, uninterrupted bike ride or run. Instead, fit exercise into stolen moments: Briskly walk the perimeter of the field as you wait for soccer practice to end; walk the stairs during your lunch break or do sit ups while you play with your baby on the rug. Don’t worry about broken time. Just aim for 30 minutes total exercise each day. Train yourself to look for small opportunities to sneak in exercise and simply exercise more days than not. When you do tasks, do them with more zest. It can be anything from feverishly raking to briskly walking the dog. If you’re a new mom, make your baby the focus of a work out. Do modified push-ups over your baby and touch noses or pop in a Pilates or yoga tape while she naps. The easiest way to start exercising is to simply walk. While walking might not be enough to tone your body, it’s a great way to start shedding pounds. Once you’ve established a walking routine, start adding in short jogs in the middle of your walk. Challenge yourself to make it to the next stop sign or to run the hill rather than walk. Each time, add a little more jogging. Before you know it, you’ll be jogging more than walking. A great trick to getting out the door is to simply tell yourself, ‘I only have to walk around the block.’ Once you get out you’ll most likely feel like going a little farther. Another good trick is to make exercise a social outing by enlisting a buddy to go on walks with or meet at the gym, pool or park on a set day/time each week. 


Combine cardio and strength exercises The best way to get back into shape is to not only move your body but strengthen it as well. That’s where weight-bearing exercises come in. While watching television or reading the paper do floor exercises or use small hand weights for bicep curls, chest flies, lunges and squats. Don’t think you have to do a full workout. If you just have five minutes, do three sets of 12 bicep curls and leave it at that. Choose another body part next time. Combine cardio workouts with strengthening workouts each week for best results. Focus on your core Pregnancy, new and old, does a number on our core muscles—the abdomen, lower back and pelvic muscles. New moms are often most concerned about reshaping their tummies, so they focus on sit-ups. But there are better

exercises out there. Whittle your middle and strengthen your core with: Bicycle Crunches—we all know what crunches look like. Here’s the bicycle version. On your back, raise your legs with knees bent. With hands gently clasped behind your head reach a shoulder toward an opposite hip, pumping legs in and out. Keep your arms nice and wide and vary your pace from slow to fast. Planks—if you’ve done Pilates or yoga, this is the one you dread, yet love. Stretch your body out, face down, resting on your elbows and toes. Keep a nice straight line on your back. Hold 15 seconds and repeat, pulling core muscles toward your belly button. Increase seconds, as you get stronger. Start right now. Set down this paper and do 20 jumping jacks or 10 wall pushups. Do it again in an hour and so on and watch these little efforts add up to a more fit you.

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Matters of the heart

Educate yourself on symptoms and prevention of heart disease K i m Sh a r p e


eart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that heart disease claims the lives of one in four women. For the past three decades, more women than men have died from heart disease. This might be surprising given most women say breast cancer is the disease they fear most. But the American Heart Association (AHA) says that “while 1 in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, 1 in 3 dies of heart disease.” If this is the case, why do so many women, and even their doctors, not recognize when something is the matter with their heart? According to Patricia A.Grady, PhD, RN, director of the National Institute of Nursing Research, “… women’s symptoms are not as predictable as men’s.” And women’s symptoms often are different than those experienced by men. Women usually don’t feel crushing chest pain, like an elephant is sitting on their chest, which is commonly reported by men. Women’s symptoms tend to be less dramatic and could be attributed to many other ailments or just being stressed or tired. “Symptoms such as indigestion, sleep disturbances, or weakness in the arms, which many of us experience on a daily basis, were recognized by many women in [a National Institute of Health or NIH] study as warning signals for AMI [or acute myocardial infarction],” said Jean McSweeney, PhD, RN, principal investigator of the study at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock. Because women’s heart attack symptoms tend to be more subtle than men’s, they can persist for a relatively long time before becoming acute enough to get attention. The NIH indicates women often experience physical symptoms related to heart attacks as much as one month or more before having an event. The symptoms most 10


commonly reported were unusual fatigue (70.6 percent), sleep disturbance (47.8 percent) and shortness of breath (42.1 percent). Another reason women may not recognize heart disease symptoms is that they too often ignore their own needs to care for those around them. Rekisha Harris, a 32-year-old heart attack survivor, said, “I think we all get used to doing too much and learning to ignore minor ailments or fatigue because that is what women are programmed to do...[But] we are the ones who live in our bodies each day. And we have to speak up when something doesn’t feel right.” There are several steps women and men can take to avoid developing heart disease in the first place, such as eating a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and limited fat and sugar. Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a nutritional scientist at Cornell University, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a top surgeon and head of the Breast Cancer Task Force at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic, have researched the effects of a plantbased diet on human health and claim that “most, if not all, of the so-called ‘diseases of affluence’ that afflict us can

be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods.” Regular exercise and an active lifestyle also are key to keeping our bodies functioning properly and help maintain a healthy weight. And habits such as cigarette smoking and excessive alcohol consumption should be kicked. According to the AHA, cigarette smoking is a major cause of coronary artery disease, which leads to heart attack. Drinking too much alcohol can raise the levels of some fats in your blood and can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.

Heart attack symptoms women shouldn’t ignore Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back. Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach. Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort. Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness. As with men, the most common heart attack symptom in women is chest pain or discomfort. But it’s important to note that women are more likely to experience the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain. *Taken from the American Heart Association website





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Clean living

Make your home a toxin-free zone L y n n U t z m a n N i c h o lS


oing down the path toward clean, chemical-free living can feel like an endless maze, with more being revealed at each turn. The more you know the more you realize you still need to learn. You go one direction and learn that heavy metals disrupt hormones and damage brains. This leads to the realization that your makeup contains lead and your deodorant aluminum. You go another way and learn that the ammonia product you use to clean your shower can trigger asthma attacks. Soon you are tired and want to stop and return to your ignorant ways. Take heed! Stay on the path toward pure living—your health and future welfare depend on it. The trick is keeping it simple. Here are a three, easy ways to get started and lower household toxins: Buy fragrance-free products Synthetic fragrances contain many toxic chemicals. For example, dryer sheets and laundry detergents are laden with known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. When you put on these fresh-smelling, “clean” clothes your body creates moisture making it easy for your skin to directly absorb chemicals. Commit to buying items that say fragrancefree or unscented that have organic or natural (pronounceable!) ingredients including laundry supplies, cleaning supplies, dish detergent, body products such as soaps, shampoos and perfumes, candles, air fresheners and more. Avoid products with heavy metals Did you know that our bodies store and build up heavy metals and their presence can lead to symptoms of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, allergies, muscular sclerosis, and other ailments, such as leaky gut and general fatigue? The most common metals we encounter are arsenic (pesticides), lead (old paint, PVC plastic toys, cosmetics), mercury (old fillings), and cadmium (fertilizers). While some of these 14


we ingest through our water and air, make it a practice to buy products free of metals such as cosmetics and aluminum-free deodorant. Do your research, as heavy metals do not have to be listed on many labels (go to www. to research specific products). Buy or make natural cleaning products We’ve been sold the idea that only chemicals really get our houses and bodies clean. Yet natural substances can disinfect just as well. Did you know that white vinegar kills 90 percent of all types of bacteria? It’s also a natural antifungal. Toxins are everywhere. There are about 80,000 synthetic chemicals registered for use in the U.S. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have concluded that 80 percent of all cancers are due to environmental factors such as chemical exposure. Cleaning products are riddled with chemicals; some so harsh they cause immediate breathing problems, like oven cleaners. Even the more mild-looking ones, like window cleaners with ammonia, have harmful effects. It’s easy

and cheap to mix up your own cleaners. Vinegar and water (1:10) can be used to wash and disinfect in several places, including floors and counters. It’s safe for all surfaces and is often recommended for hardwood floors. Use it in a stronger ratio (1:3) as a window cleaner. If you want some fragrance, squeeze in a half of a lemon or a few drops of an essential oil, such as lavender. It can even remove toilet rings and lime when used full strength (1:1) and left overnight. Other good natural cleaners include borax and baking soda. Baking soda can clean a drain—pour in 300ml baking soda followed by 1 L boiling water and 300 ml of white vinegar. According to Sally Bevan, author of Pure Living - How to Detox Your Home, the chemical reaction will foam and go to work on the inside of the pipes. Finally, Bevan suggests using borax to scrub and sanitize your bath. Mix 300 ml borax with 300ml salt and two tablespoons dried rosemary or lavender. Get a few squirt bottles and labels and mix up the above cleaners so they’re on hand when you need them. Making a few, new habits and conscious shopping choices will go a long way in keeping your home truly clean.





0213 Women's Health  

A guide to resources and information on women's health in Northern Colorado.