The art of healing body and mind

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Updated 24 December 2014
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The art of healing body and mind

Although this guide was published a decade ago, it is one of the best I have come across. It offers an excellent introduction to Pilates, yoga, meditation and stress relief techniques which help us unwind, increase our vitality, find serenity, and get the best out of every day.
Pilates is a system of exercises developed in the 1920s by a German, Joseph H. Pilates, hence its name. The good thing about Pilates is that you do not have to be an athlete to do it. The exercises are gentle and designed to put as little strain on the body as possible. This means that whether you are young or elderly, a fitness fanatic or someone who hasn’t exercised for years, you can benefit from Pilates. You do not need equipment either, you can practice Pilates in the comfort of your own house.
Pilates exercises have been designed to work the muscles of the body as efficiently as possible in minimum time. You do not have to spend hours every day in the gym. All you need is to practice two or three times a week. You can start with 10 minute sessions and gradually lengthen their duration.
You can practice Pilates at any time of the day. Some people prefer to exercise first thing in the morning, while others like to work out during the day or in the evening. Whatever you decide, the most important thing is to do it regularly and if you want to see steady results, you should aim for 15-minute sessions at least four times a week.
The exercises can help achieve better balance, muscle coordination, as well as increased stamina and flexibility. The aim of Pilates is to work different muscles to tone and condition the body, while developing correct breathing, good posture, and mental concentration and focus. The carefully designed exercises will help you to reduce stress and beat fatigue, as well as build up your self-confidence and heighten your sense of well-being. Although this book is not intended to be a substitute for exercising with a qualified Pilates instructor, it does show how to practice some of the basic Pilates exercises. The sequence of color photographs detailing all the postures of every single exercise is well done and as a result the reader feels compelled to actually do the exercises on his own.
One of the main differences between Pilates and many other forms of exercise is that it uses the power of the mind to help with the physical exercises. This mind-body approach has opened up a new realm of possibilities to create a framework for exercise that is harmonious, balanced and focused.
The second section introduces yoga which is an easy, undemanding and enjoyable way of becoming healthier and stronger. In addition, it can have a beneficial effect on a variety of medical conditions, such as high blood pressure. Recent scientific studies have shown that the regular practice of yoga decreases problems with breathing, digestion, and blood pressure, eliminates stress and tension, and helps people suffering with arthritis and arteriosclerosis.
There are many forms of yoga but the most popular one is hatha yoga, which concentrates on the physical body. It teaches us that gaining control over the body is the key to controlling the mind. The standing postures, for example, teach us how to stand with presence and self-assurance and how to remain centered in the moment. One of these postures is the Triangle Pose that involves an intense stretch all along the side of the body from your feet to the tips of the fingers. This movement tones the spinal nerves and the abdominal organs; it also improves the digestion, stimulates circulation and reduces pain in the lower back.
The Standing Forward Bend is another excellent pose invigorates the nervous system and takes nourishing blood to the brain; it also stretches the muscles at the back of the legs and lengthens the spine, improving suppleness and elasticity as well as toning the muscles on the back of the body.
The last section of the book offers practical advice to help overcome the pressures of modern life and it shows simple but effective ways of making relaxation an integral part of your everyday life. Relaxation can be defined as a set of easily acquired skills that will teach you how to fight the effects of stress and restore the balance between body and mind.
Breathing is the fastest and most efficient way to calm the mind and body. Stress is the cause of shallow breathing because when stress levels arise, we tend to use only the top third of the lungs. There is a drop in levels of carbon dioxide, which is needed to maintain blood acidity so that harmful toxins are not breathed out. This has a direct impact on the nerves and muscles, and may cause tiredness, palpitations and panic attacks. If you learn to breathe properly, you can benefit from a lower heart-rate, reduced blood pressure. Deeper breathing and a slower pulse are signs of good health. The deeper the breath, the more body tissues can be oxygenated and the stronger your heart is, the less often it needs to beat.
Visualization is a technique which uses the imagination to tackle stress. Through imagining landscapes, sounds and smells, you can use positive thinking to feel relaxed. Visualizing a deserted sandy beach with the soft sound of the waves and the gentle breeze and soaking up the atmosphere helps you feel truly relaxed.
Laughing not only makes you feel good but it is also good for your health. It lowers blood pressure, relaxes muscles, reduces pain, reduces stress hormones and triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller, and produces a general sense of well-being.
In order to stay relaxed you also have to accept that you are the only one who can control your actions. Fighting to control the world around you is an impossible task. Once you accept that life is full of obstacles, they become easier to deal with. You need to live “carpe diem” that is enjoying the pleasures of the moment without concern for the future. Small children have a wonderful ability to live in the moment because they are free of the burden of the past and have not yet learned how to fear the future. As adults we are so conditioned to think of a hundred things at once that we often find it difficult to break free.
Competition and striving for material success cause much of the stress in our society, and it is all too easy to forget the truly important things in our life. We have to take a few moments each day to think carefully about all the good things we have.
And finally, a good night’s sleep is the best way to recover from illness or cope with stress. When sleeping, your body will repair and regenerate itself, and your mind can resolve outstanding problems through dreams. However, the amount of sleep necessary for each individual to feel rested varies for each individual, and it decreases with age. Adults get by on seven to eight hours sleep and the elderly can function on five or six hours a night.
This book is a practical guide to relaxation techniques. When you find ways to look after yourself, you realize that it takes in fact very little efforts to be happy and relaxed. The introduction to Pilates and yoga are particularly good. Each of these sections is accompanied with excellent photographs and captions showing and explaining how to perform each movement in a clear manner. After looking at the detailed sequence of each exercise, the reader is motivated to try and reproduce it on his own.
The New Guide To Relaxation helps us not only master the art of living in harmony with ourselves but it also reminds us that relaxation is the most important key to health and well being.

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Israel cuts Gaza fishing limit after fire balloons

Updated 38 min 16 sec ago
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Israel cuts Gaza fishing limit after fire balloons

  • Israel reduced the fishing limit to 10 nautical miles
  • The countries agreed to 20 nautical miles in the Oslo accords of 1990s

JERUSALEM: Israel reduced the offshore fishing limits it imposes for vessels operating out of Gaza from Thursday after Palestinians floated balloons fitted with incendiaries over the border, officials said.
The cut came just two days after Israel restored the limits to those set in April ahead of an Israeli general election.
“A decision was taken this Wednesday evening to reduce the fishing zone off the Gaza Strip to 10 nautical miles until further notice,” said COGAT, the defense ministry unit that oversees such regulations.
“The decision was taken after the launch of incendiary balloons from Gaza toward Israel,” it added.
Palestinians in Gaza have frequently floated balloons fitted with firebombs over the border to damage Israeli property and have in the past succeeded in setting fire to large areas of farmland.
Israel banned fishing completely when two days of deadly violence erupted earlier this month, but lifted the ban with a restriction of up to 12 nautical miles following a truce.
The 15-nautical-mile limit that had been restored on Tuesday was the largest allowed in years by Israel, which has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in the enclave and has blockaded it for more than a decade.
But human rights activists note that it still falls short of the 20 nautical miles agreed under the Oslo accords of the 1990s.
Israeli authorities have not said whether the 15-mile limit was one of the understandings reached as part of the May 6 cease-fire in Gaza but Israel media reported on Monday that it was.
The additional nautical miles are important to Gaza fishermen as they bring more valuable, deeper water species within reach.
Four Israeli civilians and 25 Palestinians, including at least nine militants, were killed in this month’s exchanges across the border.