The art of healing body and mind

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Updated 24 December 2014

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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For Iman Jodeh, being Muslim and a progressive Democrat go hand in hand

Updated 7 min 55 sec ago

For Iman Jodeh, being Muslim and a progressive Democrat go hand in hand

  • Iman Jodeh, the Democratic nominee for Colorado’s House of Representatives District 41, speaks to Arab News

NEW YORK CITY: In the 1980s and 1990s, Colorado’s Muslim community was made up of fewer than 30,000 people, and there were only five mosques in the entire state.

“It was really small, but we were happy,” said Iman Jodeh, the Democratic nominee for Colorado’s House of Representatives District 41.

Ever since she was a child, on the first day of Ramadan, Jodeh has sent teachers a letter, written on the mosque letterhead, saying: “For the next 30 days, Muslims will be fasting. So if your Muslim students seem lethargic by the end of the day, please understand why.”

Today, there are over 100,000 Muslims in Colorado.

(Photo: Supplied, Iman Jodeh)

“Those Muslims are starting to make up a big voting bloc, a big portion of our legislators’ constituency. And it is incumbent upon those legislators to make sure they are listening and taking into account the views of the constituents, regardless of their race, creed or religion. And I constantly remind them of that,” Jodeh told Arab News by phone.

The Democrat hopeful grew up in the shadow of two Gulf wars, and shortly after the 9/11 attacks, the Afghan and the Iraqi wars. She remembers the anonymous phone calls at dinnertime threatening to kill her father Mohammed, and recalls her mother, who wears a hijab, being frightened to leave the house.

“It changed my life. In the wake of 9/11, I was a sophomore in college and had not declared my major yet. Two days later, I was a political science major and, again, speaking to crowds having to defend my religion.”

Being a first-born, first-generation American, with perfect English, understanding the cultural nuances of America, I had to walk that line of also understanding the Arab heritage and Islamic culture and nuances, and marrying those two to be able to communicate the need of being an Arab Muslim American woman.

Iman Jodeh

Jodeh, a trained political scientist, spent the years following those events advocating for the Muslim community and the Middle East, “the most misunderstood region of the world, and the people who call it home.” She taught about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the University of Denver, held cultural events about the region and discussed Islam.

The most effective results, according to Jodeh, came via her non-profit “Meet the Middle East,” which invited Americans to take an “educational immersion journey” to the region to meet various stakeholders there, from Arab Bedouin to Palestinians living in Nablus, and both right-wing and left-leaning Israelis.

The travelers were invited to spend time in Jordan, Egypt, and sometimes Iraq and Morocco.

“From the Berbers of Morocco to the Kurds of Iraq, all these cultural and regional nuances must be understood before you can even attempt to understand the complexities of the conflict, and the kaleidoscope that make up the Middle East,” Jodeh said.

(Photo: Supplied, Iman Jodeh)

“There are things we can highlight to prove to the world that the Muslim world is one of the most fascinating places to be: There are nine women heads of state in the Muslim world, and the US has yet to see our first. It was Arabs and Muslims who discovered contagion; Arabs and Muslims who discovered latitude and longitude.

“Some of the first and oldest libraries were in Alexandria and Baghdad. And one of the oldest universities was in Morocco, founded by a woman.

“The more we can show that to Americans, the more we’re going to see further understanding and commitment to ending violence in the Middle East, as well as asymmetrical policies from the US and how we look at the region.”

Jodeh said her love for Palestine is ingrained. She was never introduced to it. She did not have a first language: It was Arabic and English her entire life. She was never just American. She was Palestinian American.

I am running to make the American dream a reality for everyone. The American dream has become harder and harder to realize. It is not a trite or cliched phrase for me. I am someone who is the product of a family who came here to realize that dream and with the cost of living, the lack of health care, our climate being threatened, our lack of criminal justice reform, civil rights being accosted... These are all things that are hurting the American dream. This is un-American, this is not the Colorado that I want to see.

Iman Jodeh

“This is my identity, I will never abandon this narrative, because I feel I have an obligation to all Palestinians everywhere to advocate when I can.

“The age of learning, that renaissance period is coming. But we have to get through our dark ages before we can get there. And, unfortunately, that is what we are witnessing today in the Middle East. And it’s heartbreaking.

“But the majority of people in the Middle East are under the age of 35, people like myself. We are just learning how to step outside dictatorship and implement something that we have known our entire lives to be true, which is democracy.

(Photo: Supplied, Iman Jodeh)

“Democracy is not a concept that is new to the Arab world. Shariah law has paved the way for democratic processes like social welfare,” she said.

To Jodeh, being a Muslim and a progressive Democrat complement each other. She gained her knowledge of Islam from her father, a Palestinian immigrant who co-founded the largest mosque in the Rocky Mountain region, and took his daughter with him when he taught or gave speeches on Islam. That put her in contact with scholars whom she still consults today.

In Aurora, a city she calls home and “one of the best and most diverse cities in the nation, a true reflection of America,” Jodeh has been working at the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, where she speaks, often as a Muslim voice, on contentious bills, such as Equal Pay for Equal Work.

(Photo: Supplied, Iman Jodeh)

“I testified that, 1,400 years ago, God came down with a verse in the Qur’an: ‘I never fail to reward any worker among you, for any work you do, be you male or female — you are equal to one another.’

“It was ironic to me as a woman following a religion that is often deemed as primitive, that this was prescribed to the people 1,400 years ago.

“In Islam, there’s a chapter in the Qur’an called ‘Al-Nisa’ or ‘The Woman.’ There is not a chapter called ‘The Man.’

“What’s beautiful about the Qur’an is that it grants women rights not granted to women in the West until the 1920s,” Jodeh said.

“The fact that those rights were laid out for women so early on is proof of the sanctity of a woman in Islam: Her right to divorce, to own land, to take part in government, to own her own business. These were all things that have been practiced and continue to be practiced.”

The Democratic Party primaries in Colorado will take place on June 30.