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ON THE CHEAP! 7 no-cost health hits


What’s niggling at your health?  Put the credit card away, there’s a free fix for that

PROBLEM You’re anxious TRY The yogic vitality breath Leading stress management expert and yoga teacher Howard Napper, creator of the Stress Buster app (from iTunes) says a yogic breathing technique known as Kabalabhati breathing is the yogi’s secret weapon to combat tiredness.  It’s a series of short exhalations with passive inhalations that clarify your mind, lift energy and focus through increased oxygen and blood flow.  It’s a great morning wake-up call.  Sit up straight cross-legged or kneeling on the floor or on a chair.  Place one hand on your abdomen and notice how the breath moves back and forth.  With the mouth lightly shut, quickly contract the abdomen back as you exhale so the air is forced through the nostrils, then quickly release it in order to let the belly naturally rebound out as you inhale.  Do 20 – 25 rounds to start, and then gradually increase the amount and pace over time so you can practice up to five minutes regularly.

PROBLEM You’re fuzzy – with a deadline TRY an acupressure trick Research has found that acupuncture can stimulate the nervous system and help alleviate stress and promote relaxation.  But we’re guessing you won’t have time to book a pampering session during this busy time.  Acupressure is said to work in a similar way, says acupuncturist Lisa Sherman of the British Acupuncture Council. For 4pm fuzz-brain, press on the crown of your head with your fingers.  Place the left thumb on your left ear and your right thumb on your right ear.  Move your fingertips toward the top of your head and feel for a hollow near the top of your head – the crown. Use a thumb, fingertip or knuckle to press for two to three minutes.

PROBLEM Your head hurts TRY water Next time you get a headache, drink a pint or two of water before you opt for a painkiller. Some experts believe painkillers actually cause chronic headaches when used regularly, but research found that people who increased their daily water intake from half a litre to two litres daily reduced the frequency and severity of headaches by up to 95 per cent.  Dehydration is one of the key triggers for headaches and migraines, says Professor Andrew Dowson, consultant neurologist and director of Headache Services at King’s College London.  Not drinking enough fluid, exercise, central heating and salty foods can all speed up fluid loss.

PROBLEM your stuffed to-do list TRY single tasking A little mutli-tasking is fine, says Professor Paul Gilbert, psychologist and author of The Compassionate Mind (Constable $35.99 from  ‘But too much causes people to feel overwhelmed and exhausted.’  Multi-tasking he explains, exacerbates our dopamine systems – dopamine is a brain chemical linked with rewards, achievement and success – leaving us in constant need of stimulation.  ‘Being more present in the moment – something psychologists call mindfulness – is the antidote to multi-tasking and can help increase focus and energy levels at work, at home, even during a conversation,’ he says.  If you feel exhausted and pulled in every direction, stop and focus on your out breath, counting to four on an inhalation and to eight on an exhalation,  suggests Professor Gilbert.   ‘By lengthening the out breath you quickly get a sense of groundedness,’ he says.  ‘This stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for calming us down while also stimulating blood flow to re-energise the body in a healthy way,’ he explains.

PROBLEM your back TRY some Alexander Technique If you suffer from niggling spinal tension take ten minutes to reduce it with the Semi-Supine pose? This Alexander Technique exercise immediately removes pressure from the spine, releasing tension in the back, neck, shoulders and pelvis, according to Noel Kingsley, author of Free Yourself from Back Pain (Kyle Cathie £14.99). Done regularly – ideally daily – it can be beneficial for back pain.

  1.  Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet the width of your shoulders and about 18 inches from your bottom.
  2. Rest your head on two or three book, about three inches off the floor
  3. Lay your hands on your tummy, elbows rested on the floor. Now think of melting as you lay there, gently breathing for up 5-20 minutes.

PLUS Backcare UK have a free app (from iTunes) containing fact sheets, exercise videos and advice from leading back pain experts including physiotherapists and personal trainer.

PROBLEM You’re knackered TRY legs up the wall  If eight hours sleep is one of your wildest fantasies, a quick ten minute session in a restorative yoga pose may be the answer. For quick restoration, try Viparita Karani, sometimes called Legs Up The Wall Pose.  Staying in this pose for 15 minutes allows the mind to recover quickly from lack of sleep because it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which is the section of the brain that promotes regeneration and rest.

  1. Place a rolled up towel about four inches thick a couple of inches away from the wall parallel to wall.
  2. To get into the pose, lie on your side over the towel in the foetal position, so your buttocks are against the wall (with a cushion under your head if you wish).
  3. Turn onto your back so you face the ceiling, then lift both legs up against the wall so feet face the ceiling – you should feel secure, as though the whole pelvis is supported by the towel or bolster.
  4. Place the arms out at 45 degree angles and allow the pelvis to relax, so that the weight of the legs drops into the hips and the body feels completely supported by the bolster or rolled towel and the floor. Close the eyes, breathe evenly and gently into your belly and stay for up to 15 minutes.

PROBLEM you’re stressed TRY Classic FM  Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, switch on the radio  and get that dial on Classic FM or BBC Radio 3. A recent experiment took panicky subjects and played them Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major three times. The result? Stress-induced anxiety, heart rate and blood pressure all significantly decreased. ‘There is a clear neurological reaction to listening to music,’ says Dr Catriona Morrison, a psychology lecturer at the University of Leeds. Classical music in particular can quickly relax the nervous system, but rather than having it on the background, take five minutes when you feel stressed, close your eyes and immerse yourself in the sound.











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