Wednesday, May 9, 2007

A Display Of Yoga Skills

Supple: A participant demonstrating one of the postures during the competition.

Over 200 take part in inaugural posture competition

THE Malaysian Yoga Society held its first Open Yoga Asana (Posture) Competition recently with more than 200 people taking part in various categories.

The competition was a chance to witness a discipline performed at its highest level.

Each competitor had to demonstrate five Asana (Yoga posture) of their choice from a minimum of three traditional Asana groups. The five Asana must be completed within four minutes with each full Asana to be held steadily for at least five seconds before proceeding to the next Asana.

Among those who participated in the competition were S, Lalitha and P. Devasri, both 12, from SJK (T) Elfingain in Damansara Utama.

They started yoga lessons at their school two years ago.

"Yoga postures are not really difficult if you practise daily," said Lalitha who won the silver medal together with her schoolmates in the team category.

For best friends Yulia Borodina and Yana Cheryapina from Sekolah Sri Acmar in Bandar Baru Klang, it was their first time competing in such an event.

"I have taken part in dancing and singing competitions before.

"My mother taught us Yoga personally and encouraged us to compete here," said 14-year-old Yulia who previously lived in Russia.

Proceeds from the competition and the jumble sale held outside the competition hall will be channelled to the Malaysian Yoga Society Fund for the building of a Yoga home in the Klang Valley.

According to Malaysian Yoga Society (MYS) treasurer Tay Slew Leng, the society hopes to raise RM500,000 this year from various other fund-raising projects to build the home.

"The home will be able to house about 15 underprivileged children and we will provide them with education as well as Yoga classes," said Tay.

Tay also added that the home which will be ready next year will be a place for the less fortunate children to learn Yoga free of charge.

At present MYS volunteers conduct flee Yoga classes at SJK(T) Kinrara in Puchong, SJK(T) Effingham in Damansara Utama, SJK(T) Sungai Renggam in Shah Alam, National Cancer Society, Karuna lllham Girls' Home, Ambu lllham Boys' Home and Desa Mentari in Old Klang Road.


Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Straight Forward Guide

YOGA is Yoga is Yogacharini Florence Thomas’ first book – a simple and straightforward guide on how yoga asanas or postures can help alleviate common ailments and conditions.

Thomas, who has been practising and teaching yoga for more than three decades, was a columnist for a local daily for several years. She also occasionally contributes articles to various magazines and publications.

However, it was the encouragement of her students and family that made her think about writing a book.

"I have been teaching yoga for about 30 years and many of my students are now based overseas. They urged me to write a book which they could carry with them, and refer to should they forget certain postures which they had learnt," Thomas explains.

There are about 120 different postures in the self-published Yoga is Yoga: from postures to strengthen the abdomen, chest and lungs, to those that can lessen the pain in arthritic fingers; postures that help with asthma, and bladder and urinary problems, and even those that can ease sexual tension and frustration!

Digestion problems? Try the complete bow posture illustrated on page 50. Feeling hot? Check out the "cooling breaths" Thomas highlights (p48). Suffering from headaches? The "arms beyond the head" posture might be just what you are looking for (p84).

The basis of yoga, she explains, is breathing or pranayarna. "We all breathe, of course. But most of us do not know how to breathe properly ... we take shallow breaths. In yoga, breath training helps you breathe rhythmically from your diaphragm. This will help those doing the asanas (postures).

"Just by breathing properly, you can alleviate problems like migraines or jetlag," she says.

Thomas also includes several breathing exercises in Yoga is Yoga, namely the Tidal Breath (for asthma), lobular (breath control), the crocodile posture (breath training), the knee-raise position (proper breathing technique), and the fish posture (breathing difficulties).

However, given that breathing is fundamental in yoga, she could have perhaps focussed more on pranayama.

The book does not dive right into the different asanas. Instead, the author begins with a brief explanation on yoga, followed by another chapter on nutrition and diet control, from a yoga point of view, of course.

A vegetarian herself, Thomas writes: "Nutrition and diet to a yogi is the eating of small quantities of food that require a minimum expenditure of energy for digestion. This will give the body a feeling of lightness and well-being, revitalising the whole system and simultaneously providing proper nourishment and maximum life force."

She goes on to explain that "natural" food (which can be eaten in its original state) is best, while food that has been refined, canned, preserved, aged, smoked and fumigated should be avoided.

But readers should not be alarmed and think that they have to alter their diet immediately. "These ideas should be taken as a guiding principle as a sudden change in eating habits or (switch to) vegetarianism may be too radical," she writes.

Thomas also cautions that executing more complex yoga postures without instruction may be harmful for novices. As such, she has only included basic and simple postures in Yoga is Yoga.

"The postures in this book are very simple ... most people can do them +easily. However if you are not well, consult a doctor or a yoga instructor first."

Each asana is illustrated with images of models (all of them yoga practitioners, including her son, who also teaches) performing each pose.

There are also clear instructions on how to execute each pose, as well as explanations about each posture and how it improves or alleviates a particular condition.

Yoga is Yoga is a functional guide on basic but useful asanas. The explanations are lucid and therefore easy for novices to understand. However, as technique is very important in yoga, it may be advisable for those whose only encounter with exercise is a walk to their bed to consult a reputable teacher first. – By S. Indramalar


Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Doctor Is In!

From eye care for frequent computer users to the right kind of vitamins to take, the Pearl team sits down to a question and answer session with a general practitioner.

We tend to concentrate on the matter at hand when we pay a visit to our friendly GPs. However, we all have questions we would ply a doctor with if we had one handy. Even with the information available on the internet, there's nothing as solid (or as safe) as getting advice from a true blue professional. The following are some of your questions which have been answered by Dr Maya from Poliklinik Ludher Bhullar.

How can I know my children are eating right? Is a fat child healthier than a skinny child? My daughter eats a lot of vegetables, fruits, meat, rice, ice cream and fast food, and drinks plenty of milk, but she doesn’t grow fat. (Mohd Faisal. Damansara Jaya)
Perhaps your daughter is one of those fortunate ones who can afford to eat without gaining weight, which could be due to genetics. However, children and young people are naturally active and this helps burn a lot of calories. This could well change later on in life when calorie intake exceeds activity. That is when people begin to put on weight.

Can you lose weight without sweating and feeling tired (apart from swimming)? (Khoo Thiam Hock, Ampang)
The simple answer is no. A balanced and not too excessive diet would probably be the best solution. Swimming is a very good exercise in that it exercises the entire body and yet proves to be relaxing as well. Running would exercise the lungs but is certainly not the most enjoyable of activities for many people.

My mother has been suffering from diabetes for about 10 years. How do I avoid diabetes despite the fact that I may have a predisposition to it? Is there some specific lifestyle or routine that I should follow? Please suggest the best diet. (Dr Noormah Said, Taman Universiti)
It is true that you may also be prone to diabetes, but even people without a family history of diabetes can succumb to it. One precaution is to regularly check your blood sugar level. Also, do abstain from excessive oil and sugar intake, especially as age catches up. It would also be helpful to discuss diabetes with your mother and perhaps learn from her experience, which could be beneficial both physically and psychologically.

My daughter is eight years plus. She always wets her bed at night especially when she has had soup or cold drinks during dinner. Sometimes she still wets her bed even if she doesn’t have any soup or cold drink. Please advise me on how to help her. (Leow Pek Hong, Kepong)
A preliminary suspicion of mine is worms. Perhaps she may need to be treated for it. It may also be due to her bedroom being too cold, presumably caused by air-conditioning. Check to see if that could be a cause. Do so by increasing the temperature and monitoring if she continues to wet her bed.

I’m a computer user. I would like to know what vitamins or supplements I should take to maintain good eyesight, as my eye tired easily when using the computer. (Lee Lai Lai, Ipoh)
Experts generally recommend that regular computer users take a 10-minute break for every hour that they are using the computer. The eyes become tired mainly due to focusing on a fixed area for pro-longed periods and so eye exercises, such as looking around, would be beneficial.

I work in the office and sometimes feel pressured at my job. This gives me stress and I get tired. Sometimes I don’t eat enough fruit or drink enough water. Can you recommend a healthy diet and the right vitamins to make me feel more energetic and to beat the strees? (Tiffany Ang, Ampang)
Various multi-vitamins can be purchased from pharmacies, and vitamin B-complex in particular is believed to be helpful for stress. However, a balanced diet and other forms of reducing stress at work are always the more preferable solution. It is certainly not recommended for you to supplement your diet solely with pills.

My mom is 53 years old and she has joint paints. She suffers from body aches and emotionally she is not stable. Should she have more calcium? What should I do when she has joint paint?
There are many causes for aches and pains, especially when one gets older. Thus, it is very much recommended that a doctor's advice be sought.

I do not have skin problem. However, a year ago, I found a few red sports on my thighs and legs. These have since spread. I’ve seen a skin specialist and the doctor said that I’m allergic to alcohol. But even when I do not consume alcohol the problem arises. (Oh Teen Teen, Wangsa Maju)
You probably have a skin allergy, which might not necessarily be to alcohol. You should consult a doctor so that tests can be done to determine the particular cause of the allergy. A visit to a dermatologist would probably be appropriate.

My cholesterol is on the high side. For the past 12 months I have spent 45 minutes a day from Mondays to Saturdays and an hour on Sundays jogging. However, my cholesterol has not gone down. I have a BMI of 21.1 consume a lot of fruit juice and vegetables, and have Omega Fish Oil everyday. Please advise. (Lee Woon Fong)
Cholesterol levels are not only determined by one's diet, but also by genetics, and so there is only a limited amount that one can do to reduce it. While there is no cure, you have done well to control it. Regular exercise would definitely pay off in the long run. Another tip is to consume less beef and mutton.

My eyes always feel sticky and uncomfortable. My eyesight is blurry, and there is stickiness in the eyeball area. What am I suffering from? (Siti Hajar Bt Mohd Yusof, Johor)
For ailments relating specifically to the eye, an ophthalmologist would be the best person to advise you.

Since giving birth, I’ve been suffering from back pain and body aches. My mother said this is because I didn't take proper care of myself during confinement. Is there any way to reduce the pain without taking painkillers?
You could perhaps review your daily routine, and reduce certain manual activities (such as the more taxing household chores) that might have caused or even worsened your aches and pain. Apart from that, painkillers are probably the most effective method.

My one years old daughter is a reluctant eater. She is quite skinny. How can I help her? (Cherrie Cheah, Pandan Perdana)
Multi-vitamins, and in particular iron, could help boost appetite. Even so, it is probably not recommended for toddlers and young children to consume too much vitamins or medication - especially if she has a balanced diet for her age, as advised by a paediatrician or your GR Toddlers often out-grow this phase in time.

Should taking supplements be compulsory? Are they worth buying? (Murniza Bt Jaafar, Pandan Jaya)
In principle, a balanced diet along with sufficient exercise is always the best way to lead a healthy life. While it is acceptable to supplement one's diet with vitamins every now and then, it should not be seen as a method of dietary replacement. Indeed, one should also exercise caution when purchasing vitamins. Buy preferably from the more respectable pharmaceutical companies. And remember, excessive intake is potentially counter-productive!

"A balanced diet along with sufficient exercise is always the best way to lead a healthy life."


Are You In The Zone?

Our love/hate relationship with food has spawned a billion-dollar industry with diet plans being invented faster than you can shed the kilos! The good news is with so many options now available, you are bound to find something that suits your physiology or lifestyle needs. The flip side though is some of these diets can cause serious, long-term health problems. By Elaine Tan

Designed by Dr. Robert C. Atkins in the 1970s, the Atkins Diet is a type of low - carbohydrate, high-protein diet that allows the consumption of proteins and fats but restricts the intake of carbohydrates. The diet is supposed to result in quick, massive and sustained weight loss, increased energy levels and good health.

But medical professionals and nutritionists have expressed concerns that it is lacking in essential nutrients and contains too much animal products and saturated fats, which could lead to health problems such as heart disease, stroke, certain cancers and osteoporosis. The diet also strains the kidneys because it causes ketosis, a situation where the body burns protein (muscles) and fats in the absence of glucose, producing excess toxic ketones (chemicals that the body makes when there is not enough insulin in the blood and it must break down fat for its energy).

Supporters, on the other hand, say the diet merely excludes foods that induce overproduction of insulin, the main cause of weight gain, but allows most nutrient-rich food. They also argue ketosis is not dangerous because the body regulates ketone production.

Will you lose weight? Yes. Is it healthy and viable in the long-term? Well, the jury is still at odds about this. While lots of people have lost weight on this diet, there is a lack of widely accepted research reports to sanction the diet plan, plus many health bodies, including the American Heart Association, do not recommend it.

WHAT IT IS Get in 'The Zone' with the Hollywood 'it Diet'. According to Dr. Barry Sears, PhD., food is like a drug that affects the production of insulin, and insulin in turn affects weight, moods and mental alertness. The Zone Diet is supposed to harness this drug-like effect through an eating plan comprising 40% carbohydrates, 30% fat and 30% protein.

Essentially it is a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet, but, unlike the Atkins plan, it allows the dieter to eat all types of carbohydrates provided it is in the right amount and balanced with lean protein and fats. So, for example, if you have refined carbohydrates (classified as unfavourable) like pasta, you eat less of it compared with if you chose a favourable carbohydrate, like broccoli. The plan has a scientific calculation method using blocks to determine how much you eat; there is also a simplified version using your palm and fist.

There are no major arguments against this one except that it is too complicated to follow. Who counts blocks, weight or size of their food portions before eating, unless you're a Hollywood superstar and your career depends on it? Attempt only if you are truly committed and detail-oriented or if you can afford to have expensive special bars, shakes and meals that keep you in 'The Zone' at all times.


Macrobiotics is actually not a diet plan but a way of life based on an understanding of the rhythm, ebb and flow of nature. It is founded on ancient Far Eastern philosophy and attempts to balance the Yin and Yang forces of life and food. Very Zen.

The Macrobiotic Diet is low in fat, high in complex carbohydrates and fiber, and is nearly cholesterol-free. A standard diet consists of whole grains, seasonal vegetables (cooked or raw), protein foods, sea vegetables, soups, fruits, seeds, nuts and drinks. Foods are either Yin (cool) or Yang (hot) and must be balanced; certain foods like meat, cheese and eggs are banned because they are considered too Yang. Foods should also be locally grown instead of imported (to improve a person's adaptability to his/her immediate surroundings) and reflect seasonal changes, one's local
environment as well as individual needs.

Skeptics say the diet may cause vitamin and mineral deficiency, particularly that of calcium, vitamin B12 and protein, but practitioners argue that it has alternative sources of nutrients that are as effective, if not richer than, animal products. For example, in place of chicken, the Macrobiotic
diet has beans, tofu, tempeh (a type of cultured soybean cake) and miso (a nutritious rich, salty broth and staple food in Japan) - all rich sources of protein.

In terms of weight loss and control, the Macrobiotics diet is highly effective. It promotes overall health and may play a role in inhibiting certain cancers and diseases thanks to its rich soy content. However, anyone contemplating the diet should first understand that it means a complete change
in lifestyle, not just dietary habits – your outlook on life, the way you prepare food, even the way you chew has to change!

It's amazing what 'inspired' minds come up with in the quest for slimmer silhouettes! Here are some truly strange diets that apparently work:

~ The Cabbage Diet is a seven-day do-it-yourself plan that lets you eat as much cabbage soup as you want plus certain combinations of fruits, vegetables and meat (in limited quantities). It works in the short term but not because cabbage has fat burning properties as claimed. Instead, any weight loss is the natural result of denying the body of most solids and junk foods. Viable as a short-term break from junk foods, impractical in the long-term because it is lacking in essential vitamins and minerals.

~ The Grapefruit Diet is even more nutritionally deficient. Basically all you eat for 21 days are grapefruits, eggs, some vegetables, toast and tea or coffee without milk. While grapefruit is fat-free, low in calories and rich in vitamin C, it does not in itself make a complete diet. A definite no-no; the diet does not have sufficient iron, calcium and vitamins.

~ Then there is the Caveman Paleolithic Diet that recommends we eat like our caveman ancestors! It suggests since there were no overweight cavemen we should emulate their diet of fruits, vegetable and lots of animal protein to live longer, lose weight and be healthy. The diet recommends way too much meat consumption and has no scientific support. Besides, cavemen usually died young so who knows what diseases caused by dietary problems they might have suffered?

There are no quick fixes in spite of what most diet fads will have you believe. Healthy, sustained weight loss comes via a combination of healthy eating and living, as well as exercise coupled with discipline and control.

The best diet is balanced, low in saturated fats and refined sugars, and moderate in protein. Contrary to popular perception perpetuated by diet trends, carbohydrates are not the enemy - refined, processed carbohydrates such as white bread and white rice are. Fats, another taboo food group, are also not all bad; unsaturated fats from vegetables, nuts and fish are good diet nutrients. Add to this good eating habits like eating regular meals in moderate amounts and counting the calories (i.e. limiting your intake of junk food), and you're on your way to relatively painless weight loss.

Exercise is something you simply can't avoid. Studies consistently identify a connection between exercise and weight loss maintenance. Regular exercise builds up the metabolism so more calories are burned. It increases fat oxidation and dramatically improves health. There are no particular activities that one must perform, but the best regimen for weight loss would be a combination of cardiovascular exercise and resistance training.

Most diet plans, including fads, work because they are designed to manipulate the body into perceived or actual weight loss, but the best plans are the ones that also add to health and vitality, and viably maintain weight loss. Any attempt to adopt a diet plan should always be discussed with a dietician/nutritionist; as for that two to three pounds you're trying to shed, nothing works better than a balanced diet and exercise.

"Get a plan prescribed by a trained professional and which is suited to your unique medical history, condition, metabolic rate and other factors. Otherwise, follow a balanced diet that includes a variety of food from all major food groups. People who consistently follow such a diet will almost always lose weight and keep it off," says Peggy Tang, a dietician at a private hospital.

"Each person is different so it is not possible to say that one diet works for all, which is the assumption of diet fads. I do not recommend following a particular diet just because it has worked for someone you know. Something that works for one person could have adverse effects on another."

"Dieting is a long-term practice for health so it should not cramp your lifestyle or cause you to feel deprived, which is what happens with yo-yo short-term diet plans," she continues. According to Peggy, the key is balance, "Have your nasi lemak if you want to as long as you also eat your daily portions of fruits and greens. Balance your food groups, cooking methods, portions.., it is these daily choices that will help maintain your health and manage your weight."

~ A self-professed 'perpetual dieter', 26-year-old Wai Een* has tried almost every diet plan, among them a variation of Atkins and The Zone, low-calorie, low-fat and vegetarian diets, and a strange fruit and soft drink combination. She lost a shocking 15kg on the low-calorie diet as a result of taking things to extremes by consuming only 550 calories a day. During that period, her hair became brittle, she looked haggard and tired, and felt cold all the time. These days she maintains a
healthier weight with a relaxed low carbohydrate diet combined with exercise.

~ Barbara, a mother of two in her 30s, went on a prescribed low-carbohydrate, moderate-meat and high-vegetable content diet. Coupled with slimming treatments she was able to lose about seven kilograms in just two months; her weight has hardly fluctuated since. Now she uses the diet as a short-term plan to control her weight particularly after festive periods. She says the diet does not cause any side effects but she did crave other foods at times.

~ In the interest of privacy, names have been changed.

~ Supporters of The Zone Diet read like a list of America's Who's Who- Demi Moore, Sarah Jessica Parker, Rene Zellwegger, Cindy Crawford, even former president Bill Clinton and 'The Zone' poster girl, Jennifer Aniston. Aniston purportedly lost 30 pounds on The Zone Diet (combined with running) and has recommended it to hubby Brad Pitt and Friends co-stars Matt Le Blanc and Matthew Perry.

~ Macrobiotics is also not lacking in the Celeb department, the most famous practitioners being Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna. Other devotees, include Barbra Streisand, John Travolta, Nicole Kidman and Yoko Ono.

~ What are the secrets of Halle Berry, Angelina Jolie, Drew Barrymore and Beyonce Knowles... full-figured women who are proud of their curves? Berry, a diabetic, sticks to a strict diet of chicken, fish, vegetables and brown rice, which she combines with cardio and weight training to tone her body. Angelina Jolie reportedly chose real food like eggs and bacon, and fitness training, over diet plans to get in shape for the filming of Tomb Raider 2. Drew Barrymore is a committed vegetarian while Beyonce hits the gym with girlfriends and consults a nutritionist.


Get Strong & Sexy!

Fit Flash: Wantto work those muscles more? Go for it! Webbe suggests adding in a pump class here or there.
You're finally up to speed with your cardio workouts and stretch exercises. So how come your arms, legs and abs are still wanting in the definition department? It's because you haven't treated them to muscle training yet! Edited by Katrina Lawrence

You know it by now: Weights are an essential part of a get-fit or shape-up workout gramme. It's actually not about getting an Arnie-bod. The just-right number and intensity will increase your muscle mass, which in turn will ignite your metabolism so that your body can start blitzing its fat sources faster (meaning you can chomp a couple more nachos without worrying). "Too many women focus on cardio-only exercising," says exercise scientist Lincoln Webbe, "but they don't appreciate how resistance work can get them their desired benefits sooner." Weight work is also an ideal way to "carve up" the body, adding some sexy definition.

Webbe devised a special resistance workout with the goal of all-over conditioning in mind. In a month, you should be seeing results. This series of muscle moves is designed to be undertaken as a circuit (and in this specific order). Fewer rest periods between exercises also keeps your heart pumping, which is vital at the beginning of a new fitness programme. Do have a rest of about 20 seconds before moving on to the next exercise.

Each exercise is done for 40 seconds. Begin with the minimum amount of repetitions as listed with each move. Gradually, the more you can do within the time frame, the better. Speed is really a great way to intensify your workout. There are also other ways. For instance, hand weights are really worth investing in - start out with 2kg to 3kg dumbbells. Another way to intensify your resistance workout is to increase the number of circuits.

For the more advanced, start out with two circuits; beginners should stick to one. By the third week, you should all be attempting an extra circuit - and by the fourth week, aim to be breezing through three circuits, at east.

Before you start, "make sure you keep your abdominal muscles pulled in when you do all of these exercises; it helps to stabilise you," says Webbe. By sucking in your tummy, you will also be promoting core strength, better posture and great back health.

1. Step-ups
Stand in front of a step or a stable box. With your right foot, step up on the step, then bring your left foot up so that you're standing on the middle of the step. Reverse the movement, taking your right foot down first, followed by your left. Repeat, this time stepping up first with your left foot. Minimum: 15 steps per leg. Make it harder: Quicken pace; use hand weights; take higher steps.

2. Straddle Step
Stand with legs on either side of your step or box. Step up with right foot, then bring left foot up to stand directly on top. Reverse down, taking your right foot down, then the left. Next, repeat – but starting with the left foot. Minimum: 30 straddles (15 starting with the right side, 15 with the left). Make it harder: Increase repetitions; hold hand weights; make step higher.
3.Bicep curl: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding your hand weights with arms down by your side and palms facing forwards. Keeping your arms steady from the elbows to the shoulder, curl your weights up to your chest, then slowly lower weights back to the starting position. Minimum: 15. Make it harder: Increase the number you do; increase weights.
4.Upright row: Stand with legs Shoulder-width apart; holding hand weights in front of you with arms straight down, and your palms facing towards you. Pull your hands up to your chest, keeping them close to you and pointing elbows upwards. Return to the starting position. Minimum: 10 to 15. Make it harder: Increase the number of repetitions; increase weights.

5.Shoulder press: Stand squarely with your feet hip-width apart. Hold hand weights up at shoulder height, with your palms facing forward and your elbows tucked by your side. Steadily straighten both your arms, then return to starting position. Minimum: 10 to 15. Make it harder: Increase the number you do; increase weights.

6.Single arm row: step left leg forward into a lunge position and bend forward slightly at the waist; place your left hand on your left thigh for support. With a weight in your right hand, bring that arm up from a hanging-down position, keeping elbow close to the body and pointing upwards. Return to starting position. Repeat with your left arm. Minimum: 20. Make it harder: Increase repetitions; increase the weights.

7.Kneeling push-ups: Kneel down and place your hands on the ground shoulder-width apart and directly under your shoulders, with your fingers facing forwards. Keeping your back in a completely straight line, bend at the elbows to lower yourself as far to the floor as you can go. Minimum: 10 to 15. Make it harder: Increase the number of repetitions.
8.Ab crunches: Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor and small of your back pushed into the ground. Resting your hands on your thighs, use your stomach muscles to curl yourself up. Keep eyes on ceiling and don't strain your neck. Resume starling position. Minimum: 10 to 15. Make it harder: Increase repetitions.