Why smoking makes you look older: the damaging effects on the skin

Written by Sabine Schmitz

In my Chinese Medicine Dermatology book series Treating Psoriasis with Chinese Herbal Medicine and Treating Acne and Rosacea with Chinese Herbal Medicine, I extensively discuss the topics of nutrition and lifestyle habits. Today, let’s shift our focus to another pivotal factor influencing skin health: smoking (nicotine).

We all know that smoking is detrimental to our overall health. The adverse effects of tobacco consumption extend to nearly every organ in the body, with the skin being no exception. In this article, we will unveil the specific reasons behind this and explore the intricate impact that smoking has on our skin.

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What is Water Yoga by Christa Fairbrother, MA, ERYT 200/500

Water yoga, at its essence, is doing the yoga you already know, in the water. 

When you think about it a little harder, you realize there’s more to it than that. You can’t sit or go upside down without getting wet.  Your yoga mat and most of the other gear you’re used to using isn’t going to work. And maybe you don’t know how to swim, so you have concerns about being in the water. My book, Water Yoga:  A Teacher’s Guide to Improving Movement, Health and Wellbeing, breaks down these misconceptions and gets you practicing and teaching water yoga like a pro.

On land, a yoga practice is made up of eight limbs of yoga. In the water, I call the limbs of yoga waves. The concept of the different aspects of yoga being waves fits into the aquatic environment better. It also reinforces the idea that you don’t have to do the parts of yoga in sequential order. Water yoga is very accessible for beginners, and emphasizing the aspects relevant for each person, instead of a rigid hierarchy, is student-friendly.

The first wave of water yoga, the Yamas. Ahimsa is the first Yama and is traditionally translated as non-harming. I translate it as being kind.  Being kind to yourself is even easier in the water because of the water’s buoyancy. Buoyancy offloads your weight and relieves sore joints making a water yoga practice easier for many people than a land-based practice.

The Niyamas are philosophical practices we want to do more of. For example, Tapas is about right-effort. All your yoga practices should be done at the right level for you. In the water, if you want to work harder in a posture, you can use the water’s viscosity (water’s thicker than air and harder to move through) and make your movements big and fast. If that vigorous movement hurts, the pain stops immediately when you stop because the water’s viscosity slows you down immediately. On land, managing your momentum and gravity require continued muscular effort, so you continue to ache as you return the heavy weight to the floor. It’s easier to customize your yoga experience in the water.

The wave of water yoga that most people are used to splashing around with is the poses. One of the most common questions, is how do you do Down Dog pose or other inversions without drowning people? Easy, we modify water yoga poses to make the best use of the aquatic environment. The focus is on using the same physical and energetic properties as the poses on land, and less on making them have the exact same shape. 

Pranayama, or breath practices, are even more powerful in the water.  Hydrostatic pressure is the force that the increased density of the water applies to a submerged body. It also makes your inspiratory muscles work harder, increasing your breath capacity with water yoga.

The hydrostatic pressure also contributes to a Pratyahara practice. The universally applied increase in pressure calms your nervous system, similar to how a weighted blanket is used for neurodivergent kids. Pratyahara is withdrawing your senses to prepare you for meditation. It’s the natural response to getting in the water. When you say, ‘Ah’ and close your eyes because you’re feeling relaxed in the water, that’s exactly what the fifth wave of water yoga is.

Concentrating on a single point, a Drishti, is a Dharana practice. With all the visual movement of the water’s surface, and the hustle and bustle at a pool, there’s a lot to distract you. Dharana is learning to sharpen your focus so all those other things clamoring for your attention don’t affect you. For example, when you’re in a balance posture and focus on a single point far outside the pool, the distractions right next to you won’t impact you as much.

Floating meditation is a Dhyana practice. You’ve withdrawn your focus from what’s happening around you and are focused on just what’s going on inside your head. Just like it’s easier to be reflective and spend time with yourself at the beach, the pool is a natural environment to get to know yourself better and focus on what really matters.

Just like with land yoga, Samadhi or bliss, is your intent with your practice. It’s integrating all eight waves of water yoga as best you can to be comfortable and secure with the most essential aspects of yourself. However, just like with land yoga, in water yoga, you have no guarantee you’ll get there as an outcome. That’s why it’s more important to pay attention to your time in the pool and appreciate the process more than worry about the results.

As a concept, you can’t beat water Yoga. It allows you to enjoy the comfort of the water. Outdoor pools allow you to get outside and enjoy the sun, all while getting the benefits of yoga. Water Yoga: A Teacher’s Guide to Improving Movement, Health and Wellbeing teaches you how to practice all waves of water yoga for yourself as a first step. Then moves beyond that with the tips to guide others through the practice. Once you know how to apply these concepts for yourself, the book helps you with the communication strategies and teaching tips to help your students succeed.

I live with multiple forms of arthritis. Yoga provides me with excellent self-management tools to stay healthy. Water yoga is even better for people who live with arthritis because of the properties of water. My success in managing my arthritis inspired me to become a water yoga teacher and share the practice with you through the book. Use the book for yourself, share it with family and friends, and learn to teach water yoga, because the bottom line is yoga is awesome, but it’s even better when wet.

Christa Fairbrother, MA, ERYT 200/500, is an internationally recognized water yoga coach and trainer. In addition to being a yoga professional, she is certified both as an Aquatic Therapist through the Aquatic Therapy and Rehab Institute and as an Aquatic Fitness Professional through the Aquatic Exercise Association. She combines her background in education, yoga, and aquatics to provide high-quality training for other pros so more people worldwide can get the benefits of water yoga. She lives in Florida with her husband and two sons. When she’s not in the pool, there’s nothing she loves better than a good book and a huge cup of tea.

Andrew McGonigle: 5 Reasons Why Lotus Might Not be for Your Hip

Andrew McGonigle has been studying anatomy for over twenty years, originally training to become a doctor and then moving away from Western medicine to become a yoga teacher, massage therapist and anatomy teacher. He combines all of his skills and experience to teach anatomy and physiology on Yoga Teacher Training courses internationally and runs his own online Anatomy and Physiology Applied to Yoga courses. His new book, Supporting Yoga Students with Common Injuries and Conditions, is out now. In this article, using our hip joints as an example, Andrew explains why yoga practice and what feels comfortable varies for each of us.

Have you ever wondered why certain yoga postures can feel so easeful in your body while others can feel like such a challenge?

Or why one person can sit cross-legged for hours having never practiced yoga and you still need to sit on four cushions after practicing yoga for years?

The short answer to this is that every body is entirely unique and will express a certain yoga pose in a completely unique way. There are also emotional, psychological and nervous system components that affect how much movement our joints make and the quality of that movement.

Let’s explore some of these factors using our hip joints as an example. Continue reading

Touch is Really Strange: An Interview with Steve Haines

Why can’t we tickle ourselves? How can slow touch convey more powerful emotions than fast touch? How does touch shape our perception of the world? In this short interview, Steve Haines – author of Singing Dragon’s best-selling Really Strange series – discusses the inspiration behind his new book, Touch is Really Strange

When did you start working on the book?

The idea for a book on touch has been around since 2019, but this was definitely a lockdown project. The Really Strange series has been huge fun and continues to get heart-warming feedback. There have been suggestions for books on Depression, Adverse Childhood Experiences, Grief or Breath.

Whilst I have some experience with clients with all those topics, I realised I have far more to say about touch. I use touch everyday in normal work life and teach 2-year courses on being skilful with touch.

What inspired the topic?

In my career I have undergone a paradigm shift in how I understand touch. Continue reading

Yoga Teaching Guides Introduced by Sian O’Neill

Yoga Teaching Guides

Singing Dragon’s Yoga Teaching Guides is a new series of books, launching in March 2021. Edited by Sian O’Neill and written by renowned experts in the field, the books in the series cover essential skills as well as providing inspiration for creative yoga teaching, both for the new and the experienced yoga teacher. In this short piece, hear from series editor Sian as she introduces some of the upcoming books and talks about her inspiration behind the series. Join our mailing list to be kept up to date with new releases!

As a yoga teacher, I’m always on the lookout for inspiration and ideas to help improve my classes for students and I have a feeling I am not alone. It can be challenging to come up with varied, interesting (and safe) classes week after week – so practical tips from highly experienced and inspiring teachers are always appreciated.

Sian O’Neill

Following the successful launch of the Yoga Teaching Handbook, it became clear that there is an interest among yoga teachers and trainees in practical tips to enrich their teaching. So, I was thrilled when Singing Dragon asked me to be editor for a new series aimed at yoga teachers, Yoga Teaching Guides, and we are delighted to be launching a series of volumes on topics ranging from supporting injured students; yoga and qigong; developing a home practice; the art of theming, and yoga and Ayurveda – with more to follow. Continue reading

Announcing our new Yoga Teaching Guides

We are pleased to introduce you to our brand new series of books: Singing Dragon’s Yoga Teaching Guides. This series – written by experts in the field – covers essential skills as well as providing inspiration for creative yoga teaching, both for the new and the experienced yoga teacher. In this short piece, hear from Sarah Hamlin, Senior Commissioning Editor at Singing Dragon, as she introduces the series and shares a few hints on what is yet to come. Join our mailing list to be kept up to date with new releases!

Back in 2017, Singing Dragon published the Yoga Teaching Handbook, an edited collection which brought together experts sharing their experiences of the day-to-day practicalities of teaching yoga and managing yoga businesses. The handbook was one of the very first yoga books I commissioned, and it was truly wonderful to work with a group of people so passionate about yoga and so committed to sharing knowledge and advice with the wider yoga community.

Sarah Hamlin, Senior Commissioning Editor at Singing Dragon

Four years later we are launching our brand-new series, Yoga Teaching Guides, inspired by the 2017 handbook. Building on the key topics and themes included in the handbook, our series authors are able to share their expertise in greater depth so that yoga teachers everywhere can refine their skillset, be inspired to think creatively about teaching, and ultimately feel confident in sharing a meaningful yoga practice with students. Continue reading

Hypermobile People and Yoga – An Extract from Jess Glenny

Jess Glenny is a Yoga Register Teacher (Elder) and a C-IAYT yoga therapist. She has been practising yoga with hEDS since 1981, and for many years has specialised in working with hypermobile people. She is the author of The Yoga Teacher Mentor: A Reflective Guide to Holding Spaces, Maintaining Boundaries, and Creating Inclusive Classes (published in 2020) and her new book, Hypermobility on the Yoga Mat: A Guide to Hypermobility-Aware Yoga Teaching and Practice is available for pre-order now, publishing in February 2021.

In this article, adapted from her new book, Jess discusses why hypermobile people might be drawn towards the practice of yoga.

Yoga teacher Amber Wilds writes:

During my teacher training I was told, you probably won’t see hypermobility in your yoga classes very often, but it became apparent over the duration of our training that many of my fellow students were hypermobile (to varying degrees). While some had been diagnosed, others hadn’t been aware of their hypermobility prior to our training. I therefore began to question whether, rather than being a rarity in a yoga class, hypermobility was actually far more common than initially thought.[i]

Indeed, as we have seen, hypermobile people are one population you are pretty much guaranteed to encounter in significant numbers in any yoga class you teach. Why is this? Why do people whose range of joint motion is so excessive as to be considered pathological flock to an activity with the potential to increase it further? There are a number of reasons. Continue reading

Clouds Over Qingcheng Mountain: Posting Exercises to Try

Mount Qingcheng, one of China’s mystical mountains, has been the birth place of discovery, realization and preservation of the recipes that stimulate the deep potential of the human body for generations. Clouds Over Qingcheng Mountain, the follow-up book to Climbing the Steps to Qingcheng Mountain by Daoist master Wang Yun, simplifies the complex practices of Daoism handed down by generations of accomplished Masters – such as posting, breath practice and meditation – and gifts the reader with its most valuable aspects for a modern world.

In this extract, we share three simple posting exercises to incorporate into everyday life to promote the flow of qi and blood, boost the immune system and help relax the body.

Posting relaxation exercises

[Benefits of posting include: promoting the smooth flow of qi and blood, methodically harmonizing the breath, and clearing the channels of the entire body.]

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, imagine a string hanging straight down from the upper dantian (near the pineal gland) to the huiyin point (the perineum), and landing on the floor between your two feet. Next, imagine your whole body as a bag of air, as if you were completely hollow. At the same time, relax your body; from the hair on your head down to the yongquan points at the bottom of the feet. Everything is totally empty, like a transparent crystal ball. Relax your body in this way and repeat the visualization three times. Continue reading

Clouds Over Qingcheng Mountain: Testimonials from Wang Yun’s Students

Immersing the mind with the concepts of the Daoist path of health and immortality, Clouds over Qingcheng Mountain – the new book by Daoist master Wang Yun – invokes the sacred birthplace of one of China’s mystical mountains that has stimulated both mind and body for generations.

Whilst the first volume, Climbing the Steps to Qingcheng Mountain, invited the reader to travel across time and through the history of China and Daoism, Clouds over Qingcheng Mountain is more focused in the book’s purpose. Wang Yun places special focus on relaxation and the breath through five sets of foundational yet all-encompassing practices, such as posting, to deepen both themes. He offers tales from his life and journey, along with accessible tools to strengthen both body and qi.

Bridging the gap between practical experience and philosophical background, Clouds over Qingcheng Mountain simplifies the complex practices of Daoism handed down by generations of accomplished Masters, and gifts the reader with its most valuable aspects for a modern world.

In these videos, students of Wang Yun give testimonials on the master’s teaching, and how they benefited from practising the exercises in the book on a regular basis.

 

Working with Death and Loss in Shiatsu Practice: Knowing What Ki Is

Tamsin Grainger has been a Zen Shiatsu practitioner since 1991 and is the co-founder of The Shiatsu School in Edinburgh, as well as being a prolific writer and teacher. Below, she gives a glimpse of what readers can expect from her new book, Working with Death and Loss in Shiatsu Practice.

Introduction

Working with Death and Loss in Shiatsu Practice is a guide to bodywork in palliative care. It looks at how Shiatsu practitioners sit with their clients when they are grieving, how they listen to the bereaved, what language they use at the end of life, and above all their touch.

Because Shiatsu practitioners can address and hold the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of clients at the same time, as a result of their deep training based on hands-on experience, they are supremely placed to practice in this arena. My book looks at all these levels and provides support for the practitioner who wants to be centred, open-hearted and well primed.

The book contains a wide range of useful and illuminating theory which has been collected together in one volume for the first time. It covers the dying process and the ideas which underly Shiatsu practice as it pertains to loss and palliative care. It looks at the traditional ideas as well as at current teaching, and supports and encourages each individual to find their own confidence.

Knowing what Ki is

Shiatsu practitioners are taught that Ki pervades everything, that everything is made of Ki. Though invisible in its purest form to most human eyes, it may be felt by clients and practitioners alike. Continue reading