A September to Remember
We are wise to recognize and honor specially designated holidays that increase awareness of important social and health and wellness issues. For example, most of us can appreciate the value of observing National Parkinson’s Awareness Month which sheds light on how we can support our friends and family who are afflicted with Parkinson’s disease and the challenges they face.
Here is a sample of September holidays I have discovered in my research:
Fruits & Veggies—More Matters® Month
Healthy Aging® Month
National Cholesterol Education Month
National Recovery Month
National Yoga Awareness Month
Pain Awareness Month
Whole Grains Month
September 9 - 15 - National Suicide Prevention Week
September 17 - 21 - National Rehabilitation Awareness Week
September 10 - World Suicide Prevention Day
September 26 - National Women's Health & Fitness Day
September 29 - Family Health & Fitness Day USA®
September 29 - World Heart Day
While all of these topics have merit, I selected two that have personal significance for me - National Yoga Awareness Month and September 29th, and Family Health & Fitness Day USA®.
The definition of health continues to expand beyond merely the physical to a broader concept of wellness. Integrative health has become one of the most recognized approaches to health and wellness treatment. Health practitioners of all philosophies and modalities have joined in validating the natural and vital connection of the body, mind, and spirit. The body, mind, and spirit are not separate parts of us. They have an intimate relationship - one constantly affects the other. Each part longs for balance/symbiosis with the other parts. Yoga invites that balance. Regular yoga practice can and will make you emotionally and physically healthier, stronger, and more-balanced.
September is National Yoga Awareness Month.
National Yoga Month has been designated as a national observance by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. It is fortunate that the health benefits of yoga are officially endorsed. The Department’s stated goals are to inspire a healthy lifestyle, raise awareness of yoga’s health benefits, and provide people with guidance and tools to improve their well-being. Throughout the month, yoga studios across the nation are offering free yoga classes, and hundreds of community events are celebrating Yoga Awareness Month.
Yoga has long been recognized among a segment of society as a healing practice for the body and mind. Today, one can see multiple yoga studios along the streets of most U.S. cities and towns. Our popular culture is now saturated with frequent references to yoga, scenes depicting yoga classes and poses, jokes about yoga, social media posts of animals ‘doing yoga,’ and more.
As a yoga practitioner and teacher, I love the respect and acknowledgement attributed to yoga. Some of the depictions of yoga positions might be intimidating to the casual observer. Have no fear: one does not need bend into a pretzel-like position. You can’t touch your toes? That’s why you go to yoga. Can’t quiet your mind? Guess what – most of us can’t. It’s called our ‘monkey-brain.’ Yoga teaches you mindfulness. Have digestive trouble? Malasana – involving the squat position – is your yoga key to natural digestion.
Yoga provides many more physical benefits:
• Increased flexibility
• Increased muscle strength and tone
• Improved respiration, energy and vitality
• Maintenance of a balanced metabolism
• Weight reduction
• Cardio and circulatory health
• Improved athletic performance
Beyond physical benefits, one of the best benefits of yoga is that it helps manage stress. Stress is known to have devastating effect on the body and mind. Yoga can raise levels of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid - a brain neurotransmitter), leading to elevation of mood and alleviation of symptoms of depression and anxiety.
I guide people to experience a high-functioning, healthy body, and a better sense of well-being, and the Mind-Body Connection is key to achieving enduring wellness. The practice of yoga invites this connection which I emphasize throughout my work. I employ the breathing and movement aspects of yoga, emphasizing attentiveness (‘listening’) to the body, awareness, centering one’s focus, relaxing the mind, and leaving the body feeling stretched, strong, happy, and relaxed. The various practices release tension and restlessness while we become more ‘present’ in our daily lives. Life fills up with vigor and a sense of calm.
There are many different kinds and levels of yoga practices which allow anyone to find an accessible class. If you try different classes, instructors, and approaches, you will find a yoga practice that you like. It’s a great way for both kids and adults to get in tune with one’s body and inner self.
September 29th – Family Health & Fitness Day USA®.
Family Health & Fitness Day is especially appealing because family and friends have always been a personal source of comfort and happiness for me. I hope all of you have access to family members and friends who sustain you. As human beings we are innately social creatures who thrive in supportive environments. People with supportive families and friends are generally more successful and tend to live longer. For more on the importance health benefits of social support see last month’s BLOG – The Company We Keep.
Families and individuals in America include a staggering number who are physically inactive. And, millions of children and adults suffer from obesity. Sadly, physical education is not required in many states in our country, and children are increasingly glued to digital screens – now estimated to be up to 7 ½ hours per day. How can we get our friends and family of all ages and levels of fitness to be physically active?
With these concerns in mind, the Health and Information Resource Center (HIRC), a national clearinghouse for consumer health information programs and materials, created Family Health & Fitness Day USA®. The annual event is held the last Saturday in September. HIRC mentors and facilitates local family health and fitness organizations to host Family Health & Fitness Day.
Do something together as a family and it can be a bonding experience.
On Family Health & Fitness Day you and family and friends should find community events and programs at local parks, schools, hospitals, and health clubs. HIRC promotes programs and events that are noncompetitive and may include walking events, low-impact exercises, health screenings, games, open houses, and health information workshops. Get engaged in physical activity events such as walk-a-thons, dance classes, low-impact exercises, and sports games. Families bond when enjoying a shared experience of eating a healthy dinner, playing a game, participating in a relay race, or simply going for a walk in a local park.
Keep your community healthy and thriving.
Family Health & Fitness Day promotes the importance of parks and recreation in keeping communities active and healthy. Parks provide a connection to nature. Studies demonstrate that getting out to enjoy and experience nature relieves stress levels, tightens interpersonal relationships, and improves mental health. Support your community’s special events such as a health fair or family fun run. Visit a local park or recreation center and participate in family-friendly activities such as walking, hiking, biking, tennis, swimming, and more. Meet your neighbors and build an identity with and appreciation for your community. Venture to get your family and community to come together and make positive health and fitness changes. Put up fliers at schools, community centers, and places of worship. Perhaps create a Facebook group to get organized. Enjoy a bike ride, take a healthy cooking class, make homemade healthy granola (I base my own on the store-bought ones I especially enjoy: One Degree Sprouted Oat Cinnamon Flax Granola, and Purely Elizabeth Original Ancient Grain Granola), and take it on your hike! Enjoy the outdoors and get some Vitamin D! Get health and fitness benefits without it feeling like a chore. Family health and fitness is definitely something to celebrate!
(Resource guides and a toll-free number for help with event planning are available to any local group interested in hosting a Family Health & Fitness Day event. The HIRC registration form is available by calling 1-800-828-8225.)
September happens to be a month with many notable days, weeks and events that deserve to be celebrated and from which we can learn valuable principles to live better lives. With this blog I felt it important to contribute to these conversations as the subjects are in synch with my mission to help people feel better, function better, and live better!