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Yoga: Avoid Beginner’s Mistakes while Attaining a Well of Happiness

April 10, 2012 6:58 pm

Yoga has become a popular option for alternative health management. Research has shown the practice can significantly reduce mental and physical stress, improve mood, and slow the aging process. 

But some yogis believe many of the estimated 20 million U.S. students are missing the best part of the discipline—the inner happiness attainable through a healthy mind-body connection. They also worry about injuries that result when beginners tackle poses and exercises without proper guidance.
“There are several disciplines of yoga, and with its rich history, the beginner can easily get lost —or worse—injured,” says Mary Jo Ricketson, an experienced yoga practitioner and healthcare specialist, and author of Moving Meditation ( A registered nurse, she also holds a master’s degree in education from Northwestern University. 

“What I detail in my book is a comprehensive approach for both mind and body. This reciprocal relationship maximizes health benefits, and has exponentially positive consequences beyond the individual.” 

People have been practicing yoga for thousands of years, she says. In the West, the practice has integrated with our culture leading to variations including “extreme” yoga. Ricketson warns this sort of exercise can alienate beginners, who may not be ready to “jump in the deep end first.” Without the proper training and guidance, she adds, beginners risk injuring their neck, lower back, knees and shoulders. 

The most important step is getting started, Ricketson says. Here are seven things beginners—and anyone practicing yoga—should know to maximize their benefits: 

1. Cardiovascular (aerobic) training: As with meditation, focused breathing is a cornerstone of mind-body training. Aerobic means “with oxygen” and aerobic movement increases the flow of oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, including the brain. Cardiovascular training is the single most important aspect of the physical training because it keeps the heart open and strong. 

2. Core and strength training: This includes the students’ abdomen and buttocks, and the lower back region, which extends to the base of the skull. Here is where strength, stability and balance originate. 

3. Flexibility training (yoga postures): Stretching simply feels good, and it reminds students to not only be more flexible in one’s body, but also one’s mind. This step allows us to move (and live) with greater ease. 

4. Adequate rest: Sleep is a necessary part of life, and sufficient rest is needed for energy and equilibrium. 

5. Life-giving nutrition: Making the right choices in food allows yoga students to achieve an optimal, balanced state. This includes nutritional foods consumed in moderation. 

6. Family/community: From Epicurus to modern science, study and observation show that we find greater happiness with access to friends and family. 

7. Written goals and a plan of action: Goals and stated intention act as a road map to achieving balanced well-being. 

Ricketson says the above steps are just the beginning. She says tapping in to the mind-body connection also helps memory loss, attention deficit disorders, public violence—including in schools—as well as an unknown amount of needless human suffering. 

“We all have within us a potential to experience optimal well-being in mind and body,” she says. “This potential, the Good Within, can be realized through the work of mind-body training. Our training is a moving meditation – a daily practice of exercises that awaken all that is Good Within.” 

Mary Jo Ricketson has studied human health and well-being for decades, earning a Bachelor of Science in nursing and a master’s in education.

Word of the Day

April 10, 2012 6:58 pm

Convey. To transfer property from one person to another.

Question of the Day

April 10, 2012 6:58 pm

Q: What are the best home improvement projects to maximize ROI, or Return on Investment?

A: Experts agree that any remodeling project that brings your home up to the level of your neighbors’ is a worthy investment. However, some improvements offer a greater return than others. It depends on the type of work you have done. Remodeling magazine publishes an annual “Cost vs. Value Report.” The most recent report, based on the top 16 home improvements for a mid-range home, says the highest remodeling paybacks have come from vinyl siding replacement (with 87.2 percent of the cost recouped), wood window replacement (85.3 percent), minor kitchen remodeling (85.2 percent), bathroom remodeling (84.9 percent), and vinyl window replacement (83.7 percent).

10 Tips for Ditching Belly Fat

April 9, 2012 6:58 pm

Just in time to make a difference before swimsuit season kicks in, Reader’s Digest has released a new book, “The Digest Diet,” with some interesting if little-known healthful diet tips that may help you to drop a few pounds.

Among them are 10 suggestions for reducing unwanted belly fat:

1. Eat fat to lose fat – Healthful fats, such as olive oil, nuts, and avocado, are known to stimulate weight loss. They also help you feel full. Use olive oil in dressings and other foods, and reach for a handful of nuts or a celery stick with a bit of peanut butter if you get the afternoon hungries.
2. The right chocolate – Cocoa has natural antioxidants. Eaten in moderation, and without much sugar, it can aid in weight loss. Try adding unsweetened cocoa to fruit shakes, coffee, and other foods.
3. The dairy myth – It is a misperception that dairy foods sabotage diets. Yogurt and non-fat milk or cheeses actually encourage weight loss.
4. Exercise alone is not enough – Too much hard exercising can make you hungry enough to eat more than you should. Exercise in moderation while reducing caloric intake.
5. Keep busy – Little movements, even fidgeting, burns a few calories. Light chores like ironing, dishwashing or light aerobics can burn up to 350 calories a day.
6. Beat junk food cravings – prolonged desk work can play havoc with your glucose levels and make you crave carbs and/or sugar. Resist by keeping better snacks handy, like Greek yogurt, a handful of almonds, or carrot sticks with a teaspoon of peanut butter.
7. A little vino – Studies show that a glass of red wine a day is not only good for your health, but may also help release fat cells.
8. Hey, honey – As you cut back on sugar, consider using a little honey in your coffee and/or cereal. It may help to boost blood sugar control and boost certain immunities.
9. Don’t skimp on sleep – Studies show people who get at least eight hours of sleep a night have an easier time losing weight than those who sleep six hours or less.
10. Breathe better air – Research suggests certain toxins, chemicals and compounds we breathe may be contributing to the nation’s fat creep. Try a HEPA air filter in your home to breathe healthier air.

AAA Travel Lists Top Summer Vacation Destinations

April 9, 2012 6:58 pm

Still planning your summer vacation? A recent AAA travel agent survey showed that, despite rising fuel costs, many vacation loyalists are still traveling this summer. Additionally, AAA Travel's lists of top summer vacation destinations include choices popular with American families for generations within the United States and around the world. While many Americans head to their computers when planning a summer getaway, planning a vacation can be overwhelming.

"Many Americans consider travel a mainstay to our way of life and are loyal vacationers," says Bill Sutherland, vice president, AAA Travel Services. "While some Americans may modify their travel due to rising fuel costs, those who can are still choosing to travel and they are traversing the world."

The following are AAA’s top summer vacation spots:

Land Vacation Destinations:
Orlando, Fla.
Honolulu, Hawaii
Rome, Italy
London, England
Anaheim, Calif.

Leading the way in popularity for summer travel are vacations to the Orlando area, consistently holding the valedictorian spot in the top destination class year after year.

Cruise Vacation Destinations:

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) forecasts that more than 17 million vacationers will cruise the world's waterways in 2012, one million more than last year. AAA Travel sales data shows significant increases in cruise bookings for the summer family vacation season and throughout 2012 and into 2013.

Exotic Vacation Destinations:
The Galapagos
The Amazon


Word of the Day

April 9, 2012 6:58 pm

Conventional loan. Real estate loan that is not insured by the FHA or guaranteed by the VA.

Question of the Day

April 9, 2012 6:58 pm

Q: What can I do to minimize chaos, danger and stress once a home improvement project has begun?

A: Plan ahead. Since your home will become a worksite once the remodeling begins, inconveniences will arise that can be minimized with a little planning. Begin by having a frank discussion with the contractor to set guidelines and develop a clear understanding upfront about the various project stages and the processes involved. Talk, for example, about where building materials will be stored, how to best protect your belongings from dust and debris, areas of your home that will be off limits to workers and whether you will need to vacate the home for any reason over the duration of the work. If a kitchen or bath will be out of commission, plan accordingly. It’s okay to move the refrigerator, microwave and toaster oven to the basement or another designated area where you can prepare meals to avoid eating out. Equally important are the rules that dictate how workers can conduct themselves in your home. Will they be able to use your bathroom and the telephone? Will they be prohibited from smoking, playing their radios or using profanity? Finally, remember to preserve a safe haven in your home where you can flee the chaos and dust and attempt to maintain your sanity.


Hiring Helper: Questions to Ask Your Lawn Service Company

April 9, 2012 4:58 pm

Founded by a group of lawn care professionals, is a credible site that allows readers to post comments, ask questions and offer feedback. I became a fan of one of their columnists, Katie, who writes a weekly lawn care column.

A recent column even covered questions you should ask if interviewing or hiring lawn care service providers:

Do you have commercial pesticide license?
Katie says it might seem like jumping the gun to charge right out of the gate with this question, but the answer will tell you much more than whether they are legally allowed to treat your lawn. It will also tell you if the provider has had some formal training with lawn and garden care beyond mowing his or her parents' back yard.

The license signifies that the provider has been instructed about how to safely apply fertilizers, weed and insect controls-whether organic or synthetic.

Also, if they don't have a commercial pesticide license, they cannot legally apply any chemicals to your lawn. Period.

Do you have insurance-business, liability and worker's comp?
Katie says if the lawn care provider does not have insurance, if they damage something on your property, you may or may not be able to get the damages repaired. Additionally, if the business owner or injure themselves on your property, you want to make sure that they have the proper insurance so that you cannot be held liable.

May I see your portfolio?
Now, this one is more important for landscapers that will be doing more work than just lawn care, but it never hurts to see pictures, regardless. Look for clean edging, no mower marks, healthy plants, etc.

Do you give notice before spraying chemicals?
According to Katie, this is especially important if you have children or pets, as you will want to make sure that they are out of harm's way, and stay off the grass for the specified time. Additionally, you don't want them to come do a massive weed treatment one week before your big garden party or cookout. Burned weeds everywhere? Not pretty!

What is included in each weekly visitand what treatments are included in my yearly service plan?
That might seem like a no-brainer, but it is always good to get in writing what you are paying for.
Katie says a list of included services will also help you plan any events you have at home. (You don't want your lawn care provider to aerate three days before a party, either.)

Can the service provider do any seasonal garden maintenance, or just lawn maintenance?
A little bit of extra landscaping goes a long way toward increasing your home value. It also makes a home more inviting. However, many people don't add extra landscaping because they don't want to take care of it. Hiring a lawn care service provider that can help with landscaping maintenance makes caring for your garden much easier.

Freshen Your Space with Spring Decorating Tips

April 9, 2012 4:58 pm

The flowers are blooming and the sun is shining. Perhaps you have already spend some quality time in your garden or sprucing up your lawn. But what are you doing to welcome spring inside your home this year?

"It's easy to usher in the warm weather and bring new life inside, no matter what style you prefer," says Kris Woodcock, VP of Merchandising for Ashley Home Furniture. "From facing furniture toward the light, to placing a favorite armchair near a pretty outdoor view, to opening curtains wide—it's relatively simple to make nature's biggest spectacle part of the décor."

The following spring decorating tips can help you greet the season in style:

Whiten Up. White is fresh; it simulates natural daylight and offers an easy transition between indoors and out. Welcome in spring by adding this simple hue to your home:

• Paint your kitchen cabinets white. White kitchens aren't just white-hot; they're cool and coastal-feeling. Choose cool whites for a modern feel; warmer antique whites for a classic, vintage or rustic feel.
• Place white tulips or Easter lilies in a glass vase or pitcher.
• Use the one-color-plus-white rule for toss pillows, table linens and bedding. Just choose patterns that pair white with another color for a light-and-airy effect.

Go Green. Spring greens are uniquely cool and warm, on the border between warm yellow and cool blue. Even a hint of this breezy hue makes our rooms more open and airy, blurring boundaries between indoors and out. Welcome in spring by adding this fresh hue to your home:

• Place limes in a sleek glass bowl or hurricane for the perfect centerpiece.
• Invest in a set of spring green napkins or placemats. Green is one of nature's neutrals and works with almost any color.
• Choose a leafy green toss pillow or lime-colored table linens.

Make Hay. Sisal, straw, raffia, jute, coir, and seagrasses feel casual and coastal, recalling gardening hats and picnic baskets. As much a natural color as a natural texture, they put us in a pared-back, warm state of mind. Welcome in spring by adding nature's favorite texture to your home:

• Place a sisal rug or jute rug under a table, seating group or bed. Or place a woven welcome mat at the front door, indoors and out.
• Add square or rectangular-shaped woven baskets on shelves or under the coffee table. Fill them with anything and everything to reduce clutter elsewhere.
• Add a wicker or rattan accent chair (or a pair of chairs) in the living room, next to a window in the bedroom.
• Use jute or straw placemats. They add an outdoorsy texture to plate settings.


Crystal Cruises: Adventures Await Active Travelers in Northern Europe

April 5, 2012 4:58 pm

Hike, drive, ride, fish, climb, sail, row, bob, fly or surf in locales from western France up to the Arctic Circle and over to Iceland with Crystal Cruises in Northern Europe from May to September. The ultra-luxe line has set more than 100 new boutique Crystal Adventures to take maximum advantage of the region's abundant outdoor opportunities and stunning natural beauty.

On new outings, outdoor enthusiasts can:
• River Raft Iceland's glacial Hvita River (outside Reyjkavik).
• Rock Climb Ireland's Mourne Mountains (CS Lewis's Narnia-inspiration) outside Belfast, or rappel down a Dalkey quarry after taking in the view of Dublin.
• Surf in Biarritz, with Quicksilver's world-class surf school instruction (from St.-Jean-de-Luz).
• Tank-Drive a vintage WWII battle tank for two miles near Portland.
• Helicopter over Paris and Versailles (from Honfleur), Bordeaux wine country, or Iceland's recently-erupted Eyjafjallajokull volcano (from Reykjavik).
• Olympic Wheelbob down Lillehammer's Olympic Bob & Luge Track outside Oslo.
• Horseback Ride through the "Garden of Ireland"/County Wicklow outside Dublin, Finnish countryside and forest near Helsinki, or mountains outside maiden call Akureyri, the latter on the back of Icelandic horses descended from the Viking Age.
• Kayak past colorful Copenhagen via its harbor and canals or the natural beauty of coastal northern Norway (from Tromso).
• Hike the chalky Dorset coastline in Portland, England or Norway's highest mountain, Mt. Ulriken (in Bergen).
• Fish the Finnish Archipelago, Geirangerfjord or near Reykjavik (sea angling).
• ATV or 4x4 Drive through North Cape's gateway, Mageroya Island (Honningsvag) or past glacial Icelandic landscape to either a lobster lunch or snowmobile adventure (Reykjavik).
• Boat past Helsinki's seaside villas and lighthouses by catamaran; discover caves and orkas in maiden call Heimaey, Iceland by RIB or motorboat; spot puffins on a RIB sea safari to Runde Island (near Alesund, Norway); or scout for sea eagles by Zodiac in Lofoten, Norway (maiden call).
• Soak weary, post-activity bones in a natural geothermic/volcanic lagoon en route to stunning Godafoss, a.k.a. "Waterfall of the Gods" (from Akureyri).
Other new boutique excursions that focus on the arts and off-beat experiences (and require less adrenalin!):
• Blown Glassmaking near Saint-Malo: Fashion your own blown glasswork at a local studio.
• Venturing Off-the-Beaten-Path in Berlin: Explore living as the locals do, with shopping at the fruit and vegetable market, riding the Underground, and going inside a typical local apartment.
• Painting in St. Petersburg: Take a painting master class at Russia's largest private modern art gallery.
• Evening Walking with a Night Watchman in Copenhagen: Take a different type of walking tour, at night, with a traditional uniformed, and informed, local "night watchman."
• "Titanic Experience" in Belfast: Visit the new Titanic museum on the centennial anniversary of the ship's sinking.
• Gourmet Dining and Wine Tasting in Bordeaux: From slow food to Medoc wine, join local experts in exploring the region's legendary estates, including a gala dinner at Chateau Haut-Bailly.
Many Crystal Adventures offer new private options for couples. For even more intimate time ashore, guests can also custom-craft a Crystal Private Adventure or take an Overland Adventure, such as a two-day trip to Moscow from St. Petersburg.

For more information and Crystal reservations, contact a travel agent, call 888-799-4625, or visit

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