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18 Jul

7 Incredible Body Benefits Of Building Muscle — Other Than Looking Great

It’ll set your metabolism on fire.

Women’s Health |

18 July 2019

By building muscle, you’re not only going to look smokin’ – you’re also going to reap the kinds of body rewards that’ll get you returning to the gym again and again. Want to know what they are?


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A lit metabolism

People with more muscle mass are better able to process sugar, helping them fend off weight gain and diabetes. In other words, the more muscle you have, the more likely your next scoop of ice cream will be used as fuel rather than stored as fat.

READ MORE: 4 Signs You Could Be Losing Muscle Instead Of Burning Fat

Quality zzzzzzs

A good night’s sleep is a trainer, therapist and nutritionist in one. It can improve your sports performance, lower your anxiety and help you consume less. Exercise may increase the quality of your shut-eye and – ironically, in a good way – decrease the time you need to spend with the Sandman. Women who did moderate or vigorous exercise (including strength training) required up to 20 minutes less sleep at night than non-exercisers to feel at the top of their game, per one study.

A stronger ticker

To understand why muscle can ward off cardiovascular disease – the number one killer of women – consider what researchers call the “obesity paradox”: obese people are at greater risk of developing heart disease (due to high blood pressure and fatty build-up in arteries); but once diagnosed, they’re much less likely to die from it, compared with their normal-BMI counterparts with heart problems. That’s probably because heavy people put on muscle mass to carry the extra weight. As the heart pumps more blood to feed the muscle, its efficiency improves. Build lean mass without fat and you’ll experience the best of both worlds, says Dr Salvatore Carbone, a heart disease researcher at Virginia Commonwealth University.

READ MORE: This Beginner Running Plan Will Take You From Couch To 10K In Just 10 Weeks

Protection against the Big C

Of the nearly 40 percent of women who develop cancer at some point, those with low muscle mass don’t live as long. One theory why: muscle improves immunity and acts as a buffer against chemotherapy drugs. Prado’s research shows women with the most lean muscle experience fewer chemo side effects, such as severe nausea and diarrhoea, helping them power through treatment.

Fewer sick days

Lifting may prevent the common cold by increasing your production of natural killer cells, an especially aggressive type of white blood cell. And strong core muscles stabilise the spine, helping prevent the low backaches that plague up to 80 percent of people at some time.

READ MORE: The Kettlebell Row Is The One Move You Need For A Sculpted Back

Fall stalls

As we get older, the most common and dangerous accidents are falls – mishaps that strength training can curb the risk for by 50 percent. If you do fall, the stronger bones that come from building muscle are less likely to fracture. You may not be retirement age yet, but build muscle now and you can spend your golden years focused on better things.

A steel-trap brain

Need to cement a new password in your brain? Doing just 20 minutes of resistance exercise after learning something can enhance long-term recall of the info by up to 10 percent. Talk about a fact to remember!

Women’s Health participates in various affiliate marketing programmes, which means we may get commissions on editorially chosen products purchased through our links to retailer sites.

READ MORE ON: Fitness Fitness Advice

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18 Jul

You’ve been logging your periods on that tracking app you downloaded to your smartphone and it says you’re supposed to get your period next week. Soooo what gives with the totally random spotting you see in your underwear today? Getting your period is annoying enough — no one wants to blow through their entire tampon stock before a period shows up for real.

Inconvenience aside, spotting before your period can put you a little on edge if you’re just not sure what’s going on with your body. But don’t freak out, as there are a bunch of reasons for why your period is getting ahead of itself that are usually no big deal.

Spotting before your period is most likely related to your body’s ovulation patterns.

The biggest factor at play typically is…hormones (surprise!). “[Spotting before your period] means you’re not ovulating perfectly and not making as much progesterone as you should,” says Dr Mary Jane Minkin, a clinical professor in the department of obstetrics, gynaecology, and reproductive sciences at the Yale University School of Medicine.

Progesterone is one of the hormones involved with making menstruation happen, and Dr Minkin says it plays an important role in stabilizing the lining of your uterus. If you don’t make enough of it during your cycle, some of your uterine lining may be discharged in the five to seven days before your period, which is that spotting you notice.

This is mostly just an annoyance; you don’t have to do anything to address progesterone production, and nothing bad will happen if you ignore it. (The exception here is if you’re planning a pregnancy, in which case you should talk to your ob-gyn about having your hormone levels tested.)

But if the spotting is really bugging you, you can take birth control pills with progesterone, which stop ovulation altogether and provide you with a consistent amount of hormones each month.

Now, what if imperfect ovulation isn’t the cause of your pre-period spotting? You’re probably still not dealing with anything super serious. Dr Minkin stresses that bigger health problems that can cause spotting (we’ll get into some of those in a sec) would also cause symptoms throughout your *whole* cycle, not just the week before your period.

Here are nine other reasons why you might be spotting prior to your period’s big arrival — and what you can do about ’em.

READ MORE: This Is Why You Get Clots In Your Period Blood

1. You’re on a new birth control.

You’re more likely to see spotting throughout your entire cycle if you started a new type of BC, Dr Minkin says, but this could also cause spotting right before your period specifically. This is called breakthrough bleeding, and the estrogen in your birth control is to blame.

Breakthrough bleeding should resolve on its own in a few months after you start your new BC. If it goes on longer than that, Dr Minkin suggests talking to your doc, who may recommend a birth-control method with a lower amount of estrogen.

2. You’re pregnant.

Surprise: You thought your period was arriving a week early, but it turns out it won’t be back for another nine months! Spotting ahead of your normal period week might actually be an early sign of pregnancy, says Dr Minkin. The spotting you’re noticing might actually be implantation bleeding (a.k.a. when the fertilized egg attaches to the uterine lining) or even just the early stages of pregnancy itself.

“About one-third of women will bleed in the first three months of pregnancy,” explains Dr Minkin, who notes that this (obviously) makes some people nervous but does not necessarily signal that anything is wrong with the pregnancy.

If you see spotting the week before your period typically comes but then don’t get a full-fledged period soon after, you should consider taking a pregnancy test.

3. You have a hormone imbalance.

Just like how progesterone can mess with your period, abnormal levels of estrogen may also be to blame for your spotting. Yes, this could mean estrogen changes related to a new BC, as mentioned above, or those associated with perimenopause or menopause.

A thyroid issue may also be at play here. According to Dr Minkin, if you have hypothyroidism (meaning your thyroid produces less thyroid hormone than it should) you might miss periods. And if you deal with hyperthyroidism (when you have an excess of thyroid hormone), you might have heavier periods. Both of these may cause spotting between periods.

If you’re dealing with thyroid dysfunction, you would likely have other symptoms in addition to period issues, such as weight loss/gain or fatigue. It’s likely that your doc would rule out other possible underlying reasons for your pre-period spotting but possibly test your thyroid hormone levels if she suspects a thyroid problem.

READ MORE: Why Is My Period Blood Brown All Of A Sudden?

4. You’re under the weather.

Dr Minkin says almost any kind of illness or infection, from influenza to pneumonia to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), can throw your whole cycle out of whack and give you any kind of irregular bleeding, including spotting. So if you’re spotting before your period but also battling some kind of sickness, chalk it up to your immune system doing what it does best: prioritizing where it needs to direct more of its energy to get you healthy.

That said, if your spotting comes with pain, fever, or a foul vaginal odour, you should check in with your doc — it could point to the kind of infection that requires medical treatment (like an STD or the aforementioned PID).

5. You just had sex.

On another note, early spotting could be (coincidentally) linked to something else you just happened to do the week before your period — like getting busy with a sexual partner.

This doesn’t actually have anything to do with your period. Medically referred to as “post-coital bleeding,” spotting a bit of blood after recently having sex may happen as a result of friction during intercourse, like if the vaginal lining gets damaged or if you don’t have proper lubrication, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Bleeding in the days after having intercourse doesn’t necessitate a call to your provider unless it’s happening all the time, Dr Minkin says. “If it happens once and goes away, it’s unlikely to be anything bad…but if it’s repetitive, we get concerned about precancerous changes on the cervix and would want to do a Pap smear,” she explains.

READ MORE: 25 Reasons Why You’ve Got Period Symptoms But No Period

6. You’re dealing with fibroids.

Uterine fibroids are benign growths that appear in or close to the uterus, as Women’s Health reported previously. When women visit their gyno and end up discovering they have fibroids, it often has to do with the fact that they were experiencing abnormal bleeding (which could mean before their period, but more likely is happening periodically throughout the entire cycle) and heavy periods that last longer than a week.

Fibroids tend to bring on other symptoms in addition to abnormal bleeding. Those may include pelvic pain or pressure, constipation, the need to pee frequently, and more, according to the Mayo Clinic. So if you have bleeding (especially if it’s heavy) when your period should not be happening, not to mention any of these other symptoms, see your Doc. You can get diagnosed via an ultrasound and lab tests.

7. You have endometrial or cervical cancer.

Gynaecological cancers can present with abnormal bleeding, so it’s important to take any vaginal bleeding that you’re concerned about seriously and get it checked out.

As Dr Minkin points out, a little bit of spotting right before your period in particular most likely isn’t cause for concern. With these cancers, symptoms would happen throughout your whole cycle. (In addition to abnormal bleeding, other symptoms of endometrial or cervical cancers include pelvic pain and bloating.)

But with any health symptom that you feel uneasy about, don’t hold back from getting an expert opinion sooner rather than later—even if it turns out to be nothing serious. You know your body best and are your number-one health advocate.

This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com

READ MORE ON: Health Health Advice Periods

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16 Jul

We’re not going to sugarcoat it: there’s a lot of nonsense information out there about what antidepressants do and don’t do. People who could benefit from the medication can often be skeptical about taking it because of the fears created by the misconceptions.

In a research paper published in The Pharmaceutical Journal, Prof. Stephen Bazire concluded that antidepressants are still the best treatment for depression.

“Antidepressants are effective regardless of a patient’s language, IQ, race and background,” Prof. Bazire wrote.

READ MORE: Feel Like Your Antidepressants Stopped Working? Here’s What Could Be Happening

“Depression is dangerous and harmful to the brain and antidepressants significantly reduce relapse… [and] reduce the risk of suicide in adults.”

We spoke to Dr Laila Paruk to unpack some of the most common myths and misconceptions about antidepressants.

MYTH 1: Antidepressants are addictive

Dr Laila Paruk: Antidepressants are not addictive. Addiction is characterised by two things: tolerance and withdrawals. Tolerance means that you need more of the same thing over time to get the same effect, which is not the case with antidepressants. Withdrawals are physical or mental symptoms that occur when you stop taking a drug and this is also not what happens with antidepressants.

MYTH 2: They will make you ‘high’

DLP: Antidepressants are not known to have a stimulant effect at all. The structure of an antidepressant is not similar at all to that of a stimulant. So you will not feel ‘high’ when taking them.

MYTH 3: They will change your personality

DLP: The intention of treating patients with antidepressants is never to change their personality, but to improve their quality of life. If someone feels like their personality is changing, it will be something associated with the choice of medication, the dosage and the diagnosis. All antidepressants do is improve symptoms of depression and anxiety; they don’t change personality.

READ MORE: 10 Signs You’re Suffering From Mid-Year Burnout

MYTH 4: They are meant to be taken forever

DLP: The guidelines for the treatment of depression and anxiety suggest that for the first episode of depression and anxiety, a patient is put on treatment for one year. Repeated episodes will mean a patient is on treatment for longer. But the guidelines do not recommend that patients be on them forever; it requires regular monitoring and assessment of symptoms and consultations with your doctor around when and how to come off the medication.

MYTH 5: Taking an antidepressant is all you need for depression and anxiety

DLP: The guidelines don’t advocate the use of antidepressants alone; they recommend the use of the medication along with therapy and other psychosocial interventions. The idea of the medication is that it’s a part of a whole basket of treatments – all of which are designed to improve a person’s quality of life and coping skills.

MYTH 6: They are not safe for pregnancy

DLP: The impact of antidepressants on the foetus is variable depending on the kind of medication and the amount of medication. However, we always look at treating pregnant women in terms of their risk profile, which is on a patient-specific basis.

It’s recommended that if a pregnant woman is on antidepressants and she’s stable on them, she should remain on them throughout her pregnancy. It’s far riskier to have an untreated maternal depression and anxiety patient.

MYTH 7: An antidepressant will have a negative impact on my sex life

DLP: Antidepressants do have side effects that affect all stages of the sexual cycle, from arousal to ejaculation. But not all antidepressants have the same effect. Just because a patient experienced certain side effects on one antidepressant doesn’t mean that they’ll experience the same side effects on another.

Depression has a negative impact on libido, and because antidepressants ease these symptoms, they (in certain instances) could actually improve one’s sex life.

READ MORE ON: Health Health Advice Mental Health

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15 Jul

7 Rose Quartz Beauty Products to Open The Heart Chakra

Christopher Dougherty

Rose quartz has been rocking the wellness scene for centuries. Legend has it that Cleopatra bathed with the stuff to harness its healing and anti-aging properties: stimulating circulation to deliver oxygen to the skin and clearing out tension, toxins, and impurities. The soothing gemstone is also known for opening up the heart chakra to love and positive energy, making it the quintessence of well-being.

Thanks for watching!

  1. Dr. Brandt Neck Sculpting Cream with Rose Quartz Gua Sha, $95, drbrandtskincare.com 
  2. Aquarian Soul Rose Moon Tinted Lip Balm, $12, shopaquariansoul.com 
  3. Herbivore Rose Quartz Facial Roller, $40, herbivorebotanicals.com 
  4. Glacce Crystal Elixir Water Bottle, $80, freepeople.com 
  5. Hellen Center Your Heart Bath Brew, $65, hellen.nyc 
  6. Pacifica Crystal Foam Sparkling Clean Face Wash, $10, pacificabeauty.com 
  7. Mama Malas Blissful Mala, $113, mamamalas.com

See also YJ Tried It: Salt Therapy Treatment

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12 Jul

Getting an erection: three words that come with a lot of pressure. Get your guy to read this (and read it too so you understand the issues he has with his penis – and how to help).

Problems with your erection…

Sometimes, problems with your erection aren’t exactly your fault. Genetics and certain health conditions – say, diabetes or heart disease – can make it hard to get hard, since problems that affect your blood vessels can run in families, says Dr. Ryan Berglund, a urologist at the Cleveland Clinic. And you need uncompromised blood flow to your penis to get a healthy erection.

Plus, while erectile dysfunction (ED) can hit guys at any age, the older you get, the higher your likelihood of developing sexual performance issues, he says.

READ MORE: Your Risk Of Erectile Dysfunction More Than Triples If You Have This Health Condition

Penis health 101

Still, many of the factors that affect your penis health and your performance in the bedroom are under your control. And even if you’re prone to poor penis health due to things you can’t really change, you can boost your chances of a better erection by focusing on the things you can tweak.

Want a better session in the sack tonight? Make these seven changes today.

1. Wake up with coffee

Your beverage of choice in the morning can play a role in how well you perform in the bedroom later that night. Research from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston found that men who consumed the caffeine equivalent of 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day were less likely to report ED issues than guys who steered clear of the stimulant. The study authors say that caffeine has properties similar to Viagra. The stimulant helps the arteries in your penis to relax and your blood flow to increase – both factors necessary for a strong erection.

READ MORE: 10 Reasons Why You Should Drink Coffee Every Day

2. Start sweating – but not spinning

Cardio isn’t just great for your heart: Your penis benefits, too. Men who do regular aerobic exercise tend to have healthier blood vessels – which are crucial for erections – than overweight, sedentary men, says Dr Berglund. And the more intensely you exercise, the better your penis health seems to be. Men who worked out at least 18 “METS” – or metabolic equivalent of task, which takes into account both workout duration and intensity – per week reported better erectile function than more sedentary guys, a 2015 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found. For example, running for one hour at a 6-minute km pace (that’s 10km in an hour) would give you a MET score of 9.8. Doing that twice a week would put you over the 18 MET mark.

READ MORE: 5 Ways Running Affects Your Penis and Balls

Exercise may help your body create a compound called nitric oxide, which helps you get and maintain an erection, the study authors told us. Just consider that run over a ride: “Endurance cyclists who spend a long time on their bike seats may have more trouble with ED,” says Dr Erin Michos, an associate professor of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Blame restrictive clothing and the shape of the seat, which may injure your perineum.

3. Eat berries, oranges, red wine, apples and pears

According to a study from the UK of over 25 000 men, those who ate more than three servings a week of berries, oranges, red wine, apples and pears were 19 percent less likely to develop erectile dysfunction over the 10-year follow up period than men who didn’t eat them. Researchers suggest that compounds called flavonoids, which are abundant in these foods, can improve blood flow by making your arteries more flexible, in turn helping your member, the study authors told us.

4. Quit smoking (even for a day)

You should be used to the refrain by now: Whatever’s good for your heart is good for your penis. That means quitting smoking is no exception. In fact, in a study of over 2 800 smokers, researchers from Iran discovered that 25 percent of men who quit the habit reported an improvement in their erections one year sans cigs. In comparison, none of the guys who continued smoking experienced erection improvement – and seven percent of current smokers said their erections actually got worse during that year.

READ MORE: How To Maintain The Health of Your Erection

Cigarettes’ main ingredient, nicotine, is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it impairs the ability of the arteries in the penis to dilate, explains Dr Berglund. And when blood flow to your penis is compromised, so is your erection. Even one day off smoking can clear nicotine from your system, allowing your blood vessels to dilate more, he adds. Still, you want to play the long game: Stub out the smokes for good.

5. Chill out

Stress is a serious sex-killer. Not only do stress hormones like cortisol inhibit your body’s ability to get an erection, but stress has a way of squashing intimacy, a huge part of a successful romp session, says Dr Berglund. In fact, the higher levels of cortisol men had, the lower their scores were on tests of sexual functioning, which includes things like how confident they were they could get an erection, how often their erections were hard enough for penetration, and how often was it difficult to maintain an erection during sex, a study from Japan found.

Your move: Download apps that help with relaxation and meditation. Research from Carnegie Mellon University finds that just 25 minutes a day of meditation is enough to lower stress levels.

READ MORE: How Your Big Toe Can Signal Problems With Your Erection

6. Skip the nightcap

Booze might make you feel like you’re a sex machine, but your member will tell you differently. That’s because alcohol messes with the nerve function that creates an erection, explains Dr Berglund. It’s also a depressant, which means by the time you think you’ll be roaring and ready, you’ll likely simply be exhausted.

READ MORE: 5 Ways You Can Make Your Sperm Stronger Right Now

7. Brush up

What’s going on in your mouth can affect you below the belt: Men with periodontal disease — or gum disease caused by a build-up of plaque — are about twice as likely to have ED than men with healthier gums, a review from Nature concluded. “Poor dental hygiene has been linked to increased inflammation in the body and with cardiovascular disease risk,” says Dr. Michos. That’s because chronic inflammation can damage the delicate cells in the inside of your blood vessels, which are critical for proper erectile function.

This article was originally published on www.menshealth.com

READ MORE ON: Health Penis Issues Sexual Health

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27 Jun

For the full story, please read all our previous posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6…



A photo of my in a hospital bed snuggling my two girls.A photo of my in a hospital bed snuggling my two girls.



And so life became once again about survival, but don’t forget our beginning.

We’d gone from searching for a house and adopting to almost exactly two years later me lying in a hospital bed pregnant with our third, a house now more than halfway packed into boxes and absolutely no house that was even sparking our interest. Or hadn’t, things were about to change.

I hated being admitted, but especially this time. It always makes me feel so broken and like a failure. That sounds almost crazy as I can’t help how sick Hyperemesis Gravidarum makes me but especially this time as I’d prepared so dang hard and I’d fought to stay positive and yet here I was almost immediately back to in and out of the hospital.

I hate ivs but I can’t have a picc line as the risk for clotting is too high. HG makes your body sooooo sensitive to touch but add on collapsed veins and you’re in for a lot of pain. I get filled with anxiety just thinking about those moments when they would have to give up on my arms and hands and move ivs to other places, more painful places.

When I was at home I’d often have Cade carry me, walking was not happening as my body was so weak, to a room where I’d slowly, to the point of annoyance pack boxes. You’d think I’d give up, but I was determined to show faith, to ACT. If I wanted this righteous desire, to move into a new home I wanted God to see me actively working and believing it to happen.

And then my weight hit the 70s. I knew it, I knew I’d be put into the hospital. I knew things were bad. But sometimes miracles come in the most inconvenient of circumstances, just look how Christ was born.

So there I was, lying in a hospital bed, absolute silence and maddening boredom from nothing but a wall to stare at and I got a knock at the door.

Every Sunday volunteers bring the sacrament (partaking of bread and water to renew promises to God and remember Christ’s body and blood sacrificed for us) to any who wish to partake. I couldn’t. I ached desperately for it, to feel that peace from church but even opening my mouth to speak made me throw up so how could I eat?!

Continue reading in Part 8 next week…

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24 Jun

There are many awkward situations in life, from forgetting someone’s name even though you’ve met them thrice, to laughing at a really inappropriate time. But a trip to the gynae is definitely near the top of the list. No matter how many times you go, you can’t help but clam up.

The Goddess cup is a reusable menstrual cup, which will last for years – unlike single-use sanitary ware

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And getting a Pap smear can feel just as awkward – not to mention uncomfortable. But it’s a necessary discomfort. With as many as 7 735 new cases of cervical cancer recorded annually, it’s now the second leading cause of female cancer-related deaths in SA, so getting tested is a must.

But what if you’ve never been for one because you don’t really know much about it? Here’s everything you need to know to help you prep for your next (or first) Pap smear.

READ MORE: Did You Know That You CAN Get A Pap Smear Done At A GP?

Can I have sex the night before?

Ideally, you should not have sex before going for a Pap smear, because it can obscure the cells, making the test less accurate. You don’t necessarily need to cancel the test – just consult with your doctor first.

Can I go while I’m on my period?

The best time to have a Pap smear is 14 days after the first day of your period. Having a Pap smear while on your period isn’t a good idea, because it can also make the result less accurate. If you’re experiencing light spotting, it won’t affect the result as much and your doctor will continue with the smear.

What kinds of questions will my doc ask me?

You need to tell your doctor everything about your sexual habits and cycle – now is not the time to be shy. Especially mention sexual partners and status, contraception, condom use and any discharge you’ve noticed. You might need other or more frequent tests based on your answers, but try not to be scared – it’s all for your health. 

READ MORE: 6 Reasons You’re Seeing Blood On Your Toilet Paper

What does it mean if they find abnormal cells?

Your Pap smear might flag abnormal cells that aren’t cancerous. ASCUS means atypical cells of undetermined significance. This can be caused by infection, inflammation or HPV. The cells should return to normal again. So, what do you do? It’s important to repeat the Pap smear in six to 12 months. If the ASCUS persists, it’s best to go for a colposcopy by a gynae because it can develop into a pre-cancerous lesion.

Should you take painkillers before your Pap smear?

A Pap smear is more uncomfortable than painful, so no need to pop a pain pill before your visit.  Know that the more you tense up, the more uncomfy it will be. Try to relax while taking deep breaths. Tip: Bear down slightly when the speculum is inserted to help relax the pelvic muscles. 

How much will it cost?

You can have a Pap smear done by your GP or gynae – and you will need to pay for the visit, equipment and lab testing. If you do co-testing (testing for HPV and looking at the cells for cancer) the lab costs will be about R1 000. If you’re on medical aid (even certain hospital plans), they will cover the lab costs.

READ MORE: Everything You Need To Know About The ‘Dreaded’ Pap Smear

When and how often should I go?

Women should start going for Pap smears from the age of 25, or when they become sexually active. Follow-up testing will depend on your result. If you are low risk, for example, have a normal Pap smear and one sexual partner, you’ll generally only need to do a test every three to five years and can stop after the age of 65. Note: HIV-positive women should start with testing at diagnosis and will require more frequent tests.

Women’s Health participates in various affiliate marketing programmes, which means we may get commissions on editorially chosen products purchased through our links to retailer sites.

READ MORE ON: Health Health Advice Pap Smears Vaginal Cancer Vaginas

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22 Jun

Meditation is a hot subject these days. You hear about it everywhere.

And like any subject that is popular in Facebook feeds and new shows, there can be a number of myths and misunderstandings about it.

7 Meditation Myths

In this first part of a 3-part series on “Common Meditation Myths”, we’ll look at what is meditation. Oddly, defining meditation can be one of the trickiest things about learning to meditate.

Just what exactly is it? Is it being mindful? Focused? Sitting in open awareness?

We’ll look at many of the ideas people have about meditation and compare that to what it really is.

Myth #1: Meditation is all about focus and concentration

There are many meditation traditions and techniques. Even though they can be very different, a common theme is that meditation trains your mind.

One way or another, they promise to change your state of consciousness, to help you see clearly, find peace, or gain self-knowledge.

To develop these skills, some meditative techniques use focus and concentration. You might focus on your breath. You might bring your attention back to a single point every time it wanders.

But many techniques do not focus. Some broaden your awareness to include all of your surroundings. You are open. Expansive.

And still other techniques use chanting, visualization, contemplation, or mantras.

Depending on what type of meditation you use, focus and concentration are just two of the practices you may develop.

Myth #2: Meditation is mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness are two common terms, both of which have broad, vague meaning. They can be confusing because they refer to many different things and are often used interchangeably.

Generally, meditation is a broad category of practices to self-regulate and manage the mind.

Mindfulness is one of the practices. It refers to being in the present, fully aware of whatever is occurring. If you are mindful of your breathing, you are fully aware and present with the experience of breathing.

You can be mindful of any sensation or experience–from the sensations in your body to the many experiences in everyday life.

But in popular culture, meditation and mindfulness often mean the same thing.

Myth #3: Meditating means you empty your mind

There’s a common myth that to meditate, you must stop your thoughts. If you’ve ever tried to do this, you probably realized that not thinking is a very difficult task.

The root of this myth is from one common outcome of meditating. Often, your mind becomes calmer. The chatter is softer and less disturbing.

The image of a meditator sitting with an empty mind is reinforced with the many meditating saint images available. The pictures make it hard to imagine that the saints were sitting and thinking about their grocery list.

This myth gets the end confused with the beginning. While your thoughts may be less intrusive with a meditation practice, you don’t block or fight your thoughts to get to that end.

Forcing your thoughts to go away only makes them more rebellious. You work with your thoughts–not against them.

Myth #4: Meditation can teach you esoteric skills like levitating

There are some meditation traditions which believe that highly skilled masters can achieve some very unusual, quite extraordinary skills (including levitating).

However, most meditation traditions don’t focus on these practices. Even if they do, they teach that these skills are the result of meditation–not the goal.

Myth #5: Meditation is spiritual

For some people, meditation is a spiritual practice. Meditation makes them feel closer to a Higher Power or helps them find a deeper Truth.

But for others, meditation is part of their health and wellness regime.

Either way. You get to pick. Meditation is not one or the other.

Myth #6: Meditation is a wellness practice

Many people meditate to reduce stress and increase their overall contentment. They understand (and more and more research is confirming) that meditation provides many health benefits.

But for others, meditating for health alone feels flat.

Meditation includes a broad range of practices that can be practical or spiritual.

Myth #7: Meditation is… (fill in a particular technique)

There are many techniques which fall under the umbrella of meditation.

From single-pointed focus to sitting in open awareness, from contemplating a koan (a paradoxical question) to visualizing complex images, from sitting practices to walking, and from cultivating compassion to contemplating the nature of reality—all of these very different practices could be called meditation.

Meditative practices come from many different traditions, different times in history, and from different parts of the world. Some are taught in a clinical setting and others in a religious space.

Typically the techniques develop the mind or induce different states of consciousness but there is a wide range of why or how they do it.

And despite all these differences, these practices are all mashed under the idea of “meditation”. It’s no wonder that defining meditation can be confusing. Meditation can be many things.

Next month, we’ll look at common meditation myths about how you meditate–myths that can keep you from getting started or that make your practice more difficult.

Julia Rymut
Looking for the truth about mediation (and other philosophical questions)? So does Julia. Julia Rymut plays with the mind-body connection as she teaches yoga and meditation. Join her mailing list at TaraTrue.com

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21 Jun

International Day of Yoga lands on June 21, which coincides with the first official day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Today, we’re highlighting people from around the world who are incorporating yoga into their lives. Keep reading to see yogis on each continent (and yes—we even got Antarctica, too!) 

See also How to Salute the Sun

1. Nansera Cissy, Ntenjeru (Uganda, Africa)

“Please take a moment everyday to remind yourself that you’re enough. Personally, I do so through a 10 minute meditation every morning and it works for me. It’s important to have this kind of approval from within before you go out to meet the world for it can sometimes be falsely unaccepting and cruel to your different.”

2. Jean Laval, Paris (France, Europe)

Translated: “Kundalini yoga has completely changed my life—I have much more energy, much more clarity of mind, and I’m much more joyful since I’ve been practicing this yoga.”

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