Pilates and Yoga – What’s the difference?

Yoga poseAt an initial glance to a beginner, pilates and yoga seem to have a lot in common. They are both mind/body conditioning routines that rely on smooth, precise movements and measured breathing. In fact, the similarities between pilates and yoga work are not entirely coincidental. Joseph H. Pilates, the founder of the Pilates Method, studied yoga and martial arts extensively and sought to integrate the mind/body aspects of these practices into his new body conditioning exercises and routines. Hence, it is not surprising to find the influence of Yoga in Pilates. Now, if pilates and yoga have so much in common, what are the major differences between these two very similar mind/body conditioning routines?

Perhaps the most obvious difference between pilates and yoga is that yoga is an ancient mind/body practice that originated in India over 5,000 years ago while pilates is a relatively new phenomenon. Pilates was developed and popularized by Joseph H. Pilates and his wife Clara in the early to mid-twentieth century. Pilates created his famous method while working as a nurse during the First World War in Great Britain. He developed his series of exercises and routines to help rehabilitate injured and immobile soldiers. Pilates was inspired by the ancient asana (movements and postures) of yoga, and tried to incorporate this aspect of yoga into his own routine.

Another main difference between pilates and yoga is the underlying philosophy of each. Although they are both described as mind/body exercise routine formats, pilates is generally considered to be more of an exercise than lifestyle choice. Yoga is not meant to operate merely as a simple exercise and body conditioning routine but instead as an entire lifestyle philosophy. Pilates was first adopted as a physical conditioning routine by professional dancers and gymnasts. Like yoga, pilates also seeks to unite the mind, body, and spirit but does not delve into the meditation and relaxation aspects like yoga does.

Another main difference between yoga and pilates has to do with the strength training aspect of pilates. Pilates focuses strongly on building the core strength of the body. The core of the body refers to the deep abdominal muscles, also referred to as the torso area. Pilates has long been known as a powerful tool for building core strength and for lengthening the spine. Some of the specific goals of pilates are to improve postural symmetry, increase circulation, improve posture, and create long and lean muscles. Yoga, on the other hand, is not promoted as a strength training or body conditioning practice. Both yoga and pilates do indeed help participants deal with stress and cultivate relaxation, although only pilates is geared specifically toward building all-over body muscle and tone.

Pilates also has a strong rehabilitation component that yoga practice does not. Another functional difference between pilates and yoga is the way in which breathing is treated. Both practices place an important focus on breathing. However, breathing is more fundamental in yoga practice than in pilates. In yoga, breathing is taught as an important and integral part of practice and yoga generally instructs that participants breath primarily through the nose. In pilates practice, participants are generally taught to breath through nose and exhale through the mouth.

Article courtesy of: http://www.beauty-fitness-secrets.com

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Detoxification and toxin removal

Detoxification is a popular treatment offered by many spas. In fact, as more and more people begin to believe and appreciate in holistic living, the practice of detoxification or detox for short is gaining rapid popularity.

Detox is the process of ridding the body of toxins and other impurities. It is believed that there are much toxins and impurities in the food we eat and the air we breathe. Our body is not able to purge our body of all the toxins that we ingest everyday. As a result, too much toxins in the body can lead to tiredness, listlessness, general lethargy and pains in the body and joints.

In severe cases, buildup of toxins in our body in the long term can lead to liver and kidney problems as well as cancer and other major ailments. Hence, advocates of healthy living and holistic lifestyle actively advise that detoxification is built into part of a health living concept that we can put into daily living.

Detox treatment offered in spas are commonly mud or wrap treatments. It is believed that mud and other wraps will ex foliate the skin of impurities as well as purge the body of toxins and impurities. Sweating out through active sporting activity or through a hot sauna is another popular way to sweat out impurities in a spa. However, such detox treatments in a spa can be expensive and time consuming and other supplementary detox treatments should be added.

Some fringe spas may even recommend detox pills, detox juices or in extreme cases, even colon cleansing routines. Detox medications often induce deep diarrhea and colon cleansing routine involve internal colon purging procedures for rapid detox. (Note: I am personally against colon cleansing routines and I also view detox pills and juices treatments with some reservations)

Foot DetoxOne safe and easy way to perform detox at home is through the use of foot detox patches. Foot detox patches are popular in Japan and Korea and has a medical history that run into hundreds of years based on Chinese reflexology principles. Detox patches work on the principle that toxins can be drawn through the human foot just as the roots of trees draw up nutrients from the soil.

You may purchase foot detox patches online and try it to see how toxins and impurities can be drawn out from your feet. Many people are amazed how much toxins can be purged through their feet when trying foot detox pads for the first time. I was shocked and amazed when I first personally applied it!

However, merely applying foot detox patches is not enough. A complete natural home detox program should consist of physical exercises that make you sweat, drinking plenty of water and eating the right food in addition to daily application of the foot detox patches.

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Facial treatment and Massage

Facial and massageIt’s been months since I had my last facial treatment because it was always so difficult to get an appointment at my regular facial spa salon. On the other hand, whenever I did manage to get an appointment, I ended up postponing it because of work commitments ….sigh… such is the hectic life in a modern city.

I finally managed to go for my facial treatment recently. My regular facial spa salon is located in a pre-war shophouse at Peck Seah Street, Tanjong Pagar, near to the CBD (Central Business District) area and is exclusive to ladies only. The spa salon offers a comprehensive range of treatments that include facial and body massage, body scrub, facial treatments, slimming treatments, pedicure & manicure all under one roof.

The spa salon is divided into many small individual rooms that gives you privacy for massage and facial treatments. There is also a sauna and steam room available for guests to use.

I was assigned my regular beautician. Even though my regular beautician was already familiar with my facial conditions, she always start off by first analysing my skin.

This time round, she commented that my face was dry and had lots of blackheads. She then started the appropriate treatment by cleansing my face, explaining to me every movement as she cleansed, massaged, removed unwanted blackheads and plucked my eyebrows.

Next, she massaged my neck, shoulder and head and followed with a soothing eye mask & cold face mask. She then left the room for me to rest & relax. About 20 minutes later, she returned to attend to me. She removed the mask and applied toner and moisturiser to my face. This concluded my facial treatment which took a total of about 90 minutes.

What I like about this spa salon is that it is near to my working place at the CBD and they do offer a membership scheme – which brings each facial treatment session to an affordable S$55(US$34) per session instead of S$90 that one would typically pay for one-off sessions.

I also like the fact that it is a ladies-only environment and most of the clients are from the CBD area – making it like an after-office relaxation club. I also like the fact that treatments are offered alarte carte; giving me the choice of adding a body massage after a facial treatment if I wanted to or vice versa.

What don’t I like about this salon? They are too popular and getting a treatment slot is sometimes difficult. I also dislike the fact that some facilities like the sauna and steam room can get crowded at times.

Location of Spa: Peck Seah Street, off Tanjong Pagar Rd, Singapore
Size of Spa: 30 individual treatment rooms or more
Friendliness: Friendly receptionist, beauticians and masseurs
Facilities: Sauna, Steam room, Shower room available.
Pricing: Minimum SGD90 for a one hour facial treatment session without being a member. Additional pricing applies for other treatments: S$40 for pedicure, S$28 for manicure, S$108 for aromatherapy massage


Massage therapist training

I have been asked many times about how does one go about to become a massage therapist. I shall do my best to provide a balanced answer.

Massage therapy is a field that is growing by leaps and bounds in today’s stressful society. There is a perpetual shortage of professional massage therapists especially in many Asian countries where massage skills are valued as both a traditional art and a tourist money spinner. There are an average of 4 female massage therapists for every male massage therapist that has undergone professional massage therapy training.

To become a massage therapist, you have to ask yourself if you are capable of doing constant physical work. Then, you have to ask yourself if you have a good service attitude and have a calming and soothing personality.

Massage therapists can offer their customers relief in many different ways; some specialize in helping to relieve stress and muscle fatigue, some work towards helping sports athletes to perform at the top of their game, while others help individuals to work towards solving debilitating health problems that they have. Whatever the case, there is more of a demand for qualified massage therapists today than there has been at any point in the past. If you’re considering becoming a massage therapist yourself, there are definitely some things that you should familiarize yourself with.

The first step to becoming a professional massage therapist is to enroll in a massage therapy school. There are more than one thousand massage therapy schools in the United States alone and most of them require at least a high school diploma in order to enroll. After taking the appropriate massage theory and practical classes, you will need to proceed to apply to become nationally certified as a massage therapist. To do so, you will have to take the National Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork.

This accreditation is required in order to practice massage therapy in thirty three states and is generally recommended in those states which do not have laws governing massage therapy experience. That does not discount all state regulation, however, and a full thirty seven states regulate massage therapy practitioners. In order to receive many of the state accreditations, you will need to have a certain number of training hours undertaken as well as be required to take and pass an exam. After passing these steps, you will be ready to begin your work as a professional massage therapist! There are many different types of massage therapy that you can perform, but amongst the most commonly desired techniques are the Swedish massage, deep tissue massage and sports massage.

In Asia, the steps are roughly similar. For example, in China, to become a qualified Tui-Na massage therapist, one has to enroll in a qualified Chinese medical school for a certification course. In Thailand, many Thai massage therapists enrol in temples(Wat Pho) that specialise in training Thai massage and will need to pass a certification test before allowing to be a therapist. Competition to get into some of the more famous Wat Pho can be competitive.

In Singapore and Malaysia, many spas and massage boutiques conduct their own courses or combine to become a school of massage. These certificates will further need to be verified by the National Spa Association.

One great thing about being a qualified massage therapist is the flexibility that you will have when it comes to where and how you work. You may choose to work in a spa, to run your own practice or to do on-site massage therapy. You may find yourself within reach of an exotic opportunity such as doing massage therapy on a cruise ship or a 6-star luxurious hotel.

Also, you will be able to have a large degree of flexibility when it comes to your hours and how much you want to work. A study conducted in 2005 showed that only thirty eight percent of all massage therapists work full time.

Learning to become a licensed professional massage therapist can take some serious time and effort, but many people find being a massage therapist a very fulfilling and rewarding career decision. If you decide to take the plunge, good luck!


Spa Relaxation Music

Relaxation musicI love relaxing in a spa. They invoke your inner senses with their dim lights, aromatic smell and soothing background music.

I remember this spa that I visited in Mines, KL, Malaysia, a few years back which even had a room with soft sofas called “The Sense Room” that had nothing but flowing curtains, soft lights, scented candles and soft music.

Guests moving in and out of The Sense Room were not allowed to make unnecessary noise and magazines, MP3 players and mobile phones were strictly not allowed. All you were allowed to do was to lay back and relax to the soft music.

There is something about spa music that is so soothing. Many of them are back-to-nature sound, nothing but the repetition of ocean waves or rustic bamboo swinging in the wind or spring water bubbling over stones or the collective call of sea gulls.

These music tracks were unique and difficult to get. I’ve checked many CD shops and the closest I can get are zen, inspirational, instrumental or aboriginal tracks but never exactly the same kind of music I hear in spas. Once, I did come across a small CD shop that sold similar back-to-nature music CDs but it closed down quickly due to the small market.

I am glad to come across this online CD store that sells exactly what I am looking for. This company sell back-to-nature CD that you can buy online and they’ll ship you the CD with FREE shipping fees. And if you can’t wait for shipping, they’ll even allow downloading of the same MP3 tracks. How’s that for service?

What this company does is to actually track down the right places in nature and record the sound using high quality audio recording devices. None of the tracks are artificially created in a production studio.

What I also like is that I can also listen to a track partially on their website before making a decision to buy. And if I realise the CD I bought is not really what I want, I can even get a full refund within 30 days!

So, if you are like me, who like soothing spa-type music at home or in the office, do check out their website. I’m sure you will enjoy what you hear.

Online Store: Http://www.relaxation-cds.com
Types of CD: More than 30 categories of rest and relaxation genre CDs
Price: Between US$19-US$25

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Relaxation Techniques to Relieve Stress

Relieve Stress techniquesGiven the fast and furious pace of modern life, wherever you may be living in the world, you may find your friend, relative, colleague or even yourself suffering from mental stress and burnout.

However, there are some relaxation activities you can do for the relief of these conditions before you may need to seek professional help. Certain of these relaxation methods can be effective in reducing stress in your life. These relaxation methods can include muscle relaxation techniques, deep breathing exercises, meditation or prayer, massage therapy and biofeedback. Massage therapy and biofeedback are usually done in a professional setting but the first three methods can be done at home.

Muscle relaxation
Muscle relaxation is a great activity to practise before going to sleep each night. It will help you calm down and help you sleep better. You should lie down in a comfortable position without crossing your arms or legs. Begin concentrating on each part of your body starting with your head. Breathe deep and slow through this exercise. Tense each muscle as tightly as possible holding for a count of five to ten and then release the muscle. Think of that muscle and feel the relaxation as it becomes heavy. Tense and release each muscle starting with the head and not forgetting the muscles in your face. Continue down each muscle group to your feet. Once you have completed the outside, you may want to work on contracting internal muscles. (Note: You will have some difficulties initially but once you can get it, you’ll find muscle relaxation great for stress relief)

Deep Breathing
Breathing is an important way to reduce stress. When we are stressed, we start taking shallow, short breaths. Taking a deep and long breath can be a great resource for winding down and taking a step back for stressful situations. Deep breathing means concentrating on each breath and counting through each cycle. Inhale through the nose to the count of ten, taking in as much air as you can. Breathe with your stomach and abdomen muscles and don’t let your chest expand. Breathe out slowly through the nose also to the count of ten. Concentrate only on breathing and counting through the cycles. (Note: Repeat this exercise five to ten times and try to make it a habit of doing deep breathing techniques several times a day.)

Mental Meditation
Meditation has been widely used in Oriental cultures as a way to reduce stress. The goal is to calm down the mind and relax. Meditation reduces the stress hormone levels in your body and raises your emotional mood. It aids in reducing blood pressure, keeps adrenaline and skin temperatures in your body level. You should carve out twenty minutes of your day to practice meditation. (Note: You shouldn’t try this right before you go to sleep because it could cause you to wake up in the middle of the night bright and alert.)

Techniques for meditation are varied and you may choose the method that feels the best to you. Sit upright in a chair or on the floor with your spine straight. If you are sitting on the floor cross your legs, if you are sitting on a chair be sure both feet are flat on the floor. Let your mind go and picture your favorite place where you feel the most relaxed. Picture your worries as clouds that are slowly melting away. Feel each breath you take and listen to the sounds around you. Make an effort to use all of your senses to experience the moment you are in. (Note: You may find playing zen-type of music a help for meditation)

These three relaxation methods can be practiced at home and will help reduce stress and control stress hormone levels in your body.

Some of us may find that we can easily practise these relaxation techniques by ourselves at home. Others may not be able to and it is advisable that you then take up classes such as Yoga and Tai Chi which includes muscle relaxation, breathing exercises and meditation as part of their practising philosophy.

Article reprinted with permission from http://www.health-wellness-care.com


Foot Massage in Hua Lien, Taiwan

Foot massage
Foot massage at Hua Lien, Taiwan

Have you been to Taiwan; a lovely country located between mainland China and Japan? A tourist impression of Taiwan is that it is full of friendly people, hot springs and night markets (street bazaars). Yes, besides friendly people and hot springs, almost all Taiwanese towns, large and small, will invariably have a night market where small stalls sell all sorts of food, tidbits, clothes, home accessories, comics, DVD and CDs and others.

Crowds gather whenever there are night markets and where crowd thrive, there will always be a foot massage parlor or two. After spending a night of shopping at a busy night market in the city of Hualien, Taiwan, I visited the foot massage parlor, pictured above. (Note the large foot on the bright neon signboard)

This foot massage parlor has a unique, simple and clean zen design concept. Like all foot massage parlors in Taiwan, a foot massage always start with a hot foot bath and this is where this parlor is unique again with it’s specially designed hot water tubs.

Hot Tub
Foot bath area

Perhaps because of it’s prime location in a busy night market zone, there was a queue for available massage therapist. Luckily, due to the large numbers of therapists, it was soon my turn after a 15 minutes wait.I started with a 15 min foot bath in the hot tub. Chinese medical herbs were added to the hot water and my tired and sore feet quickly turned relaxed. My feet were then dried and my foot massage in an extremely comfortable soft chair started.

Hot foot bath
Fancy foot bath chairs and tubs

I had been to many foot massage parlors and the chairs here must surely ranked as one the most luxurious and comfortable that I have ever sat on. It was full leather with a 14″ LCD TV attached for my viewing pleasure throughout the foot massage session.

One of the thing I noticed in Taiwan is that a large ratio of foot massage therapists are male and they tend to exert stronger strength during a massage session. In fact, according to reflexology principles, a foot massage that is not painful is not effective – literally a case of no pain, no gain. I personally realise that the harder strength a masseur use, the lighter and more nimble one feels on the feet after a foot massage session is over.

However, if you do indeed feel too painful, you should ask the foot therapist to ease off on the strength. Compared to a body massage, there is more pain during a foot massage and your pain threshold during a foot massage will need to build up as your feet slowly become familiar with foot massage. Many people on their first foot massage session will literally scream in pain!

Leather seats and TV
Comfortable leather chairs with personal LCD TV

My foot massage session ended with a hot towel wrap. That totally took all the tiredness and soreness off my feet and body. Having had a rest and my sore feet restored by an invigorating hot herbal water bath and a good foot reflexology session, it is now time for another hour or two of intensive night market shopping!

Location of Spa: Zhong Hua Rd, Hualien, Taiwan
Size of massge parlor: About 20 massage chairs
Facilities: Hot water tubs, leather massage chairs
Pricing: NT600(US$18) for a 45 min foot reflexology, NT1200(US$37) for a 60 min Body TuiNa session