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Qigong – A holistic approach to overall health & vitality

qigongSince I’ve taken up the practice of Qigong, I’m eager to share my learning experiences and the various health benefits I’ve gained from this ancient meditative Chinese exercise.

The official definition of Qigong according to the National Qigong Association is a mind-body-spirit practice that improves one’s mental and physical health by integrating posture, movement, breathing technique, self-massage, sound, and focused intent. Qi (Chi) means “life energy” and gong means “cultivation and its benefits.

This holistic approach to overall health and vitality has been adapted by Eastern practitioners for centuries and has been used to maintain health, manage illnesses and increase longevity. It encourages self-awareness, focus, concentration and intent.  A daily routine of these gentle movements helps cultivate the flow of energy in our bodies. Harmonizing the breath, body, mind and spirit allows you to tap into an abundance of chi to promote physical and emotional health.

I practice Qigong for at least an hour a day and found many helpful videos online to refer to. There are many Qigong centers you can locate in your community. These exercises can be done sitting, standing or even laying down and is customizable depending on your health needs. For me, it all begins by letting go of my surroundings, and becoming more aware on the unconscious level to unleash the flow of energy. My body is straight, my feet stay grounded to the earth, but my knees slightly bent. My shoulders and arms are relaxed and my neck is delicate and straight.

Keeping the appropriate posture in Qigong promotes free flow and circulation of energizing chi without restrictions. My breathing is slow and calm and I’m observant of every deep breath I take. The goal is to release the negative energies and take in the refreshing, positive energies.

This is just my routine. I encourage you to find your own process of building awareness and infusing the body with chi. Some experts believe that there are more than 3,000 different styles of qigong in existence today and there are many  diverse approaches. Once you discover how to integrate your mind, body and spirit, the sensations that you experience during Qigong, will become more natural and the benefits will become more noticeable.

I’ve seen many enhancements in my overall life by practicing Qigong such as increased energy, better sleeping habits, more flexibility, increased motivation to accomplish goals and more.  Various studies find there are many more health benefits including:

  • Balanced emotions
  • Increased focus
  • Improved memory
  • Improved quality of life for cancer patients
  • Increased Energy and Vitality
  • Aids in digestion
  • Builds bone density
  • Builds the immune system
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Decreases stroke risk
  • Improves asthma
  • Improves circulation
  • Improves flexibility
  • Improves kidney function
  • Improves posture
  • Increases balance
  • Speeds recovery

The benefits are endless. Find a routine that works for you and begin slowly. You’ll be happy you invested the time.


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Benefits of Meditation for Children

From television screens to I-pads and cell phones and social media, children’s minds are overloaded with information. Not all of what they are exposed to has a positive impact, but often, reinforces thoughts and images that induce temperamental behaviors and effects healthy development.

Dating back to centuries ago, practicing meditation has been found to have a profound effect on the mind, body and soul. Meditation is now also seen as a useful tool for children of all ages, in educational settings, at home or even on the athletic field. Here are some benefits children can reap from just a few minutes a day of mindfulness.

Improved focus. Concentration is important at any age and the sooner children are trained, he or she can perform more efficiently academically and socially. Meditation removes distractions and invites comfort. Children can learn attention skills and develop a higher regard for their surroundings.

Researchers in Australia conducted a study of 26 children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) between the ages of four and 12 who were treated with Yoga Meditation for six weeks.

Findings of the study included;

  • Reduced hyperactivity
  • Reduced impulsiveness and inattention
  • Improved parent-child relationships
  • Enhanced self-esteem
  • Reduced use of medication in 50% of children

Reinforcing positivity and build self-awareness.  A meditation routine can transform the way children respond to stress, fears or anxiety.  A peaceful break of breathing and relaxation can help children refresh their thoughts to focus on the positive, blocking out negative energies or thoughts. Guided meditative affirmations help children increase their self-confidence and help them tune in to their feelings or actions. For example, by him or her hearing and repeating the words “I am safe,” “I am calm” or “I am proud of myself,” can help shape their attitude and behavior.

Excel academically. A study published in Developmental Psychology found that 4th and 5th grade students who regularly performed meditation exercises did 15% better on math tests. We know focus and concentration is improved, so it only makes sense kids will excel in their schoolwork. Kids need encouragement to progress in their studies, at any level. Meditation stimulates the brain and reinforces the idea of succeeding and believing in our abilities. Children develop a connection to learning and are able to be happier doing it.

Physical strength and endurance. Healthy living begins at a young age. Meditation helps improve breathing and heart rate, reduces blood pressure, and overall promotes healthy heart, brain and functioning. Meditation also helps recharge the body releasing both physical and mental energy, which in turn maintains overall health.

Children need a supportive and nurturing environment to thrive in from a young age. They need to be conditioned to face difficult situations with positivity and confidence.

Meditation in a quiet, non-distracting place can offer children a way to experience peace, happiness and to allow them to express the joys of their childhood. Find a few minute a day to invite meditation into your children’s life whether it be through breathing exercises, guided meditations, positive affirmations or just sitting quietly.


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Managed Long Term Care Streamlines Delivery of Care in Home or Community

Managed long term care plans (MLTC) were created to provide integrated access to home and community based health services and supports for those requiring long term care.

The US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates that about 9 million American men and women over the age of 65 needed long term care in 2006, with the number expected to jump to 27 million by 2050.

Long term care is offered to those who can no longer perform everyday tasks or activities of daily living by themselves due to a chronic illness, injury, disability or as a result of the aging process.

As the need for these services continue to grow, MLTC plans have accordingly aligned a coordinated delivery of care that includes care management, personal care assistance, home health care, transportation, a network of providers and hospitals, and more; all under one plan.

Health care professionals such as a nurse, home health aide, social worker or therapist are bridging the gap to care by offering assistance with tasks such as bathing, dressing, cooking and eating, rehabilitation therapies such as physical, occupational and speech therapy, or nutritional counseling and social or environmental support.

The pivotal goal of MLTC is to improve the quality of life for an individual. One of the most important benefits of the MLTC Plan is having a personal Care Manager who will work with members to seek and coordinate solutions to meet their health and long term care goals, while working hand-in hand with their physicians, caregivers and family.

If you or a loved one need long term care, visit Department of Health for a list of plans in your area.

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Healthy you, healthy kids

Since becoming a mom, I’ve realized how important what I eat is, especially since my kids are eating what I am.  Do I really think switching to brown rice or whole wheat bread is all I need to do? Not by a long shot.  This millennial generation that I am part if is incredibly busy and always on the go, which usually means we don’t have time for healthy food diets, exercise or even eating sometimes. But in the larger scheme of things, it is imperative that we make a conscious effort to be healthier, for us and more importantly for our kids.

Our kids are influenced by our behaviors, attitudes and actions, and what we choose to be, is what our kids will choose to perceive and portray.  If we want to promote lifelong healthiness, we all need to get the ball rolling, literally!

With the spiking rates in childhood obesity, diabetes and cancer, it is our moral duty to help prevent these health disparities from clinging on to our children. Can we really totally prevent out children from ever developing any of these issues? Probably not, as fate must play its course, but we can take a proactive approach in promoting healthy eating and behaviors from a young age. If our kids are watching us trade in apples, granolas and yogurt for ice-cream, sodas and chocolate we can only expect their unhealthy behaviors will soon develop and emerge. We want to help our children maintain healthy weight and normal growth.

As we are disciplining our children in appropriate behaviors, it is the same we must institute for healthy living.  We may first need to start disciplining ourselves, as I know I need to, before we set acceptable rules for our kids.  By instilling this discipline, we will all quickly learn what behaviors are acceptable in terms of eating, exercise, and playtime.

So, how can we kick off these healthy habits? It all starts with innovative ideas integrating health and fun.

Making healthy eating part of movie night or game night is a great way to get everyone involved and sets aside some family time.. Let  everyone help cook dinner, throw on some music and make it an unforgettable time.  Teach your kids about what your cooking and talk about the health benefits of certain foods.  Let your kids lead healthy choices by coming up with their own recipe ideas. You can even make a scrapbook together of all your great recipes. .It’s a great way to incorporate laughter and fun, the two most important ingredients in a healthy diet!

Turn off the TV, put down that iPhone, throw on your walking shoes and get outdoors! Take your kids for a stroll, run or challenge them to a game of softball, tag or red light green light 123. Any outdoor activities will show your kids how important everyday exercise is. While your out and about, invest in some bonding time and take a few minutes to talk about sports and find out what interests them. It’s a good way to learn more about your kids and motivate them to join a sports team.  If you were an athlete in High school or college, show your kids pictures and it might spark an interest.

As the sun starts rolling around plan regular outings and trips to the park with friends and family and kick off an annual sports day. Do relay races, potato sack runs and games. Not only will kids want to practice Their moves leading up to the day, they will be pumped and excited to beat their little sister, best friend or cousin. A little competition is healthy.

Join a spin class, take hip hop classes, or try out yoga, all together. Moms, use the once a week to take your daughter to your favorite exercise class of your choice, then stop for smoothies, maybe a manicure and enjoy the day. Dads, use the day to find a favorite sport like boxing, karate, track or basketball and make a pit stop at the arcade or for smoothies too! Everyone loved a good smoothie. The point is to use the time to educate and engage your kids about healthy living, while living happily!!

Create a body chart with your kids and educate them on what each organ of the body does and what it needs to function.  Let your kids be creative and colorful and use lots of highlighters and words. Let it be their creation that they can be proud of and maybe even hang on their wall in their room.

We all need to start somewhere to be a healthy role model. Find your role and start teaching your kids the healthy way.

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Caribbean Nations Addressing Emerging Population of Special Needs Children

1 out of every 5 children in the born with a special healthcare need. In New YorkState alone that equates to over 800,000 children.

Children with special needs, complex medical conditions or developmental disabilities, are challenged with a wide array of conditions stemming from premature birth, chronic illnesses, or severe injuries. These conditions often require a continuum of medical, educational, and rehabilitative long-term care and specialized services.

Children who are born with special needs are not limited to a particular demographic, race or culture- all unborn children are at risk for complications. Research in the Caribbean dating back to the 80’s and 90’s suggest that children in the Caribbean are at risk for or already have a special need.

In a 2007 interview with Angelita Arnold, Director of the Mico College Child Assessment and Research in Education Center in Jamaica, she was quoted as saying in JIS News “the number is significant. There is not a classroom you can go to inJamaicawhere there is not one child without some kind of special need.”

At the Caribbean Symposium on Inclusive Education in St. Lucia, it was found that there were 253 children with special needs who are presently attending Special education schools inSt. Lucia. Although this represents only 0.64% of the total school population, the number continues to grow and these children still deserve to be appropriately educated and cared for.

In 1996 a survey conduced inTrinidad and Tobagoreported there were over 50,000 children in the twin island republic with special needs or some type of developmental disability. In 2006 a survey conducted by Families in Action (FIA) at a Port-of-Spain primary school led by a project team of Medical Psychological, Social Work and educational partners showed that 70% of the children 7-13 years of age were characterized as academically impaired.  Of these children, 15% had medical problems that could affect learning.  Most recently, a 2009 article in Trinidad and Tobago’s Newsday reported that 32% of students are intellectually challenged due to a number of learning disabilities that educators did not recognize as a special need, rather identified the child’s learning disability with their incapability to grasp concepts.

Learning disabilities (LD) refers to a group of disorders that affect a broad range of academic and functional skills including the ability to speak, listen, read, write, spell, reason, organize information, and do math. The disorders are neurological in origin and reflect information processing problems in the brain. LD’s may co-exist with various conditions including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), behavioral disorders, sensory impairments, or other medical or neurological conditions like autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and Tourette Syndrome.

LD often leads to long-lasting psychological harm unless they are caught early. Babies born prematurely, meaning slightly early or two weeks late have a raised risk of learning difficulties.

I in every 8 babies are born prematurely every year. Premature birth is a major cause of serious health problems with pre-term infants at greater risk of medical complications and long-term disabilities, such as chronic lung and heart disease, developmental delays, and feeding issues, which may require specialized care and support for months, and often years, after they are born

The most recent wave of a developmental disability to hit the seas is Autism; a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. In Trinidad and Tobago, as of October 2007, there were over 300 families registered with the Autistic Society of Trinidad andTobago, but local awareness remains relatively low and funds are needed to advance the cause of the Society.

Many Caribbean countries are beginning to recognize the need for educational and social programs that address the growing needs of the special needs population who are faced with complex medical and or life-limiting conditions.

Guyana has recently been taken up appropriate tactics to combat the severely growing number of Guyanese children with autism. Ministry of Health’s Rehabilitation Services program and the Ministry of Education’s Special Needs Unit at the National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD) recently held a special workshop which addressed the lack of capacity and basic knowledge of strategies inGuyana’s special needs schools to address autism.

At the end of June, therapists from the Strategic Learning and Special Education Institute, a private institution in Trinidad which works with special needs children, will host a professional workshop in Maryland for parents, therapists and teachers, hold individual consultations with parents and their special needs children, conduct teacher training and child assessments.  This is a wonderful opportunity to raise national awareness of how children with special needs can learn to become independent and live fulfilling lives – with the right teaching methods and resources.

Just last year the education ministry in Jamaica became aware that hundreds of students with special needs are waiting to gain access to schools. This has been a problem for years and the ministry is now trying to address it. After being diagnosed, most of the children with special education needs are forced to return to the mainstream classroom where their educational, medical, and social needs are not being met.

Grenada announced the implementation of a training program for educators involved in teaching children with special needs. The six week training for 20 teachers, including three from Carriacou, is expected to enhance the trainees’ knowledge, skills and understanding of inclusive and special education best practices.

The Ministry of Education in St. Lucia has increasingly attempted to broaden the scope of delivery of Special Education services by establishing the Student Support Services Unit, which includes the Special Education Unit, catering for children in Special Schools, as well as supporting children with learning disabilities at Infant and Primary schools.

Although these countries may not be far in combating the issue, they have each taken measures to promote and encourage education and awareness which is the first and most crucial step.