8 Stages of Yoga for Health and Well Being

Vritika Jhunjhunwala

"Yoga" means union that brings an incoherent and scattered mind to a reflective state for communion of the human soul with divinity. It ensures optimal condition of every aspect of life, be it body, mind, energy or soul. Let's explore in brief the eight stages of Yoga that promise not only health, but answers to all imaginable existential predicaments of the human mind. Yoga is not only for India, it belongs to the world!

1. Yama is the first stage that purifies the mind with great vows of non-violence, truth, non-stealing, continence and non-covetousness. This is essential to avoid doubt and restlessness of the mind before progressing to further demanding levels of practice.

2. Niyama are rules for purity, contentment, austerity, study of the scriptures and surrender to a higher power. These virtues calm the disturbed mind, make one cheerful and enhance mental power to discipline the senses.

3. Asanas are achieving perfection in posture and flexibility of the human body through performing certain poses and postures and pushing the limitations of the body each time. Asanas bring health, beauty, strength, firmness, lightness, clarity of speech and expression, calmness of nerves and a happy disposition.

4. Pranayama is conscious regulation of breath through different exercises that bring the mind and senses under control. Yogis believe that the breath is the key to our thoughts and they worked endlessly on different techniques of inhalation and exhalation to achieve perfect steadiness of the wavering mind.

5. Pratyahara is the subtle technique of disciplining our thoughts as yogis fully understood the dangers of an untamed and uncultured mind. Since the mind affects the quality of our lives, this practice quiets the senses and draws them inward in order to find a space of inner peace and tranquility.

6. Dharana is concentration on a single point, or total attention on what one is doing, the mind remaining unmoved and unruffled. It stimulates inner awareness to integrate ever-flowing intelligence and release all tensions.

7. When Dharana continues for a long time, it becomes Dhyana or meditation, the seventh stage of Yoga. This is an indescribable state that has to be experienced to be understood.

8. When meditation is maintained without interruption, it merges into Samadhi where the practitioner loses consciousness of his body, breath, mind and ego. He lives in infinite peace and not only is he enlightened, but he illumines all those who come to him in search of truth.

It's quite apparent that Yoga is not just twisting the body into funny shapes or even meditating to calm the mind, it is the conclusive science of exploration of one's true nature and the end goal is not just Samadhi, but liberation. In this state, there is no fear, doubt or confusion, but pure happiness and contentment. Our purpose is to know ourselves, our true selves and immerse into the ocean of eternal love that flows, without exception, in every beating heart.

You are not a drop in the ocean; you are the entire ocean in a drop - Rumi


  1. The Indian Equator: Mark Twain's India Revisited, 2013, 111-25
  2. Light on Pranayama, 1981, 16-18
  3. The Essential Rumi, 1961
  4. Light on Yoga, 1966, 67-80
About the Author:

Vritika lives in India where she immersed herself in authentic principles of Yoga and meditation through intense study, reference reading and oral teaching. Having learnt and taught the benefits of meditation in modern life, she aims to bring peace and well being to people in innumerable ways demonstrated by Yogic wisdom. Her personal blog, https://mindfulnesswithin.wordpress.com/ is a culmination of her passion and efforts to promote the ancient science of Yoga in its purest form and highlights her love for Indian culture. Vritika also loves writing, photography, reading and is pursuing classical music.


Joy for Jiaogulan! The Health Benefits of Gynostemma pentaphyllum

Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum) was first described in 1406 in a book written by a Chinese
author who labeled it as a food, although the plant is mainly used in herbal medicine.

The legendary longevity of residents of the Guizhou Province, who consume jiaogulan in the form of tea, led to the herb's designation as the immortality herb.

Modern investigation of jiaogulan's composition has identified the flavonoids rutin and ombuoside, as well as malonic acid as present in the plant.1 Compounds known as saponins, which include gypenosides occurring in jiaogulan, were shown to have a "bidirective" immunomodulatory action by their ability to normalize immune indices from those that were excessively high or low in a study involving immune impaired mice.2 The authors concluded that jiaogulan's action as an immunomodulator seemed to be similar to that of Panax ginseng and Astragalus membranaceus.

Jiaogulan saponins' antioxidant effect suggests it could be valuable for the prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis, liver disease and inflammation.3 Gynostemma pentaphyllum has also been shown to have a more potent anti-inflammatory effect than the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) indomethacin in research involving rats.4

Jiaogulan on the Brain

Jiaogulan may benefit the brain by improving memory and learning deficits, if research involving mice is an indication. Animals given the drug scopolamine, which impairs memory, experienced a reversal of their impairment when given gypenoside 74.5

In a study in which mice were given a toxin that induces a Parkinson's disease-like condition, coadministration of gypenosides protected the substantia nigra (the area of the brain impacted by Parkinson's disease) from oxidative stress, loss of neurons and motor dysfunction, which the researchers involved in the experiment attribute to an increase in anti-oxidation as exhibited by elevated glutathione levels and greater superoxide dismutase activity in this area.6

In an experiment with brain hippocampal slices exposed to a short period of low oxygen and glucose, an extract of jiaogulan protected the cells from functional injury when administered during restored blood flow.7 Authors L. Schild and colleagues predicted that Gynostemma pentaphyllum should be beneficial as prophylactic nutrition supplement and during revascularization of arterial blood vessels from stroke and other ischemic events such as coronary occlusion."

Jiaogulan shows promise in the prevention of dementia induced by chronic poor circulation to the brain, which has been associated with white matter lesions. In rats in which cerebral hypoperfusion was induced by bilateral common carotid artery occlusion, spatial learning and memory was better, and oxygen free radicals, lipid peroxide production and oxidative DNA damage were lower in animals that received the higher of two daily doses of jiaogulan in comparison with those that received saline.8 In a model of stroke, in which cerebral ischemia was induced by middle cerebral artery occlusion, pretreatment with gypenosides reduced the area of damage and improved motor function, which the authors suggest could be mediated through the enhancement of neurogenesis.9

Heart Health, Diabetes, Cancer, and more

In human blood samples, jiaogulan has been shown to decrease the activity of multiple coagulation factors, which suggest its use as an antithrombotic agent.10 Other research has shown a reduction in cholesterol and triglycerides in association with the herb.11 In experimental research, jiaogulan has shown promise for the prevention of fatty liver disease.12

In a trial of 24 type 2 diabetics who were not being treated with drugs, 12 weeks of Gynostemma pentaphyllum tea resulted in reduced glucose, hemoglobin A1c (a marker of long term glucose control) and insulin resistance in comparison with subjects who received a placebo.13 "This study shows a prompt improvement of glycemia and insulin sensitivity, and thereby provides a basis for a novel, effective, and safe approach, using Gynostemma pentaphyllum tea, to treat type 2 diabetic patients," authors V. T. Huyen and associates conclude.

In another study conducted by Dr Huyen's team, the addition of jiaogulan to a sulfonylurea drug resulted in lower fasting plasma glucose, hemoglobin A1c and lower oral glucose tolerance test values in comparison with drug treatment alone.14

Like most plants, jiaogulan has been the subject of research concerning an ability to combat cancer. An evaluation of the effects of 24 Chinese herbs suggests that jiaogulan could strengthen the body's resistance to the disease.15 In an investigation that involved rats injected with a carcinogen, pretreatment with a jiaogulan solution delayed the initiation of esophageal cancer and was associated with a trend toward fewer tumors in comparison with rats that did not receive jiaogulan.16 In human lung cancer cells, gypenosides induced cell cycle arrest and apoptosis (programmed cell death) indicating a chemopreventive role.17

Similar effects have been observed in a study involving human tongue cancer cells,18 in human prostate cancer cells19, and in human20 and mouse leukemia cells, while improving survival in mice injected with the latter.21 Gypenosides has also triggered apoptosis in human liver cancer cells22 and glioma cells,23 and inhibited invasion and migration of human oral cancer cells.24

While it looks as though jiaogulan could help with conditions related to aging, we are particularly fascinated with its actions on AMPK. Jiaogulan (G. pentaphyllum) has been shown to activate this important enzyme.24 The AMPK enzyme serves as the body’s master regulating switch. Increased AMPK activity helps to revitalize aging cells. The promise shown in these and other studies suggests that there's more to this heretofore unknown herb to be revealed in further research.


  1. Fang ZP et al. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 1989 Nov;14(11):676-8, 703.
  2. Zhang C et al. Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 1990 Feb;10(2):96-8, 69-70.
  3. Li L et al. Cancer Biother. 1993 Fall;8(3):263-72.
  4. Lin JM et al. Am J Chin Med. 1993;21(1):59-69.
  5. Joh EH et al. Planta Med. 2010 May;76(8):793-5.
  6. Wang P et al. J Int Med Res. 2010 May-Jun;38(3):1084-92.
  7. Schild L et al. Phytomedicine. 2009 Aug;16(8):734-43.
  8. Zhang G et al. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2011 Jul;99(1):42-51.
  9. Wang XJ et al. Int J Dev Neurosci. 2014 Apr;33:49-56.
  10. Tan H et al. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 1993 May;13(5):278-80, 261.
  11. la Cour B et al. J Ethnopharmacol. 1995 May;46(2):125-9.
  12. Gou SH et al. J Chin Med Assoc. 2016 Mar;79(3):111-21.
  13. Huyen VT et al. Horm Metab Res. 2010 May;42(5):353-7.
  14. Huyen VT et al. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:452313.
  15. Han MQ et al. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 1995 Mar;15(3):147-9.
  16. Wang C et al. Hua Xi Yi Ke Da Xue Xue Bao. 1995 Dec;26(4):430-2.
  17. Lu HF et al. In Vivo. 2008 Mar-Apr;22(2):215-21.
  18. Chen JC et al. Oral Oncol. 2009 Mar;45(3):273-83.
  19. Zhang XS et al. Steroids. 2015 Dec;104:276-83.
  20. Lin JJ et al. Phytomedicine. 2011 Sep 15;18(12):1075-85.
  21. Hsu HY et al. Integr Cancer Ther. 2011 Mar;10(1):101-12.
  22. Wang QF et al. Planta Med. 2007 Jun;73(6):535-44.
  23. Schild L et al. Phytomedicine. 2010 Jul;17(8-9):589-97.
  24. Nguyen PH et al. Bioorg Med Chem.2011 Nov 1;19(21):6254-60


A Plaque Stabilizing Combo with Unique Properties - Life Extension Blog

Dr. Joel Kahn, MD, FACC

After 11 years of university-based education to complete my cardiology training, my career changed significantly only 3 weeks into practice. It was at that time that I learned, along with the rest of the medical world, that even years of atherosclerotic damage had the potential to reverse along with a reduction in medical events, using lifestyle and supplement based programs 1. Since that time I have combined diagnostic and interventional cardiology with a search for natural and supplement-based tools to promote the stabilization or reversal of atherosclerosis in my heart disease reversal clinic.

About two years ago my routine review of the medical literature for agents with promising or proven effects on atherosclerotic reversal identified a combination agent reported to have this efficacy in humans.2

That report was a registry study of the combination of two natural plant extracts with high antioxidant efficacy, Pycnogenol from the bark of French Maritime pine trees and Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica).

In that study, 50 patients with carotid artery plaques with <50% stenosis and high oxidative stress received the combination therapy and were compared to a control group over 3 months’ time using carotid ultrasound assessments. The combination therapy resulted in reduced plaque height and length as well as the number of plaques compared to the control group. An index of plaque stability increased in the treated group. A measure of plasma free radicals improved in the therapy group only.

My use of the combination of these two plant extracts increased greatly after this science was published and it became a routine component of my clinic’s atherosclerosis reversal program that uses carotid intimal-medial thickness (CIMT) assessments to identify and track plaque status.3 Even more recently, additional published data has confirmed the power of these extracts in atherosclerosis.4


In this study, 391 subjects were followed for 4 years. All had carotid or femoral atherosclerosis of 50%-60% range and were treated with Pycnogenol® alone, the combination including Centella, or a control group. All 3 groups received lifestyle education. The rate of progression of ultrasound arterial score was significantly lower in both of the supplement groups in comparison with a significant difference in favor of the combination (P<0.05). There was a reduction in plaque progression measured by maximum plaque thickness and length in the combination group. Just as striking was that the occurrence of anginal events was less than 3% in the two supplement groups in comparison with 6.25% in controls. The occurrence in myocardial infarctions was significantly lower for the combination therapy. Events requiring hospital admission were seen in 16% of controls in comparison with 9% of subjects using Pycnogenol® and only 3% of patients using the combination of plant therapies. Oxidative stress was reduced by the therapies.


The data for the combination of Pycnogenol® with Centella asiatica is not well known but striking and holds out great promise for slowing the progression of arterial plaques and their progression to clinical stages.

The standard paradigm for cardiovascular care I grew up with was to “manage” atherosclerosis but new models of stabilization and reversal of disease states are emerging and offer hope for people suffering from the number one killer in the Western world. As always, an “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” with ongoing efforts to prevent cardiovascular disease remaining of primary importance. However, millions of people have established atherosclerosis and may benefit from new and safe therapies derived from plants. The reported efficacy of the combination of Pycnogenol and Centella asiatica may be from their powerful role in reducing oxidative stress but other pathways may be active. Pycnogenol has been shown to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels and lower inflammation through the NF-kB pathway.5 In further studies also in humans, Pycnogenol has been shown to improve endothelial function compared to a placebo agent.6 Centella asiatica has been studied in experimental cultures and was shown to suppress the adhesion of monocytes to endothelial cell layers.7 I routinely observe reversal of plaque measured by CIMT in patients in my clinic and am hopeful more clinicians will offer this therapy routinely.

Dr. Kahn is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine and founder of the Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity in suburban Detroit. He is a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Michigan School of Medicine. He is author of The Whole Heart Solution, now a national public TV special, and 3 other #1 best selling books on health. He is owner of GreenSpace Cafe in Ferndale, Michigan. He writes regularly about health on many sites. He can be found at www.drjoelkahn.com.


  1. Ornish D et al. Lancet. 1990 Jul;336(8708):129-33.
  2. Luzzi R et al. Minerva Cardioangiol. 2016 Dec;64(6):603-9.
  3. Bots ML et al. Chin Med J. 2016 Jan;129(2):215-26.
  4. Belcaro G et al. Minerva Cardioangiol. 2017 Feb;65(1):24-31.
  5. Luo H et al. Exp Mol Med. 2015 Oct;23(47):e191.
  6. Enseleit F et al. Eur Heart J. 2012 Jul;33(13):1589-97.
  7. Ivanov et al. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2008 Jul;52(1):55-65.


4 Steps to Creating a Creature of Healthy Habits - LE Blog

Jackie Edwards

Humans are creatures of habit. What do you do when you wake up in the morning? Do you hit the gym, take a shower or hit your snooze button four more times? What do you pack for lunch — chicken, beef or veggies? Most of the time we feel like we do things based on thought-out decisions, but our actions are really a by-product of our habits.

How Habits are Born

According to Merriam-Webster, a habit is a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiological exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance.” Our habits are formed through repetition and routine. Scientists say the magic number of days for forming a habit is 30 days. After at least 30 days of repetition and routine, our habits change from decisions to automatic behavior. Decisions are formed in the prefrontal cortex of the brain and habitual behaviors are developed in the basal ganglia. When you develop a habit, your brain starts working less and less, and starts to sleep, letting an automatic system take over.

Steps to Forming Good Habits

Habits are sometimes seen in a negative light, but with enough insight into your body and mind, you can start to form good habits. Maybe you want to get in the habit of exercising more or eating healthier. Well, in order to develop these good habits, all you need to do is plan and follow the three R’s — reminder, routine, and reward.

Planning: It is important that you determine your end goal. Dream big, but also think of the small steps you need to get to this end goal. Willpower is like a muscle, and it gets tired as you use it throughout the day. Therefore, you need to work on small steps to keep yourself motivated. Develop your ultimate macro goal, and then come up with little micro quotas to help you get to the target goal. Instead of going for 50 sit-ups a day, start with 10 and work your way up. Your micro quotas should be the minimum amount of work you need to accomplish each day to reach your goal in your targeted time.

Reminder: Studies by the National Institutes of Health show that relying on contextual clues over willpower is one of the best ways to develop a new habit. Therefore, you should set reminders for yourself to environmentally trigger the start of your new habit. A good reminder encodes the new habit into something you do already. For example, if your new habit is to floss every day, put your floss next to your toothbrush. Since you are already in the habit of brushing your teeth every day, seeing the floss next to your toothbrush will trigger or cue you to floss as well. A reminder can also be associated with something we all use constantly — our phones. If you know you check your emails on your phone first thing in the morning, set an alert on your phone to remind you to floss after you check your emails.

Routine: Since it takes 30 days to create a habit, commit to 30 days. Consistency is the key, so if you want your habit to stick, make sure you do it consistently and at the same time every day during your 30 days. If your goal is to get in the habit of exercising, stick to the same routine and exercise around the same time of day. Before you start, determine what time is best for you. This time should not interfere with other activities you may have planned throughout your 30 days. Then, be sure that you stick to the plan daily. The time will start to encode as a cue for you to start your exercise routine and will ultimately become engrained in your daily routine.

Reward: Celebrate your successes. If we are rewarded by performing an activity, we are more likely to keep doing it. Throw yourself a small party when you reach a milestone. Buy some new clothes or take yourself out for a nice dinner. Also, simply looking in the mirror and telling yourself you did a good job can go a long way.

Don’t sweat it if it takes a couple of tries to make your habit stick. You have to find something that is right for you, so it might take a while to find the reminder, routine or reward that you relate to. Keep a positive attitude and remember that habits take 30 days of trial and error.

About Jackie Edwards: After taking a career sabbatical to become a mother, Jackie now writes full time on topics ranging from health and wellness, right through to news and current affairs. She has in the past battled problems with anxiety and panic, and in her spare time she volunteers for a number of local charities that support people with mental health issues.


7 Health Benefits of Vitexin: The Remarkable Flavonoid You’ve Never Heard Of

Vitexin is an apigenin flavone glucoside occurring in passionflower, chaste tree, bamboo leaves, pearl1 millet, mung bean, hawthorn, fenugreek2 and other plants.

A related compound, isovitexin, is also found in passionflower and mung bean, as well as in açaí, cannabis, buckwheat and wild green oat.

Over the past couple of decades, research has been dominated by studies that have identified the compounds in a number of plants, and investigations into their health benefits has only recently commenced in earnest.

”Vitexin and isovitexin are active components of many traditional Chinese medicines and were found in various medicinal plants,” write M. He and colleagues in a 2016 review. “Vitexin (apigenin-8-C-glucoside) has recently received increased attention due to its wide range of pharmacological effects, including but not limited to antioxidant, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antihyperalgesic, and neuroprotective effects. Isovitexin (apigenin-6-C-glucoside), an isomer of vitexin, generally purified together with vitexin, also exhibits diverse biological activities.”

1. Antioxidants

Vitexin and isovitexin have powerful antioxidant properties.4 Research in cultured human skin fibroblasts has revealed a strong ability for vitexin to scavenge free radicals generated by exposure to ultraviolet B radiation.5 This suggests a potential use for vitexin in the prevention of skin damage caused by sun exposure.

2. Protection from Viral and Bacterial Invaders

Vitexin has shown an antiviral action against parainfluenza type 3 and rotavirus.6,7 Vitexin and isovitexin were identified in one study as compounds having an effect against Helicobacter pylori, the bacterium that is the primary cause of gastric ulcers.4 Recent research indicates that vitexin may have an inhibitory effect against bacterial biofilm formation.8

3. Inflammation Management

In an experiment with mice, vitexin was shown to inhibit inflammatory pain.9 It was determined that vitexin prevented a decrease in the animals’ ability to scavenge free radicals and inhibited the production of inflammatory cytokines. Other research conducted on mice found that vitexin relieved pain via mechanisms utilized by opioids.10

4. Anticancer

In research involving rat tumor cells, vitexin inhibited migration and invasion.11 In human oral cancer cells, vitexin reduced cell viability while decreasing metastasis.12 Vitexin has also shown effects against human breast cancer and leukemia cells.13

5. Diabetes

Research has shown that vitexin and isovitexin inhibit alpha-glucosidase (an enzyme that breaks down carbohydrates), suggesting a protective action against type 2 diabetes.14 In pancreatic beta cells exposed to an inflammation-inducing compound, vitexin significantly decreased apoptosis and levels of proinflammatory cytokines including tumor necrosis factor-alpha.15 “The present study provided clear evidence indicating that vitexin may be a viable therapeutic strategy for the treatment of diabetes mellitus,” authors F. Wang and colleagues concluded.

6. Heart Health

In isolated rat hearts subjected to ischemia and reperfusion, vitexin enhanced coronary artery blood flow and improved heart muscle pathological scores.16 In rats in which hypertension was induced, an aqueous extract of Colocasia esculenta Linn showed ACE inhibitory, vasodilatory, beta-blocking and/or calcium channel blocking actions thereby lowering blood pressure and providing a diuretic effect.17 These effects were attributed to vitexin, isovitexin and other components present in the plant’s leaves.

7. Antiaging and Cognition

In a mouse model of aging induced by the injection of D-galactose for eight weeks, vitexin improved the animals’ general medical status, increased brain weight, and elevated total antioxidant capacity and the endogenous enzymes superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase in brain, kidneys, and liver in comparison with untreated aged mice.18

Vitexin also improved neuronal ultrastructure and lowered levels of malondialdehyde, a marker of lipid peroxidation. A 40 mg per kilogram dose of vitexin was associated with the same antioxidant capacity as vitamin E. Activity and appearance, and hair color and luster all improved in aged mice that received vitexin. “Vitexin can delay aging by maintaining normal cell structures, reducing the aging of brain nerve cells, and thus allowing them to function normally, which could be the mechanism for its anti-aging effects,” Fang An and colleagues concluded.

Further evidence that vitexin could benefit the brain was revealed by a study in rats which found a potential role for vitexin in the enhancement of memory retrieval.19 In cultured cortical neurons in which potentially damaging excitotoxicity was induced by the compound NMDA, pretreatment with vitexin prevented cell loss and reduced the amount of neurons that underwent apoptosis.20 And in mice subjected to ischemia/reperfusion injury, treatment with vitexin decreased neurologic deficits, cerebral infarct volume, and neuronal damage in comparison with mice that also underwent ischemia/reperfusion but did not receive vitexin.21 Other studies indicated a protective effect for vitexin against amyloid beta peptide-induced toxicity and neurotoxicity induced by exposure to the general anesthetic isoflurane.22, 23

As suggested by previous research, the antiaging effect of vitexin could extend lifespan. When tested in the roundworm C. elegans, vitexin extended life and improved survival in stressful environments while not affecting offspring, food intake and growth.24 It also increased antioxidant enzymes and dose-dependently lowered intracellular reactive oxygen species. The improvement in body movement observed in aged worms treated with vitexin suggests that the compound favorably affects healthspan as well as longevity. “These results suggest that vitexin might be a probable candidate which could extend the human lifespan,” E. B. Lee and colleagues concluded.

As indicated by the evidence presented herein, research involving flavonoid C-glycosides such as vitexin and isovitexin is still in its preliminary stages. The number of promising studies reported suggests that we can look forward to further rewarding experimental research and, it is to be hoped, human trials.

“Flavonoid C-glycosides showed significant antioxidant activity, anticancer, and antitumor activity, hepatoprotective activity, anti-inflammatory activity, anti-diabetes activity, antiviral activity, antibacterial and antifungal activity, and other biological effects,” observed J. Xiao and colleagues in a 2016 review. “However, there is a lack of in vivo data on the biological benefits of flavonoid C-glycosides. It is necessary to investigate more on how flavonoid C-glycosides prevent and handle the diseases.”25


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