Category Archives: travel

Staying healthy while traveling


Gentle Reader,

I just spent two glorious weeks in Portugal. I will get on an airplane and fly off to other time zones several more times this summer and fall.  Staying healthy while I travel is of upmost importance.  You probably have the same goal:  staying healthy while travelling.

Jet lag is one of the most difficult challenges of travel.  You can lose a day or two of alert engagement with your new surroundings; the very sites and tastes you paid all that money to enjoy.

I found great information from Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare, on USAToday, March 1, 2015.  He consulted the folks at the Mayo Clinic who define jet lag as a “temporary sleep disorder that can affect anyone who quickly travels across multiple time zones.” In other words, you don’t have to go to Europe to get it!

We already know that, right? The real question is how to prevent it, or cure it once you’ve got it. I’ve got some answers which I will add to Rick’s.  In addition to the Mayo Clinic, he talked with experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as the non-profit National Sleep Foundation, plus some remedies from veteran travelers. His “Wild Card” suggestions are entertaining and I will share them here. I hope some of these 15 ideas work for you.

Before You Fly

A little planning goes a long way.

  1. Take care of yourself: You know the drill, eat right, sleep right and exercise. Now for the hard part: You’ve actually got to do this! Most of us get a little hectic just before a trip. I like to zip up a week ahead of time and maintain my normal exercise routine. The better you feel overall, the lighter the jet lag.
  1. Move your bedtime: Several authorities say you should gradually change sleeping patterns before departure.
  • If heading east: Try to go to bed one hour earlier each night for a few days. • If heading west: Try going to bed an hour later, again for a few days before you leave. This is super hard for a person with a busy schedule. I did manage to get to bed early the night before I left. Try it the next time you go east.  I haven’t been to Asia for a while, so I do not have any recent experience there. I’d love to hear from you if you have tried this and made it work for you.
  1. Pack a pillow: You can’t bring your mattress but you can bring your pillow. Nothing wrecks a night’s sleep like trying to settle your head on a puffed-up piece of foam when your noggin cries out for your pancake-flat feather pillow (or vice-versa). I don’t do this. I find the transatlantic/transpacific airline pillows sufficient and when flying domestically, I use my sweater or jacket just fine. I see people sleeping with those blow-up pillows.  Whatever works.
  1. Pack your headphones: My noise-canceling headphones have kept me smiling in the face of wild 2 year olds and often help me nod off. Earplugs can help, too. Others recommend sleeping-masks but not all of us can drowse with something draped across our faces. I use earplugs and find they work great.
  1. Wild card:No night-before bon voyage parties, the kind were everyone raises a toast to your travels and you gulp along with them (we’ll assume those glasses don’t contain ginger ale). In fact, no night before anything except for a good night’s sleep. Here’s how: All packing is done, period. Get it done at least 24 hours before departure, with everything you need (electronic tablets, passports, medication, maps, pre-printed reservations, boarding passes, etc.) ready to go alongside your suitcase. If begin your trip in a stress-free frame of mind, that’s half the battle.

During Your Flight

Do’s and don’ts for a long plane ride.

  1. Set your watch: Move it ahead (or behind) to destination time, the better to start syncing the rest of you. I always do this immediately upon taking my seat.
  1. Watch what you eat: Don’t fall into the, “I’m on vacation, I can eat or drink anything” trap, especially on the plane. Super important. I carry this mantra through my entire vacation, packing my protein powder for a shake at breakfast and my vitamins packed in snack zip lock baggies for each meal exactly as I ordinarily take them when at home.  I have my baggies and protein powder, a cup and spoon for stirring, plus food for the next meal I’m planning to eat in my carry on.  For the overnight flights to Europe, I sit down, eat my dinner—the stuff I brought along, take a sleeping pill, put in my ear plugs, get settled for a long night’s sleep.  I usually get a pretty good sleep and wake up ready for the day.

I stick to my diet as best I can while traveling.  It is hard to get as many vegetables while traveling, so I take some anti-oxidant supplements along.  I stay away from breads, pastries and go for the eggs, fruit, dried prunes and nuts.  Enjoy tastes of the local specialties, but there is no reason to add sugars and white flour to your diet while away if you avoid them at home. I take healthy snack bars and meal bars.  These saved me on the return from Portugal.

  1. Plenty of water: Plane rides can be dehydrating and this can worsen jet lag. Drink up.

I take a rehydrating powder with me and add it to my bottled water.  You lose one cup of fluid for every hour you are in the air. So you have to disturb your fellow passengers.  You get up and they have to get up.  Good for them. Do not buy your extra water before you go through security; wait until you are on the other side. I carry my own empty bottle and fill it from the water fountain.  If you have a bottle with a wide lid, you can easily add powders to the water–protein or hydrating.

  1. Try to sleep:Don those headphones or earplugs you packed and try to fall asleep on the plane especially if you’ll arrive in the morning (and this is often when U.S. flights to Europe arrive). See my remarks on #7.


  1. Try to exercise: No yoga moves, just a simple stroll down the aisle every now and then but only when you won’t disturb meal or beverage service and only when seat belt signs are off. When you return, buckle up no matter what the sign says (turbulence can come out of nowhere). I really do exercise.  Kinesthetic moves:  clench and unclench your butt, holding the clench for several seconds; alternate up and down top/heel while sitting; reach your hands out in front of you and push/pull your shoulders;
    Airplane exercises
    Airplane exercises

    role your head to stretch your neck; do pelvic clocks as you sit, first one direction and then the other; drop first your left and then your right arm to get a good stretch with your head going in the opposite direction.  These exercises can help prevent pulmonary thrombosis which is a danger, especially in older adults. DVT

    moves to prevent DVT
    moves to prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis
  2. 11.Wild card:Ever hear of the Argonne Anti-Jet-Lag Diet? It was developed years ago by a scientist at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and is said to be effective but “difficult to stick to.” I don’t doubt this since it involves alternate days of feasting and fasting before departure. Another approach calls for no food at all for 12 to 16 hours before breakfast time at your destination. Note: The Mayo Clinic says no anti-jet lag diets have been absolutely proven to work but give them a whirl if so inclined (though you should talk to your doctor first).

At Your Destination

  1. Don’t make important decisions first day: I think this CDC tip is meant for those who suffer extreme jet lag but if you’re flying in for a business meeting and know you won’t be super-sharp, consider arriving a day ahead of time. I arrived in Paris in the morning, checked my luggage at the hotel and immediately went walking. I wanted to take in the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore (I was on a writing retreat in southern France). I got sloppy with my cell phone and it was gone when I wanted to take a picture minutes later.  Keep your wits about you for the first couple days.  Check and double-check all the important things: since that experience, I keep passport, money, credit card and phone in my money belt at my waist under my pants, especially when in key tourist attractions.  On this recent trip to Portugal, our guide spotted pickpockets and gave us a warning.  Train stations are particularly bad.  If you carry a backpack, bring it around in front of you anytime you are in a crush of people.
  1. Sync up with local time: If you arrive at your destination at 9 a.m., don’t go to bed. Get into the rhythms of the city and stick with it. If you must nap, lie down for no more than 20 minutes or so, otherwise you may have trouble sleeping at night. A friend of mine who travels to the UK all the time tells me, “No! No afternoon naps. Walk around the city, stop for coffee, go for a hike and stay up at least until 9 p.m. local time.” Absolutely. When traveling with a twelve year old grandchild a few years ago, she suggested stopping at a swim facility (I gave her the book, Ireland with Kids and she found the place).  This took care of her jet lag completely. We had an on time week of sleeping and waking pleasure after that.
  1. Get some sun: According to the Sleep Foundation, daylight is “a powerful stimulant for regulating the biological clock.” Staying indoors, they add, will only worsen jet lag. My rule: walk outdoors no matter what.  I remember arriving in Mumbai mid morning after hours in planes.  I walked my feet off, wandering into a cafeteria-style restaurant where the locals ate during their lunch break from a factory.  I sat between a gaggle of women.  When I couldn’t stand up another minute, I found a church and asked if I could sit down for a few minutes.  It finally got dark so I could go to bed.  The following days, I was alert and enjoyed each full day in crazy India.

15. Wild card tip: According to an Australia-based travel blogger, you can get rid of jet lag quickly by putting your bare feet on the ground (or the grass or the sand). Apparently, you just wiggle your toes around for a while. I can’t vouch for this, but probably couldn’t hurt and probably feels great. All fine and good as an idea, but I seldom end my plane travel in a place where I would want to put my bare feet directly on the ground. It is helpful to visualize grounding yourself in the earth.  Those Aussies are more direct!

One thing more. Whether you are a vitamin taker or not, this might be a good time to take an immune booster.  I carry Vitalized Immunity by Shaklee.  Emergen-C Vitamin C Fizzy Drink Mix is popular.  I used the pop-in-water-and-drink supplement several times while in Portugal.

Happiness is staying healthy while traveling.

Be well, Do well and Keep moving.


For detailed blog and pictures of my Portugal trip, check in at


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Chronic disabilities won’t hold you back

Gentle Reader,

Chronic disabilities won’t hold you back.  Get out and explore the world.  If by my bravado in the face of aches and pains irritates you, my intention is not to belittle, but to inspire.  This story inspires me.  It may seem as though I am never down, but leap about all the time.  I do get grumpy when everything hurts and I will do anything to sit down for a few minutes to rest my back, hips and knees.  So, I’m with you if you are one of the people caught up short by arthritis.

Joan and Polly
Jaon and Polly at the Botanical Gardens


I just spent twelve days in Mexico with three companions, two of whom use support for walking: a walker and a hiking stick.  All three are several years older than I which puts two of them in their 80s.  I worried when I invited them to accompany me to my lavish time-share in Nuevo Vallarta because the walking distance from the unit to the pool is quite far. There are steps involved.  Any trips into Puerto Vallarta and beyond would have uneven pavements and sketchy handicap access.  Only in the USA is there a preoccupation for the welfare of a handicapped person.


So imagine my relief and my delight when these gals said, “Yes” to every adventure, walked the vast campus of the Gran Mayan complex, took a public bus home from the Puerto Vallarta Arboretum way south of town and climbed the steep ramp to worship at the great church of the Virgin of Guadalupe in downtown PV.


Waiting for the taxi in Boca de Tomatlan
For five days before the four of us met at my time-share, my sister-in-law and I vacationed at a beach cottage at the far south end of Bandera Bay.  She found it on Vacation Rental by Owner (, La Casa de las Olas.  To get there you have to take a taxi from the Puerto Vallarta airport all the way through the city which lies in the center of the Bay, to the town of Boca de Tomatlan.  At this village, the coastal highway 200 turns up into the jungle covered mountains touching the Pacific again just northwest of Manzanillo.  In Boca, we were supposed to meet Raul Ramos, a fisherman with an open panga, a high-powered motor and the keys to La Casa, our destination on a beach several coves along the coast.  Because my s-in-l’s plane was 5 hours late and because neither of us had cell phone or internet coverage, we had no way to telling Raul we would be very late.  Undaunted, we set out at 10 p.m. for Boca, routed out a guy drinking beers in the beach restaurant where we were supposed to rendezvous and asked him to help us find Raul.  He knocked on the door of a boat owning Raul who appeared toothbrush in hand, wearing boxer shorts and responding, “I’ve got a boat.  Let me put on a shirt and I’ll take you to Quimixto.”  “Fine,” I answered him in Spanish, “but you don’t have the keys nor do you know which house it is.”  Our taxi driver, wild with worry at what I would try next, begged us to let him take us away from this little town with no hotel and go back to civilization where he could put us down in safety (and go home to tell his wife and neighbors about these two crazy old ladies who insisted on climbing into a boat at midnight).  We found a Best Western along the way and set out again the next morning, this time with charged cell phones and phone numbers.  We were happily in the hands of Raul before noon who settled us into our fabulous beach cottage.  Getting into his boat in Boca and out again in Quimixto required wading in the surf and climbing in.  My s-in-l was guided onto the gunwales and Raul lifted her stick in and then each leg; then hefted our large suitcases into the open motor boat.  On the beach in Quimixto, we had to reverse the process, tottering on Raul’s arm from the surf up the beach to our cottage.  That was courageous of my s-in-law.  She made it with fierce determination.

Casa Pelicanos/465074
Casa Pelicanos/465074


A fine boat ride to Quimixto.
A fine boat ride to Quimixto.

Once we were settled and had a look around, we were smitten by the place: an unbroken view of the ocean, waves crashing just beyond the low wall; majestic native trees rising out of pale blond sand; pelicans swooping along the wave crests; the occasional horsed rider passing by on the beach.  Raul’s wife brought us a fabulous dinner of fresh mahi mahi and homemade tortillas.  I made fresh lime margaritas and guacamole from the groceries I had bought in the Mega Comerciante while waiting for my s-in-l to arrive.  The kitchen was a dream to cook in with its gas stove, big counter and all the condiments you could ask for plus every insect repellant you could imagine.  I did get a few sand flea bites, but no mosquitoes.  The air was fresh, the stars brilliant after the full moon set.  The hammock perfectly located on the veranda.  We each had our own bedroom and bath, not luxurious, but homey and comfortable.


The next day we decided to see the village of Quimixto knowing there was a stream to cross.  The “steam” turned out to be a wide river, slow moving and shallow, thank goodness. My s-in-l used her sticks and her water shoes.

wading the stream in Quimixto
wading the stream in Quimixto
Alternative route across the river
Alternative route across the river

I put on my tevas and replaced them with walking shoes on the other side.  The village is about five cobble stone paved blocks along with a pier at the far end and a few shops, an open church and a primary school plus private houses along the way.  The little harbor is full of open fishing boats.


Vallarta Adventures brings a boatload of tourists from the cruise ships in to Quimixto and takes the people walking through town to a corral where 20+ Mexican ponies wait.  Once the tourists are saddled up and instructed, they file up a trail to a dramatic waterfall about a mile and a half up into the jungle.  I decided to walk this and had to cross the “creek” four more times, climb quite a bit to a bar perched on the edge of a deep pool into which the waterfall plunged.  The tourists arrived by horse back after I had my viewing spot picked out, a good place to watch them jump in the water, haul the brave ones up hand over hand to a ledge and shoot down the water fall’s natural sluice. Enterprising locals had souvenirs for sale and one man offered me a giant iguana for a picture.  And a tip, of course.

Waterfall above Quimixto
Waterfall above Quimixto
Iguana photo op
Iguana photo op


Pier and harbor in Quimixto
Pier and harbor in Quimixto













In the other direction from the village, a trail ran along the shore and then climbed to a long undulating ledge to another cove and another village, this one much larger though still accessible only by boat.  Perched on this trail’s hillside amidst the jungle plants is a yoga center, sleeping cottages stair step up to the main yoga room at the top.  The place is only 3 years old. Check it out.  I walked the trail below the center, across their beach and up into the jungle towards Las Animas beach, about two miles along the coast.  Believe me; I will take my hiking sticks with me in my suitcase every time I travel from now on. This trail was steep and rugged, rising and falling to streamlets.


Besides describing the wonders of this place, I want you to understand that my s-in-l suffers from neuropathy caused by complication that developed after a knee surgery.  For two years now she has had a hard time walking, going numb in her foot and lower leg and the other knee is bone on bone.  But, she is determined to continue adventures and will not sit down in resignation.

At the Grande Luxxe, Polly, Liz, Joan and I used the golf carts and trolleys to get from place to place on the vast campus, and walked miles to the beach, restaurants, the Santuario nightclub and to take taxis off on adventures.  With careful on line research, I was able to locate an accessible restaurant right in the middle of the art galleries. We spent time admiring the art and talking to the artists, taking advantage of the weekly Wednesday art walk.  The restaurant, if you are looking for fine cuisine and atmosphere, is Café de Artistas.  The violin and piano duo rank right up there with the finest musicians and have a unique electronically connected way of playing together without occupying the same space.  Hence, the violinist could wander throughout the many spaces and you heard them as if they were playing in the same room.


GuadalupeChurchWalking to the main street that runs the length of the center of Puerto Vallarta, we watched several groups of Peregrinantes making their pilgrimage to the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Typically, the groups come from parishes in the area, businesses, hotels and schools.  They choose their theme which could be a float with a Virgin surrounded by the Bishop and Juan Pedro, the Indian whose miraculous vision of the Virgin is celebrated for twelve days.  Other themes are dancers, flute, and drum players in Aztec costumes.  We happened to be on the street corner when a motorcycle club roared to a standstill and waited their turn to process toward the church.  Each group enters the church when their turn comes, brings their offering to the Virgin, receives a blessing and then disperses to the central square or along the streets where food booths invite with local delicacies:  roasted ears of corn, flat bread, cups filled with cut melon and pineapple, freshly made tortillas, enchiladas, and so on.  It is a logistical nightmare for some organizer and seems to work.  Every group has its moment in church beginning at six and going until midnight.  A Bishop is there at midnight on the 12th, the actual Saint’s day.


On Sunday, we attended the 10 o’clock mass which was in English and Spanish. The nave was packed with ex-pats and there were a few missals in English for the people who got their early.  A visiting choir sang magnificently.  We looked at each other with tears in our eyes, the music was so beautiful.  Most churches in PV have no choir so this was a special treat. Talking with the soprano who sang the Ave Maria, (we met her at Starbuck’s after church); we found out that she grew up in the States singing in girls’ choirs. She got her first job after college in the American School in PV teaching the kindergarteners and immediately searched for a choir.  She finally located one in the Iglesia del Refugio.  It was their choir who so inspired us.  I’ll know where to attend mass the next time I am in Puerto Vallarta.

Another brave adventure was a trip to the spectacular botanical gardens

south of town in the mountains above Quimixto, , the

brainchild of a group of ex-pats.  Several years ago, they bought anbontanical gardns

old ranch, and its Hacienda de Oro is CAM02086[1]authentic Mexican residence, now restaurant set above the Rio Los Horcones.  Birds and butterflies abound.  They just opened a new Conservatory of Mexican orchids housing a collection of orchids from many regions of Mexico, some very rare.  This was my third visit.  I have hiked the trails through the jungle and gone skinny-dipping in the beautiful river, but this time stayed close to the orchids, Hacienda and other plantings.

Returning to Puerto Vallarta is when the adventure began. We decided to take the bus, which meant getting from the Hacienda to the highway, an uphill cobblestone drive of 200 yards, more than either a walker or a pair of hiking sticks could manage.  A gardener offered to take my companions on his ARV.  What a sight!  Unfortunately, climbing on was almost too much for bum knees, but we all survived, managed to board the bus and ride to the center of Puerto Vallarta.  Whew!


The buses run on Basilio Badillo Street which is full of art galleries, a large blown glass sales room which specializes in exports, and an oasis restaurant owned by a Canadian.  We went in there and had the best, most refreshing sangria I have ever been served.  A great ending to a glorious adventure and everyone feeling all their limbs, joints and bones still functional.  Pretty amazing.


In conclusion, I will say that the best adventure is the one you are determined to take, regardless of your challenges, walker, sticks and all.  Attitude makes the difference.  These ladies were brave and resilient even when the circumstances were difficult.  If you can, go, and don’t let chronic disabilities hold you back.  Next year you may not be able to go.

Be well, Do well and Keep Moving,


206 933 1889

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Legs are numb. Now what?

Gentle Reader,

climbing the steps to Montmartre
Daunting climb to Montmartre Basilica

The Sunday before leaving for three weeks in France I was standing in the choir and my right leg lost most of its feeling.  It tingled down to the foot.  I could see I was standing.  I could feel my upper body level, but my legs were numb.  All I could think of was what if this happens in France, in the middle of the Place de la Republic or climbing the steps to Montmartre?  

reduce back pain with an inversion table
Inversion table to relieve spinal pressure and collapse

I went home immediately and strapped myself into my inversion table, rocked back and forth a few times and then hung upside-down for as long as I could stand it.  The numbness went away, but what was I going to do in France?

Place de Contrescarpe, Paris left bank
me on the front porch, pic by Kevin S. Moul, writer/photographer

Walking around Paris, moving slowly from our Paris Oasis beneath Montmartre all the way to Place de Contrescarpe on the Left Bank, my right leg remained numb.  I could keep from falling by concentrating on the placement of my foot, using focus and intention rather than unconscious walking.  I was definitely preoccupied when we stopped in at the Shakespeare and Co. book store, the one-time lending library which catered to the young writers hanging out in Paris before WWII and after.  These authors included Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Ford Madox Ford, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound.  We were going to study the writings of some of these in our week long writers’ retreat with Natalie Goldberg.  Distracted, my cell phone disappeared.  No posting on face book, no phoning via skype.  I was about to enjoy a complete vacation from electronic communication and was able to focus solely on writing and meditation.  Natalie’s retreats are conducted in silence except for class time.  That means meals, and morning and evening bath and bedroom negotiations among the 10 women living in La Solitude, a quarter mile from the Ferme Villefavard.  Can you imagine how you might emerge from such a phone free existence in a euphoric state of mind?

managing arthritis back pain and leg numbness
feet in chair, knees at right angle

My solution to the numbness problem was to hang from my knees with my feet out of the window in the second floor of this beautiful building (above).  This position lifted my sacrum and lower vertebra off the floor.  I used padding under my knees.  Then I lowered my self down (my butt is up against the wall under the window, here’s a picture I took when I was in New York City last month.

Every morning to open the sacrum and lower back

You can link to the image in a previous post.  The idea is to perform gentle pelvic clock motions to open up the pinched passage so the nerve endings can communicate with the feet and lower legs.  At home I use the Back2Life machine every morning.

Limousin cows
Limousin cows protect their young vigorously

The Writers’s retreat gave me plenty of opportunity to be quiet, write and read aloud.  The countryside was filled with Limousin cows, prime beef, and riotous wildflowers.  I managed to explore the Lascaux caves and canoe with my friend after the retreat.  The trip home was uneventful.  Because I had no phone, no phone money and no phone numbers, I took the light rail, the C Rapid ride bus to west Seattle and walked to my house pulling my suit case.

Keep moving, is what I say.  It would have been tempting to avoid stepping out into the streets of Paris, the roads around Villefavard, the deep caves and the castles of the Dordogne, but I did not.  I trusted my body would not fail me and it did not.

Be well, leave me a comment, Do well and Keep moving.


206 933 1889


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What helps when sitting around all day: Italian workshop

Gentle Reader,

This is the view from the grand guest house bedroom window at the Villa Lina, a working 80 acre farm in Lazio, just minutes north of Rome in Italy.  I was there to write with Natalie Goldberg, the guru I’ve been following for several years.  She begins each day with sitting in a meditation room large enough to hold 45 people in a square.  Breakfast is after that and then sitting again before instruction and writing begin.

Without daily stretching and exercise, I am toast.  Full of pain in the hips and knees.  Why we have to keep moving to keep from hurting, I explained in a lot of detail in my last post.  Let me tell you a couple techniques I used faithfully every day while away for the month, even when on the over night train from the Netherlands to Zurich Switzerland.

1) Use the theraband, towel, shirt, scarf to stretch those calves.  Lie on the bed/floor/rug first thing in the morning one leg straight along the surface, the other up over head.  The scarf is over the ball of the foot, and end in each hand.  Relax the ankle and let the toes be drawn toward your nose.  Hold it no matter how much it hurts, easing off and then drawing down again for 20 breathes at least.  Then take the ends of the scarf in the outside hand and draw the foot and outstretched leg to the side, not too far down, and pull the toes toward the nose for another 15 or so breaths.  Change hands and extend the leg across the body. This probably hurts a lot.  It certainly hurts when I do it.  It’s the T-band on the outside of the thigh that gets so tight.

2) No matter what keep moving.  At the Villa, I got up a little early and walked for an hour before the sitting began.  It was a spectacularly beautiful place.   There were ripe grapes waiting for harvesting. I picked a whole bunch and ate them as I walked.  I had my shoes with me that I could get wet in the morning dew. Don’t leave home without them even if they make your bag heavier.  The hotel consierge can tell you a safe route to walk in the early morning.  Even in Las Vegas when I was at the Shaklee convention in August and it was blazing hot, early morning walks saved me.  And there are always stair cases in the city.

pre-dawn, one of the pools at Villa Lina

3) diet is the hardest.  At the Villa our food was incredible, but still not enough vegetables to please me.  Or fiber.  I bought a package of prunes at a grocery store.  Helpful.  This is where you are glad to have your multivitamins with you and perhaps extra special vitamins that concentrate the good stuff found in fruits and vegetables.  The ones I like are here.  

4) Drink plenty of water.  Some people worry about water in a foreign country or different city.  You know your own body and how it reacts to digestive changes like different water.  Personally I don’t bother with bottled water.  If the locals drink from the tap, so do I.  I keep my system functioning with some friendly bacteria that comes in a little capsule.  These millions of little guys keep my bowels functioning and protect me from catching every little bug that comes along.  Did you know that your immune protection is mostly in the lower intestine?  Keep that area healthy and strange water and other bad bugs probably won’t bother you.

5) one last thing, at the end of a busy day either sitting and writing or tromping around as a tourist, stick your feet up on the wall behind your bed.  This restorative pose drains all the aches and pains out of your tired legs.  This is good for any person who has tired achy legs at the end of the day.  It’s hard to get into the position.  Here’s how to do it.  Sit next the wall on the floor (or at the head of the bed where the pillow have been cleared away).  Your left hip is against the wall, your bunt on the floor.  Swing your torso down to the floor (bed) and your straight legs up the wall.  Here’s a funny picture of me doing just that on a picnic table bench when spending a day with my grandson tromping around Montreal.  It embarrassed him, but not me.  Don’t let your pride get in the way of comfort.

Happy travels,

Fondly, Betsy

Be Well, Do Well and Keep Moving

BetsyBell’s Health4u

206 933 1889  1 888 283 2077

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One more injury hiking the Engadin

Gentle Reader,

The 3rd and most dramatic day of my hiking-in-the-Alps adventure this past Sept. occurred on day 5.  Pedie Jolly and I left the other two hikers at the Via Engadina junction above Grevasalvas where they would pass the “Heidi” house. We trudged on up beyond the tree line to a high lake just below a dramatic escarpment, at 8261 ft.  The trail was far more exposed than anticipated with shear drops to the left of us and uneven boulders to climb over. We were both dangling our hiking sticks from the left hand while clinging to rocky outcroppings with the right.  There was no looking down.  It reminded me of climbing Mt. Shasta in 2006 when my right foot crampons had only the inside 5 spikes engaged with the icy ground and I steadied myself with a well planted ice axe.  Even a thin line of grass along the outside edge of the trail made me feel as though I would arrive safely at the lake.  It was an opportunity to study my mind and how just a bit of green changes fear to a sense of security.  Pedie and I were thrilled to arrive at this lake, hike in a moonscape, where two or three others were already having their lunch. 

The lake at the Lunghin Pass, above Maloja, is part of the most notable triple watershed in western Europe, from where the Inn (Engadin Valley where we hiked) flows via the Danube to the Black Sea, the Maira via the Po to the Mediterranean Sea, and the Julia via the Rhine to the North Sea.  Depending on which direction we emptied our water bottles, those droplets may have run north, south or east, something too grand to envision.

Finding the way over a knoll and down was tricky and the path was slick with thick frost anywhere the sun had not reached.  It was already 2:30 in the afternoon and we still had the entire descent to accomplish.  The view was breathtaking, and for one moment, I lost my focus on my feet.  The trail was steeply downhill, wet and covered with schist, extremely slippery. Down I went, putting my right hand out to catch myself.  Instantly I knew I had hurt my wrist.  The fingers and thumb still functioned but pain shot up my arm when I put any pressure on my hiking stick.  I collapsed it and stuck it in my pack.  Pedie, walking behind me, and I had a 1000 ft drop in 2 miles.  It was slow going.

We caught a bus to our hotel in Sils Maria whereupon a driver took me immediately to St. Moritz, the glitzy place we’d been avoiding. It was 5:30 on a Friday.  No problem for this emergency clinic used to mountain injuries.  After several x-rays, an examination and lengthy discussion of two young doctors, they decided to cast my arm.  Neither the x-ray tech nor I thought I had broken anything, but I was glad to have protection for the last day of hiking and all the hauling of luggage on and off trains over the next 5 days.  Here I am with my bright red cast riding the train to Pontresina at the end of our hike.

The final day of hiking was in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland along a contour trail with many slippery, water soaked ups and downs assisted by chains or hand rails.  I couldn’t use them as they were all positioned for the right arm.  My right arm was cradled in a sling.  I was relieved to climb over the last of the tree roots, climb the last rocky stretch and walk into the most beautiful, remote high mountain village we’d been in yet: Soglio.  A long soak in the hot bath revived me.  Cold beer and good food gave a sense of triumph.  We had made it, a 50 mile walk in 6 days from the lower Engadine River to its headwaters and then down the other side.

Our bus ride back to the starting point took a couple hours. We could spot the ending and beginning points of each day’s hike as we retraced our steps to Pontresina.

What does one do when injured hiking?  Keep moving.  Get the injured limb as comfortable as possible.  Find a skilled clinic.  The x-ray tech in St. Moritz told me she does 6-8 of these castings a day in the ski season.  She knew what she was doing.  I had travel insurance and have filed my claim.  The clinic visit was $1000.  I took plenty of my herbal pain relieve and really didn’t suffer much.  By the time I got to the Villa Lina north of Rome 5 days later, I took off the cast and participated fully in the writers’ workshop for the week.

Will I have arthritis in this wrist?  Possibly.  Just like any joint injury, trauma creates structural stress and one is likely to pay the price with increased arthritis in the future.  I am using this right hand, wrist and arm fully, noting any twinges and backing off when necessary.  The osteoarthritis I deal with doesn’t seem any worse. In fact it is only on the days that I don’t get out and walk that I have pain.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the hike stories and will share yours with my readers.  Have old injuries come up to haunt you?  What are you doing to stay limber and keep moving?  Take a minute to leave a comment.  Come on over to Face Book and friend me,  Sign up to get the next posts.  I have some great new research from Johns Hopkins about knee replacement to share with you next week.  You won’t want to miss it.

Fondly, Betsy

Be Well, Do Well and Keep Moving

BetsyBell’s Health4u

206 933 1889  1 888 283 2077


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Heart attack? Climbing high

Gentle Reader,

How do you survive trekking at a high altitude?  The second day of our Engadine Valley hike in Switzerland began and ended from the little village of Zuoz, a bus and train ride from Guarda where our 1st day ended.

No more sciatica or lower back pain.  No more arthritis troubles with Pain Relief Complex on board.  Now the only task was to climb from 5700 ft to 8400 ft. to Escha Hut.  We knew it would be hard, but we managed to make it harder.  Instead of muscles spasms and a struggle with osteoarthritis, the pain and suffering of the day was mostly in my head.

As we climbed, I was short of breath. Then came the unsettled stomach.  Then a feeling of light headedness.  We passed a couple in their late 70’s from Zurich who had been in Zuoz over the weekend to play bridge and stayed on for a couple days to “take a little walk” in the area with their retired seeing-eye dog.  Looking very out of shape and carrying only a light nap sac, these two seemed to climb this trail with ease.  They did turn back when the path left the farm road and joined the cow tracks leading straight up the treeless slope.  Paging through all I know about women and heart disease, reviewing in detail my mother’s congestive heart failure symptoms and subsequent death AT MY EXACT AGE, I managed to get myself into a panic, anticipating a heart attack any moment.  At one point I called out “Would you just glance back here once in a while to see if I’m still upright?”  At this point Jaco, my Dutch friend, decided to walk behind me.  I later learned that all of us were struggling with shortness of breath. Chris, the 83 yr. old veteran of several Mt Rainier climbs, reminded us of deep inhales and slow, whistling out breaths.  The gals in front were already taking 10 steps and resting for a couple breaths.  I was absolutely sure I was having a heart attack.

At the top, we had the most delicious pumpkin soup, thick and creamy, sitting in the sun, our backs against the stone wall of Escha Hut, a busy place in the summer and even busier in the winter.  A mountain biker peddled up the way we went down, paused for a drink and went down the way we had just come up.  Way more impressive than Lance Armstrong.  No doubt powered by his own lungs, blood and muscle, this cyclist was out for recreation.

As we sat there gazing at the Bernina mountain range in the distance, completely covered with snow at 13,000 ft, I remember my first ascent to 10,000 ft on Mt. Shasta and realiz

ed I was suffering from altitude sickness, not heart disease.  The relief was so great, I fairly danced down the far side of the valley, past this amazing high mountain field of art. 

To avoid the precipitous downhill trail, we cut through a pass and circumnavigated the mountain in front of us, extending out trek by an additional 7 miles, making it a 14 miles day.  The benefit was this shot of a marmot late in the afternoon, one of many familiar critters scampering and diving into their burrows.  I’d been looking for them as all the telltale signs of marmot, just like in the Cascades, were everywhere.

One more physical challenge before our 6 days RyderWalker self guided trek was finished.  Tune in next Thursday for more pictures and that story.





Now let’s hear from you.  Have you had altitude sickness?  Were you aware of what was happening to you or did you think you were having a heart attack?  We’d like to hear your story.  If you enjoyed this read, pass it along.  Check me out on Facebook:  betsyjbell, and while you are there, ‘like’ my business page,

Fondly, Betsy

Be Well, Do Well and Keep Moving

BetsyBell’s Health4u

206 933 1889  1 888 283 2077


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Hiking the Engadine: Avoid arthritis pain

Gentle Reader,

I am back safe and sound from my hike through the Engadine Valley in the Alps in Switzerland and the Writers Workshop in Villa Lina north of Rome.  And my body is not suffering from arthritis!  Sitting in the airplane for the long flight to Amsterdam, the first stop of my journey, I actually slept with the help of medication, Lunesta is my sleeping aid of choice, a prescription only drug that costs plenty.  I used it twice on the trip to help me get into the European hemisphere and the first night back home.  Otherwise, Gentle Sleep Complex, an herbal combination of Valerian, passion flower and chamomile.  It works like a dream to take 3 before going to bed, no matter what hotel I found myself in.

The real challenge to a body with a lot of spinal stenosis and potential joint discomfort is hauling suitcases and loading the heavy hiking pack up onto my shoulders.  Paying close attention to all the good advice I have posted over the past 1 ½, and asking for help getting in and out of trains—“you’re looking strong.  Can you help me with my suitcase, please?”—I managed to arrived back home without pulling a muscle from lifting suitcases.  Read on to see what a silly thing I did to pull a muscle badly.

I’d like to share my challenges with you in case you ever encounter similar problems.  You might avoid the same pitfalls.

First, a little back ground.  I am in a hiking group that hits the trails in the Pacific Northwest every Wednesday, rain or shine, except for January and February when we cross country ski.  Keep moving to keep arthritis at bay, is our motto.  Of all the gals in our group, Pedie took me up on taking a hike in Switzerland.  Jaco, our friend and fellow hiker who has returned to her homeland in the Netherlands to live out her life, was eager to join us as she missed our weekly hiking and friendship.  She, Pedie and I all celebrate our 75th birthdays this year, so this was an added incentive.  Our fourth hiker was Chris, already 83 yrs old. May I just add here that we met plenty of older people hiking as this sort of trekking is not unusual in Europe. Jaco and I took an overnight train to Zurich and then a train to the southeast part of Switzerland to join the other two.  You’ll recognize the place names St. Moritz and Davos if you follow the rich and famous.  We stuck to smaller, less glitzy places.

Our first stop in the Engadine valley was a town called Scuol.  It is famous in Europe for its mineral baths and the modern spa is worth the trip.  I had so much luggage that I had exploded into a collapsible cloth bag to make my back pack as light as possible and still not leave anything behind that I might need on the trail. We were walking from one village to the next, up over the mountains and needed to be ready for any change in the weather.  Ryder/Walker, our self guided tour company, arranged for our luggage to be taken to the next hotel along the way, arriving in our rooms well ahead of us.

Helping with jet lag and pounding our muscle into jelly, we spent a luxurious afternoon soaking in the mineral baths, going from super hot indoors, through the watery opening into the sun, blue sky and swirling outdoor pool with its jets and waterfall showers.  By the time I got back to the hotel, I was a noodle.

Here’s the trouble #1.  I spent half an hour bent over my luggage rearranging things to begin hiking the next day.  When I tried to stand up, all the muscles in my lower back had stretched out and refused to budge.  Here I was, pain shooting through my body, unable to catch my breath or stand and walk to dinner.  I got out my theraband and hit the floor with stretches and exersizes; filled the ice bag I had brought just in case and took a couple Pain Relief Complex herbal Cox 2 and 5 Loc inhibitors, pain pills that don’t hurt your stomach.  I’m the one who put this great hiking experience together and I wasn’t going to be able to walk a mile, much less carry a pack.

After a fabulous 8 course dinner and a bottle of Swiss wine between us, more ice and Pain Relief Complex, a good night’s sleep, and a ice bag tucked into my hiking pants, I was ready to walk it out this next morning.  It worked.  Walking is the best thing for lower back pain.  After about a half hour, I was ready to dump the ice and the rest of the 6 days I was free of lower back difficulties. 

The take away from this is

1.  Never do any extreme movements after a hot tub, deep tissue massage or the pummeling pleasure of a mineral springs spa.  I should not have bent over rearranging my luggage, and a little voice told me that at the time, to which I paid no attention.

2.  Don’t give up on yourself when you do pull a muscle.  Ice, stretch and do your best to walk it out.  This idea of lying flat on your back and taking muscle relaxants, in my opinion and long time experience, is not the way to handle lower back pain.  I have loosened up sciatica several times in the past by icing, stretching and walking.

Now, Please, tell us your methods for dealing with this kind of muscle pain, how you got yourself into the mess in the first place and how you got out of it.  We all want to learn from each other.  So go ahead, leave a comment, and sign up to get notification of my next posting which will take you on down the trail in the Engadine to the next near calamity on our great adventure.

Fondly, Betsy

Be Well, Do Well and Keep Moving

BetsyBell’s Health4u

206 933 1889  1 888 283 2077


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Nicaragua: How it went from the body perspective

Dear Reader,

From yoga to Central America and back.  I am happy to report that I needed very few of my Shaklee herbal Pain Relief tablets.  I packed about 18 in my little emergency pill-box, plus 6 Aleve.  In the airport back here in Seattle after sitting on the airplane for 10 hours and hauling the 2 rolling suit cases along miles of hall ways, I swallowed the last herbal remedy.  There are still 4 Aleve in my box!  I was amazed.

Exercise: practically impossible to get the usual exercise.  Unconventional exercise opportunities came along frequently.  In Managua, we all stayed in various homes clustered around the Cultural Center in the barrio of Batahola.  After a 36 hour trip (we missed our plane leaving Seattle and had to re-book 18 hours later), Alicia (my granddaughter of 13) and I joined our group for tours of two collectives in which Nicaraguans produce products from local materials for sale locally.  From there we headed for our home stays where, after meeting the family and unpacking my suitcase, I showered and washed the clothes I had on so long. This is the first exercise.  One washes standing over a double sink, the washing side of which has an old-fashioned rubbing surface.  You wet the clothes by dipping water from the larger of the two tubs and splashing it over the clothes and then scrubbing.  Of course my delicate ExOfficio sports clothing wouldn’t tolerate that kind of treatment.  I used my laundry soap from home and gently got the sweat and grime out, rinsed over and over with dips from the water tub and finally hung the clothes on the lines strung in the patio over the concrete floor and potted plants all around the edge.  Open to the sky, everything was dry in the morning.

There was no early to bed for us.  Around 8:15 after dinner of rice and beans, fried bananas and steamed beets and a strange new root vegetable that had been boiled and mashed with butter (yummy), the family announced they were going to a concert.  Would we like to come?  Exhausted as we were, we chose to go along.  We walked–three children, grandma and grandpa and daughter–to the main road (about 1/2 mile) and hailed a cab.  Four adults and 3 children sat in the back seat with Don Encarnacion Nicaragua in front with the taxi driver.  What a ride!  The concert was a first gig for a talented young group with a clear, warm tenor; a rich sultry contralto and our family’s friend, Ana, the back up singer, violinist, flute player, castanet shaking beauty.  The rhythm section included every sort of Latin drum and vibs, acoustic and electric guitars.  The music rocked.  The audience knew the words of all the popular songs from the Misa Campesina and their original tunes were haunting and worthy of a CD.  The place was an outdoor bar, tables and people filling the concrete slab just below the stage area which was right in front of the serving bar.  We were a bit late at 8:45 and sat at a table on the dirt slightly sloping floor along side the stage and right in front of the powerful sound system.  No chance of nodding off.  Huge bottles of Tona, the Nica beer, fried cheese and fried bananas and coke for the kids arrived.  By mid-night I pleaded total exhaustion and the mother and children took us home in a cab while the seniors, Mr. and Mrs. Nicaragua stayed to the end.  Amazing.

The next day, real exercise presented itself in a dance lesson at the cultural center led by probably one of the best group class exercise leaders I have had.  We practiced the salsa, merengue, and several other steps I can’t name.  She had us stretching.  Washing out those clothes and showering all over was a necessity after that work out.  And no pain.

Was it the heat?  Was it the vacation?  Was it the clean diet of corn, beans, rice, vegetables and no wheat at all?  Who knows.  I was grateful.

Not to give you an entire travel log, but I want to mention a couple more exercise moments.  We stayed a night in the lovely hill city of Matagalpa, where like Seattle, to get anywhere you have to walk up and down.  At one moment I was able to take off alone and walk up hill.  We would never permit that steep an incline for normal driving.  On my way back down from a high point in front of a lovely house, I passed a woman about my age carrying 2 sacks of groceries, her face contorted in pain, breathing hard and resting often.  I thought how fortunate I am to have all the self-care and practitioners to keep me in such good shape.  I can elect to walk the hills of Matagalpa.  She cannot.

Our group of 10 from Saint Mark’s Cathedral was organized through Matagalpa tours.  We spent two nights in the campo, staying with farm people, members of the fair trade coffee collective, Cecocafen.  Two from our group and I walked over a mile to get to our farm stay, again on gravel/dirt road that rolled with the hills up and down.  At the house, visiting the bathroom was an athletic even.  At night the doors were bolted with heavy iron bars which I had to lift and move, then removing a heavy beam holding the upper half of the door shut.  Then I had to navigate a steep stone stair case down to a dirt slope that descended to the outhouse, being careful to duck under the clothes wire set to smack me right in the eye balls.  A few stone steps up to the heavy wooden door to the two hole latrine.  I scoped out the outhouse trip during the day light and wore my head lamp.  Oh, did I forget to mention that going down the outside stone steps included trying not to disturb a pile of dogs who slept there.

I was glad I had tucked in a therma-rest mattress to help me sleep on the 2 inch thick foam pad on a ply wood sheet on 4×4 legs of a bed.

Several in our group climbed an active volcano outside Leon, the colonial city in the western part of the country.  I chose a city tour with two of the other older participants and we got to climb to the roof of the cathedral, a classic Spanish structure.  The ring of fire around Leon is impressive and most residents have experienced ash in their homes and on their faces.  It makes for very fertile soil and beautiful vegetables and fruits are produced on the mountain farms.  We learned about the complex mixed farming of shade grown, organic coffee, tucked in with bananas, fruit trees as the upper story.  Beans were ready for harvest, pineapple had just been planted, corn was bagged and carried by a yoke of oxen to a high place for winnowing the chaff.  A little mechanical help from a small John Deer tractor would ease the hardship of these farmers’ lives.  They rise at 4 to shower in the dark, make tortillas and get their children ready in their blue trousers or shirts and spotless white shirts to walk the 1 1/2 miles to school by 7:30.  What a pleasure to watch the children gather from the scattered farms to form a river of blue and white, each with their back pack, the 5 year olds holding hands with the older sisters and brothers.

At night, returning from our day exploring the area as a group, we walked home to our farm on a moonless clear night. Seldom have I seen such stars, the Milky Way so brilliant as to light our way with Orion leading to the south.  Everyone was in bed by 8:30.

Our Saint Mark’s group returned to Seattle last Monday and Alicia and I stayed another 6 days, she with her father and his family; I with a welcoming couple and their 40-year-old son living in Batahola, across from the Cultural Center.  Here is a link in English where you can read about this remarkable place.  I signed up for more of Carla’s dance classes and met a great group of women who come twice a week to learn about nutrition, health (mini lectures between the merengue and salsa) and exercise.  They were very welcoming and chatted me up with questions about the US and plenty of sharing about their work, families and home life.  My Spanish was up to it, I am pleased to say.

My host mother is interested in prevention and nutrition and we had wonderful long conversations about herbs and vitamins and foods that help with her aches and pains.  She is 61 and not taking any medications.  She was #5 in a family of 12 and her parents both lived into their 90’s.  Her grandmother lived in the mountainous countryside until her death at the age of 115.  Besides keeping visitors for a small sum (room and 3 meals $20 a day), Dona Cony made helado, a fresh popsicle sort of fruit ice cream.  She made 5 flavors: one, chopped mango, banana, watermelon, cantaloupe, and something else, vanilla and cinnamon poured into 1/2 cup sized plastic bags and tied by hand and frozen. Other flavors are coconut, cocoa, cherries ground fine and mixed with milk, and a slightly fermented concoction of pineapple and some other fruits that she first cooks to get the acid out and then skims, added a bit of rum and other flavors and largish pieces of banana.  I didn’t get to try this one and had to content myself with helping.  They sold for 5 cordobas.  23 cordabas = $1.  She doesn’t advertise.  There is no sign.  People come from all over the neighborhood and beyond to buy one or a dozen at a time.  I explained that such cottage industry would require an enormous amount of red tape here in the States.  They let the buyer beware and the seller maintains a spotless kitchen. One bad batch and she’d be out of business.  News travels fast, especially when it is bad.

I’ll get back to the wonderful topic of preventing and managing arthritis next Monday.

Be well and Do well and most of all, keep moving!


BetsyBell’s Health4U

206 933 1889

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Yoga and arthritis

Gentle Reader,

My morning routine of lying on the floor, legs over the Back2Life machine, followed by several gentle yoga poses gets my body functioning.  I am then ready for the chair chi gong exercises, free weight lifting both standing and the lying on an ethafoam bolster and more stretches with a theraband, emphasizing the IT band with the leg slightly drawn high across the body.

Yoga, what I call the essence of Yoga, is at the core of all this early morning routine.  Mary Sue Corrado, my Pilates instructor, worried that I would overdue yoga and increase the damage to the L5 disc, that I would exacerbate the osteoarthritis slowly worsening at age 68.  I was training to climb Mt. Shasta, the 14000 ft peak in northern California.  I was part of a team climbing to raise money for The Breast Cancer fund, whose aim is to prevent breast cancer by advocating for the elimination of human causes of environmental pollution.  All the training materials recommended yoga for core strength.

If you would like to climb mt. Shasta with the best support you could imagine, get in touch with Connie George at the Breast Cancer Fund today and GO FOR IT!  It was a top experience of mine and could be yours.

I asked for a private appointment with an instructor at the 8 Limbs yoga studio, only a 1 mile walk from my house in West Seattle.  I needed a private lesson and assessment because I required guidance on how to modify any program to take care of my weaknesses and physical vulnerabilities.  The early morning class led by Amelia Gailey taught me how to center with my breathing, gently move to wake up the body and slowly build to a strong powerful series of poses.  Over the next 5 years, I practiced at 8 Limbs and gained tremendous core strength.  Pain management took care of itself.

A couple years ago, pain increased with a full yoga session involving all the asanas and I had to discontinue a full practice session.  I know that it would be beneficial for me to find a gentle class.  Instead I found Jennifer Kreis’s Hot Body/Cool Mind DVD and use her yoga routine, and seated chi gong for a morning workout.

My own exploration resulted in using yoga for pain management.  A recent study conducted by the Arthritis Foundation found that arthritis patients who maintained a regular routine of range-of-motion and low-resistance exercises (like yoga) showed less pain and better mood over the long term. Studies also show that people who start a regular routine of gentle yoga exercises are less likely to drop out than people who start other kinds of exercises for arthritis. Over 50% of people who start other kinds of arthritis exercise programs drop out after six months. Studies show that because yoga is more fun and more pleasurable, people are more likely to stick with it as an exercise for arthritis.

Whether you go to a studio (the very best) or learn a few moves you can do at home, yoga is an outstanding over all mind, body and spirit healer.

The following comes from the study.

Health benefits in general

“Yoga is more than an arthritis exercise. Yoga, which comes from a Sanskrit word that literally means ‘yoke’, is designed to bring all body systems into proper alignment so that the entire system functions correctly. Health benefits of regular yoga practice include increased energy, better posture, weight loss, deeper relaxation, an ongoing sense of well being and calm, greater flexibility, lower blood pressure, healthier diet, and increased alertness and mental functioning.”

“All yoga practice includes deep relaxation techniques and an emphasis on proper breathing, both of which have been shown to improve mood and reduce pain and anxiety. Many types of yoga teach healthy diet as well. Regular yoga practice is often recommended for heart and cancer patients because of its usefulness in a healing aid and an aid to relaxation.”

Benefits for arthritis

“Yoga is one of the very best exercises for arthritis because it directly treats the main problems arthritis sufferers face: pain, swelling, joint stiffness and lack or flexibility, depression, and anxiety. Yoga is very gentle, so arthritis patients can learn the stretches and poses at their own pace, making very gradual progress that improves well-being rather than causes pain. The long term effect is increased flexibility and reduced or eliminated pain in the joints, as well as better general health and mental functioning, and better, healthier sleep and positive mood.”

Finding a yoga class

“Yoga classes are widely offered across the U.S. at YMCAs and YWCAs, through hospitals and community centers, at health clubs, and at senior centers. The maintains a list of yoga teachers and yoga centers where classes are offered. Arthritis sufferers will probably be able to locate a class specifically for people with disabilities or for older students, as these are becoming more and more popular as yoga becomes a more and more popular arthritis exercise.”

There is so much variety in the classes offered and you want a teacher who will understand your limitations and goals and help you not over due.  If you are a type “A” person, like me, you have to be careful not to overdo.  Not all instructors and classes are equal.  I have tried a lot of them and for my body’s problems; I need the slow, gentle routine with held poses rather than the faster movement of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.  Above all, if you have arthritis, please get a private consultation first before launching into a full scale yoga practice.  Learn what helps your particular condition and gently pursue it.

The Arthritis foundation of course recommends discussing with your doctor the use of yoga as an exercise.

“Your doctor probably has a list of resources and an opinion about where your needs would be best met. Ask for a note describing your physical limitation that you can give to the yoga instructor before starting your first class. Yoga instructors are trained to take disabilities and limitations into account and work individually with students at their own level, not matter how limited that may be.

“No matter how disabled you may from arthritis, or how much pain you may be experiencing, you will be able to start a gentle yoga routine based on your abilities and begin to move forward. That is why many yoga classes specifically for older and disabled persons are springing up through hospitals and wellness centers. Yoga is one of the few exercises for arthritis that absolutely anyone can do.”

A Happy Downward Facing Dog to you!

Be Well, Do Well and Keep Moving.  Betsy

PS:  I’ll be traveling in Nicaragua for the next 2 weeks.  Watch for a new posting after March 1st.

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More Travel tips for a healthy back

Gentle Reader,

A month ago, reflecting on managing arthritis when traveling,, I promised more hints for healthy travel.  Here they are.

Overnight flights: these are the killers for a bad back, especially when you really do need that sleep to begin your first day functioning.  I can usually sleep with the help of a sleep aid, a neck pillow and a pillow for lumbar support.  You can buy these on line at Amazon I haven’t actually tried the one pictured, but will probably get it for my next big adventure mid February.  My granddaughter and I are off to Nicaragua with a group from Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral.  This is an all day trip and I chose a two stop itinerary.  You probably think I’m crazy.  I have found that shorter hops and getting up to change plans, actually helps maintain back health.  It is long flights that put the lower back at greatest risk.

We will probably be at the airport and through the check in and security screening with plenty of time to spare.  While waiting for my flight, I often lie on the floor in an out-of-the way spot and do some simple Feldenkrais and Pilates moves to line everything up before boarding.  Alicia will probably be totally embarrassed at her grandmother’s bizarre behavior.  It is easy to make a 13 yr. old uncomfortable!

Once we arrive at our hotel, I will do some simple stretches, mostly lying flat on my back before getting into bed.  Take the bed covering and lay it on the floor as a mat to protect yourself from the myriad leavings of many previous shoes and bare fee.  In the morning, find a chair without arms or the corner of the bed to sit on and do a series of sitting stretches.  I use Jennifer Kreis’s Hot Body, Cool Mind sitting series designed to wake up every joint and gently stretch every muscle.  I have been using this DVD and this particular segment for so many years that I have the moves memorized.  I think my immune system is greatly supported by the lymphatic thumping at the head, neck, inner elbow and underarms, chest, stomach and groin, then down the spine.  The same DVD has a standing chi gong segment, plus a Pilates routine (too rigorous for most of us dealing with spinal issues), a simple yoga routine I love following, and several other segments.  You certainly get your money’s worth when you buy this DVD.  My grandchildren think this little routine of mine at the corner of the bed is hilarious and they have teased me about it months after our trips together.  By the way if you are interested in the pictures from these trips, go to  Enjoy.

For those overnight flights getting to your destination between 6 and 9 in the morning, the best antidote to jet lag is outdoor walking.  Arriving in Ireland with May, and in Scotland with Danny and Carsten, we set out walking the town, the countryside, the castle grounds (save serious tourist investigation for later when you are rested).  Keep moving.  Stop for a snack when needed.  Tea helps.  When you check in to your hotel, maybe 30 minutes flat, but avoid a deep sleep.  Walk to a place for supper and then go to bed.  You will wake up remarkably rested and in tune with the new time zone.  Once traveling to India, I walked my legs off all day long in Bombay, now Mumbai.  There was no where to sit down, the parks occupied by homeless.  I knocked on the door of a church and asked if I could sit for a little while.  A little later I joined at lot of office workers in a cafeteria style restaurant, sitting at a long table and listening to their chatter.  I’ve never felt unsafe.  People are nice the world over.  As someone said, there are only 10 bad people in the world; they just move around a lot.

I carry a back pack instead of a purse.  This was recommended to me by my chiropractor years ago.  I know it’s hard to fashionable, but they make some really cute back packs these days.  When traveling, keep your eyes wide open and aware at all times, and pull that pack around in front to hug next to your chest at the slightest hint of crowded conditions or motor scooters approaching too close.  Never leave it hanging on the back of a chair.

My really important stuff, i.e.  money and passport, plane tickets, URail pass, CC and Drivers License, are always in a money belt.  If you haven’t heard of him,

Rick Steves, Europe Through the Back Door, is a travel guru and his store in Edmonds, WA (and on line) sells the most comfortable money belts ever made.  The material handles sweaty Latin American, Asian and African climates and there is a plastic lining to keep your documents and money from getting wet from your dripping sweat.

I just heard a story yesterday at our Nicaragua orientation about a woman whose back pack with her money in an outside pocket was on top of the bus transporting them to their next home stay.  A sudden down pour soaked her pack and her money was ruined.  USA dollars with a black bleed from a notebook making every bill’s denomination indistinguishable.  Keep your money in your money belt inside the plastic liner.   Put in on with your underpants every morning.  Loose change for the day’s expense can live in your pants pocket in a small purse.

Personally, I think the stress of travel can increase your arthritis twinges.  The money belt wearing practice and the back pack for your sun screen, water bottle, camera, notebook and guide book, can smooth out your day and reduce stress.  Keep your pain-reducing supplements or medicines for the day, plus your supplements for the next meal and a couple meal bars or snack bars in the back pack as well.

One last tip:  when walking, a brisk pace will keep your back healthier.  The museum walk is lethal.  I remind myself to pull up the pelvic floor while staring at a painting or waiting in line, a kegel exercise.  Straighten your shoulders and let your skeleton drop from the base of the skull.  You will fatigue much more slowly.  Take tea breaks to rest.  If it gets too bad, hang upside down.  Here I am doing that in Montreal.  My grandson hid when some other tourist came by.  Ah, youth.  They will have arthritis someday and perhaps he’ll remember his silly grandma.

Be well, Do well and Keep Moving.


Betsy Bell’s Healt4u

206 933 1889

www.HiHoHealth dot com

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