Category: Health

A Hip-Opening Yoga Posture – Pigeon Pose

Pigeon Pose pic

Pigeon Pose

A committed humanitarian, Rathana Ung has followed a special call on her life to help those in need, especially in such as Cambodia. During one trip, she was able to help build more than 400 homes for people living in poverty there. When she isn’t working as a volunteer, Rathana Ung maintains an active yoga practice, which helps her stay centered and maintain a healthy balance in her mind, body, and spirit.

In addition to its meditative benefits, yoga can help to stretch areas of the body that normally don’t get attention, as well as bring relief to areas that can sometimes suffer from chronic pain, such as the hips. One posture to use in this manner is the pigeon pose, which serves to open up the hip flexors.

To get into pigeon pose, begin in the downward facing dog position and bring the right leg forward to the middle of where the hands rest on the mat. Then take the left leg and lengthen it as if going into cobra pose, with the top of the foot pressing against the floor. Lastly, take the right leg and place it perpendicular to the hips on the floor with the foot as near to the left hand as possible. This will open up the right hip. Invert the pose the other way to open up the left hip.

Individuals who are just beginning their yoga practices are advised to work with a certified yoga teacher to ensure they learn proper form.


Cambodia Faces Iodine Deficiency Crisis

Rathana Ung

Rathana Ung

Rathana Ung is a community-focused volunteer who has engaged with charity organizations in building dwellings and a floating school in Cambodia. Rathana Ung also assisted in the construction of a maternity hospital in a remote part of the country that did not have physicians or nurses readily available.

As reported in The New York Times, one pressing issue facing Cambodians involves ensuring sufficient iodine in their diet. With Cambodia lacking in natural iodine, the country set in place a mandatory program of potassium iodate spraying on locally produced salt. This 2003 initiative was seen as essential to preventing iodine deficiencies, which cause swollen thyroid glands and goiters as well as cretinism and dwarfism.

The nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Japan, in 2011 had an unintended effect of making the cost of iodine, much of which is sourced from coastal well brine associated with natural gas drilling, much higher. Raw iodine price spikes have led to non-iodized salt flooding the market and those existing at the margins of society failing to obtain sufficient quantities of iodine.

One silver lining is that iodine deficiency is a long term health issue. The thyroid is efficient as a storage vehicle and there is a 5-10 year window before which lack of iodine leads to brain damage and goiters.

Tips for Starting a Yoga Practice

Yoga Practice pic

Yoga Practice

As a devotee of yoga, Rathana Ung takes care to engage in the practice on a daily basis. With video guidance, Rathana Ung lets yoga relax and ground her in her life.

The concept of starting a yoga practice can be intimidating for beginners, particularly if they have not yet found a class that is truly appropriate for them. Beginners can benefit immensely from finding a yoga workshop that teaches not only the basic poses but also how to perform them safely and effectively. In some studios, new practitioners can purchase a trial pass that makes the process more affordable.

Once a new practitioner has found a yoga studio and learned the basic techniques, he or she can bring it into a daily routine. This typically starts with the selection of a convenient time, when the practitioner can consistently do the poses and make a commitment to do so regularly. For many, this is early morning, as the mind is less burdened and the practitioner often has not yet eaten.

Experts also suggest that the practitioner find a dedicated space in the home that feels positive, relaxing, and free from distractions. This does not need to be a separate room, but it should be quiet and private for the extent of the session.

The new practitioner must also commit to self-compassion and gentleness as he or she establishes a practice. Many beginners force themselves to try overly difficult poses, and they feel discouraged when progress is slow, which only serves to undo the relaxation inherent in yoga itself. By respecting the body’s limits and appreciating what it can do, the practitioner can establish yoga as a friendly and welcome part of the day.

Yoga as a Stress and Anxiety Reducer


Yoga pic


With a passion for charity work, Rathana Ung was involved in building over 400 homes in Cambodia with her friends and family. A number of the homes’ recipients were sleeping on dirt floors, under trees, or in shacks before they were given these permanent domiciles. During her spare time, Rathana Ung enjoys practicing yoga to relax.

Yoga provides several benefits to brain function and mental health. One of the most well-known ways yoga can support a person’s well-being is by reducing stress and anxiety. With the less rapid breathing, lower heart rate, and lower blood pressure that active yogis typically experience, yoga acts as a de-stressor that can substantially reduce overall levels of anxiety.

Although any type of exercise can release feel good neurotransmitters, yoga is one of the most research-proven ways to increase GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) levels. GABA is one of the main inhibitory neurotransmitters. Basically, GABA slows brain activity and allows a person to relax. Reduced levels can cause a person to experience stress or become anxious. By engaging in yoga for just one hour, GABA levels can increase by as much as 27 percent.