Yoga is good for your body and your brain 

Julia Roberts, Madonna, Colin Farrell and Dr. Oz all do poses -- yoga poses, that is -- along with 20 million other North Americans. The popularity of this practice, which originated in India, is thanks in large part to the guru B.K.S. Iyengar (he died at 95 in August 2014). In 1952, the American-born violinist Yehudi Menuhin was visiting India when he was challenged to a headstand by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Iyengar was there, and took the duo through poses. The publicity launched a wave of interest in the discipline that's never ebbed.

The benefits of yoga are far-reaching (some aggressive or superheated styles, well, they aren't the best options for everyone). Hatha yoga combines breathing techniques with poses that reduce stress, promote blood flow, flexibility and mental focus. It has been shown to ease everything from chronic lower-back pain and chronic inflammation to depression and elevated blood pressure. Now a new study shows that for folks 59 to 77, it also can boost brainpower: Mental flexibility, information recall and task-switching abilities were far better in Hatha yoga participants than in a group who only did stretching and toning exercises.

What's the difference? We suspect Hatha is brain-friendly because of its emphasis on stress-busting deep breathing (that provides more oxygen to those brain cells and protection of memory connections!) and intentional focus on slow movement that also helps control stress responses.

VITAMIN D PLUSSES

There are two sides to every argument, so the saying goes, and usually the truth lies somewhere in between. Fortunately, you don't have to takes sides in the debate about whether D-2 and D-3 are vitamins or hormones. Either way, they deliver nothing but good health to folks who get enough every day.

You see, D-2 and D-3 (they have similar actions in your body) function as vitamins by helping your body achieve normal growth and development. As hormones, they work to regulate calcium absorption, immune-system functioning and bone health. But it doesn't stop there.

New findings indicate that guys with erectile dysfunction have significantly low vitamin D levels, and the more severe their dysfunction the greater the deficiency. Scientists also have found that women with the highest levels of D (above 30ng/mL) have a pregnancy rate of 30 percent from in vitro fertilization; women who are deficient (below 20ng/mL) only have a 21 percent success rate.

Achieving a healthy level of vitamin D-2 and 3 is cheaper and better for you than taking ED meds or going through multiple in-vitro routines. So, get a blood test to check your levels. Take a 1,000 IU D-3 supplement daily until you get results -- then take what your doc recommends (it's hard to get enough from what you eat). Plus, get outside (with SPF 30 sunscreen) for 30 minutes a day and eat vitamin-D-rich foods such as salmon, D-3-fortified whole-grain cereals and nonfat dairy or nut milks and white mushrooms. D-licious.

THE POWER OF MUSIC

Music may soothe the savage beast, but it can up your game and competitiveness, too. Seems you can amplify your sense of power, improve your abstract thinking (what is the meaning of life?) and cut your reaction time if you do what snowboarder Shaun White and dozens of other athletes do.

Crank up that old time rock 'n' roll -- or whatever hard-driving rhythm inspires you -- and let it fly! During White's first official try at a "Double McTwist 1260," he was listening to Guns N' Roses' "Paradise City" on his earbuds. The Seattle Seahawks have employed an on-field DJ who spins tunes at top volume during practices.

Music's sound waves can actually alter your nervous system as your brain waves begin to resemble the sound waves you're hearing. But choose your tunes carefully. Figure out what works best to produce the emotions and motivation you want in various situations. It also can work to your benefit if the tunes are on the calmer side: We know that music can help reduce anxiety in cancer patients, ease patient stress during surgery (according to researchers from Dr. Mike's Cleveland Clinic) and promote healing.

Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Dr. Michael Roizen is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information go to www.sharecare.com.

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