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Ruck, Maul, Scrum…Namaste

Upright Rugby learns yoga

It’s a rough and tumble sport, with consistent tackling, engaging rucks and scrums, and relentless exposure to physical interaction.

Rugby, like other full-contact sports, can be hard on the body. Players undergo rigorous training regimes that include strength and core training, along with skills development. Often times, however, stretching and taking care of one’s body is neglected over performance.

As much as athletes and fans adore the sport, one must also be aware of taking care of the players — this is where yoga comes in.

A former rugby player and captain of the University of Western Ontario, Angela Jackson, began playing rugby in her teens. One of the founding members of South Western Ontario’s first girl high school rugby teams, Jackson represented her rugby union and played for Ontario and the club level, winning several championships as well as Rookie of the Year and MVP awards.

An impressive rugby career was halted by a persistent knee injury. Not too long after, Jackson moved to Costa Rica for work where she discovered yoga.

“It gave me a good workout and I found that it helped fix my injuries.”

Upon returning to Oakville, she continued to practice and became certified in Hatha yoga, where she began using this training as her base to specialize in customized yoga training for athletes. Jackson’s involvement with sports and yoga helped her establish and direct Warrior Yoga Conditioning.

“It seemed natural to want to train within the rugby community. I’ve also worked with hockey players and runner,” said Jackson. “Sports that have a high impact on the body can change how an athlete functions. The body can easily get out of balance, which is a key factor to many players.”

There are many benefits that yoga can bring, as it focuses in on areas that the body can’t stretch or that are particularly tight. It’s used to help athletes focus on their breathing, flexibility and core strength.

“Generally, the perception with athletes is that you need strength and power in order to perform well, but it should also be able to compliment the strength and power of training,” she said.

Jackson has most recently worked with the U18 Elite Athletes Development Program (EADP) of Upright Rugby Canada, whose focus is on developing rugby players who are very keen to develop their skills and their game during the off-season.

“We have one session a week, since they train quite seriously. Yoga is mainly just core strength,” said Jackson. “It helps with their flexibility in their shoulders, arms and hips.”

Tyler Leggatt, the lead director of Upright Rugby agreed. “The range of motion that yoga brings is especially important. It reduces injuries, improves core strength and balance so that when athletes, in any sport, spend time on one leg or one foot and change direction — and I think the core strength and energy that comes from yoga is really advantageous.”

Usually seen as an activity geared towards women, yoga has a certain stigma attached to it where the emphasis is less on strengthening. Jackson found that a lot of young men and women who play rugby play into their 30s and 40s.

She said that “with rugby being such a high impact sport, it may require them retire early or take longer for an injury to heal.”

Yoga’s incorporation into Upright’s program last year has encouraged young athletes to focus on their body and game differently, especially amongst the young men.

“They’re teenage boys so it’s a bit of challenge for them at first with being still and calm and focused. And of course the perception of yoga is slowly changing, but most of them came in with a skewed perspective of what it really was,” said Leggatt. “Once they started to go through it they realized it was harder than they thought. Then once you’re in it for three weeks, you start to notice the benefits of it.

“I think a lot of them really enjoyed it, so much so that they really wanted to keep doing it throughout summer, which is a testament of what Angela is doing and to the benefits to the program,” concludes Leggatt.

He recommends other rugby teams and clubs to add yoga into their routine, stating that it is incredibly beneficial for the players.

Ultimately, Jackson would like to encourage the rugby community to try yoga and incorporate it into their training.

“It’s a great way to strengthen rugby teams in Canada,” Jackson hoped. “I’d also love to teach yoga to more clubs and teams.”

Jackson advises anyone who would like to try yoga to shop around. “There are different styles for everyone. Shop around and find an instructor that speaks to you. It’s not just the style but the instructor.”

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Chinese cuisine fishy, but healthy

It is sweet and salty; a perfect mixture of delicious texture and alluring aroma. The meat slides easily down your throat, as the sauce lingers on your tongue. It’s one of my favourite dishes, and let me assure you I’ve tried a great many.

The dish is a traditional fish meal, where the entire fish is steamed to perfection, generously lathered with a sweet soy sauce, sliced green onions and garlic, and served whole with a side of rice. Each part of the fish has a tale and role in Chinese culture, from the spine to the head.

What makes fish so admired in Chinese culture is the health benefits that come with it. Every part of the fish is sought after, from the belly of the fish, where all the vitamins are, to the head, where as you lift the scales of the cheek, the little pocket of muscles is a sliver of both delight and nutrition.

Despite the recent concerns regarding mercury and dioxin contamination within these scaly creatures, the healthy benefits gained from eating fish greatly outweigh the risks. High in protein and full of omega-3 fatty acids, the natural fish oils within the fish help improve the heart.

The comprehensive study was tackled by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) who looked at evidence of the major health effects from the vitamins and contaminants of fish.

Published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in 2006, the comparison revealed eating a modest amount of fish reduced the risk of death by heart disease by 36 percent.

Authors of the study also found that for the growing children, consumption of omega-3 fatty acids are likely to improve early brain development. Pregnant or nursing mothers who consumed fish can also benefit the child. The researchers, however, warn expectant mothers to watch for the type of fish they eat, ignoring the golden bass, king mackerel, shark and swordfish for their higher levels of possible contaminants.

While there’s no proof as of yet that devouring the eyes and brain of a fish will help eyesight or stimulate brain functions any faster, recent studies do prove that there are many advantages of consuming these finned creatures. Health Canada, however, warns that the organs of fish can be dangerously high in both heavy metals and pesticides, and under no circumstances should fish organs be consumed.

I love fish and I love trying new items that I’ve never tasted before. My philosophy is, “If you’ve never tasted it before, you’ve never tried it. If you’ve never tried it, you have no idea what you’re missing.”

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Study shows student slackers cheapen degrees

After paying thousands of dollars each year for tuition, post-secondary students expect to get the best out their education.

According to a recently published book called Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, however, students aren’t really getting a good value for their money.

The results of the study, conducted by New York University’s Richard Arum and University of Virginia’s Jospia Roksa, revealed that many students do not gain much knowledge, and that those that do retain less than average, according to USA Today.

The study explains that out of a sample of 3,000 full-time students, 51 percent spent most of their time on campus socializing, and only 16 percent attending classes and studying.

Authors evaluated American students and the core thinking skills they gained over the first two years of university. Scores were then compared two years later when the students graduated.

Arum and Raksa claim that many of the results in the report point to students who choose “easy” courses, yet disregard studying and end up doing poorly.

“I have taken bird courses, but I didn’t know that they were. They just sounded like courses I liked, so I took them. I’ve never intentionally taken a course because it was easy,” said Jacob Wylde, a third- year kinesiology student at York.

“It’s hard to actually learn stuff and still remember it later on in university. You take so many courses, and once you finish learning the material in one course, you move on to the next and forget about what you learned previously.”

The research also showed that modern day students are spending 50 percent less time studying in comparison to students a couple of decades ago.

Arum and Roksa also pointed to colleges where researching is valued over teaching. The study noted that the students most likely to learn and succeed studied harder, read and wrote more and majored in “traditional” art and science fields.

The study also revealed 45 percent of students showed no significant improvement in critical thinking skills and complex reasoning by the end of their second year.

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Waste not, want not

Sustainability group aims to educate campus.

A York sustainability group focusing on how the university is handling its waste is taking student-friendly options to jump-start their initiatives.

The Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS) released an annual survey of campus sustainability and a report on campus waste Jan. 10.

A university-wide interdisciplinary research centre, IRIS was established by York University in 2004 to focus on sustainable development and activities campus-wide.

Last year’s report surveyed students, staff and faculty and focused on how York handles waste.

“The surveys are also used by student groups…as quantitative information to support their cases,” said fourth year environmental studies student Caitlin Gascon, who is also the Social Marketing and Communications Coordinator of IRIS.

To accompany the release of the survey, a screening of Garbage: The Revolution Starts at Home was shown, in which an average urban family collected all their garbage for three months.
Filmmaker and York Alum Andrew Nisker followed the garbage to see where it went once collected and what the garbage continued to do in the world.

“The film covers how much garbage we produce on a daily, weekly, monthly, basis,” said Gascon, “Many of us just aren’t aware of how much we waste or its impact.”

For more information about the film visit: http://www.garabagerevolution.com
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Weight gain caused by stress a myth?

Researchers have made us believe worry, anxiety and lack of sleep push us to gain extra fat; however, a new study suggests otherwise.

According to The Irish Times, a study looked at 36 previously published reports and found no clear link between stress levels and gaining weight.

Led by professor Jane Wardle at the University College London in the United Kingdom, the study compared and analyzed well-controlled studies and found that there was only a modest association.

The reviewed studies were performed during the 1990s and 2000s, with a majority of those following participants from one to seven years.

In an email to Reuters Health, doctor Andrew Steptoe, another researcher in the project said, “we assumed that there would be a substantial association between stress and obesity, since the popular view is that stress contributes to weight gain.”

“But when we looked carefully at well-controlled scientific studies, effects were surprisingly small.”

Sixty-nine percent had no clear link in weight gain and stress levels, 25 percent with higher stress levels gained more weight, and the remaining six percent found greater stress had to do with less weight gain.

The results also revealed that those with higher stress levels did gain more weight, but it was more prevalent among men than women.

Michael Riddell, an associate professor at York’s faculty of kinesiology and health sciences, found the research compelling. In an email to Excalibur he wrote “this is a meta-analysis done on all published studies in humans on perceived stress and obesity. A weak positive association was actually found.”

“This is not that surprising as several variables influence the development of obesity and not all people overeat when they are under stress. Some, in fact, undereat.”

While weight gain caused by stress is relatively small, there can be wide individual variations, says Steptoe.

The type of stress might also have an effect on weight gain, including work and life events.

Annaliese James, a fourth-year student studying at York’s Schulich School of Business, believes stress may not be the main reason, but that it can be a source.

“Personally, the stress I have encountered has been a major factor in weight loss; however, I acknowledge the fact that other people may be affected differently because of differences in personality, lifestyle, type of stress, experience with stress – and the list goes on,” said James.

In July 15, 2009, an article published in the American Journal of Epidemiology concluded that stress is linked to heart disease, increased risk for cancer and weight gain in the American population.

This study, “Psychosocial Stress and Change in Weight Among U.S. Adults,” is considered the first to look at weight gain and several stress types such as job demands, payment of bills, strained relationships, depression and anxiety.

The study also found that differing levels of stress affected women’s waistlines. For men, stress due to the lack of authority and skill discretion at work led to weight gain.

Those with higher body mass indexes (BMI) were more likely to be affected by psychological stress, than those with a lower BMI.

The researchers in the American study suggest that when coping with life situations, change in eating behaviours will happen and will eventually cause changes in weight.

To help stressed workers, stress reduction is vital, including access to weight-loss programs at work, exercise programs and a flexible schedule.

The relationship between stress and weight gain are still being studied. Steptoe said, “It could be that some people are more affected than others, but rather little is known about [stress and weight gain] at present.”

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Maclean’s ranks York 30th in national reputation

University gets an ‘A’ in student services

After failing to get an ‘A’ in the Globe and Mails’ 2011 University Report, York University once again scored some low ratings in Maclean’s 2010 University RAnkings.

Based on surveys from high school principles and guidance counselors, recruiters and CEOs from corporations, as well as university officials and heads of organizations, Maclean’s chart for overall best national reputation ranking places York at number 30.

York is, however, ranked first in student services, which prepares new and current students for the academic year. Among the 41 universities ranked, York has one of the largest class sizes and is among several universities with comparatively high tuition rates. The average entrance grade to enter York University remains a steady 81 percent.

York is listed as the second largest post-secondary institution in Canada, after the University of Toronto, and has not budged from last year’s ninth place ranking in comprehensive [undergraduate and graduate-focused universities] category. It is once again tied this year with the University of Regina for that spot.

For highest quality, most innovation and leaders of tomorrow categories, York ranked 32nd, 34th and 25th, respectively.

Two smaller institutions in British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria, grabbed the top spots in the comprehensive category once again.

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Osgoode lawyer debate human smuggling act

Osgoode prof says Bill C-49 is unconstitutional

Several Osgoode Hall Law School professors are concerned with what they say is the unconstitutional nature of Bill C-49 which would prevent human smuggling and enact stricter enforcement of immigration laws in Canada.

Proposed by federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, the bill aims to deter refugees from arriving illegally.

In an effort to deter human smuggling, the Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System Act would impose new penalties against people and potential refugees that employ human smuggling efforts.

Kenney was not available for comment, but according to the Vancouver Sun he stated he believed the new law, if passed, would not infringe on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or international law, and he expected the immigration industry and special-interest groups to oppose Bill C-49.

“Quite frankly, that indicates to me that we’re on the right track,” said Kenney at a press conference Oct. 21.

Sean Rehaag, one of the Osgoode Hall Law School lawyers speaking out against the bill, said it has a potential ability to deny refugees essential services and fundamental rights, and can designate groups of people as “irregular arrivals.”

Rehaag, together with several other Canadian law professors, feels that Bill C-49 violates Canada’s responsibility under the International Refugee Convention, a treaty that involves over 180 countries.

“The idea of targeting asylum seekers with penalties because of the way they come to the country is extremely problematic,” said Rehaag. “[The bill] changes the penalties with respect to human smuggling and imposes sentences and restrictions on human smugglers and asylum seekers.”

According to Krisna Saravanamuttu, spokesperson for the National Council of Canadian Tamils (NCCT), news of the bill appeared in response to the arrival of the MV Sun Sea on the shores of Vancouver in August. Cramped into tight quarters aboard a vessel, nearly 500 Tamil asylum seekers fled from Sri Lanka, a country criticized internationally for allegedly having an appalling human rights record.

Saravanamuttu echoed Rehaag’s concerns.

“If passed, Bill C-49 will give the federal government the ability to arbitrarily jail refugee claimants, deny permanent refugee status, bar refugees from reuniting with their families in Canada and revoke refugee status after it has already been granted, amongst many more draconian measures,” he said.

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Terrifying inferno destroys roof of Toronto Track and Field Centre

Firefighters rushed to the north end of York University’s Keele campus Oct. 29 after the roof of the Toronto Track and Field Centre was lit up by a massive fire.

The fire started around 5:30 a.m. and originated on the building’s roof. according to Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation spokesperson Wynna Brown.

Cleanup began in the afternoon immediately after the fire department turned it over to the City of Toronto.

An investigation by the City of Toronto is still pending. No injuries have been reported.

Alex Bilyk, York’s media relations director, said the fire will hinder York’s athletic training.

“[The Track and Field Centre] is a City of Toronto facility,” said Bilyk. “We make use of it, of course; York athletes train in there for track and field.”

Brown hopes to have parts of the facility open for the public in the near future.

“We hope to at least be able to allow staff, and perhaps the [Allen Eagleson] Sports Injury Clinic that operates out of there, back into the building,” she said.

Brown mentioned the building will remain closed until it is deemed safe for public use.

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York spends $500,000 on consulting firms

YFS Pres: where did York get all this money?

The Ontario New Democratic Party counted York University among several Ontario universities allegedly spending public funds – almost $500,000 worth of York’s part – on lobbyists, hired private-sector advocates paid to sway provincial government policy.

According to York, however, that money was not spent on lobbying the government, but on consulting firms to help secure assets and information for future York projects.

In an Oct. 5 press release from the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), the Freedom of Information request filed by the NDP showed York spends more funds on private lobbying groups than any other university in the province.

A statement released by York Oct. 6, the university had contracts with three companies registered as lobby groups – the Counsel Public Affairs (CPA), the Devon Group and EcoNexus – but hired them as consultants, not lobbyists.

Alex Bilyk, York’s director of media relations, said York hired these firms as consultants because York didn’t have the resources or staff to head these projects.

Krisna Saravanamuttu, president of the York Federation of Students (YFS), said of the money spent on consultants that, since the CUPE 3903 strike, which shut down the university during the 2008-2009 academic year for almost three months, “York has been crying poor.”

“Where in the world did York find almost $500,000 to fund these lobby groups, when really lobbying is the job of the senior administrators and a properly composed Board of Govenors?” he said.

Bilyk said that the university has a budget to hire consultants and that York did not go over that budget.

“Perhaps Saravanamuttu has not read [York’s Oct. 6] statement and maybe he does not understand how the university works,” said Bilyk.

According to York, from January to June 2010 The Devon Group provided strategic counsel and guidance for additional venues for the upcoming Pan Am Games 2015, which resulted in the letter of intent York offered event organizers regarding the university’s willingness to host some of the activities.

The statement further explains that from February 2008 to January 2009, the university worked with the CPA in looking at potentially establishing a medical school at York. Bilyk said CPA helped York put together a business plan for the York medial school.

The York statement also said that CPA assisted with labour relations during that time.

York hired EcoNexus from 2008 to 2010 to focus on creating a research project on climate change and environmental research. The York statement also said that project lead Karan Kraft Sloan is a registered federal lobbyist; however, in this instance, she was not lobbying the government.

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Judge turns down class action lawsuit against YorkU

Lawyers consider appealing court’s decision.

A lawsuit against York University that was seeking $250 million in damages associated with losses endured by students during the CUPE 3903 strike almost two years ago was turned down Sept. 9.

Juroviesky LLP, the law firm representing the York students who petitioned for the lawsuit, is currently deciding whether to appeal the decision.

Kevin Caspersz, a representative for Juroviesky LLP, said that the Honourable Ontario Superior Court Justice Maurice Cullity denied the certification of the case.

“[Juroviesky LLP] felt we had a good chance this time and that it is still a good case,” said Caspersz.

He said that the judge’s decision was final and that there would be no further reimbursements towards the students.

Alex Bilyk, York director of media relations, said that York stands behind the court’s decision.

Following a teaching assistant union strike that closed the university for three months in the 2008-2009 academic year, the longest ever for an English-speaking university, then fourth-year student Jonathon Turner filed a class-action lawsuit against York administration. More than 5,000 students joined the suit by signing up online at yorktookmymoney.com.

According to Caspersz, the lawsuit claimed damages of a compressed academic year (from 26 weeks of study to 23 weeks), loss of the February reading week, intrusion into summer jobs and loss of rent, parking fees and tuition.

Krisna Saravanamuttu, president of the York Federation of Students (YFS), said that while it is unfortunate students could not receive some money back, the student union did launch a tuition refund campaign in which York participated willingly, agreeing to compensate students with credits for classes they have missed.

The YFS also demanded a 12 percent refund from the York administration for all tuition fees paid by full and part-time students, which was denied.

Peter Shurman, Thornhill MPP, back students during the strike and urged CUPE 3903 to return to work.

“I don’t blame the students for taking action,” he said. “They deserve compensation.”

Shurman stated that if his team wins the upcoming election, the issue of union petitions at the university level will be brought to the table.

“With 50,000 students held at bay, with no voice – especially when only a particular union has a grievance – it has to be addressed in a method that doesn’t put the students education on hold, [and still] satisfies the demands of the union.”

Saravanamuttu agreed.

“The employer and workers need to speak to each other in good faith to avoid labour disruptions,” he said.

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