Thursday, July 31, 2008

Could it be true? Radio Waves Destroy Cancer Cells?

This is a really interesting segment from 60 Minutes. A regular guy from Florida thinks he has found a way to kill cancer cells without the collateral damage caused by chemotherapy and radiation. Today, his invention is in the lab of two major research institutes, University of Pittsburgh and MD Anderson.

Dr. Steven Curly, cancer surgeon from MD Anderson states, "This tech may allow us to treat any cancer you can imagine... In 20 years of research, this is the most exciting thing I've ever encountered"

How Contaminated are Your Fruits + Veggies?


The Environmental Working Group published data for pesticide contamination levels for 44 popular fruits and vegetables based on an analysis of nearly 51,000 tests for pesticides on these foods, conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the FDA. Crops were ranked based on a composite score from level of pesticide residue.

The Dirty Dozen? Peaches, Apples, Sweet Bell Peppers, Celery, Nectarines, Strawberries, Cherries, Lettuce, Imported Grapes, Pears, Spinach, and Potatoes.

The "Cleanest" Produce? Onions, Avocado, Sweet Corn, Pineapples, Mango, Sweet Peas, Asparagus, Kiwi, Bananas, Cabbage, Broccoli, and Eggplant.

So what does this mean? Produce on the top of the list are the most contaminated with pesticides, chemicals intended to kill pests (i.e. insects or weeds). Pesticides are toxic by design, which is why government regulates them-- though many believe not stringently enough.

Even according to the EPA, "Most pesticides create some risk of harm - Pesticides can cause harm to humans, animals, or the environment because they are designed to kill or otherwise adversely affect living organisms."

So how can you make produce safer to consume?
  • Buy organic, in-season produce
  • Wash your produce. Make your own wash using a diluated solution of mild dishwashing detergent (1 tsp detergent per gallon of water)
  • Peel your fruit to remove residues! Especially peaches, pears, and apples
  • And if you're lucky enough, grow your own fruits & veggies!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Myth Busters: Deoderant & Breast Cancer

Internet e-mail rumors have suggested that chemicals in underarm antiperspirants are absorbed through the skin, interfere with lymph circulation, cause toxins to build up in the breast, and eventually lead to breast cancer. There is very little laboratory or population-based evidence to support this rumor.

One small study recently found trace levels of parabens (used as preservatives in antiperspirants and other products), which have weak estrogen-like properties, in a small sample of breast cancer tumors. However, the study did not look at whether parabens caused the tumors. This was a preliminary finding, and more research is needed to determine what effect, if any, parabens may have on breast cancer risk. On the other hand, a large study of breast cancer causes found no increase in breast cancer in women who used underarm antiperspirants or shaved their underarms.

- American Cancer Society, Risk Factors for Breast Cancer (a must read)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Taking Patient Care to the Next Level

Indiana University's new cancer center has traded cramped waiting rooms and sterile-looking patient facilities for "spacious bamboo-lined areas designed to give cancer patients a feeling of tranquility," according to an article in the Chicago Tribune this week.

"Visitors to the 450,000-square-foot center will find rooms painted in earth tones that are illuminated by natural light. Patients entering the complex hand their car keys to a valet outside, then walk past an undulating light display to take a seat near a live bamboo grove. "

According to the article, officials hope that IU will lead the way in how cancer is treated. By creating a peaceful environment, we hope this will inspire other cancer centers around the world. For pictures of the new center, click here.

So What's the Deal with Plastic Bottles?

You may have heard a rumor about plastic bottles releasing chemicals when heated or cooled. But according to the Johns Hopkins Website, this rumors are untrue:

Freezing water does not cause the release of chemicals from plastic bottles.

In general, it is best to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when using any plastic products. When cooking with plastics, only use those plastic containers, wraps, bags and utensils for their intended purposes.

Consumers should be more concerned with the initial quality of the drinking water inside a container than they should be about the composition of the container... The truth is that tap water in the United States is more highly regulated and monitored for quality compared to bottled water.

So although there is no evidence that plastic bottles release dioxins in your water, we still advocate limiting use of plastic bottles as they are not environmentally friendly. Not only are few of the bottles recycled, but it takes unnecessary energy and resources to bottle water and ship it to store shelves.

Monday, July 28, 2008

YOGAPALOOZA, a huge success!

Thank you to everyone who came out to support our first annual Yogapalooza! We had over 120 supporters join us for a five classes in beautiful (but chilly) Golden Gate Park. An extra-special thank you to our wonderful volunteer instructors: Nicoleigh Gamble, Lesley Giovannelli (from It's Yoga Kids), Kelly McGonigal, Shy Sayar, and Owen Sayre. And of course to all the hard-working Yoga Bear volunteers and interns who made the day possible. Video Producer Michael Johnstone filmed the event and will be sharing that with us soon.

more pictures here.

"May I see my chart, please?"

You walk in your doctor's office for a cancer screening (pap smear or clinical breast exam, perhaps). You give your name to the receptionist and wait to be called. The medical assistant who calls your name has your chart in hand. She takes you to your room, and while you anxiously await your doctor inside, she places your chart on the outside of the door. The doctor retrieves the chart, comes into the room, jots some notes in it during your appointment and walks out with the chart. You have no idea what the chart says but you sure are curious... But can you ask to see your chart?

YES.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) gives you the right to see your medical records in your doctors' offices. If you would like a copy of your chart, your doctor must provide you with a copy of your medical records within 30 days. (Be aware: the doctor's office can charge for the copies and mailing fee).

So, the next time you wish you could remember what your blood pressure was at the doctor's office, or monitor your weight change over the years, or track your frequency of pap smears, just ask, "May I see my chart, please?"

Go here for more information on your rights to your records.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Greetings from the LIVESTRONG summit!

I am incredibly excited and humbled to be here amongst other individuals and advocates who are dedicated to making cancer a national priority.

If you didn't know:
  • 1 in 2 men will get cancer
  • 1 in 3 women will get cancer
  • 560,000 Americans are expected to die from cancer this year alone
Cancer will kill more people this year than terrorists ever have. So why doesn't our government make cancer a national priority? The Lance Armstrong Foundation has brought together advocates and fighters of this cause, including Yoga Bear, to bring forth this dialogue and make a plan of attack for making cancer a national priority.

I've been meeting with other incredible organizations that are doing their part in this war against cancer, from researchers who are looking for the cure to organizers who facilitate 1:1 mentoring with cancer patients and survivors. I have met incredibly inspirational cancer survivors who have, through sharing their stories, reminded me of why the Yoga Bear team invests so much time into this organization.

We're doing this because we believe that yoga can be an asset in one's journey of healing. It is undoubtedly good for the mind and the body. And anyone who is brave enough to fight cancer deserves the opportunity to practice yoga.

By: Halle Tecco

Why I Yoga

Hi Yoga Bear Readers! It is a happy Friday here in sunny southern California and I realized today that I failed to introduce myself to you. My name is Jesica Eastman and I love yoga. I have been a regular contributor to this blog for about six weeks, covering interviews of fascinating and inspiring individuals. I appreciate all those that have shared their stories; it is my hope that in sharing we can all feel less alone. This week I would like to share my story.

I walked into my very first yoga class when I was seventeen-years-old and had just moved from my parents sprawling home in southern California to a cramped dorm room at Boise State University in Idaho. I didn’t know a soul, but was determined to find myself. My path led to the brand new resident recreation building where, in an effort to keep freshmen fit, offered free yoga classes. During my first semester, I was overcome with homesickness, culture shock (Idaho is practically a different country compared to my hometown of Orange County), and a great deal of fear. Practicing yoga eased my insecurities. I threw my heart and soul into attending Wake-Up and Sunset classes. My teacher’s voice was calm and steady and instead of flittering in the wind like a wild co-ed, I found my inner voice growing stronger and my flexibility heightening. I was hooked.

I continued to practice yoga throughout my college years, building lasting friendships and relishing in the feeling of community and equality that permeated the room. Every person I have interviewed for Yoga Bear has told me about the quiet support they find from yoga. Cynthia Hardin and Ilana Minkoff, both cancer survivors, described this camaraderie they feel when they attend class. The best way to describe it is to not describe it at all. It just hangs in the air.

Fast forward a few years. I was engaged to be married. My future sister-in-law, at 28-years-old, was diagnosed with brain cancer. A week later, she passed. The strength I found on the mat helped me through this dark period, but more importantly, I helped my loved ones realize that we are all connected.

This Sunday, Yoga Bear is hosting Yogapalooza. This is an event where we can gather together as cancer survivors, cancer patients, yogis, those interested in yoga, and those who haven’t even heard of yoga to contribute to a cause. 100% of the proceeds will benefit local cancer non-profits! Cancer patients and survivors have free admission with an R.S.V.P. This is an opportunity to focus on mindfulness, health, and of course, yoga.

For information on Yogapalooza, visit our website here. We hope to see everyone there!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Misconceptions about yoga when you're starting out

Hi Everyone: My name is Nicoleigh, and I am one of the yoga teachers volunteering for Yogabear. I have over 5 years teaching experience in both Ashtanga & vinyasa styles of yoga, as well as two master’s degrees (statistics, neuropharmacology), and a PhD in physiology. Halle

asked if I would be willing to contribute to the Yogabear blog, specifically in the areas of yoga and the exciting scientific research that is demonstrating the myriad of mind, body, and health benefits from yoga. In particular, taking this research and translating it into a language we can all understand.

The first topic I’d like to blog about isn’t the most scientific one I’ll post, but it is important and has to do with a common misconception that people new to yoga often have, which is that the goal of each asana (pose) is to perform it perfectly. Many people new to yoga think that pictures they see of poses in publications such as Yoga Journal represent perfection. Another example of this is that a new person watching other students in class may perceive the way more advanced (or not) students performing a pose is perfection, and they think that they have to attain that in order to be doing yoga correctly, or to be doing yoga at all. Even advanced students fall into this way of thinking from time to time, e.g. “I wish my backbends looked like so and so….if only I could do such and such pose like Sarah”. I think you get the point.

Students think that the more yoga they do, the more flexible they will become, and the closer they will get to their idea of perfection which may be based on the pictures they’ve seen or the other students in class (this is a generalization). While it is true that yoga will aid in increased flexibility, flexibility is not entirely determined by the muscle stretching alone. I will be using a dancer’s “turnout” as a comparison to yoga and the hip joint, as a dancer is expected to have 90 degree external hip rotation, whereas most people have around 45 degrees.

In large part, a person’s flexibility is determined at birth, by the structure of their bones. For example, a man’s skeleton is built differently than a woman’s (the first picture is a female skeleton [ref: http://catalog.nucleusinc.com/imagescooked]; the second, a male skeleton [www.bones.com]).

Shapes and sizes of the bones differ significantly from person to person, as well, therefore no two people will ever experience the same yoga posture in exactly the same way. For example, my femur bone (thigh bone), probably looks very different from yours. The way my femur bone fits into my hip joint (see picture of different shapes, sizes of hip joints [ref: www.paulgrilley.com])

will therefore be different from yours. If I externally rotate my legs as if I were a dancer in first position (see picture below [ref: www.starbulletin.com]),

I may have a greater degree of rotation than you, therefore, yoga poses requiring external hip rotation will be easier for me than you. My warrior one will look different from yours, and as you can see from the pictures of people in warrior 1, warrior 1 varies from person to person, therefore, the idea of perfection is non-existent (this in itself is a topic for another time—the idea of perfection). Looking at the picture below of warrior one [ref: www.jbyrdyoga.com] demonstrates the similarities in hip rotation, amongst other joints (and muscles, ligaments, tendonds, etc.), of first position. The shape of the hip joint is generally formed by the age of 12 years. This means that the skeletal capacity for external rotation is fixed by about this age. However, tightness of the soft tissues (joint capsule, ligaments, tendons, muscles) which cross or surround the joint can restrict this potential range of motion. That tightness is where improving flexibility comes in.

This is also why your teacher may come up to you in class and correct your pose. This doesn't mean your pose is *wrong*; if your rotation is forced, it could compromise your hip, knees, ankle, or back. No matter how much you stretch, your Warrior 1 may
never look like the pictures you see in magazines, but that's okay! Conversely, you may have an incredibly supple and strong spine, with supple shoulders, and you may have backbends that look like the pictures you see. I have been practicing yoga for 10 years, and I can tell you, my backbends do not look like the ones in Yoga Journal, or some I see in my daily yoga class, because of the skeletal structure of my spine, and limits in spinal movement.

In summary (because I don’t want this blog post to turn into an epic novel):

  1. No pose should ever be forced, or painful.
  2. Your yoga pose may look different from someone else’s, but that doesn’t mean you’re doing it incorrectly, or not practicing yoga.
  3. Your bones and joints, as well as connective tissue, tendons, and ligaments determine, to a large extent, your flexibility, but that doesn’t mean you cannot increase your flexibility—it will just be increased to what your body’s capabilities are.
  4. There is no such thing as perfection. Your teacher correcting you doesn’t mean you’re doing it incorrectly, but is more concerned with you doing your practice safely, so you don’t hurt yourself. Yoga is not about the postures—it is about many things, and it is very individual and personal.
  5. Lastly, try not to measure your practice by anyone else’s, which ties in with #4. It’s about bringing the focus back to you, among other things, even though most of us from time to time experience *pose envy*.

For more information, here are some great sites & references:

  1. Paul Grilley, eSutra 9.20.04: Posted to e-Sutra January 4, 2005. In fact, anything by Paul Grilley is great.
  2. http://www.georgetownyoga.com/html/faqs.htm. This has FAQs for people new to yoga.
  3. http://www.archangels.com.au/biomechanics.html: turnout-hip injuries. This has great info. About the hip joint in particular.
  4. Linda Sparrowe, “A Woman's Book of Yoga and Health: A Lifetime Guide to Wellness” (Boston: Shambhala). 2005 Dance Magazine, Inc.
  5. Yoga Journal (www.yogajournal.com). Their website has great descriptions of various yoga postures.
  6. Ashtanga.net for more information about postures specific to Ashtanga yoga.
  7. http://www.hsc.csu.edu.au/dance/core/performance/dance_technique/prevent_injury/hip_groin.html. More information about hip injuries, etc. from forcing external rotation.
  8. http://www.yogaforums.com/forums/f18/sacroiliac-mobility-exercise-1116.html. This is a forum run by a yoga therapist by the name of Mukunda Stiles (www.yogatherapycenter.org)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Don't throw away that old yoga mat!

Before you think about tossing that old mat, consider some more environmentally friendly options. Here are a few of our favorites:
  • Dog owners: use the mat to protect your back seat when taking the puppy in a road trip
  • Cat owners: use the mat to protect the area near the litter box or as a scratching post
  • Cut the mat to pieces and use as mouse pads, jar grippers, or crafts for the kids
  • Donate to a homeless shelter for extra padding for someone to sleep on
  • Use it in the garden! An old yoga mat makes great knee padding or drainage in flower pots
  • If your mat is gently used or nearly new, donate it to Yoga Bear!

Options for your old mat are endless... Tossing it in the trash should be a last resort.

Consumer Beware--Think Before You Pink

Every year we see hundreds of products from tennis balls to shampoo, to golf clubs to cars, decorated with a little pink ribbon, signaling to consumers that a portion of the proceeds will benefit breast cancer awareness. However, this “portion of proceeds” can be extremely minimal, sometimes pennies to the dollar. Meanwhile, retailers are boosting their image by purporting to care about breast cancer and doing little to contribute to its cause. From the Think Before You Pink website:

The Think Before You Pink Campaign is a project of Breast Cancer Action, launched in 2002 in response to the growing concern about the overwhelming number of pink ribbon products and promotions on the market. The campaign calls for more transparency and accountability by companies that take part in breast cancer fundraising, and encourages consumers to ask critical questions about pink ribbon promotions. These six critical questions include:

How much money actually goes towards breast cancer?

What is the maximum amount that will be donated?

How much money was spent marketing the product?

How are the funds being raised?

To what breast cancer organization does the money go, and what types of programs does it support?

What is the company doing to assure that its products are not contributing to the breast cancer epidemic? (Pinkwashers, as the TBP Campaign calls them, are those companies claiming to care about cancer but are manufacturing products with cancer-causing chemicals.)

If these answers are difficult to get or if you feel the promotion is questionable, try writing a letter to the company responsible, consider buying a different product, and tell your friends. It is easy to get caught up with feeling good about buying a product knowing that some of the proceeds are going to save lives; it is unfortunate more companies and retailers are not as transparent as they should be. Please visit the campaign's site for more information.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Commit to get fit!

THE COMMIT TO GET FIT INITIATIVE

CNN and Dr. Gupta, medical correspondent for CNN.com Health, have launched the initiative "Commit to get fit" this July.

The initiative boasts a website with an online pledge and simple guidelines for getting in shape. The website also provides a link to track your exercise/diet program online.

To learn more about "Commit to get fit," visit: http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/diet.fitness/07/09/commit.pledge/index.html


BUT WHAT DO EXERCISE AND WEIGHT HAVE TO DO WITH CANCER?

From the National Cancer Institute website:

Obesity and physical inactivity may account for 25 to 30 percent of several major cancers—colon, breast (postmenopausal), endometrial, kidney, and cancer of the esophagus .

Preventing weight gain can reduce the risk of many cancers. Experts recommend that people establish habits of healthy eating and physical activity early in life to prevent overweight and obesity. Those who are already overweight or obese are advised to avoid additional weight gain, and to lose weight through a low-calorie diet and exercise. Even a weight loss of only 5 to 10 percent of total weight can provide health benefits.

For more information on the relationship between cancer and weight, visit: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/risk/obesity

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Yoga for the Deaf Community

We love volunteering with other non-profits and community organizations. We were excited when we received the following email a few months ago:
"Every year we take a group of deaf teenagers on a service trip someplace in the US. This year we are returning to the Bay Area and are looking for volunteer opportunities. We are really flexible and are willing to do just about anything that needs to be done."
Flexible? How about some yoga?

So today we met with this wonderful group to teach them yoga, and put together gift bags for Yogapalooza. After some research about teaching yoga to hearing im
paired, we learned about yoga teacher Lila Lolling who teaches the deaf community.

One obstacle that deaf students face is knowing when to come out of a pose, especially while in savasana (relaxation pose) with their eyes closed or in poses where their head is down and it’s a challenge to see the teacher. During meditation, they often end up repeatedly opening their eyes to see if the teacher has given instructions to get up or to move into another pose. Lila has solved that problem by dimming the lights. She gives instructions before the students go into the pose, then dims the lights. When the lights are turned back up, they know it’s time to come out of the pose or end the meditaiton.

Another problem, explains Lila, is there are no standardized signs for words such as yoga, meditation, consciousness or enlightenment. Even the spelling is not enough, because sign is a “conceptual language” with no written form. Lila is working with her deaf students to create a yoga vocabulary in ASL so that deaf people can learn about yoga in their own language.
Although this was our first time working with such a group, the event was a success! Everyone had fun and we all learned something from the event.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Keep Moving, Keep Sharing

Ilana Minkoff was in the shower when she discovered a lump in her breast. She knew immediately that she had cancer.

She stood in the shower for a long time, thinking. Thinking how she always knew she was going to get breast cancer (she is the 4th generation diagnosed with the disease), thinking that she was glad it was her instead of her sister. Thinking about how her life will never be the same again. She turned off the water and stepped out of the shower. She stood soaking wet on her bathmat and decided that she was not going to let this be her "mother's disease". This was an opportunity to show young women what having cancer can be like.

Ilana submerged herself into helping others cope with cancer. She began telling her story, word for word, describing details others have been too quiet to share. She started emailing it to family and close friends, and soon the blog/letter (a "bletter", as she likes to call it) was being read by 250 people. Her wish is for readers to know that it is "okay to not be okay."

Her biography is impressive; she is involved with multiple fundraising and non-profit ventures. She candidly describes "getting so bored there is nothing to do but come up with genius ideas." She is warm and well-spoken and genuinely happy. She uses these talents to propel her to help others.

Ilana has not really dried off since that day in the shower eighteen months ago. She just returned to her home in San Francisco after white-water rafting in Montana with other cancer patients and survivors as part of First Descents, "the only program of its kind specifically focusing on the young adult cancer population, (18-39 years of age), and utilizing the beauty and healing properties of the outdoors and adventure sports to give participants their lives back and allow them to realize that while cancer is a part of their life, it does not define them."

Ilana relays the parallels of rafting to fighting cancer, "You get in that boat, trust the counselors will save your life, and commit to a line," she says. "It is as scary as hell, but an amazing journey." She credits her experience at First Descents for helping her commit to radiation. "I was too scared to do radiation, but they took the fear out."

"I am in a place between diseased and healthy," Ilana says. "I am on the brighter side of the gray scale." Ilana keeps active doing yoga and is working with Yoga Bear to join a yoga studio near her home.

"I think it is so important through cancer treatment to keep active," Ilana says. "Getting fresh oxygen in my lungs, it makes treatment bearable."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

New Yoga Bear Shirts

We've been toying with the idea of selling merchandise as a way to sustain and support operations. Earned income is a popular way for non-profits to support themselves, instead of depending on grants and donations. One idea we had was to launch a small line of eco-friendly yoga gear, namely clothing and mats, with prints designed by cancer patients. All the proceeds would feed back into the organization to expand our program.
This is Michelle, Yoga Bear Volunteer Extraordinare, modeling a Yoga Bear t-shirt.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Online Resource: National Cancer Institute

The National Cancer Institute, the United States federal institute for research on cancer, has an extensive website for both those touched by cancer and for researchers.

On the website, there are links to information on different cancers- both on prevention and treatment. There is a glossary of cancer terms as well as an official drug dictionary. They also include a nice introduction and resource list about Complementary & Alternative Medicine.

If you're interested in knowing the latest in cancer research, NCI's website provides tons of links to publications and information about ongoing clinical trials.

NCI provides multiple venues for accessing information about cancer:
The website (English): http://www.cancer.gov
The website (Spanish): http://www.cancer.gov/espanol
A Free National Hotline: 1-800-4-Cancer
Online Live Help Chat: https://cissecure.nci.nih.gov/livehelp/welcome.asp

In Response to an MSN Article

Yesterday, MSN.com featured an extensive article titled Bad Karma: When Yoga Harms Instead of Heals.” While we at Yoga Bear are HUGE yoga fans, we think it is important to address any and all press associated with yoga in order to educate and inform our readers and the yoga community.

The article was quite extensive and opened with a personal story shared by a woman who pushed herself too hard in yoga class and after weeks of pain, saw a doctor and was diagnosed with a bulging disk. The article went on to explain that, “Nearly 4,500 people ended up in the emergency room after yoga injuries in 2006, up 18 percent since 2004,” according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. This statistic, while relevant for 2004, does not compensate for the rise of people doing yoga in 2008. What if there are 20% more people doing yoga? In that case, the overall injuries would actually be down. The article should be showing injuries relative to the amount of people doing yoga.

Another problem we had with the article was the headline and the overall sensationalism of yoga being detrimental to health. The words “Yoga Harms Instead of Heals” surely grabbed reader’s attention but did little to explain the specific cause or the solution.

Susan Eaton, an injured yogi turned teacher who was quoted in the article said she avoids injury by “modify[ing] poses like headstands to avoid compression of the spine and hyperextension of the neck,” she says. “And even in poses that don't affect my neck, I don't push anymore. I don't go to that place of uneasiness, and that's what I teach my students.

We think Eaton represented yoga best when she said, “Yoga is about practicing mindfully in your own body — and your body is different from everyone else's.”

Yoga + Cancer: Effects on Quality of Life

Research summary prepared by Kelly McGonigal, PhD, Yoga Bear Advisor, health psychologist and yoga teacher at Stanford University.

Yoga is commonly praised for reducing stress through relaxation, but a recent study suggests that it offers another key stress-reducing benefit: social connection. The finding comes from a study of the psychological and physical benefits of yoga for breast cancer patients, conducted by researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the Montefiore Medical Center, Columbia University, and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. 128 women with breast cancer were randomly assigned to either a 12-week yoga program or a wait-list control group.

The yoga program included a weekly 90-minute class that consisted of asana (poses), pranayama (breathing), and meditation. The asana practice was relatively gentle, focusing on seated and reclining poses. Participants were encouraged to practice at home and given audio instructions for support.

Researchers measured participants’ subjective well-being in many areas (physical, social, emotional, and spiritual) before and after the 12-week study period. The main benefit of the yoga practice was preventing a decline in social well-being; the control group showed a significant decrease, but the yoga group did not.

However, only 48% of participants were undergoing chemotherapy treatment during the study. Researchers decided to do a second round of analyses, looking at the treatment and no-treatment participants separately. For individuals who were not undergoing chemotherapy, the yoga intervention made a significant difference in not just social well-being, but also emotional and spiritual well-being. Higher attendance rate at the classes was associated with greater improvements in emotional well-being and energy levels. Authors speculate that the participants in chemotherapy may not have shown the same global effects because they began the study in less stable and more serious medical condition than participants not undergoing treatment during the study.

Importantly, this study included a diverse population (42% African American and 31% Hispanic). Previous studies and surveys suggest that the yoga community can do a better job reaching diverse populations, and this study confirms that when introduced to yoga, they experience significant emotional and social benefits.

Source: Journal of Clinical Oncology, 25(28), 4387-95. Oct 2007.
Authors:
Moadel, A.B., Shah, C., Wylie-Rosett, J., Harris, M.S., Patel, S.R., Hall, C.B., & Sparano, J.A.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Yoga vs. Pilates

We're often asked the difference between Yoga and Pilates. People are often curious as to which is better. The truth is, one is not necessarily better than the other. It is dependent on individual physical needs and goals.

Below are some key distinctions:

Philosophy & Origins

  • Yoga is a holistic discipline with Eastearn roots and involves the mind, body and spirit.
  • Pilates was created over 80 years ago by Joseph Pilates to rehabilitate injured soldiers from WWI, and takes a mind-body approach to exercise with a focus on mental concentration, breathing, and movement whereas
Physical
  • Pilates mainly works on the core muscles in your trunk (called the powerhouse), and building strength there above all. Pilates focuses on those muscles that lie closest to the bone (stabilizer muscles) which is why people claim to get that long lean look.
  • Yoga, for the most part, involves static poses, which are held while exploring your breathing, physical feelings and emotions.
  • Pilates emphasizes toning over flexibility (but, again, it enhances both).
  • Yoga emphasizes flexibility over building strength (although it enhances both).

The benefits of pilates and yoga are extraordinary. They are both known to support the development of strong, graceful bodies and minds. Both disciplines are integrative; associated with stress reduction and increased well-being. And they can be adjusted for a wide range of fitness levels, and are used as rehabilitative systems.

For beginners, we suggest assessing your needs and goals, then test driving a few styles to find the best fit.

Young Olympic Swimmer with Cancer Headed to Beijing

On June 19, just one week before he was scheduled to leave for the Olympic Trials, swimmer Eric Shanteau was informed that he had cancer. Despite recommendations for immediate surgery, Eric has decided to head to China, "hoping to follow the example of Lance Armstrong, seven times winner of the Tour de France, jockey Bob Champion, who was first in the 1981 Grand National, and Oxford Boat Race winner Dan Perkins, all of whom achieved sporting triumphs after recovering from cancer."

The agency that represents Armstrong has already been in touch with Shanteau, who says: “They said that I am the closest thing to Lance that there is on the planet right now. If I can have a fraction of the impact that he’s had, just a tiny little bit, then I think what I’m going through will be good.”

We wish Eric the best of luck as he courageously faces these two big challenges!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

NYC Chapter of Yoga Bear needs your help!

Hi Yogis,

YOGABEAR NYC has partnered with Mt. Sinai hospital to bring FREE yoga into the lives of cancer patients and survivors.

We're in need of new or gently used yoga mats. Please help us make this possible!

To coordinate donations, contact Michelle.Robbins@yogabear.org.

Namaste,
the YOGABEAR team

Friday, July 11, 2008

Yoga for Healing-- a daily routine you can do at home!

One of the wonderful things about yoga is being able to enjoy the practice independently or in a class atmosphere. And for those who want to bring healing yoga into your lives but aren't ready to get into the studio, there are sequences of poses that you can practice at home!

The wonderful instructor and yoga-expert Sadie Nardini has detailed healing sequences that will optimize your body's natural healing potential.

"With this practice, you’ll detox through gentle movement and immerse your body in healing oxygen by breathing deeper.
What’s more, yoga can help get you in the healing mindset, as you calm your mind and begin to focus your attention on bringing more life force into yourself. The rhythm of breath and motion brings your central nervous system and brain into more balance, and allows you to release stress and tension that can hinder the healing response."

Sadie's tutorial
includes detailed directions and pictures to get you started. Go on now, what are you waiting for?

Your Guide to Navigating Eco-Friendly Yoga Gear

By now most of the nation has caught up with "Going Green," by using less plastic bags, recycling, and buying smaller, eco-friendly vehicles. Numerous companies cater to the yoga community by providing organic, eco-friendly yoga gear. Here are some of our favorites and what they can teach us about buying earth-friendly materials. As always, Yoga Bear is providing an objective opinion. We are not paid by any company in exchange for advertisement. We just want to empower our readers by providing education and support. Now...on to clothing!

Clothing
Raam Raj Organic Clothing is a division of Maharish Ayurveda Products International, the leading producer of authentic ayurvedic herbal supplements. All of their clothing is 100% organic cotton. Which means they only buy cotton without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. Their fabric is not pre-treated with chlorine bleaches or formaldehyde, as is conventional cotton fabrics. They only use eco-friendly, low impact dyes containing no heavy metals.

Oxygen Required is a clothing company that specializes in sustainable, renewable, biodegradable collections. Their fitness clothing is made from bamboo."The fibers contain an agent called 'bamboo kun', which prevents the cultivation of bacteria, resulting in odor free clothing. As the fibers are porous, the resulting apparel is also absorbent and evaporates moisture from
the skin."

Tools
Gaiam offers a broad selection of non-toxic jute yoga mats, cork blocks, and hemp bags in their green yoga section.

Bean Products create handcrafted yoga tools from sustainable resources such as organic cotton, hemp, kapok, buckwheat hulls, natural latex and recycled poly-fiber.

What We Can Learn From Them

If you want organic clothing, make sure it is grown, processed and manufactured in compliance with Organic Fiber Processing Standards. Retailers (of organic clothing) in the U.S. are not required to be certified by OFP Standards, but manufacturers are. If in doubt, call the company and ask.

Oxygen Required is proud to have their factories be ITS certified; they adhere to stringent human rights and environmental standards in the manufacturing and production of their collections. In other words, they make the world a better place by being 100% sweatshop-free.

If skin is considered to be the largest, most sensitive organ of the body it makes sense that putting natural, chlorine-free, toxin-free clothing on would have far-reaching health benefits. This health benefit does not come without a price tag; organic and earth-friendly gear can be more expensive than any other alternatives. The good news is that clothing derived from natural products, such as bamboo and organic cotton can last longer and have greater durability than products derived from conventional cotton.

You will also have peace of mind knowing that each time you make an organic choice, you are choosing clothing that is healthier for you or your family, while contributing to a cleaner, healthier world.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Yoga on the Job

Think only yoga instructors and monks get to practice yoga during the work day? Think again. Yoga is becoming increasingly popular in the workplace. Companies like Nike, Apple, Google, Forbes, and even General Motors offer employees free yoga instruction during the work day. A study released this year by the American Institute for Preventive Medicine found 62 percent of all companies -- ranging from small to medium and large -- offer some type of wellness program, most including yoga and/or meditation.

Yoga can be a positive influence on ones ability to concentrate, gain confidence, and reduce stress. All these things lead to more a more productive, harmonious work environment. But that's not the only benefit to companies. Providing yoga for employees can significant cut operating costs.

Don't believe me? Consider the costs of employee health insurance and it's clear why more companies are urging their workers to get in shape. Health-care costs nationwide will hit $2.2 trillion, with companies paying an average $9,312 per employee for health insurance, according to a Towers Perrin survey. With these high-costs, companies are finally encouraged to explore and implement wellness programs for preventative and general health of their employees.

Ready to ask your boss for a mid-day savasana?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

New Laser Zaps Individual Cancer Cells

We don't know much about science, but this seems pretty cool. A female scientist invented a high-resolution laser microprobe to be used in surgery to remover cancerous cells in the epithelium layer.

This laser system, previously used in LASIK surgery, produces a high-energy light pulses which are extremely brief and they sear a targeted cell so quickly and accurately that heat produced from the laser get no time to escape and damage the nearby cells.

As a result the medical community envisions the lasers’ use for more accurate destruction of many types of unhealthy material. These include small tumors of the vocal cords, cancer cells left behind after the removal of solid tumors, or individual cancer cells scattered throughout brain.

Read more in the MIT Technology Review.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Yoga Month Part 2.

Sadie Nardini answered more of our questions regarding the upcoming Yoga Month, a national campaign to promote Yoga and raise funds for Youth Health Alliance.

Yoga Bear: Yoga Month will be hosting events in numerous cities around the US. Who is your target demographic? (Age, level of practice, etc.)

Sadie Nardini: We are targeting anyone and everyone who would like to learn about the physical, mental and emotional benefits yoga can provide. We have workshops geared towards all fitness levels and interests, and we did that on purpose. We don't want to turn anyone away who is seeking more information about how to bring this healing modality into their own lives to help them towards their goals. There are vigorous physical workshops, like mine, where if someone felt more comfortable listening and taking notes, they would learn just as much about coming back to their center. There are meditation-centric workshops, like Max Simon's wonderful Get Self Centered classes, where any experience level is welcome to come and calm the mind. Whether it's a lecture on the medical benefits of yoga and meditation, a nutrition seminar or an on-the-mat lesson for any level, Yoga Month has it.

Yoga Bear: The yoga community is a unique, supportive community that has become more mainstream and accessible in the past decade. However, low-income communities still have less access (and knowledge) about the practice. How do you think the yoga community (studios and instructors) handle this problem?

Sadie Nardini: As a studio director in one of the largest and most diverse cities in America, I directly confront this issue in many ways. Luckily, one of the foundations of yoga is Seva, or selfless service. As a yoga teacher, I know that the best way to offer someone something is to then empower them to offer something that they have of value, so most studios have a strong tradition of Karma Yoga programs and Community Classes. The former is when we have students who do light work around the studio in exchange for free classes, and the second are discounted or by donation classes that are available to any income level. At my studio, we do both, and I find it's much more esteem-building to have the student feel like they're not just being given a free ride, but that they gave us something we needed too. Everyone is on equal footing then.

Also, many places, like schools, hospitals, neighborhood centers and other community-based organizations are putting aside some funds to bring on qualified yoga teachers who speak directly to their needs. That's one reason I think Yoga Month is doing something so necessary for our country, because they're reaching beyond the tour itself to help teach kids yoga, regardless of their income level, so they can begin learning about a healthy, balanced life earlier than they otherwise would, if they would at all. Yoga helps the world by helping each person in it connect to their innate compassion, wisdom, and happiness. If we can't make that accessible for everyone, then what chance have we got?

What are they actually looking for? The Pap Smear

Every year, you make your annual appointment at the gynecologist.

As always, they do a pap smear. But what are they actually looking for?

The pap smear looks for abnormalities in the cervical cells triggered by the sexually transmitted virus, HPV (Human Papilloma Virus).

This is because HPV may lead to cervical cancer.

REMEMBER:

1) All women who are or who have been sexually active, or who have reached age 21, should have an annual Pap smear.

2) A normal pap result means there were no abnormalities and you can wait another year for your next pap smear.

3) If the result of the pap smear is abnormal and you are diagnosed with high-risk HPV :

*Follow your doctor's advice in scheduling follow-up procedures and check-ups to ensure that any pre-cancerous or cancerous cells are caught right away.

*Be responsible sexually. You may transmit the disease to your partner(s).

Visit

http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/
stds-hiv-safer-sex/hpv-4272.htm

for more information about HPV and Cervical Cancer.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Online Yoga Classes

Let’s face it, sometimes it’s hard to make it to the studio. But that shouldn’t mean that you can’t practice yoga.

The folks at Yoga Today have produced an incredible series of yoga classes in beautiful Jackson, Wyoming. Their classes span all levels and range from themes like “Proper Posture” to “Reducing Stress” and all take place in a beautiful mountainous setting.

Not only is Yoga Today the leading site for high-quality streaming yoga classes, but their practice embodies social and corporate responsibility. Yoga Today is a green company and each show is produced completely with clean and renewable energy. They have also supported Yoga Bear through donations and are working hard to make yoga more accessible. How’s that for karma points?