Thursday, August 28, 2008

Yoga Bear Welcomes New Partner Studios

Our community continues to grow!

August has been a wonderfully generous month from Yoga Studios. A warm welcome to our new partner studios:

Balance Pilates & Yoga in Maryland
Leviate Yoga in NYC
Namaste Yoga in Rockridge, CA
Shanti Yoga Ashram in Washington D.C.
Yoga Studio with 3 studios in the San Francisco Bay Area

Yoga Bear is now a network of over 60 studios across the U.S. who are committed to our mission of providing cancer survivors with access to the healing powers yoga.

Iyengar Yoga for Cancer

Iyengar Yoga is a form of hatha yoga known for its use of props, such as belts and blocks, as aids in performing asanas (postures).

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gearing up for Yoga Month

Over the past couple of months we have been spotlighting Sadie Nardini, a yoga instructor for Yoga Month, a 10 city-tour to raise funds for Yoga Health Alliance, which will benefit children. Here's what Sadie has to say about the program:

YB: The proceeds of Yoga Month will be benefiting the Yoga Health Alliance, a non-profit. Why should people support this organization?
Sadie: Because the overall picture of where kids' health is going in the US is pretty dismal. The incidence of childhood obesity, ADD, early-onset puberty, teen pregnancy, and drug use is higher than ever. Ever. That's worrisome. As the saying goes, "If not you, then who? If not now...then when?" Someone has to show these kids another way of living, and perhaps they'll become addicted instead to the sense of strength that a healthy body, high self-esteem, self awareness and acting with integrity bring.

I've taught many kids of all ages, and I've seen firsthand the joy they get when they do their first Crow Pose, or come to yoga class instead of taking out their anger some destructive way. Yoga is a gift, and the Yoga Health Alliance aims to give it to every child possible. I think that's a pretty good cause to get behind. Because those kids could be our kids, and they will grow up to be the next generation. If we can't invest in that now...then when?


I encourage all that can attend to be involved with this great initiative. For more information or to sign up, click here.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Roberta Schine, who teaches "Yoga for People With Cancer" in New York City, wrote a beautiful piece about one of her classes:
Rosa, a grandmother of 4, arrived bald. She had decided that yoga worked best that way the day we hung forward in "Ragdoll" and her wig fell on the floor. When she stood up, clutching her hair-do close to her mastectomy scar, several of us commented on how good she looked.
You get a sense for the immense value of her work as she describes the confidence and joy her students uphold while being placed in an awkward situation of a rude journalist. Read the full story here.

What Makes Up your Make-Up?

Have you ever wondered what your cosmetics are made of? Or how they affect your health? Or the environment?

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics answers these questions and more on its user friendly website.

You can view a list of frequently asked questions and responses about cosmetics by visiting this site.

Another Yoga for Charity Success!

Yesterday, Yoga Bear hosted two charity classes, bringing in about 40 yogis. The classes were generously sponsored by Brian Monnier from Yogic Motion.

The classes were a mix of survivors, caregivers and supporters. We stretched and moved our bodies in ways we never imagined! Yogic Motion offers hot yoga classes six days a week in their beautiful Pacific Heights studio. Their theme is physical culture and the belief that before the mind and spirit can be reached, the body must be fixed. Although there was no focus on the spiritual aspect, everyone left the class with a refreshed sense of self and confidence. Brian is an incredible instructor who brings compassion and motivation to his class.

Thank you Brian & Yogic Motion!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Child's Play

Recently, I have read quite a few articles relating to children practicing yoga. Yoga Journal has an extensive article explaining that the benefits we as adults enjoy can, through some modification, also be enjoyed by youth. In her article, Marsha Wenig gives us this advice:

"Children need to discover the world on their own. Telling them to think harder, do it better, or be a certain way because it's good for them is not the optimal way. Instead, provide a loving, responsive, creative environment for them to uncover their own truths. As they perform the various animal and nature asanas, engage their minds to deepen their awareness. When they're snakes (Bhujangasana), invite them to really imagine that they're just a long spine with no arms and legs. Could you still run or climb a tree? In Tree Pose (Vrksasana), ask them to imagine being a giant oak, with roots growing out of the bottoms of their feet. Could you stay in the same position for 100 years? If you were to be chopped down, would that be OK? Would it hurt? "

Anything that gets our kids moving and exercising is wonderful and “yoga may help counter stress created from living in a hurry-up world.” I encourage you to try it with the children in your life. For more information on children's yoga click here.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Potentially Bad News for Juice

I don't want to believe this claim, from Canadian researchers:

Fruit juices including grapefruit, orange and apple can dramatically reduce the effectiveness of heart and cancer drugs, it was claimed. Potentially the medicines could be rendered useless if they are taken at the same time as drinking juice, Canadian researchers said.

The evidence emerged from a study in which grapefruit juice was found to shut certain drugs out of the body.

Other fruit juices, notably orange and apple, are thought to have the same effect.

Patients consuming fruit or juice to be healthy run the risk of wiping out the benefits of their medicines - among them vital treatments for heart disease, cancer, organ transplant rejection and infection, the scientists warned.

Studies like this are always coming out, then being retracted, then being confirmed again (remember all the shenanigans about popcorn or splenda?). We're hoping this one is simply proven wrong.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Pomegranate a Day...

...May keep cancer away. This super-antioxidant fruit may help eliminate cancer cells.

"Previous studies have shown that the ruby-seeded fruit native to the Middle East is rich in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory effects. In fact, researchers say pomegranate juice has higher levels of antioxidants than red wine and green
tea, which have also been investigated as potential cancer treatments."
The early studies in 2005 treated human prostate cancer cells with pomegranate juice and "the results showed that the higher the pomegranate dose, the more prostate cancer cells that were killed," according to WebMD.

Since it's early studies, pomegranates have been linked to reversing the signs of aging, improving cardiovascular health, and increasing sexual stamina. For more information on this super fruit, click here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Blogging for Survival

From a Reuter's news story:

Some cancer patients may find that putting their emotions down in writing helps improve their pain and general well-being, a study suggests.

We think blogging is pretty cool, too. If you're a cancer patient or survivor interested in starting a blog to share your story (publicly or privately) but don't know where to start, let us know and we'll help you get going!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Hot Yoga and Bikram Choudhury

Hot Yoga, is a term applied to an ultra-intense, 90 minute class featuring a set series of 26 positions practiced in a room well above 100 degrees. There has been some controversy surrounding its benefits. Bikram Choudhury, the founder of “Hot Yoga” or otherwise known as “Bikram Yoga” touts in an article by CBS, "I don't sell cheesecake, you know that? So you come there to suffer. If you don't suffer, you don't get anything. Nothing easy in life."

Bikram claims that hot room temperature makes stretching the muscles and tendons into new positions possible. “The heat may make the body more limber, but it does nothing to stop a first-time Bikram student's potential pain. In fact, one doctor who spoke to 60 Minutes Wednesday said that people taking Bikram yoga classes should be warned, given instructions on hydration and on modifying poses to avoid pushing the body too hard.

Choudhury mocks the suggestion. ‘Tell the doctor [that] I say to start chicken farm." He adds, "What do you think I'm doing all this life? All these years?’

Celebrities and even politicians have joined in on this new workout craze. It is important to remember that despite your physical fitness level, precautions should be made to avoid injury. For more information you can read this fascinating article about Choudhury here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Said the Doctor to the Cancer Patient: Hit the Gym

A wonderful story from the NY Times today discusses the role of fitness in cancer recovery:
Gyms and fitness centers have begun stepping in to meet a small but growing demand for programs designed to not only hasten recovery but to address the fatigue of chemotherapy, the swelling of lymphedema and the loss of muscle tone...

...Other studies indicate that moderate exercise has additional benefits like strengthened immune function and lower rates of recurrence. Studies at Dana-Farber found that nonmetastatic colon cancer patients who routinely exercised had a 50 percent lower mortality rate during the study period than their inactive peers, regardless of how active they were before the diagnoses.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What's Worse than Health Insrance Companies?

According to a recent Harris Poll survey, only tobacco companies and big oil. These numbers speak volumes. Those of us lucky enough to even afford health insurance are still not satisfied with the service. If the overwhelming majority isn't happy with the industry, why aren't things changing?

"70% to 80% of women who get breast cancer do not have a family history of this disease"

While family history increases one's likelihood of developing breast cancer, 70% to 80% of women who get breast cancer do not have a family history of this disease.

Therefore, regardless of family history, it is important for all women to stay up to date with clinical breast exams and mammograms. Your doctor can advise you on when, and how often, to schedule these exams.

For more information on the risk factors of breast cancer, see:

http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_2X_What_are_the_risk_factors_for_breast_cancer_5.asp?rnav=cri

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Reminder of the Importance of Survivorship Issues

Ruth Pennebaker wrote a short, beautiful piece today in the NY Times about her battle with breast cancer. Her words highlight the importance of survivorship issues, and the post-treatment emotional baggage that often plagues survivors.

The last time I visited my oncologist after my treatments were over, I felt lost. The image that kept recurring in my mind was that someone with a gigantic pair of tweezers had picked me up, shaken me and tossed me back down. Now what?

“I feel as if I want to ask you,” I told my oncologist, “how to live.”

She told me I could live as I had before — working, taking care of kids, exercising, traveling, enjoying life. Anything, really. I could lead a normal life.

As I left her office, I realized how completely I’d lost myself over the past several months. I needed to be reminded who I was.

As survival rates increase, we need more programs to focus on survivorship and quality of life. Thank you, Ruth, for sharing your story with the world!

More PSA Screenings Needed for At-Risk Groups

This week, Science Daily reported on Duke Medicine’s Prostate Center study that finds “one-fifth of men under age 50 reported undergoing a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test to detect prostate cancer in the previous year. The study also finds that only 1 in 3 block men have had a PSA screening in the last year.

What does this mean? Researchers are saying African American men and men with high-risk of getting prostate cancer are not being screened for early detection. This is alarming.
“This research suggests we can do a better job of screening men at age 40, and a better job in high-risk men. There's a huge population of African American men who are not getting screened, and men with a family history of prostate cancer who are under 50 are also not getting screened.”
The study states there are many factors contributing to the reason why this at-risk group is not being screened such as: availability of health insurance, high household income, and education level.

You can read the article accompanied with this study here.

Who is Interested in Yoga and Cancer?

One way to test the popularity of something is by gauging the demand for information on the internet. And although this is an imperfect measure that ignores the large population of Americans not connected to the internet, it is still a valuable insight into general trends.

Google's latest product, Google Insights for Search, allows you to compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, and time frames. Naturally, I was eager to find out where people are searching the keywords "yoga" and "cancer", and "yoga and cancer".

Searches for "cancer", unsurprisingly, are pretty evenly distributed across the US. Searches for "yoga" are most popular in California and New York. However, searches for "yoga and cancer" seem to only center from California.

Searches for "Cancer":












Searches for "yoga":












Searches for "Yoga and Cancer":











I hope this graph colors more 'blue' over time, as yoga and other complementary treatments become more accessible to those who are looking for natural methods of healing. As early pioneers in this space, we are quite happy to help people access more information. And for those who haven't found us yet, keep searching!

Fun Facts About Your Body

- Women blink almost twice as much as men.
- The human nose can remember 50,000 different smells.
- Your jawbone is the hardest bone in your body.
- It takes approximately 200,000 frowns to create one permanent brow line.
- More than half the bones in your body are located in your hands and feet.
- There is enough iron in the human body to make one small nail.
- A sneeze can exceed the speed of 100 mph.
- An average human drinks about 16,000 gallons of water in a lifetime. From innerbody.com, biology.about.com and teach-nology.com

Monday, August 11, 2008

Most Americans Disapprove of our Health System

Unsurprising findings from a recent study released by the Commonwealth Fund:
Eight of 10 respondents agreed that the health system needs either fundamental change or complete rebuilding. Adults' health care experiences underscore the need to organize care systems to ensure timely access, better coordination, and better flow of information among doctors and patients. There is also a need to simplify health insurance administration.
The good news is that if most of these people use their vote to voice these concerns, the '08 presidential candidates will have no choice but to address reform to our failing health system.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Drama Therapy in Action

Last night, I had the privilege of attending a play starred by an acting troupe with a mission. The play was called "Attitude of Gratitude: Touched by Cancer" and it's part of a drama therapy project sponsored by the wonderful CARE program.

Theater is a lens through which to see and empathize the world. And in this case, theater offered both emotional recovery to the unexperienced actors and exposure of issues to the unsuspecting audience. The audience was deeply moved by the personal stories regaled by nine survivors in the confines of the intimate theater. At the same time, the survivors had the opportunity to heal through self-expression, community, and discipline.

For 75 minutes the actors revealed their deepest stories (in English, Mandarin, and Spanish), followed by honest convictions of joy and opportunity expressed through dancing, singing, and clowning. I laughed. I smiled. I cried. And by the end, I felt so close to these people who 75 minutes earlier were unfamiliar faces.

I can imagine the benefits to a participant in this program: the opportunity to explore and articulate often hidden stories; to meet and work with others who have similar experiences; to engage the brain and body; to express through imagination and voice; and to have a platform through which to tell your story.

Drama therapy is defined by the National Association for Drama Therapy as "the systematic and intentional use of drama/theater processes and products to achieve the therapeutic goals of symptom relief, emotional and physical integration and personal growth." It is a form of complementary therapy that has been around for years, but of course struggles with underfunding.

I want to thank the cast of the performance, along with those who make such programming possible. I was moved by the spirit and bravery expressed on that stage last night, and hope I can bring a little of that sanguinity to my life.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Making Capitalism More Creative

Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, is on a mission to change the world. With his wife, Melinda and their billions of dollars, they have made it their life’s work to revolutionize the U.S. education system, abolish poverty, and eliminate curable diseases in impoverished nations. Time Magazine has printed an article by Gates explaining the need for “Creative Capitalism”—a merge of enticing big business to contribute to causes to complement what non-profits are already doing. In other words, harnessing the good that capitalism brings while eradicating the ever widening gap between the wealthy and the poor.

Capitalism harnesses self-interest in a helpful and sustainable way but only on behalf of those who can pay. Government aid and philanthropy channel our caring for those who can't pay. And the world will make lasting progress on the big inequities that remain — problems like AIDS, poverty and education, — only if governments and nonprofits do their part by giving more aid and more effective aid. But the improvements will happen faster and last longer if we can channel market forces, including innovation that's tailored to the needs of the poorest, to complement what governments and nonprofits do. We need a system that draws in innovators and businesses in a far better way than we do today.”

Gates goes on to explain that creative capitalism is already occurring. Tom’s Shoes donates a pair of shoes to a needy child in Africa for every pair of shoes purchased. Safaricom has created a way for Kenyans to be able to afford to buy a cell phone. Simon Berry created a Facebook group to encourage Coca-Cola to use its distribution route in Africa to bring live-saving drugs to the ill. The possibilities for companies to be involved in a good cause are limitless.

Buyer beware though. Campaigns such as the Breast Cancer Pink Campaign can grow an ugly hair with businesses only contributing pennies on the dollar, while the consumer believes they made a considerable investment to a cause.

“If more companies follow the lead of the most creative organizations in their industry, they will make a huge impact on some of the world's worst problems.”

Overall, the Gates are on to something. We shouldn’t rely on the government alone to help alternative cancer treatments become a reality. Yoga Bear’s dedication to assure that treatments such as yoga and mediation are available to everyone despite their economic class is relentless. Yoga studios, yoga gear companies, and yoga mat manufacturers have an opportunity to step up and contribute to a cause bigger than the bottom line. A cause that would see to it that anyone diagnosed with cancer, despite their financial, racial, and gender background, should have as many treatment options available to them as possible. For a list of yoga studios already helping us make a difference, click here.

Unbelievable Increase in Twins in the US

This is shocking!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Study on Complementary Treatments in Cancer Care

Today the American Cancer Society released the results of a study gauging the use of complementary methods (CMs) by cancer patients.

Among other things, the study revealed that CM use was higher among those who are female, younger age, white, higher income, and higher educational achievement. This is probably a result of inequality in access to information about CM and the ability to afford such “luxury” services.

However, we don’t believe that non-traditional methods of healing, such as yoga, vitamins, and art therapy, should be a luxury good. One of YOGABEAR's goals is to inform more people of their options, and provide these opportunities to the best of our ability. And with the support of over 50 incredible yoga studios across the nation, we’re making this a reality.
"Learning more about which CMs help cancer survivors with pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, overall psychological adjustment, and overall physical functioning is very feasible," Dr. Gansler noted. "That information could increase attention and resources for providing CMs that are helpful and reducing the time and money spent on ones that are not."

Making Cancer a National Priority (the video)

Check out this video on making cancer a national priority.

Pay close attention to minute 1:42 for Halle's two-cents, "I don’t think the full responsibility (of making cancer a national priority) should be on the government. I think it’s important that we have policies that are set forth to protect citizens.... But I also think it’s important for organizations and people to feel empowered to make change themselves."

In other words, if we wait around for the government to find the solution, nothing will ever happen. We need grassroots activists (like all the awesome Yoga Bears!) to bring forth change.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Me Speak Yoga

For some beginners, yoga terms and concepts can be difficult to grasp, both on and off the mat. It may even seem like a foreign language. Thanks to iYogaLife’s fantastic article, we are pleased to present a mini bi-lingual dictionary to help you make sense of asana and prana and chakras. Namaste.

ASANA (AH-sah-nah)It literally means “[easy] seat,” but it’s any yoga posture. A series of asanas makes up a vinyasa, or flow.

CHAKRAS (SHA-kruhz)The Sanskrit term chakra literally means “wheel” or “disc,” referring to the shape of these whirling energy centers that control the body’s vital organs. They correspond to nerve plexes, ganglia, and glands. When one’s organs are malfunctioning, it is because they lack sufficient life energy (hence, “My chakras are out of balance”). The seven principal chakras are situated along the spinal cord, from the base to the cranium and relate to reason, cognition, memory, will power, divine love, divine sight, and illumination. Seven others exist below the spine and relate to fear, anger, envy, selfishness, and other unenlightened traits. Those who can see chakras describe them as colorful and resembling a lotus flower.

KUNDALINI (kun-duh-LEE-ni)Literally, “coiled up.” Kundalini energy is the life force that lies dormant in our bodies. It is often depicted as a coiled up serpent at the base of the spine; practicing the correct spiritual discipline can cause the serpent to spring awake. Kundalini yoga focuses on the centers in the body (chakras) that can release kundalini energy.

NAMASTE (NAH-MAH-STAY)Means “May the divine light in me greet the divine light in you.” You know it’s coming at the end of class when your teacher puts her hands in prayer position and bows her head. Students say it back to convey, “Thank you for class.”

OM (OH-MMMM)A long and loud sigh or hum chanted at the beginning and end of a yoga session. This is supposed to warm up the lungs and relax and quiet the mind. The om sound is supposed to be “the sound of all things,” all the noise and music in the universe combined.

PRANA (PRAH-nah)The life energy that keeps us alive and thriving. The ancient Greeks called it “pneuma,” and the ancient Hebrews, “ruah.” The three major sources of prana are air, sun, and ground. SAVASANA (SHA-vass-ah-nah)Translating as “corpse pose,” this is when you lie on your back, completely still with eyes closed, and concentrate on relaxing every part of your body—from toes to jaw muscles. Wrapping yourself in a blanket is optional. Usually the last asana in class

SHAKTI (SHOCK-tee)In Sanskrit, means “power” or “energy.” Typically refers to the power of the god Siva, which pervades all of existence; the pure consciousness of all form. Manifestations include kriya shakti (action) and icha shakti (desire, love).

SURYA NAMASKAR (SUE-ree-ah NAH-mas-car)Also known as Sun Salutation. A series of poses that warms up the body including Downward Dog, Cobra, and Standing Forward Bend.

TADASANA (TAH-dah-sah-nah) Meet Mountain Pose. Just stand upright with your feet together, arms at your side, and head erect. This pose looks like the old-school diving board move known as “pencil.”

VIRABHADRASANA (vi-ra-BAH-dras-ah-nah)A standing pose with one bent knee that makes your thighs burn. There are also variations such as Warrior II, with the arms extended to the sides instead of overhead. Warrior III is a one-legged balancing act (the Sanskrit term for “face plant’’ is unknown).

What are the chances you’ll get cancer?

Well, we know that 1 in 3 Americans will get diagnosed in our lifetimes. But what about a statistic that factors in lifestyle and background?

We found this online questionnaire, created by the Siteman Cancer Center, that calculates your risk of being diagnosed with cancer. Of course it’s impossible calculate an exact risk, but this tool surveys critical factors known to increase one’s risk. The most valuable part of this tool is highlighting personalized steps you can take to lower your risk.

Here is a screen shot of my likelihood of getting colon cancer; a disease that my uncle is currently receiving chemotherapy for:Of course, be critical with their suggestions. For instance, my results suggest that I should take birth control to lower my risk. However, birth control also increases my risk of stroke, which my sister suffered from. Keep a holistic mindset and only adopt lifestyle changes that you (and perhaps your physician) are comfortable with.
-Halle

Monday, August 4, 2008

Actress Christina Applegate Diagnosed with Breast Cancer

It was just announced that actress Christina Applegate, age 36, is undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Ame Van Iden, who represents the 36-year-old actress, released a statement saying: "Christina Applegate was diagnosed with an early form of breast cancer.

"Benefiting from early detection through a doctor ordered MRI, the cancer is not life threatening. Christina is following the recommended treatment of her doctors and will have a full recovery."

Applegate is among the celebrities scheduled to appear on the Stand Up To Cancer one-hour television special to be aired on ABC, CBS and NBC on September 5 to raise funds for cancer research.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

John Hopkins Study on Assisting Cancer Patients' Sense of Well-Being

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University are researching an alternative to stress management in the lives of people affected by cancer.
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University are seeking volunteers with a current or past diagnosis of cancer who have some anxiety or are feeling down about their cancer to participate in a scientific study of self-exploration and personal meaning brought about by the entheogen psilocybin, a psychoactive substance found in mushrooms used as a sacrament in some cultures, given in a comfortable, supportive setting. Questionnaires and interviews will be used to assess the effects of the substance on consciousness, mood, and behavior.
The new study is unique because because it will include both patients with a past or present diagnosis of cancer. This clinical trial is very important because it follows up on recently published research that demonstrated long-term well being after taking psilocybin in a structured setting. According to Roland Griffiths Ph.D.; “the primary mystical experience might fundamentally change the perception of disease and perhaps quality of life in people distressed by life-threatening diagnoses of cancer.”

However, obtaining volunteers for the new study has proven difficult so many are looking to spread the word about this promising study that has the potential to dramatically improve the quality of life for those with cancer and possibly other diseases. You can find out further information and how to volunteer here.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Yoga Today

A large attraction to yoga is the fact it can be practiced virtually anywhere: parks, living rooms, hotels rooms...etc. Yoga Today is constantly streaming free hour-long podcasts and video of yoga classes. Whether you are in Dubai or L.A, you can still get that "just left the studio feeling." New classes are posted daily here. Check out today's lesson: