Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Write it Out

Writing out emotional feelings may help ease the pain and suffering of cancer patients, according to a study from Dr. M. Soledad Cepeda of Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston.

Such writing, part of a concept called "narrative" medicine, has been seen as a way to aid communication between seriously ill patients and their doctors, according to an article by Reuters. The study also showed that the act of writing allowed patients to better assess their individual needs.

"The findings suggest that the emotional release of writing, specifically, is what helps patients deal with their cancer pain, according to Cepeda's team. However, they add, it's also possible that the most seriously ill patients find it more difficult to write about their feelings.
"More studies are needed, the researchers conclude, to see whether encouraging seriously ill patients to reveal their emotions in writing benefits their well-being. In addition, they say, studies should look at whether verbally telling one's "story" has positive effects."

Pose of the Day: Vrksasana

Vrksasana, sanskrit for tree pose, is a balancing pose that strengthens the legs and improves balance. We also think it's fun! Watch our video explain three modifications so you can do tree pose:

Uninsured Advocacy Video from an Unlikely Source

Blue Cross of California made this video to advocate for the massive number of uninsured Californians.

Some dreadful facts:
- 1 in 5 Californians are uninsured
- California has more uninsured than any other state
- That's 6.7 million uninsured individuals, 800,000 are children
- Four out of five uninsured Californians come from working families

Monday, September 29, 2008

Taking Wellness Programs National

The Lance Armstrong Foundation (one of our favorite cancer organizations) is teaming up with the YMCA to infuse exercise into recovery on a national level.

"Medical studies show that moderate levels of appropriate physical activity can reduce fatigue, boost self-esteem and improve muscle strength and physical endurance in individuals following cancer treatment," said Andy Miller, vice president of programs and policy for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. "However, physical activity and wellness programs specifically for cancer survivors are scarce and often difficult to take to scale nationally."

Although we are grassroots, we have scaled the Yoga Bear model to a national level. In just two years, we have partnered with yoga studios in seven different states, including the YWCA in Berkeley. We focus on services for cancer survivors, since the majority of services for cancer victims end as soon as they complete treatment. And we believe in promoting survivorship and quality of life, through a healthy lifestyle.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Yoga Bear in SELF Magazine

We were really excited to see our organization mentioned in the October issue of Self magazine, in a special about cancer and fitness. YOGA BEAR is the largest network of yoga studios across the nation that provide yoga access to people living with cancer.

We are a truly grassroots organization, led by a team of dedicated volunteers. We are made possible by small donations from people like you.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Letter to CEO of General Mills

Dear Mr. Powell,

We appreciate the effort General Mills has made toward ending the breast cancer epidemic through the Yoplait Save Lids, Save Lives program. However, there is an even more meaningful commitment your company can make to help put an end to this terrible disease.

As you know, Yoplait yogurt is made with milk from cows treated with rBGH. We are very concerned about the health issues, such as breast cancer, that have been associated with the use of this synthetic hormone. rBGH is unsafe and unnecessary. In fact, many dairy companies, restaurants, grocery stores, and retailers as large as Wal-Mart have decided to go rBGH-free. General Mills can do it too.

By making your yogurt with only rBGH-free milk, you will be creating a healthier product for millions of women. If General Mills goes rBGH-free, other companies will follow your leadership, thus increasing the availability of artificial hormone-free dairy.

This will make a real change in breast cancer—helping to stop the disease before it starts.

I hope you will take quick action to make Yoplait yogurt rBGH-free. In the process you'll be making General Mills a well-noticed champion of women's health.

In community
Yoga Bear

Join the Think Before You Pink campaign and tell Yoplait to put a lid on it!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Getting Real: Sexuality and Cancer

A Blessing in Disguise is a collection of short stories, compiled by Dr. Andrea Joy Cohen. I particularly loved the story, "Getting Real" by Psychiatrist Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen who wrote a brilliant essay on how people with cancer can reclaim their wholeness by reclaiming their sexuality.

In her essay, she tells of Clare, an elegant twenty-something businesswoman who had recently undergone surgery to remove her right breast. Clare sat in Dr. Remen's office sobbing at the fact that before her surgery men had found her attractive and she had been very proud of her body.

"But that is over now," she told Dr. Remen. "I could never allow anyone to see me disfigured like this." After her surgery she ended the relationship with the two men she was seeing.

The story goes on to explain that Clare had gone through cancer entirely alone, too embarrassed to open herself up. As she visited Dr. Remen over the next couple of months she told her that she planned on having breast reconstruction surgery in 5 years, when her oncologist said the chances are sol low she will be home free.

Over the next year, Clare met Peter, a painter who she deemed a good friend. Peter and Clare had developed quite a relationship when suddenly Clare scheduled an urgent visit with Dr. Remen.

"It's the end," Clare said. "Peter has invited me to go away for the weekend and now he will know about my breast. Beauty is his whole life and now he will be completely repulsed."

Dr. Remen did her best to soothe Clare's worries and urged her to call if she needed anything.

Dr. Remen did not hear from Clare for a few weeks, until Clare called and told her Peter still wanted to be friends. Clare's breast reconstruction surgery was coming up and Dr. Remen did not see her until a few days before the much anticipated surgery.

"I was delighted to celebrate this milestone with Clare and I asked her about it, " said Dr. Remen in the essay. "Clare smiled at me and told me she cancelled it."

"How come? I asked her."
"She slowly unbuttoned her shirt and shrugged it off her shoulders. She was not wearing a bra and her left breast was exquisite. But its beauty was overshadowed by the radical change in her body. Her mastectomy scar had been covered with a mass of tiny, exquisite tattooed flowers. They looked real. In the most delicate of pastel shades, they climbed to the top of her right shoulder. As she turned away from me, I could see that they fell across it and down her back as if scattered by gravity or wind. Her body was beautiful...One little tattooed flower had come to rest in the small of her back, under it was a tiny initial 'P'. She was indescribably erotic. Men encountered women like her only in their dreams."

Clare and Peter had gone to Amsterdam to get the tattoo done then they used the money she had saved for her surgery for a honeymoon.

"My husband convinced me beyond the shadow of a doubt that anything of real beauty is one of a kind."

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cancer, Health Care and the Elections

Cancer is an issue close to home for both candidates this November. McCain, the 72-year-old Republican candidate, survived four malignant melanomas (skin cancers). Barack Obama, the 47-year-old Democratic candidate, lost both his grandfather and mother to cancer.

"Despite achieving many life-saving advances, the war against cancer is an ongoing struggle that continues every day," said McCain (via a story in the Washington Post). "This is a fight we must and will win as a nation."

Obama describes his mother's cancer as "the most painful time of my life. She had ovarian cancer -- was diagnosed in February and was gone by November... It is not going to be easy to completely eliminate cancer but when I think about all the steps that we can take that we're not taking, it makes me frustrated. It's something that I will prioritize as president," he said.

Although both candidates claim to be on the same side of the war against cancer, the Journal of Health Affairs published critiques of both candidates' health care plans.

McCain plans on eliminating income tax breaks for health insurance obtained through the workplace and instead give people a $2,500 tax credit for individuals who buy health insurance and a $5,000 tax credit for families that do so. The tax credit could help people buy insurance through their employer or in the individual market (licensed in any state). With more competition, costs would fall and quality would increase, McCain reasons.

The Journal warns that employers would be less likely to offer coverage if they knew their workers could get it elsewhere. The authors projected that 20 million people would lose their employer-sponsored insurance under McCain's plan, and 21 million people would gain coverage through the individual market. Another concern is that insurers would move to states with less onerous coverage requirements (i.e. insurers could relocate to one of the 30 states which don't require covering cervical cancer screenings).

Obama wants the government to provide health care for those who could not afford it otherwise. He wants to make it illegal to turn someone away because of pre-existing cancer, heart disease or diabetes. Furthermore, it would be illegal to charge a higher monthly premium because of any pre-existing conditions.

The journal argues that using third parties to subsidize the cost of a product exacerbates health inflation. "Any major expansion of coverage will be costly, and the Obama promise of affordability would require new, large, and rapidly growing federal subsidies that are unlikely to be sustainable, fiscally or politically," said the authors.

We encourage you to research the plans laid out by McCain and Obama; and use your vote to voice your opinion.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What is Kundalini Yoga?

The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center created this wonderful video to explain Kundalini Yoga.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Staying Safe on the Mat

Like any fitness regimen, you should take caution and perform yoga in moderation, paying attention to your individual needs. Besides, injuries take the fun out of any activity.

Here are some basic tips for staying safe on the mat:
  • Speak to your doctor before participating in yoga.
  • Warm up! Cold muscles, tendons and ligaments are vulnerable to injury.
  • Wear clothes that allow proper movement, good fit is a must. Check out this list of clothing suggestions.
  • Do your homework! Your first classes will be easier if you watch a video beforehand or study the poses available at Yoga Journal.
  • Stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after class.
  • Leave your ambition at the door. Yoga is a practice that will keep you interested and challenged for a lifetime. There’s no need to achieve – or even try - everything the first day, week, month, or year.
  • Ask for assistance; If you’re unsure whether a pose or movement is right for you, ask the teacher for help.
  • If your instructor does hands on adjustment, give them feedback. Let them know whether you prefer gentle or strong adjustments; If you prefer not to be adjusted, let the teacher know before class.
The rewards of yoga outweigh any potential risks, but we encourage everyone to carry-out a safe practice to maximize your yoga journey.

Yoga Bear Welcomes New Partner Studios

September has been another generous month from studios, as the Yoga Bear community continues to grow! A warm welcome to our new partner studios:

Be Yoga in Menlo Park, CA
Adeline Yoga in Berkeley, CA
Bikram Yoga in Manhattan Beach, CA

For a full list of studios or to learn how to get involved visit our site!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

We came across a wonderful site where real voices rule and where regular people can publish stories about anything that matters to them. It’s called DivineCaroline, and you can read and write about nearly anything!

The area of the site we love the most is Body & Soul, where people are talking about everything from meditation to healthy lunches. The stories and discussions are compelling, warm, and quite relevant to our interests. Go on and explore!

Yoga For Peace

This year on Saturday, September 20th 2008 or Sunday, September 21st 2008, people from around the World will join together to create peace in the world by performing 108 Sun Salutation in unison. According to the website, the world-wide event is a project of New York Citiworks, Inc.

The idea behind this event is simple and very clear,.... Peace begins within, and its goal is to unite the yoga Community to create peace in the world.

Prominent figures in the yoga communities around the world will lead the kirtan, chanting, that signals the commencement and closure of the celebration.

According to the event website, proceeds from Yoga for Peace will benefit an organization dedicated to spreading peace and demonstrating compassion.

"No longer do we have to wait for the world's leaders to create peace in the world, for in our heart's we know that a true and lasting peace cannot be voted in place. No, peace begins within! So we ask all people who value Yoga to take a stand and attend a Global Mala Yoga for Peace event near you, and if one doesn't exist create one for your area."

More information about registering for the event or starting an event near you, click here.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Anti-Nausea Patch for Chemo?

Cancer patients will soon be able to use a medication patch to ease the debilitating nausea that often accompanies chemotherapy.

The Food and Drug Administration said Monday it has approved the first anti-nausea patch for chemotherapy patients, intended to provide relief for up to five days. The patch, called Sancuso, is worn on the arm and delivers a widely used anti-nausea medicine, known as granisetron, through the skin. It is expected to be available by the end of the year.

Associated Press

Friday, September 12, 2008

Here Comes the Sun

Recommit to the Sun Salutation

Many of you have the familiar asana, the Sun Salutation, memorized. In fact, this week I attended a class where I found myself not even thinking about the movement I was making because it had become repetitious.

Richard Rosen, from Yoga Journal has some beautiful insight to help us recommit to our practice.

"Since the sequence is, in essence, a humble adoration of the light and insight of the self, it's essential to practice Sun Salutation in a spirit of devotion and with your awareness turned always inward toward the heart. Make each movement as mindful and precise as possible, especially as you near the end of your rounds, when fatigue can lead to sloppiness."

"Success with Sun Salutation, as with all aspects of yoga practice, depends on commitment and regularity. An everyday practice would be best, but you might at first aim for four times a week. If possible, don't skip more than a couple of days in a row, or you might end up back at square one."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Revitializing the Support Group

One alcoholic beverage at a time

Matthew Zachary doesn’t take shit from anybody. Not from the government, not from the establishment (think Manhattan, where he lives), and especially not from cancer. As a 21-year-old college student and aspiring musician, he was diagnosed with pediatric brain cancer (medulloblastona) and has become the fearless leader of Gen X/Y hipsters who find cancer, well, stupid.

Zachary is the Founder and Executive Director of I’m Too Young For This! Cancer Foundation, the nation's fastest growing advocacy, support and research organization working exclusively on behalf of survivors and care providers under the age of 40. Zachary has created a place for young adults (15-39) to seek help, support, and the facts.

Yes, it sucks but at least you're not alone. So, welcome to the club no one wants to belong to. You might as well make the most of it and get busy living by diving in head first. Stupid cancer.

Oh, so the next time your hospital tells you "Our support groups are for adults." or when the little old ladies in the chemo infusion say "You poor thing.", or when a random friend asks, "What no kids yet? What are you waiting for?" or when someone on the street shouts out "Nice Hair!", for the first time in history, someone's got your back. We do.

Zachary’s success can be directly contributed to his irreverent and hip approach to talking about cancer. What is even more impressive is his magnetism at getting other’s to talk about cancer, at bars all over the world.

Stupid Cancer Happy Hour sort of sprung out of nowhere,” Zachary said. “I figured if our generation was going to spend money, they would want to spend it on alcohol. Young adult survivors can get together without judging each other for only having one ball or one boob,” Zachary said.

This kind of socializing is redefining the way cancer is viewed and discussed. Many cancer patients and survivors find yoga classes a form of social support; young adults are finding support and friendship while sipping a martini.

“We are exercising our rights in a non-threatening, non-clinical environment, in an environment that will end isolation,’ he said. “This is a new model of ending isolation. Whether it’s doing top dog (he means down-ward facing dog, and we both laugh) or meeting for a drink, there is an evolution of the support group.”

[His ultimate vision] is to be the progressive, creative and disruptive voice for the young adult demographic in a future where the burden of cancer is marginalized to that of a manageable chronic condition—similar to HIV and diabetes—in a future where it is unilaterally accepted that survivorship is the cure to cancer.

Zachary is an example to all of us.

“Get busy living,” he says. “You feel like crap and your living. What other options do you have?”

For more information on Matthew Zachary or his organization, click here.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Kennedy-Hutchison Bill to Fight Cancer

Senators Kennedy and Hutchison are introducing perhaps the most important federal cancer legislation of our time. The Kennedy-Hutchison cancer bill will aim to expand and accelerate our search for cures, more effective treatments, and better preventive measures. It will also address some of the ongoing needs of the nearly 12 million Americans living with cancer today. To be notified when the bill is filed, sign up for news and updates on their website.

For policymakers to take action, they need to hear directly from people with cancer and their supporters. By speaking up, you can help assure that everyone has access to screening, early detection and high-quality cancer care. When it comes to speaking about cancer, nobody does it better than those who have been there. Take action and share your story here!

YOGABEAR advisor Jasan Zimmerman speaks about why the war on cancer is important:

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Ultimate Yoga Book Reading List

Put together by YOGABEAR advisor Megan Keane:

Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual by David Swenson
A must-have for Ashtanga yoga fans. Detailed information and informative pictures showing the stages of each pose in both the primary and second series of Ashtanga yoga. Spiral-bound so it's easy to have open near your mat.

The Bhagavad Gita
, Eknath Easwaran, translator
One of the primary texts in Hinduism, this simple, yet beautiful story illustrates the spiritual teachings in the challenge of taking action in troubled times.

Bringing Your Yoga to Life: The Everyday Practice of Enlightened Living by Donna Farhi
Yoga doesn't start and stop with your mat. This is a powerful exploration of how to incorporate yoga into all aspects of your life, on and off the yoga mat.

The Hatha Yoga Prapidika by Svatmarama (Author), Brian Dana Akers (Translator)
The classic source behind hatha yoga translated from the Sanksrit into English

The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice by T.K.V. Desikachar
The teachings of the major yoga scholar and teacher, Sri T Krishnamacharya, as written by his son.

Light On Yoga by B.K S. Iyengar
The bible of Iyengar yoga with pictures of every yoga pose you know and many you didn't, plus therapeutic sequences for different ailments

Living Your Yoga by Judith Lasater
A wonderful book to start with if you're wanting to know a little more about yoga philosophy. This book brings wonderful daily life examples to the concepts behind many of the yoga sutras. It's one to have on your shelf and keep coming back to.

Meditate: Happiness Lies Within You by Swami Muktananda
An easily accessible gem of a guide for how to get started with meditating.

Relax and Renew by Judith Lasater
Relax? Easier said than done in a multi-tasking, go-go world, but here's some way to get some rest and renewal through practices for restorative yoga

Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff
An in-depth look at the anatomy and movement of the body at work as illustrated in different yoga poses.

Yoga and the Quest for the True Self
by Stephen Cope
One psychonanalyst turned yogi's journey into the practice of yoga and self-inquiry and how the meditation and yoga practice can lead to deeper awareness.

Yoga for Wellness: Healing with the Timeless Teachings of Viniyoga by Gary Kraftsow
The healing aspects of yoga to promote wellness through the system of Viniyoga by one of its foremost teachers.

Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness by Eric Schiffmann
Known for his beautiful sequencing, Eric Schiffmann provides guidelines and techniques for finding stillness and peace of mind through yoga and meditation. This is one to keep on your bedside table.

The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, Georg Feurstein (translator)
Renowned yoga scholar, Georg Feurstein translates Patanjali's classic yoga scripture

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Mammogram Reminder by Email

The American Cancer Society has developed an online tool for women to receive annual mammogram reminders by e-mail. You can get reminders for yourself or for a loved one.


There, you can specify the month in which you last had your mammogram. One year later, you will receive a reminder that it is time to schedule and complete your next breast cancer screening.


If you are 40 years or older, have a mammogram every year for as long as you are in good health.

If you are 20-39, a clinical breast exam by your doctor of nurse should be part of your regular check-up.

Of course, if you notice any changes when doing your self-breast exam at home, be sure to make an appointment with your doctor.

Stand Up to Cancer

In an unprecedented television event, NBC, ABC, and CBS will simultaneously devote 1 hour of commercial-free prime time to raise funds for the fight against cancer. The show, Stand Up To Cancer, will air this Friday (Sept. 5) and will feature over 50 celebs entertaining, inspiring, and educating.
From the Stand Up to Cancer Mission Statement:

"Here we stand, on the verge of unlocking the answers that will finally conquer the devastation that is cancer.

We now understand the very biology that drives cancer. With knowledge gained from the mapping of the human genome, we can now target the genes and pathways that are involved in turning normal cells into cancerous ones. We are on the brink of possessing a toolbox full of new, advanced technologies just waiting to be adapted to benefit patients. Right before us, so close we can almost touch them, are scientific breakthroughs in the prevention, detection, treatment and even reversal of this disease.

For the first time we can envision the possibility of stopping cancer in its tracks. But just when science is on the verge of giving us the breakthroughs that can end cancer, the will and the funding to do so are disappearing from the national agenda and from our collective consciousness.

Cancer takes one person every minute. One life in a moment. They are our brothers, our sisters, our fathers and mothers, our husbands and wives, our best friends, our children, ourselves. Every day in America 1500 people die and yet the means to save them are literally within our reach. To wait any longer for someone else to save our lives and the lives of those we love is unforgivable.

Inspired to act by our own personal experiences with cancer, we recognize that we can no longer rely on the current system alone to give us the breakthroughs we need. So, we are calling on the public to help take matters into our own hands, investing in a revolution that will change the way scientist and clinicians work to understand and treat these diseases. Stand Up To Cancer is more than a rallying cry. It is a galvanizing force created to urgently move cancer research forward.

This is where the end of cancer begins: when we unite in one unstoppable movement and Stand Up To Cancer.


Working with the top experts in cancer research, Stand Up To Cancer is forging a new way to develop breakthroughs that will end cancer. We’re putting together the best and the brightest minds in cancer research – those on the edge of accomplishment – investing in their projects and taking the bureaucratic obstacles out of their way. We are building interdisciplinary “Dream Teams” of scientists, clinicians, technicians and other experts, who will focus on a specific cancer problem. We’ll track their progress in real time, so that everyone who invests can see how their participation is creating real change.

Funds will be administered by the American Association for Cancer Research, the largest scientific organization in the world focusing on every aspect of high-quality, innovative cancer research. Together with their scientific Blue Ribbon Advisory Committee, comprised of world-class scientists across several disciplines and patient advocates, the most promising projects will be identified. "

For more information, click here.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Yoga Bear Expands to Southern California!

YOGABEAR has just announced a program expansion to Southern California, home to a strong yoga following and top hospitals like the UCLA Medical Center, Cedars-Sinai Comprehensive Cancer Center, Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, and USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.

We are excited to grow our community of generous yoga studios, cancer survivors, and supporters.  This expansion exemplifies our mission to provide more opportunities of health and wellness to a growing population of cancer survivors.

We are proud to announce the new Director of the Yoga Bear Southern California Chapter, Nicole Reed.  Nicole is a yoga instructor and philanthropist, who advocates for better cancer care.  She is also enrolled in the Yoga Philosophy Program at Loyola Marymount University.  Nicole is excited to be leading the Southern California Chapter:
I have witnessed firsthand, the miraculous life transformation and healing that takes place when one devotes themselves to living a yogic lifestyle. My personal experience with the magical healing powers of yoga has created a burning desire in me to share that magic with others. I want to be a voice that spreads the healing!
For more information about the Southern California Chapter of Yoga Bear, contact Nicole at nicole@yogabear.org.