Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving

I am thankful for YOU, a supporter of Yoga Bear. Without your support, our work would not be possible.

I thought this quote from W.E.B. Du Bois, the tireless civil rights leader and author, would be appropriate on this day:
Give us thankful hearts ... in this the season of Thy Thanksgiving. May we be thankful for health and strength, for sun and rain and peace. Let us seize the day and the opportunity and strive for that greatness of spirit that measures life not by its disappointments but by its possibilities, and let us ever remember that true gratitude and appreciation shows itself neither in independence nor satisfaction, but passes the gift joyfully on in larger and better form.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Yoga for Women Cancer Survivors in New Jersey

Led by Dr. Susan Herman
Tuesdays at 2 PM
FREE for survivors!

Frequently we hear about the healing and restorative powers of yoga. Any increasingly Western medical research demonstrates the benefits yoga offers cancer survivors. Are you curious how yoga can speed your recovery and increase your energy? Participants are all ages and stages of survivorship. Keeping our immune systems strong is the goal, but along the way we get flexible, feel better about our bodies and have some laughs together doing yoga.

Susan Herman Ph.D, ABPP is a Psychologist and a Yoga Teacher. As a psychologist in private practice she works with depression, anxiety, and trauma survivors. She has been practicing yoga for 15 years and teaching for 5 years. She has been trained by many different teachers in different traditions; White Lotus, Yoga Synthesis, Om Yoga, Anusara, Restorative, Yoga for Cancer Survivors, and Prenatal Yoga. She is a certified Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist. She has also studied with Jyoti Chrystal for all of her yoga years.

She combines her knowledge of human conditions with the love of yoga in helping her students develop more positive views of themselves and their potential regardless of their limitations.

215 Glenridge Avenue
Montclair, NJ 07042

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pilates for Cancer Patients

Patients at MD Anderson Cancer Center are offered pilates classes.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Military Turning to Yoga to Help Psychologically Battered Troops

We often hear complaints about yoga becoming "mainstream". But shouldn't we be joyful that more and more people are able to benefit from the practice? It's wonderful to watch as western culture embraces yoga as a healing tool. The National Journal wrote a story today about how our military is leveraging yoga to help troops deal with post-traumatic psychological issues.

From the Naitonal Journal:
For generations, the military has opted for a code of stoic silence in dealing with psychologically battered troops. Now it's exploring everything from talk therapy to yoga in an effort to better treat troops suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Yoga Bear News Bites

A disappointing new study by two York University researchers estimates the U.S. pharmaceutical industry spends almost twice as much on promotion as it does on research and development, contrary to the industry’s claim.

An Aussie scientist unveiled a skin cancer vaccine that "would be used on children aged between 10 and 12 to prevent them from developing skin cancer"

A study at the UC San Diego School of Medicine (funding by the National Cancer Institute) finds that eating red meat and milk boosts cancer risk; and taking anti-inflammation drugs reduces the risk. According to the BBC, 2005 study in the UK reported the same findings.

Yoga Bear hosted a caregiver appreciation yoga class at the James Howell Studio. The SF Examiner covered the event.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Yoga Therapy in the News

Yoga has been getting a lot of press lately! Check out this article from today's News & Observer:

Doctors at Duke University recently completed a study showing that yoga provided significant improvements with hot flashes, sleep and energy levels for postmenopausal women with early breast cancer.

And in Eastern North Carolina, an oncologist in Beaufort County sees improvement in his patients who take yoga classes.

"There's been an explosion of data using yoga as a treatment option," said Dr. Shelley Wroth, an obstetrician at Duke Integrative Medicine and a yoga teacher. She said studies have found that yoga helps people suffering diseases such as hypertension, anxiety, arthritis, chronic back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, stress, depression, diabetes and epilepsy.

"It shows so much promise," Wroth said.

A recent study at Duke involved breast cancer patients who were experiencing severe hot flashes and other menopause symptoms. Because of their illness, they were prohibited from taking hormone replacement therapy, so yoga was proposed as an alternative. The study found significant improvement among the women in the study who took yoga classes, compared with another group of women who did not.

"There's a lot of reactions to stress that exacerbate the menopausal symptoms," said Laura Porter, co-author of the Duke study. "Yoga -- the physical poses and the more cognitive aspects of it -- dampens the stress reactivity."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wellness Community Fundraiser a Success!

Yoga Bear was proud to be a Red Star Donor for a Wellness Community Silicon Valley fundraiser. The theme of the night was "STAR Caregiver Awards Night", and each table hosted a caregiver recognized for outstanding love, compassion, and dedication. As part of the nomination process, nominators were invited to provide three words to describe their nominees. Many of these words were then printed on red stars adorning the walls. We heard so many beautiful stories of strength and hope from these incredible individuals, who helped their loved ones in their battle with cancer.

The Wellness Community (TWC) is a network of community-based, nonprofit organizations dedicated to providing emotional support, education, and hope -- at no charge to participants. TWC, now in its 26th year nationwide, provides a home-like setting where individuals can learn from -- and support -- each other. Participants also learn vital skills enabling them to regain control, reduce feelings of isolation, and restore hope, regardless of the stage of their disease. TWC offers professionally facilitated support groups, educational workshops, and mind/body programs developed from peer-reviewed research.
Jasan Zimmerman (Yoga Bear Advisor and Board of Director for the Wellness Community) and Halle Tecco (Yoga Bear founder) show off stars of honesty and kindness.

Radiation, Breathing, and Yoga

Last night, at the Wellness Community Benefit Dinner, I sat next to a woman who works at a manufacturer of radiation software and machines (which apparently cost between $1.5-$10 Million dollars a piece). She spoke about a fascinating new way they are targeting tumors in radiation, called respiratory gating. The goal of radiation therapy is to pinpoint and zap a tumor site, all while sparing healthy tissue around it. But normal breathing can cause this process to be difficult, so patients are asked to hold their breath while the radiation is delivered.

A patient must have relaxed, controlled breathing to qualify for this type of radiation. This is where yoga comes in. One of the five principles of yoga is pranayama or breathing exercises which promote proper breathing. With the right practice, even at home, someone can improve their breathing practice and learn to more easily hold their breath. Another wonderful application of yoga therapy.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How to Establish Your Meditation Practice

How hard could it actually be to sit still, breathe, and meditate? Well, if you've ever tried, you know how difficult it can be. Meditation is hard and perfect meditation is impossible. Watch our newest video on how to establish your meditation practice, featuring the beautiful Roberta Dell'anno.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Yoga Psychotherapy

Meditation and psychology are intertwining as experts in the fields realize the benefits of a symbiotic relationship. According to the Common Ground Magazine, many psychologists have begun to incorporate yoga and mindfulness into their therapies, and some yoga instructors are studying up on psychology to create “yoga psychotherapy” for their clients.

“Integrating yoga-based methods into psychotherapeutic work presents inherent challenges,” Hann writes. Part of the problem lies in a strict taboo against physical contact in traditional psychotherapy, a standard born out of concern about abuse from therapists. There are, however, many yoga-based therapies that don’t involve any touching. For example, some psychologists have found that controlled breathing and meditative exercises can go a long way toward psychological healing.

Many of these mindfulness-based therapies have hard science to back them up. “Mindfulness reduces stress, boosts immune functioning, reduces chronic pain, lowers blood pressure, and helps patients cope with cancer,” Jay Dixit writes for Psychology Today. The article offers six tips on how people can incorporate mindfulness into daily lives.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Pose of the Day: Urdhva Dhanurasana

This pose is more commonly known as upward bow pose or wheel pose, and is beneficial for combating fatigue.. Roberta is showing us how to do this pose using a chair as the prop.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Laughter Yoga

When was the last time you have laughed? Not just a chuckle, or a smirk, but a laugh that radiates from your core, changing the way you feel? The kind of laugh that makes your stomach muscles ache and your eyes brighten.

Laughter Yoga, (which is just as it sounds) is a type of practice that draws on the healing properties of yoga to prepare the body for happiness. Participants attend a yoga session and…well…laugh.

Madan Kataria, a physician from Mumbai, India, is the founder of and chief proselytizer for Laughter Yoga, a movement that since 1995 has spawned 5,000 laughter clubs—in which people meet regularly just to laugh—worldwide. To date there are just 200 or so clubs in the United States, including ones in Atlanta; New York; Orlando, Florida; St. Louis; and Tucson, Arizona. But Kataria hopes to change that over the next few years, by training more teachers. “Our objective is to build an international community of people who believe in love and laughter,” Kataria says in an article in Yoga Journal by Rachele Kanigel.

In the article, Kataria explains why laughter is good for the body. “When you start laughing, your chemistry changes, your physiology changes, your chances to experience happiness are much greater,” he says.

A typical Laughter Yoga session involves some warm-up clapping and chanting
(“Ho, ho, ha, ha, ha”), a few deep breaths with prolonged exhalation, 15 to 20
minutes of laughter exercises interspersed with deep breathing, and then 15 to
20 minutes of laughter meditation. Here’s a primer to help you get started:

Greeting Laughter: Walk around to different people with
palms pressed together at the upper chest in the Namaste greeting or shake hands
and laugh, making sure to look into other people’s eyes.

Lion Laughter: Thrust out the tongue, widen the eyes,
and stretch the hands out like claws while laughing.

Humming Laughter: Laugh with the mouth closed and hum.
Silent laughter Open your mouth wide and laugh without making a sound. Look
into other people’s eyes and make funny gestures.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Importance of Compassion

Someone facing a challenge, such as cancer, needs the support of compassionate care and the empathetic presence of others. To have compassion or to "suffer with" another implies a quality of imagination and an identifying with the other's pain as something we can vicariously feel along with them, however tangentially. Compassion is an active choice to want with others and to want for others the alleviation of their suffering. In acting compassionately we acknowledge that we all share the same conditions of mortality; we all suffer and we all die.

The proceeding passage is from chapter 5 of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson, PH.D.

Nothing helps us build our perspective more than developing compassion for others. Compassion is a sympathetic feeling. It involves the willingness to put yourself in someone else's shoes, to take the focus off yourself and to imagine what it's like to in someone else's predicament, and simultaneously, to feel love for that person. It's the recognition that other people's problems, their pain and frustrations, are every bit as real as our own--often far worse. In recognizing this fact and trying to offer some assistance, we open our hearts and greatly enhance our sense of gratitude.

Compassion is something you can develop with practice. It involves two things: intention and action. Intention simply means two things: intention and action. Intention simply means you remember to open your heart to others; you expand what and who matters, from yourself to other people. Action is simply the "what you do about it." You might donate a little money or time (or both) on a regular basis to a cause near to your heart. Or perhaps you'll offer a beautiful smile and a genuine "hello" to the people you meet on the street. It's not so important what you do, just that you do something. As Mother Teresa reminds us, "We cannot do great things on this earth. We can only do small things with great love."

Compassion develops your sense of gratitude by taking your attention off all the little things that most of us have learned to take too seriously. When you take time, often, to reflect, on the miracle of life--the miracle that you are able to even read this book--the gift of sight, of love, and all the rest, it can help to remind you that many of the things that you think of as "big stuff" are really just "small stuff" that you are turning into "big stuff."

Monday, November 3, 2008

Living in the Moment

This is indeed a stressful time for many of us. Unemployment is rising as icebergs are sinking. Many of us are worried and anxious about the election, the environment, our jobs, and more.
We need to live more in the moment. Living in the moment—also called mindfulness—is a state of active, open, intentional attention on the present. When you become mindful, you realize that you are not your thoughts; you become an observer of your thoughts from moment to moment without judging them. Mindfulness involves being with your thoughts as they are, neither grasping at them nor pushing them away. Instead of letting your life go by without living it, you awaken to experience.
Read the Six Steps to Living in the Moment in Psychology Today.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Introducing our New Website!

We're very excited to announce our new, improved website. Here are some changes:

- Forum to ask questions
- Profiles of members: survivors, yogis, fans, etc.
- Map of yoga studios across the US
- Calendar of events

Check it out
, make a profile, and let us know what you think!

Pranayama Deep Breathing Exercises

By Nicole Reed

Our breath is our vital energy source connecting us to our emotions, awareness, thoughts and higher consciousness. When life throws you a curve ball, relax and practice this exercise:

  • Visualize your self in a calm place: be it the ocean, yoga studio, home or on pristine mountains. See, smell, taste, and feel the serenity. Really take it in and soak it up.
  • Practice pranayama breathing exercises: take a very slow and heavy, deep inhale through your nostrils filling first your lungs and then the lowest part of your abdomen.
  • Breathe in for a five count (working your way up to 10 counts as you get more comfortable and advanced).
  • Now hold. Hold for a five count (working your way up to 10 counts when you are ready). 

  • Finally release the breath through your mouth. Visualize all your stress, negativity, and toxins leaving your body during the exhale. Exhale. Exhale. Exhale. Release on a five count (working up to a 10 count when you are ready).
  • Finally, to add more improved benefits to this practice, if you are able, lie down in svanasana “dead man’s pose.”
  • Lay on your back with your arms resting by your side and your legs stretching out and away from the body. Close your eyes now, rest the eyelids and feel your breath rise and fall.
  • Picture a white light cascading down on to the crown of your head. This is your source; this is the divine connection. Relax the mind. Relax the emotions. Relax the body and sink, melt, in to the light. You are home.
  • Breathe. We are all one. Guard your heart, thoughts, and emotions…thought shifts consciousness for the better or the worse. If you want to see a change in the world, you must not work on controlling or changing others…you must transform yourself from the inside out. Self-control. Meditate. Breathe. Love. Life and love are in your power.