Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Incorporating color therapy into your life

By: Lara Endreszl of HealthNews

The holistic belief dating back centuries from countries such as India, China, and Egypt, is that each separate color wavelength corresponds with a certain energy which can be positive or negative. Each of the seven colors matches up to the seven main energies of the body, also known as chakras. Since complementary and alternative medicine is all about balance between the energy of the body and the earth as well as the spiritual world, the chakras must all be lined up in order for health to be optimum inside the body. If each color is assigned a different region of the body, naturally color therapy would help to stimulate the chakras to align and recreate harmony.

For example, here are some of the primary “rainbow” colors, followed by their main focus physically and psychologically, as well as a few symptoms or conditions it may help:

RED – life strength, stimulation, sexuality; red represents the fire of passion as well as anger as well as the circulation of the blood; red can be irritating or exciting or powerful; anemia, pneumonia, and paralysis can all be treated with red.

GREEN – balance, calm, progress; green is soothing and reflects natural growth and healing and can be both beneficial and tiring; green enlightens friendships and peace and hope as well as love and can also be an aphrodisiac; green is also the color of inexperience and youth and represents envy and jealousy; green can treat colds, asthma, malaria, and ulcers.

BLUE – communication, willpower, peace, and faith; blue can stimulate metabolism, slow the heart, and be used as an antiseptic; blue like water is cooling and emotionally calming and therefore helpful in meditation as well as conflict mediation and relaxing the mind; blue quiets the rest of the other energies in the body in order to treat epilepsy, glaucoma, headache, and various throat troubles as it is specifically associated with the throat chakra.

The best way to incorporate color into your life as part of color therapy is to surround yourself with nice things that you associate with positive thoughts or memories or bright colors that can brighten your day. For example, use softer lights in your home instead of fluorescent, use colored lights in certain parts of your house or colored lampshade, use paint to spruce up your walls, and always remember that natural colors are the best for keeping a calm energy flow throughout the space. If you rent your place and cannot use paint, wallpaper, or install different light fixtures, focus instead on decorative items like pillows, bedding, curtains, or your closet.

Whether it’s a lava lamp, mood lighting, a black light, the color of your shower curtain or wall paint, the colors of the things we surround ourselves with matters because it conveys the mood we are in when purchasing or the mood that we want to be in upon seeing/wearing/using that object. Color therapy may seem like a bogus, out-of-left-field holistic idea, but take a look at your wardrobe, your friend’s house, or your favorite restaurant and note people’s moods and behaviors; you may just be surprised at what you notice.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Help fight breast cancer... without spending a dime

Listen up ladies! People are always asking me how they can help (thank you). And I usually respond by telling them to spread the word to more survivors, get their studios to make donations, donate $5, join our Facebook group, etc.. All these things are wonderful ways to help Yoga Bear...

But you know how you could really help? Really make a difference in the overall mission of eradicating (breast) cancer? Take part in current research studies. From studies on genetic risk factors to using breast milk to screen risk, any female (not in treatment) can help researchers discover ways to prevent breast cancer.

We're encouraging all women-- including breast cancer survivors and those who have never had the disease-- to join the Army of Women. Love/Avon is currently recruiting one million women to be support research to prevent breast cancer. Learn more and sign up here.

One in four hospitals offer complementary medicine

According to the American Hospital Association, one in four US hospitals now offers therapies in complementary and alternative medicine to address growing demand. In fact, all 18 hospitals on the U.S. News and World Report's "Best Hospitals" list provide some form of it.

The number of holistic providers and practitioners who offer these types of therapies is expected to double in the next 10 years, predicts the American Hospital Association.

Certain types of integrative therapies can help hospitals -- and patients -- cut down on expensive procedures, Dr. Palmer MacKie, medical director of the Integrative Pain Center at Wishard Health Services, told the Indy Star.

If someone having outpatient surgery can undergo a 15-minute relaxation process, such as guided imagery, meditation or hypnosis, MacKie said, that may reduce anxiety and allow the patient to go through post-operative recovery more quickly with less medication.

"Success of integrative medicine is based on the patient's ability to adopt the practices and live a healthy lifestyle," MacKie said. "It's not based on a pill bottle or needle."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Rock & Run on the River

YOGABEAR will be partnering with Memorial Sloan-Kettering this summer for their annual Rock & Run on the River 5k Run/Walk on June 7th.

Rock & Run on the River, is a 5K run/walk and celebration with live music and food, to celebrate life beyond cancer. The event focuses on Survivorship and the ongoing treatment that is needed both physically and mentally for survivors and their families post cancer treatment.

A focal point of the post-race celebration is a Cool Down Lounge, featuring fitness classes and massages. YOGABEAR will providing two twenty minute yoga classes in the cool down lounge. If you're in the NYC Metropolitan area, we hope you can join us for this amazing event.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Kind words from a Yoga Bear participant

Seeing that everyone behind Yoga Bear is unpaid, the best payment we can receive is knowing that the Yoga Bear participants are happy and enjoying their classes. We recently received a testimonial from Janet in Washington D.C., who has been with Yoga Bear since October.

On her experience with yoga:
Yoga has been very helpful in relieving the psychological and emotional stress of the cancer experience, as well as helping to deal with the effects of the physical therapies. It has helped me to relax, to deal with the nausea and fatigue of chemotherapy, and to simply not feel so sorry for myself. The exercises helped rehabilitate my arm and shoulder after lymph node surgery. Yoga is now helping to mitigate the effects of chemotherapy-induced menopause, particularly the mood swings and hot flashes.

On her experience with YOGABEAR:
The best part of Yoga Bear is the feeling of support and generosity. It was like receiving a present after all the awfulness of the cancer therapy. I am very aware that others have suffered and are suffering far worse than I did and it would be wonderful if every one of them could be given the gift of yoga.

Yoga Bear Expands in FLORIDA

Help us get the word out to survivors in FLORIDA!

YOGABEAR has partnered with SIX incredible studios in Florida, from the Fort Lauderdale Area to Gainesville. Cancer survivors interested in receiving free yoga classes through Yoga Bear are encouraged to apply here.

Charity Tees (only 5 left!)

[Limited Edition] Yoga Bear Tees for Charity This long
sleeve tee with a cute hood has a hand-sewn green bear on the
front. It's 50% cotton, 50% polyester and soft as can be. The shirt
itself cost us $29 (tag is still on), we sewed on the bear and are
selling them as a fundraiser! 100% of the proceeds will benefit YB
and our mission to bring more opportunities of health and wellness
to cancer survivors.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Give Birth to Your Future with a Positive Mind

"You must give birth to your images. They are the future waiting to be born."
Ranier Maria Rilke

"I hate myself."

"I'm so stupid.”

"I can't do anything right."

When life doesn't go quite right, do you ever find yourself spewing these types of negative thoughts out loud or even as a kind of mantra you repeat in your mind? Have you ever stopped to think what kind of affect your negative self talk could have on every single cell of your body? But wait, it's not just the negative things you say to yourself, your body will respond with a weakened immune system to any negative energies around us...if we let it. This is the negative side of the Mind-Body Connection.

The term Mind-Body Connection is not just a phrase used to sell books. There's solid science behind the words.

One of the leading scientists on the Mind-Body Connection is neurobiologist David Felten. Dr. Felten tells us, "Our grandmothers knew all along that our minds and our bodies were connected, even if the scientific community didn't. We've simply provided irrefutable data showing that it's true."

To Felten's surprise, at Indiana University School of Medicine in 1981, he and his team of researchers discovered a hard-wire connection between the body's immune system and the central nervous system under control of the brain. Using special fluorescent stains, Felton's team traced nerves to different locations in the body; including bone marrow, lymph nodes, and the spleen.

Incredibly, Felten discovered a network of nerves leading to blood vessels as well as cells of the immune system! The researchers also found nerves in the thymus and spleen which ended near clusters of lymphocytes, macrophages, and mast cells, all of which help control immune function.

So there it was, the Mind-Body Connection. Felten's team had produced clear evidence that the brain has the ability to send signals to immune system cells.

This discovery gives you one very big reason to be careful about what you say to yourself, the types of people you choose to associate with and what types of things you do to bring joy into your life. Please be sure to give your Mind-Body connection the attention it deserves. You must give birth to the healthy, productive life you want through the images you create in your mind. Your mind's eye is indeed a part of creating the future you desire.

Plus, it's just one more reason to listen to Grandma!

Guest Blog Post By Shane Shirley Smith
with Environmental Health-Wellness-Beauty, LLC

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Living room yoga is underrated!

I recently discovered an used Amazon gift certificate that I had been given for Christmas and decided to indulge myself. Work has (as usual) been crazy lately and I have not been able to attend the yoga classes at my local gym that I usually go to. Armed with my certificate, I purchased a series of yoga DVDs not thinking that they would be that great, but would suffice in a pinch.

Last night I set myself up in my living room/new yoga studio, and pressed play on my new DVDs. Boy was I in for a shock! Not only were the instructions very clear and poses well demonstrated, they were a really good workout! Within minutes I had worked up a sweat, and felt like I had experienced a good session by the end of the 30 minute class.

Trying to save money? There are tons of way to do yoga at home without spending a dime! Check out online yoga or learn some poses on our YouTube channel.

I still don’t think anything can replace my wonderful kundalini yoga instructor permanently (her soothing voice and breathing techniques do wonders for me) but during a cold Boston winter there is a lot to be said for living room yoga!

By: Katherine Osgood

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Prostate cancer screenings

On Wednesday the New England Journal of Medicine published the largest ever study of prostate cancer screening, which found that a national screening program can cut deaths from prostate cancer by as much as 20%.

Following these findings, UK ministers asked Parliament to consider instituting a national prostate cancer screening program. A reduction of deaths from prostate cancer by 20% would save 2,000 lives a year in the UK.

The Guardian reports:
‘Health minister Ann Keen said she had asked the UK national screening committee to review the evidence. "We look forward to examining this new evidence and are committed to having a prostate cancer screening program if and when screening and treatment techniques are sufficiently well developed," she said.’

Critics of a national screening program state that screening techniques in the UK are not advanced enough, and cannot distinguish between a cancer that poses a serious risk to a man’s health and one that will have little effect on him during his lifetime. Prostate cancer surgery can leave men with impotency and incontinency problems, and so some critics feel surgery should only be performed in serious risk cases.

My own father was diagnosed with prostate cancer two years ago and underwent surgery. He is now back to full health and has had none of the side effects. His cancer was only detected because of a health screening that he requested. Without this screening he might not be with me today.

By: Katherine Osgood

Monday, March 23, 2009

When Do I Tell Her?

This is an excerpt from Jasan Zimmerman's piece in Cure magazine. Jasan is a 3-time survivor and on the Board of Advisors for Yoga Bear.

So, when should I tell a woman who I’m romantically interested in about my long, storied medical history? There’s no easy answer.

Everyone has some skeletons in the closet, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to expose them to someone when you first meet them. You’ll never hear me say, “Hi, I’m Jasan, and I’m a cancer survivor.” But when should the bombshell drop? There’s much more of an art to it.

If a woman opens up and shares some of her trials and tribulations, it makes it easier for me to share. But there’s no easy way to introduce the topic. I pay lots of attention to what she says to see if I can segue easily into my story.

My long-standing fear is that I’ll scare a woman away with the revelation about my medical history, so I’m sometimes more inclined to bring the subject up fairly early in the relationship, at least within the first month or so. That way, if it ends the relationship, it’s too early for me to get hurt as much.

Acupuncture relieves pain for cancer patients

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Acupuncture can be used to help relieve the pain of cancer patients, as well as the nausea and vomiting induced by chemotherapy, a leading acupuncturist said on Monday.

"China has been using acupuncture as a form of anaesthesia for 2,600 years," said Wang Caihong of Shanghai University's Traditional Chinese Medicine Institute, adding that the technique had an extremely long and well-tested history in China.

"Nausea is caused by a blockage in circulation and acupuncture can relieve that," she added.

Wang is part of a team of Chinese doctors who are helping to set up an acupuncture centre for cancer patients in Hong Kong's Prince of Wales Hospital.

Wang told Reuters that acupuncture could also be helpful to relieve all sorts of pain and conditions such as trauma.

"It should be able to help other patients too in many other branches of medicine," she said.

An increasing number of studies and clinical trials in recent years in Western countries have shown that acupuncture may actually work better than painkillers for people with chronic headache or those who are recovering from major surgeries such as those for head and neck cancer.

Wang said that acupuncture worked best in relieving pain that was just moderate.

"For pain that is moderate, acupuncture is definitely helpful, but for extreme pain, painkillers may be necessary too," she added.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

More research needed in the area of Survivorship & reducing recurrence

We hear a lot these days about the steps we can take to reduce our risk of getting cancer.

Don't eat splenda! Eat splenda! Stay out of the sun! Stop smoking! No drinking! Only white wine! Only red wine! No red meat! All these messages, often conflicting one another, we're told will reduce the risk of getting cancer.

But what about the 1-in-3 of us who have already had cancer... do we follow the same guidelines? Stricter ones? Different ones?

A leading cancer expert is calling for more research into issues of survivorship and how to prevent cancer recurring in those who have already had it.

Prof Martin Wiseman, Medical and Scientific Adviser for the World Cancer Research Fund, says the lack of quality research on the subject makes it hard to give people nutritional and lifestyle advice once they have already battled the disease.

He told the Mirror: "There has been a vast amount of research over the last 10 years on the nutritional factors that cause or protect people from cancer, but there have not been enough that has focused on what sort of lifestyle choice people who have already had the disease can make to reduce their chances of it recurring.

With 11 million survivors in the US alone, this hole in our knowledge urgently needs to be addressed.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Study confirms our beliefs: yoga benefits women with breast cancer

A study just published in the journal Psycho-Oncology, researchers concluded that yoga resulted in a 50% reduction in depression and a 12% increase in feelings of peace and meaning in women with breast cancer.

In the randomized study of 44 women with breast cancer, those who did yoga found to have improvements in mental health including depression, positive emotions, and spirituality (defined as feeling calm and peaceful). In fact, the scientists found that women who started the yoga classes with higher negative emotions and lower emotional well-being experienced the most benefits from the Restorative Yoga class. In addition, the women demonstrated a significant improvement in fatigue symptoms.

Suzanne Danhauer, PhD, headed the Wake Forest University School of Medicine research team and says "Given the high levels of stress and distress that many women with breast cancer experience, the opportunity to experience feeling more peaceful and calm in the midst of breast cancer is a significant benefit."

Read more here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New study links religion and cancer treatment

According to a new study published in the latest edition of JAMA, the Journal of American Medical Association, religion can play a vital role in which types of treatment cancer patients choose.

The study found that those who are more religious are three times more likely to accept mechanical ventilation and intensive life-prolonging care.

"Religious copers may choose aggressive therapies because they believe that God could use the therapy to provide divine healing, or they hope for a miraculous cure while intensive medical care prolongs life," the study authors wrote.

It's difficult to understand why those who are religious would prefer more intensive care, although one could draw many conclusions.  However, the study is flawed in that it looks at "religion", when in fact most of the 345 patients in the study were Christian.  I'd be curious to find out breakdowns between Atheist, Islam, Jewish, etc.. with a larger sample size.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Let's be GREEN today!

Happy St. Patrick's Day Everyone!

In honor of this day, we wanted to share 3 easy ways to be green:

1.Go outside and practice in the grass.  Enjoy mother earth and fresh air as you stretch and bend your body.  
2. Eat your veggies!  Enjoy some locally grown greens: broccoli, green beans, or spinach.
3. Take a shorter shower.  Better yet, share a shower with a loved one!

Back Bend for Compassion

By Rina Abonnat 

For someone who has been practicing yoga for eight years, I hear this statement a lot: "you must be able to do the splits and stand on your head!"  Sorry folks, I am no yoga superstar. 

Usually the first image that comes to mind when hearing the term "yoga" is a flawless body contorted in an unfathomable pose.  These images which are so popularized by magazine photos and the media are really just the tip of the yoga iceberg.  It takes a keen mind and heart to realize that the foundational beauty lays below the surface of the yoga waters, and this is where 99.9% of yogi/yoginis swim.
Anyone can “do” yoga because yoga isn't about bending backwards and mastering the splits.  Rather it’s about having the patience and integrity to give yourself compassion in your practice.  If one can figuratively bend over backwards to be compassionate to themselves in their practice of yoga it will be a rewarding and fulfilling journey. 
Here are some lovely reminders I like to tell myself before I begin my practice when I find that my ego tries to take over.  I hope you find at least one helpful to you.

Yoga can not be diluted down to just the poses (asanas), remember that there are so many aspects that make up yoga, find the aspect that most appeals to you and develop yourself in that area.  Everyone has their talent that will shine!

Kissing your asana edge with compassionate grace.  Every body is different in build, strength, muscular structure and flexibility.  It is wise to know your own physical limitation and remember to listen with large ears to your body’s voice.  Bring your respect to the pose, begin in the first degree of a pose and allow your body to become comfortable there before deciding to move gently deeper.  Always remember that whatever level you are at, it is still a perfect expression of that pose.  There is no yoga law that states you have to perform every asana at the extreme expression of its form.  Your physical safety is of utmost importance.      
Incorporate the wise characteristic of compassion (ahimsa), mentally.  Open your practice with the attitude of having self compassion.  The first step in this process is to reprogram our minds.  Put a halt to the negative commentary in the mind when you notice it arising.  There is a tendency for our mind to say, “you’re not good enough”, “you don’t look the way you ought to”.  And the list can go on.  Changing the familiar negative patterns of thought with attitudes of self-acceptance and self approval will enrich your practice.  With patience your mind will begin to shift from the “I should” to actually being in the moment and enjoying the experience.  Having mental compassion will help you to appreciate the fact that you are indeed doing your best.
The next time someone says, "I wish I could do yoga but I am not flexible enough," you will know exactly how to respond because a you know that a little compassion goes a long way.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Partner Yoga stregthens relationships

We're fond of partner yoga and often host events where survivors can bring their caregivers for a class of union, connectedness, and peace.

Psychology Today recently published an article about the psycho-social benefits of doing yoga with a loved one (be that family member, friend, or lover).

"Partner yoga is the medium to building stronger communication and intimacy between human beings in any relationship," explains Cain Carroll, co-author of Partner Yoga: Making Contact for Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Growth. "Postures and flow sequences are designed to bring communication into a tangible, physical form, and help you witness the dynamic of relationships."

The simple act of breathing together and participating in a practice grounded in acceptance, unity and love translates to more productive, open and caring communication between partners.

The practice also re-establishes weakened bonds, because on the mat, partners must have complete faith in each other. "You rely on each other for the very creation of poses," says Carroll. "Postures are dependent on two people showing up for one another and giving equal effort. It's a great metaphor for the nut and bolt aspect of all relationships."

Here's one partner pose: the Heart Opener

1. Partner 1 sits upright, legs extended forward. Partner 2 kneels with his or her back touching Partner 1's.

2. Partner 2 bends forward into Child's Pose.

3. Partner 1 exhales and lies gently on Partner 2's back, keeping legs together or slightly apart.

4. Partners stretch their arms to their sides and touch each other's hands.

5. Partner 2 gently presses Partner 1's arms toward the floor. Hold for up to a minute or two.

6. Switch positions and repeat. This pose gives the child the feeling of being supported and loved, as well as being the supporter. (If there is a big weight difference, parents shouldn't lay all their weight on their children.)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Mushrooms and green tea lower breast cancer risk?

A recent study of 2,018 women in China (half of those women with breast cancer), concluded that mushrooms and green tea may lower risk of breast cancer.  In fact, among those who ate 10 grams of mushrooms daily were two thirds less likely to develop cancer than those who did not.  And those who ate mushrooms and drank green tea had only 11-18% of the breast cancer risk of women who consumed neither.

The study was conducted by Dr. Min Zhang of the University of Western Austrailia, and was the first study linking these foods and a lower risk of breast cancer.  More research is needed,  but researchers say the link is biologically possible.

In light of this news, I wanted to share one of my favorite (easy) recipes: Japanese Green Tea Noodle Stir Fry with Mushrooms. It takes about 10 minutes to prepare, and is delicious and healthy!

- Japanese Green Tea Noodles
- Chopped garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Your favorite mushrooms (mine are enoki, bailing, or oyster)
- Seasoning-- salt, white pepper, black pepper

Cook the noodles until soft.  Heat up the olive oil on a pan and stir fry the garlic and mushrooms.  Add the noodles and seasoning to the pan.  Serve with hot green tea!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Thinking about Yoga? Don’t be intimidated!

Welcome to Yoga Bear's newest blogger (and our official Social Media Coordinator), Katherine! A kundalini yogi, Katherine is originally from England and moved to the US after living and studying in Cairo, Egypt. Katherine currently works for Horizons for Homeless Children, a non profit organization based in Boston, Massachusetts.

I was always intimidated by yoga. My impression of a yoga class was always super fit, slim women with all the right clothes and equipment, bending their bodies into shapes I was convinced my body was not built for. There was no way my legs were going to be able to bend past my head!

I spent three years as a boxer when I was at university. As you can imagine, boxing was a challenge and after fighting many tough opponents (as well as experiencing a lot of blood, sweat and tears) and a few nasty hospital visits I decided that it was time to treat my body with more respect. One of my friends suggested going to a yoga class and after a lot of thought I finally agreed – with some trepidation. Why would a boxer be intimidated by yoga?? Well boxers are used to ducking and weaving, but that is about as far as our real flexibility goes!

Despite my reservations, my friend and I went a long to our local community center and enrolled in a six week course of ashtanga yoga. I had no idea what ashtanga meant, or what it would involve, but took the plunge and went in.

My yoga teacher looked nothing like I expected. He was a man, in his sixties, with a big white beard. He wore an old tattered t-shirt and jogging shorts. He was also very very encouraging and supportive (literally and figuratively!). The other students in the class were not size zero super women, but women (and men) from all walks of life, in all different shapes and sizes, and of varying skill levels.

I confess my first lesson was hard – my body could not hold any of the poses and constantly shook - but after one lesson I knew it; I was hooked. At the end of the six weeks my body and mind had changed. I could see that my shoulders had become less bulky and more lean, and I was immeasurably more flexible – I had turned into one of those women who could put their legs behind their head! I also felt a renewed sense of calm, confidence and had a developed a better attitude towards my body – which I am now careful to look after. I have been an avid yoga fan ever since!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Tips for doing yoga with youngsters

Yoga can be a great way to connect to children and promote health early-on. Our guest blogger today, Rina Abonnat is a yoga instructor in San Francisco. She is also a cardiac RN and is interested in bringing yoga into the Pediatric Oncology wards. She is sharing strategies for doing yoga with youngsters.

I remember my first kids yoga job, it was in a great preschool setting. I taught one class, ages 18 months to 2 years old and a second class, 3 to 5 years of age. Each class was only 25 minutes in length and full of energy!

From my personal experience working in different class settings and from the training classes I have received, here are some tips that you may find helpful when teaching yoga to your children or in a classroom setting.

1. Be creative with the poses. It helps if you make stories, scenarios, themes around poses to engage the children's imagination, they will have fun and you will too! For example you can use the scenario of walking through the woods or flying through space. Don't worry too much about it all making sense, I have found that kids will go with the creativity even if you are having them reach for the sun then painting rainbows before becoming a monkey.

2. Ask questions
. Kids love to be involved. For instance while doing the butterfly asana with the children you can ask them all sorts of fun questions like: "What color are your wings?" or "Where are you going to fly to?". You can have them flap their 'wings' at different paces if their butterfly is flying fast or slow. Try to use every opportunity to make the pose come to life.

3. Keep the pace moving
. By keeping the motion flowing it will sustain the childrens' attention. It is very difficult for the young ones to hold poses for long periods of time, since they love to wiggle. You may find that the amount of poses you do in your kids class greatly varies from an adult class, so don't be surprised if you go through 10-20 poses in one class session.

4. Play games. Games are great because they give variety to the traditional yoga poses as well as keeping the children moving in a healthy way. You can either tell the children it is time to play a yoga game if you find their minds wandering or you can sneak it in there to mix up the routine without the introduction. Some hits among the kids are:
_ Leap frog (have them leap and make sounds around the room or in place)
_ Yoga says ('yoga say' do triangle, the kids then demonstrate that pose)
_ Yoga telephone (exactly like the game telephone but substituting a yoga pose, the last child will then demonstrate the pose)

Working with children can be challenging but it is a great experience that is worth it. You may just even find that in the end you sometimes will be the student and the kids the teachers.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Alternative Medicine in Congress

On Thursday, February 26th, some of the top alternative medicine gurus in the US testified before the senate on how alternative medicine can help solve our health care crisis. Drs. Mehmet Oz, Dean Ornish, Andrew Weil, and Mark Hyman, four of the nation’s most highly respected proponents of natural and integrative medicine, argued before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee about how Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) must be incorporated into the conventional health care system in order to fix it.

These four highly respected physicians explained how alternative medicine, with its focus on disease prevention, is the key to crafting the new health care legislation President Obama is pushing hard to get passed this year. The doctors stressed how our country’s current medical paradigm, with its focus on acute care, is failing miserably in its attempts to address the chronic disease epidemic. You can view each of their testimonies here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

FAQs about Reiki

We get a lot of questions about Reiki, the healing practice that originated in Japan so we decided to compile some basic info. Do you have experience with Reiki? If so, we'd love to hear from you! Email us at blog@yogabear.org.

How does it work?

Practitioners place their hands lightly on or just above a person, with the goal of evoking the person's healing response. Reiki is based on the idea that unseen life-force energy, which causes humans to be alive, flows through everyone. If life-force energy is low, the theory goes, a person is more likely to get sick or feel stress; if it is high, a person is more capable of being happy and healthy. Reiki practitioners believe they tap into the unlimited supply of life force energy, which flows through their hands to their clients and improves their clients' health.

Can Reiki help people with cancer?

There is no scientific evidence to prove that Reiki can prevent, treat or cure cancer or any other disease. But many healthcare professionals accept Reiki as a useful complementary therapy that may help to lower stress, promote relaxation and possibly help reduce some types of pain.

A Canadian study in 2003 looked at whether Reiki could control pain in people with advanced cancer. People did have a significant reduction in pain after Reiki treatment but the study was small and had only 20 patients..

Has scientific research proven it is effective?

Again, Reiki has not been well-studied scientifically. But research, funded by National Institutes of Health's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, is under way.

Does it work?

People undergoing reiki may experience a deep state of relaxation or feel warm, tingly, sleepy or refreshed, NCCAM says. The practice appears to be generally safe and without harmful side effects, NCCAM also says.

Where can I get more information?

Go online to the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Sources: National Institutes of Health, The International Center for Reiki

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

'Winston Man' Dies of Lung Cancer

Alan Landers, the one-time face of Winston cigarettes, has died at 68 of lung and throat cancer in the middle of a multi-million dollar legal action against his former employers, the Guardian reports. Landers, who was to testify next month, was among about 9,000 Florida smokers suing cigarette companies for failing to warn them of their products’ health risks.

“I was expected to portray smoking as stylish, pleasurable and attractive and at no time was I ever told cigarettes could be dangerous to my health,” Landers said two weeks ago. “Looking back on my career, I am ashamed that I helped promote such a lethal and addictive product.”

According to his website, Landers was scheduled for a fourth round of chemotherapy yesterday.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Five strategies for using mindfulness to improve your health

Studies have shown that mindfulness, a form of meditation in which you disengage yourself from strong beliefs, thoughts, and emotions, has a positive effect on brain function, lowering the stress response and increasing feelings of relaxation and well-being. It involves being truly present, even during those simple, mundane activities like washing dishes. It can remind you of the "reality of impermanence," Kabat-Zinn writes in his bestselling book Full Catastrophe Living. "Here you are doing the dishes again. How many times have you done the dishes? How many more times will you do them in your life? What is this activity we call doing the dishes? Who is doing them? Why?"

At last week's Institute of Medicine conference on integrative health, he outlined five strategies for using mindfulness to improve one's health and achieve wellness.

1. Consider what's right with you. "Until you stop breathing, there's more right with you than wrong with you," says Kabat-Zinn. Every day, take a moment to thank your eyes for seeing, your liver for functioning, your feet for carrying you from place to place. Heck, thank those mitochondria within your cells for pumping out the energy you need to get you out of bed in the morning.

2. Love yourself unconditionally. Hate yourself for being 40 pounds overweight? Those berating thoughts you have about your imperfections can actually derail you instead of motivating you into action. (It's that old story: Starve yourself as punishment for overeating, until you can't take it anymore and give in to a binge.) Rather than setting a weight-loss goal and promising to love yourself once you get there, Kabat-Zinn says you need to make an effort to love yourself "all the way," whether you're 300 pounds or 150. If you decide to eat smaller portions or give up chips for carrot sticks, simply tell yourself, "This is just the way I'm eating now as a way to live better."

3. Live in the present moment. Don't think about what you ate yesterday or make promises to exercise tomorrow. "Every moment gives you the ability to learn, grow, and change," explains Kabat-Zinn. "If you can take a moment and live as if it really mattered, you can take a step back and see those impulses that may be negative to your health." What's more, you'll truly enjoy those indulgences like the creamy feel of a Godiva truffle or a 10-minute shoulder massage at an airport kiosk when your flight is delayed. You can also take pleasure in those small interactions with others: with the doorman, greeting you in your office lobby; the lady in line ahead of you at the supermarket; the goodnight hug from your child.

4. When life gets tough, don't take it personally. When faced with job loss, a foreclosure, or an impending divorce, it's really hard not to place the blame squarely on your own shoulders and get stuck in the "if only" mind-set. If only I had (choose one): taken a different job, bought a cheaper house, not cheated. That sort of rumination sets you up for full-blown depression. While it's important to accept responsibility for your actions, the best way to do that is by looking to the present rather than the past. What are you going to do that's different right now, at this moment, to move forward? "When the proverbial stuff hits the proverbial fan, it's really important to recognize and acknowledge the fear you're feeling," says Kabat-Zinn. "But also recognize that it's in these trying times that you will understand fully what it means to be human, to utilize all the resources you have." After all, it's those challenges faced by the World War II generation that earned it the distinction of being called the "greatest."

5. Put the "being" back in human. If you fill every moment with frenetic activity—work, text messaging, household chores, computer games—you never give yourself a chance to simply be. Too many of us are human stuff, the sum of our actions, instead of human beings, points out Kabat-Zinn. As corny as it sounds, just sitting for a moment to contemplate the clouds, the smell of freshly brewed coffee, the pattern of stalled cars winding around the freeway, is what separates us from the nut-gathering squirrels. And science shows it's a great stress reliever, to boot.

Full article in the US News & Report.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Nutrition, Exercise and the Recession

The news can't stop drawing parallels between our current economy and the Great Depression. But this article from the Huffington Post discusses another unique similarity between the two eras:
Much has been made of the political and financial parallels between 1933 and 2009, but another similarity links the two eras: a general disgust with and mistrust of organized medicine and the food industry. Just as organic foods, detox regimens and stress-relief yoga classes have mushroomed in recent years, the 30s were a golden age of preventive medicine through exercise and healthy diet, as well as a willingness to dabble in unorthodox therapies. FDR was no exception; he chose his retreat at Warm Springs, Ga. largely so that he could receive hydropathic treatments on his withered legs.

Yoga Study for Breast Cancer Survivors in Columbus, Ohio

Survivors know better than anyone that cancer and cancer treatment are stresses that change the body, mind, and spirit. The researchers at the Ohio State University feel that yoga could be a way to begin the recovery process to heal all three.

What' the study about?

Breast cancer survivors can have a lot of post-treatment problems, such as fatigue, depression, and a decrease in physical function. It is possible that physical activities, like yoga, could help ease these symptoms. This is a study about how yoga affects fatigue, immune function, and mood of women treated for breast cancer.

What's involved?

If you join the Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors Study, you will be assigned to one of two groups: yoga or wait-list. The yoga group will attend yoga sessions twice a week for 12 weeks. The wait-list group will have the opportunity to take yoga after the study participation is complete. In addition you will be asked to visit the Ohio State University 4 times over 6-10 months. These visits include blood draws, questionnaires & completion of mild stress tasks.

Who can participate?

You can join the Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors Study if you match ALL of these categories:

  • You are a breast cancer survivor who was treated for stage I, II, or IIIa disease within the last two years
  • You do not have inflammatory breast cancer
  • You have not had a recurrence of breast cancer (this is the first time you were diagnosed with breast cancer)
  • Aside from your breast cancer diagnosis, you have never had any other cancer diagnosis besides skin cancer
  • You have never been diagnosed with diabetes or an autoimmune disease (such as under active thyroid, over active thyroid, lupus, multiple sclerosis, or rheumatoid arthritis).
  • You live close enough to Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio to be able to attend yoga there two times a week

Who is conducting the study?

Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, Ph.D. , Ohio State University

Sign up here.