Thursday, April 30, 2009

Yoga & Asthma

From today's Examiner, Yogi Annette Rivlin-Gutman writes:

Clinical studies have shown proof that Pranayama breathing can help asthmatics. It supplies oxygen to the entire body and exercises the lungs and its surrounding organs.

“Prana” means life force which is the breath and “ayama” means to lengthen or to extend. So, Pranayama means extending or mastering control of the breath. It allows unconscious breathing become a conscious act.

While many of us could benefit from pranayama in order to learn to breathe more deeply, asthmatics tend to over breathe. The exhalation is commonly the most problematic. Balancing airflow to the body can help an asthmatic control the output of her breath. Living with asthma can also create high anxiety. Slow, efficient breaths lead to a calmer mind leading to calmer breathing.

Just another reason yoga rocks!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cancer survivor yoga class on Long Island

Freedom Yoga
is for woman cancer survivors who would like the opportunity to develop a more peaceful and positive outlook on life.

Taught by yoga instructor
Maria Yakkey, RYT at:

Om Tara Yoga Studio
577 Broadway, Massapequa

Weekly Classes are offered on
Thursday mornings at 11:30am.
Come as you are. No prior yoga experience necessary, doctor’s approval recommended.
Wear comfortable clothing.
For more information
Call Maria at:(516) 250-0101
Private Sessions Available

Maria Yakkey, RYT is a registered yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance at the 200 hour level and is certified to teach by Into This World Yoga. Currently, Maria is working towards her 500 hour certification.
Maria’s yoga education includes: YogaKids (CYKT),
Yoga for the Special Child, Pre-Natal Yoga, Restorative Yoga,
and Yoga for Woman Cancer Survivors.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

12 Months of Goodness

Yoga Bear is looking for studios and yogis alike to collaborate with us on the upcoming Calendar Fundraiser Project! As Yoga Bear truly values the bonds we have with our surrounding community, we feel the need to benefit us all in our attempts to reach out and ensure the long-term sustainability of our cause. So how exactly are all of us going to benefit from this? Here’s a simple breakdown of the project:

1. Studios and yogis can "sponsor" a month in the Yoga Bear Calendar by making a $100 tax-deductible donation to Yoga Bear. First come, first serve for selection of month.

2. We will have professional photographs taken of the yoga instructor of your choice (from your sponsoring studio) which will serve as the graphic for the according month on the calendar-- you will also be given digital copies from the photo shoot for your own uses!

3. We will release the Yoga Bear calendars to the public (homes, offices, non-profits, clinics, nutritionists, therapists, support groups etc.) and your studio will be recognized for its contribution to the Yoga Bear cause!

4. And of course, you will be provided with your own calendar to put up in your studio

Helping provide cancer survivors receive free yoga AND investing in an effective marketing strategy? Sounds like a good deal to us. If you would be at all interested in working with us on this project or maybe you just have some questions, please don’t hesitate to contact

Monday, April 27, 2009

Yoga Bear wins Nike Grant

We are honored to be a recipient of the Nike Athletes Serve grant. This grant will allow Yoga Bear to continue our work with cancer communities across the US.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Teaching Yoga to People with Cancer (Discount on Training)

We are very excited to announce that Jnani Chapman, RN has offered Yoga Bear volunteers and affiliate studios, to receive a 20% discount off tuition for their upcoming training.

WHAT: Yoga for People with Cancer Teacher Training (YCaTT) is a three-part certification program designed to train experienced Yoga teachers to work safely with cancer patients at any stage of illness. The goal of this program is to enable Yoga teachers to adapt traditional Yoga practices to meet the physiological and psychological needs of cancer patients and to communicate effectively with medical personnel. At the completion of the program, Yoga teachers will be qualified to design and implement wellness/stress management based classes for cancer patients. Graduates of all three parts will receive certification for this specialty.

WHEN: May 3-10

WHERE: Yogaville, Buckingham, Virginia

Find full details here. You must mention Yoga Bear when booking your reservations.

Yoga Bear at the Liver Cancer Symposium in Chicago, May 15-16

On May 14th through 16th, Yogi Bear Jean DiCarlo-Wagner will be teaching a free yoga class at the Liver Cancer Symposium (for patients and doctors) in Chicago. Suzanne Lindley, 10 year Stage IV colorectal survivor, is one of the coordinators.

Yoga Circle owner and Yoga Bear volunteer Gabriel Halpern has also offered his services to teach restorative classes at this event.

Jean and Gabriel will be working on providing 'yoga breaks' at the conference, so come prepared with your yoga gear and water!

"Give us millions to find a cure for cancer" sounds better than "give us millions to find a million cures for a million types of cancer"

This is from PHD Comics:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

OM Yoga Events in NYC

We are happy to help spread the word about these yoga opportunities for cancer survivors in NYC:

OM yoga for Women Cancer Survivors Classes

SUNDAY MAY 3, 10 AM - 1 PM
Sponsored by The Libby Ross Foundation
Taught by Tari Prinster - FREE to women cancer survivors
RSVP by April 15th to or call 212 254 YOGA with any questions.
Space is limited-first come first serve registration

We welcome all moms, daughters, sisters, cousins, aunts and friends to celebrate Mother's Day.

Tuesdays from 3:45 - 5:15 pm sponsored by The Libby Ross Foundation
taught by Tari Prinster - FREE

Saturdays from 1:45 - 3:15 pm taught by Jacqueline Lucas
reduced rate of $10, portion of proceeds go to LRF

OM yoga in NYC
Located at Union Square 826 Broadway at 12th street 6th floor

Earth Day: Living Green & in Connection with All of Life

Happy Earth Day Friends! In honor of Mother Earth, we wanted to share a few tips for living green and in connection with all of life.

1. Breath
Learning to breathe correctly can change your life. Dr. Andrew Weil, a well known medical doctor who integrates western and eastern medicine, uses breathwork as his number one prescription for all stress related illnesses, physical and emotional. Deepening the breath in the body can aid in the healing process, reduce physical and emotional tension, foster a sense of peace, wellbeing and calm, allow clear thinking and decision making to emerge, rejuvenate and reenergize, bring relaxation, improve sports and academic performance and stabilize emotions. That’s pretty powerful stuff.

2. Mindful Buying
Rather than buying something new, see if you can find it used. These days you can also find everything from organic cotton yoga tops to cork yoga blocks online at sites such as eBay or even Craig’s List. Visit yard sales or resale shops, and borrow or share with friends.

3. Selective Buying
Our twitter friend @premapadam suggest buying from small, grassroots businesses like which sells organic cotton clothing using soy based dies. When making purchasing decisions, don't just consider the price to your wallet. Think about the price to Mother Earth. What is it made of? Where was it made? How far was it shipped? And what will happen to it when you're done?

4. Choose your mat wisely
Some Yogis have voiced concerns about the use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in sticky Yoga mats. PVC has been linked to different types of cancer, and it cannot be recycled. Therefore, worn out mats with PVC must go to a landfill. Our friend @Evonborcke suggests a mat made from recycled materials, "They are still quite wonderful I must say".

5. Stay Hydrated

Did you know that tap water is more regulated than bottled water? Forget the plastic water bottle, pour your filtered tap water into a bottle like the metal SIGG bottle. Or find a Biota bottled water. The bottle is made from 100% corn (a renewable resources) and it decomposes in a commercial composting situation in 70 - 80 days.

Any other tips on being a green yogi? Please share them as comments below!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Studies claim new anti-cancer foods

Three new studies came out this week extolling the disease-fighting properties of grapefruit juice, walnuts and wine.

The research was presented Monday at the 100th annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR.)

A study from the University of Chicago Medical Center claims that combining eight ounces of grapefruit juice with the anti-cancer medicine rapamycin could increase drug levels, allowing lower doses of the [exoebsuve] drug to be given.

A second study presented at the conference found that walnut consumption could provide the body with essential Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and phytosterols that reduce the risk of breast cancer. Researcher Dr Elaine Hardman, of Marshall University School of Medicine, said although the study was carried out in mice, the beneficial effect of walnuts was likely to apply to humans too.

The third study found that drinking wine may increase survival among patients suffering from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Researchers at Yale found that those who drank wine had a 76% five-year survival compared with 68% for non-wine drinkers. Further research found five-year, disease-free survival was 70% among those who drank wine compared with 65% among non-wine drinkers.

Beer and/or liquor consumption did not show a benefit.

Founded in 1907, AACR is the world's oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research, with a membership including more than 28,000 researchers, health care professionals and cancer survivors in nearly 90 countries.

Therapeutic Yoga for Cancer Patients and Survivors in NJ

We are very pleased to share these two opportunity for cancer patients and survivors in Brick, New Jersey:

WHEN: FRIDAYS 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM (except 5/29/09, 9/11/09, 11/27/09, 12/25/09)
WHERE: Brick Fitness for Women (Route 88)
Kmart Shopping Center in Brick, NJ
COST: FREE for patients and survivors
No yoga experience necessary

WHEN: SATURDAYS 12 noon - 1:30 PM (first and third Saturday of each month)
WHERE: OM Baby Yoga Studio
726 Arnold Avenue
Point Pleasant Beach, NJ
COST: Free to cancer patients under treatment, $5 donation from other students. Donation goes to studio and any additional funds are donated to Cancer Concern Center in Point Pleasant Beach.

Instructor: Bobbi Linkowski (Viveki) has been teaching yoga to active seniors and cancer patients for the last six years. She is a certified Yoga Instructor in Sivananda Yoga, and registered with the Yoga Alliance. She completed her 500-hour Yoga Teacher Certification from the Himalayan Institute. She is currently interning in a program to earn a 1000 hour certificate in Therapeutic Yoga. Having started her Hatha Yoga practice for better health and to improve chronic medical conditions, she is able to emphatize with students and to adopt postures for a student's physical and mental challenges. Bobbi has worked as a Medical Technologist for over 38 years and has a Masters Degree in Allied Health Education.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Yoga Bear in the Huffington Post!

Yoga Bear makes the Huffington Post today! Yoga activist and blogger, Tara Stiles gives a terrific write-up about Yoga Bear and the value our work has for cancer survivors nationally.

Check it out, tweet it, share it with others. I also recommend becoming a fan and subscribing to Tara's blog, if you don't already, for regular doses of yoga, activism, and humor.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Burgeoning Field of Yoga Therapy

Yesterday, Time published an article about Yoga Therapy titled Psychotherapy Goes from Couch to Yoga Mat. The article describes yoga therapy as a way to allow yoga to empower people while priming them to access their deepest emotions.
"Emotional memories are stored in your body," Visceglia says. "A group yoga class, is not structured to enable you to process that. Ideally one would want to work with someone who is paying attention to both the physical and emotional experiences."
The article goes on to discuss how far research into the mind-body relationship has come:
Studies show that not only are your mental health and mood dependent in large part on physical factors like exercise, but also unchecked stress, anxiety and depression can affect physical health, increasing blood pressure, heart disease and even risk of death.
And the article quoted Mind-Body expert and YOGABEAR advisor Kelly McGonigal:
Now we have more licensed health-care providers, including psychologists, coming in who are interested in using yoga in their work.
Last Friday was my first private yoga therapy session. After a discussion with YOGABEAR volunteer Soleil Hepner, I decided to book a private session with a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist in my area.

I'm used to my yoga practice either being in the community setting of the classroom-- or the complete privacy of my apartment. But this time, it was a 1 on 1 private session with a certified Phoenix Rising Yoga therapist. We began the session with a meditation body scan, which requires you to focus your mind at one point and stilling the mind in order to perceive the self.

After this, I was asked to share how I was feeling and what my goals were for the day. I described my fear of pain, and my love/hate relationship with my body. I went into the difficulty I have stilling my thoughts, and the constant rush of "am I doing enough? what else can I do?". My goal for that session was to quiet my mind and remind myself that everything is okay just the way it is.

During the session, I transcended into a deep relaxation where time was irrelevant and life was endless. I had reached a point I am not able to achieve in the classroom or on my own. I left the session with a renewed sense of energy, calm state of mind, and centered connection.

Photo from

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Yoga & Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The facts: Currently, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome affects over 8 million Americans. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is the #1 reported medical problem, accounting for about 50% of all work-related injuries. Approximately 260,000 carpal tunnel release operations are performed each year. Only 23% of all Carpal Tunnel Syndrome patients were able to return to their previous professions following surgery. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome results in the highest number of days lost among all work related injuries. Almost half of the carpal tunnel cases result in 31 days or more of work loss. The U.S. Department of Labor has concluded that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is the "chief occupational hazard"-disabling workers in epidemic proportions. Women are twice as likely to develop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome as opposed to their male counterparts.

The Yoga Solution: A randomized, single-blind, controlled clinical trial at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia concluded, "In this preliminary study, a yoga-based regimen was more effective than wrist splinting or no treatment in relieving some symptoms and signs of carpal tunnel syndrome." The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998, also noted that "Subjects in the yoga groups had significant improvement in grip strength and pain reduction, but changes in grip strength and pain were not significant for control subjects."

For more info and sample poses, check out Yoga and Carpel Tunnel. Photos from

Monday, April 13, 2009

Yoga Bear at Maimonides Medical Center

As Yoga Bear expands its programs for both cancer fighters and cancer survivors, we want to thank the volunteers who make our work possible. With no budget, the Yoga Bear chapter of NYC has made yoga classes available at two hospitals. We recently expanded the program at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, thanks to yoga teacher Nancy Sidewater who will now be teaching twice a month.

Nancy Sidewater has been practicing yoga for almost 10 years. In 2007, she became an Om certified yoga teacher and the following year, completed Om Yoga's teacher training to work with cancer survivors. A warm thank you to Nancy and the NYC Yoga Bears!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Yoga Bear in the News

Journalist Jeannine Stein wrote a wonderful piece on Yoga Bear in the LA Times. It was picked up and syndicated in several other news outlets including (, Oregon Live, Gulf Live,, Penn Live, and

Friday, April 10, 2009

Video Friday: A stretch for the spine that can be done in the kitchen

This is a wonderful pose for anyone who has back pain, sciatica, scoliosis, lordosis and kyphosis.

From the lovely Roberta Dell'anno:

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Open letter from a survivor

This is a letter to survivors out there. I want to relate the experience I had with cancer, and yoga as part of recovery.

I was just on the edge of life and ready to go: happy, interested, bold. It was my senior year of high school and I was diagnosed with Hodgkins. The day I was diagnosed, I went to lunch as usual with my family. I remember sitting there covering it up. Looking at the same old world through a grave new perspective. That is what I was taught to do in my "Old Southern" upbringing. If whatever is going on can fit under that rug it goes under that rug.

No one had much to do with me except my oldest brother Patrick, who was always there for tea time. Once he bought me a black fur eastern European style hat. We’d watch British films for hours and talk about this and that. I was in bed for a year.

Illness is a lonely place. I knew my Savior though. I knew he was going to be with me and I was going to come out on the other side. He knows the way out for us. There was a very powerful deep consciousness that I had going through and coming out from under this experience. I lived, but not much was ever said about it. It fit under that rug.

Yoga came along three or four years later. I was in Costa Rica with my sister and picked up a flyer advertising beginners classes. I walked down the dirt path to the covered dojo at the cabinas near the Pacific Ocean. And so it was, that day in July 2004 I took my first yoga class with the beautiful Bathsheba Goveas in Cabinas Arco Iris in Tamarindo, Costa Rica.

The class Sheba taught was traditional sivanada and it lasted 90 minutes. We went through twelve basic poses with proper Sanskrit. The atmosphere was tranquil, noncompetitive and enlightening. After that first class I knew I was coming back without question. I was hooked.

There are two important things I gained from those first experiences. First, yoga is only as good as the teacher. Second, a new understanding which I told Bathsheba, “I realized I didn’t have to push myself so hard to get where I was going or to achieve what I needed.” Yoga is part of an intelligent way to live. It’s not an exercise in punishment.

Cancer is becoming an epidemic and is a direct result of something gone astray. Whether it was an attitude, chemical, or an immunization that gave me the virus that caused my lymphoma, I don’t think it's necessary to fear this epidemic. It is necessary to learn to live in a state of awareness and consciousness.

Every person must test themselves against what their environment or society is saying-- whether it’s food, images, immorality, belief systems, etc.. Going through chemotherapy was the only option I was given, but I truly believe that there may be holistic, naturopathic and spiritual ways of curing this disease, with out that pharmaceutical brutality which caused most of the dystrophy and imbalance that followed my illness.

Cancer is more complex than a just a diagnoses we're given. There are cancerous life styles and attitudes. When i find myself in negative circumstances, I turn again to yoga. For the past four years, I have practiced under an instructor (and now my best friend) Jennifer Wofsey at Yoga Bliss Studio. I have the same stillness each time.

I can relate my destructive experience with cancer to my strong yoga practice, with my deep connection to spirituality. I have chosen to gravitate towards one instead of the other because it makes me happy. Yoga brings me happiness every time I walk into a studio. I desperately need the consciousness and connection to my soul that the world does not provide. My life on the mat has travelled off the mat, and empowered me to live a life of true happiness.

By C.Rankin

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Yoga Bear is in the air...

Everyone's talking about Yoga Bear! Here are some of the latest posts:
  • Sandhy is a cancer warrior living in the UK and connecting with survivors and yogis on our site. She writes an honest and uplifting blog, where she discusses her battle with ovarian cancer. Read her post about getting Yoga Bear to the UK.
  • Social Earth is a project for promoting socially oriented businesses, check out their profile on Yoga Bear.
  • Share Yoga interviews Yoga Bear Founder, Halle Tecco
  • Yoga Dork always covers our events and recently wrote about our upcoming class series in NYC.
  • The Everything Yoga Blog mentioned YB in their latest post "Karma Yoga-- Acting on Your Good Intentions".
  • Love Peace Yoga shares an interview with Yoga Bear Founder.
Hey New Yorkers, we invite you to join our Candlelight Restorative Yoga class every Thursday starting May 7th.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Macrobiotics & Cancer: Part II

Part II The Macrobiotic and Cancer Connection
Phiya Kushi

Although many persons had experienced remarkable recoveries with macrobiotics throughout the 60s and 70s it wasn't until around 1980 when the case of Dr. Anthony J. Sattilaro was published in Life Magazine (and was later recounted in his book entitled "Recalled By Life") that macrobiotics became popularly associated with cancer. The story of a medical doctor using diet to heal himself where his own medicine failed him was news and subsequently brought much attention to macrobiotics as a possible cancer therapy.

From that time on many individuals healed themselves from a variety of cancers. You can read or hear some of their stories through the links posted in my blog here. Many of the recovery stories are quite remarkable and several have written books about their own stories. These include the following:

1. Macrobiotic Miracle: How Vermont Family Overcame Cancer by Virginia Brown
2. Confessions Of A Kamikaze Cowboy by Dirk Benedict
3. Recovery From Cancer: The Remarkable Story Of One Woman's Struggle With Cancer And What She Did To Beat The Odds by Elaine Nussbaum
4. When Hope Never Dies: One Woman's Remarkable Recovery From Cancer And The Natural Program That Saved Her Life by Marlene McKenna
5. My Beautiful Life: How Macrobiotics Brought Me From Cancer To Radiant Health by Mina Dobic

These are just a handful of the countless recovery stories that many experienced not just from cancer but from a wide variety of illnesses of which there were or is no medical cure.

It is important to note that over the years, many did not get well for a variety of reasons including:

1. Their cancer was too far advanced
2. They were using a variety of methods in addition to macrobiotics, some of which were conflicting to the macrobiotic approach
3. They did not have the physical or emotional support from family and friends to adopt the macrobiotic approach
4. They themselves were unable to follow the macrobiotic program
5. Their doctors advised them against following any macrobiotic program
6. They themselves decided not to follow macrobiotics

Furthermore, some in the macrobiotic community also became ill and passed away with cancer. This fact helped to underscore the complexities of cancer and that a rigid and inflexible "macrobiotic diet" is insufficient in reversing various cancers.
Beyond dietary change, additional factors must be looked at and be taken into consideration. These include exposure to environmental toxins, genetic pre-disposition, emotional and psychological issues, habitual and addictive behaviors, adherence to traditional and/or religious customs, economic influences and so on; in short anything and everything that affects one's life - which means our total environment. Macrobiotics is not just concerned with diet and nutrition but with the influence and effects of our total environment of which diet is only a part. Many who believe they are following macrobiotics by only adopting a rigid vegan diet without considering these larger influences are really not fully incorporating the dynamic principles of change and balance.

In the end, the presentation of macrobiotics as a therapy for cancer is one of mixed and confusing signals. While there are many incredible recovery stories, others were unable to reverse their disease. In addition, conventional medicine and skeptics have been quick to denounce the "macrobiotic diet" as an unproven method that is potentially more harmful then helpful (as strict a vegetarian diet). So then, how does one wade through these conflicting signals to find clarity?

In my blog I explain the irrelevancy of the question of whether a "macrobiotic diet" can be proven or not and how what can be proven is the influence and effectiveness of specific food items such as meat, whole grains and fresh vegetables. For this there is plenty of scientific research and evidence with more and more coming out every year. All of these research studies coincide with the conclusions of Ohsawa and Kushi that, generally speaking, the most optimal human diet is one that is less focused on animal foods and instead is centered around whole grains and fresh vegetables.

Cancer is also a very complex disease. There are many different types of cancers, each of which have different causes and symptoms. Because of the diversity of various cancers then, in accordance with macrobiotic principles of balance, dietary recommendations will vary for different types of cancer. For example, tomatoes can help to balance prostate cancer but will make leukemia, skin and breast cancer worse. These variations are outlined in Michio Kushi's book, "The Cancer Prevention Diet" and also, "The Macrobiotic Path To Total Health." Because cancer is varied and because the macrobiotic approach involves specific diets that are tailored to each individual, then to scientifically "prove" that macrobiotics is helpful for cancer is practically impossible.

In one sense, the position of skeptics that a "macrobiotic diet" has no evidence to cure cancer is correct because they are referring to a rigid and set diet, not one that is flexible and changes according to individual need. The skeptics do not understand that in macrobiotics, for example, if a person lacks nutrients found only in animal foods then that person should eat animal foods. Conversely, if a person suffers from a condition resulting from of eating too much animal food, then the macrobiotic approach would be for him to reduce or eliminate all animal food for a period of time and perhaps increase consumption of, for example raw salads. This flexibility and dynamism with macrobiotics is difficult to explain in one easy sound-bite and is therefore misrepresented in the news as a rigid and limiting diet. Meanwhile, many cancer patients who actually do discover and study the dynamic approach of macrobiotics continue to reverse their conditions successfully.

Additional resources for further study:


The Art Of Prolonging Life – Christoph Wilhelm Hufeland (full text online)
You Are All Sunpaku
– George Ohsawa and William Dufty
Zen Macrobiotics
– George Ohsawa
The Book Of Macrobiotics
– Michio Kushi
Sugar Blues
– William Dufty
Diet For A Small Planet
– Frances Moore Lappe
The Cancer Prevention Diet
– Michio Kushi
Aveline Kushi’s Complete Guide To Macrobiotic Cooking
– Aveline Kushi
One Peace World
– Michio Kushi
Diet For A New America
– John Robbins
The Macrobiotic Path To Total Health
– Michio Kushi
The China Study
– T. Colin Campbell

Websites And Schools:
The Kushi institute

The Macrobiotic Guide
Institute for Integrative Nutrition
The Strengthening Health Institute
Macrobiotics America
Macrobiotics New England
The China Study: Plant Based Nutrition

Physician Committee for Responsible Medicine

Some of the many research studies showing the benefits of a whole grain, plant-based diet:

The China Study
Adoption of a plant-based diet by patients with recurrent prostate cancer.

Diet and lifestyle recommendations revision 2006: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee.

Dietary patterns and breast cancer recurrence and survival among women with early-stage breast cancer.

Active and Recommended Macrobiotic Counselors in the US:
Denny Waxman
Warren Kramer
David Briscoe

Monday, April 6, 2009

Macrobiotics & Cancer: Part I

We are very excited to introduce our guest blogger, Phiya Kushi, who is sharing a two-part series on the Macrobiotic Diet. Phiya is the former Executive Director of the Kushi Institute in Massachusetts and third son of macrobiotic and natural food pioneers, Michio and Aveline Kushi. He has spent his entire working life involved in macrobiotic endeavors, including the launch of the first nation-wide organic food association in Japan and spoke on behalf of the Japanese organic industry at the United Nations organization, the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements.

During his time at the Kushi Institue, Phiya led and coordinated the macrobiotic best case series presetnted to the National Cancer Institute, hosted and conducted health seminars around the country, and redefined the meaning of "macrobiotics".

Phiya is currently involved in producing a documentary film on macrobiotics and life of his parents, and has started an online publishing company, Kushi Publishing. He also shares his love and knowledge for macrobiotics on his personal blog. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Part I: What is a macrobiotic diet?

There is no such thing as a "macrobiotic diet'. Diet commonly refers to something that is limiting and restrictive-- completely opposite of macrobiotics. There are no taboo foods in macrobiotics and whatever human beings have eaten since the beginning of their appearance on earth is included in the macrobiotic diet. So the question What is a macrobiotic diet? really should be: What is the optimal diet for all of humanity?

First, it is important to understand that macrobiotics is really about change, balance and living in harmony with the natural environment. It is based on the view that we are influenced by our environment externally and internally; in causal and transformative ways. Food, including all the things we ingest: air, vibrations, etc., is the mechanism that allows us to transform ourselves in order to adapt to our environment. When we eat food we are eating the essence of the environment which created that food, and we transform ourselves with it. If we understand our relationship to our environment in this way, then we can begin to see that we are and have always been the product of environment through the foods that we ate throughout the history of humanity. We can also begin to see that our bodies and all of its characteristics have been gradually evolving overtime according to the changes in natural environment reflected in the foods that humanity has consumed over time. By examining our human physical traits we should be able to understand what foods were consumed that made us human.

Based on this view George Ohsawa and Michio Kushi concluded that whole cereal grains have been humanity's primary food followed by vegetables and some animal food. The ratios of these types of food to each other are shown, for example, by the type of teeth that an adult human has in his mouth. There are 32 teeth, four of which are canine for eating meat, the rest are incisors for cutting vegetables and pre-molars and molars for grinding seeds and grains. The ratio of animal to plant food ideal for human consumption is therefore concluded to 4:28 or 1:7 with the dominant portion of plant material to be grains and seeds. Based on this Michio proceeded to outline a "standard macrobiotic diet" or a whole grain-centered, plant based diet.

When this "standard macrobiotic diet" was presented many mistakenly believed this to be "the" macrobiotic diet, one that pretty much avoided or excluded all animal foods and dairy products. In reality, no foods are taboo in macrobiotics including animal foods, which are portioned into much smaller ratios than is normally consumed today. These dietary ratios of different foods were reflected in a pyramid-style presentation that Michio later created and can been seen here. However, the original “standard macrobiotic diet” gave the impression that macrobiotics was a rigid and fixed diet instead of its real intention, to show the optimal diet for humanity.

Furthermore, those suffering from chronic illnesses resulting from consuming too many animal and dairy foods (which happen to be the majority of Americans) were recommended to not eat such foods. This helped further the myth of a "macrobiotic diet" that was limiting and avoided all animal foods save for the consumption of the occasional fish. But in truth, macrobiotic dietary recommendations vary according to the condition and situation of each individual. Information presented in books and pamphlets on macrobiotics did not help to alter this perception.

The best way to understand the dietary suggestions that both George Ohsawa and Michio Kushi recommended is to describe it as a proposed diet for all of humanity; based on a biological, evolutionary, environmental theory of foods that created and sustained humans since their arrival on earth. This theory proposes that the diet most suitable for maintenance and continued evolution for all of humanity is a plant-based one with whole cereal grains as the main staple food. All other foods, including all animal foods are not excluded but are second to grains. In addition, diets should vary according to geography, climate, season and personal need and condition. The macrobiotic approach is not a specific diet, but a theoretical system based on maintaining harmony with the ever-changing environment, with food being the transformative tool.

Additionally, foods can be further modified through cooking and processing
methods. The application of fire, grinding, pressure, time, salt, water, oil and other culinary methods can transform the nature of the foods we eat, making them more edible and suitable to the climates we live in. The art of balanced cuisine-- macrobiotic cuisine-- is simple and two-fold. It is, first and foremost, to make all foods edible and suitable to our environment and second, to prepare them according to our own personal needs. In this way, a skilled macrobiotic chef can, theoretically, take any food item and transform it into something that will support the balancing of an individual. The art of macrobiotic cuisine is not one with only a limited set of ingredients, but instead is one where the challenge is to transform any and all foods into something balanced and beneficial. It is the greatest challenge and art for any chef to take on.

The dietary application according to macrobiotic principles is the complete opposite in meaning to the popular notion of the word "diet" which is limiting, restrictive and rigid. It is, instead, about learning how to incorporate, play with and balance any food item in a way that addresses individual needs while also promoting the health and development of humanity.

Tomorrow: Part II on the Macrobiotic and Cancer Connection

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Yoga Bear caught in action!

I came across this photo and couldn't resist. How cute!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Sincerity: Living Your Yoga

"Beautify your tongues, O people. with truthfulness, and adorn your souls with the ornament of honesty. Beware, O people, that ye deal not treacherously with anyone." -Writings of Baha'u'llah
The topic of sincerity has been coming up a lot lately and what I have to come to realize is that SINCERITY TRULY IS A VIRTUE. When we do anything in life, there can only be fulfillment when our hearts and thoughts are aligned and when we know that we can be relied upon not to lie, cheat, or steal. A sincere person says what they mean and means what they say with no other ulterior motive. A sincere person if they seem friendly, really are FRIENDLY and do not appear to be your friend for any other hidden reason or motivation. A sincere person can be relied upon to behave integrally and to be the same person at home, as they are in public or in their intimate friendships and relationships.

Sincere people are wonderful people to have in your life because you know that they will tell you it like it is and they will not say something merely to impress you. Sincerity is when a person tells the truth even if it may mean disappointing someone else. In sincere relationships, actions match words and people are living integrally.

By Nicole Reed

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Recession-proof your health

Create lists. Reduce your impulse buying with a grocery list, and stick to the list. When you are hungry, don't shop. Keep your attention on the perimeter of the store where the fresh produce and foods are. Processed and packaged foods are in the middle.

Be a smart snacker. Junk foods are low on nutrition and high in calories. Whole foods are also more satisfying, so you tend to eat less.

Bulk it. Most staple foods, like brown rice and olive oil, can be stored for a while. Buy them when they're on sale and buy in bulk. Store olive oil in the refrigerator.

Grow your own. Start a garden. Vegetables such as tomatoes or zucchini are both easy to grow. Plant a fruit tree in your yard. Herbs and some vegetables also grow well in pots. Or, visit farmers' markets.

Cook for the distance. Make dishes like soup, chili, or stew that can be served later and frozen if needed. You can pack theses dishes for lunch.

Adios, espresso! Bypass the coffee shops and brew your own cup of joe. Or better yet, switch to Green Tea which is better for you and less expensive.

Kick the bottle. Filter tap water instead of buying bottled water...simple to do!

Get moving! Running, walking and hiking are fun activities to get your heart pumping, while having fun with your friends. The bonus: it doesn't cost a dime!

By Nicole Reed, Director of Southern California Chapter of Yoga Bear

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Mt. Sinai and Yoga Bear to Expand Hospital Yoga Program

We are honored and pleased to announce that our program at Mt. Sinai will be expanding. Since 2008, Yoga Bear has organized volunteer instructors to teach yoga at the hospital. Because of the positive response we've received, we'll be adding another volunteer instructor to the program.

We'd like to recognize the incredibly dedicated and passionate people supporting this program. On a $0 budget, they have made everything possible through donating their time, efforts, and love.

Sandra Gilbert, RYT is the instructor, an Integral Yoga teacher who focuses on working with people with cancer, as well as cardiac and pulmonary disease. She is a graduate as well as the teacher coordinator for Adaptive Yoga for People with Cancer Training. Her other advanced training includes Cancer Guides through the Center for Mind Body Medicine.

Michelle Robbins is the Director of Yoga Bear's NYC Chapter. She has been coordinating the entire event, from recruiting volunteers to finding yoga mats for the students--- all while applying to graduate school.

Alison Snow, LCSW is the Mt. Sinai social worker and coordinator who worked with Yoga Bear to make this program possible. Through her diligent efforts, she has helped market and coordinate the program to cancer patients at Mt. Sinai.

We'd also like to welcome our new volunteer instructor for the program, Karen Yat, RN. After surviving two bouts of cancer, Karen decided to become a certified Yoga Practitioner to share integrated healing with newly diagnosed and recovering cancer patients. She has been a professional nurse for over twenty years, working in psychiatry, transplantation, and oncology . A NYC native, Karen has a bachelor's Degree in Psychology in addition to her RYT in Hatha/Therapeutic Yoga and Nursing Degrees.

Finally, this program would not be possible without the generous donation from Big Apple Power Yoga, who donated 20 brand new lululemon yoga mats.

Ask and you shall receive: Information-seeking patients more likely to receive information (and therapies)

By Jane Sarasohn-Kahn of Health Populi

Four in 10 cancer patients sought information via the Internet, according to a new study to be published in the April 1, 2009, issue of the peer-reviewed journal, Cancer.

The downside of information-seeking cancer patients, according to the study, is that 1 in 4 of these patients received the drugs off-label -- that is, for a use not approved by the FDA. In these cases, the cancer drugs have been used for patients in both late and early stages of cancer-- the latter for which a drug might not be approved for use.

The study looked at the relationship between information-seeking and awareness of therapies targeted to colorectal cancer patients. The hypothesis was that information-seeking patients who ask their physicians about cancer drugs would be more likely to receive them than patients who don't look for health information.

The outcome: information-seeking patients for colorectal cancer therapies were 2.83 times more likely to have heard about the therapies -- and 3.22 times more likely to receive these therapies -- than people who don't seek information.

The study was based on 633 colorectal cancer patients registered in the Pennsylvania Cancer Registry, focusing on their information-seeking habits and the specific therapies of Avastin and Erbitux.

The paper, Colon cancer patient information seeking and the adoption of targeted therapy for on-label and off-label indications, will be published in today's issue of Cancer.