Wednesday, February 29, 2012


I like to think of myself as a yogi--a dedicated practitioner of yoga.   I've always resisted, however, the tendency towards guru worship that seems to prevail in the yoga world.  

It's just my personality to not put anyone too high on a pedestal or see them as somehow better than myself.  I know and have seen, however, many people do treat their spiritual leaders as somewhat mythological god-like beings (although it's not just confined to the world of yoga).

Yoga has been linked to sex scandals in the past, and now there's a new scandal lighting up the yoga blogs.   John Friend, the founder/creator of the Anusara yoga movement, it turns out, has been having sex with quite a few of his devotees.   This has led to other devotees (and probably some of the devotees he had the sex with as well) being somewhat let down.

Their guru, it turns out, was just a horny, middle-aged guy more than willing to take advantage of young, nubile, fawning yoginis. 

There's a lot of confusion as to whether yoga encourages sex or not.   Many non-practitioners have a somewhat Westernized-fantasy-skewed idea of what Tantric practices involve.    There seems to be this belief that yogis hold the secrets to mind-blowing, 12 hour long, continuously orgasmic sex sessions.

It's kind of like those creams and pills that promise to increase bust or penis size--if they actually worked we'd all be walking around with double D's and 12 inch long dongs. 

I don't know what other yogic traditions teach, but the Ashtanga tradition teaches that excess sex is a waste of prana (life force), that sex outside of marriage is wrong, and that sex should only be done on certain days times.  

Doesn't sound all that sexy now does it?   The first time I read these sexual teachings in Yoga Mala I couldn't help but think that it sounded pretty much like what the Nuns preached to me back at Our Lady of the Valley.

While Friend never preached abstinence or marital fidelity (at least he's not a hypocrite), other yoga gurus accused of sexual misconduct have.

So the question is, why does this happen?    Why do some women succumb to spiritual leaders, whether they be yogis, preachers, rabbis or priests?     Why is it that we put these people up on pedestals where they preach sexual restraint, then strive to climb up on those pedestals to have sex with them?

The Anasura community is in a turmoil right now over the John Friend scandals.   The question is, why is anyone surprised?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pose Posse--Ashtanga Yoga's Eddie Stern

I saw this in the New York Times and had to repost.   I wish there was a way to embed the video because it's really worth watching and hearing.  

I love the idea of asking myself "how do I want to be at that age?"

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mother's Little Weight Loss Helpers

While I was away, news broke about FDA approval of yet another new "miracle" weight loss pill.

How long do you think it will be until they have to pull it off the market because of adverse side effects???

As this article shows, we've had a pretty long and torrid history in trying to find that miracle pill that allows you to shed weight effortlessly.   Pretty much everything had side affects so bad, you have to question if losing weight by taking a pill is really all that good of an idea.  Yeah, you lost 40 pounds by taking a pill, but you now have a child with birth defects.

Is it really worth the risk?

Also, people may lose weight while they're on the pill, but because they've never addressed the underlying problems for their obesity--consuming too many calories and too little exercise--they're pretty much guaranteed to put back on every single pound once they go off of it.

So once again we get to the only true methodology for losing weight and keeping it off.  

First, you have to permanently cut back on your daily calorie consumption.  No, short term "diet" is going to keep the weight off.

Second, you have to move more.   No, you don't have to go to the gym every single day for the rest of your life and have the sweat soak through your clothes, but you do have to take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to the store instead of taking your car, and find other ways to just move every day.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

I'm B-a-a-a-ck!!!

Hi all.  Sorry for not posting but I was away last week for my annual the kids are out of school for a week and I don't know what the hell else to do with them so I'm going skiing trip.   

Great trip, great skiing, and one of the benefits of skiing hard every day for a solid week is that I'm down 2 pounds (and that was with eating pretty much anything I wanted including several cups of very creamy, New England Clam chowder.)

I'll get back to blogging this week.  Promise.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Coffee! The Good, the Bad and the Ayurvedic Perspective

An interesting post in the Elephant Journal. 

I have to admit to being a java junkie.   I love a steaming, hot, cuppa joe in the morning, and my day just can't seem to start without it.   So, needless to say, I'm thrilled to learn about all the "good" stuff that my coffee habit can lead to.

But, there are also the downsides to being a java junkie as well, and I have to take note of that as well.

As is the case with anything, moderation is best.   So, I limit myself to 2 cups of coffee a day, and several times a year I go on "coffee fasts" where I wean myself off coffee for a week or two (usually in conjunction with a detox.)

Should I swear off coffee entirely?   Probably not, because there do seem to some health benefits, but I don't want to be drinking a dozen espressos daily either. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Practicing Through the Pain

I haven't done a downward dog in my yoga practice since July.  

The pain from my shoulder impingement has gotten so bad, I can't even do cobra any more.

Needless to say, I am really looking forward to my surgery in March to correct the problem.   Yes, I know it will be painful, and I'll have  a couple of months of physical therapy, but after that I can hopefully start to do downward dog, and maybe I'll even be able to fly in bakasana again.

For those of you who aren't familiar with my shoulder saga, over two years ago, I started experiencing quite a bit of pain in my left shoulder.

Now, this pain pretty much lasts throughout the day, and isn't just associated with my yoga practice.    Carrying in groceries has become an issue, as has doing something as simple as opening a car door. 

I'm at a point now where I can't even laterally raise my arm up over my head.  It's just too damn painful.

But, even with the pain, I still practice yoga at least 4 times a week.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not gritting my teeth and forcing myself to do handstands or anything like that.   I do not do anything in my yoga practice that increases the pain (because the pain is constant), and I don't even do many asanas at this point even if they don't cause pain just because I'm worried they will make the problem worse.  I gave up on doing shoulder stand a month ago for this reason.

When I practice yoga, I can not do my standard Ashtanga vinyasas because I can't do chatturanga, down ward dog, cobra or any other pose that would put pressure on my shoulder.   Instead I've worked out modified vinyasas that still generate heat, but put no pressure on my shoulder.

People ask me why I still practice.   "Why not just give up until after your surgery?" they ask.

I guess I would just "give up" if I only focused on what I couldn't do right now.

But I don't.   Instead I focus on what I can do

And, by focusing on what I can do, I've made some really significant improvements in strength and flexibility.

It's true that I can't lift my left arm into the proper position for Virabhadrasana B (warrior 2), but by getting into that deep lunge position I'm still getting all the benefits to the muscles in my legs.

I also can no longer push all the way up into a full back-bend and had to revert back to half-bridge.    Even in half-bridge, however, I'm still stretching out the entire front of my body and increasing the flexibility of my back.

Despite my pain, I've managed to make improvements in my yoga practice.  Yes, I've probably lost some strength and flexibility in my upper body as a consequence of not being able to put any weight on my shoulder, but I've still increased strength and flexibility in my lower body.

So, in the end, practicing through the pain has been beneficial.  

Still, I can't wait until I can do a headstand again.

And, I won't miss this constant throbbing pain all day either.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Vegan Experience

Kenji over at Serious Eats ate a purely vegan diet for 28 days and blogged about it.   It's a pretty good read and gives a lot of good insight.  

I liked this:

What has changed for me—and this is something I did not forsee—was the perceived benefits of meat eating. Over the last four weeks, I've come to realize that I can lead a perfectly fulfilling life even when drastically cutting down on my meat and dairy intake. Indeed, I've felt more rewarded and interested culinarily than I've felt in years.

I also liked this:

I firmly believe that given a supply of good, fresh vegetables, a few basic techniques and recipes up your sleeves, a modicum of commitment, and a genuine willingness to welcome a mental shift, that anybody can be convinced that eating a diet richer in vegetables can be every bit as satisfying, better for the environment, and better for your body than a meat-based diet. Heck, last Friday night, I even took my dad (an avowed meat eater) out for a surprise 12-course all-vegan tasting menu at Craigie On Main. Now, granted, that's a hardcore, James Beard award winning chef cooking vegetables, but still, we were halfway through course five before my dad even realized that we'd thus far had no animal products of any kind. If my Dad can be convinced, I'm confident that anybody can.

There's also a Top Ten Tips for New Vegans list which is well worth the read.

Kenji is no longer eating strictly vegan, but it was an interesting experiment, and one that I think is worth repeating from time to time.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Wow!! Now this is a Work-Out

Maybe its because I live in Connecticut.  Maybe because I've led a sheltered life.  I've never met anyone who does pole dancing as a work-out and so had no idea what it entailed.    The only time I was ever exposed to pole dancing was when Demi Moore did it in Striptease.

That's probably why I was so blown away when I saw the first video.   I knew that pole dancing has been marketed as a work-out, but I never really understood what it entailed.  I always imagined it as being a bunch of women trying to look sexy by shimmying around a pole.

But this woman, Jenyene Butterfly really takes pole dancing to a whole other level--almost akin to gymnastics.  Some of the sequences this woman performs in her routine are nothing short of amazing.   It takes quite a bit of strength, flexibility and grace to pull them off.

So here's to a new found appreciation to the art and athleticism of pole dancing.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Food For Thought

Mindful eating can lead to less eating.   A thought provoking article from the New York Times. 

I know that trying to be mindful when I'm eating is a struggle for me.   Because I work, take care of kids (including my Autistic son), volunteer, etc., eating is often multi-tasked with everything else I have to do.  

But, I do know about eating mindfully, and try to do it whenever I can.   Sometimes just really focusing on what your eating, and taking the time to really appreciate your food can awake realizations in your mind.   

For example, if you really slow down and focus on the taste of some processed snack you think you can't do without, you may realize that, in reality, you really don't like it all that much.   Or, if you slow down and really consider the different tastes and textures in a salad, you may realize that eating salad is really a treat and not a suffering.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cookbook Review--Vegan Italiano by Donna Klein

I have a friend who frequently takes long walks with me by Long Island Sound.  It's great exercise, and our conversations ramble on from topic to topic.  We often have a hard time parting.

A few weeks ago during one of these rambles, we began discussing if you can truly be a yogi and eat meat.   My friend, like me, tries to eat as little meat as possible, but doesn't want to take that step into full vegetarianism or veganism.

That talk, of course, led to finding good, tasty, vegan and vegetarian recipes.   The kind of recipes that are easy to prepare, don't require any exotic ingredients that you can't pick up at the local market, and will satisfy dubious family members.

My friend recommended a series of Vegan cook-books by author Donna Klein.    She described some of the recipes, and they sounded yummy.   So  once I got home, I immediately went to (because I had several B&N gift cards).   While several of Ms. Klein's cookbooks had potential, I purchased her Vegan Italiano book since I'm Italian and am already used to cooking in the Italian style.
When I got the book and began perusing the recipes, I was really pleasantly surprised.  Unlike most vegan or vegetarian cookbooks, I couldn't find one recipe containing soy, tofu, or any kind artificial, processed vegan substitute.  No vegan cheese, no egg substitutes, just real ingredients  that you can pretty much find in any good supermarket.

I have to admit I pretty much loathe tofu, and in any event I'm supposed to now be avoiding soy products following my breast cancer so finding a vegan cookbook that just uses real natural ingredients and doesn't try to make "meat and cheese substitute" meals was a god-send.  

If I have to say one thing about this cookbook is that it is truly a vegan cookbook for non-vegans.   If you're like me and just want to eat vegan more frequently without completely crossing over, than I highly recommend this book.

Being that it's an Italian cookbook there are literally dozens of main course pasta ideas.   Pasta is always a huge hit in our house, so I appreciate getting ideas for new veggie combos.   The fettuccine with Mushrooms and Marsala went over real well for dinner last week.   

The appetizer section is also extensive, and I've used several of the recipes to provide "healthier" appetizer fare.    I particularly love the Italian-style butter bean dip as an alternative to the usual fat-filled appetizer dips.

And, the salad recipes are the best I've seen in any cook-book in a while.   Last night I made the Arugula, Fennel and Radicchio Salad with Raisins and Pine Nuts.   The toasted pine nuts complemented the mix of greens and the licorice test of the fennel superbly, and the orange vinaigrette was so good, I'm planning on making a batch of it just to put on other salads.  

My one and only complaint?? Not enough pictures.  I have to admit that I'm one of those people who actually likes to see in pictures what I'm making.    But that doesn't detract from the overall qualities of the cook-book.

Plus, I'm planning on ordering another one of Ms. Klein's books (I still have some B&N gift cards from the Holidays).

Monday, February 6, 2012

Post-Komen Thoughts From a Breast Cancer Survivor

Sorry if I seem to be ranting on and on about this, but as someone who so recently had breast cancer, I guess it just hit a nerve.

I was one of the lucky ones.    One of the first things I learned following my breast cancer diagnosis was that there are "good" breast cancers and "bad" breast cancers.

Prior to last September when I was diagnosed, I had only thought that there was "breast cancer," I had no idea that there are different types and some can be worse than others.

I had a "bad" type.   I was diagnosed with an invasive lobular carcinoma, an aggressive type of breast cancer that runs the risk of metastasizing easily.     I also found out that the type of breast cancer I had would never form a lump.

I never knew that you could have breast cancer and never had a lump.   With all the "breast cancer awareness" out there, that fact there are many kinds of breast cancers that don't form lumps never seems to be discussed.

I was lucky in that I'm an upper middle class woman with decent health insurance (decent in that it pays for screenings), so being the good Girl Scout that I am, I always went in annually for my mammograms.

It was that dutiful behavior that probably saved my life.

Although I had a "bad" type of breast cancer, the main tumor that they found was less than 1 centimeter across.   There where other micro tumors that were less than 2 millimeters spread throughout the breast, but I managed to catch my cancer at an extremely early stage.  Had it gone even one more year, my prognosis could have been completely different, and I would have needed much more intensive treatments.

After my diagnosis, I reached out to breast cancer survivors.  What amazed me despite all the money pouring into breast cancer charities, we haven't gotten all that far treatment wise in the last 20 years.

Here's the basic outline of what happens if you get breast cancer.  First you have surgery, either a lumpectomy or a mastectomy and you may need to have lymph nodes removed (I did).   Then you will definitely have to have radiation, five days a week, for five to six weeks.   Depending on how your cancer progressed, you may need chemotherapy which usually comes before the radiation.

Now, you speak with women who had breast cancer a year ago, or 20 years ago, and you know what?   They tell the same stories.   The treatment of the woman who had breast cancer 20 years ago, pretty much mirrors the treatment of the woman who had breast cancer last year.

We may have gotten to the point that we're finding cancer earlier and earlier but the treatments haven't progressed at all.

And, that's what I think was the Susan G. Komen Foundation's biggest failing.   With all the money they collected, they couldn't find any better options for curing breast cancer than surgery, radiation and chemotherapy??? 

Why is it that a daughter being diagnosed with breast cancer today is essentially going through the exact same treatment regimen that her mother did 20 years ago?

Up until the night before my surgery, we did not know if I needed a lumpectomy or mastectomy.    As I contemplated losing my breast all I could think about was how barbaric it all is.   That we have to rip off women's breasts to save there lives.  This is, after all, the 21st century and this is the best we can do?

BTW, I don't know if you've viewed this brave woman's story yet, but it's worth at least listening too if you're too squeamish to watch:

The entire time I watched this video I just kept thinking, "with all the walks and pink ribbons slapped on useless products, why does this woman have to go through this."

Why do women still have to worry about losing their hair due to chemotherapy?   You mean that after all the money that's been collected, they haven't been able to find any better drugs?  

And, for smaller cancers, like mine, why do I even have to undergo surgery?  Why is it that we're not at the point were an injection could have done the trick?

And, why six weeks of radiation, five days a week?  It's exhausting, and emotionally draining to have to drag yourself to a hospital five days a week for that long to get treatments.   Why hasn't the technology been improved to the point were breast cancer patients only need to go 3 days a week for 3 weeks?  Is that so much to ask?

Yes, the Susan G. Komen/Planned Parenthood revealed some failings in the breast cancer charity world, but the real failings are that women diagnosed with breast cancer are no better off today, treatment wise, then they were 20 years ago. 

I was one of the lucky ones.  I only needed a lumpectomy and radiation.   No chemo for me.   I'm also lucky because I was able to get annual screenings so that my cancer was found early.

What about the women who don't have ready access to early screenings?   What about the women who don't have insurance and for whom getting annual mammograms is cost prohibitive?  

I was also lucky because I had insurance to pay for the bulk of my treatments.  But even with my insurance, I still have over $8,000 in medical bills in co-pays and other costs my insurance won't pay.  

I can swing this $8,000 in unintended costs.  I don't like it.  I'm not happy about it, and it will mean delaying some big ticket purchases (like the new car my husband needs), but what about the families who couldn't cover $8,000 in unexpected medical bills due to someone in the family getting breast cancer.

Or worse, what if they don't have insurance?   According to the bills I got, the hospital alone charged over $35,000 for my lumpectomy.  My breast surgeon charged over $26,000.    I didn't even bother to total up all the other costs, but it probably easily exceeded $75,000.   

This is Susan G. Komen's real failure.   Women shouldn't have to worry about losing their breasts, undergoing weeks and weeks of exhausting treatments, losing their hair and getting strapped with huge medical bills because they were diagnosed with breast cancer in the 21st century.

Friday, February 3, 2012

They Reversed, Except they Really Didn't

OK it's been all over the media today that Susan G. Komen "reversed" it's position regarding funding of Planned Parenthood.

Except they really didn't.   If you read the fine print, you'll see that they only said that Planned Parenthood is "eligible" for future grants, not that they'll actually get them. 

It's also interesting that SGK is supposed to be for finding a cure but only if that cure is in accord with right-wing ideals.    Turns out that SGK has been cutting off funding for research facilities that engage in stem cell research, even if the research they were originally funding wasn't using stem cells.   In other words, a research facility could lose it's SGK funding if it engaged in ANY stem cell research (say for Diabetes).

I'm sorry about getting political and going off topic on this (but IT IS my blog, so, in a sense, I get to do what I want), but this is  an issue that matters to me.

Yesterday I made a donation to Planned Parenthood, but today I realized it wasn't enough.    So today I set up monthly contributions to both Planned Parenthood and NARAL--an organization which lobbies for women's reproductive rights.

If an anti-choice zealot like Karen Handel can weasel her way into the largest, most prestigious (until this week), breast cancer organization in the country then we have something to worry about.   

I realized I can not just sit back and just express frustration at the continued assaults from zealots on Planned Parenthood and women's reproductive freedoms.   My monthly donations are small, but it's a start in confronting the problem.


Thursday, February 2, 2012


And this is one of them.   It's off topic, but because I have had breast cancer I am livid at the Susan G. Komen Foundation's cowardly decision to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood--an organizations that provides FREE breast screenings to women who otherwise could not afford them. 

If you're not up-to-date on the issue you can read about it here, here, here and here.

BTW, they stop funding an organization that helps poor and low income women because of a trumped up investigation by an anti-choice congressman, yet they continue to affiliate with Bank of America and Penn State (isn't Penn State under investigation???)

Now let's make this absolutely clear.   The money SGK provided to Planned Parenthood was only used for cancer screenings.   NOT ABORTIONS.  Planned Parenthood provides abortions FOR WOMEN WHO WANT THEM, but that represents only a TINY fraction of the services they provide.   You can read about the impact of SGK's decision on Planned Parenthood here.

I used Planned Parenthood when I was a teen-ager to get my annual exams and contraceptives.   Being that I came from a strict Catholic family, there was no way my Mom was going to take me to a Gynecologist (not even for an exam) or to get contraceptives.   I didn't want to get pregnant, so my only option was Planned Parenthood.   I NEVER had an abortion, nor would I. 

But, many women DO want abortions, and will get them whether they are legal or not.    It pisses me off to no extent the bullying tactics of the ANTI-CHOICE (no, they are not PRO-LIFE they prove at every turn that they are the antithesis of pro-life), to prevent women reproductive freedom.  Not just with abortion, but birth control as well.

So, the Komen Foundation's decision to HURT women by cutting off funding to an organization which does more good in this country for women then any other REALLY, REALLY PISSES ME OFF.  

And, I don't understand the BS about abortions causing breast cancer.  First, there's no scientific evidence of it (I had breast cancer and NO WHERE do they say you're at higher risk because you've had an abortions).  Second, even if it where true, then it's STILL a woman's choice as to whether or not she wants to take the risk.

Now, I've expressed my reservations about SGK in the past.   Let's just say that most of the money they raise doesn't end up helping the people they're supposedly serving, and it's more about creating profits for it's corporate sponsors than doing stuff to prevent breast cancer.  

There's also a documentary coming out next month which I'd like to see.  Here's the trailer:

I will never give another dime to SGK. Instead, I made donation to Planned Parenthood, and plan to make more in the future.    If you want to do so, you can do so here
It's become clear that the Susan G. Komen Foundation has lost it's way. It's no longer an organization dedicated to finding a cure for breast cancer, or helping women who either need to be screened for breast cancer or are dealing with breast cancer.

They hired an anti-choice political operative showing that what they are now about is promoting anti-choice politics over women's health. They are no more than an arm of big corporations focusing on making profits off of women and breast cancer.

OK, my rant is just about over.  Here's what I want all of you to take away in the end:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sign, Sign Everywhere a sign

Actually according to a new study, the above sign really should be everywhere. New York tried posting these signs in several locations by elevators and found that it increased the number people using the stairs.

Here's the gist:

The results of the study, which will appear in the February issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, were pretty astounding. Stair use increased immediately at all locations by amounts ranging from 9.2% to 34.7%. And it doesn’t seem that tenants and employees got tired of taking the stairs, either. As Karen K. Lee, the author of the study, said, “The gains in physical activity continued to be observed nine months after the signs were first placed.”
The next step, of course, would be making the location of the stairs obvious. Why is it that you have to seek out the stairs in most buildings?  You can always find the elevators, they're obvious, but the stairs??? They're usually in some far off corner hidden behind a heavy door.

I know, because I'm one of those people who tries to take the stairs rather than the elevator anytime I'm going up less than four flights. I'll take them down, however, from just about any floor (I think once you start hitting the 20th floor and up taking the stairs is difficult