Sutra Commentary – The meaning of “Om”

Sutra Commentary: The meaning of “OM”
By Ally Ford

Why Chant Om?

The Om Symbol

Yoga Sutra 1.28 That (the word Om) should be repeated while contemplating its meaning.
Tajjapaha tadartha bhavanam

Why do we chant Om? In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali tells us that Om (pronounced A-U-M) is the designator for Isvara, and Isvara is the highest level of consciousness possible in all beings everywhere, the true Self, and the pervading energy which connects all beings.

In other words, Isvara represents the infinite in all of us, the divine sweetness of life, ultimate knowledge, and the energy which guides and inspires the teachers and leaders of mankind who arise over the centuries. This energy is something we try to tap in to through yoga practice and while these words used to describe it are helpful, it can be very difficult to conceptualize.

So, Patanjali gives us the symbol and the sound, something more tangible on which to focus our minds in order to connect to Isvara. Instead of meditating on a formless thing, we are given something on which to meditate in the form of Om.

Reciting Om repeatedly and contemplating its meaning gives us a direct connection to this higher power or consciousness enabling us to go from merely thinking about the idea of Isvara to perceiving or experiencing it.  This is an introduction to the practice of mantra yoga, a practice which aims to bring about changes in matter and consciousness through the agency of sound. It is scientific fact that sound creates vibration through matter.

Chanting and the resulting vibration moves energy through the body, removing physical, emotional, mental and psychic blockages or holding, and lifts us up to a higher energetic plane or level of consciousness. It can be quite blissful and therapeutic. If you have never chanted you can get a sense of how it feels to release sound into and through your being the next time you let out a squeal or scream when you’re excited or perhaps even angry, or how it feels to belt out your favorite song while no one else can hear you in your car or shower.

Om is the most important of all mantras, which is why most Sanskrit chants start and end with it, and it is important to mediate on its meaning during recitation. It is considered the primordial seed from which the universe was born, as well as the root mantra from which all other mantras emerge.

Start with the “A” in the back of the throat, which comes from the heart, is the beginning of everything, and symbolizes the level of consciousness known as the waking state. Allow the sound rise up through the “U” or “Oooo” in the roof of the mouth, which expresses our true state of being and the dreaming state of consciousness. Let the “M” vibrate between the lips and throughout the entire body, representing the state of deep sleep, and bringing the endocrine system into balance and harmony. The fourth part of Om is silence, space or the infinite. Sit in this space for a moment and pay attention to how you feel.

The next time you chant Om, contemplate the meaning of each of the letters while creating the sound. Rather than rushing through it, give yourself time and space to feel its effects. Release inhibition and allow yourself to be carried through the three normal states of consciousness into the resulting silence at the end of the sound, described in ancient texts as ultimate reality or blissfulness.

About the Sutras: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, written around the 3rd Century B.C., was the first-ever “guide book” on yoga. The Sutras aim to systematize the practice of yoga and we may look to this ancient yet timeless text to inspire our present day practice.

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Why You Need A Rain Barrel

Why You Need a Rain Barrel

By Nancy Mann Jackson, October 15, 2011

Why you need a rain barrell.

Rain Barrell

When Aaron Pratt began selling his handmade rain barrels on eBay in 2001, he was the only one doing it. Today, there are almost 400 different rain barrels for sale on the site. They’re also available at your local discount store or natural grocery.

Why the explosion in manufacturing rain barrels? Pratt, owner of Aaron’s Rain Barrels in Leominster, Mass., says people have figured out it’s an easy, inexpensive way to go green.

Rainwater harvesting is particularly useful for gardeners because it saves money on water bills and, some argue, leads to healthier plants than watering with chlorinated or treated water. But “rainwater harvesting has ecological benefits far beyond gardening,” says Chris Anderson of Eden on Earth, an ecological design-based landscaping company in northern Arizona.

“Rainwater harvesting moderates rainfall in both wet and dry regions, slowing it down and making it more useful,” he says. “In arid Arizona, where I live, it dramatically reduces the pressure on a marginal water supply.”

Harvesting rainwater has become more important even in nondesert areas. The city of Chicago, for instance, has offered incentives for residents to install rain barrels for more than a decade, because it reduces the volume of storm water that must be treated before it enters Lake Michigan, Anderson says. Currently, Chicago residents can get a $40 rebate toward the purchase of a rain barrel.

Rebate or not, here are five reasons you need a rain barrel of your own:

1. Save money. Use rainwater to water indoor houseplants or thirsty vegetables such as tomato plants, and cut back on your water bill.

2. Employ area watering. Rain barrels are great for watering a specific location near the rain barrel such as a flowerbed or landscaped area, Pratt says. There’s no need to install an irrigation system or lug garden hoses around the yard.

3. Save your basement. If you have a leaky basement or crawl space, rain barrels can be used to capture and redirect the rainwater to keep it out of those underground spaces.

4. Be prepared for water bans. During droughts or local watering bans, when your neighbors can’t water their plants or wash their cars, the water you’ve collected in your rain barrel is free for you to use.

5. Easy to use. Rain barrels can be freestanding or attached to the downspout of your home’s gutters, and Pratt says both types are easy to install and use.

Shopping tip: Anderson recommends looking for a model that has an overflow; two outlets (one at the very bottom and one higher, so the water stays cleaner); a screened top to protect the water from sunlight; and a removable lid so it’s easier to clean.

Yoga 101 – What To Wear

Yoga 101: What to Wear
By Erin Wheeler

What to Wear in your Yoga Class.

Yoga 101 - What to Wear

Choosing the right clothing for your yoga practice is all about comfort and support.

When I was growing up, about 90 percent of the people I went to school with were obssessed with Calvin Klein jeans. I remember teenage Brooke Shields asking us, “Do you want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.”

In a yoga class, it’s no different. The lovely models who grace Yoga Journal and other magazines in the highest-end athletic wear are nice to look at, but the clothing is not always practical or affordable. Since starting my yoga practice, I have been on a continuous search for not only clothes that fit me and my unique body and frame, but also items that are worth my hard-earned money.

In one of my first vinyasa yoga classes, I wore an old concert T-shirt, and during my first downward facing dog, my shirt went flying up and exposed me in ways I was not ready for. I was wearing baggy sweatpants that wouldn’t hold my baggy T-shirt in place, and I was very distracted and uncomfortable.

The type of yoga class you attend should be a deciding factor in what you wear. For a yoga nidra class (yogic sleep), I wouldn’t recommend wearing hot yoga shorts or a bra top. For a hot yoga class, I wouldn’t wear a heavy long-sleeved top or sweatpants. No matter which class you choose, I recommend trying out a few poses while you’re trying on clothes to see how your body feels.

My expertise in fashion really only comes from a brief stint as a Fashion Buying and Merchandising major in college. I am not a big advocate for trend silhouettes, but I am a big advocate for what feels good when I practice and teach. You can find many of the items below at local activewear stores.

Under It All

For women: Your sports bra should feel comfortable. A lot of athletic tops have built-in bras and only support you well if you wear a C cup or below. For larger sizes, a couple of good sports bras will be well worth your investment. I have sports bras that cost $15, and others that cost $50. As long as it makes you feel comfortable and supported, there are bras to choose from in almost every price range. Underwear should feel nonexistent, so a thong or bikini-cut style is a good choice.

For men: I asked several male friends what is most comfortable during yoga, and nine out of 10 recommended boxer briefs. I am no expert on how uncomfortable some postures can become when wearing the wrong underwear, but I have heard horror stories about painful binding and public exposure. Look for support and comfort when when choosing your yoga undergarments.

On Top

For women: When trying a new top, I try it out in downward facing dog. I need to make sure my girls stay in place! Form-fitting T-shirts, tanks and yoga tops with a built-in bra are the way to go. FromTarget to Lululemon, there are selections at a variety of prices.

For men: As with the ladies, form-fitting T-shirts or sports tops will prevent your shirt from riding up over your face and prohibiting breathing. Most of my male friends do not like to shop, my husband included. Save yourself some time and money by trying on a couple of styles (don’t wait until you get home) and doing some moves, and then buy five in every color. You won’t have to shop for another five years!


For me, buying pants is hard. My waist is smallish, but below that is ka-dunk-a-dunkish bottom half, with wide hips and long thick legs. Going out to purchase any style of pant, let alone yoga pants, gives me hives. Once you find a pair of pants that you love, buy a couple of pairs right then and there; otherwise, you will wish you had. I buy two pairs at a time, depending on price, to avoid having to do it again for a few more months.

For women: Fitted capri-style pants are what I see being worn most often in the studios. I like a long, fitted pant that has a comfortable waistband. I tend to stay away from pants that need a drawstring to tighten because it’s annoying when the tie comes undone in the middle of a vinyasa.

For men: I have noticed and have been told that loose, long shorts or fitted capri-style pants seem to be the most comfortable. Shorts are tricky for men and women, so I suggest again that you do some poses in the shorts to determine whether you are comfortable in them and whether they are appropriate for your style of yoga.

The Unitard

Unitards are available for men and women and are awesome when made properly, although they are time consuming when you have to use the bathroom. Most of the unitards that I have worn are double layered in the torso. They hold you in in all the right places, and there is very little room for a wardrobe malfunction to occur.

Whatever you choose to wear to yoga, remember in the long run it’s all about the physical, emotional and spiritual results of the practice, not a brand name or the hottest color for fall. When choosing your yoga wear be creative, be comfortable and be practical, and you can’t go wrong!


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Dangers of Using Fish Oil Supplements

Throw out that Fish Oil Supplement!
By Dr. Shah

I was one of the first people to promote the use of fish oil and Omega-3s. I did it because they contributed to a sharper mind, lower cholesterol, a healthier heart and more. Sure, they help in those areas but they also have a lot of major issues.

In fact I don’t recommend them to my patients at all any more. For two primary reasons:

Your Fish Oil may be Toxic!

Right now there is a lawsuit against multiple fish oil manufacturers because of this. An independent study by The Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation of many fish oil products found that every single one of them contained PCB’s and other chemicals. That’s just not safe. These chemicals can wreak havoc on your body!19 trillion gallons of mercury, lead, fertilizers and petroleum is dumped into our water supplies every year. It makes sense that the fish living in this water would consume it. If you’re taking fish oil capsules, chances are the fish your oil came from were poisoned.

Fish Oil Gives You Nasty Breath and Goes Rancid Quickly!

One of the side effects of taking a fish oil supplement is that they cause ‘fish burps,’ or ‘fish repeat.’ Between half an hour to an hour after taking the product the patient will start to burp and these burps will taste of rotten fish. This is incredibly unpleasant for the patient and for anyone near them!

Not only that, most fish oil goes bad pretty quickly. Like a fine wine it can oxidize before you get a chance to take it. It can even arrive at your doorstep in a sealed bottle already rancid.

This is all terrible news but there is a solution. You can still get an extremely high level of Omega-3’s into your body without dealing with the dangers of consuming mercury and other contaminates.

Here’s What to Take Instead:

The product is called Krill Oil and it’s a revolutionary discovery in personal health! Krill Oil is an Omega-3 supplement that is 48 times more powerful than ordinary fish oil. It’s made by extracting oil from krill, a shrimp like crustacean that lives in pristine waters of the Antarctic ocean. In fact, in a head to head study it was discovered that Krill Oil literally beats the scales off fish oil.

Proven Effectiveness:

Fish oil may be good but Krill Oil has been PROVEN to be:

  • 11 times more effective than fish oil at reducing cholesterol
  • 3 times more effective at improving brain health
  • 48 times better at reducing free radicals in your body
  • Way easier to absorb thanks to Phospholipids


Being a doctor I don’t give my patients anything unless it’s backed by scientific evidence. Here’s the proof that Krill Oil is simply the only choice for Omega-3’s:


Krill Oil has been proven to lower your ‘bad’ cholesterol levels and boost your ‘good’ cholesterol. A study by McGill University in Montreal found patients taking just 500 mg of krill oil daily achieved 300% improvement in cholesterol levels! 

Heart Health

Get your heart back in shape like it was in your 20’s! A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that a group of participants that had been taking 300 mg of krill oil daily reduced their CRP levels by 19.3% after seven days. After 14 days, CRP levels dropped even further by 29.7%. The lower your CRP levels the less your chances of having heart issues.

Joint Inflammation

Say good bye to join pain forever! A study was conducted by Western University in collaboration with McMaster University. Findings revealed that krill oil reduced pain by 28.9%, stiffness by 20.3% and functional impairment by 22.8%. Moreover, results indicated that krill oil “significantly inhibits inflammation and reduces arthritic symptoms within a short treatment period of 7 and 14 days.” According to the study.

Brain Function

Stop forgetting peoples numbers and names or misplacing your keys. You’ll have the sharpest brain in the room with the help of Krill Oil. A study of 30 adults with attention difficulties showed 46% improvement in mental concentration and 48.9 % mental focus after 90 days of taking krill oil supplements. In fact, recent studies by prominent universities have found that Krill Oil is better than fish oil in almost every way. Here’s a chart that compares the two:

Krill Oil is Dr. Shah’s choice for Omega-3’s. You’ll have a healthier heart, pain-free joints and more. Not only that, it’ll help boost brain function and lower your cholesterol. Click the link below to learn more about Dr. Shah’s most trusted brand.

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Vitamin D – Cavities, Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease

The Vitamin that is Better than Fluoride in Reducing Cavities
By Dr. Mercola, 10.24.11

Yoga Beach Vitamin D

Yoga On The Beach also gives you your Vitamin D.

Dental caries has been shown to be inversely related to total sun exposure, with those living in sunnier areas having about half as many cavities as those living in less sunny areas

Increasing you and your family’s vitamin D levels appear to be a much better option compared to drinking fluoridated water, as there are many additional health benefits of vitamin D, and a number of adverse effects of water fluoridation, including dental fluorosis and potential reduction in IQ

There are multiple connections between your oral health, heart disease, and vitamin D status, and higher vitamin D levels have been found to prevent health problems related to your mouth, heart, and cardiovascular system

Vitamin D may also play a crucial role in cancer. Grassroots Health is now implementing the world’s first cancer prevention project and study to evaluate vitamin D as a preventive strategy against breast cancer. Participants are being sought.

Studies have linked geographical variations in dental health and tooth loss to sun exposure. Dental caries has been shown to be inversely related to mean hours of sunlight per year, with people living in the sunny west having half as many cavities as those in the much less sunny northeast.

As reported by the Vitamin D Council:

“There were also several studies reported on vitamin D and dental caries in the 1920s and 1930s. May Mellanby and coworkers in Sheffield, England, did studies on the role of vitamin D on teeth in the 1920s.

The first experiments were with dogs, where it was found that vitamin D stimulated the calcification of teeth. Subsequently, they studied the effect of vitamin D on dental caries in children, finding a beneficial effect.

Additional studies were conducted on children in New York regarding dental caries with respect to season, artificial ultraviolet-B (UVB) irradiance, and oral intake of vitamin D with the finding that it took 800 IU/day to prevent caries effectively.”

Two proposed mechanisms causing this beneficial effect include:

Vitamin D beneficially affects calcium metabolism, and Vitamin D, which is produced in your body in response to sunlight exposure, induces cathelicidin, an antimicrobial peptide, which attacks oral bacteria linked to dental caries

According to the Vitamin D Council:

“Use of vitamin D appears to be a better option for reducing dental caries than fluoridation of community water supplies, as there are many additional health benefits of vitamin D and a number of adverse effects of water fluoridation such as fluorosis (mottling) of teeth and bones. … Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations around 30-40 ng/ml (75-100 nmol/L) should significantly reduce the formation of dental caries. (The average white American has a level near 25 ng/ml, while the average black American has a level near 16 ng/ml.)”

Oral Health, Heart Disease, and Vitamin D

As you probably know, many public water supplies around the US are fluoridated, allegedly to help prevent dental caries. However, there’s overwhelming evidence showing that ingesting fluoride is NOT the way to protect your teeth. On the contrary, fluoride is a potent toxin, and over 40 percent of American children and teens are showing signs of fluoride overexposure in the form of dental fluorosis—unsightly yellow or brown spots or mottling on their teeth. Fluoride consumption has also been linked to a long list of other health problems.

The idea that vitamin D may help protect against cavities is very interesting, and actually makes loads of sense since we already know it is necessary for bone health. Vitamin D also upregulates a specific gene that produces over 200 anti-microbial peptides, some of which work like broad-spectrum antibiotics, including cathelicidin that attacks oral bacteria.

It’s also interesting to note the connections between oral health, heart health, and vitamin D status. For example, gum disease increases your risk of several other serious diseases, including, pneumonia, lung disease, diabetes and stroke—and vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to an increased risk of all of these conditions! This is a beautiful illustration of the inter-dependency between seemingly disparate systems within your body.

Sun Exposure May Be Essential for Heart Health

The link between gum disease and heart disease may not be obvious, but chronic inflammation is a hallmark of both conditions and inflammation in your body plays a major role in the build-up of plaque in your arteries, which can lead to a heart attack. And vitamin D helps combat inflammation, as just mentioned.

Furthermore, according to research by Dr. Stephanie Seneff, the vitamin D produced in your skin in response to sun exposure will impact your sulfur status, which may also play a crucial role in heart disease, so there are many interrelated factors affecting each other, thereby raising or lowering your risk of a number of health problems.

So what does sun exposure have to do with heart health?

Your heart requires cholesterol sulfate for optimal function. When you are deficient in cholesterol sulfate (due to a lack of cholesterol in your body), your body tries to protect your heart by creating arterial plaque, because the platelets produce cholesterol sulfate in the plaque. Dr. Seneff believes that the mechanism we call “cardiovascular disease,” of which arterial plaque is a hallmark, is actually your body’s way to compensate for not having enough cholesterol sulfate.

Now, when you expose your skin to sunshine, your skin synthesizes vitamin D3 sulfate, which is a water soluble form of sulfur that can travel freely in your blood stream, making it readily available.

Oral vitamin D3, on the other hand, is unsulfated, and this form needs LDL (the so-called “bad” cholesterol) as a vehicle of transport. Her suspicion is that the simple oral non-sulfated form of vitamin D may not provide as much of the same heart-healthy benefits as the vitamin D created in your skin from sun exposure, because it cannot be converted to vitamin D sulfate, and therefore will not improve your sulfur status. This is yet another reason to really make a concerted effort to get ALL your vitamin D requirements from exposure to sunshine!

Your Vitamin D Level is Directly Related to Your Risk of Heart Disease

But that’s not all. Dr. Carlos Camargo of Harvard University recently wrote an editorial about the growing number of studies that link low vitamin D levels to heart attack, heart failure, stroke, hypertension and diabetes. One recent study found that every 10 ng/ml lower blood vitamin D concentration resulted in a nine percent greater risk of death, and a 25 percent greater risk of heart attack.

As noted in Dr. Camargo’s editorial, credit is due to the first man to discover the connection, an epidemiologist in New Zealand by the name of Professor Robert Scragg, who first noticed the association in 1981. His population-based case-control study found a strong inverse association between 25-hydroxyvitamin D level in the blood and risk for heart attack.

As reported by the Vitamin D Council, there are currently two large, population-based, randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trials on the health effects of vitamin D supplements underway. One is at Harvard, which is looking at cancer and heart disease. The other is being done in New Zealand, and is focused on heart disease, infection and fractures. Unfortunately, the results from these studies are not expected to be available until 2017. Six years is a long time to sit around and wait for the results from these studies. I strongly encourage you NOT to wait and see. The evidence that optimal vitamin D levels are necessary for general health and disease prevention is overwhelming.

Vitamin D and Cancer

Two grassroots organizations are now focusing on vitamin D as a preventive measure for cancer. There are already over 800 studies supporting the theory that vitamin D may prevent a large percentage of several types of cancer, and I’m very pleased to see that this information is starting to gain foothold.

Vitamin D has a protective effect against cancer in several ways, including:

• Increasing the self-destruction of mutated cells (which, if allowed to replicate, could lead to cancer)

• Reducing the spread and reproduction of cancer cells

• Causing cells to become differentiated (cancer cells often lack differentiation)

• Reducing the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones, which is a step in the transition of dormant tumors turning cancerous

The Vitamin D Council, a nonprofit educational corporation based in California, recently launched their “Vitamin D and Cancer” campaign, presenting 20 detailed summaries of the evidence. The summaries were prepared by epidemiologist Dr. William Grant, founder of the nonprofit organization, Sunlight, Nutrition and Health Research Center (SUNARC). He also serves as the Science Director for the Vitamin D Council. I highly recommend reviewing these summaries, which can be found here. (Just select the type of cancer you want to review from the listing on the left.)

According to the Vitamin D Council:

“Some researchers believe the link between vitamin D sufficiency and a decreased risk in cancer is promising. A randomized controlled trial found a 77 percent reduction in all-cancer incidence when the study group supplemented with 1,100 IU/day of vitamin D plus 1,450 mg/day calcium. Says Dr. Grant, “Based on various studies of UVB, vitamin D and cancer to date, it appears that global cancer burden can be reduced by 15-25 percent if everyone had vitamin D blood levels above 40 ng/ml.”

Some of the facts presented in these summaries include:

Geographical studies have found reduced risk in mortality rates for 20 types of cancer in regions of higher solar UVB doses.

Observational studies have found that the risk of breast, colon, and rectal cancer fall as vitamin D blood levels rise at least up to 40 ng/mL (100 nmol/L).

Those with higher vitamin D blood levels at time of cancer diagnosis have nearly twice the survival rate of those with the lowest levels.

Higher UVB exposure early in life is associated with reduced risk of breast and prostate cancer.

World’s First Breast Cancer Prevention Study Underway!

In addition to the Vitamin D Council’s educational campaign, Grassroots Health is now in the process of initiating the world’s first breast cancer prevention project and study, to investigate and evaluate vitamin D as a preventive strategy for breast cancer.

“We are looking now for some really serious funding to support that as a major research project,” says Carole Baggerly, director and founder of Grassroots Health.

If you would like to sign up as a participant in this groundbreaking study, or make a donation to support this project, you can do so here. This project is only for women who are:

  • 60 years of age and older
  • have no current cancer
  • are not currently being treated for cancer

Help Promote Public Health By Participating in the D*Action Study. You can also become a participant in the still ongoing Grassroots Health D*Action study, which is evaluating vitamin D’s impact on your overall health status. When you join D*action, you agree to test your vitamin D levels twice a year during a five year program, and share your health status to demonstrate the public health impact of this nutrient. There is a $60 fee each 6 months ($120/year) for your sponsorship of the project, which includes a complete new test kit to be used at home, and electronic reports on your ongoing progress.

You will get a follow up email every six months reminding you “it’s time for your next test and health survey.”

Make Sure You’re NEVER Deficient in Vitamin D if You are Critically Ill

Dr. Paul Lee of the University of Queensland in Australia believes that people all over the world are needlessly dying because they have vitamin D deficiency. He believes severe immune dysfunction, bone hyper-resorption, blood poisoning, and hyper-inflammation in critically ill patients could all be resolved with sufficient vitamin D. He notes that the stress of surgery uses up tremendous amounts of vitamin D, and cites studies showing that death in the ICU and the CCU is two to three times higher for the vitamin D deficient.

According to Dr. Lee:

“Vitamin D deficiency is highly prevalent and has been associated with a diverse range of chronic medical conditions in the general population. In contrast, the prevalence, pathogenesis and significance of vitamin D deficiency have received little attention in acute medicine. Vitamin D deficiency is seldom considered and rarely corrected adequately, if at all, in critically ill patients.

Recent recognition of the extra-skeletal, pleiotropic actions of vitamin D in immunity, epithelial function and metabolic regulation may underlie the previously under-recognized contribution of vitamin D deficiency to typical co-morbidities in critically ill patients, including sepsis, systemic inflammatory response syndrome and metabolic dysfunction. Improved understanding of vitamin D metabolism and regulation in critical illness may allow therapeutic exploitation of vitamin D to improve outcome in critically ill patients.”

This echoes previous findings that your vitamin D status is critical for overall health, prevention of disease, and for successful recuperation—whether you’re recuperating from a case of the flu, from surgery, or even cancer treatment.

The Best Source of Vitamin D

Exposing your skin to sunlight is the best way to get vitamin D as this will also produce vitamin D3 sulfate, which I discussed earlier. As a general guideline, getting about 15 to 20 minutes of sun exposure a day, with at least 40 percent of your skin exposed, will boost the vitamin levels above 40 ng/ml in many. However, this is highly variable and dependent on a number of factors, including your skin color, location and altitude, for example. If you’re able to get out in the sun for an adequate time period each day, your vitamin D levels should be naturally optimized.

If you can’t get enough sun exposure during certain parts of the year, I advise using a safe tanning bed to allow your body to produce vitamin D naturally. Safe tanning beds have magnetic ballasts and produce less UVA than sunshine.

A third option is taking a high-quality vitamin D supplement. The most important thing to keep in mind if you opt for oral supplementation is to use natural vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) only. Do not use the synthetic and highly inferior vitamin D2. Unless you get a deep dark tan, it is wise to get your blood levels checked as that is the only way to know for certain you have reached therapeutic levels. To determine the appropriate dose, you need to get your vitamin D levels tested. Ideally, you’ll want to be between 50-70 ng/ml. Based on recent research published by Grassroots Health from the D*Action study, the average adult needs to take 8,000 IU’s of vitamin D per day in order to elevate their levels above 40 ng/ml, which they believe is the bare minimum for disease prevention.

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Teaching Yoga to Kids

Kidding Around Yoga

Kidding Around Yoga

Teaching Yoga to Kids
By Haris Harini Lender, RYT 500

Part of embracing the Yogic path includes practicing Karma Yoga…. selfless service. Like most folks, I struggle with time management issues. So when a few years back when I was asked to feed the homeless for Thanksgiving, I was very sad that because of family commitments I couldn’t do it.

As a service, I have regularly taught Hatha classes to kids at a homeless shelter and now at a title one school. I can’t help everyone all of the time. But I am now content, and feel good about the fact that I do my Karma Yoga while doing what I do best…TEACHING YOGA TO KIDS!  This is how I choose to serve. And I have stopped beating myself up over the fact that I am not wonder woman.. and I haven’t learned how to astral project…”yet”.

Q: How many people have the ability to feed the homeless??


Q: How many people have the ability to share the gift of Yoga with children?

A: NOT many!

Q: How many Yoga teachers are teaching underprivileged kids for free?

A: Not enough!

Jeff (one of our trainees), Cassie and I, are teaching a weekly class at a title one school in St. Pete. I was asked to come twice a week. I didn’t have more free time so I “bravely” offered to teach the entire 4th grade at once.  35 kids! Honestly ….the first class was bedlam….UNTIL I put on “Hip Hop Yoga Bop”, or “The Yoga Slide”, a take off on The CHA CHA SLIDE, and we started dancin… THEN THE MAGIC HAPPENED! 

Now the kids can’t wait for us to come. We meditate, breathe, practice Hatha, AND we dance….!! If you haven’t heard the fabulously fun song “Hip Hop, Yoga Bop”, email me and I’ll mail you a free download! Imagine all the fun you can have with your kids, your friends kids, or perhaps volunteering to a group of children somewhere that might never have the opportunity to practice Yoga at all. KAY “Licensees”  teach a minimum of one Karma class per month. Our music is making my dream of sharing yoga with children everywhere a reality. KAY life is good!

Helping your Child develop Healthy Eating Habits

Because I realize that not every child eats like mine (dinner tonight was brown rice, pinto beans, and broccoli and cauliflower florets, with Liquid Aminos sprinkled on top… and she licked the bowl clean!), I know that changing tastebuds takes time.

When transitioning to the “healthy” version- Skippy Peanut Butter to alllllllllll natural ground peanuts (or our fav- Sunbutter), or even just adding veggies to a meal, start slowly and make even little milestones a big deal.

Consistency is the last, and most important. I read in a mom-blog that one mom put leafy greens on her kid’s plates every night.  The children made faces the first week, just ignored them the next few weeks, but in a month, the children were willing to try the kale and collard greens.  Within two months, the children were eating full servings!

So, on that note, I’ll leave you with this.  Children need role-models, food role-models, that is. Set the example with choosing fresh fruits and vegetables for meals and snacks. AND, cut your food bill by leaving those bagged and boxed foods on the shelf 🙂

May the entire universe be filled with Peace and Joy, Love and light………. and lots of peaceful children!

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St. Pete Yoga Festival 10.21-23, 2011 is pleased to be a sponsor of the 2011 St. Pete Yoga Festival.

Come OM with us this Friday through Sunday, October 21-23. The St Pete Yoga Festival is three days of amazing events, Yoga, meditations, presentations, music, food, dance and more. They’ve brought together some terrific talent to share with you.

As a sponsor we will have a tent/booth on Sunday for the Yoga Festival at Sunken Gardens. Come spend Sunday enjoying all the festivities in this beautiful, lush and tropical outdoor garden. There will be Yoga classes all day long; health, wellness and Ayurveda presentations: Kirtan, concerts, chants (call and response), music and dance presentations, food, beverages and more! Stop by our booth, say hello and view all of our beautiful yoga products and gifts, all at special show prices.

The price is so affordable and most of the weekend is simply love offerings/donations to benefit ‘Embracing the World’. For example, the Yoga Fast Pass Admission to all TWENTY (20) Sunday YOGA classes, SEMINARS, presentations, concerts and Sunken Gardens is just $34.95! Reserve yours HERE! And when checking out be sure to enter the discount code DEBB

Here’s the complete line up:

Friday Evening Kick-off – It’s a PARTY! It’s FREE! You’re Invited! Bring your SMILE, your SPIRIT and your BEST MOVES because they’re kicking off the St. Pete Yoga Festival with live music, starting with a ROCKIN’ SET with JIM BECKWITH, followed by an amazing performance by KIRTANANDA, featuring Christine Ghezzo; then we’ll ASCEND with a guided Meditation by Kundalini Yogi Sunder Kaur from Yoga Village – featuring the music of SNATUM KAUR; next we’ll OPEN YOUR HEART with a SPIRITUAL AWAKENING with Yogi RAM GIAN; before we RELAX with a screening of a beautiful, moving film!

For dessert: an uplifting ONENESS BLESSING UNDER THE STARS and a DRUM CIRCLE, refreshments, conversation, fun and games, and more! Come on down – Love Offerings/Donations gratefully accepted, pay what you can with proceeds benefiting ‘Embracing The World’. Limited seating available, reserve your tickets here. When checking out be sure to enter the discount code DEBB.

Embracing the World is an organization that exists to help alleviate the burden of the world’s poor through helping to meet each of their five basic needs – food, shelter, education, healthcare and livelihood – wherever and whenever possible.

Best known for her practice of tenderly embracing all those who come to her, Amma has served as confidante and counselor to many of the 29 million people she has embraced throughout her life. Each of Embracing the World’s projects has been initiated in response to the needs of the world’s poor who have come to unburden their hearts to Amma and cry on her shoulder.

Saturday Seminar – Experience an amazing spiritual retreat, yoga & meditation, and an examination of some of the world’s great spiritual texts in this fusion of Christian Mysticism, Kundalini Yoga and Advaita Vedanta Retreat, “Peace and Sudden Enlightenment” – led by Jnana and Kundalini Yogi Ram Gian. They will systematically explore the question “Who am I that the Kingdom of Heaven is within me?” The answer will likely surprise many participants, and may lead to true spiritual awakening, peace, and the path to spiritual enlightenment.

Space is very limited! Reserve your spot now, only $99.95! When checking out use enter the discount code DEBB

Saturday Evening Benefit Concert – featuring Parvati: “NATAMBA” live in concert! In her show “Yoga In The Nightclub”, Parvati is Natamba, a being from the Cosmic Intelligence who left Avalon to go to Earth. Natamba brings a message of hope, interconnection and being.

This event open to the public and admission is FREE – However, we are gratefuly accepting a LOVE OFFERING (pay what you can) for the benefit of “Embracing the World” charities. Limited seating: RESERVE NOW! When checking out use the discount code DEBB

Sunday Festival at Sunken Gardens – Outdoor festival featuring Yoga classes all day long; health, wellness and Ayurveda presentations: Kirtan, concerts, chants (call and response), music and dance presentations, food, beverages and more! Again, stop by our booth, say hello, and view all of your beautiful yoga products and gifts all at special show prices.

Yoga Fast Pass Admission to all TWENTY (20) Sunday YOGA classes, SEMINARS, presentations, concerts and Sunken Gardens is just $34.95! Reserve yours HERE! Be sure to enter the discount code DEBB

Sunday Evening Meditation Workshop – World-renown Buddhist Monk Bhante Sujatha will lead our closing Festival ceremonies with Healing Through Loving Kindness Practice.

Hosted by Wings Bookstore at Unity Campus in the sanctuary. This event is open to the public for a LOVE OFFERING (pay what you can: $20-45 recommended). Limited seating – reserve your seat NOW!

CHILD CARE is available during the Festival on Sunday at the Gardens. Cost is $5/child/hour. Pay at the Child Care Center at the Gardens (indoors) day of the event.

PARKING is FREE to all attendees (in the Sunken Gardens lot), or on the street in the surrounding neighborhood.

So get busy – explore the festival, learn about our sponsors and enjoy!

Take Tumeric to avoid Pancreatic Cancer

Turmeric and Pancreatic Cancer

By Sylvia Booth Hubbard, October 13, 2011

The death of Steve Jobs last week added yet another name to the list of celebrities who have died from pancreatic cancer, a stellar group which includes Patrick Swayze, Michael Landon, Luciano Pavarotti, and Jack Benny.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and has the highest mortality rate of all cancers, killing 95 percent of its victims, according to the American Cancer Society.

“It’s a dismal, deadly disease,” surgical oncologist Dr. Robert Wascher, M.D., tells Newsmax Health. “But like other forms of cancer, up to 65 percent can be prevented by relatively modest diet and lifestyle changes,” says Wascher, author of “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race.”

One simple preventative step is to take the spice turmeric, (long used in Ayurvedic Medicine) which is a strong cancer fighter, says Wascher. Steve Jobs lived for seven years after he announced he was suffering from pancreatic cancer. Most victims aren’t nearly so fortunate and often live less than a year after their diagnosis. But Jobs had a rare type of pancreatic cancer called neuroendocrine. “Only 5 to 8 percent of pancreatic cancers are this type, and its biology is different from the more common garden variety called adenocarcinoma that most people get,” says Wascher. “The form Jobs had is less aggressive and patients tend to live longer.”

One reason for the poor survival statistics — it kills more than 37,000 Americans a year — is that pancreatic cancer usually causes no symptoms until it is advanced and has metastasized to other organs. The fortunate few who survive, including Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, are diagnosed early, when the disease is treatable by surgery — and usually as a result of a CT scan or MRI conducted for another reason.

Treatment options are few, says Wascher: “The only cure comes with very radical surgery. No one is cured by chemotherapy or radiation without surgery. If pancreatic tumors can’t be removed surgically, they tend to be quite resistant to chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

“Conventional medical and surgical procedures obviously do not cure pancreatic cancer for the vast majority of patients,” he says. “So, I think it’s reasonable to be a little more open-minded about complementary and alternative therapies when you have tried conventional therapies and have no other options. Both laboratory and clinical studies suggest there are some nutritional therapies that might have an effect on pancreatic cancer.”

There are two unconventional therapies Wascher suggests to some of his patients who are battling pancreatic cancer:

Turmeric. Turmeric has a cancer-fighting component called curcumin. “Laboratory tests and some animal studies show it has potential activity against pancreatic cancer.” But, he warns, “What works in a laboratory environment doesn’t necessarily work in humans.” Wascher himself takes 1,000 mg of turmeric twice a day. “I don’t know for sure that it will help me, but I’m pretty sure it won’t hurt.” There is no established dosage, but most experts recommend taking between 500 mg and 2,000 mg daily.

A Phase II clinical trial at MD Anderson Center involved 25 patients with pancreatic cancer who were given 8 grams of turmeric a day for two months. Tumor growth stopped in two patients, one for eight months and another for two-and-a-half years. Another patient’s tumor temporarily regressed by 73 percent. Since the only two drugs approved by the FDA are effective in no more than 10 percent of patients, turmeric’s effectiveness was similar with no side effects.

In another study, turmeric reduced tumor growth in mice with pancreatic cancer by 43 percent. When combined with fish oil, tumor growth was reduced by 70 percent.

Since turmeric is poorly absorbed by the body, experts advise mixing it with olive oil or a combination of olive oil and black pepper to increase absorption.

Metformin. Metformin is a drug used to treat Type 2 diabetes. University of Texas MD Anderson Center researchers found that diabetics who took metformin had a 60 percent lower risk of developing pancreatic cancer compared to diabetics who didn’t use the drug. “In clinical studies, we’ve found that people who take metformin tend to survive longer,” Wascher says. “Based on that data, I tend to put patients who have pancreatic cancer on metformin even if they have very mild diabetes. It’s such a lethal disease that it’s worth the hope of even a small benefit.”

By far the best option is to avoid pancreatic cancer, and as in the prevention of other cancers, changes in diet and lifestyle offer you your best chances of living a long and healthy life. Steps to lower risk include:

Quit smoking. Approximately 27 percent of pancreatic cancers are linked with smoking. One study in Los Angeles County found that smoking a pack or more of cigarettes a day was associated with a fivefold to sixfold increase in the risk. Research at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University found that a protein in the body which makes cancer cells more likely to spread is much higher in the pancreas of smokers who have pancreatic cancer.

Lose weight. About 25 percent of pancreatic cancer is associated with obesity. Women who are severely obese have a 45 percent higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer, according to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. And a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that adults who were overweight as teens had a 60 percent higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer as adults.

Eat fresh vegetables and whole grains. A study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention found that people who ate the most vegetables lowered their risk of pancreatic cancer by 55 percent when compared to those who ate the least. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that people with the highest fiber intake lowered their risk of pancreatic cancer up to 48 percent when compared with those with the lowest fiber intake.

Keep sugar levels in check. Studies have found that 1 percent of patients diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes after the age of 50 will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer within three years.

Avoid sugary drinks. The Georgetown University Medical Center found that people who drank as few as two soft drinks a week doubled their risk of pancreatic cancer.

Shun processed meats and red meat. Research from the Cancer Research Center at the University of Hawaii found that people who ate the highest amount of processed meats increased their risk of pancreatic cancer by 67 percent. Diets high in red meats upped cancer risk by about 50 percent.

“When it comes to cancer prevention,” says Wascher, “the old adage about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure should probably be revised to ‘An ounce of cancer prevention is worth a ton of cancer cure.'”

Breast Cancer Linked to Chemicals in Plastic

PLASTIC OCEAN – Our Oceans Are Turning Into Plastic – Are We?
By Susan Casey – 20th February 2007

Breast Cancer Linked to Chemicals in Plastic

Breast Cancer Linked to Chemicals in Plastic

A vast swath of the Pacific, twice the size of Texas, is full of a plastic stew that is entering the food chain. Scientists say these toxins are causing obesity, infertility…and worse.

Fate can take strange forms, and so perhaps it does not seem unusual that Captain Charles Moore found his life’s purpose in a nightmare. Unfortunately, he was awake at the time, and 800 miles north of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean.

It happened on August 3, 1997, a lovely day, at least in the beginning: Sunny. Little wind. Water the color of sapphires. Moore and the crew of Alguita, his 50-foot aluminum-hulled catamaran, sliced through the sea.

Returning to Southern California from Hawaii after a sailing race, Moore had altered Alguita’s course, veering slightly north. He had the time and the curiosity to try a new route, one that would lead the vessel through the eastern corner of a 10-million-square-mile oval known as the North Pacific subtropical gyre.

This was an odd stretch of ocean, a place most boats purposely avoided. For one thing, it was becalmed. “The doldrums,” sailors called it, and they steered clear. So did the ocean’s top predators: the tuna, sharks, and other large fish that required livelier waters, flush with prey. The gyre was more like a desert—a slow, deep, clockwise-swirling vortex of air and water caused by a mountain of high-pressure air that lingered above it.

The area’s reputation didn’t deter Moore. He had grown up in Long Beach, 40 miles south of L.A., with the Pacific literally in his front yard, and he possessed an impressive aquatic résumé: deckhand, able seaman, sailor, scuba diver, surfer, and finally captain. Moore had spent countless hours in the ocean, fascinated by its vast trove of secrets and terrors. He’d seen a lot of things out there, things that were glorious and grand; things that were ferocious and humbling. But he had never seen anything nearly as chilling as what lay ahead of him in the gyre.

It began with a line of plastic bags ghosting the surface, followed by an ugly tangle of junk: nets and ropes and bottles, motor-oil jugs and cracked bath toys, a mangled tarp. Tires. A traffic cone. Moore could not believe his eyes. Out here in this desolate place, the water was a stew of plastic crap. It was as though someone had taken the pristine seascape of his youth and swapped it for a landfill.

How did all the plastic end up here? How did this trash tsunami begin? What did it mean? If the questions seemed overwhelming, Moore would soon learn that the answers were even more so, and that his discovery had dire implications for human—and planetary—health.

As Alguita glided through the area that scientists now refer to as the “Eastern Garbage Patch,” Moore realized that the trail of plastic went on for hundreds of miles. Depressed and stunned, he sailed for a week through bobbing, toxic debris trapped in a purgatory of circling currents. To his horror, he had stumbled across the 21st-century Leviathan. It had no head, no tail. Just an endless body.

“Everybody’s plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic.” This Andy Warhol quote is emblazoned on a six-foot-long magenta and yellow banner that hangs—with extreme irony—in the solar-powered workshop in Moore’s Long Beach home. The workshop is surrounded by a crazy Eden of trees, bushes, flowers, fruits, and vegetables, ranging from the prosaic (tomatoes) to the exotic (cherimoyas, guavas, chocolate persimmons, white figs the size of baseballs).

This is the house in which Moore, 59, was raised, and it has a kind of open-air earthiness that reflects his ’60s-activist roots, which included a stint in a Berkeley commune. Composting and organic gardening are serious business here—you can practically smell the humus—but there is also a kidney-shaped hot tub surrounded by palm trees. Two wet suits hang drying on a clothesline above it.

This afternoon, Moore strides the grounds. “How about a nice, fresh boysenberry?” he asks, and plucks one off a bush. He’s a striking man wearing no-nonsense black trousers and a shirt with official-looking epaulettes. A thick brush of salt-and-pepper hair frames his intense blue eyes and serious face. But the first thing you notice about Moore is his voice, a deep, bemused drawl that becomes animated and sardonic when the subject turns to plastic pollution.

This problem is Moore’s calling, a passion he inherited from his father, an industrial chemist who studied waste management as a hobby. On family vacations, Moore recalls, part of the agenda would be to see what the locals threw out. “We could be in paradise, but we would go to the dump,” he says with a shrug. “That’s what we wanted to see.”

Since his first encounter with the Garbage Patch nine years ago, Moore has been on a mission to learn exactly what’s going on out there. Leaving behind a 25-year career running a furniture-restoration business, he has created the Algalita Marine Research Foundation to spread the word of his findings. He has resumed his science studies, which he’d set aside when his attention swerved from pursuing a university degree to protesting the Vietnam War.

His tireless effort has placed him on the front lines of this new, more abstract battle. After enlisting scientists such as Steven B. Weisberg, Ph.D. (executive director of the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project and an expert in marine environmental monitoring), to develop methods for analyzing the gyre’s contents, Moore has sailed Alguita back to the Garbage Patch several times. On each trip, the volume of plastic has grown alarmingly. The area in which it accumulates is now twice the size of Texas.

At the same time, all over the globe, there are signs that plastic pollution is doing more than blighting the scenery; it is also making its way into the food chain. Some of the most obvious victims are the dead seabirds that have been washing ashore in startling numbers, their bodies packed with plastic: things like bottle caps, cigarette lighters, tampon applicators, and colored scraps that, to a foraging bird, resemble baitfish. (One animal dissected by Dutch researchers contained 1,603 pieces of plastic.)

And the birds aren’t alone. All sea creatures are threatened by floating plastic, from whales down to zooplankton. There’s a basic moral horror in seeing the pictures: a sea turtle with a plastic band strangling its shell into an hourglass shape; a humpback towing plastic nets that cut into its flesh and make it impossible for the animal to hunt. More than a million seabirds, 100,000 marine mammals, and countless fish die in the North Pacific each year, either from mistakenly eating this junk or from being ensnared in it and drowning.

Bad enough. But Moore soon learned that the big, tentacled balls of trash were only the most visible signs of the problem; others were far less obvious, and far more evil. Dragging a fine-meshed net known as a manta trawl, he discovered minuscule pieces of plastic, some barely visible to the eye, swirling like fish food throughout the water. He and his researchers parsed, measured, and sorted their samples and arrived at the following conclusion: By weight, this swath of sea contains six times as much plastic as it does plankton.

This statistic is grim—for marine animals, of course, but even more so for humans. The more invisible and ubiquitous the pollution, the more likely it will end up inside us. And there’s growing—and disturbing—proof that we’re ingesting plastic toxins constantly, and that even slight doses of these substances can severely disrupt gene activity.

“Every one of us has this huge body burden,” Moore says. “You could take your serum to a lab now, and they’d find at least 100 industrial chemicals that weren’t around in 1950.” The fact that these toxins don’t cause violent and immediate reactions does not mean they’re benign: Scientists are just beginning to research the long-term ways in which the chemicals used to make plastic interact with our own biochemistry.

In simple terms, plastic is a petroleum-based mix of monomers that become polymers, to which additional chemicals are added for suppleness, inflammability, and other qualities. When it comes to these substances, even the syllables are scary. For instance, if you’re thinking that perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) isn’t something you want to sprinkle on your microwave popcorn, you’re right. Recently, the Science Advisory Board of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) upped its classification of PFOA to a likely carcinogen.

Yet it’s a common ingredient in packaging that needs to be oil- and heat-resistant. So while there may be no PFOA in the popcorn itself, if PFOA is used to treat the bag, enough of it can leach into the popcorn oil when your butter deluxe meets your superheated microwave oven that a single serving spikes the amount of the chemical in your blood.

Other nasty chemical additives are the flame retardants known as poly-brominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). These chemicals have been shown to cause liver and thyroid toxicity, reproductive problems, and memory loss in preliminary animal studies. In vehicle interiors, PBDEs—used in moldings and floor coverings, among other things—combine with another group called phthalates to create that much-vaunted “new-car smell.” Leave your new wheels in the hot sun for a few hours, and these substances can “off-gas” at an accelerated rate, releasing noxious by-products.

It’s not fair, however, to single out fast food and new cars. PBDEs, to take just one example, are used in many products, incuding computers, carpeting, and paint. As for phthalates, we deploy about a billion pounds of them a year worldwide despite the fact that California recently listed them as a chemical known to be toxic to our reproductive systems. Used to make plastic soft and pliable, phthalates leach easily from millions of products—packaged food, cosmetics, varnishes, the coatings of timed-release pharmaceuticals—into our blood, urine, saliva, seminal fluid, breast milk, and amniotic fluid.

In food containers and some plastic bottles, phthalates are now found with another compound called bisphenol A (BPA), which scientists are discovering can wreak stunning havoc in the body. We produce 6 billion pounds of that each year, and it shows: BPA has been found in nearly every human who has been tested in the United States. We’re eating these plasticizing additives, drinking them, breathing them, and absorbing them through our skin every single day.

Most alarming, these chemicals may disrupt the endocrine system—the delicately balanced set of hormones and glands that affect virtually every organ and cell—by mimicking the female hormone estrogen. In marine environments, excess estrogen has led to Twilight Zone-esque discoveries of male fish and seagulls that have sprouted female sex organs.

On land, things are equally gruesome. “Fertility rates have been declining for quite some time now, and exposure to synthetic estrogen—especially from the chemicals found in plastic products—can have an adverse effect,” says Marc Goldstein, M.D., director of the Cornell Institute for Repro-ductive Medicine.

Dr. Goldstein also notes that pregnant women are particularly vulnerable: “Prenatal exposure, even in very low doses, can cause irreversible damage in an unborn baby’s reproductive organs.” And after the baby is born, he or she is hardly out of the woods. Frederick vom Saal, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Missouri at Columbia who specifically studies estrogenic chemicals in plastics, warns parents to “steer clear of polycarbonate baby bottles.

They’re particularly dangerous for newborns, whose brains, immune systems, and gonads are still developing.” Dr. vom Saal’s research spurred him to throw out every polycarbonate plastic item in his house, and to stop buying plastic-wrapped food and canned goods (cans are plastic-lined) at the grocery store.

“We now know that BPA causes prostate cancer in mice and rats, and abnormalities in the prostate’s stem cell, which is the cell implicated in human prostate cancer,” he says. “That’s enough to scare the hell out of me.” At Tufts University, Ana M. Soto, M.D., a professor of anatomy and cellular biology, has also found connections between these chemicals and breast cancer.

As if the potential for cancer and mutation weren’t enough, Dr. vom Saal states in one of his studies that “prenatal exposure to very low doses of BPA increases the rate of postnatal growth in mice and rats.” In other words, BPA made rodents fat. Their insulin output surged wildly and then crashed into a state of resistance—the virtual definition of diabetes. They produced bigger fat cells, and more of them.

A recent scientific paper Dr. vom Saal coauthored contains this chilling sentence: “These findings suggest that developmental exposure to BPA is contributing to the obesity epidemic that has occurred during the last two decades in the developed world, associated with the dramatic increase in the amount of plastic being produced each year.” Given this, it is perhaps not entirely coincidental that America’s staggering rise in diabetes—a 735 percent increase since 1935—follows the same arc.

This news is depressing enough to make a person reach for the bottle. Glass, at least, is easily recyclable. You can take one tequila bottle, melt it down, and make another tequila bottle. With plastic, recycling is more complicated. Unfortunately, that promising-looking triangle of arrows that appears on products doesn’t always signify endless reuse; it merely identifies which type of plastic the item is made from.

And of the seven different plastics in common use, only two of them—PET (labeled with #1 inside the triangle and used in soda bottles) and HDPE (labeled with #2 inside the triangle and used in milk jugs)—have much of an aftermarket. So no matter how virtuously you toss your chip bags and shampoo bottles into your blue bin, few of them will escape the landfill—only 3 to 5 percent of plastics are recycled in any way.

“There’s no legal way to recycle a milk container into another milk container without adding a new virgin layer of plastic,” Moore says, pointing out that, because plastic melts at low temperatures, it retains pollutants and the tainted residue of its former contents.

Turn up the heat to sear these off, and some plastics release deadly vapors. So the reclaimed stuff is mostly used to make entirely different products, things that don’t go anywhere near our mouths, such as fleece jackets and carpeting. Therefore, unlike recycling glass, metal, or paper, recycling plastic doesn’t always result in less use of virgin material. It also doesn’t help that fresh-made plastic is far cheaper.

Moore routinely finds half-melted blobs of plastic in the ocean, as though the person doing the burning realized partway through the process that this was a bad idea, and stopped (or passed out from the fumes). “That’s a concern as plastic proliferates worldwide, and people run out of room for trash and start burning plastic—you’re producing some of the most toxic gases known,” he says. The color-coded bin system may work in Marin County, but it is somewhat less effective in subequatorial Africa or rural Peru.

“Except for the small amount that’s been incinerated—and it’s a very small amount—every bit of plastic ever made still exists,” Moore says, describing how the material’s molecular structure resists biodegradation. Instead, plastic crumbles into ever-tinier fragments as it’s exposed to sunlight and the elements. And none of these untold gazillions of fragments is disappearing anytime soon: Even when plastic is broken down to a single molecule, it remains too tough for biodegradation.

Truth is, no one knows how long it will take for plastic to biodegrade, or return to its carbon and hydrogen elements. We only invented the stuff 144 years ago, and science’s best guess is that its natural disappearance will take several more centuries. Meanwhile, every year, we churn out about 60 billion tons of it, much of which becomes disposable products meant only for a single use. Set aside the question of why we’re creating ketchup bottles and six-pack rings that last for half a millennium, and consider the implications of it: Plastic never really goes away.

Ask a group of people to name an overwhelming global problem, and you’ll hear about climate change, the Middle East, or AIDS. No one, it is guaranteed, will cite the sloppy transport of nurdles as a concern. And yet nurdles, lentil-size pellets of plastic in its rawest form, are especially effective couriers of waste chemicals called persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, which include known carcinogens such as DDT and PCBs.

The United States banned these poisons in the 1970s, but they remain stubbornly at large in the environment, where they latch on to plastic because of its molecular tendency to attract oils.

The word itself—nurdles—sounds cuddly and harmless, like a cartoon character or a pasta for kids, but what it refers to is most certainly not. Absorbing up to a million times the level of POP pollution in their surrounding waters, nurdles become supersaturated poison pills. They’re light enough to blow around like dust, to spill out of shipping containers, and to wash into harbors, storm drains, and creeks.

In the ocean, nurdles are easily mistaken for fish eggs by creatures that would very much like to have such a snack. And once inside the body of a bigeye tuna or a king salmon, these tenacious chemicals are headed directly to your dinner table.

One study estimated that nurdles now account for 10 percent of plastic ocean debris. And once they’re scattered in the environment, they’re diabolically hard to clean up (think wayward confetti). At places as remote as Rarotonga, in the Cook Islands, 2,100 miles northeast of New Zealand and a 12-hour flight from L.A., they’re commonly found mixed with beach sand.

In 2004, Moore received a $500,000 grant from the state of California to investigate the myriad ways in which nurdles go astray during the plastic manufacturing process. On a visit to a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe factory, as he walked through an area where railcars unloaded ground-up nurdles, he noticed that his pant cuffs were filled with a fine plastic dust. Turning a corner, he saw windblown drifts of nurdles piled against a fence.

Talking about the experience, Moore’s voice becomes strained and his words pour out in an urgent tumble: “It’s not the big trash on the beach. It’s the fact that the whole biosphere is becoming mixed with these plastic particles. What are they doing to us? We’re breathing them, the fish are eating them, they’re in our hair, they’re in our skin.”

Though marine dumping is part of the problem, escaped nurdles and other plastic litter migrate to the gyre largely from land. That polystyrene cup you saw floating in the creek, if it doesn’t get picked up and specifically taken to a landfill, will eventually be washed out to sea. Once there, it will have plenty of places to go: The North Pacific gyre is only one of five such high-pressure zones in the oceans.

There are similar areas in the South Pacific, the North and South Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean. Each of these gyres has its own version of the Garbage Patch, as plastic gathers in the currents. Together, these areas cover 40 percent of the sea. “That corresponds to a quarter of the earth’s surface,” Moore says. “So 25 percent of our planet is a toilet that never flushes.”

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. In 1865, a few years after Alexander Parkes unveiled a precursor to man-made plastic called Parkesine, a scientist named John W. Hyatt set out to make a synthetic replacement for ivory billiard balls. He had the best of intentions: Save the elephants! After some tinkering, he created celluloid. From then on, each year brought a miraculous recipe: rayon in 1891, Teflon in 1938, polypropylene in 1954. Durable, cheap, versatile—plastic seemed like a revelation. And in many ways, it was.

Plastic has given us bulletproof vests, credit cards, slinky spandex pants. It has led to breakthroughs in medicine, aerospace engineering, and computer science. And who among us doesn’t own a Frisbee?

Plastic has its benefits; no one would deny that. Few of us, however, are as enthusiastic as the American Plastics Council. One of its recent press releases, titled “Plastic Bags—A Family’s Trusted Companion,” reads: “Very few people remember what life was like before plastic bags became an icon of convenience and practicality—and now art. Remember the ‘beautiful’ [sic] swirling, floating bag in American Beauty?”

Alas, the same ethereal quality that allows bags to dance gracefully across the big screen also lands them in many less desirable places. Twenty-three countries, including Germany, South Africa, and Australia, have banned, taxed, or restricted the use of plastic bags because they clog sewers and lodge in the throats of livestock. Like pernicious Kleenex, these flimsy sacks end up snagged in trees and snarled in fences, becoming eyesores and worse: They also trap rainwater, creating perfect little breeding grounds for disease-carrying mosquitoes.

In the face of public outrage over pictures of dolphins choking on “a family’s trusted companion,” the American Plastics Council takes a defensive stance, sounding not unlike the NRA: Plastics don’t pollute, people do.

It has a point. Each of us tosses about 185 pounds of plastic per year. We could certainly reduce that. And yet—do our products have to be quite so lethal? Must a discarded flip-flop remain with us until the end of time? Aren’t disposable razors and foam packing peanuts a poor consolation prize for the destruction of the world’s oceans, not to mention our own bodies and the health of future generations? “If ‘more is better’ and that’s the only mantra we have, we’re doomed,” Moore says, summing it up.

Oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer, Ph.D., an expert on marine debris, agrees. “If you could fast-forward 10,000 years and do an archaeological dig…you’d find a little line of plastic,” he told The Seattle Times last April. “What happened to those people? Well, they ate their own plastic and disrupted their genetic structure and weren’t able to reproduce. They didn’t last very long because they killed themselves.”

Wrist-slittingly depressing, yes, but there are glimmers of hope on the horizon. Green architect and designer William McDonough has become an influential voice, not only in environmental circles but among Fortune 500 CEOs. McDonough proposes a standard known as “cradle to cradle” in which all manufactured things must be reusable, poison-free, and beneficial over the long haul. His outrage is obvious when he holds up a rubber ducky, a common child’s bath toy. The duck is made of phthalate-laden PVC, which has been linked to cancer and reproductive harm. “What kind of people are we that we would design like this?” McDonough asks.

In the United States, it’s commonly accepted that children’s teething rings, cosmetics, food wrappers, cars, and textiles will be made from toxic materials. Other countries—and many individual companies—seem to be reconsidering. Currently, McDonough is working with the Chinese government to build seven cities using “the building materials of the future,” including a fabric that is safe enough to eat and a new, nontoxic polystyrene.

Thanks to people like Moore and McDonough, and media hits such as Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, awareness of just how hard we’ve bitch-slapped the planet is skyrocketing. After all, unless we’re planning to colonize Mars soon, this is where we live, and none of us would choose to live in a toxic wasteland or to spend our days getting pumped full of drugs to deal with our haywire endocrine systems and runaway cancer.

None of plastic’s problems can be fixed overnight, but the more we learn, the more likely that, eventually, wisdom will trump convenience and cheap disposability. In the meantime, let the cleanup begin: The National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is aggressively using satellites to identify and remove “ghost nets,” abandoned plastic fishing gear that never stops killing. (A single net recently hauled up off the Florida coast contained more than 1,000 dead fish, sharks, and one loggerhead turtle.)

New biodegradable starch- and corn-based plastics have arrived, and Wal-Mart has signed on as a customer. A consumer rebellion against dumb and excessive packaging is afoot. And in August 2006, Moore was invited to speak about “marine debris and hormone disruption” at a meeting in Sicily convened by the science advisor to the Vatican. This annual gathering, called the International Seminars on Planetary Emergencies, brings scientists together to discuss mankind’s worst threats. Past topics have included nuclear holocaust and terrorism.

The gray plastic kayak floats next to Moore’s catamaran, Alguita, which lives in a slip across from his house. It is not a lovely kayak; in fact, it looks pretty rough. But it’s floating, a sturdy, eight-foot-long two-seater. Moore stands on Alguita’s deck, hands on hips, staring down at it. On the sailboat next to him, his neighbor, Cass Bastain, does the same. He has just informed Moore that he came across the abandoned craft yesterday, floating just offshore. The two men shake their heads in bewilderment.

“That’s probably a $600 kayak,” Moore says, adding, “I don’t even shop anymore. Anything I need will just float by.” (In his opinion, the movie Cast Away was a joke—Tom Hanks could’ve built a village with the crap that would’ve washed ashore during a storm.)

Watching the kayak bobbing disconsolately, it is hard not to wonder what will become of it. The world is full of cooler, sexier kayaks. It is also full of cheap plastic kayaks that come in more attractive colors than battleship gray. The ownerless kayak is a lummox of a boat, 50 pounds of nurdles extruded into an object that nobody wants, but that’ll be around for centuries longer than we will.

And as Moore stands on deck looking into the water, it is easy to imagine him doing the same thing 800 miles west, in the gyre. You can see his silhouette in the silvering light, caught between ocean and sky. You can see the mercurial surface of the most majestic body of water on earth. And then below, you can see the half-submerged madhouse of forgotten and discarded things. As Moore looks over the side of the boat, you can see the seabirds sweeping overhead, dipping and skimming the water. One of the journeying birds, sleek as a fighter plane, carries a scrap of something yellow in its beak. The bird dives low and then boomerangs over the horizon. Gone.

From Susan’s article, “Green architect and designer William McDonough has become an influential voice, not only in environmental circles but among Fortune 500 CEOs. McDonough proposes a standard known as “cradle to cradle” in which all manufactured things must be reusable, poison-free, and beneficial over the long haul. For more info on his work, visit

Remember, change starts with the individual, that means you and me. The more we invite green living into our daily lives, the more we support global efforts to protect the earth and its people. In the meantime, I think it’s time for Publix, one of the largest and most influential grocery chains in Florida, a state surrounded by ocean, to stop carrying plastic bags. If you feel so compelled, send them an email here:

Of course, paper bags are not a good alternative as it requires LOTS of raw materials to manufacture paper, including trees and 1 gallon of water PER BAG! Please remember your reusable bags.

Yoga as an Anti-inflammatory

Yoga As An Anti-inflammatory

By Jamey Jones

The benefits of yoga, which have been experienced for thousands of years, are now being studied scientifically. The results of such studies are showing the widespread effects of yoga ranging from emotional to mental, physical, and beyond.

One very physical effect that yoga has on the body is the ability to reduce inflammation. But what is inflammation? Well, when you burn or cut your finger, inflammation is involved. Further, inflammation is involved in just about every chronic illness. So, reducing inflammation is an important part of maintaining health.

And yoga does just that. Reducing stress, in general, has an anti-inflammatory effect, but so does yoga specifically. In fact, one study has found that women who practice yoga at least twice weekly are less likely to have increases of an inflammatory compound in the blood (IL-6) after a stressful event.

This may not sound like much, but stress is at the basis of so many health conditions. Being able to deal with all types of stress, even in small ways—like taking a deep breath, staying in the moment (instead of getting lost in thoughts not based in reality), and releasing muscle tension—can have far-reaching effects on your health. Mind, body and soul.