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Exercise Shown to Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

exercise reduces breast cancer risk

Written by Beth Levine of The Baseline of Health Foundation

Breast cancer is a frighteningly common disease. Most of us can count several friends and relatives who have fought it and hopefully survived. With statistics showing that one out of every eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives, it is essential to do what we can to lower our breast cancer risk. Now, new research has added another piece to the puzzle to help us understand just why exercise might help women in the prevention of breast cancer.

A study that took place at the United States National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, provides some important insight into how exercise works to stave off breast cancer. The findings show that post-menopausal women who do a greater amount of physical activity and aerobic training have lower estrogen levels. The participants were 540 Polish women between the ages of 40 and 74. All of them were part of the control group within the National Cancer Institute's Polish Breast Cancer Study, and none had been on a hormone replacement regimen.

The subjects took part in various forms of exercise and were monitored for one week. They wore an accelerometer throughout their waking day to measure the time spent doing physical activity and its intensity. In addition, urine samples were provided twice a day during this period. The urine was analyzed for estradiol and estrone hormones, which are two of the major forms of estrogen found in a woman's body, and 15 different estrogen byproducts, or metabolites. More physical activity on the part of the women was linked to a reduced presence of estrogen hormones and a more substantial metabolism of the byproducts.

This study confirms a 2012 study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which found that a woman's breast cancer risk can be decreased with regular exercise and aerobic activity. Those who benefited most were the women who worked out for between 10 and 19 hours per week, even if they were mainly performing light activity such as walking. The design of the current study provides a more detailed picture of how this happens. The accelerometers offer a far more honest and exact method of determining just how much activity a participant is actually doing than the self reporting used in many studies. And by measuring the hormones and hormone byproducts in the urine, changes in the levels found can be accurately tracked during exercise as well as sedentary hours.

Hormones and the way our bodies process them play a very important role in certain forms of cancer and other diseases. In fact, approximately two-thirds of all cases of breast cancer are found to be hormone receptor positive, which means the malignant cells are likely receiving signals from hormones such as estrogen and progesterone that influence their growth. And in post-menopausal women especially, exercise can help in weight loss, reducing the stores of fat that tend to accumulate more easily as we age. These pockets of fat tissue have been linked to increased estrogen production, which elevates breast cancer risk.

The high-fat diets so common in the United States not only promote weight gain, but are often sources of hormones themselves. Commercial meat and dairy products are typically full of synthetic estrogens that have been given to the livestock. These chemicals then end up in the bodies of the consumers, adding more excess hormones. And it's a nasty cycle, because the hormones promote fat in post-menopausal women, then the extra fat ups estrogen levels even more.

Exercise can disrupt this sequence of events and help restore a healthier, more natural balance. Its benefits can extend beyond reducing the risk of developing breast cancer, also conferring some protection from a variety of conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. It is important not only to get moving, but to regularly practice a multitude of types of exercise. Aerobic/interval training activity will strengthen the heart; weight training will develop muscle tissue and increase metabolism; and flexibility workouts will also tone the muscles and improve breathing techniques. A combination of routines done daily will help you lose weight and stave off much of the bodily damage that can lead to diseases such as breast cancer.

Note: one potential adverse effect of lowering estrogens in postmenopausal women might be a decrease in bone density. But a 2004 study showed no decrease in bone density in exercisers from baseline to 12 months and no difference in changes in a year between exercisers and controls. In other words, with moderate exercise, you get the best of both worlds.

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Used by permission of the Baseline of Health® Foundation.

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Street-Smart Karma Yoga: Terri Cooper and Miami’s Yoga Gangsters

Yoga Gangsters

By Carol Horton, Ph.D.

Yoga Gangsters
is a Miami-based nonprofit dedicated to empowering at-risk youth struggling with poverty, trauma, and the difficult life issues they generate via the science and practice of yoga. Informally launched in 2003 by teacher, writer, and activist Terri Cooper, Yoga Gangsters has since expanded into an independent 501c3 that’s served over 3,000 people (mostly youth in crisis) through weekly yoga programs held in over 25 inner city schools, hospitals, jails, homeless shelters, youth centers and other non-profit organizations throughout the Miami area.

In addition to offering classes, Yoga Gangsters assists youth with career training and job placement by providing selected applicants with full scholarships to the
Urban Guru Program, a 200-hour yoga teacher training. Terri Cooper also leads a Yoga Outreach and At-Risk Certification program, an affordable three-day workshop that trains yoga teachers and other interested individuals to effectively serve youth in crisis. This program, which has trained over 265 volunteer yoga teachers to date, is a prerequisite for Yoga Gangsters Level II training, “YG2: Yoga in the Hood.”

In this interview, Terri Cooper explains how yoga saved her life, ignited her passion to serve, and enabled her to connect with others and build Yoga Gangsters into the inspiring organization it is today.

Let’s start with your journey. How did you first get into yoga?

My story is pretty common. I think that everyone turns to yoga because they’re looking for something. Most often, they need to heal—whether from back pain or an emotional crisis.

I was at a place in my life where nothing was going well. I was completely disconnected from myself, my family, my purpose. I was spiraling downward. My life was unmanageable.

In all honesty, I’m not sure how much longer I would have been living and breathing on this earth if I hadn’t found yoga when I did.

What first really hooked into the practice, and why?

I had tried yoga once or twice back around 1999-2000. But at that point I was too drug addicted to do it. Plus, I got injured on my second day of class. Still, that was enough to give me some sense of spiritual connection to the practice.

I didn’t throw myself into yoga until a few years later. In 2003, I decided that I wanted to change my life, and would commit to whatever it might take to do so—getting clean, ending negative relationships and making an all-around life change.

The first year of my practice wasn’t pretty. I was a miserable person. I’d lie in bed and cry and cry…everyday. I didn’t love myself at all.

Yoga was the only thing that made me feel better. So I’d drag myself out of bed and go to class. Every day. I didn’t have any special method or teacher. I’d just go to whatever I could afford, which meant lots of donation-based classes.

When did you decide to teach yoga, and why?

I knew that I wanted to teach right away. I threw myself into a teacher training during that first year of intensive practice. Since I was still detoxing, though, a lot of it is a blur.

I also knew that I wanted to teach people like me. At that point, I didn’t feel that most of the studio population was like me at all. Now, I know that’s not really true, because we’re all one. But then, I felt like the mainstream yoga community could never understand my experience. I was drawn to teach those who were addicted or incarcerated.

I started in several locations throughout Miami in 2003. It grew organically from there. I taught everywhere, including regular yoga venues like studios, condos, and gyms in affluent South Beach. But I also made sure that I got over the bridge to teach in Miami, which is a different world. Sometimes I taught 25 classes a week.

In 2005, I started teaching kids in the Juvenile Hall on a regular basis. I also taught in a lot of low-income schools. I can only guess how many thousands of kids I served—I didn’t document any of it. Now that I’m running Yoga Gangsters, I wish that I had. But I had no clue that what I was doing was going to turn into an actual nonprofit.

How did Yoga Gangsters get started?

I felt called to study with Seane Corn due to her outreach work, and started with her before she founded Off the Mat (OTM). Then, I took the first OTM training back in 2005. Seane, Hala Khouri, and Suzanne Sterling (the co-founders of OTM) were extremely encouraging, and have been mentoring me for years. They supported me in taking my work to the next level and making it legit.

So, did OTM teach you how to run a nonprofit?

Well, I still don’t really know what I’m doing. I’m a college dropout and an ex-crystal meth addict. But I do have an incredible work ethic. And I’m driven and passionate. But even now, Yoga Gangsters doesn’t have the foundation and structure that so many other organizations doing this kind of work have.

Really, we are straight yoga gangster—we’re from the street. We don’t have a lot of professional expertise to support us. But we do have street cred and many hours of direct service. We really connect with the people that we serve.

What age groups are you working with?

At this point, we’re teaching everyone, including adult staff, teachers, and social workers in the institutions we serve. Our focus is addressing crisis and trauma. We have a training program that teaches the basic relationship between yoga and trauma, and how the practice can help manage and heal it.

We encourage our teachers to work where they’re most comfortable, where they have empathy and understanding. Some work well with little kids, others with teens and young adults. Often, people work best with those who have suffered from the same sorts of traumas they’ve experienced. So, for example, if you’ve lived with domestic violence, you might feel called to work with battered women.

Do you think those who haven’t personally experienced such trauma can teach those who have effectively.

Yes. Everybody needs to find their own balance. For me, this means learning more professional skills, like how to write a grant and build a board of directors. For someone from a more privileged background, it might mean learning to stop seeing yourself as separate from those that you serve.

Yoga enables us to experience connection, to realize that we’re all one. To be of service, you can’t come with a hierarchical point of view, like “I’m educated and I’m going to save you.” All that does is perpetuate the inequality that’s such a problem in the world.

To really be of service, you need to level out the playing field. You need to realize that you’re not saving anyone—if anything, your service is saving you. But wherever we’re starting from, we can all find that middle ground through real connection.

What’s it like to do this work? Can you tell me a good story that provides a living example?

Terri: Sure! Here’s one of my favorite stories that really shows what this work is like:  

I was working with young ladies in the Juvenile Hall in Miami. I’d go every week, but only see the girls three or four times before they’d get transferred to a different facility. It was an institutional, impersonal setting. The students would come in to class wearing orange jumpsuits and handcuffs.

One day we were doing headstand. That pose can be dangerous, and as usual, I made sure that everyone made an agreement about what needed to happen to keep it safe.

There was one girl who was quite large—maybe two and a half times bigger than me, and I’m not small. I could see in her eyes that she really wanted to go up into headstand. But when she started to try it, she got freaked out: “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t!”

I came up to her and said, “If you want me to help you, I can.” She tried again, but the same thing happened—as soon as she started going up, she got really scared and stopped.

I got down on my knees next to her and looked into her eyes. “You don’t have to do this,” I said. “But if you want to—I’ve got you. I will not let you fall.”

And the way she looked back at me—I knew that no one had ever said something like that to her before in her life. I can only imagine the traumas she’d survived to land in jail at age 14.

I got her in a bear hug to support her. And she kicked up into Headstand. She started screaming and kicking. She was wild. But I held on. And she went up and came back down, just fine.

As soon as her feet hit the ground, she stood up, threw her arms up in the air, and started running around the jail, waving, hooting “Woooooooooo! Wooooooooo!” And there was an incredible feeling of joy—real joy, right there in the jail.

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. After class, when I got back in my car, I had to sit and cry it out for 20 minutes.

And I have so many stories like that. Sometimes, I work with kids with bullets still lodged in their bodies.

And at first, they refuse to do any yoga at all. So I’ll just start practicing – maybe stand on my head for 10 minutes. And the kids will come up, crowd around, get curious …“What’s she doing?” Pretty soon, they’re trying it themselves. And they love it.

I watched a great video on your website where you were talking to kids about yoga as a mind-body-spirit practice. Do you bring in the spiritual dimensions of yoga a lot? If so, is that a problem?

Yes, I’m a preacher girl all the time! I’m always talking to my students about yoga philosophy—the importance of non-attachment, letting go, cultivating gratitude, and creating the life of your dreams. I also teach them about using mantras.

I haven’t had any problems with being accused of teaching religion or anything like that. If anyone asks whether yoga is a religion, I explain that it’s a mind-body science. Plus, I think that the fact that Yoga Gangsters is so grounded keeps us from having those problems—because I know that many other people do. For example, I play a lot of hip hop in my classes, like Jay-Z and Eminem. Sure, I’ll also bring the energy down with more meditative music toward the end of class. But overall, it’s a very familiar, earthy vibe.

Tell us a little about the organizational structure of Yoga Gangsters. How many teachers and staff do you have?

Our Executive Director, Marisol Tamez, is our only paid employee. Marisol took us through the process to become a 501c3 (a legally recognized nonprofit). She manages our programs and volunteers, and helps with everything. Jodi Weiner, our Executive Project Manager, volunteers her time and is also crucial to the success of our organization.

I volunteer for Yoga Gangsters about 20 hours a week, more when we’re really focused on fundraising. I teach one outreach class every week at Booker T. Washington High School in Overton, which is one of the most under-served schools in one of the impoverished cities in America. I also teach a three-day, 12-hour volunteer training program four times a year. Otherwise, I own a yoga studio, teach classes and run a 200-hour, Yoga Alliance certified, teacher training program.

Yoga Gangsters has 135 trained volunteers. We run six-week programs at institutions that want yoga; if it works well, we’ll renew the contract for another six weeks. We do a lot of one-day functions as well. This allows volunteers to work regularly or occasionally, as they wish.

I’m not sure of the exact figures, but I’d guess that 75 percent of our volunteers are yoga teachers. Others are parents, school teachers, guidance counselors and others who have taken our training. It’s only 12 hours and $200—we want to make it accessible. What makes a good teacher is being grounded, focused, centered and completely authentic—wherever you come from and whatever your background is, that’s all you need to be.

What are your biggest challenges in doing this work?

It’s difficult work. It’s beautiful and it’s worth it—but if you ask anyone engaged in yoga service, they’ll tell you that most of us are underpaid and overworked. After all these years running Yoga Gangsters, we still have very little money. Our operating budget last year was $40,000.

Plus, we’re working with people and organizations that are severely under-resourced themselves. Every time I build a relationship with a set of kids, something happens—a school closes or a program shuts down. Every time I build a relationship with someone in power, they move on.

I’ve tried to quit this project several times. But I always come back to it. What keeps me going is actually working with the kids. Every time I go and teach, I’m re-energized. That part of the work is easy—and incredibly rewarding. Teaching these kids gives me a reason to be excited to get up every morning, no matter what.


Yoga Gangsters currently offers yoga teacher trainings in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Columbus, Denver, Dallas, Tampa, and Naples. For more information, e-mail Terri Cooper directly at You can support Yoga Gangsters by making a financial contribution, buying a T or hoodie, or (if you’re in the Miami area) volunteering to teach by clicking here. Communities interested in starting YG programs can email
Note: An earlier version of this interview was originally posted on elephant journal, June 14, 2012. 



The Dirty Dozen: Top 12 Fruits and Veggies to Buy Organic


If you prefer organic foods, but are concerned about the added costs, check out the new organic shopping guide from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit environmental research organization in Washington, D.C.

In its annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce list, the EWG lists both the Clean 15—a list of fruits and veggies lowest in pesticides—as well as the Dirty Dozen, the fruits and veggies with the highest levels of pesticides. 

For budget-conscious shoppers, the Guide helps you shop knowing which items to prioritize on the organic list, and which you can buy conventional. 

According to the EWG, there is ‘growing consensus’ within the science community that even small doses of pesticides and other toxic chemicals can be linked to a host of problems, from increased cancer risk to issues in fetal and childhood development. 

Fortunately, you can lower your pesticide exposure by almost 90% simply by avoiding conventional versions of the fruits and vegetables listed in the Dirty Dozen list. And even if you can’t afford to buy organic for all the items on the Dirty Dozen, don’t fret. According to the EWG, “The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.” It’s better to have a conventional apple than a bag of potato chips or a bacon cheeseburger from your neighborhood fast food joint. 

We suggest keeping this guide with your grocery list or in your wallet so you can reference it whenever needed. It will become second nature in no time! Of course, for those not on a budget, buying organic as much as possible will help put in your vote to support a cleaner, more natural food production cycle in harmony with Mother Nature.
The EWG’s Dirty Dozen for 2013:
1. Apples
2. Celery
3. Cherry tomatoes
4. Grapes
5. Hot peppers
6. Nectarines (imported)
7. Peaches
8. Potatoes
9. Spinach
10. Strawberries
11. Sweet bell peppers
Plus: Kale, collard greens and summer squash

The EWG’s Clean Fifteen for 2013:
1. Asparagus
2. Avocados
3. Cabbage
4. Cantaloupe
5. Sweet corn
6. Eggplant
7. Grapefruit
8. Kiwi
9. Mangoes
10. Mushrooms
11. Onions
12. Papayas
13. Pineapples
14. Sweet peas (frozen)
15. Sweet potatoes


Healing the Heart - Yoga for At-Risk Teenage Girls





"I usually see things black and white. But after I do yoga I feel like a new person and I look at things in new ways. I see there is more than just yes or no, more than one choice, more than one path. I like this idea because so far the path I’ve chosen hasn’t been great. I’m ready for a new one.”— AYP Participant   

By Carol Horton, Ph.D.

A nurse practitioner by training, yoga teacher Mary Lynn Fitton developed the Art of Yoga Project (AYP) to help traumatized and at-risk teenage girls heal on a deeper, more holistic level and prepare them for a more positive future. Today, AYP serves over 500 at-risk and exploited teen girls annually in juvenile detention centers and aftercare treatment sites in three San Francisco Bay Area counties. 

The cornerstone of the Art of Yoga Project is the Yoga & Creative Arts Curriculum, a year-round course that combines health education, character development, yoga, meditation, and creative arts. Its central goal is to help girls learn “self-awareness, self-respect, and self-control so that they can ultimately make better choices and be good to themselves and others.” Available nationwide, the Yoga and Creative Arts Curriculum is currently employed by 24 affiliate programs in 10 states.

The teen girls that AYP serves are coping with a legacy of intergenerational abuse and neglect, mental health problems, gang involvement, lack of educational opportunity, and poverty. Many have been victims of sex trafficking. Based on her extensive experience, Mary Lynn believes that it’s critical to utilize a gender-responsive approach when teaching yoga to such traumatized and at-risk populations. In this interview with yoga teacher Carol Horton, author of Yoga Ph.D.: Integrating the Life of the Mind and the Wisdom of the Body, Mary Lynn shares the inspiration behind The Art of Yoga Project and explores her views on the vitally important, but rarely discussed issue of teaching gender-responsive yoga. 

Carol: How did you first get into yoga?

Mary Lynn:
I started yoga in my mid-20s, when I was really much more of an athlete, working hard on running and triathlons. On my mat, I found a connection to my deeper self that was very profound. I also started to gain awareness of my inner voice, which, I discovered, wasn’t kind at all. I finally realized that I had been using sports as a way of running away from my own body and my own issues.

This felt kind of tragic. I’d often weep through my practice. But over time, I learned to nurture myself, rather than always having to push so hard. Through yoga, I developed a truly healing relationship between my self and my body.

Carol: What made you want to teach yoga to at-risk teen girls?

Mary Lynn: In my work as a nurse practitioner, I saw many young women with anxiety, depression and eating disorders. Many had core feelings of low self-worth, and even self-loathing. They’d regularly do things that they’d later regret—for example, one-night stands that made them feel really bad afterward.

I felt that yoga could help them with the deeper issues they were struggling with—stuff that I couldn’t get into with my regular nursing practice. But it was the early 1990s, and at that time, yoga was still totally marginal.

I started teaching yoga in the inner city anyway. I wanted to make sure that the practice got to everyone who needed it most. Today, that’s in line with the mission of the Yoga Service Council: to make sure that yoga is equally available to all. 

What does the term “gender-responsive” mean?

Mary Lynn: The term “gender-responsive” comes out of work in the criminal justice system. As more and more girls and women started coming in, it became clear that existing programs and policies had been designed for men. And making them appropriate for women involved much more than just having the same thing for women only. There’s a well-known saying, “you can’t just paint it pink.” Gender responsiveness means comprehensively addressing the needs, issues, and concerns of a specific gender group.

A lot of people in the yoga community believe that yoga transcends gender. Does a commitment to teaching yoga in a gender-responsive manner contradict that?

Mary Lynn: I agree that ultimately, yoga is beyond gender. And in the best circumstances, in which you have a group of healthy individuals coming together and accepting difference, males and females can learn and practice together. Unity is definitely the spirit of yoga. But the reality is that many of our populations have been traumatized in ways that make gender-responsive yoga a necessity.

Male yoga teachers can easily trigger girls and women who have been sexually traumatized by men. For example, just hearing a male voice telling them to “relax” could be re-traumatizing, as that’s a command often issued by sexual predators. With same gender teachers, there’s less risk of that happening.

Do the same gender considerations apply when teaching younger children?

Mary Lynn:
I teach yoga in elementary schools with boys and girls together. With young kids, it can work. But I think that it would be amazing to mandate separate classes for boys and girls. That way, boys wouldn’t be coming to classes dominated by females. They wouldn’t feel that “yoga is for girls.”

I also believe that it would be incredibly powerful to have men teaching boys. They would be able to speak to issues that matter to them in ways that females can’t.

Once kids get into the teen years, hormones are so central to everything they do that it’s better to separate by gender. It’s kinder. It’s less distracting. They’re too young to have their Brahmacharya figured out.

Carol: That sounds like it would be true for teens in general. How is teaching yoga to at-risk, traumatized, and exploited youth different?

Mary Lynn: It’s important to understand that the ways in which trauma is experienced and processed in these populations is usually gendered. Generally speaking, boys are traumatized by someone that they don’t personally know very well. They’re dealing with gangs and street fighting. For girls, it’s quite different. Typically, they’re traumatized by someone they’re close to—often someone that they say “I love you” to a lot.

Teen boys and girls, like adult men and women, typically respond to trauma in different ways. There are underlying biological and psychosocial differences. Males tend to externalize their reactions, with anger, fighting, and so on. Females tend to internalize, and beat themselves up on the inside. This manifests as depression, self-mutilation (like cutting), and other mental health disorders.

Carol: Do you think that teaching yoga in a gender-responsive way has any relevance to the mainstream yoga studio population?

Mary Lynn: We need to get real. It’s a distraction when we’re looking at each other’s bodies. Of course, it’s true that part of the practice can be working to stay focused when you’re feeling attracted to someone else. But why not also have gender-specific classes?

I think it would be amazing to have gender-responsive classes that allow men and women to explore their particular concerns and experiences. For women, being able to talk about their cycles and related issues would be meaningful. To offer childcare would be fantastic.

And what if men taught men, and there was real counsel? What if they came together in circle and talked about issues of strength, power, and control in the ways that are particular to men? What if they went on from there to teach boys how to be powerful, right-thinking men? What if boys had time, space, and leadership dedicated to helping them explore the crucial issue of: What does it mean to be a man?

It would also be good to bring male and female groups together and have unity, as well as times consciously dedicated to exploring male-female issues.

While some of this is going on now, it’s not enough. In particular, there’s not enough for men being offered.

Carol: I hear a lot of talk in yoga circles about the “divine feminine.” Does that phrase mean anything to you?

Mary Lynn: I definitely think that girls and women need to connect to their divine feminine—just as boys and men need to connect with their divine masculine.

At AYP, we’re helping the teens we work with tap into the sacred feminine. Generally, they don’t like being female. They think it’s better to be male, as men run the gangs and have power. We want to help them connect to what’s good about being a girl—to honor their femininity, and cultivate femininity at its best.

The divine feminine is about being open, receptive, creative, and intuitive. It involves listening, wisdom, internal power, and unconditional love and acceptance. It means taking the lead in our culture in manifesting love, and teaching others how to love. In AYP, we practice loving the girls, and teaching them to love themselves.

It’s important to recognize that feminine energy also has its negative side. Females specialize in relational aggression, including manipulation, gossip and criticism of the masculine.

Actualizing the divine feminine should not exclude men or be negative toward men. It is important to take that responsibility. That’s not to say that we don’t talk about men—in AYP, we talk about men, sex and relationships a lot. But we do so in a way that respects the divine masculine too.

Carol: What’s most needed in the yoga world today in terms of gender-responsiveness?

Mary Lynn: I’d like to call men to step up and go into juvenile detention centers and work with at-risk boys. Teen boys need men to teach them. Right now, most yoga teachers are women. Male yoga teachers should be actively recruited. We need more men on the covers of yoga magazines. Correcting the gender imbalance in yoga could only help our culture.

We need more gay and lesbian yoga teachers. We have lesbian teachers at AYP, and it’s important to our program. But many gay male youth have also been sexually trafficked, and need help processing their trauma. Gay male teachers could play an important role in that regard.

We also need more professionals involved in yoga service. We need people who understand the world of public policy, fundraising, organizational development, and business. Our Executive Director at AYP, Lisa Pedersen, used to be a Vice President at a large high-tech company. The two of us together are a great mix. In order to have sustainability, we need to have professional expertise supporting yoga service. Otherwise, we won’t be able to build organizations that last.

To learn more about the Art of Yoga Project, you can access their website by clicking here. An earlier version of this interview was originally published on elephant journal, August 1, 2012.

Carol Horton, Ph.D., is the author of Yoga PhD: Integrating the Life of the Mind and the Wisdom of the Body (Kleio Books, 2012); and Race and the Making of American Liberalism (Oxford University Press, 2005). She is also the co-editor (with Roseanne Harvey) of 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics and Practice (Kleio Books, 2012). Carol holds a doctorate in Political Science from the University of Chicago, served on the faculty at Macalester College, and has extensive experience as a research consultant specializing in issues affecting low-income children and families. A Certified Forrest Yoga teacher, Carol teaches yoga to women in the Cook County Jail with Yoga for Recovery, and at Chaturanga Holistic Fitness in Chicago. To learn more, visit her website at

Yoga Pose of the Week: Relaxing Yin Flow Sequence with Carrie Shuler


Enjoy this calming, meditative yin flow sequence with yoga teacher Carrie Shuler, RYT-200. The sequence focuses on the deep backbending pose, Saddle, as Carrie demonstrates how to seamlessly work a more introspective yin pose into a flow sequence. Prepare to be relaxed!



Finding Your Passion: Stephanie Schneider Talk (Video)

stephanie snyder yoga passion life inspiration

Turn your day around in an instant with this inspiring talk by one of San Francisco's favorite yoga teachers, Stephanie Snyder. She talks about the journey that led her to her true calling as a full-time yoga teacher, where she now gets to teach and inspire people to live their passion and harness their amazing power and wisdom. Get ready to get inspired!




Which Is Best - Organic vs. Conventional Foods? Ask a Fruit Fly

which is healthier organic vs conventional produce food

As the organic versus conventional debate continues to wear on, a tiny source of information may be providing a clue: Fruit flies.

A study looking at the difference between fruit flies fed an organic diet vs. flies feeding on conventional foods came up with some pretty startling conclusions, reports the New York Times. Fruit flies that fed on organic bananas and potatoes did better than flies eating non-organic foods in nearly every measure, including fertility, stress, resistance and longevity.

Curiously, the study started out as the science product of Texan middle school student Ria Chhabra. Fed up with her parents arguing between the value of organic foods, Chhabra decided to take a look into the data herself to set the record straight, going above and beyond the scope of her science project in an effort to find the answer.

She connected with Dr. Johannes Bauer, an assistant professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, who helped her develop the study and even encouraged her to submit results for publication in a scientific journal. After 3 years of exploration, the student’s findings were published under the title “Organically Grown Food Provides Health Benefits to Drosophila melanogaster.

The results of the study have raised some eyebrows—and lots of applause. According to Dr. Bauer, the research is paving the way for future studies on the relative health benefits of organic versus conventional foods. 

The student’s original science project examined the vitamin C content of organic produce compared to its conventional counterparts, and found that organic foods have higher concentrations of vitamin C. The next step looked at the overall health effects of eating organic, finding that fruit flies fed an organic diet had greater resistance to stress, greater levels of fertility, and tended to live longer.

While the structure of a fruit fly is worlds apart from that of a human body, fruit flies are often used for research because their short life span allows scientists to evaluate basic biological effects over a shorter amount of time. Results shown in fruit flies often provide clues for better understanding similar disease and biological processes in humans

According to Dr. Bauer, the difference in health outcomes among the flies fed the organic and conventional diets could be attributed to the pesticide and fungicide residue on the conventionally raised foods. This is a common concern of human counterparts as well. Most people opt for organic foods to avoid exposure to the potentially toxic chemicals in pesticide and fungicide residue.

So if you ever wondered whether spending the extra money to buy organic foods is worth it, it may be time to consider taking a lesson from the humble fruit fly. 

Invigorating, Energizing Asana Practice with Elena Brower

elena brower asana vinyasa

Follow along with Elena Brower, founder and co-owner of VIRAYOGA and co-author of Art of Attention, as she leads an invigorating, energizing asana flow amidst a beautiful Squaw Valley backdrop.

This 9-minute practice will challenge you with headstand, full lotus, kukkutasana, crow pose and more.

Dalai Lama: A Constant Stream of Effort

Keeping the Conversation Going—Why the Debate on Yoga Injuries Matters

Yoga Injuries telesummit 



The Yoga Injuries - Facts and Fiction telesummit, April 10-14 took a look at some of the key issues in the yoga injuries debate. Here's a brief recap, and reflections just why it's so important to keep the conversation going. If you haven't yet downloaded the free report that goes with the telesummit, use the link below.

It is a curious fact that what we hold as truth is not necessarily actual facts, but rather the prevailing view of the culture in which we live.  In the Middle Ages, the fact that the earth was flat was indisputable, because this was the common consensus of the powers-that-be—church, nobility, and scientific establishment.

In our modern society, consensus about what is true and what is not, is in large part shaped by the media. For good and bad, the media influences our view of contemporary issues, and who ‘wins’ the public debate on key issues all too often ends ups creating the “truth” in which we live. The climate change and the gun control debates are just two examples of how controlling the media message can control our view of reality—at least for some of the people some of the time.

Public discourse matters. It shapes our views, opinion, and inevitably over time, what we hold as self-evident truths.

This is why the yoga injuries debate is so important. In the court of public opinion, few newspapers hold as much authority as the New York Times. So when the venerable old gray lady tells us that yoga can wreck our body, result in sudden death, is incredibly injurious to guys and in all other respects comes with hidden dangers and downsides, it’s all too easy to assume that this must indeed be the reality of things.  Add to that the fact that the writer penning these pieces, William Broad, has an unusually impressive pedigree, including being a Pulitzer-prize winning science writer, and most will assume that this must all be the up-till-now-overlooked fact of the matter.

And so is created a new perception, which all too easy turns into the new ‘truth’ about yoga in the public’s awareness, at least for those only casually familiar with yoga. As a result, we get students whose relatives call them urging them to stop practicing yoga, because they have heard yoga is dangerous.  We get headlines in large media outlets drumming the dangers of ‘Death by Yoga.’  We get news reports quoting ‘a study’ that yoga is more injurious to guys, completely ignoring the fact that this assertion was based not on a study, but on a highly speculative blog post in the New York Times with no basis in actual scientific data or study.

And we get, no surprise there, the first high-profile law suit about yoga injuries. The suit involves yoga-teacher-turned-Mrs-Alec-Baldwin Hilaria Thomas, who stands accused of causing “severe” and “serious” “emotional upset” by a student claiming to suffer unspecified injuries during a yoga class led by Ms. Thomas.

For people with a lengthy yoga background or those familiar with the long list of scientific studies on the health benefits of yoga, the claims about yoga injuries feels like an outtake from Seinfeld’s Bizarro world.

For people, whose lives have been enriched by a regular yoga practice, which leaves them mentally, physically and emotionally stronger and even transformed, the claims about yoga injuries stand out as, well exaggerated to the point of being sensationalist.

Once one digs into the claims, again and again, they turn out to be a case of The Emperor’s New Clothes, or, as the little boy shouted in The Emperor’s New Clothes: “But he has nothing on!” In other words, if you look more deeply into the strongest claims about yoga injuries, there’s nothing to them. There is no real substance or reality behind to them.

Don’t get us wrong. Yoga injuries happen and yes, one yoga injury is one injury too many. And indeed, when it comes to repetitive strain injuries, without a doubt some yoga postures and some yoga styles may well leave some people more exposed and vulnerable. And without a doubt, with the growing popularity of yoga, yoga teachers are often called upon to teach people of such varying fitness levels and skills that all-welcoming all-levels drop-in classes may well have reached the limits of their usefulness.

However, when compared to the injury rates for other physical activities, yoga turns out to be comparatively safer. And, as Dr. Timothy McCall has repeatedly pointed out, the claims linking yoga to stroke risk, upon close examination, are based on insinuations with no foundation in actual scientific data.

Even the strongest critical voices in this debate, including William Broad himself, all agree that the benefits of yoga far outweigh the downsides. But that point, for the most part, is made in a cautious ending paragraph tucked at bottom of a long article delineating the perils of yoga, and hence, all too easily overlooked in the clamor of sensationalist claims.

The upshot easily becomes that what will linger in our collective chit is that yoga may be great, but it can also be ‘dangerous.’ Obviously, this such a lingering misperception would keep millions of people, who could otherwise have benefitted from the practice, from ever entering a yoga studio. And that would be a profound shame.

This is why it’s so important for yoga teachers and yoga lovers to familiarize themselves with the key arguments of this debate and speak up when they can. In the telesummit on Yoga Injuries: Facts and Ficition, we attempted to highlight some of the key facts that are known about yoga injuries, while also taking a look at some of the very real issues facing the teaching of yoga as a profession.

With leading yoga teachers like Judith Hanson Lasater, P.T., Ph.D., Roger Cole, Jason Crandell, Tias Little, Leslie Kaminoff, Ellen Saltonstall, Julie Gudmestad, P.T., Peggy Cappy, and medical authorities like Dr. Timothy McCall, Dr. Timothy McCall, and Dr. Baxter Bell, and many others, the telesummit contained a wealth of useful information, both on the reality of yoga injuries (and how to avoid every incurring any), as well as the teaching of yoga. We were very pleased to see the telesummit getting covered in leading yoga blogs like,, It’, Elephant Journal, as well as the Huffington Post.

But you too can help spread the word. If you haven’t yet had a chance to, download our free report: Yoga Injuries—The Story the Number Tells. The report takes an in-depth look at the key claims made about yoga injuries and the data, or rather the lack thereof, backing them up.  Download, read, and whenever you get a chance, speak up to get the word out.

Free Download Here: Yoga Injuries—The Story the Number Tells

Also see here for more information on the telesummit on Yoga Injuries: Facts and Fiction

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