Posts made in February, 2014

Death be not complacent

Posted by on Feb 5, 2014 in aging, Guyside, men | 0 comments

Death saw two quakers sitting at churchPete Seeger died last week. He was 94. As a lover of folk music, it’s hard to imagine someone who more powerfully embodied that genre’s ideals. A man of principle who believed the best thing to do with a song was share it, a man who used his music like a well from which to draw joy.

What struck me as I read the many tributes to him in emails, tweets, and Facebook posts was that death is different as you age. I lost an older brother at 13. That was a shattering experience. In my 20s, I can only remember going to one funeral – a young man who died tragically in a roller-blading accident. It was a poignant service.

By now, I’ve lost tons of uncles and aunts from my long-lived clan; too many. The most recent was just last week, my aunt Stella. A few cousins too, and of course, my dad. And outside of the family, I’ve lost friends, primarily to cancer, that blind killer of the old and young alike.

I have had more encounters with death than I’d prefer. But what once was momentous has become an event that is sad, inevitable, and far more anticipated than before. So what should we men of a certain age learn from death?

Don’t sit on things. When I was diagnosed with bladder cancer, it was caught early because when I saw blood in my urine, I DID something about it. Ignoring symptoms is rarely a good idea.

Acknowledge your own mortality. Yes, you feel good now. It’s easy to tell yourself — seriously — that you’re bulletproof. But be realistic. Bodies change, fitness changes; if you are an average guy, you’re likely not as strong as you were 20 years ago, as fast. Accept it (without giving in and giving up). Set fitness and activity goals that aren’t going to leave you groaning for days afterward or in the ER.

Do stuff now. When I turned 40 and got cancer, it woke me up and I made some changes that I’d idly thought and talked about for years without taking action. It’s always time to do that. Investment guru John Templeton once said “The best time to invest is when you have money. This is because history suggests it is not timing the markets that matters, it is time.” You HAVE time that you can invest in anything you want to do. Right now. Do something.

Think a little bit holistically. No, I’m not suggesting buying a juicer or getting your chakras aligned. But when I was younger, I didn’t make the connection between my body and my mind. Using tools like yoga, meditation, therapy, etc. doesn’t only improve your psychological health. It can make you exercise better and, in my experience, make you enjoy your exercise routine more by deepening your concentration.

Death is inevitable. It’s going to come to all of us at some point, and we will be reminded of that by the loss of friends and family from time to time. But don’t take that inevitability as impending doom; take it as a reminder that with a finite amount of time allocated, it’s up to us to make the most of it.

(photo Creative Commons licenced by Flickr user Leiris202)

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Newsflash: Yoga and hot flashes

Posted by on Feb 3, 2014 in hot flash, yoga | 0 comments


When it comes to alternative strategies for managing hot flashes, where do you turn? I’ve been writing about alternatives for five years now and the only thing I am fairly certain of is that what works for one woman doesn’t necessarily work for the next. Consider the management of menopausal symptoms similar to the management of any condition: the best treatment is always individualized.

Still, mind-body practices tend to rise to fore and evidence continues to accumulate supporting their value and usefulness. This is especially true of meditation, and of yoga.

The latest news on yoga comes from the online edition of Menopause journal and researchers are saying that integral yoga practice may help to reduce hot flash frequency among some women.

Integral yoga integrates the various branches of yoga and focuses on a whole body approach with the goal of transforming the entire being. Experts say that it is especially well suited to hot flashes because it emphasizes stress reduction and decreasing the likelihood of becoming overheated.

To evaluate its usefulness in a more scientific setting, researchers asked a small group of women in perimenopause who reported at least four hot flashes a day to participate in 10 weekly, 90-minutes integral yoga classes comprising breathing, centering medication, physical postures and deep relaxation, or health and wellness classes on different topics relevant to menopause and midlife women’s health or no interventions at all. All had the option to join classes at any time, and were required to fill out diaries about their flashes.

The findings? The researchers say that even after controlling for a potential placebo effect, both the yoga and health and wellness groups tended to follow a similar pattern and a similar significant decline in hot flash frequency. Women in these groups reported an estimated 66% (yoga) and 63% (health/wellness) decrease in the frequency of their hot flashes. And, while the effectiveness of yoga to lower hot flash frequency was not considerably different than that of the health/wellness education classes, the inclusion of the two behavioral interventions may perhaps capture naysayers’ attention; most studies only include on behavioral intervention and having two helps to temper bias.

We need more studies like this one to tease out the benefits of behavioral interventions. The good news is that the information is there for those who look deeply enough.

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