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Book Reviews: 'The No Om Zone,' 'The Yoga Body Diet' and 'Healing Yoga for Neck & Shoulder Pain'

June 26, 2010 |  2:57 pm

Some people use yoga to strengthen, stretch and relax muscles; others delve into its lifestyle and spiritual aspects. Here are three new books with varying approaches to the 5,000-year-old practice.

Noomzone “The No Om Zone” bills itself as a “no-chanting, no-granola, no-Sanskrit practical guide to yoga.” This book by Kimberly Fowler, founder of the L.A.-based YAS Fitness Centers, is geared to athletes and others who want to improve muscle tone and flexibility, take away aches, alleviate pain and calm the mind. Fowler promises you won’t have to go sit on a mountaintop and chant to achieve these results.

The former triathlete started doing yoga in 1983 to rehabilitate after an injury and became a fan after seeing the benefits to her body and athletic performance. She was turned off, however, by "elitist" classes targeted to the few who could do pretzel poses and handstands. Today, the motto in her yoga classes is “safe, fun and effective.”

Her book offers short workouts for 13 parts of the body, including the neck, arms, core/abs, lower back, hips and knees. Each body part gets its own chapter describing and showing the anatomy of the area, common injuries, recommended yoga poses for it and a workout routine typically lasting about 10 minutes. Poses are accompanied by photos, step-by-step guides, difficulty ratings, descriptions of benefits, tips and modifications to make them easier.

Fowler does manage to slip some mind-body material into the book. The first body part addressed is the head, for example, and here she talks about the benefits and practice of meditation and describes how to do yoga breathing.

This is a good book for those who want yoga workouts targeted to individual body areas as opposed to a one-size-fits-all workout. Fowler also offers a "No Om Zone" DVD containing three 15-minute workouts.

Yogabody “The Yoga Body Diet,” by Kristen Schultz Dollard and John Douillard, is everything “The No Om Zone” is not. Not only is it not a no-granola book, it even includes recipes for granola.

Dollard, digital director at Self magazine, is a yoga teacher and former editor of iyogalife.com. Douillard directs LifeSpa, an ayurvedic retreat center in Boulder, Colo., and has written and produced numerous health and fitness books, CDs and DVDs.

Their pretty book – generously illustrated with colorful pen-and-ink drawings – says it can help you get a “yoga body” in four weeks through eating, exercising and de-stressing according to the principles of yoga and ayurveda.

The book describes ayurveda as yoga’s sister science, one of the world’s oldest medical systems practiced by 80% of India’s population today. Dollard and Douillard say their mission is to present “ayurveda’s greatest hits” and teach you how to use it for weight loss.

“Yoga Body” kicks off with a quiz to determine what ayurvedic “type” you are: vata (airy), pitta (fiery) or kapha (earthy). Each type is told what kinds of foods to eat and avoid, yoga moves to do and lifestyle changes to make. Recipes for chai tea, pad Thai, roti pizza and other dishes include variations for each ayurvedic type.

The book’s illustrated yoga pose guide is easy to follow, with about 75 positions that range from the simple corpse pose to the more challenging revolved half-moon.

The book at times has the feel of an overly simplified greatest hits compilation as it offers its take on ayurvedic practices. Some of the recommendations – such as to stop snacking and eat only three meals a day – may not work for some or even have proven benefits. But those interested in the ayurvedic philosophy may find the book an approachable starting point to determine whether they want to go further into the practice.

Healingyoga “Healing Yoga for Neck & Shoulder Pain” zeroes in on the area of the body where many people feel the effects of stress. Author Carol Krucoff, a yoga therapist at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, N.C., writes that neck and shoulder tension, tightness and discomfort are the top complaints of her students. Krucoff says she’s been successful in helping people find lasting relief with yoga, though it doesn’t happen overnight.

Krucoff, a former Washington Post journalist, looks at the practice of yoga through this lens, exploring the science of neck pain and yoga; the anatomy of the spine, shoulders, neck, face and jaw; the role of stress and emotions in neck and shoulder pain; and the best postures for sitting and standing.

She explains how, where and when to do yoga; how to breathe properly; and how to do 38 poses to help the neck and shoulders. Simple line drawings illustrate the mostly gentle exercises. Some of the stretches can be done in an office chair. 

“Healing Yoga” is a good introduction for those who want to focus on this part of the body, or ease into yoga for physical reasons or lack of familiarity with the practice. The book’s production values are basic, but the writing is clear, informative and inspiring.

Krucoff writes that the best healing comes when people bring the lessons of yoga into their daily lives.

“Rather than muscle your way into a yoga pose, you learn to relax into it -- using the tools of gravity, patience, and the breath -- to allow the pose to deepen and unfold,” she says. “Over time, with regular practice, the lessons learned on the yoga mat begin to influence how you live in the world.”

-- Anne Colby

Photos, from top: "The No Om Zone: A No-Chanting, No-Granola, No-Sanskrit Practical Guide to Yoga," Kimberly Fowler, Rodale Books, $19.99; "The Yoga Body Diet: Slim and Sexy in 4 Weeks (Without the Stress), Kristen Schultz Dollard and John Douillard, Rodale Books, $21.99; "Healing Yoga for Neck & Shoulder Pain: Easy, Effective Practices for Releasing Tension & Relieving Pain," Carol Krucoff, New Harbinger Publications, $17.95

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Fake Botox -- a security threat?

May 25, 2010 |  9:54 pm

Botox So you may feel a little insecure when you look at Mom or Dad and they're suddenly not able to smile anymore, or Aunt Millie is drooping at the eyelids from a botched botulinum-toxin job. But scholars at the Monterey Institute's James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies see a security threat of a different type. Writing in the June issue of Scientific American, they argue that the proliferation of counterfeit Botox worldwide -- fueled by consumer demand -- has made the toxin, which is deadly in sufficient quantities, far more easily available for would-be bioterrorists than it was in the past.

"The fake cosmetic products generally contain real toxin, albeit in widely varying amounts," a release from the Monterey Institute notes. One little vial would pose no threat, they say -- but what if some group with ill intent decided to buy in bulk or go into the botulinum-toxin production business for themselves?

The article, by institute faculty Ken Coleman and Raymond Zilinskas, is available at the Scientific American website -- for a fee, if you don't already subscribe. You can read the top of the story for free.

"Botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) is grouped with the world’s most lethal potential biological weapons agents, sharing 'Select Agent' status with the pathogens that cause smallpox, anthrax and plague," the authors note. "This biowarfare potential puts the existence of illicit laboratories churning out the toxin and of shady distributors selling it worldwide through the Internet into a more disturbing light than most pharmaceutical fraud."

Think of the safety of all of us the next time you try to buy some stuff for cheap online! Of course, that won't solve the larger problem of counterfeit Botox being bought by doctors, either unknowingly or even, sometimes, with full knowledge. Here's a 2006 article by Shari Roan on that topic, the nuts and bolts of which have probably not changed much.

-- Rosie Mestel

Photo credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times


Want to keep your bones healthy? Don’t get too skinny

January 5, 2010 |  4:08 pm

Anorexia Girls suffering through the insecurities of puberty are often likely to yearn for the rail-thin bodies of supermodels plastered across the typical supermarket glossy.

But, as new research shows, puberty is a crucial time for a woman to love those curves. In a study to be published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, scientists found that fat mass helps build bone mass, particularly in girls.

Add brittle bones to the long list of physical and psychological damage caused by an eating disorder — the research could have implications for "whether development of the female skeleton is preferentially affected by conditions such as anorexia nervosa associated with reduced fat mass," the study said.

Scientists aren't quite clear on why exactly a woman's fat content makes a difference. Some of that bone accrual is likely a response to the stress caused by the weight her skeleton is carrying; the study's authors also suggest a possible relationship with estrogen levels.

Whatever the underlying causes are, given the post-menopausal specter of osteoporosis, it's important to encourage a healthy body image. Not only is skin-and-bones an unflattering look, it's bad for your bones in the long run.

— Amina Khan

Photo credit: Edward Ruiz / For The Times


Law & Order: TSU (Tanning Salon Unit)

September 21, 2009 |  1:00 pm

Five female college students posed as pale 15-year-old girls in need of tans.

Chung-chung.

They called 3,647 indoor tanning facilities across the country and inquired about making appointments.

Chung-chung.

They asked if they would need written permission from their parents or if their parents would need to come with them. They also asked how many times they could tan during the first week.  

These are their stories.

Chung-chung.

Tan

The undercover operation was orchestrated by researchers from California, Minnesota and Rhode Island who wanted to assess how tanning businesses complied with laws and federal guidelines regarding exposure to UV radiation. UVR from tanning lamps has been associated with melanoma and squamous cell cancer, and the risks are elevated for those who start using tanning beds before the age of 35.

The phone survey included tanning salons, day spas and beauty salons in 116 cities throughout the country.  The results are published in Tuesday’s edition of Archives of Dermatology.

At the time of the survey, only 20 states required teens to obtain parental consent in order to use tanning beds. However, 87% of the facilities surveyed told the callers they would need to get written permission. In addition, two states required parents to accompany teens, and 14% of the tanning providers insisted that Mom or Dad come along for the appointment.

Facilities with the most tanning beds were most likely to require parental consent and accompaniment, according to the study. Having laws in place helped – businesses in states that had youth access laws were nearly three times as likely to require parental consent than businesses in states without such laws.

Of states that require parental consent, the one with the lowest level of compliance was Georgia, at 72.5%. Four states – Louisiana, Maine, New Hampshire and South Carolina – all got perfect scores. Compliance was generally better in states that conducted inspections at least once a year, the study found.

However, only 11% of all tanning establishments followed the Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation that newbies limit their exposure to only three tanning sessions in their first week. In fact, the average number of sessions allowed during the first week was six, and 71% of businesses told the undercover callers that they could tan seven days a week if they’d like, according to the study.

The researchers chalked this up to a lack of “enforceable requirements” to limit the number of times new customers could partake of tanning services.

In the absence of any regulations, many salons actually encourage excess tanning by offering all-you-can-tan discount packages. The researchers found an inverse correlation between the number of tanning beds in a salon and its willingness to abide by the FDA guideline: For every additional five beds, a salon was 29% less likely to comply, according to the study.

Asking parents to protect their kids from the harmful effects of UV radiation hasn’t been enough to ensure that teens don’t overdo it with indoor tanning, the researchers observed. Their conclusion: More states should follow the World Health Organization’s advice and make underage tanning a crime.

-- Karen Kaplan

Photo: Should tanning salons be off-limits to minors? Credit: Al Grillo/Associated Press


Start looking for another way to treat those pimples

April 15, 2009 | 11:08 am

Skin Our love affair with antibiotics just keeps taking its toll.

A recent MSNBC piece, "Super acne? Drug-resistant zits on the rise," quotes several dermatologists as saying that Propionibacterium acnes is not as easily cowed by the drugs tetracycline and erythromycin as it once was.

The story states: "As antibiotic-resistant acne becomes a growing concern, dermatologists are moving away from using antibiotics as a primary weapon against acne, fearing that the long-held go-to treatments may be contributing to communal antibiotic resistance. If they do prescribe antibiotics, it may be for only a limited time, usually a few months, and it's often combined with another medication that can lessen the drug resistance. Previously, patients might have continued on antibiotics for years."

The piece goes on to point out that the bigger, more serious issue is one of antibiotic resistance in general.

Here's an earlier warning from WebMD: "Drug-resistant acne: All in the family; antibiotic-resistant acne germ can spread within families."

Another one from NPR: "Doubts raised over antibiotic use for acne."

And still an earlier one from the British Journal of Dermatology: "Antibiotic-resistant acne: lessons from Europe."

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: Take care of your skin. Antibiotics may become less useful in that respect. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times


FDA approves product to plump eyelashes

December 29, 2008 | 11:19 am

Latisse1A glaucoma drug that has been on the market for years has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for a new use: making eyelashes longer and fuller.

Allergan Inc. of Irvine announced Friday that the company had received the government's blessing to market Latisse for a condition called hypotrichosis of the eyelashes. Eyelash hypotrichosis is defined as not having enough eyelashes. While mascara has served mankind well for many years, Latisse is the first science-based product to enhance eyelashes and it stands to earn Allergan an estimated $500 million a year, according to the company. The drug is a once-daily prescription treatment applied to the upper eyelashes with a disposable applicator. Studies show lashes grow darker, fuller and longer in  eight to 16 weeks, however, continued use is necessary to maintain the benefits. Available by prescription only, Latisse will sell for about $120 for a one-month supply.

How Latisse works is a bit of a mystery. The active ingredient, bimatoprost, is a lipid that binds to prostaglandin receptors. These receptors are found in hair follicles. The phase-three study of Latisse revealed no serious side effects but darkening of the eyelid skin may occur as well as skin sensitivity and eye redness. During the FDA hearings on Latisse earlier this month, some doctors expressed worry that teen-agers might over-use the product and suffer unknown side effects. The safety of Latisse in pediatric patients has not been established.

Allergan will announce a time line for distribution of the product in January.

-- Shari Roan

Photo: Before and after photos of a patient using Latisse. Credit: Allergan Inc.



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