a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Posts Tagged ‘health’

MOON CYCLES and the Diva within me – better than tampons, period.

Friday, May 7th, 2010

yoga mudraHere it is again – information on the simple, convenient, healthy, money-saving, no-waste Diva Cup and The Keeper for women. If you haven’t made the switch, read on. If you have, send this to a friend. This is great news for women and for the planet! Tao

The environmental question lurking behind that time of the month. Throw away or wash/reuse? Traditional tampons and pads are made with bleach and other toxic chemicals. Friendlier feminine products are now available and although better for your health, they don’t solve the problem of using resources and creating waste.

All of you green goddesses will be thrilled to hear there is another option, good for both you and the planet. The Diva Cup http://and The Keeper http:// are reusable menstrual cups made from silicone or latex rubber, respectively. They are convenient to use,waste-free and super-economical since they will last up to 10 years. I love my Keeper! In fact, these woman-friendly products are so freeing and comfy, that I really hope the word gets out in a big way, so pass it on!

While we’re at it, why don’t we embrace the entire experience with awe instead of dread? As it turns out, in pagan times, when nature was revered and honored, the menstrual cycle was celebrated and acknowledged as a woman’s link to the cycles of the earth and the planets. Wow. It turns out that not only can I use this altered state to contact my inner goddess, but I can now buy and waste less in the process!

I’ve had more than a few students and friends try this. I always encourage them to not be intimidated by the insertion process the first few tries. Embrace the newness and it will soon become second nature! Namaste!

More info. on Yoga practice during Moon Time below.
Tradition:  Women don’t practice during their moon time (menstrual cycle) because their energy is better used for this cleansing process. Using the time for restorative postures and seated meditation is recommended. It is a wonderful way to check in with your emotions, thoughts and the other messages being sent by nature and your body.

Practical application: Once you are proficient/fluent at engaging bandhas, it becomes more logical from a physical perspective not to practice asana since these deep contractions can restrict the menstrual flow. Holding inverted postures can further upset the body’s natural inclination to flow with gravity.

Experience:  I have found through my own experience and that of former students, that the beginning stages of learning Ashtanga does not have a significant effect on the menstrual flow. I’m guessing that this may be because it takes a long while to learn to actively engage the lower bandhas and/or use a full Ujjayi breath. Also, in this first stage, we are not doing or holding inversions more than 5 breaths. So, during this period, I recommend taking off your home practice, but feeling free to participate in a class. if your flow is heavy, you may want to exclude all closing inversions.

If you are a more advanced student, I recommend avoiding asana practice at home and possibly avoiding class – depending on how far the instruction has moved into the series. If you are unsure, talk to your teacher.

Other no-practice days: Tradition dictates that there is no vigorous practice on Full or New Moon Days, due to the high “lunar” energy that may cause distraction. Many women flow with the dates of the Full or New Moon, so this works out nicely. If you do not yet do this, you may find you cycle slowly adjusting to this calendar – if you keep up a regular practice. Energetically, this is optimal, so look forward to it!  If you do not flow with the Moon phases, still skip practice on Full or New Moon Days. Restorative or seated meditation practice is a wonderful experience on those days.

To view full/new moon dates

Don’t Be A Turkey This Season

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Maybe you only purchase turkey once/year. If you live in the U.S., it’s usually in November and/or December. So, if I only buy turkey this one time, how important is it that I buy organic and local? From a turkey’s point of view? Plenty!

Factory-style turkey farms do a huge business this time of year and to meet the “consumer” demand, they have been allowed and encouraged to raise and slaughter these animals in outrageous conditions. Turkeys have long been genetically modified with hormones for better eating (not theirs), causing them to grow flesh twice as big, twice as fast. Most unfortunately, their skeletons are unable to support the excessive weight, leaving them unable to walk and in pain. More messing with their genetics for the preferred breast meat leaves them with absurdly-sized chests, further limiting their mobility. This diabolical science also causes many painful respiratory, heart and skeletal diseases, despite heavy doses of antibiotics.

Turkeys raised in factory farms live in crowded warehouses – government standards require only 2.5 feet square of space for each hen and 3.5 feet square of space for each tom turkey – as many as 17,000 turkeys crowded together. For months, they are left to stand in the bacteria and amonia from their own waste. These unnatural conditions force them to literally fight for their lives, so they are debeaked and detoed without anesthesia. (FYI – You can apply these facts in various forms to all factory-raised animals. For more information (and happy rescue stories), visit Farm Sanctuary.)

I know I probably ruined your appetite, but before you stop reading, understand two things. One – we, as consumers, have allowed these practices to continue (we keep buying) and two, we, as consumers, can put an end to the horror, both for the animals and the environment that is also being abused in factory farming.

I used to believe the entire world could be vegetarians. Then I woke up. I understand now that it is important to change the hows and the whys of our food sources rather than perpetuate a “them and us” standoff. We used to know how to do this right and we can once again bring compassion and common sense back to all farming practices. But to do this, we need to make it impossible for factory farms to sell their products and- make it economically feasible for small (and sane) farming to survive. I support veganism and vegetarianism, but I’ve come to believe that my being vegan was less an “activist” model of change than my now unfailing support of local farms. And I’m not alone.

Humane Farm Animal Care is a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the lives and welfare of farm animals by providing viable, credible, duly-monitored standards for humane food production and ensuring consumers that certified products meet these standards.

The impressive and extensive staff brings in knowledge and experience, including animal science, philosophy, systematic ecology, and government and international relations. Executive Director, Adele Douglass, launched the Free Farmed Program and was awarded the ASPCA’s Lifetime Achievement award in 2006. Their site can tell you more about this process and give you information about where to buy “Certified Humane Raised and Handled” animal products.

Keep in mind that very small family farms, possibly not yet certified, have almost always practiced compassionate treatment of animals and environmental stewardship – it’s tradition. Get to know your local farmers or read about them online at Local Harvest.

Your Money Or Your Life?

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

A friend shared a story the other day about her experience of a would-be city mugging several years back. Though a truly frightening moment, it had a happy ending with the mugger running off. The punch line, only amusing in retrospect, was that for unusual reasons, my friend happened to have $2,000 cash with her at the time.

It got me to thinking about how some decisions are darn simple – based on an innate instinct of survival – one that could not be ignored. If the mugger holds a gun to your head and says, “Your money or your life?” It’s a no-brainer. You’re either James Bond, or you give up the money.

So, why, in contrast, do our sustainable “life and death” choices seem so difficult to make? For me, it goes back to my early work in nutrition. I could easily convince people to by supplements and exercise, but hit a road block when, with the organic food movement still young, I struggled to convince people that paying more to eat organically was truly a choice between their money or their life (and the life of the planet.) It took not just facts, figures and threats over pesticides in our bodies, water and soil, but the willingness of my clients  to see the larger, long-term picture that shed light way beyond their wallets.

I started to take small groups through the natural food store (newly owned by Whole Foods) stopping in each department to talk about the truth regarding conventional and organic choices. I knew my stuff and was nothing if not passionate about the topic. I even shopped on a tight budget myself and managed it while committing to eating close to 100% organic food. Surprisingly, my conversion rate was a mere 40%, leaving me feeling not just disappointed, but baffled. Wasn’t the choice obvious? Wasn’t this something that could make us healthier right now and protect our future? Wasn’t it simply a matter of money  – and not all that much of it?

I’m an idealist, if not an optimist, so the wake-up call was difficult – though I did (not surprisingly) get offered a position at that store, where I continued to share my excitement about the whole foods/organic food business for several years. Local eating came along later and the transition by consumers has been similar in many ways – slow in coming, wrapped up in the long, arduous process of getting enough information out to enough people and the commitment of small groups of dedicated farmers and consumers.

Now our money and life choices have extended to living sustainably in many other ways and perhaps the questions change slightly when it comes to our cars, our homes, our use of resources, our wasteful habits. Your life or your luxuries? Your life or your conveniences? Your life or your ego?

The answers still feel knee-jerk certain to me – more no-brainers. What’ll it be? Your money or your life?

Practice Yoga…and then what?

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

by Tao Oliveto

By now, we’ve all heard about the many benefits of a consistent yoga practice – calmer mind, healthier organs, detoxification, better digestion and sleep, balanced nervous and hormonal system, muscle flexibility and strength, stronger core, back and joints. And I can tell you from both my practice and teaching experience, that all this can be realized through regular practice of a reputable system of yoga.

But, can yoga really make life easier? Well, yes and no. Obviously, all of the above things can make you fell a heckuva lot better than the average, non-yoga person. Still, yoga cannot make the outside problems and harsh realities of life vanish. So, while yoga does not make life easier, it does make you easier with life. “Through a regular yoga practice, we become less hindered by our past and less invested in our fantasies”, says Donna Farhi, one of America’s most respected yoga teachers and author. Practice gives you direct access to an inner place of grounding and presence which can allow us to stop feeling overwhelmed by thoughts and emotions stirred up by daily events and relationships. In this space of stillness, we can find more acceptance and listen to the messages and wisdom that come from the mind and heart working together.

Now that we have our sh** together, what about the world “out there”? It is difficult not to experience periods of hopelessness in the midst of the world’s suffering and uncertainty. Yet, be hopeful we must, as well as find the things that we can do to be part of world change in both small and large ways. Ultimately, more people finding hope and peace will have an effect on the world. So, just how do we get there? Here’s some ideas:

1. Have hope about the future even while accepting uncertainty. Share that hope in some way each day. Discover valid reasons why we can expect good things to happen and tell others.

2. Develop your awareness. Live with continually increasing openness and sensitivity towards others, the earth, animals and yourself.

3. Do a lifestyle check. What are the consequences of the way you live and consume natural resources? What could you, your workplace, your business, be doing differently?

4. Contribute to a cause outside yourself. We have a big job ahead of us and it will take everyone to get it done. Resist the temptation to sit back and wait. Become pro-active in your life and community.

5. Stay informed (but not always from television news). Turn to less sensational news sources, read and talk to others.

5. Send out positive, life-changing energy. Choose a mantra or a prayer of your own and repeat it to yourself several times a day.

6. Smile and breathe.It’s o.k. to find a happy, peaceful place inside yourself. Go there to heal and restore when you need to. Laugh, entertain each other and have some fun. The people around you will benefit and you will be able to accomplish more.

7. Keep practicing yoga daily. It makes all the above possible.

Anti-Bacterial is Anti-Life – get fermented

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

We’ve long known, but as long forgotten, that raw and/or fermented foods are important factors in the holistic picture of diet and health. Fermentation was first used as a way to preserve perishables before refrigeration existed and the ancient philosophy of Macrobiotics includes fermented foods for their enhanced and abundant nutrients. I’ve included fermented/cultured foods like miso, tempe, apple cider vinegar and kefir in my diet for years. Why are these foods so important? Bacteria, baby!

Our culture has become exceedingly germ-phobic and obsessed with cleanliness. And in the midst of trying to eliminate disease-causing bacterias, we’ve created a overzealous fear of all things microbial. Industry enthusiastically fed this fear and soon the marketplace was swarming with anti-bacterial soaps and other cleaners. Are we less sick due to our efforts? Actually, no and then some.

There’s no sign that fewer people are succumbing to viruses and other illness, but there’s plenty of evidence that our immune systems are continually becoming weaker and that new and antibiotic-resistant bacterias are gaining ground in our environment and bodies. Microorganisms cover our bodies and the surfaces of our home in the form of friendly bacterias that protect us and help develop the immune system. “The cleaner we live…the more likely we’ll get asthma and allergies” states Dr. David Rosenstreich, director of Allergy and Immunology at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine. In other words, Mr. Clean was wrong.

There are many facets to a whole and healthy life and discovering ways to work with the body’s diverse system, rather than against it, can be a worthwhile and fascinating journey. How to begin?

Step One: Don’t believe everything you’re told on television or radio – research, read and talk to others.

Step Two: Ditch the antibacterial soap and consider washing your hands, and other stuff at home less often. (Continue to wash hands when using public restrooms.)

Step Three: Play in the dirt.

Step Four: Eat fermented/raw/cultured foods. The process of fermentation makes food more digestible and nutritious, while live, unpasteurized fermented foods provide good bacteria in the gut. Fermentation creates new nutrients, removes toxins from foods and have been shown to function as antioxidants in the body. Think sauerkraut, cheese, miso, tempeh, kefir and yogurt. Home “brewing” isn’t as hard as you may think – Learn more from this book by Sandor Ellix Katz, Wild Fermentation, The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods.

Pets More Toxic Than Humans

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Our pets face huge challenges in a toxic world. While we try to drink filtered water and eat organic food, our pets are most often subjected to large amounts of toxins on a daily basis, stressing their immune systems, organs and overall health. Recently reported on Grist, blood and urine samples of cats and dogs showed higher contamination than humans, with evidence of at least 48 chemicals, including pesticides, mercury, fire retardant and those from plastics.

Many toys made with chemicals pose a surprising threat to your pets health, especially to dogs, who chew vigorously and extensively on plastics toys that release toxins into their systems. Although playing fetch with tennis balls and frisbee is fun exercise for your faithful companion, don’t allow prolonged chewing on these items. Better yet, skip the plastics all together and supply your pet with natural or naturally-made toys. Check out

While your at it, stay clear of bedding made with petroleum-based or other toxic materials – splurge on the good stuff made from organic fabrics. You’ll be protecting fido and you while supporting a shift to a safer textile industry.

My herding dogs run a lot and end up drinking from creeks and puddles to rehydrate when we’re hiking. Bringing water along on hot days is helpful, but here’s a tip that really works. Before we go out, I offer a big bowl of “baited” water – with organic raw milk or broth in it. My dogs get pre-hydrated this way and are not as likely to indulge in street puddles or creeks.

Organic and higher quality foods are becoming more readily available and hopefully will become less expensive as demands increase.There’s a lot of information available online since the recent recall of contaminated pet foods that caused the death of many pets. Find the food that fits your needs as well as your dogs. I urge a diet of as much human-grade raw food as manageable – I also use high quality products from Halo, Innova and Solid Gold.

They are worth it.

Healing Happens – and River Runs

Monday, May 12th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

As a student and teacher of yoga, I always tell my students that half of what we learn and do in a yoga practice is a result of our efforts. The other half just happens.

I’m compelled to share this story involving my dog, River, because it demonstrates our human potential on all levels. Just like in yoga practice, sometimes we need to tap into something bigger to complete what we do on a conscious level.

Bonnie Illies is an animal medical intuitive and healer. Rather than try to explain that, I’ll tell you River’s story.

River, my Cattle Dog, loves to run – hard and fast. One day, at full speed, she became tangled in a vine and the result was a torn ligament in her back leg – not a hopeful diagnosis for a herding dog. After 4 months of orthopedics visits, supplemental and physical therapy, her condition continued to worsen. Facing a dire prognosis of increased, long-term pain and/or extensive surgery, confinement and rehabilitation, I turned to Bonnie for help.

Bonnie lives 1,000 miles away. On the phone, rather than asking me to explain the problem, Bonnie told me to wait while she “checked in” with River. She came back to the phone and told me that River had pain in a back leg. Surprised but impressed, I didn’t need to hear much more. Bonnie scheduled a healing “session” with River for the next day, asking for a time when she would be quiet and at rest.

I came home that evening filled with curiosity. Although my dog was slightly favoring her bad side, for the first time in 3 months, she was not limping. I called Bonnie, excited and hopeful. She recommended a second session for the next day.

The next night, I returned home to a dog that ran to the door to see me without any visible sign of discomfort. I immediately took her outside and she raced around the yard. I watched nervously. Nothing – just a happy, healthy dog. I called Bonnie, thrilled but hesitant about letting her run too much too soon. But Bonnie said all was well – she was healed. The next day, River and I ran 4 miles through the woods – and has been doing so every day since then.

If your animal is sick, distressed or injured, Bonnie can help. She has been specializing in medical intuitive/healing work since 1998. Visit her website and read other testimonials from across the country at

My own experience has not only helped my dog but helped me have faith in our abilities as human beings to heal each other and the planet.

Sunscreen Alert

Friday, April 18th, 2008

The Changers are spending the weekend at our local music festival and since Spring has sprung here it has triggered a discussion on sunscreen safety. In other words, should we subject our skin to sunscreen chemicals or risk sun exposure/burn? Fortunately, there’s a third choice – non-chemical sunscreen. This is an important information for all of us, whether you like to hit the beach or just scoot around town by bike or bus. In fact, please don’t even consider waiting for your current tube of sunscreen to run out before making the switch. Read on. It’s big.

Studies show that popular chemical sunscreens may actually increase cancers by virtue of their free-radical generating properties. Commonly used sunscreen chemicals also have strong estrogenic actions that may cause serious hormone disruption in men and women, and may further increase cancer risks. Benzophenone is one of the most powerful free-radical generators known and when it interacts with UV light, it becomes even more powerful. Other common chemicals in sunscreens are estrogen mimickers and can cause feminization of tissues. Frighteningly, studies show that melanoma (and cancers like breast, uterine and prostate) has increased in areas where physicians have heavily promoted the use of sunscreen, such as parts of Australia.

Chemical-free sunscreens hit the market last year, the active ingredient going back to lifeguard basics – titanium dioxide, a naturally-occuring mineral that is an “opacifier” (white pigment) that reflects light and creates a barrier on the skin. Yes, the mineral does leave the skin with a white “glow”, to varying degrees, depending on the spf. I’ve found Dr. Hauschka’s and Aubrey’s brands to be effective without looking mask-like. Burt’s Bees and California Baby have also introduced similar products, the latter said to contain a “micronized” titanium dioxide which is non-whitening.

At least 35% of sunscreens (or anything?) applied to skin is absorbed into the bloodstream. The rest is rinsed off directly into lakes, oceans and our shower drains. Grist reports that up to 6,000 tons of sunscreen wash off in the oceans every year, threatening coral reefs and aquatic plant life and could encourage dormant algae viruses to proliferate.

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