Beyond down in the dumps

[wide]depression[/wide]“That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end. The fog is like a cage without a key.

— Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation


This is not just a depressing topic, but a painful one for me to write about because it’s something I’ve known a bit too up close and personally, with immediate family members affected and in turn affecting me. Luckily my own depressive episodes take the form of the occasionally brief bouts typical of most people: just feeling sad for a while, with exercise or distraction serving as quick effective fixes. But I’ve seen what havoc depression can wreak in a life.

Depression may be no picnic for beleaguered family members and friends, but is a living hell for the sufferer. Millions of us have depression in some form. The exact number is hard to count because so many cases are undiagnosed and untreated. In part, because it’s a disease complicated by its attached stigma. “Just pull out of it” or “Snap out of it,” people tell the depressed, failing to understand why they can’t just give themselves a little shake and a pep talk and feel all better.

Many more women have clinical depression than men, possibly because of hormonal or psychosocial reasons. In women it may manifest as guilt, melancholy and feelings of worthlessness, while in men it can look like fatigue, insomnia, apathy and irritability, even anger. There are no racial differences, but more urban dwellers have it than rural.

Yoga for mind and body


Lucas Merritt-Stewart, 7, participates in a kids’ yoga session last month at Kingston’s Mudita Yoga Center. (photo by Phyllis McCabe)
Lucas Merritt-Stewart, 7, participates in a kids’ yoga session last month at Kingston’s Mudita Yoga Center. (photo by Phyllis McCabe)

Are you stressed out? Is your back in knots? Still your mind and relax your body with a 5,000-year-old practice that about 13.5 million of us do on a regular basis. Yoga is a combination of controlled breathing and poses (postures or asanas) that work on flexibility and strength, putting controlled pressure on parts of the body systems to improve health. Meditation is a part as well.

Stress is responsible for a multitude of mental and physical ills. An activity that can ease it, while also lowering blood pressure and heart rate, is a good idea. Yoga is also claimed to improve concentration, memory and focus, according to studies at the University of Wisconsin. It may help not only the stressed among us, but also the arthritic and those with bad posture, headaches, overweight, depression and insomnia. Proponents say yoga lifts the mood and improves flexibility and limberness, along with balance, strength and range of motion.

For most of my youth, the word “yoga” brought to mind for me an image of my mother lying head downwards on a slanted board, a pose I’m not sure is part of yoga. But that’s what she said she was doing.

This ancient practice had a boom in our culture in the 1960s and 1970s, accompanying a cultural fascination with Eastern ways. Though many people think that yoga comes from Hinduism, it was actually on the scene many centuries before that religion. Although the practice of Hinduism incorporates some yoga, the yoga was first, and is not a religion itself. There is proof of the existence of yoga in the form of postures pictured on stone carvings in the Indus Valley of Pakistan and northwest India dating from 3,000 BCE.

Classical yoga has eight steps that include restraint and observance. Modern Western yoga usually focuses on three of them: postures, breathing and meditation. Over the years yoga has evolved and changed. Over a hundred different styles have emerged. There is a kind of yoga for everyone. Area schools offer a large variety, such as vinyasa, kundalini, ashtanga, iyengar, svaroopa, bakhti, hot, and chair-sitting yoga. You can now even practice the latest trend, naked yoga, in New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Austin.

Now I lay me down to sleep


Photo by Alan Carey
Photo by Alan Carey

Your perfect pillow should provide a comfy good night’s rest, but what to get? Cuddledown of Maine sells an “heirloom” cream silk pillow filled with eiderdown hand-collected from abandoned nests in Iceland and Scandinavia, for $6199 for a king-size (yes, for one pillow!), or you can just stuff a couple of folded old towels under your head. Or you can choose something in between.

That covers a lot of territory, as there are multitudinous kinds, stuffed with everything from wool to water, from buckwheat hulls to fake down. Which one is right for you?

“It depends on the sleeper,” says Bob, from Sleepy’s at 1140 Ulster Avenue in Kingston, who asked that his last name be left out of this article. Everyone has different needs for that nighttime or naptime head pad. “For example, if they have pains in their shoulders and if they’re a back sleeper,” Bob added, “we ask if it hurts more when they lie flat or if their head is elevated a little bit.”

When you sleep, your head, neck and spine should be in a natural neutral alignment. That back sleeper needs a thinner pillow to make that happen, so a medium-density pillow with neck support is ideal.

The side sleeper needs something a little thicker and firmer. For that good alignment, the space between your neck and the bed should be filled. A plump pillow, on the firmer side, is what you need. And stomach sleepers need a very thin pillow, super soft, barely there.

“People should really come in and test them out. It’s a very personal thing,” says Bob. Sleepy’s has beds to try out, but if you’re in a store without them, you can put your body up against the wall in your sleeping position and test the pillow out. It should feel comfortable, and your head, neck and spine should be straight, with minimal bends.

Now that you’ve got your perfect pillow’s thickness and firmness figured out, what should it be stuffed with?

True rollers


Photo by Violet Snow
Photo by Violet Snow

Want to buy a bowling alley?

The eight-lane Margaretville Bowl, located 45 miles west of Kingston on Route 28, is on the market for $289,000. Owner Michael Finberg says the 52-year-old business is still thriving. Across the industry, league bowling, once the mainstay of the alleys, is down, but he says the advent of Cosmic Bowling (also known as Rock ’n’ Bowl), featuring loud music, light shows, and glow-in-the-dark pins and balls, is bringing young people back to recreational bowling.

The appeal of bowling, says Finberg, is that it’s social, and you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy it. “Bowling is not an aerobic sport, but it requires balance and timing. You have to learn the markings, how to pick up the spares. Someone not as strong can have a lightweight ball, but with accuracy and practice, they can score well. This opens the sport to many more participants.”

Not having bowled in more decades than I care to estimate, I decided to bowl a game at HoeBowl-on-the-Hill in Kingston, just to refresh my memory. And the memories came back with a rush — the multi-colored shoes, the rumble of the balls on the lanes, the clatter of pins, hefting various balls to find one light enough for me, but with big enough finger holes — and especially the little fan at the ball return to dry the sweat off your fingers. All these details brought back rainy Saturday afternoons at the Mardi-Bob Lanes in Poughkeepsie, where as a child I threw many a gutter ball.

Of course, there have been technological changes since then. At the HoeBowl, the balls return in a few seconds, without that impatient wait to see your sphere spit out by the rotating machinery before you throw the second ball of each frame. Scoring no longer relies on pencil, paper and mental arithmetic. Scores appear automatically on screens overhead, calculated by a machine that detects how many pins have been left standing.

Arthritis is painfully common

[wide]Reumatoidalne_zapalenie_stawow_02[/wide]One in five of us has arthritis. What is our most common disability can also be a painful disease — or set of about a hundred conditions — that makes it difficult to do the things we need to: drive, climb stairs, walk or even work. According to a 2007-09 national health survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50 million (22 percent) American adults have arthritis, with that number projected to soar to 67 million (25 percent) by the year 2030.

Arthritis is not just an affliction of the elderly, although the chance of having it increases with age. Two-thirds of those affected are under 65. People of all ages, including one out of every 250 children, have it. Women have it in higher numbers than men.

There is a link between arthritis and obesity, with a third of obese adults also having arthritis, that makes the physical activity that is helpful in losing weight much more difficult. Over half of diabetic adults have arthritis, too.

The cause of osteoarthritis is the wearing away of cartilage and soft tissue in the joints. This condition progresses gradually, allowing the bones to rub against each other, resulting in stiffness, pain, loss of function and sometimes deformities. Joints in weight-bearing parts of the body are the most commonly affected.

Though the direct cause of the disease is unknown, precipitating factors can include genetics (such as inherited traits like double-jointedness), joint injury such as what many athletes experience, or regular wear and tear/overuse of the joint as in some types of work that require repeated motions, like bending the knees constantly. Being overweight can contribute to arthritis of the lower back, hips and knees. Lifestyle factors, such as the amount of sleep and exercise you get, may be responsible at least in part. Sometimes it is a combination of all these factors.