Monday, March 22, 2010

Consult Your Physician Before Breathing

From the side of a package of Yogi Bedtime Tea:
Easy Yoga Breathing for a Restful Sleep: Before bed, a great way to relax is to practice long, slow, deep breathing.  Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position, with your spine straight and shoulders relaxed.  Rest your hands in your lap with palms facing up.  Close your eyes and completely relax.  Breathe through the nose slowly and deeply.  Stay focused on your breath as it fills your lungs, expanding the diaphragm.  Exhale and empty the lungs completely.  Continue for 1-5 minutes.  Then lie down on your right side and enjoy a deep and restful sleep.   Before doing this exercise or participating in any exercise program, consult your physician.
Yes, by all means, be sure to consult your physician before breathing.
Taking 5 minutes to do some deep breathing exercise seems harmless enough.  I'm sure Yogi Tea has some lawyer going over all their packaging and his or her whole job is to proactively seek and destroy any potential avenue for litigation, and that there is some financial analysis out there painstakingly detailing the benefit of putting a wackadoo warning on every package of tea versus the cost of being engaged in a lawsuit which, even if the company is sued unsuccessfully and found innocent of any wrongdoing, exposes the company to potentially disastrous PR.
I would be all for this warning if it said, for example, "before taking medical advice from the side of a package of tea, be sure to go to your doctor forthwith to have your head examined."  The tea is a sleep remedy.  It contains valerian and chamomile, which I think are pretty innocuous, and St. John's Wort, which I think I remember reading could inhibit the absorbtion of other medicines.  I don't recall where I read it, and I wouldn't know if it's true, but if you knew you might be less likely to knock back those medications with your evening dose of sleep remedy tea.  Regardless, if you're on other medications and you're self-medicating for sleep loss, I would think that would be an excellent time to consult your physician.  (Not that I have--since I've stopped filling all of my medication prescriptions because I've been too tired to stop at the pharmacy for the last month or so, it doesn't really seem relevant.  But it seems like a good idea in theory.)  I'm fairly certain that if you put these same ingredients in a pill there would be some warning about how they aren't regulated by the FDA and you take your life into your hands to try them at all, but in a tea, no, the warning goes next to the breathing instructions.
It's not that I have anything against Yogi tea--I like it and I drink it and I will continue to buy it.  I'm squarely in its target demographic (mmm, paisley chamomile) and will probably remain so.  It's just that the absurdity of FDA regulations and lawsuit-avoidance sometimes whacks me upside the head in a manner that I find unrelaxing.  Fortunately I take enough unregulated sleep aids that I can pretty much sleep through anything.  Sometimes for several days.

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