check out the kripalu blog
    
Join the conver–
sation at Thrive, the Kripalu blog, and check out series like Falling Off the Mat, in which Kripalu community members share how moments of acting in “unyogic” ways can bring new insights.
integrative nutrition, with kathie madonna swift
    
Curious about integrative nutrition? In this edition of Kripalu Perspectives, Kathie Madonna Swift, a registered dietitian and senior Kripalu Healthy Living faculty member, discusses how nutrition can influence our genetic makeup, the ways food affects mood, and the satisfaction that comes from cooking at home. She also shares some ideas for quick, healthful meals that are low on prep time but high in flavor.

July 2012 podcast Integrative Nutrition (listen now, download the mp3, or subscribe via iTunes or RSS feed).
Kathie Madonna Swift teaches at Kripalu July 15–20.

end your summer on a healthy note
    
This Labor Day weekend, explore new ways to thrive with an expert team of Kripalu health and lifestyle faculty. As you transition into autumn, discover tools and techniques that empower you to integrate work, play, family, and self into a balanced life.

Find out more about Labor, Love, and Life, a new Healthy Living program, August 31–September 3.

guest words
    
Kripalu provides a peaceful, restful, and self-reflective time that feeds the body, mind, and soul.
—Kim B., continuum movement teacher, Toronto, Canada
turning point: melanie roche
    
Our Turning Point series focuses on what brought members of our faculty and our invited presenters to their work. For Melanie Roche, a health crisis opened the door for a new calling. Read the interview.

Also read a Turning Point interview with Tim Olmsted.

making an impact: from africa to kripalu, and back
    
In this issue of Compass, we kick off a new bimonthly feature focusing on ways in which Kripalu is making an impact in the world through our multiple outreach programs, including our scholarship program, Teaching for Diversity fund, and Institute for Extraordinary Living research projects. This month, we focus on Paige Elenson, who recently came to Kripalu, with the help of a scholarship, to learn skills to bring back with her to Kenya, where she founded the Africa Yoga Project in 2009.

Learn more about Paige and the Africa Yoga Project.

Support initiatives like the Kripalu Scholarship Program:
www.kripalu.org/makeagift

from perfectionism to slackerdom: the road from the unattainable to the beauty of the reasonable,
by cheryl kain
    
I spent my teens through my early forties chasing perfectionism, in everything I wore, wrote, performed, thought, ate, and spoke. My deeply insecure core instinctively poured my “flawed“ self into countless self-help books, groups, and ways of creating a “perfect” persona. I’ll break it down for you: In search of the perfect body, I starved myself or, at least, politely deprived it. Leaving the house sans perfectly-nonchalant-but-fiercely-hip outfit was not an option. I needed the perfect vibe or I didn’t deserve Los Angeles to see me.

Read more.

healthy living recipes
    
This cold soup from Kripalu Executive Chef Deb Morgan is not only the ideal summertime supper, it’s also a great make-ahead dish for stress-free dinner parties. According to Lead Nutritionist Annie B. Kay, its green ingredients pack in a wealth of goodness.

Healthy Living Recipe of the Month
Cold Pea and Mint Soup

desktop wallpaper
Enjoy the beauty of the Berkshires every day with Kripalu’s desktop wallpaper.

Easy to download.

we love to hear from you
Kripalu Compass feedback
editor@kripalu.org

Registration and other questions
866-200-5203
registration@kripalu.org

Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization whose mission is to teach the art and science of yoga to produce thriving and health in individuals and society.

Visit Kripalu's website.
welcome
July is the heart of summer—a time to seize the moment, think big, and expand your horizons. With the season in full swing, we invite you to explore the intersection of yoga and nature, the focus of this month’s feature article. Don’t miss our newest podcast, featuring insights on integrative nutrition. And, looking ahead, consider easing your transition into fall with a special Healthy Living offering. However you choose to spend this beautiful month, be sure to take time to revel in its long days, balmy evenings, and endless possibilities!
off the mat and into the woods: where yoga and nature meet
by Tresca Weinstein

Every time they coteach the Kripalu program Yoga and Kayaking, Greg DiLisio and Johnny Snyder lead what they call a “floating meditation.” As the sun begins to rise over the Berkshires, the group rows together toward the center of Lake Mahkeenac, its surface shrouded in early-morning mist. Then they pull in their paddles, close their eyes, and let themselves float wherever the current and breeze carry them.

“There’s a universal feeling that water can provide—a sense of being in the flow, and of being connected to the source,” says Greg, a qigong, tai chi, and yoga teacher, as well as an avid outdoor sportsman. “We encourage people to touch the water, to sense it around and within them, to appreciate it as a life force.”

Just as our yoga practice on the mat can serve as a microcosm for our day-to-day experience, nature can be a powerful metaphor for life. How we approach being in nature, says Greg, can inform us about our unexplored personal challenges, our undiscovered abilities, and our habitual ways of looking at the world. Venturing into nature provides chances to remain present with discomfort and fear—of bugs, wild animals, the unknown, or the possibility that we may not have the stamina to get through a long hike or a row across a lake. Interacting with nature also offers us opportunities to practice navigating change, which could be in the form of hilly and uneven terrain, shifting temperatures, or a sudden storm. And nature also holds a vast capacity for promoting healing, reconnection, and reawakening to the beauty in and around us.

Confronting Naturephobia
For some people, the idea of leaving behind the familiarity of four walls and the safety of sidewalks is scary. Nature is unpredictable and can be uncomfortable—for the body, but also for the mind that’s accustomed to being occupied and distracted by work, entertainment, or nonstop “doing.” “When people are reintroduced to nature, there’s a little bit of resistance,” says Randal Williams, who leads programs at Kripalu integrating yoga and mindful hiking. “There’s so much attachment to being in an office, being productive and on the grid.” (As Woody Allen once put it, “I am two with nature.”)

Gradual readjustment is one way to address this reaction. “Nature can be sitting at the beach, or going to a wildlife conservation area,” says Randal. “Even just looking out a window at the sky can be a way to connect with nature.”

Confronting and moving through discomfort in the context of nature opens the door to overcoming fear in other areas of life. The offshore meditation in Greg’s kayaking program brings people face-to-face with their fears of being alone and unmoored—literally and figuratively—in the unknown. “People can be afraid of drowning, or of being untethered from shore,” he says. “Often the floating meditation is transformational for them because they start with a fear of being alone on the water and, when they separate from our little pod, it can be scary. Then the sun comes out and burns off the mist. They had no idea where they were, and then they look around and see each other.”

Michelle Apland, codirector with her husband, Devin Franklin, of Flying Deer Nature Center in New Lebanon, New York (both are also Kripalu invited presenters), says that the key to gaining more comfort in and appreciation of our surroundings—in both life and nature—is tuning in to our senses and intuition, trusting that they’ll give us the information we need. “As with yoga, it’s about moving into what we see, hear, and feel,” she says. “Whether we’re in a city, in a safe, rural community, or in the forest, it’s the same practice.”

Nature as the Ultimate Transformer
That intuitive sense Michelle refers to can awaken us to change both around and within us, whether we’re in civilization or the wild. “If you’re aware, the birds will tell you if something’s moving in the forest, and you’ll be better able to notice the details of the weather patterns,” she explains. “You can get information in the same way that you can in yoga, when you’re aware of your body and its subtle cues.” As Randal puts it, “If you’re able to witness yourself in nature, you can make observations and awakenings that have a ripple effect in your body and mind.”

The practices of yoga and meditation allow our preoccupation with the past or projections into the future to gently fall away, leaving us in the present moment. Nature is a living example of this; from one moment to the next, clouds may cover the sun, raising gooseflesh on your skin—then, in the next moment, the cloud passes, bathing you in light and heat. Our desires cannot affect the path of the clouds; all we can do is accept the not-knowing and live with the changes. Says Michelle, “In nature, we have this constant, beautiful example of how change is natural, that no season is any more beautiful than any other season, and that change itself is part of the exhilaration, joy, and wonder in life.”

Sometimes nature can provide the opposite challenge—a monotonous landscape of tree upon tree, or endless water, with nothing to turn to for distraction. Greg compares this experience to meditation: “There are always moments, when you’re walking in the woods or sitting for minutes or hours at a time, when you wonder, Why am I here? You have to look deeper, and then you’ll see the diversity of the trees, or become aware of all kinds of sensations.”

How Nature Heals
What we tend to forget is that nature is, well, in our nature. “When all is said and done, it’s our home, so we feel a particular resonance with nature,” Randal says. “It’s in our DNA, it’s in our bones.”

Ayurveda makes this human-nature connection specific, Randal says, matching each of the five senses to one of the five elements: sound/space; touch/air; sight/fire; taste/water; and smell/earth. Through taking in each of the elements via that particular sense, we are revitalized and grounded. “If someone is in the woods and you ask them to listen and smell, their whole neurochemistry changes,” he says. “They begin to collect prana, to breathe deeper. The nervous system starts to relax, like a baby in its mother’s arms. Throughout history, sacred traditions and practices across cultures have found this resonance.”

Being in nature means leaving behind the alterations that humans have made to the landscape, and entering a world in which all living things, including people, are following what Native American traditions refer to as our “original instructions”—the inborn information that makes flowers grow and squirrels search for nuts. For us, that means simply showing up and practicing being our most present, authentic selves—much as we do on the yoga mat. “We are more naturally ourselves when we step away from our ideas of how things are ’supposed’ to be,” Michelle says. “Our lives are intrinsically connected to nature, and being conscious of that relationship is an important acknowledgement of what it means to be human.”

Natural Selection: The Health Benefits of Being Outdoors

  • Spending time in nature has been proven to be one of the most consistent remedies for some mental illnesses: A Dutch study found that people who lived within .6 miles of a park or wooded area experienced less anxiety and depression.
  • The contact of bare skin with the ground has been shown to reduce inflammation and stress, according to the book Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?.
  • Studies show that spending several hours in natural surroundings can increase immunity, producing as much as a 50 percent spike in “natural killer cells,” which support immune function.
  • A study conducted in Japan, where visiting nature parks has become a popular practice known as shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” showed that being in wooded areas produced lower concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol, lower pulse rate, and lower blood pressure.

Tresca Weinstein is Managing Editor of Kripalu Compass and grew up in a little house in the big woods.

Check out summer programs with Greg DiLisio, Randal Williams, and Devin Franklin.

spreading the word…
Hiking meets yoga
Founded in 2009 by athlete and yoga teacher Eric Kipp, Hiking Yoga combines outdoor treks with yoga practice in 14 locations around the country. At hikingyoga.com, you can select a location and click to view a schedule of 90-minute yoga hikes in that area.

GLBL Yoga in Central Park
According to their website, GLBL Yoga “builds unity and fosters community in cities around the world, tapping the collective energy and human spirit of the urban environment to create large-scale, crowd-funded yoga events.” On August 16, GLBL Yoga plans to turn Central Park's Great Lawn into the world's largest yoga studio by offering a free outdoor class led by yoga luminaries Elena Brower, Seane Corn, Rodney Yee, and Colleen Saidman, with live music by artists including Questlove and DJ Drez.

Learn more about GLBL Yoga.

quote of the month
Remember this, that very little is needed to make a happy life.
—Marcus Aurelius
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Corrections We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of our information; however, errors do occasionally occur.