Summer is a busy time—outdoor festivals, theater, music, cookouts, vacations, hiking, kayaking, swimming. But there’s also work, kids out of school, and family responsibilities. How do we find balance without becoming overcommitted? I took this question to the mat. During balancing poses, I noticed there was very little balancing going on, but instead frustration when I wobbled about, disappointment when I fell, and finally a little sense of success when I mastered Dancer pose for a brief moment. These are the same feelings I have as I try to balance the demands of my life: frustration, disappointment, and success, playing over and over. When I accepted that balancing means wobbling, falling, and sometimes standing strong, I was able to let go of the judgment and be more present. What a relief not to expect to be balanced, only to be curious about what the attempt at balancing has to teach us.
Jennifer Young, Director, Kripalu Healthy Living immersion programs
nutrition notes balanced eating: it’s plant protein season
by Annie B. Kay, Nutritionist
Americans love protein; in fact, most Americans eat twice the amount of protein recommended by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Institutes of Health. (It recommends about 50 gm of protein per day for the average adult. For reference, a cut of animal protein the size of a deck of cards contains about 21 gm of protein) While the media and food marketing companies suggest that these high levels of protein make us strong and healthy, a growing body of science disagrees, reminding us that when it comes to nutrition, more isn’t necessarily better. While protein is critical for good nutrition, too much can cause problems, such as an acid-base imbalance, which can undermine bone and overall health. The food we eat profoundly impacts this balance.
Our bodies operate best at an overall pH of 7.35. When we eat foods that create acids (typically those that are high in protein and low in minerals), the body needs to buffer the acid in order to maintain its pH. The buffering process taxes the respiratory system and other organs, works the kidneys harder, and can draw calcium out of the body. In addition, research has shown that cancer development and growth is much greater in even slightly acidic conditions.
life lessons life—it’s a balancing act!
by Aruni Nan Futuronsky, Senior Life Coach
The inherent balance of body, mind, and spirit is our birthright, our natural default, and is always available to us. And what a blessing that is!
Consider the strangely discordant nature of our being. There’s the spirit, already connected to all—deeply quiet, the essence of peace. There’s the mind, eager to rush out of that seat of peace into the illusion of control, into yesterday, while wildly scanning tomorrow. And, finally, there’s the body, which holds the contradictions between the mind and the spirit.
Our minds become the primary operating filter through which we exist. As the mind takes over our experience, our access to the body’s signals weakens and our connection to the spirit diminishes. In order to find the balance between body, mind, and spirit, the mind needs to be trained. Without its training, we deprive ourselves of the depth of information available to us through the body and the spirit. Try these tips to train the mind and rebalance your life:
• At a red light, take three deep breaths. This brief break can help reestablish homeostasis, the body’s relaxation response.
• At work, set an alarm on your phone for a specific time midmorning. At that point, walk to the restroom, allowing every step to be one of mindful presence. Splash water on your face. Be there, feel it. Enjoy this refreshing, balancing break.
• Take a few minutes at the end of your workday for a mindful transition: Do some simple stretches; go for a short walk. As you release the stress of the workday, you’ll be more relaxed and more available when you return home.
by Janna Delgado, Yoga Teacher and Personal Trainer
The practice of yoga can help bring balance to our lives. We all have particular tendencies and patterns and, without awareness, these patterns can create imbalance. By becoming aware of our habitual tendencies—and consciously applying their opposites—we can release stuck patterns and bring body, mind, and spirit back into union.
Here are some polarities you can play with to bring balance into your yoga practice and into your life:
• Strength and Flexibility. Rather than muscling your way into a pose, try to balance flexibility with strength.
• Movement and Stillness. If you have a tendency toward flowing vinyasa, explore sustaining a pose to balance dynamic movement with grounding stillness.
• Warming and Cooling. If you’re feeling overheated, a gentle, restorative, or Yin-style practice can help cultivate the qualities of coolness and calm.
• Will and Surrender. Experiment with shifting awareness from thoughts, feelings, and sensations to witnessing higher states of wisdom, creativity, and intuition.
healing arts highlight aromatherapy
by Fiona Young
Aromatherapy uses plant materials such as flowers, bark, roots, and stems to make essential oils that have powerful therapeutic qualities. In Kripalu Healing Arts, we use a personalized blend of essential oils during a light lymphatic massage to work on your current needs, whether you are looking to eliminate toxins, strengthen the immune system, or relax the mind.
You can also incorporate essential oils at home. (Just remember that very few essential oils can be applied directly to the skin, and some are not ideal for everyone, especially pregnant women.)
• Tea tree is an excellent medicine-cabinet staple, since it has antibacterial properties. It’s great for bug bites, cuts, and blemishes when applied directly to the skin.
• For mental clarity and focus, try a blend of six drops of bergamot with three drops of rosemary diffused in some water.
• To rebalance, a self-massage using 4oz of grape-seed oil with nine drops of geranium, nine drops of lavender, and six drops of lemongrass is a perfect way to slow down, regroup, and set new intentions.
Read Kripalu Editor Ashley Winseck’s personal Aromatherapy experience.
fitness focus from janna delgado
Balance is an important component of being physically fit. Unfortunately, this complex skill deteriorates as we age, leading to falls and fractures. The good news is that balance can be maintained—and even improved—through training and practice. Here are some suggestions:
• Try functional exercises such as walking, climbing stairs, or sitting down and standing up without using your hands.
• Practice yoga, Pilates, and tai chi to strengthen your core muscle groups.
• Include stretching and resistance training in your workouts.