“Accepting the truth proclaimed by the scriptures does not produce knowledge. Real knowledge is only obtained through personal experience. For experience, practice is indispensable.” —Swami Kripalu
Artist, Loren Talbot, shares her experience in creating this collage: The Long Walk.
This piece entitled The Long Walk was inspired by a book with the same name. It was written by the author, Slavomir Rawicz who was a Polish prisoner locked in a Siberian camp. He and six other’s escaped from the camp and crossed after six months through the Himalayas’ into freedom.
While there has been much discussion in recent years if the acts in the book actually took place or were imagined; the story is one of triumph from imprisonment, physical and mental survival and free will. I made this collage after reading the book. The Himalayas are collaged gears representing the miles the group had traveled and the sun setting symbolized the end of the journey. I added Chinese characters in the piece to acknowledge the ongoing occupation of Tibet as it is hard to think of these mountains without their many layers of history.
In his new memoir,Monkey Mind, Daniel Smith describes a life spent in near- constant panic. He’d have recurring nightmares about premature death. He’d wrestle over the decision between ketchup and barbecue sauce. He’d sweat, a lot. In Monkey Mind—the title comes from the Buddhist term meaning “unsettled, restless”—Smith, now mostly recovered though still no stranger to the panic attack, uses humor and blunt-force honesty to describe what is an ever-present, and very American, condition: worry.
These days, everyone’s a worrier. Nearly one in five Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder. If there were an international war of worriers, we’d be winning: According to a recent World Health Organization study, 31 percent of Americans are likely to suffer from an anxiety issue at some point in their lives. Compare that to second-place Colombia, where the anxious top out at 25.3 percent. Even those in developing countries are less likely to fret: According to the 2002 World Mental Health Survey, people in developing-world countries are up to five times less likely to show clinically significant anxiety levels than Americans. Until, that is, they move here.
In the summer, one of the things I do to unwind from work is play golf. Sometimes I have friends who laugh about why I would play a game that involves walking around a big field, chasing a little white ball that seems to go in lots of directions. I love playing for many reasons. The obvious part is a great walk, outside the office, around a beautiful park—that, in and of itself, is a lovely and relaxing experience. But the real reasons I love playing golf are subtler and a bit harder to explain.
Golf is a game in which failure and success seem to come in rapid succession. One great shot can be followed by another shot that is an abject mess. One moment you are feeling the joy and pride that comes with a great swing and the next you are watching your ball arc unceremoniously into the water or the woods. It is a test of one’s ability to be present with what is and to watch how your mind reacts to the pendulum of experience that is the golf game. Golf is more like meditation that any sport I know. It has all the experiences of having and losing control, all the sensations of flow and contraction, and all the elements of forgetting and remembering. No other sport seems to be such a perfect metaphor for the practices I do to explore the nature of my mind.
In this series, we hear from recipients of KYTA’s Teaching for Diversity and Rachel Greene Memorial Fund grants, as they change the world one posture at a time.
Melinda Atkins, Guest Blogger
Introducing yoga to a group of middle-school students is an enlightening experience, especially after teaching yoga full-time to high-school students. Middle-school minds are more impressionable, and their bodies more malleable, than those of their older counterparts. Eager to learn discipline, most are still children who want to be grown, and the success the practice rewards them with along the way encourages their self-confidence.
Today’s student typically suffers from poor posture, poor eating habits, and poor self-esteem. For middle schoolers, with an overt awareness of their changing bodies, classroom performance is hindered. With surges and shifts in hormones, along with excessive technological stimuli, students are hard-pressed when it comes to focus. This ultimately causes stress and, for many—especially those struggling to assimilate—failure.
Years of teaching high-school English has instilled in me an empathetic view of the physical, mental, and emotional demands involved in adolescent development. Armed with a master’s degree in Education and an understanding of the impact a pedagogic approach to yoga would have on adolescents, I created a semester-long yoga course and taught it as part of a high-school curriculum.
In recent years, cookware has been the center of a hot, so to speak, debate, as environmental and health groups warn against the dangers of Teflon and other nonstick surfaces. According to tests issued by one group, cooking at very high temperatures can break down Teflon coating, emitting fumes and chemicals that include perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, which can cause flulike symptoms in people (and kill pet birds). The Environmental Protection Agency, however, ruled that while Teflon and other nonstick products may contain trace amounts of PFOA, the levels are so small that the routine use of such products is not a concern, while lawsuits seeking to link PFOA in the water supply to an increased risk of cancer have been unsuccessful. Still, it’s been tough to overcome Teflon’s bad rap, and many people worry about using any form of nonstick, even if it’s labeled “PFOA-free”—just in case.
How does yoga philosophy apply to healthful eating? According to Kripalu Lead Nutritionist, Annie B. Kay, MS, RD, RYT, in her R&R retreat lecture, The Yoga of Nutrition, examining our nutritional choices through a lens of mindfulness can help us become more aware and empowered.
When there’s balance in all areas of our life, Annie says, when we’re eating whole plant-based foods, getting enough physical activity, and managing our stress, we are nurturing our whole beings—physically, emotionally, and spiritually—and nourishing our deepest selves.
One of the cornerstones of the yoga of nutrition, Annie points out, is mindful eating—slowing down, paying attention to what’s happening by focusing the sensations occurring while we eat. “Are you a fast eater, or do you savor every bite? Do you zone out and eat in front of the TV?” Annie asks. These questions can lead us into a new understanding of what guides our choices and allows us to examine our cravings.