Imagine waking up with the rising sun and experiencing the essence of this most auspicious time of day. The Sun Salutation, traditionally done in the morning, raises one’s consciousness by awakening the mind, body, and senses. The 12 postures in the series effectively stretch, strengthen, and massage all of the joints, muscles, and internal organs […]
Summer and fun go hand-in-hand. The richness of the season gives us permission to open up and to let go, in body, mind, and spirit. So this is the perfect time to reinvent—and recommit to—your playful inner child.
Our childhood memories often act as doorways to pleasure and laughter. Along with the more challenging memories of childhood, remembering the freedom and spontaneity of our young selves can inform our adult selves in healthy and relaxing ways.
What summer activities lit you up as a kid? Did you enjoy swimming in the creek? Riding your bike to a new destination and having a picnic once you arrived? Going for a long walk as the sun set? Visiting amusement parks or the zoo?
When we give ourselves that which lights us up, so many arenas of the positive unfold, and the simple relaxation that results from having fun is a profound gift. Emotionally, we benefit so deeply from laughing, from letting go. And spiritually, the connection we feel while letting go into fun is profound. As Rumi says, “The door is round and open.”
So go ahead, choose one childhood outdoor activity. Give yourself this gift—the gift of summer, the gift of laughter, the gift of childhood, the gift of fun.
In this edition of Ask the Expert, Kripalu Yoga teacher, Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist, and senior faculty member Janna Delgado answers your questions about the practice of yoga, exercises for the feet, and yoga-class etiquette.
When coming into Upward Facing Dog, how should I be utilizing my leg and abdominal muscles? Also, can you describe where my shoulders and arms should be in reference to my neck and head?
The leg muscles provide the power for the pose, so they should be engaged and active. The strength of the legs also supports the spine and protects the lower back. The knees are lifted and the toes are pointed, with the tops of the feet pressing firmly down into the floor. Maintain an internal rotation of the upper legs—the outer thighs should roll toward the floor in order to broaden the sacrum and prevent compression of the low back.
Core engagement is the other safeguard for the low back. You want to lift the perineum up, and draw the solar plexus in and up. The sacrum and tailbone lengthen down toward the heels, and the buttocks are soft, not clenched. This helps distribute the arc of the back bend evenly throughout the upper, middle, and lower back.
Yoga for the People—All 500,000 of them
Yoga is getting bigger—literally. The quarterly conferences run by Yoga Journal have grown considerably over the last decade, with the more popular teachers leading packed classes in giant ballrooms. Now in its third year, yoga and music festival Wanderlust runs four sold-out summer weekends throughout the country, attracting tens of thousands of people to group classes led by Seane Corn, Rodney Yee, and others. A few weeks ago, 500,000 Manhattan yogis gathered to celebrate the summer solstice in the middle of Times Square. And coming up, the GLBL Yoga Project, set for August 16, will turn Central Park into a giant yoga studio, with 15,000 yogis practicing to live music.
There are great advantages to practicing yoga in a large group, says Devarshi Steven Hartman, Dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga. “A yoga practice is called sangha, which means ‘community coming together,’” he says. “And there’s no doubt that our personal, spiritual, and individual growth is quickened when we have a community of like-minded souls reflecting back to us, with honesty, who we are.” Group experiences, says Devarshi—who recently returned from teaching at the Wanderlust Festival in Stratton, Vermont—can be especially conducive to forming an energy that’s much bigger than what we experience on our own. He points to the musician MC Yogi’s performances at Wanderlust. “His songs brought people together singing, screaming, moving,” he says. “It was so inspiring, I was sobbing.”
I love tea. I almost always start my day with a pot of classic white or green tea. Alongside my water bottle, tea and herbal infusions are my steady companions throughout the day.
During summer, my favorite way to enjoy my afternoon tea is when it’s infused with the bold flavors and wonderful aroma of fresh (or even dried) herbs. A few years ago (or has it been a decade already?) I was both happy and stunned to discover that major bottlers were beginning to produce iced teas. I was thrilled that folks would now have a choice for a convenient beverage other than the high-fructose-ladened sodas that had been filling coolers for years. I was also duly impressed as I watched new varieties of iced teas, sweetened with honey or organic sugar, appear on shelves.
What stunned me was just how many there were and how high their price tag. Being a longtime maker of iced tea, I’m aware that, water aside, tea is the most economical beverage we can consume: A few tea or herb leaves can make several delicious cups. If you are someone who regularly purchases bottled teas for anywhere from $1.50–$2.25 per bottle, you will be thrilled with how much you can save by brewing and storing your own, at only about .10–30 per cup (depending on whether you use bulk tea, a tea bag, or herbs from your garden and which, if any, sweetener you choose).
Look out the window. How many ways can you notice the rebirth of the earth? Take in the color of the grass, the bright hues emanating from the flowers. Listen to the sounds of the birds rejoicing in life. We, too, are of this earth and share this capacity for renewal. Unlike the flowers and grass and birds, however, we need to consciously shift our behavior in order for renewal to unfold.
Here are some steps to help you cultivate that unfolding. These actions require focus and commitment, but as you take them, relax into the flow. Be the creator of your life. Generate circumstances that inspire you to come alive.
Approach something differently: Perhaps you can shake up your morning routine. If you usually get up and read the paper, try going for a walk or meditating instead. Eat breakfast outside instead of in your kitchen, or give yourself some time in the morning to write a poem. Break out of your weekend routine and plan an adventure—an excursion to the beach or a museum, a picnic with friends. Make a date with yourself to do it. Schedule it into your calendar. Create a perfect playful day for yourself.
Is there something creative that you’re interested in pursuing? Give yourself the time to explore it. Watercolors? Pottery? Find a class, and enlist a support group for yourself as you investigate this interest.
Have you started a new class or ritual lately? Have you done something completely outside of your comfort zone just to try something new? Share with us!
Is your to-do list a mile high? Having constant challenges with your boss or partner? Oftentimes, the stress we accumulate in our demanding lives seems unruly. But according to Dr. Susan B. Lord, MD, who leads the Kripalu Transforming Stress R&R retreat workshop, the ancient philosophy of yoga holds the key to creating more sustainable, stress-free life.
When things seem completely overwhelming, we often feel powerless and stuck. And when our ego is under stress, it can make us reactive and defensive; resistant to change. Yet as Susan points out, “20 percent of stress is what happens to us; 80 percent is how we deal with it.” So how can we go about transforming stress? Start with being mindful.
Many of us try to figure out life and its intricacies solely with our heads. This, as yoga teaches us, can only take us so far. Through mindfulness practices, which include yoga and meditation, we can step back and examine the bigger picture of our stress-filled situations. This allows us to create the space necessary to connect to all aspects of our being—head, heart, and spirit—during challenging times.