August, 2012
Posted on August 21st, 2012 by in Yoga

Nourishing the Teacher

The other weekend in a yoga teacher training, we had a lovely woman guide our group in the basics of restorative yoga. At the end of the night, seeing my students in the sweet, post-practice daze, I tried to recall the last time I put my legs up the wall and covered my eyes with my lavender eye pillow. It had been a while.

Life as a yoga teacher can get busy. E-mails, cooking, writing, leading classes, planning, marketing, meeting with students, Facebook updates, and studying are only the beginning. Throw in social engagements, kids, community work, an additional job, and phone calls to loved ones, and there are simply not enough hours in the day.

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Posted on August 20th, 2012 by in Words from the Wise, Yoga

Talking with Seane Corn: Activism Starts from Within

Right away, Seane Corn will have you know: She is not perfect. Although she is one of the yoga community’s best-known teachers—a gifted orator, physically beautiful, and, as the founder of the grassroots outreach effort, Off the Mat, Into the World (OTM), certifiably giving—the Los Angeles–based yoga star can be impatient, controlling, short-tempered, and reactive. She has a mouth like a truck driver. Corn makes it clear, however, that she hasn’t succeeded despite these shortcomings—rather, she has succeeded because of them. Learning to recognize, and claim, those imperfect parts of herself has, she says, made her a better teacher, friend, daughter, and partner, and directly benefited her efforts as an activist.

Corn began her relationship with activism at an early age. As a recent high school graduate living in Manhattan, she participated in emotionally charged rallies concerning women’s and gay rights. Before giant, angry crowds, she’d hop on stage, grab a megaphone, and release her point of view in bouts of rage, thinking that she needed to be loud in order to be heard. Eventually—and largely, she says, through her yoga practice—Corn began to understand that change happened only when both sides were willing to see, and hear, the other’s point of view, which first required her to learn to truly appreciate her own.

“For a long time, I had a need to change or fix certain circumstances but an unwillingness to look at my own issues,” says Corn. “I realized that if I was going to change the world, I needed to start with myself.” She came to understand that being a good activist meant taking responsibility for her feelings and respecting those of others even—especially—those with whom she might not necessarily agree, a philosophy that became a natural extension of her yoga practice.

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Posted on August 19th, 2012 by in Moment of Quiet

Moment of Quiet

“The body is stimulated by proper exercise, which both strengthens and relaxes. We all must travel a long distance in this physical body. If we do not care for it, how can we reach our goal?” —Swami Kripalu

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Posted on August 18th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Yoga

On Being Flexible

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 [...]

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Posted on August 17th, 2012 by in Kripalu Kitchen

Summertime Phytonutrients

Summer is perfect for opening our senses to all that’s fresh and local. Choosing produce grown close to home yields great taste, supports your community’s farmers and economy, and cultivates a more direct connection to the earth. Nothing is more local than the herbs and greens you grow yourself. Greens are chock full of phytonutrients, plant compounds that provide a range of anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits, as well as support the body’s natural detoxification process. Even if you’re not a gardener, you can still get a huge nutritional bang for your effort-filled buck by planting a few parsley, cilantro, or basil seeds in a window box.

Scientists are learning more about the power of phytonutrients every day. A single piece of fruit or serving of vegetable may contain hundreds or even thousands of different kinds, and the complex phytonutrient profiles of simple-seeming plants reminds us of the complexity of nature and of life itself. The role these nutrients play in health—if and how they synergize with other nutrients, and the interplay between them and our environments and lifestyle choices—are all active areas of research.

It’s clear that scientists are discovering what yogis have known all along: Fresh, local herbs and produce carry the essence of health. Let’s enjoy the taste of what summer offers us now.

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Posted on August 16th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Medical Insights

Get Happy

Can you learn to be an optimist? The answer is yes.

We’re always talking about the mind-body connection: how our emotional and mental state can affect our physical health. Now, a new study in the journal Aging confirms the notion, reporting that having a positive attitude about aging, but also generally, can add years to your life. That is, optimistic people live longer. Of course, optimism is a state of being often linked to genetics—you’re either born an optimist or you’re not—how you’re raised, and your life circumstances. For many who’ve faced certain hardship or personal struggle, it can be difficult to retain a sunny outlook when everything seems to be going wrong. What to do in that case?

“Centenarians often share genetically inherited positive personality traits: They’re easy going, out going, competent, and laugh easily,” says Susan B. Lord, MD, who leads several Kripalu Healthy Living programs. “They also tend to manage and express their feelings more freely than the general population.” These qualities have them—and their parasympathetic nervous system—living in a more relaxed state, which in turn optimizes organ function, slows down aging, and decreases the risk of developing disease. The question is: Can those of us who did not inherit a sunny, extroverted disposition develop this orientation toward life? Can we literally learn optimism?

Yes, says Susan. “Most of us are familiar with trying to change out of fear of getting sick or out of hating how we are now,” she says. “But this rarely works because it increases stress, which exacerbates the situation rather than turning it around.” When we focus on positive states, however, we actually change the brain, creating new neural pathways or habitual patterns of emotional stability, competence, positivity, contentment, and even joy—things that are consistent with longevity and good health outcomes. “Most of us spend entirely too much time wishing things were different, both in our past and our present,” she says. “We focus on negative emotions and memories so that is what we experience and create for ourselves. But neuroscience has shown that to change, we must put our attention on what we want instead of on what we don’t want.”

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Posted on August 15th, 2012 by in Yoga

Kripalu Yoga Posture Clinic: Savasana

Welcome to the Kripalu Yoga Posture Clinic, week twelve! Here, Devarshi Steven Hartman, Dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga, and Jovinna Chan, Assistant Dean, share sound tips to help your savasana soar and soothe. These clips can be enjoyed independently or as a series for a complete practice, once they’re all published. Thanks for coming back every Wednesday for this 12-week series. Enjoy!

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Posted on August 14th, 2012 by in Yoga

Ancient Wisdom on a New Path

Where Yoga and Shamanism Meet, Bold Directions Unfold

In 2006, Kripalu faculty member Ray Crist was recovering from a debilitating illness. A yoga teacher, martial artist, and Reiki practitioner, Ray had spent four years traveling the world seeking those who could heal him. His quest took him from the Buddhist monasteries on the borders of Cambodia to the clinics of the National Institutes of Health in Maryland. But when he ventured into the jungles of Peru to study with Incan shamans, the experience opened new doors of perception—and healing—within himself.

Guided by Don Manuel Portugal, a shaman in Cuzco, Peru, Ray discovered the culture, mythology, and practices of Incan shamanism. “Shamans are the medicine people of their tribe,” Ray says. “Their methods of healing center on the ‘energy body’ and plant medicine.” The deeper he delved into Incan shamanism, the more he began to notice profound similarities with yoga. “Yogis and shamans view the world as a physical world,” he explains. “Traumatic experiences are embedded in the body—near a joint, muscle, meridian, internal organ, or chakra. Yoga and shamanism help us delve into the root of our traumas to find healing on physical and emotional levels.” Ray began incorporating shamanistic principles into his yoga practice, imbuing it with a new richness. “Shamanism brought to my practice a direct awareness of energy moving through my body, a visceral understanding of what each asana offers,” he says.

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Posted on August 13th, 2012 by in Ask the Expert, Yoga

Ask the Expert: Movement and Meditation

In this edition of Ask the Expert, Cristie Newhart, yoga advisor for Kripalu’s Healthy Living programs, deconstructs two foundational postures—Triangle and Standing Forward Fold—and explains why meditation doesn’t just have to happen on the cushion.

When I practice Standing Forward Fold, I tend to hyperextend my legs. Any recommendations for practicing this pose safely?

There are many reasons why people hyperextend the knees, and most of the reasons are due to the relationship of hamstrings to the quads. It’s important to practice in such a way that the muscles around the knee protect and stabilize the knee. In most cases, it’s helpful to lift the quadriceps muscles in the front of the leg. Also, remember to lengthen the front of the body as you fold. The top of the pelvis tilts forward as you bend at the hip crease—think of the way an old-fashioned Rolodex flips forward. Don’t be overly concerned with your torso coming to your thighs—instead think in terms of spinal length. Be aware of the support of abdominal muscles below the navel. This support allows for greater flexibility in the lumbar spine. If your arms don’t reach the floor, try resting them on blocks rather than letting them dangle. Pressing the hands into a stable surface can help you find more length in the spine. Please do not be afraid to practice this posture with bent knees until you have strengthened your hamstrings.

I don’t have time to meditate for more than 5 or 10 minutes early in the morning. Is that enough?

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Posted on August 12th, 2012 by in Moment of Quiet

Moment of Quiet

“Struggle is a subtle sculptor who shapes the life of every great spiritual master into a unique and unparalleled work of art.” —Swami Kripalu

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