October, 2012
Posted on October 11th, 2012 by in Outside Our Walls, Yoga

The High School Brain on Yoga

Iona Smith, guest blogger

Like most of us, I would not want to relive my teenage years—unless I could do so knowing what I know now. Even so, I’ve been drawn to working with teenagers in my adult life. As a high school biology teacher back in my twenties and in my current role as a yoga educator in high schools, I’ve been able to pursue my passion for providing teenagers with tools for coping—tools I wish I’d had at their age.

Four years ago, I helped the Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living (IEL) launch a pilot research study on how yoga affects teenagers. To date, we’ve found that our Yoga in the Schools program does indeed have beneficial effects on students’ resilience and ability to manage anger. As I head into my fifth year teaching yoga in a high school setting, I’m confident that I’m providing students with the wisdom and tools to help them navigate their teenage years in healthier, more skillful ways.

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Posted on October 10th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Medical Insights

Cancer Prevention

It’s a lot simpler than we think.

At the Union for International Cancer Control’s recent World Cancer Congress,Washington University School of Medicine researcher Graham Colditz, PD, DrPH, reported that more than 50 percent of cancer could be prevented if we implemented certain “lifestyle changes,” including quitting smoking and avoiding obesity.

Seems somewhat obvious, right? Maybe, maybe not. Although we read enough to know that eating right, exercising, and minimizing our exposure to known toxins (cigarettes among them) can limit our risk of developing cancer, most of us don’t necessarily believe it. “Many people are still under the impression that most cancer is genetic,” says Susan B. Lord,MD, a faculty member in Kripalu Healthy Living programs. “But the real figure is actually five percent.” That is, five percent of cancers have strong genetic ties, and the rest are related to environment and lifestyle. This means that the disease is far more preventable than we tend to think it is. In fact, Dr. Colditz estimated that improvement in diet could reduce cancer incidence by 50 percent, and increases in physical activity could reduce cancer incidence by as much as 85 percent, in five to 20 years.

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Posted on October 9th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Yoga

Turning Point: Amy Weintraub

Amy Weintraub, MFA, E-RYT 500, is the author of the books Yoga for Depression and Yoga Skills for Therapists, and creator of the award-winning DVD series LifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues. Founder of the LifeForce Yoga® Healing Institute, she offers professional trainings in LifeForce Yoga for Mood Management, and speaks at medical and psychological conferences internationally. www.yogafordepression.com
 
Q Describe what you do in 15 words or less.

A I inspire others to use yoga practices to remove whatever blocks them from knowing their true nature.

Q Tell us about a turning point in your life.

A I came to my first yoga teacher training at Kripalu in 1992 to deepen my own sadhana. I left with a passion to share with others the practice that had literally saved my life and had slowly helped me live a life free of medication for depression.

Q What do you love about teaching?

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Posted on October 8th, 2012 by in Yoga

The Alchemy of a Dirty Yogini

Dirt · y [adj.] Appearing as if soiled; dark-colored; dingy; murky.

Pu · ri · fied [verb] 1. To rid of impurities; cleanse. 2. To rid of foreign of objectionable elements. 3. To free from sin, guilt, or other defilement.

Mud surrounded the house where I grew up in a small village in Singapore. I spent many hours walking, playing, and daydreaming along dirt roads. My mom used to make me wash my hands and feet before I could eat or sleep and often yelled when I got myself dirty again. So at a young age, I began to form a judgment about being dirty and clean. Later, in my adult life, that judgment transformed into an invisible quest to be pure, to be good, and to be rid of stains in character.

I was always fascinated with martial arts. Growing up with two brothers and three other cousin-brothers, I watched a lot of kung fu films from Hong Kong where heros and heroines flew through the trees, defeating villains and restoring justice. I loved seeing how the body could quickly assume delicate yet powerful postures and defy gravity with leaps and somersaults. I especially admired the power and beauty that the women possessed. It seemed as though their diligent practices purified their characters—from weakness and doubt to strength and confidence.

When I was 14, I stumbled across a book filled with yoga poses. Fascinated by how flexible the people in the pictures looked, I began imitating them. Fusing martial arts and yoga, I improvised movement flows to demonstrate the sharpness and flexibility of my body. Through the flow, I would relive the feelings that I had when I watched kung fu movies—a sense of accomplishment, transformation, and purification.

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Posted on October 7th, 2012 by in Moment of Quiet

An Autumn Moment of Quiet

“The day you start to practice, your true progress will begin.”—Swami Kripalu

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Posted on October 6th, 2012 by in Ayurveda, Yoga

The Connection Between Yoga and Ayurveda

Yoga and Ayurveda are two “sister” practices that originated in India thousands of years ago. Now, a lot of us are familiar with yoga, and have experienced firsthand—through postures, breathwork, and self-inquiry—its profound benefits. Yet many of us are not as familiar with Ayurveda. We might have heard about it in conjunction with yoga, but are not quite sure how, exactly. In her R&R retreat workshop Yoga and Ayurveda, Senior Kripalu Yoga teacher Jurian Hughes points out that yoga means union in Sanskrit, and a definition of Ayurveda is the wisdom of life. Explored together, these complementary practices can offer us transformative tools that foster greater health and vitality.  And as Jurian also explains, integrating Ayurvedic principles into your yoga practice can create a deeper, richer experience on the mat that you can take with you off the mat as well.

“Ayurveda isn’t a one-size-fits-all philosophy,” Jurian says. “We’re constantly in flux throughout the day: our energy level and our mood, for example, are different first thing in the morning than they are at noon.” Ayurveda, then, is a personalized, intuitive health philosophy. According to Ayurvedic principles, each of us has a unique constitution governed by our physical and emotional makeup, as well as our lifestyle—the foods we eat, what time we go to sleep. These constitutions are called doshas, and they are linked to the elements. The doshas are vata (air and ether), pitta (fire and water), and kapha (earth and water).

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Digestive Health and Spirituality

What You Believe and How You Digest May Go Hand in Hand

In this excerpt from their book, The Inside Tract: Your Good Gut Guide to Great Digestive Health, Kripalu Nutritionist Kathie Madonna Swift, MS, RD, LDN, and coauthor Gerard E. Mullin share insights on how cultivating a spiritual practice can help you reduce stress, recover from illness, and lead a life of wellness.

Many studies have demonstrated a connection between spirituality and lower rates of stress and even depression. Maintaining a spiritual practice can help people cope better with stressful situations, thus reducing their anxiety levels and lessening the impact of chronic stress. Numerous researchers have documented a link between spirituality and depression: Spiritually healthy practices like finding meaning and purpose in life, having an intrinsic value system, and belonging to a supportive community with shared values may reduce depressive symptoms. Since stress and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression have such a profound impact on gut health, it stands to reason that engaging in a spiritual practice could have a positive impact on stress-related digestive disorders, too.

Harvard cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson was one of the first to study the relationship between spirituality and health. He revolutionized the field by showing that meditating in a trancelike state reduces stress and improves health while simultaneously raising consciousness and spiritual awareness. Though his finding is still considered groundbreaking by many in the West, ancient cultures have integrated spirituality into healing for millennia. Shamanic priests were regarded as “healers” long before the development of pharmaceuticals, and meditation and prayer have been at the very center of healing practices since the dawn of time.

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Posted on October 4th, 2012 by in Healthy Living

Can You Create the Life of Your Dreams?

“Can you create the life of your dreams?” asks Susan B. Lord, MD, in her R&R retreat lecture Mindful Living. More often than not, however, creating such a life can be challenging. As Susan points out, our culture can be quite isolating, demanding, and overstimulating. We live in a society that promotes linear thinking; meanwhile, our intuition, what Susan refers to as “the gut brain,” tends to be set aside. Because of this emphasis on a linear, head-centered existence, many of us are divorced from our bodies, and thus removed from the intuitive wisdom that resides within. We neglect our bodies—and our intrinsic physical needs—by sitting, often slumped, in front of a computer for eight (or more) hours a day; by not drinking enough water; or by over- or undereating. Because of this, Susan notes, many of us deny what we truly need through temporary measures, such as seeking out comfort foods or other unhealthy distractions, whenever we feel stressed, agitated, or lonely.

By cultivating a sense of mindfulness in our actions and experiences, however, we can create more space in our lives and encourage our intuition to flourish.

One of the keys to tapping into our intuition and creating a more mindful life is to step back and dis-identify from your stressors. You can do this, Susan says, simply by observing your stressors without judgment whenever they arise, and perhaps writing them down. For example, are you so harried that you often skip breakfast and end up feeling cranky and depleted before you even get to the office? By noticing this habit, you could make a plan to set aside time each morning to nourish yourself with a healthful breakfast before jumping into the day’s demands. “Pay attention to your body and give it what it needs in the moment,” Susan says. When you listen to what your body is telling you, you bring more awareness into your life.

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Posted on October 3rd, 2012 by in Yoga

40 Years of Kripalu Yoga in the West: Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training

In this monthly series running through 2012, community members recall milestone moments to commemorate and reflect on Kripalu Yoga.

In 1972, a small residential yoga retreat called Kripalu Center was founded in Sumneytown, Pennsylvania, by Amrit Desai and several of his students from the Philadelphia area. Desai had emigrated to the United States from India, where he was a close disciple of the yoga master Swami Kripalu. Over the next 40 years, Desai’s students integrated Swami Kripalu’s core teachings with psychology, science, and Western approaches to healing and self-development, creating groundbreaking programs and approaches to well-being. Today, Kripalu’s curriculum, professional training, and yoga research continue to be informed by the lineage of Kripalu Yoga. To commemorate the 40-year milestone, we asked several teachers and community members to reflect on what Kripalu Yoga means to them.

As a Kripalu Yoga teacher trainer, there is nothing quite so moving to me as getting to witness yoga-teachers-to-be at the end of their training practicing meditation in motion. At the end of an intensive, life-changing month, I get to witness a room full of souls allowing their sacred yoga prayers to unfold. Each one unique, each one a beautiful gift. In these moments, I have to pinch myself and say, “Really? I get to do this?”
Jurian Hughes, Kripalu School of Yoga teacher trainer

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Posted on October 2nd, 2012 by in Life Lessons

A Map of the World

Chris McCann, guest blogger

The Wheel

Through winter-time we call on spring,
And through the spring on summer call,
And when abounding hedges ring
Declare that winter’s best of all;
And after that there s nothing good
Because the spring-time has not come -
Nor know that what disturbs our blood
Is but its longing for the tomb.

This poem by William Butler Yeats has haunted me since I first read it at 15 years old. I moved around a lot as a kid—Boston, New Hampshire, Georgia, New Jersey—and always felt most at home when I was in one place thinking about another. These eight lines by Yeats knocked me over, and made me wonder whether my desire for wandering was simply a self-deluding race toward the grave.

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