Every Sunday we provide a space for quiet, calm, and peaceful introspection. Enjoy this week’s Moment of Quiet.
Yogic philosophy teaches us that there is inherent balance between the body, the mind, and the spirit. This unity is our birthright. Unfortunately, as we “grow up,” our minds gain strength and overwhelm these other aspects of ourselves. The mind thinks it is in charge, and tries to run the show—it overpowers the body. And the connection to the spirit often becomes a mere whisper.
Quieting the mind, becoming present in the moment, experiencing what is rather than trying to create what might be or remaining stuck in what was, are the doorways to freedom from the busy mind. Our minds need to be trained to be an effective ally. It is our responsibility to quiet the mind by entering into the moment—the power of that pause is profound.
Here are some simple yet effective suggested practices to bring the power of pause into your daily life:
Has anyone ever asked you the classic foodie question? You know, the one that goes something like, “If you were stranded somewhere and could only eat five different foods forever, which would you choose?”
Of course, the location of said strandedness makes a big difference in the answer: juicy watermelons sound perfect for a lifetime on a desert island, but not so great in the snowy Arctic! Climate aside, it’s a great question to ponder, and one that we chefs seem to get quite a bit.
Depending on my mood, a few of my top five foods can change. Past winners have been winter squash, lacinato kale, brown rice, cannellini beans, and arugula. Or I’ll cheat with a broad answer like, “any fresh vegetable or fruit” or the generic “beans, grains, and veggies.” Sometimes I’ll answer with some of my favorite dishes, such as butternut squash soup, risotto, and lasagna. Or sautéed greens with cannellini beans tossed with pesto; kichari; a nice dahl over rice with cilantro mint chutney; tabouli; sourdough bread; arugula salad with dates and raw cheese with balsamic … the list easily gets longer than five!
How can we keep our yoga practice fresh during seasonal transitions?
Elena Brower, yogini extraordinaire, gives us some tips.
One of yoga’s keenest gifts, Elena notes, is that it makes us aware of life’s transitions, and how we approach our practice on the mat can guide us in how we welcome life off the mat as we open up to spring. Even when the impulse of awakening strikes, starting our practice slowly helps us find our way into greater freedom and deeper intuition as spring begins its journey toward full bloom. Backbends, with their emphasis on heart-opening, seem intuitive this time of year and, as the season starts, we can mirror nature’s journey by gently encouraging our own physical flourishing. With that in mind, she recommends opening the heart with baby backbends, such as Small Cobra. Going within and noticing the delicate balance between growth and surrender allows the process of springtime to unfurl at its natural pace.
Elena also notes that it’s important to keep the fragility of the blossoming process in mind, and to approach our yoga practice with attention to small details. “We can practice our yoga with a delicate level of care, connecting energetically to the universal pulsation, or spanda.”
Of course, nothing says “spring awakening” quite like reveling in nature, and bringing our practice outdoors can help create new perspectives. The season’s vibrant imagery—the colorful flora, bright sunshine, and hints of lush green landscapes—can act as a powerful complement to how we attune to the energy of renewal in our yoga practice.
In this edition of Ask the Expert, John Bagnulo, PhD, Kripalu Healthy Living faculty, addresses questions on whether to eat or avoid common ingredients including fish, eggs, stevia, and whey.
The jury still seems out on the benefits vs. harm of eating fish. Based on the newest available evidence, what are the biggest risks, and do you recommend eating it at all?
I do advise people to eat fish. It offers nutrients that are more elusive in a vegan diet, without the health compromises that other sources of animal protein require you to make. I highly recommend sardines and mackerel as they are small, very clean, and packed with beneficial oils and trace minerals. They are on my top-five food list, in spite of being animals. I recommend that people avoid all big fish, especially large varieties of tuna and swordfish. These are tainted with PCBs, which I am much more concerned with than mercury.
Is there any harm in eating just egg whites (not the yolks)?
Susan Abbattista, Guest Blogger
One of my favorite vinyasa yoga teachers once said, “If dropping into stillness is the hardest thing for you to do, then that is what you need the most.” And so, sometime around the first frost, I came to Kripalu to try a meditative practice called yoga nidra. Translated as “yogic sleep” or “divine sleep,” this type of yoga focuses on systematic relaxation of the body while the mind enters a state of deep, meditative awareness—like dreaming while fully awake. The technique was developed by Swami Satyananda in the 1960s to make advanced, centuries-old practices of tantric meditation more accessible to everyone.
I’d never done this type of yoga before and didn’t quite know what to expect. One thing I did know: Underneath my blanket, I was an exhausted mess. Summer had passed in a hazy blur of work and play—and, admittedly, too many margaritas. Now here it was, the onset of fall, the hardest seasonal transition for me. I felt myself floating and drifting, a balloon accidentally released from the fist of a child. I needed to reel myself back in.
Over the course of five days, some unspoken guidelines (or pointers) emerged from the darkness:
How we stand, literally—with our feet on the ground—can have a huge impact on how we feel. When we align ourselves and ground in Mountain pose, we access the qualities of stability, balance, and strength. Reconnecting to these qualities can help us as we move through our day, meeting challenges and entering new situations. Try Mountain pose any time you need to ground yourself to find inner strength and peace.
To explore this foundational pose, stand with your feet parallel and three to five inches apart, weight evenly balanced, arms at your sides. Spread out the toes and press evenly down through the four corners of each foot. As the feet firm into the floor, the kneecaps will lift and the thighs will gently engage. Lengthen the tailbone toward the heels and lift the pubic bone toward the navel. Firm the shoulder blades onto the back and slide them down toward the waist. Gently lift the sternum and reach the fingertips toward the floor. Keeping the chin parallel to the floor, lengthen up through the crown of the head, while softening the tongue and the throat. Develop steady, smooth breaths.