Every Sunday, you’ll find a space to enjoy guided meditation, a piece of music, an enticing image, or video that inspires calm.
It’s easy to lose connection with our feelings. In this fast-paced world, with all the responsibilities that we carry, we are often exhausted by the day’s end. Self-connection is pushed to the side in the face of our busyness and the time devoted to others. This is the moment to consider getting in touch with your own heart and reconnecting to your essence.
The center of the body is the seat of the heart chakra, the energy center that contains our ability to give and to receive freely. It’s the seat of compassion and holds within it the more positive emotions of joy, love, and tenderness. When we are too busy to tend to ourselves, we literally shut down our hearts, and our channel for connection and love becomes clogged.
In the early morning hours, when the sun creeps in and the symphonic sounds of nature begin their song, there is an air of potency. In a culture obsessed with fast pace and endless to-dos, we are gifted a spacious segment of time every 24 hours when we can choose to begin our day in tune with nature’s grace.
Breakfast—the sacred ritual of breaking the fast of the night cycle—is the perfect opportunity to commence the day with mindfulness and an open heart. Instead of the usual frantic rush of a meal eaten on the go, or with news in the background, or in the midst of a stressful conversation, what would shift for you if this meal was taken in quiet sanctuary? To come into the kitchen, feel the ground below, make the connection with food, and prepare the meal with intent? To sit and take a breath, feel the air above, and offer gratitude for seed, farmer, and cook? To chew one bite at a time, notice your internal dialogue, and make the choice to stay present? All of these inquires of awareness are ones I was introduced to at Kripalu back in 2003 when I started volunteering. Each morning meal at Kripalu is taken in silence: It’s a time to start the day in a mindful space of being.
Need a boost in your yoga practice? In her R&R retreat workshop Grounded Presence, senior Kripalu Yoga teacher Evelyn Gonzalez explores enlivening ways to bring more grounding, energy, and spaciousness each time you step onto the yoga mat. Through the natural forces of opposition, Evelyn explains, you can find your center in each pose.
Plant metaphors are a powerful way to let this concept blossom in your body. One of the keys to tapping into a sense of grounded presence in your practice is to become aware of what roots down and what branches out when you settle into a yoga posture—all the while connecting to the breath. Evelyn recommends lengthening the bones to find more space across the body, while simultaneously allowing the muscles to contract, “hugging” them into the bones for stability.
In this edition of Ask the Expert, senior Kripalu faculty member and yoga philosophy professor Randal Williams answers your questions about bringing awareness to your outdoor activities.
I like to hike and cross-country ski—what are some ways I can incorporate yoga and meditation practices into my outdoor activities?
When you’re physically active outdoors, it naturally enlivens your focus. When you’re climbing over rocks or roots, walking on slippery or rough terrain, you have to pay attention. This is good for sharpening your mind just like meditation does, along with the added benefit of being physically active.
In my own practice, I like to start out slow and take cues from the environment. If I hear a brook rushing or wind blowing, I’ll stop and listen. I approach the experience with a receptive frame of mind. You never know what you’re going to find, and that reinforces the feeling of being part of something bigger. This mindfulness approach is very much an intervention for calming busyness and stress.
A gentle seasonal detox can leave you feeling more energetic, less stressed, and physically refreshed.
Detoxes are showing up everywhere these days—from the lemon juice-maple syrup-cayenne pepper fast, to increasingly popular juice cleanse programs. While a cleanse typically focuses on one area of the body, a detox is considered a system-wide reboot. And done wisely, say many health experts, a detox can provide serious benefits. “Many minor ailments, such as headaches, fatigue, poor concentration, and insomnia, are caused by a buildup of toxins,” says Kay, an integrative dietitian who leads Healthy Living immersion programs at Kripalu.
While the body naturally eliminates waste through the skin, kidneys, and gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and simply by breathing, sometimes it could use a little assistance. By targeting the liver, where toxins and mood-altering hormones can build up, as well as the colon, where waste is held, detoxes provide a mind/body housecleaning of sorts. And though spring is a great time to do it—as the weather gets warmer, that warmth helps support organ function, allowing impurities to flow out more easily—detox is something that can, and should, be incorporated any time of the year.
The first step is to pick a three-day period that works with your schedule, one during which it’s easy for you to eat on your own terms and get a lot of sleep. “A detox should include quiet time, away from work and intense social interaction,” says Conzo. (Note that people with conditions such as diabetes, cancer, kidney or liver disease, as well as women who are pregnant or nursing, should consult their doctors or schedule a one-on-one with a Kripalu nutritionist before embarking on any detox program.)
I’ll be honest here, maybe a bit sappy even. Want to know what my favorite song is? It’s “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?”, popularized by James Ingram and Patti Austin. Accompanied by some heartfelt harmonies, the lyrics ask the poignant question: How do you keep romantic love alive year after year?
I don’t know that there’s a one-size-fits-all answer because relationships are as different as snowflakes. But Joel and Kate Feldman, husband and wife for nearly three decades, longtime couples therapists, and founders of the Conscious Relationships Institute in Durango, Colorado, say couples in happy longstanding relationships tend to practice some of the same partnership-nurturing behaviors. After our Kripalu Perspectives podcast, they shared their favorite tips with me on how to deepen love and sustain intimacy: