Jonathan Ambar

Jonathan Ambar

Jonathan relocated from Brooklyn to the Berkshires, which enabled him to finally earn his driver’s license at the tender age of 34. When not maneuvering winding country roads with great aplomb, he’s writing, editing, performing, and spending an inordinate amount of time upside down (which he’d like to think doesn’t get in the way of his ability to stay grounded). Jonathan is also a certified yoga teacher, having earned his 200-hour certification through OM Yoga Center.
Posted on December 15th, 2012 by in Yoga

Ancient Wisdom for the New Year

So what are you doing this New Year’s Eve? Watching the ball drop over Times Square on television … again? For many of us, the typical New Year’s celebration can feel like old hat after a while. We start looking for more profound ways of honoring the space between letting go of the old and embracing the new. For those seeking a spiritual connection during times of transition, the world’s wisdom traditions—including Peruvian shamanism, Kabbalah, and yoga—offer rituals rich with meaning.

Shamanic philosophy sees the turning of the year as a time to honor and give back to Mother Earth, and a way of tapping into and acknowledging nature’s cycle of transformation. According to Ray Crist,  founder of the Jaguar Path, which fuses yoga practice and the philosophy of Peruvian shamanism, the Q’ero of Peru believe that we’re all shamans—each of us possesses an intuitive power and wisdom that connects us to both the world around and the world within. Rituals empower people because, he says, “through ritual, we can be the catalysts that bring forth healing and change into our own lives.” To celebrate the power of change that the new year brings, the Q’ero shamans perform rituals such as the despachio, an offering of gratitude to Mother Earth for all she provides.

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Posted on December 10th, 2012 by in Yoga

The Benefits of Forward Bends

There are many benefits to forward bends, both standing and sitting. They create length and space in the spine, counteracting compression, and their inward nature can promote introspection. Yet forward bands can also be a challenge to many people, especially those with tight hamstrings. Common physical patterns, such as overstretched back muscles and rounded shoulders (mostly likely from sitting in front of a computer for hours) are often exacerbated in forward bending poses.

But as senior Kripalu Yoga teacher Cristie Newhart says in her R&R retreat workshop Forward Bends, yoga can help us dissolve patterns so we can uncover fresh ways of looking and experiencing ourselves. This multifaceted awareness about how we move can help us cultivate a deeper, richer yoga practice, allowing us to discover new ease in our forward bends.

In the workshop, Cristie shares these tips for getting the most out of your forward folds:

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Posted on November 13th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Yoga

Meditation and Journaling: Combining Practices to Reflect Your Inner World

“Who knows what will arise when we watch ourselves?” asks Kripalu Yoga teacher and life coach Michelle Dalbec  in her R&R retreat workshop Reflections on Your Inner World. By opening up to the richness of our interior life through meditation and journaling, she elaborates, we can invite deeper self-reflection and self-expression into our daily existence.

Both meditation and journaling create an “open-hearted space of discovery,” Michelle says, by letting things be as they are—not changing, not critiquing, but simply observing and noting our thoughts, feelings, and sensations as they arise. “If we look at a situation long enough through the lens of meditation and journaling, we might be able to shift our perspective on it,” she says.

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Posted on November 10th, 2012 by in Nutrition

Find Peace from the Struggle to Maintain a Healthy Weight

Why do so many of us struggle to maintain a healthy weight? One of the top culprits, says integrative nutritionist Annie B. Kay, MS, RD, RYT, in her R&R retreat lecture A Natural Way to Healthy Weight, is the typical American diet, which is loaded with sugar, heavy on processed foods, and doesn’t include much fiber. One of the major factors in finding balance, Annie says, is to examine our choices and explore new options that could be more beneficial to our health—and waistlines—in the long run.

In order to maintain a healthy weight, Annie says, it’s necessary to first look at what’s on our plate. “Whole foods are healers,” Annie says. “They supply us with a sustained energy balance, unlike high-sugar, processed foods, which take our blood sugar on a roller coaster ride.” To help us foster this sustainable energy, Annie suggests shifting from a grain-based to a green-based diet, avoiding white flour and other simple carbs, and stocking our kitchen with foods high in nutrient density—foods packed with more nutrients per calorie, such as fruits and vegetables. Nutrient-dense foods also have the bonus of keeping us full longer.

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Posted on October 15th, 2012 by in Life Lessons, Meditation, Yoga

Cultivating Inner Strength

Do you suffer from anxiety, poor digestion, or lack of focus? When life’s demands overwhelm us, Angela Wilson, Manager of Evidence-Based Yoga Curriculum for Kripalu’s Institute for Extraordinary Living, explains in her R&R retreat lecture Cultivating Inner Strength, our nervous system gets out of balance. Through the practices of yoga meditation, and mindfulness, however, we can build resilience in order to be fully aware of all our experiences.

As Angela explains, there are two main branches of the nervous system. There’s the sympathetic nervous system, which activates the fight-or-flight response in reaction to stressful situations. It’s a hot, reactive state, which increases heart rate and primes the body for action. The other branch is the parasympathetic nervous system, which is activated when the body is relaxed. The parasympathetic supports a cooling, restful and state. It soothes the system, aids in digestion, and can be fostered through yoga practice.

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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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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 September 1st, 2012 by in Yoga

Tantalizing Twists for Vitality and Balance

Twists are some of the most versatile—and requested—poses in the yoga-posture canon, and for good reason. There are numerous benefits to twisting, which makes it an integral part of a well-rounded asana practice. “Twists can help us regain a sense of homeostasis, the body’s relaxation response, which allows us to come back to balance from […]

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