Every Sunday, you’ll find a space to enjoy guided meditation, a piece of music, an enticing image, or video that inspires calm.
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 came to Kripalu for the Kundalini Yoga and Expressive Arts weekend with my New York City–based hip-hop and spoken-word group, ReadNex Poetry Squad. We were all in serious need of a rest. In 2010, our group did more than 200 shows, performances, and workshops, spending nine months of the year on the road. To put it bluntly, we were beat.
Much of our work is done with at-risk urban youth: We travel to schools and teach kids about youth empowerment. We introduce them to the concept of using performance art as a form of personal expression. But as rewarding as community work is, it can also become physically and emotionally exhausting if you don’t give yourself a chance to rest.
I got the idea to bring the ReadNex Poetry Squad to Kripalu after my fiancée visited a few times for spiritual retreats. After each visit, she came home regenerated and rejuvenated. That’s what we needed, I thought. For us to be able to continue giving back to the community, we had to take time to focus on our own spiritual development.
Jay Karlinski, Kripalu Yoga Teacher and Guest Blogger
It’s a universal truth: We will all fall in life—all of us. Yes, you too. If you can accept this, you are on the right track. When I’m teaching asana classes, I encourage my students to play with their balance until they fall because that’s when the real teaching happens.
I believe asana holds countless lessons for how we live life. We are all going to fall in life, but it’s what happens next that matters most. If we can fall with grace and a lightness of heart, we’re serving ourselves. In class, when you fall out of a pose, notice what the first thought is that crosses your mind. If you find that you’re judging yourself or telling yourself, “I’m not strong enough” or “I can’t believe I fell, I am no good.” take a pause and recognize that you’re reinforcing limiting beliefs.