Healthy Living

Get inspired by stories on ways to maximize your health, have more energy, and live more fully.

Posted on August 31st, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Kripalu Kitchen, Medical Insights

Breakfast—Not Just for Champions

Mom was right: It really is the most important meal of the day.

For 20 years, researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health followed 5,000 men and women, looking specifically at their breakfast habits: what they ate and when. The results, presented recently at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association, found that people who ate breakfast every day were significantly less likely to become obese or develop type 2 diabetes than those who ate breakfast three times a week or less. These findings are significant, if not particularly surprising. Haven’t our mothers been telling us to eat our breakfast for years?

“This study affirms everything nutritionists have been talking about,” says John Bagnulo, PhD, MPH, who teaches nutrition in Kripalu’s Healthy Living programs. “When people eat breakfast, and in particular foods that give them less of what I like to call a ‘blood sugar tsunami,’ they make much better food choices throughout the day.” This includes avoiding foods containing sugar, not overdoing it on caffeine, and practicing portion control. “It’s all related to blood sugar,” says John. “If someone misses breakfast, their blood sugar levels come way down. They’re starving by 10:30 or 11:00, and because they haven’t eaten all morning, they crave foods that have a higher glycemic index,” like muffins, breads, candy, or pasta. Then they crash again by 1:00 pm—and look for yet another sugary pick-me-up. Sound familiar?

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Posted on August 29th, 2012 by in Healthy Living

Simple Habits for Healthy Living

Ashley Winseck, guest blogger

Most of life is a habit. We tend to fall into habitual ways of thinking and being and doing, and we’re living in a world where there are a lot of expectations and demands built up around us—bills, children, work, and more. Giving yourself moments of self-care—even if it’s just five minutes each day—can greatly improve quality of life.

The first step is admitting that you might have some habits are not working for you. Take a look at your daily routines and identify moments that cause you stress or could be improved upon. Then, determine what tools you can incorporate into your routine, what new habits you can establish. When you put some of these tools into practice, you can easily shift the state of your body, mind, and heart away from stress and back into your center.

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How to Quiet the Mind

How do we bring what we do on the yoga mat into the world? How do we quiet the mind? In this video, Aruni Nan Futuronsky shares her thoughts on how to neutralize suffering and simply be with what is.

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Posted on August 22nd, 2012 by in Healthy Living

Finding Balance

Balance is an important component of being physically fit. Unfortunately, this complex skill deteriorates as we age, leading to falls and fractures. The good news is that balance can be maintained—and even improved—through training and practice. Here are some suggestions:

• Try functional exercises such as walking, climbing stairs, or sitting down and standing up without using your hands.
• Practice yoga, Pilates, and tai chi to strengthen your core muscle groups.
• Include stretching and resistance training in your workouts.

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Posted on August 18th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Yoga

On Being Flexible

The practice of yoga can help bring balance to our lives. We all have particular tendencies and patterns and, without awareness, these patterns can create imbalance. By becoming aware of our habitual tendencies—and consciously applying their opposites—we can release stuck patterns and bring body, mind, and spirit back into union. Here are some polarities you [...]

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Posted on August 16th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Medical Insights

Get Happy

Can you learn to be an optimist? The answer is yes.

We’re always talking about the mind-body connection: how our emotional and mental state can affect our physical health. Now, a new study in the journal Aging confirms the notion, reporting that having a positive attitude about aging, but also generally, can add years to your life. That is, optimistic people live longer. Of course, optimism is a state of being often linked to genetics—you’re either born an optimist or you’re not—how you’re raised, and your life circumstances. For many who’ve faced certain hardship or personal struggle, it can be difficult to retain a sunny outlook when everything seems to be going wrong. What to do in that case?

“Centenarians often share genetically inherited positive personality traits: They’re easy going, out going, competent, and laugh easily,” says Susan B. Lord, MD, who leads several Kripalu Healthy Living programs. “They also tend to manage and express their feelings more freely than the general population.” These qualities have them—and their parasympathetic nervous system—living in a more relaxed state, which in turn optimizes organ function, slows down aging, and decreases the risk of developing disease. The question is: Can those of us who did not inherit a sunny, extroverted disposition develop this orientation toward life? Can we literally learn optimism?

Yes, says Susan. “Most of us are familiar with trying to change out of fear of getting sick or out of hating how we are now,” she says. “But this rarely works because it increases stress, which exacerbates the situation rather than turning it around.” When we focus on positive states, however, we actually change the brain, creating new neural pathways or habitual patterns of emotional stability, competence, positivity, contentment, and even joy—things that are consistent with longevity and good health outcomes. “Most of us spend entirely too much time wishing things were different, both in our past and our present,” she says. “We focus on negative emotions and memories so that is what we experience and create for ourselves. But neuroscience has shown that to change, we must put our attention on what we want instead of on what we don’t want.”

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Posted on August 11th, 2012 by in Healthy Living

Turning Point: Melanie Roche

Melanie Roche, MA, is a healer in private practice who works with clients worldwide. She served on the faculty of the Barbara Brennan School of Healing at both the Miami and Tokyo campuses, and is now developing her own method, integrating healing with mind-body practices.

Q Describe what you do in 15 words or less.

A Work to heal clients via phone or Skype and in person, and lead workshops internationally.

Q Tell us about a turning point in your life.

A I found a lump in my breast when I was in my early thirties. I had surgery, but also went to an energy healer. That healing was a profound experience—it changed my life, and I switched careers. Now I give healings and teach others how to do the same.

Q What do you love about teaching?

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Posted on August 9th, 2012 by in Healthy Living

Aromatherapy Soothes the Senses

Aromatherapy uses plant materials such as flowers, bark, roots, and stems to make essential oils that have powerful therapeutic qualities.Using a personalized blend of essential oils during a light lymphatic massage can help to eliminate toxins, strengthen the immune system, or relax the mind.

You can also incorporate essential oils at home. (Just remember that very few essential oils can be applied directly to the skin, and some are not ideal for everyone, especially pregnant women.)

• Tea tree is an excellent medicine-cabinet staple, since it has antibacterial properties. It’s great for bug bites, cuts, and blemishes when applied directly to the skin.
• For mental clarity and focus, try a blend of six drops of bergamot with three drops of rosemary mixed in some water.
• To rebalance, a self-massage using 4oz of grape-seed oil with nine drops of geranium, nine drops of lavender, and six drops of lemongrass is a perfect way to slow down, regroup, and set new intentions.

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Posted on August 4th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Medical Insights

Off the Mat and Into the Woods

Where Yoga and Nature Meet

Tresca Weinstein, guest blogger

Each time they co-teach the Kripalu program Yoga and Kayaking, Greg DiLisio and Johnny Snyder lead what they call a “floating meditation.” As the sun begins to rise over the Berkshires, the group rows together toward the center of Lake Mahkeenac, its surface shrouded in early-morning mist. Then they pull in their paddles, close their eyes, and let themselves float wherever the current and breeze carry them.

“There’s a universal feeling that water can provide—a sense of being in the flow, and of being connected to the source,” says Greg, a quigong, tai chi, and yoga teacher as well as avid outdoor sportsman. “We encourage people to touch the water, to sense it around and within them, to appreciate it as a life force.”

Just as our yoga practice on the mat can serve as a microcosm for our day-to-day experience, nature can be a powerful metaphor for life. Confronting and moving through discomfort in the context of nature opens the door to overcoming fear in other areas of life. The offshore meditation in Greg’s kayaking program brings people face-to-face with their fears of being unmoored—literally and figuratively—and alone in the unknown.

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Posted on July 30th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Life Lessons

Stop and Smell the Roses

In the age of over-busy, what does it mean to make every minute count?

A recent op-ed in the New York Times entitled “The ‘Busy’ Trap”—in which writer Tim Kreider describes a 21st-century America dominated by people whose favorite catchphrase is some version of “I’m sooo busy”— drew virtual nods of acknowledgment from across the web. This busyness, Kreider argues, is most often self-imposed: work and activities we’ve taken on, or encouraged our kids to take on, voluntarily. We’re busy because we’re ambitious, and we’re busy because we’re scared of what not being busy says about us. And it’s costing us our physical and mental health, our relationships, and, ironically, our productivity.

“We live with a lot of demands,” says Kripalu Senior Life Coach Aruni Nan Futuronsky. Aruni says that the amount—and the intensity—of stress she’s seeing among her clients has grown stronger and more pervasive over the last few years. She points to the “sandwich generation,” the set of adults tasked with taking care of both their children and their aging parents. At the same time, she says, life’s job is to take us away from the moment. “We’re so infrequently unplugged from work or news that our bodies are literally flooded with cortisol and adrenaline 24 hours a day,” says Aruni. “Our culture does an extraordinary job of making us wacky. Our responsibility is to find ways to reclaim some stillness, no matter what’s going on.”

But haven’t we heard for ages—from everyone from our grandmothers to our gurus, contained in songs on the radio and sermons at church—that we have but one life; we need to ‘make it count’? How do we tell the difference between making the most of every moment and busying ourselves into destruction? It’s actually pretty simple, says Aruni. “Yogically speaking, the way you make every minute count is to literally stop,” she says. “Yoga, and its principles, don’t deny us the external world but help us appreciate it by slowing down, by stopping the constant doing.”

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