Healthy Living

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

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

Meditating for a Better Brain

Aging Gracefully Through Meditation

Meditation has long been believed to be a win-win proposition, carrying certain psychological benefits with zero risk or cost. People who meditate regularly report lower levels of stress, improvements in concentration and memory, and slower reactivity (no more road rage!). The mental relaxation produced by meditation can have physiological benefits, too, in the same way we know that a calmer emotional state is good for our physical body. But a few new studies reveal that the practice may have profound effects on actual brain development—something traditionally believed to peak in our 20s and then begin to decline.

Researchers at the Laboratory of Neuroimaging at UCLA have spent years studying how meditation may affect neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to make physiological changes. In a recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, the lab reported finding that long-term meditators had brain function that not only did not decline as they aged, but improved, thanks to an increase in brain gyrification—activity that happens in the cerebral cortex, or the outermost part of the brain. The lab also determined that the brains of dedicated meditators have more gray matter, which affects the brain’s ability to process information, and white matter, which helps a person communicate clearly.

read →
Posted on June 2nd, 2012 by in Healthy Living

The Power of Play

The warmer months can brings us back to the freedom of childhood, when summer meant school-free, carefree days. But as adults, finding the time to be carefree is a challenge. That’s why play can be so powerful. Here, three experts offer insight into how the simplest of childhood pleasures can reinvigorate the mind, body, and spirit.

“Our natural state is to be happy,” says Kripalu Yoga teacher Coby Kozlowski. “The joyful, playful side of the inner journey often gets overlooked. There’s often guilt in joy because there’s so much suffering in the world, so a lot of people are resistant to it.” The Sanskrit word leela, which means “divine play,” is an essential component of Coby’s teachings; the idea is based on a process she calls joyful self-inquiry. The modalities Coby uses include vinyasa yoga and hula-hooping, an activity she sees not just as a fun throwback, but also as a yogic tool for self-empowerment. “The hooping action awakens the chakras,” she says. “It opens up the inner channels, awakening the body, awakening the breath.” Stimulation through hooping’s circular motions can release “stuck” places in our bodies and emotions, creating a space in our being that allows for self-expression to flourish.

read →
Posted on May 19th, 2012 by in Healthy Living

A Happier Life

An excerpt from Being Happy: You Don’t Have to Be Perfect to Lead a Richer, Happier Life by Tal Ben-Shahar

Some version of the Golden Rule, reminding us to not do unto others as we would not have done unto ourselves, finds its way into most moral codes, be they secular or religious. It is with our neighbor that the Golden Rule is concerned. But what about ourselves? The Golden Rule takes the love of self for granted—the self is used as the standard for the love of others, how we treat the “I” as the standard for how we treat our fellow men and women. The sages, however, generally ignored the fact that we don’t all love ourselves, or, rather, that many of us fall out of love with ourselves once we are old enough to turn our critical impulse, the faultfinder, inward.

We rarely condemn others for their fallibility but routinely refuse to accept our own humanity. As Diane Ackerman points out, “No one can live up to perfection, and most of us do not often expect it of others; but we are more demanding with ourselves.” Why the double standard, the generosity toward our neighbor and the miserliness where we ourselves are concerned? And so I propose that we add a new rule, which we can call the Platinum Rule, to our moral code: “Do not do unto yourself what you would not do unto others.”

Taking as a standard our behavior toward others can help us recognize irrational, destructive attitudes toward ourselves. Would you criticize your partner if she gave a less-than-perfect speech? Would you think any less of your best friend if he did not do well on an exam? If your daughter or father did not earn first place in a competition, would their imperfect record diminish your love for them? Probably not. And yet when we ourselves fall short, we often regard ourselves as wholly inadequate, utter failures.

read →
Posted on May 9th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Nutrition

Eating Local Benefits Mind, Body, Spirit, and Earth

Photo Courtesy of Angela Cardinali of Berkshire Farm and Table

The concept of eating local is as old as humankind itself, when hunters and gatherers would naturally eat plants and animals that grew or lived nearby. But with industrialism and the advent of the big box supermarket, where absolutely no food is out of season, we’ve grown accustomed to having whatever we want, whenever we want it: Macintosh apples in humid Miami, coconuts in snowy New England. Now, a growing number of people—dubbed “locavores”—are going “back to the earth,” eating locally-grown or -made food as much as possible.

Eating local doesn’t mean having to get your hands dirty. (Though perhaps the biggest coup for the “eat local” movement came when Michelle Obama announced the groundbreaking of the White House vegetable plot, the property’s first since Eleanor Roosevelt’s WW II-era Victory Garden.) There are urban farmers’ markets and farm-to-table-obsessed neighborhood chefs to help out those of us without gardens of our own. Here at Kripalu, up to 75 percent of the produce we serve comes from local farms, depending on the time of year. So why should you consider joining the local food movement?

read →
Posted on May 8th, 2012 by in Healthy Living

Prevent Heart Disease with a Healthy Lifestyle

It’s the organ we associate with love. It’s the organ whose beats keep us alive. Let’s face it: the heart is pretty important. And yet more people die from heart disease in the United States than from anything else.

Proper nutrition and exercise are widely known to prevent and reverse the ubiquitous national disease, but social connectivity might play more of a role in protecting that mega-important organ than you think. “A connected life with supportive individuals can literally save your life,” says Lisa Nelson, MD, Healthy Living Director of Medical Education at Kripalu.

Whether you draw comfort from a loving family, a caring circle of friends, a religious group, or a supportive therapist, social connections reduce stress, which contributes to cardiovascular disease. In fact, studies have shown that people who participate in community or religious groups fare better after a heart attack than those who don’t. “It’s not just about taking your medication,” says Lisa. “When you spend time with someone you care about, you relax. Blood pressure, respiratory rate, and heart rate all go down.”

read →
Posted on May 7th, 2012 by in Healthy Living

Embracing the Unknown: Staying Grounded in Uncertain Times

Renée Peterson Trudeau, Guest Blogger

Are you between jobs, homes, relationships? It helps to learn strategies for sitting peacefully in limbo.

These days, we’re facing unprecedented levels of change, uncertainty, and chaos. In this post-September 11 era, in which economic volatility has become a mainstay, we’re juggling parenting our parents, managing dual-income households, navigating globalization and living farther away from our families, fighting off digital overwhelm, and, in many cases, dealing with fallout from natural disasters.

In addition to all these outward changes, we’re also being called on to transform internally. We are undergoing huge consciousness shifts, and many of us are feeling the call to evolve, and to embrace a new way of being. The majority of my friends, colleagues, clients—and even my own family—are all navigating uncertainty and experiencing some type of transition right now:

read →
Posted on May 5th, 2012 by in Healthy Living

What does it mean to be resilient?

In this video series, Kripalu Healthy Living faculty member Maria Sirois, PsyD, shares her wisdom on the topic of resiliency and suggests ways to cultivate it in your daily life. Are you resilient? What does it mean to you to be flexible?      

read →
Posted on May 3rd, 2012 by in Healthy Living

Turning Point: Q & A with Chris Martenson, PhD, MBA

Turning Point: Chris Martenson

Chris Martenson, PhD, MBA, is an economic researcher and futurist specializing in energy and resource depletion. He was one of the early econobloggers who forecasted the housing market collapse and stock market correction. Chris and his wife, Becca, are at Kripalu June 29–July 1 to teach Peak Prosperity, based on Chris’ seminal video seminar, The Crash Course.

Q Describe what you do in 15 words or less.

A I am creating a world worth inheriting, which begins by helping individuals build physical, financial, and emotional resilience in their lives.

read →
Posted on May 1st, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Medical Insights

Sitting Pretty: Not So Much

Forget baseball. Researchers say America has a new favorite pastime: sitting.

Various studies show that Americans spend, on average, eight hours a day on our rear ends, and the effects aren’t good: A study published last month in the Archives of Internal Medicine—and corroborated recently by a similar study out of Finland—reported that the longer men and women sat every day, the greater their chance of dying prematurely, even if they spent at least part of that day working out. It’s one reason Dr. David Agus argues in The End of Illness that a sitting habit may be worse than a smoking habit.

“The body is a mechanism of movement, so prolonged sitting without breaks is very hard to sustain without consequence,” says Cristie Newhart, a Senior Faculty member at Kripalu and a Kripalu yoga teacher. Still, says Newhart, it’s not necessarily that we sit, but how we sit. “Most of us slump in our chairs and sit forward of—rather than on top of—the sitting bones,” she says. “That rounds and compresses the spine and brings stress to the low back. Such slumping can also invite shallow breathing, which can create a sort of permanent state of ‘fight or flight’ within the nervous system.”

read →
Posted on April 17th, 2012 by in Healthy Living

What is Qigong?

Qigong instructors Deborah Davis—an acupuncturist and medical intuitive—and Ken Nelson—a leader in mind-body practices who also teaches yoga, meditation, and bodywork—share their personal connections to qigong and discuss its benefits.

What exactly is qigong?

Deborah Davis Qigong is an ancient system of self-healing that’s been around for 2,000 years. It’s a practice that’s meant to help your body heal itself naturally.

Ken Nelson “Qi” means energy and “gong” means to cultivate. It’s an umbrella term for any energy/movement work, such as martial arts and tai chi. Qigong is one of the four pillars of Chinese medicine.

Do yoga and qigong complement each other?

read →