Healthy Living

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

Posted on October 9th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Yoga

Turning Point: Amy Weintraub

Amy Weintraub, MFA, E-RYT 500, is the author of the books Yoga for Depression and Yoga Skills for Therapists, and creator of the award-winning DVD series LifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues. Founder of the LifeForce Yoga® Healing Institute, she offers professional trainings in LifeForce Yoga for Mood Management, and speaks at medical and psychological conferences internationally. www.yogafordepression.com
 
Q Describe what you do in 15 words or less.

A I inspire others to use yoga practices to remove whatever blocks them from knowing their true nature.

Q Tell us about a turning point in your life.

A I came to my first yoga teacher training at Kripalu in 1992 to deepen my own sadhana. I left with a passion to share with others the practice that had literally saved my life and had slowly helped me live a life free of medication for depression.

Q What do you love about teaching?

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Digestive Health and Spirituality

What You Believe and How You Digest May Go Hand in Hand

In this excerpt from their book, The Inside Tract: Your Good Gut Guide to Great Digestive Health, Kripalu Nutritionist Kathie Madonna Swift, MS, RD, LDN, and coauthor Gerard E. Mullin share insights on how cultivating a spiritual practice can help you reduce stress, recover from illness, and lead a life of wellness.

Many studies have demonstrated a connection between spirituality and lower rates of stress and even depression. Maintaining a spiritual practice can help people cope better with stressful situations, thus reducing their anxiety levels and lessening the impact of chronic stress. Numerous researchers have documented a link between spirituality and depression: Spiritually healthy practices like finding meaning and purpose in life, having an intrinsic value system, and belonging to a supportive community with shared values may reduce depressive symptoms. Since stress and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression have such a profound impact on gut health, it stands to reason that engaging in a spiritual practice could have a positive impact on stress-related digestive disorders, too.

Harvard cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson was one of the first to study the relationship between spirituality and health. He revolutionized the field by showing that meditating in a trancelike state reduces stress and improves health while simultaneously raising consciousness and spiritual awareness. Though his finding is still considered groundbreaking by many in the West, ancient cultures have integrated spirituality into healing for millennia. Shamanic priests were regarded as “healers” long before the development of pharmaceuticals, and meditation and prayer have been at the very center of healing practices since the dawn of time.

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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 28th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Kripalu Kitchen

Balancing: Applying Love Life Lessons to the Kitchen

My fiancé, Jim, and I recently participated in a wonderful program at Kripalu led by David Deida called The Sexual Body and the Yoga of Light. While we never talked about food or cooking during the program, I couldn’t help but draw some significant parallels. A large part of the discussions centered on recognizing and enhancing the natural polarities of masculine and feminine energies. We talked about what it’s like to have both strong and weakened states of polarity with our partners. For me, when the polarity was strong and we had a clear sense of openheartedness, the amount of vibrancy and energy between us felt most engaging and satisfying. When the polarity collapsed, or when it felt forced or came with an agenda (e.g. “I want something from you”), our energy felt unsatisfying.

After the program ended, it just so happed that I needed to go straight to the Kripalu Kitchen to cook a dinner for our Board of Trustees and our donors. As I pondered what to put in one of the appetizers and reflected on the program, I was reminded that cooking can simply be thought of as a dynamic dance of creating healthy polarity between foods.

The white halibut needed the richly colored charmoula sauce we drizzled on it. The Moroccan sauce, with its sharp cilantro and spicy paprika, needed the stabilizing flavor of the olive oil to balance it. The dense flourless chocolate cake was complemented by the light, citrusy whipped cream. And the list of how we used polarized flavors, textures, and ingredients went on.

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Posted on September 27th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Nutrition

Gardening in the Fall

How to plant for a beautiful spring harvest

Just because summer’s coming to a close doesn’t mean that you need to close up your backyard garden. Many homegrown vegetables can survive—and even thrive—over the cold winter months. Kripalu Healthy Living nutritionist John Bagnulo, PhD,MPH,who farms organically at his home in Maine, offers his tips for ensuring a bountiful spring.

Start simple. Beets and carrots are by far the most low-maintenance vegetables you can plant now and enjoy in the spring. My favorite varieties are Chioggia for beets and Mokum for carrots. Simply work a good amount of compost or aged cow manure into the ground (a container works well for small spaces). Manure is my personal favorite fertilizer, as compost means different things today than it did 20 years ago when I started gardening. Now, the demand is so great that producers are cutting corners and many composts are not well developed.You could also try planting some berries. Strawberries planted in the fall can be ready the following spring. So can blueberries, though it generally takes blueberries much longer to truly become productive.

Plant wisely. Plant seeds about 1/2″ deep and water them well. After the weather turns really cold, cover them with a thick layer of straw or chopped straw—not leaves, as those can suffocate the growth below when they get packed down with the first couple of rains or snowfalls. This cover will keep the frost from pushing the ground up and out, which exposes young plants or seeds.

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Posted on September 26th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Meditation

Bubbie and the Buddha

The benefits of meditation for seniors

In a recent study, nearly 70 percent of people over the age of 60 reported experiencing loneliness, a risk factor for functional decline and early death. But those who took part in an eight-week meditation program reduced those feelings of loneliness—and gave their immune systems a boost as well. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California Los Angeles, is published in this month’sissue of the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

Yoga has long been known to help ease depression and loneliness by raising concentrations of gamma-amminobutyric acid (GABA), the neurotransmitter responsible for regulating the nervous system. High levels of GABA have a calming effect. Of course, loneliness isn’t just an emotional issue; it’s a form of stress that can have physical manifestations as well, says Randal Williams, a Kripalu Yoga instructor and teacher trainer, who isn’t surprised by the study’s findings. “When I was a child I used to go to religious services with my grandmother,” says Randal. “This was her way of connecting with others. Whether it is to do yoga or meditate or walk or sit and share tea, getting together with others has a positive impact.”

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Posted on September 25th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Life Lessons

The Gift of Abundance

Do you find yourself focusing on what isn’t happening in your life? Perhaps you find yourself stressed out about something that hasn’t even taken place yet, imagining and envisioning its worst-case scenario. As you indulge in these negative thoughts, notice how everything tightens up, both inside and around you. By not living in the moment, scarcity—that feeling of constriction and lack—pulls at us.

By being present in the moment and relaxing into what is happening, doors open wide for us. Abundance is available here, in this very moment, through mindful breath, relaxation, and gratitude.

Consider abundance, not in its usual connotation of wealth and plenty, but in its more energetic experience, as the fullness of spirit, an overflowing of presence that brings us deep connection to the moment.

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Posted on September 22nd, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Words from the Wise, Yoga

Life is Perspective

We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are.”—Henry David Thoreau

Do you feel stuck? Do you find that you’re always preparing for the worst? Where are you putting your attention? When we step back and examine our worldview it can lead us to question our belief systems and our perspective. Yoga often initiates this exploration: As we experience being in our body, being in the moment, and fully feeling our experiences, we open to the possibility of being comfortable in the uncomfortable. How do we integrate this practice into our daily lives?

In her R&R retreat workshop Life Is Perspective, Kripalu Yoga teacher and life coach Coby Kozlowski, explores the gift of perspective and how yoga can impact our experiences. Discussing tenets from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, specifically, yoga as “the cessation of the modifications of the mind,” Coby notes that we can approach our experiences as “the observer, the witness, and open to seeing the way we frame our own experience in the belief systems that we’ve codified in our perspective.”

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