Healthy Living

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

Posted on August 16th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Studies, News, and Trends

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, Studies, News, and Trends

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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Resilience Through Positive Connection

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?

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Posted on July 26th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Studies, News, and Trends

Turning Point: Q & A with Mark Pettus, MD

Mark Pettus, MD, is a board-certified internist and nephrologist who has been practicing for more than 25 years. He currently serves as Chief of Medicine at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, New York, and is the author of The Savvy Patient: The Ultimate Advocate For Quality Health Care. Mark has been featured on numerous television and radio programs nationally.

Q Describe what you do in 15 words or less.
A I serve as Chief of Medicine at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, New York, overseeing all aspects of patient care, quality, safety, and performance improvement.

Q Tell us about a turning point in your life.
A Ten years ago, when I was in my early forties, my blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, and quality of life were beginning to take a turn for the worst. This was an epiphany for me, as I became awakened to the power of self-care and self-regulation. As we are clearly not prisoners of our DNA, I started on a mission to transform the health trajectory that had consumed both of my parents at young ages. I eat whole, nutritious foods, move a lot, and meditate often. My life will never be the same-or, as another famous Yogi (the baseball player) once said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

Q What do you love about teaching?

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Posted on July 19th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Life Lessons, Studies, News, and Trends

What, us worry? Better than anyone.

In his new memoir,Monkey Mind, Daniel Smith describes a life spent in near- constant panic. He’d have recurring nightmares about premature death. He’d wrestle over the decision between ketchup and barbecue sauce. He’d sweat, a lot. In Monkey Mind—the title comes from the Buddhist term meaning “unsettled, restless”—Smith, now mostly recovered though still no stranger to the panic attack, uses humor and blunt-force honesty to describe what is an ever-present, and very American, condition: worry.

These days, everyone’s a worrier. Nearly one in five Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder. If there were an international war of worriers, we’d be winning: According to a recent World Health Organization study, 31 percent of Americans are likely to suffer from an anxiety issue at some point in their lives. Compare that to second-place Colombia, where the anxious top out at 25.3 percent. Even those in developing countries are less likely to fret: According to the 2002 World Mental Health Survey, people in developing-world countries are up to five times less likely to show clinically significant anxiety levels than Americans. Until, that is, they move here.

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