Healthy Living

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

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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Posted on July 14th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Studies, News, and Trends

Cooking Right: The Best Cookware for Healthful Eating at Home

In recent years, cookware has been the center of a hot, so to speak, debate, as environmental and health groups warn against the dangers of Teflon and other nonstick surfaces. According to tests issued by one group, cooking at very high temperatures can break down Teflon coating, emitting fumes and chemicals that include perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, which can cause flulike symptoms in people (and kill pet birds). The Environmental Protection Agency, however, ruled that while Teflon and other nonstick products may contain trace amounts of PFOA, the levels are so small that the routine use of such products is not a concern, while lawsuits seeking to link PFOA in the water supply to an increased risk of cancer have been unsuccessful. Still, it’s been tough to overcome Teflon’s bad rap, and many people worry about using any form of nonstick, even if it’s labeled “PFOA-free”—just in case.

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Posted on July 2nd, 2012 by in Healthy Living

Stress Busters with Susan B. Lord, MD

Is your to-do list a mile high? Having constant challenges with your boss or partner? Oftentimes, the stress we accumulate in our demanding lives seems unruly. But according to Dr. Susan B. Lord, MD, who leads the Kripalu Transforming Stress R&R retreat workshop, the ancient philosophy of yoga holds the key to creating more sustainable, stress-free life.

When things seem completely overwhelming, we often feel powerless and stuck. And when our ego is under stress, it can make us reactive and defensive; resistant to change. Yet as Susan points out, “20 percent of stress is what happens to us; 80 percent is how we deal with it.” So how can we go about transforming stress? Start with being mindful.

Many of us try to figure out life and its intricacies solely with our heads. This, as yoga teaches us, can only take us so far. Through mindfulness practices, which include yoga and meditation, we can step back and examine the bigger picture of our stress-filled situations. This allows us to create the space necessary to connect to all aspects of our being—head, heart, and spirit—during challenging times.

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Posted on June 30th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Studies, News, and Trends

Get Happy: Lessons from the New Field of Positive Psychology

Is happiness possible for all of us? How do we take the first step?

Cheryl Kain, Guest Blogger

Because the Constitution declares our right to pursue happiness, contentment can seem, for many Americans, like a birthright. At the same time, the quest for happiness can feel like herding cats—elusive and frustrating. We’re failures if we aren’t “happy” all the time—that’s why scores of books are written promising the secrets to happiness. But the search for happiness as an aggressive imperative can have the opposite effect, especially since happiness is relative for many people, including those facing poverty, health problems, or deep despair. The questions become: Can we ever truly achieve happiness? And could there be a set of universal prescriptions for getting there?

Teacher and author Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD, a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology and author of Being Happy: You Don’t Have to be Perfect to Lead a Richer, Happier Life, says the number-one predictor of well-being is the time we spend with people we care about and who care about us. “Latin Americans are happier than North Americans, because of the emphasis on relationships,” he says. “Friends and family play a much more central role in their lives.” This certainly rings true for me: In my own life, I have been far happier in my thirties and forties than when I was a singing-career-obsessed twentysomething. According to Gail Sheehy’s New York Times bestseller, Passages, I am a “deferred nurturer” and, admittedly, I did not value relationships as much as I did getting ahead in those earlier years. Smack dab in early midlife, relationships trump all for me now. My daily relational experiences, whether with my bestie or the grocery clerk, far outshine the pleasure of those long-ago pipe dreams.

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