In his book Light on Pranayama, B. K. S. Iyengar writes: “Prana is the breath of life of all beings in the universe.” It’s no surprise, then, that pranayama, or the regulation of breath, is an essential part of yoga practice. In fact, it’s unusual to enter into a yoga class that doesn’t have at [...]
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Holidays are about friends and family, eating copious amounts of comfort food, and enjoying our downtime. This year, in particular, we are faced with challenges that can weaken our immune system, and generally leave us feeling run-down, or drained. In the midst of holiday preparations we can lose sight of our exercise routines, our healthy eating habits, and our beneficial day-to-day patterns. On top of this, entertaining, late-night parties, and generally getting off our usual schedule can wear us down. Here are some tips for getting back into the groove during holiday time.
Relax! You have time off from work, so make good use of it and enjoy quiet time by the fire, reading books you’ve been yearning to pick up, getting back onto your cushion, and luxuriating in a hot bath. Since we don’t often make the time for self-care, take advantage of this opportunity for relaxation and rejuventation.
You may be well along in your holiday gift shopping. But if you’re like me, buying gifts because the calendar says so feels a bit hollow—and you have therefore been dragging your heels. Here are some ways to make giving more meaningful.
Meaning kicks in when you give in a way that’s aligned with your values like, say: stepping lightly on the planet; supporting local and/or small businesses (a.k.a. people following their passions); helping those in need; giving experiences over stuff; tapping your creative juices instead of Amazon.com’s; and more. But it’s also important to stay mindful of the receiver: Just because you think your mom should do yoga, giving her a mat might read as unwelcome pressure.
That said, here are some conscious ways to give:
Our mental time-travel away from the present moment is one of our primary dilemmas: Oftentimes, it’s much easier to focus on what might be happening, on what’s not happening, or on what has already happened than on what’s currently happening. Ultimately, it benefits us physiologically, energetically, emotionally, and spiritually to train our minds to return to what is happening right here, right now—and the meditative anchor of gratitude can ground us effortlessly back into reality.
Here are some ways you might practice gratitude:
Seems obvious: Who doesn’t get at least a little bit excited by a heaping bowl of fresh-cut fruit (especially if someone else has done the cutting for us)? But now science confirms that happiness and mental health rise with the number of servings of fruits and vegetables we eat each day.
Researchers at the University of Warwick and Dartmouth College studied 80,000 people living in the United Kingdom, and compared their fruit and veggie intake with their life satisfaction, mental well-being, presence of mental disorders, self-reported health, happiness, nervousness, and how often they “feel low,” factoring in such variables as the rest of their diets, alcohol, and many demographic, social, and economic factors. In an overwhelming number of cases, people who ate the World Health Organization-recommended five servings per day were happier than those who didn’t, and those who ate seven per day were happiest.
Barbara Biziou, author of The Joy of Ritual and The Joys of Family Rituals, integrates her extensive knowledge of global spiritual practices, rituals, psychology, and business into her coaching and speaking practice. She is a Huffington Post blogger and has been featured in the New York Times, Oprah.com, PsychologyToday.com, Harper’s Bazaar, and more. www.joyofritual.com
Q Describe what you do in 15 words or less.
A recent study conducted by researchers at Ohio State University and presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience seemed to prove that friendship has benefits beyond the emotional. In studying treatments for peripheral neuropathy, a pain and numbness of the hands and feet that’s a side effect of diabetes and one of the most common chronic diseases in the United States, researchers found that lab mice paired with a cage-mate experienced far less pain from nerve damage than those who were caged alone. Mice who had “friends” had higher thresholds for pain; they also experienced reductions in inflammation. The lonely mice were just lonely.
The fields of Positive Psychology, mind-body medicine, yoga, and the spiritual disciplines offer wisdom—culled from research and centuries of experience—that can sustain our unique over-40 needs. Here are five of these wisdom teachings.
1. Remember that change is possible at any time. Not only is our brain plastic (able to be “remapped” toward greater health, calm, memory, and reduction of pain) but also our thoughts and feelings can be reshaped on a daily basis. We can begin to experience positive transformation within days—a transformation that can be sustained over a lifetime.
“Who knows what will arise when we watch ourselves?” asks Kripalu Yoga teacher and life coach Michelle Dalbec in her R&R retreat workshop Reflections on Your Inner World. By opening up to the richness of our interior life through meditation and journaling, she elaborates, we can invite deeper self-reflection and self-expression into our daily existence.
Both meditation and journaling create an “open-hearted space of discovery,” Michelle says, by letting things be as they are—not changing, not critiquing, but simply observing and noting our thoughts, feelings, and sensations as they arise. “If we look at a situation long enough through the lens of meditation and journaling, we might be able to shift our perspective on it,” she says.