“Growth can only be gradual. The seed that is sown today does not sprout into a tree the next day. It does so only in the course of time, at its own pace, and by its own order.” —Swami Kripalu
Yoga for the People—All 500,000 of them
Yoga is getting bigger—literally. The quarterly conferences run by Yoga Journal have grown considerably over the last decade, with the more popular teachers leading packed classes in giant ballrooms. Now in its third year, yoga and music festival Wanderlust runs four sold-out summer weekends throughout the country, attracting tens of thousands of people to group classes led by Seane Corn, Rodney Yee, and others. A few weeks ago, 500,000 Manhattan yogis gathered to celebrate the summer solstice in the middle of Times Square. And coming up, the GLBL Yoga Project, set for August 16, will turn Central Park into a giant yoga studio, with 15,000 yogis practicing to live music.
There are great advantages to practicing yoga in a large group, says Devarshi Steven Hartman, Dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga. “A yoga practice is called sangha, which means ‘community coming together,’” he says. “And there’s no doubt that our personal, spiritual, and individual growth is quickened when we have a community of like-minded souls reflecting back to us, with honesty, who we are.” Group experiences, says Devarshi—who recently returned from teaching at the Wanderlust Festival in Stratton, Vermont—can be especially conducive to forming an energy that’s much bigger than what we experience on our own. He points to the musician MC Yogi’s performances at Wanderlust. “His songs brought people together singing, screaming, moving,” he says. “It was so inspiring, I was sobbing.”
I love tea. I almost always start my day with a pot of classic white or green tea. Alongside my water bottle, tea and herbal infusions are my steady companions throughout the day.
During summer, my favorite way to enjoy my afternoon tea is when it’s infused with the bold flavors and wonderful aroma of fresh (or even dried) herbs. A few years ago (or has it been a decade already?) I was both happy and stunned to discover that major bottlers were beginning to produce iced teas. I was thrilled that folks would now have a choice for a convenient beverage other than the high-fructose-ladened sodas that had been filling coolers for years. I was also duly impressed as I watched new varieties of iced teas, sweetened with honey or organic sugar, appear on shelves.
What stunned me was just how many there were and how high their price tag. Being a longtime maker of iced tea, I’m aware that, water aside, tea is the most economical beverage we can consume: A few tea or herb leaves can make several delicious cups. If you are someone who regularly purchases bottled teas for anywhere from $1.50–$2.25 per bottle, you will be thrilled with how much you can save by brewing and storing your own, at only about .10–30 per cup (depending on whether you use bulk tea, a tea bag, or herbs from your garden and which, if any, sweetener you choose).
Look out the window. How many ways can you notice the rebirth of the earth? Take in the color of the grass, the bright hues emanating from the flowers. Listen to the sounds of the birds rejoicing in life. We, too, are of this earth and share this capacity for renewal. Unlike the flowers and grass and birds, however, we need to consciously shift our behavior in order for renewal to unfold.
Here are some steps to help you cultivate that unfolding. These actions require focus and commitment, but as you take them, relax into the flow. Be the creator of your life. Generate circumstances that inspire you to come alive.
Approach something differently: Perhaps you can shake up your morning routine. If you usually get up and read the paper, try going for a walk or meditating instead. Eat breakfast outside instead of in your kitchen, or give yourself some time in the morning to write a poem. Break out of your weekend routine and plan an adventure—an excursion to the beach or a museum, a picnic with friends. Make a date with yourself to do it. Schedule it into your calendar. Create a perfect playful day for yourself.
Is there something creative that you’re interested in pursuing? Give yourself the time to explore it. Watercolors? Pottery? Find a class, and enlist a support group for yourself as you investigate this interest.
Have you started a new class or ritual lately? Have you done something completely outside of your comfort zone just to try something new? Share with us!
Most people I know who are really into yoga, meditation, and living a more conscious life are pretty moderate in their TV watching. It’s not that we don’t enjoy an entertainment escape now and then, it’s just that mindlessly consuming lots of TV can feel… icky. Like eating too much cake, it’s kind of antithetical to being in touch with your body, mind, and spirit. Which is why it’s so counterintuitively interesting to see yoga popping up more and more on TV, which these days also means online. Now, instead of just using it to numb out, we can actually harness this medium to move, breathe, and explore our practice. Though nothing compares to an actual, supportive teacher who knows your name and hamstrings, it’s a pretty brilliant innovation for the modern yogi. Weather- and time-related excuses be gone! Here’s a collection of next-best classes when the studio is out of reach.
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.
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.