“Serve with a full heart. By making others happy, you make yourself happy. The key to your heart lies hidden in the heart of another.” —Swami Kripalu
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.
Play with the flavor palate of whole foods by thinking beyond sugar and salt and invigorate your favorite recipes.
There are classic flavor combinations that many foodies find exciting and most of us find satisfying: sweet walnuts, arugula, and pears; strawberries and balsamic vinegar; blueberries and lavender; and, here at Kripalu, spicy chutney with sweet Indian spices, to name a few.
Using taste as a tool to come back into balance is something that Ayurveda has taught us, and when it comes to plants, following your taste buds is a health-enhancing idea. The bold flavors and bright colors of pungent, zesty, or bitter herbs and vegetables are bursting with healing phytonutrients such as flavanoids, which protect against the imbalances that can lead to cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. One way to play with flavors is to begin with a popular combination—say the lemon, mint, parsley, and olive oil at the heart of tabouli salad. Then create your own variation—try, for starters, that dressing on sautéed greens and quinoa, then as a marinade for tofu or fish. Find inspiration from the fresh herbs coming into season now; why not try Kripalu’s Cilantro Mint Chutney.
Julie Sorichetti, the first Yoga Ed.TM trainer in Canada, has successfully delivered the Yoga Ed. curriculum and Tools for Teachers program to the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association, the Ontario Database for Daily Physical Activity, and the Ministry of Education’s Registry of Bullying Prevention Programs. A mother of three, Julie is a child and youth worker as well as a certified Kripalu Yoga teacher and DansKinetics instructor.
Q Describe what you do in 15 words or less.
A My mission is to see that all children have the tools and resources to help them through any situation.
Q Tell us about a turning point in your life.
A When I was 20, I was a child and youth worker in a group home outside my hometown in Canada. I would see the in-house doctors prescribe medication for all these young people, who were constantly questioning their diagnoses and prescriptions. I found myself questioning this as well. I felt there had to be more than medication to help kids, youth, and also adults. It was around that time that I found myself in a yoga class. Yoga wasn’t a prescription, it was a solution.
Vitamin D has been the subject of great debate in recent years, with most experts agreeing that we’re dangerously deficient but little consensus regarding just how much we need—or how we should be getting it. According to the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, nearly half of all U.S. adults are vitamin D deficient, and even more have levels that are lower than is ideal.
We need D. Studies have shown that vitamin D—which is, in fact, not a vitamin but rather a hormone—may help prevent a number of serious illnesses, including multiple sclerosis, certain types of cancer, and cardiovascular disease. What’s more, it’s believed to be an important factor in ensuring healthy bones, since D aids in the body’s absorption of calcium. But in recent years, deficiencies have climbed in direct relation to our awareness of the need to wear sunscreen. Our bodies produce all the D we need through the sun’s UVB rays most—though not all—of which a decent sunscreen filters out. And though certain foods are rich in D—including fatty fish, eggs, and fortified dairy—most experts have thought that we don’t eat enough of these foods on a consistent basis to take in all the D we need. And so until recently, the smartest move, experts have said, was to get a little D from the sun and the rest from supplements. (The most recent recommendation by the Institute of Medicine put the amount of D we need per day at 600 i.u. for those ages 1 to 70, and 800 i.u. for those over 70, up from the previous recommendation of 200 to 600 i.u.)
Yoga teaches us how to reestablish the innate balance that exists between body, mind, and spirit. When our minds get out of balance, they overextend, becoming busy and overworked. As a result, we lose connection to the wisdom of our bodies and the depth of our spirits. Practicing being in the moment trains the mind […]
I grew up with TV. I don’t know how old I was when I started watching, but I remember spending a lot of time with Kermit and Fonzie and Jack, Chrissy, and Janet. I remember being ushered to bed after Walter Cronkite shared his mantra, “That’s the way it is.” I didn’t know it as I was growing up, but this ubiquitous watching was embedding a sedentary pattern into my body, mind, and spirit. My parents would always encourage me to “get out” and get away from the screen, and I did this during the day, but I still probably ended up being exposed to two to three hours of TV daily from the ages of 1 to 12. I estimate that I ingested about 5,000 hours of television before hitting puberty.
When I was in high school, I was friends with people who were outdoorsy. Some talked about taking a bike trip in Maine, others of an adventure at sea, and others still of a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) trip to learn how to rock climb. As I saw photos of their epic adventures, which included cute boys; sun-kissed, wind-blown faces; and bright eyes on a monumental journey, my call to the wild began to take hold. At age 16, I applied to attend a mountaineering course in Montana with Outward Bound. I trained for a couple of months before the trip. I’d been smoking cigarettes so I figured swimming would be a good training sport (yeah, real smart). I swam like nobody’s business, but it in no way prepared me for 14 days of hiking that entailed traversing 110 miles of rocky, barren terrain. When I spent the first day trudging up a slope of the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness with tears streaming down my face and a 60-pound pack on my back, huffing and puffing the whole way, I knew I was in for a rough ride.