“When performing actions, allow a part of the mind to observe yourself objectively. At first you see only your faults and lower qualities, which is why you must always do your self-observation with love. Gradually you begin to recognize there are good qualities also.”—Swami Kripalu
So what are you doing this New Year’s Eve? Watching the ball drop over Times Square on television … again? For many of us, the typical New Year’s celebration can feel like old hat after a while. We start looking for more profound ways of honoring the space between letting go of the old and embracing the new. For those seeking a spiritual connection during times of transition, the world’s wisdom traditions—including Peruvian shamanism, Kabbalah, and yoga—offer rituals rich with meaning.
Shamanic philosophy sees the turning of the year as a time to honor and give back to Mother Earth, and a way of tapping into and acknowledging nature’s cycle of transformation. According to Ray Crist, founder of the Jaguar Path, which fuses yoga practice and the philosophy of Peruvian shamanism, the Q’ero of Peru believe that we’re all shamans—each of us possesses an intuitive power and wisdom that connects us to both the world around and the world within. Rituals empower people because, he says, “through ritual, we can be the catalysts that bring forth healing and change into our own lives.” To celebrate the power of change that the new year brings, the Q’ero shamans perform rituals such as the despachio, an offering of gratitude to Mother Earth for all she provides.
This is the time to feast on the bountiful array of fall-harvested vegetables-squash and potatoes, pumpkins and beets, carrots, parsnips, apples, and pomegranates. In the recipe below, dates add a surprising sweetness to roasted vegetables, a cold-weather favorite. Try experimenting with the squash recipe—it works wonderfully with a variety of squashes, including butternut, buttercup, kabocha, and delicata. These are both great go-to recipes for holiday dinners.
Janna Delgado, BFA, E-RYT 500, combines her training as a Kripalu Yoga teacher, Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist, and AFAA-certified fitness instructor with her background in acting to create meaningful collective experiences of yoga on the mat and out in the world. Since 2008, Janna has focused on enriching the lives of adolescents through yoga in her role as Program Leader on the Yoga in the Schools project for Kripalu’s Institute for Extraordinary Living.
Q Describe what you do in 15 words or less.
Forget about enjoying the holidays: More and more, the majority of us just want to make it through. Which is why a meditation practice—proven to counter stress, beat depression and illness, keep energy levels up, and help encourage better sleep—can come in especially handy this time of year. The best part: You don’t need to invest a lot of time or commitment (and, unlike most everything else this season, it’s totally free). Angela Wilson, MA, Manager of Evidence-Based Yoga Curriculum for Kripalu’s Institute for Extraordinary Living, offers the following tips for practicing on-the-go mindfulness: no quiet room, dimmed lights, or mat required.
There are many benefits to forward bends, both standing and sitting. They create length and space in the spine, counteracting compression, and their inward nature can promote introspection. Yet forward bands can also be a challenge to many people, especially those with tight hamstrings. Common physical patterns, such as overstretched back muscles and rounded shoulders (mostly likely from sitting in front of a computer for hours) are often exacerbated in forward bending poses.
But as senior Kripalu Yoga teacher Cristie Newhart says in her R&R retreat workshop Forward Bends, yoga can help us dissolve patterns so we can uncover fresh ways of looking and experiencing ourselves. This multifaceted awareness about how we move can help us cultivate a deeper, richer yoga practice, allowing us to discover new ease in our forward bends.
In the workshop, Cristie shares these tips for getting the most out of your forward folds:
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: