Take a moment to pause, to breathe, to exhale into the day.
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:
We used to say that to be happy, one must find success. These days, to be successful, we are realizing, we must choose to be happy. With scientific studies shedding light on the fact that attitude can literally change our lives, the field of Positive Psychology has been growing. In this series, Positive Psychology professor and Kripalu faculty member Tal Ben Shahar, PhD, explores the notion of what it means to be truly happy, and what tools we can use to practice the art of happiness.
Tal Ben-Shahar, guest blogger
We all know that change is hard. Much research suggests that learning new tricks, adopting new behaviors, or breaking old habits may be harder than we even realize and that most attempts at change, whether by individuals or organizations, fail. It turns out that self-discipline is usually insufficient when it comes to fulfilling our commitments, even those we know are good for us—which is why most New Year’s resolutions fail.
In this monthly series running through 2012, community members recall milestone moments to commemorate and reflect on Kripalu Yoga.
In 1972, a small residential yoga retreat called Kripalu Center was founded in Sumneytown, Pennsylvania, by Amrit Desai and several of his students from the Philadelphia area. Desai had emigrated to the United States from India, where he was a close disciple of the yoga master Swami Kripalu. Over the next 40 years, Desai’s students integrated Swami Kripalu’s core teachings with psychology, science, and Western approaches to healing and self-development, creating groundbreaking programs and approaches to well-being. Today, Kripalu’s curriculum, professional training, and yoga research continue to be informed by the lineage of Kripalu Yoga. To commemorate the 40-year milestone, we asked several teachers and community members to reflect on what Kripalu Yoga means to them.
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.
The following heart-based meditation comes from the Institute of HeartMath, in Boulder Creek, California, and is a wonderful technique to redirect the mind and replace negative emotions with positive ones.
First, get your body in a comfortable, relaxed position and focus on breathing slowly and rhythmically, so that the length of your inhalations and exhalations are about the same. Find a breath rate that feels sustainable for you. Next, bring your awareness to the center of your chest and imagine your breath flowing in and out of your heart center. As you continue to breathe in and out of your heart, remember a time when you felt a positive emotion such as gratitude, joy, or love.
Think about being with loved ones, a beloved pet, appreciation for the good things in your life. This associative memory generates a positive emotion. If you can’t recall such a memory, then simply imagine a positive feeling moving in and out of your heart as you breathe. If your mind wanders, gently return to the positive feeling, allowing the sensations of gratitude, love, or joy to flow with your breath. Continue to circulate this heartfelt feeling for a few breaths, or even for a few minutes. Then pause to notice the effects of the practice.
The practice of Mudra Yoga opens your highest potential to feel and heal, inviting your deepest self to surface. An empowering and meditative practice, it is a doorway to exploring the potential of posture and meditation in a whole new light. You will come into a state of clarity as you experience your innate wholeness, while gaining tools to transform and deepen both your own and your students’ yoga practice.
History of Mudras
Mudras are gestures or postures for the hands, face, or other key areas of the body. In Sanskrit, mudra means gesture or seal, referring to locking or sealing in a specific feeling, state, or energy for a particular effect. For example, Anjali Mudra, commonly known as “prayer pose,” awakens and locks in feelings of reverence, peace, and connection to our own and all others’ hearts.
Did you know that your brain is a reflection of the nutrients it receives from the biochemical information (food) you feed it? Your brain needs nourishment and whether you are upbeat or feeling blue is strongly influenced by how your “second brain” (your digestive tract) digests and absorbs the “information” you are eating. Thus, your mood is a mirror not only of what you eat but also how you digest!
Here are five quick nutrition tips to boost your mood and lift your spirit:
1. Nourish your “mood-cell membranes” with healthy fats such as avocado, wild fatty fish (sardines, wild salmon, or black cod), nuts, seeds, olives, coconut, and smart oils like extra-virgin olive oil.
2. “B-happy” by including whole foods such as beans, dark, leafy green vegetables, and whole grains rich in B-vitamins in your diet.