Posted on September 20th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Medical Insights

Turning Point: Daniel Siegel

Daniel J. Siegel, MD, is clinical professor of psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and executive director of the Mindsight® Institute. He has published extensively, including Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, an in-depth exploration of the power of the mind to integrate the brain and promote well-being.

Q Describe what you do in 15 words or less.

A I teach interpersonal neurobiology to empower people to create more integration, kindness, and compassion in their lives and the world.

Q Tell us about a turning point in your life.

A I was working with a family whose relationships with each other were profoundly shaped by a brain injury the mother experienced. The question of how to help this family depended on addressing how mind, brain, and relationships are interconnected, and what makes them so fundamental to well-being. That experience gave birth to a journey to bring all the sciences together into one perspective, one we now call “interpersonal neurobiology,” that offers a definition of the mind, a view of mental health, and a framework that reveals how mind, brain, and relationships are three facets of one reality that shapes our lives.

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Posted on September 19th, 2012 by in Words from the Wise, Yoga

The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey of Your True Calling

Excerpt from the Book, The Great Work of Your Life by Stephen Cope.

I see my own concerns about fulfillment played out nearly every day of my professional life. I work at one of the biggest holistic retreat centers in America—Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. We see more than 35,000 people a year here in our sprawling, former-Jesuit monastery perched high up in the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts. Our guests come for various kinds of retreats: yoga, meditation, self-inquiry, couples’ work, healthy living. And almost every single one of them comes here in some phase of the mission to find this secret, hidden inner possibility spoken of in the Gospel of Thomas.

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Posted on September 18th, 2012 by in Healthy Living

Better Bone Health: It’s All About Balance

Want to keep your bones healthy and strong? If you’re paying attention to the news these days, the word on bone health can feel pretty discouraging. Bisphosphonates, the first-line therapy in treating osteoporosis, have been linked to serious side effects, such as atypical femur fractures, osteonecrosis of the jaw, and even esophageal cancer. More recently, a European study showed an increase risk of heart attacks in those who take calcium supplements. But don’t lose hope! Better bone health can be simple to achieve and maintain. The key is balance.

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Posted on September 17th, 2012 by in Yoga

Freeing the Joy Within

As a veteran police lieutenant living in Philadelphia, I’m not your typical yogi. About a decade ago, while looking to add stretching to my exercise routine, I discovered Bikram Yoga. I quickly found that incorporating yoga into my life made me feel radically different—less worried, more grounded. Even doing a 20-minute routine before work left me feeling at peace with myself and better able to handle people with grace. I also found that yoga helped dissipate the low-level anxiety I’d lived with for so long.

Yoga soon took on a central role in my life, and, five years ago, I decided to become a teacher so I could share what I’d learned with others. I’d been teaching in Philadelphia for about a year when I flipped through the Kripalu catalog and was intrigued by a program with Shiva Rea. It seemed to have an element of flow to it that I hadn’t experienced in other classes I’d taken.

Her program was my first opportunity to take yoga all day long, and the experience was supernatural. When I came out of the class the next day, I felt like I was flying. It was as if someone had unleashed a sense of joy in my body; I felt so light and exhilarated. I couldn’t believe I could feel that good. I thought to myself, “I need to learn how to bring this feeling into my teaching.”

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Posted on September 16th, 2012 by in Moment of Quiet

In the Moment of Quiet

“Love is not far away; it is as close as your heart.” —Swami Kripalu                  

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Posted on September 15th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Medical Insights

Think… Negative?

It’s not the thoughts that are the problem. It’s what we do with them.

A recent New York Times op-ed took issue with positive thinking. “What if we’re trying too hard to think positive?” asks Oliver Burkeman. According to research, he writes, visualizing a successful outcome, under certain conditions, can make people less likely to achieve it. “Or take affirmations,” he writes, “those cheery slogans intended to lift the user’s mood by repeating them: I am a lovable person! My life is filled with joy! Psychologists at the University of Waterloo concluded that such statements make people with low self-esteem feel worse—not least because telling yourself you’re lovable is liable to provoke the grouchy internal counterargument that, really, you’re not.”

But is this really true? According to the principles of Positive Psychology, focusing on growing happiness, love, success, and strengths through positive thinking is far more effective than trying to overcome anxiety, neuroses, and weakness alone. At the same time, overcoming anxiety and finding happiness needn’t mean denying less desirable emotions, such as fear, anxiety, or sadness. “Negative emotions are fact of life,” says Susan B. Lord, MD, who leads many Kripalu Healthy Living programs. “Instead of thinking about how we can live without them, we should be thinking about how to deal with them.” That is, it’s not negative thinking that‘s the problem—it’s how we choose to react to it. “Sadness is part of life, grief is a part of life, but depression means your sadness has gotten stuck,” she says. “The idea is to be mindful of the kinds of thoughts we have. Some are positive and some are negative. Our lives involve both.”

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Posted on September 14th, 2012 by in Kripalu Kitchen, Nutrition

Food as Medicine

Western medicine teaches us that good food is the basis for good health. Food has the power to prevent much of the chronic illnesses we experience today and can play a critical part in treating these illnesses in a safe and more balancing way than pharmaceuticals alone. Eating a fresh, whole-foods diet is a very different experience from eating things that have no nutritional value, many of which have properties that can hurt us. Plant-based foods are particularly nourishing and healing as they supply us with nutrients and energy on many levels.

Food nourishes more than our bodies, it nourishes our souls and provides us with cultural meaning. Throughout history, meals have been a natural setting for people to come together. Our religious ceremonies often involve food. It is through food that we love and nourish our babies. Food brings prana, or life force, into our bodies, where it is transformed into energy to sustain us as people living authentic, meaningful lives who serve our communities as much as ourselves. Food touches the deepest levels of who we are as human beings, inviting health and wholeness.

Do you have any traditions or rituals around food that bring meaning to your meals?

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Posted on September 13th, 2012 by in Meditation

Random (and Intentional) Acts of Mindfulness

Frank Jude Boccio, whose Zen dharma name is Poep Sa, is a yoga teacher and a teacher of Zen Buddhism ordained by Korean Zen Master Samu Sunim. He is also an interfaith minister and long-time student of Thich Nhat Hanh. Here he shares a few simple yet powerful ways to integrate mindfulness practices into your daily life—when driving, working, or even drinking your morning coffee.

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Posted on September 12th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Life Lessons

Moving Forward After Cancer

A cancer survivor explores bold new directions

When I plopped into the Radiance program’s opening night welcome circle, I was exhausted. That morning, I had attended the memorial service for my dear friend, Dara, who had passed a week before. A couple hundred people gathered to share stories, laughter, tears, and outrage that this beautiful, lively, loving soul had left at age 40, from cancer.

And now, a train ride and time warp later, here I was in the branch-filled Berkshires, sitting in a back jack, meeting eight cancer survivors and our co-leader Maria Sirois. In that moment, “life after cancer” looked to me like throwing a rose on my friend’s coffin and hearing it thud. It looked like crying myself to sleep every night for the last two weeks.

But as I settled in and heard tales of diagnosis and survival, I remembered: Oh. We’re all still here. In my fellow workshoppers—eight people from their 30s through 50s—I saw stress and fear and bravery and resilience and resistance. I saw myself. Diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma seven years ago at age 31, I had almost been forgetting that I was a survivor, too.

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Posted on September 11th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Medical Insights

Eating Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) one-quarter of Americans report having occasional sleeplessness, and 10 percent of us struggles with chronic insomnia. In late July, SleepBetter.org released an analysis of the CDC data to help us determine if we are well rested or sleep deprived.

By any measure, challenges to a restful night’s sleep are on the rise, and it’s of concern since sleeping well supports our positive energy, cognitive health, and better moods, as well as our physical health. And most of us have had the experience of how poor sleep can lead to less-than-stellar eating habits. Several recent studies, covered in depth by Michal Breus PhD in the Huffington Post, illustrate the mechanisms by which we are more likely to reach for sweeter, saltier foods when we’re overtired.

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