Welcome to the Kripalu Yoga Posture Clinic, week two! Here, Devarshi Steven Hartman, Dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga, and Jovinna Chan, Assistant Dean, share sound tips to help your yoga practice soar. These clips can be enjoyed independently or as a series for a complete practice, once they’re all published. Come back every [...]
Danna Faulds, Guest Blogger
I didn’t think much about the distant rumble of thunder as I biked along a favorite unpaved rail trail. It was a hot day, and I figured that, if it rained, it would cool things down a bit. There were small, roofed picnic shelters every couple of miles where I could wait out a thunderstorm and then continue on my way, a bit mud-spattered from the puddles on the trail perhaps, but none the worse for wear. And even if I did get a little wet, my clothes would dry quickly in the sun.
A thousand times a day, my mind creates its own little world of expectations and assumptions. I imagine how things will be in the future, plan how to deal with contingencies, and try hard to be on top of things. This was one of those times.
I biked on, glad for the clouds that took the edge off the afternoon heat, unaware of the fantasy realm of presumptions I was living in. When rain began to fall, it was more like a fine mist than actual drops. It felt good on my hot skin, and I thought, Oh, this is nice! It’s even better than the clouds. I immediately revised my inner calculations, seeing myself biking through the mist for just long enough to really cool off, at which point the sun would emerge and gift me with a rainbow.
Aging Gracefully Through Meditation
Meditation has long been believed to be a win-win proposition, carrying certain psychological benefits with zero risk or cost. People who meditate regularly report lower levels of stress, improvements in concentration and memory, and slower reactivity (no more road rage!). The mental relaxation produced by meditation can have physiological benefits, too, in the same way we know that a calmer emotional state is good for our physical body. But a few new studies reveal that the practice may have profound effects on actual brain development—something traditionally believed to peak in our 20s and then begin to decline.
Researchers at the Laboratory of Neuroimaging at UCLA have spent years studying how meditation may affect neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to make physiological changes. In a recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, the lab reported finding that long-term meditators had brain function that not only did not decline as they aged, but improved, thanks to an increase in brain gyrification—activity that happens in the cerebral cortex, or the outermost part of the brain. The lab also determined that the brains of dedicated meditators have more gray matter, which affects the brain’s ability to process information, and white matter, which helps a person communicate clearly.
The warmer months can brings us back to the freedom of childhood, when summer meant school-free, carefree days. But as adults, finding the time to be carefree is a challenge. That’s why play can be so powerful. Here, three experts offer insight into how the simplest of childhood pleasures can reinvigorate the mind, body, and spirit.
“Our natural state is to be happy,” says Kripalu Yoga teacher Coby Kozlowski. “The joyful, playful side of the inner journey often gets overlooked. There’s often guilt in joy because there’s so much suffering in the world, so a lot of people are resistant to it.” The Sanskrit word leela, which means “divine play,” is an essential component of Coby’s teachings; the idea is based on a process she calls joyful self-inquiry. The modalities Coby uses include vinyasa yoga and hula-hooping, an activity she sees not just as a fun throwback, but also as a yogic tool for self-empowerment. “The hooping action awakens the chakras,” she says. “It opens up the inner channels, awakening the body, awakening the breath.” Stimulation through hooping’s circular motions can release “stuck” places in our bodies and emotions, creating a space in our being that allows for self-expression to flourish.
The world awakens earlier, and life sprouts all around us now. Accept spring’s invitation to lighten up by cleaning out your pantry, your fridge, and your eating habits. Choosing the season’s young greens will give you the nutrient density (a high concentration of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, per calorie) to make the most of the lengthening days, and allow you to feel the energy of fresh local food.
Reconnecting with raw foods this season ensures that you get the most phytonutrition to keep your body’s systems operating properly. Phytonutrients have a wide variety of benefits, from cardioprotection, to antivirals, to antibacterials, and more. Cooking and processing often decreases phytonutrient activity, so having some raw fruits and vegetables in your diet ensures their phytonutrient potency.
No matter which side of the go-vegetarian debate you’re on, there’s no arguing that the current methods of animal farming are wholly unsustainable. Animal farming currently takes up nearly a third of the earth’s land mass, the widespread mistreatment of animals has been widely reported, and meat production is extremely inefficient. Meanwhile, researchers predict that demand for meat will double over the next 40 years. We want burgers—currently to the tune of $74 billion a year.
Which is why a group of Dutch scientists has spent years developing lab-grown meat, which they recently announced will be ready for an initial taste test by the end of the year. Using bovine fetal cells cultured like bacteria, grown in a vat, and mixed with lab-grown animal fat, the scientists are working to create test tube burgers, sausages, and more, with plans to expand to dairy and other animal products later. Though the associated costs are currently high, the hope is that eventually the technology will feed more people more efficiently—while also reducing environmental, cruelty, and illness issues related to farming—and it’s so far gotten support from several avenues, including private donors and PETA. But do we really want to eat test tube meat?
Welcome to Kripalu Yoga Posture Clinic, week one! Here, Devarshi Steven Hartman, Dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga, and Jovinna Chan, Assistant Dean, share sound tips to help your yoga practice soar. These clips can be enjoyed independently or as a series for a complete practice, once they’re all published. Come back every Wednesday [...]
I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order. –John Burroughs
This is a wonderful practice for spring! Remain receptive as you allow your senses to blossom.
Receive sound. Go outside. Stand or sit, and close your eyes. Touch your ears: feel the wrinkles and folds of the ears, lobes. Become aware of the ear canals, inner ears. Let sounds come to you. Allow your hearing to be soft, spacious, and open. Not needing to identify any sounds, let them make their way into your awareness as they will. Birds, insects, automobiles, an airplane high above, rustling grass, people talking. Welcome everything in.
Receive sight. Touch your eyes: feel your eyelids, eyelashes, surface of the eyes, centers of the eyes, eye sockets. Allow your eyes to open and remain soft. View the world with your peripheral vision. Like a deer or a butterfly, remain sensitive and open to the world around you, taking in all the colors, light, and shadow, form and texture. Not focusing on any particular thing, allow the world to seep into your eyes.
Flow with your rhythm. Begin to walk. Stroll aimlessly, following an inner rhythm without trying to get anywhere.
Receive fragrance. Begin to notice scent in the air, the fragrances surrounding you. Without needing to identify scents, and without needing to label them as “good” or “bad”, “pleasant” or “unpleasant”, be guided by your nose. Imagine you are a dog with a large nose who is guided only by scent. You may like to get closer to things to receive their fragrance more fully.
Coming out of winter’s cold, the earth thaws and so do we. Winter naturally keeps us introspective. Spring, on the other hand, brings out our natural ability to connect and communicate with others.
Here is a simple and elegant system of conscious communication called co-listening, which supports both speaker and listener in clearer, deeper, more connected exchanges. In this model, one person agrees to be the speaker, the other, the listener. For three minutes the speaker simply speaks, expressing his/her feelings, thoughts, and ideas. The listener as the witness remains in silence. When the three minutes are up—use an egg timer or alarm—shift roles. Repeat this for two or three rounds as needed. Regularly used, new depth can be established.
Freedom is offered to both participants. Without comments from another, even well-intended ones, a speaker opens into a fuller range of expression. The listener is freed up to be present, rather than calculating a response. By practicing being present in the moment during communication, deeper connectivity can be reached.