Posted on May 23rd, 2012 by in Yoga

A Religious Experience

In yoga, one writer reconnects with the notion of faith.

Like most kids in my middle-class New England town, I was raised Catholic, though in my case it was something of a default option. My parents had both been brought up in religious households but, by the time I came along, they were largely non-practicing. My mother’s strict Irish-Catholic family—so devout (or stubborn) that they refused to acknowledge her secular college education—turned her away from the church, and my father, a journalist, had been trained to follow facts, not faith. While they wanted the decision of religion to be mine, they also sought to provide me with a base from which to explore, a base that would include Baptism, Confirmation, and 10 years of weekly after-school Catholic-education classes.

But while I made all the milestones, I neither connected with nor opposed their meanings. My given religion was never something to think about; it just was. Later, as a teenager, church on Sunday remained important to me mainly because to my parents it was not. (What a rebel, right?) But it wasn’t as if my friends were so pious: The annual Christmas-eve midnight mass was as much about socializing as it was about celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Throughout, no one I knew questioned what we’d been taught. We took the word of our teachers, and our priests, on “faith.” In those early years, “faith” meant believing that if you were a good person, good would surround you; that if you treated others well, you would be treated well in return; that if you followed the Catholic doctrine, you would be rewarded with peace while you lived and after you died. Faith, for the most part, did not include questioning authority. And, for a long time, I didn’t.

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Posted on May 22nd, 2012 by in Ask the Expert, Ayurveda

Ask the Expert: Ayurvedic Answers

Ayurvedic Answers: Ancient approaches to health and wellness

In this edition of Ask the Expert, Larissa Hall Carlson, Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist for Kripalu’s Institute for Extraordinary Living and School of Ayurveda, answers your questions on Ayurveda for better health.

What would an Ayurvedic approach for treating insomnia look like?

One of the most essential things is to create a routine around bedtime. Try to get to bed between 9:30 and 11:00 pm, before the second wind hits, and ideally wake up with the sunrise, between 5:30 and 7:00 am. This gets the body, the nervous system, and the mind in harmony with the rhythm of nature, which is key for deep and satisfying sleep.

It’s also really important to create space between dinnertime and bedtime—give about two hours to digest dinner or that final snack before bed. The same goes for drinks—don’t drink too much water, tea, or alcohol close to bedtime. Generally, avoid drinking anything caffeinated after about 3:00 pm. If you’re feeling depleted, you might try making your last drink of the day be a cup of warm organic milk with a pinch of ginger, a pinch of cardamom, and a pinch of nutmeg—maybe drop in a few soaked, peeled almonds or dates. It’s extremely soothing, grounding, and yummy!

Decompressing properly before bed can really help as well= try staying off the computer, the TV, and the phone for at least an hour before bed to reduce sensory stimulation. One of my favorite bedtime rituals is to massage the feet, lower back, and ears for a few minutes, using warm sesame oil in the cold weather and coconut oil in the warm weather. Another really helpful technique is journaling before bed—or in the middle of the night if you wake up and can’t get back to sleep—to clear out the chatter in your mind and get your to-do list down on paper. I love to write down a gratitude list, too, so my mind is clear and my heart is open.

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Posted on May 21st, 2012 by in Words from the Wise, Yoga

Turning Point: Vandita Kate Marchesiello

Vandita Kate Marchesiello, E-RYT 500, is a senior teacher and faculty member at Kripalu Center and the recording artist on two CDs, Transform, Relax, and Rejuvenate and Yoga with Vandita. Director of Kripalu Professional Associations and Kripalu’s Teaching for Diversity program, Vandita has balanced family, self-care, and a career in yoga and health for more than 30 years.

Q Describe what you do in 15 words or less.

A Practice love, patience, and kindness toward myself and others, at home, work, and play.

Q Tell us about a turning point in your life.

A When I was in my early twenties, I was headed down a path that could have been destructive to my health and happiness. A friend turned me on to yoga, and I fell in love with the physical, mental, and spiritual practices. Now, nearly 40 years later, I am still practicing and teaching, from my own experience, the depth and breath of yoga that can lead to a whole and healthy life.
Q What do you love about teaching?

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Posted on May 20th, 2012 by in Moment of Quiet

Moment of Quiet

Every Sunday, you’ll find a space to enjoy guided meditation, a piece of music, an enticing image, or video that inspires calm.

Enjoy sunrise in the Berkshires.

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Posted on May 19th, 2012 by in Healthy Living

A Happier Life

An excerpt from Being Happy: You Don’t Have to Be Perfect to Lead a Richer, Happier Life by Tal Ben-Shahar

Some version of the Golden Rule, reminding us to not do unto others as we would not have done unto ourselves, finds its way into most moral codes, be they secular or religious. It is with our neighbor that the Golden Rule is concerned. But what about ourselves? The Golden Rule takes the love of self for granted—the self is used as the standard for the love of others, how we treat the “I” as the standard for how we treat our fellow men and women. The sages, however, generally ignored the fact that we don’t all love ourselves, or, rather, that many of us fall out of love with ourselves once we are old enough to turn our critical impulse, the faultfinder, inward.

We rarely condemn others for their fallibility but routinely refuse to accept our own humanity. As Diane Ackerman points out, “No one can live up to perfection, and most of us do not often expect it of others; but we are more demanding with ourselves.” Why the double standard, the generosity toward our neighbor and the miserliness where we ourselves are concerned? And so I propose that we add a new rule, which we can call the Platinum Rule, to our moral code: “Do not do unto yourself what you would not do unto others.”

Taking as a standard our behavior toward others can help us recognize irrational, destructive attitudes toward ourselves. Would you criticize your partner if she gave a less-than-perfect speech? Would you think any less of your best friend if he did not do well on an exam? If your daughter or father did not earn first place in a competition, would their imperfect record diminish your love for them? Probably not. And yet when we ourselves fall short, we often regard ourselves as wholly inadequate, utter failures.

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Posted on May 18th, 2012 by in Nutrition

Food in the Raw

Including some raw-plant foods in your daily diet gives you a naturally nutrient-rich boost to better health. Here are five swift tips to increase your intake of raw foods:

1. Get ready for raw by investing in a few sharp knives, wooden cutting board, blender, and dehydrator.

2. Wake up to a raw, morning smoothie by tossing some apple, pear, spinach, berries, avocado, and raw almond butter in a blender with water. Yum!

3. Invite some nutrient-rich greens to your lunch by enjoying a salad made with watercress, arugula, endive, and cilantro; sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and walnuts, and dress with extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and chopped basil.

4. Munch on a piece of fresh, seasonal fruit for an afternoon sweet treat.

5. Dive into a nori roll loaded with grated carrots, radishes, cucumber, green onion, avocado, and ginger slices.

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Posted on May 17th, 2012 by in Life Lessons

On the Road to Querencia

J.L. Johnson, Guest Blogger

I don’t know exactly when or how I came across the Spanish word querencia. Like torschlusspanik and esprit de l’escalier, it simply appeared as one of those foreignisms I’d scribbled down on scrap paper, marking a handy little bridge from feeling to expression that my own language—despite its sprawling infrastructure of a million or so words—had forgotten to build.

Broadly translated, querencia describes a place where you feel most at home. Its literal meaning comes from the world of bullfighting, where querencia refers to “that mysterious little area in the bullring that catches the fancy of the fighting bull when he charges in,” as one writer describes it. “He imagines it his sanctuary … there, he supposes he cannot be hurt.”

That connotation of animal instinct is much of what makes querencia an especially powerful word for me. But instead of a bull in its lair, I think of little Mole in The Wind in the Willows, as he catches the scent of his old burrow while traveling a country road:

[It] suddenly reached Mole in the darkness, making him tingle through and through with its very familiar appeal, even while as yet he could not clearly remember what it was. He stopped dead in his tracks, his nose searching hither and thither in its efforts to recapture the fine filament, the telegraphic current, that had so strongly moved him. A moment, and he had caught it again … Home!

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Posted on May 16th, 2012 by in Creative Corner

Creativity Corner

“I painted this during a time in my life when I felt like I was under water. Addiction had riddled my life with heartache, misery, and pain. I would float, feeling like I was close to the surface, but would continually be pulled under by my inability to control my obsession.” ~Django Hulphers, musician

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Posted on May 15th, 2012 by in Conscious Living, Relationships

Conscious Living: Creating Your Own Relationship Roadmap

A satisfying relationship is one of life’s great blessings. Yet this has been both a source of joy and a source of frustration for me. As modern life has gotten faster and more demanding, the challenges of having a successful relationship seem to grow exponentially. Creating a healthy relationship, like raising children, may be among the hardest and most satisfying things we do in our lives. We want our partner to understand us and to see us for who we really are.

We all want our relationships to work. No one wants to fail. No one wants to give up expectations and hopes for the future. But, often, something isn’t working as we expect. The staggering divorce and separation rates are well documented and reflect the disappointments and failures of so many well-intentioned couples. I, too, had my dreams dashed when I got divorced, and nothing in my life has created more pain for me than the loss of my imagined future with my family.

Improving Your Relationship from the Inside Out

The marketplace is full of advice on how to improve your relationships. Such counsel has existed for centuries and there is much wisdom to tap. Yet the conditions we live in are different than ever before: demanding, complex, and continuing to change and evolve at a remarkable pace. The pressures of living the 24/7 life–the constant interruptions of new technology, increased productivity, the long hours–all complicate the challenge of creating a mutually satisfying relationship. Don’t we each feel a little bit of “speed shock”?

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Posted on May 14th, 2012 by in Nutrition

Should Your Kids Be Vegan?

Vegan Is Love: A new children’s book incites debate

A new children’s book heralding the widespread benefits of veganism is stirring more pots than PETA. Vegan Is Love: Having Heart and Taking Action, now in stores, has nutritionists, psychologists, and even gossip columnists, asking whether veganism is appropriate for kids—and, more poignantly, how we should be talking to little ones about the ethics and politics of food. On Today, Matt Lauer wondered if the title itself suggested that “if you’re not a vegan, is it about hate?” while a widely read Hollywood gossip columnist asked, “Would you read this book to your child?” On FOX News, child psychologist Dr. Robert Epstein called the book “the most disturbing children’s book I’ve ever seen.”

Author-illustrator Ruby Roth’s intent in writing Vegan Is Love was to judge—at least a little bit. Through clear, simple dialogue and colorful illustrations of smog-covered land and sad animals in cages and zoos, the book calls on children to start protecting animals, the environment, and starving kids in Africa through a plant-based diet. It explores complex themes like animal cruelty, big agriculture, and world hunger, and while the message is not overly heavy-handed, Roth doesn’t dance around the idea that she believes eating meat will destroy the Earth and everyone we love, and soon—a heady concept for a kid, for sure.

John Bagnulo, PhD, MPH, who teaches nutrition in Kripalu Healthy Living programs, says that kids can be very healthy as vegans, but it’s important to remember that it’s not as simple as “just eat plants.” For example, a vegan diet for children that is mostly grain, flour, and fruit juice is much more unhealthy than one that’s mostly fruits and vegetables with, say, small amounts of fish, he says. “So many vegetarian and vegan parents embark on this journey with the misconception that kids have the same nutritional needs as adults,” says John. “Nothing could be further from reality. Kids’ brains are developing so fast and there is clear evidence that high-quality essential fatty acids, like those found in oily fish, are a factor in brain development. You can also get these nutrients in raw walnuts, raw pumpkin seeds, freshly ground flax seeds, and power-packed specific greens such as purslane.” But getting them is essential. B12 and zinc are also critical.

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