Both of my grandmothers died about 10 years ago. I was especially saddened when the one I was closer to passed away, but I can’t say I was grief-stricken. She was nearing 90 years old and, while I kept in touch with her, it had been a few years since I’d last seen her. She [...]
by John Douillard John Douillard has been teaching Ayurvedic medicine, natural health, fitness, and nutrition for 19 years and has trained more than 2,000 Western doctors in Ayurvedic medicine. In this article, he discusses depression and anxiety from an Ayurvedic perspective, with a focus on the koshas (which translates from Sanskrit as “sheaths”), described in [...]
Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a morning person, there’s still much to love about those first few moments after you roll out of bed: In their stillness you can get ready to step into the day by organizing your thoughts, assessing your needs, and—when it comes to breakfast—nourishing your whole self.
As we’re all unique individuals and our bodies call for different things, there isn’t a formula for a breakfast that suits everyone. Instead, starting the day off right means understanding your body and digestion, and choosing what works for you. This tuning in is at the heart of what we teach at Kripalu, which can help point the way toward a breakfast that’s balanced with you in mind:
1. Heed your hunger. Not everyone can eat like a lumberjack first thing in the morning, so prepare the right-size meal for your body type. From the Ayurvedic perspective, for instance, those with more delicate constitutions (vata types) should have a warming but light meal, like simple hot cereal, while hardier folks who wake up hungry (pitta types) can handle things like eggs, nuts and seeds, and fruit.
2. Fresh is best. We all know the best breakfast comes from our own kitchens—so look for whole foods (grains, fruits, and vegetables) that you can easily prepare for yourself each morning to optimize their freshness. Meat, eggs, and dairy may also have their place on the breakfast table, but only if they arrive fresh from a trusted local source.
3. Stay on schedule. Get into the habit of having your breakfast at a regular time. The body tends to get attuned to things, and if you eat at 6:00 am one day and 10:00 am the next, that can throw off your digestive rhythms. (But you don’t need to eat the same thing every day. In fact, Ayurveda encourages eating seasonally, which ensures an ever-changing lineup of fruits and vegetables.)
4. Savor every bite. Ayurveda teaches that being in tune with your meal—from selecting and preparing it to quietly sitting with it and appreciating it—feeds far more than just your body. Breakfast is an ideal time to explore this practice, and discover that the more you create consciousness around what you’re putting into your body, the stronger and healthier your whole body-mind-spirit complex becomes.
Do you suffer from anxiety, poor digestion, or lack of focus? When life’s demands overwhelm us, Angela Wilson, Manager of Evidence-Based Yoga Curriculum for Kripalu’s Institute for Extraordinary Living, explains in her R&R retreat lecture Cultivating Inner Strength, our nervous system gets out of balance. Through the practices of yoga meditation, and mindfulness, however, we can build resilience in order to be fully aware of all our experiences.
As Angela explains, there are two main branches of the nervous system. There’s the sympathetic nervous system, which activates the fight-or-flight response in reaction to stressful situations. It’s a hot, reactive state, which increases heart rate and primes the body for action. The other branch is the parasympathetic nervous system, which is activated when the body is relaxed. The parasympathetic supports a cooling, restful and state. It soothes the system, aids in digestion, and can be fostered through yoga practice.
We’re a nation obsessed with youth. Even if you’re not actively trying to look like you did 10 years ago (or even one year ago), chances are you want to at least feel, and possibly think, younger. Who doesn’t?
“There seems to be a point where people realize that their previously youthful bodies—and minds—are changing, and they want to get back to where they were,” says Hilary Garivaltis, Dean of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda. That’s normal. What isn’t normal—or needn’t be—is the notion that aging has to be filled with inevitable aches and pains. “We shouldn’t expect that we’ll get old and decrepit and that our bodies should hurt,” says Hilary. “We don’t need to suffer inordinately. That’s not necessarily the reality of aging.” Not according to Ayurveda, anyway.
The truth is that our bodies do break down as we get older—that’s fact. As the synovial fluid in the joints starts to wear thin, our bodies become more brittle, causing friction and pain. Bones, joints, and organs are more delicate. In Ayurveda, this also means an excess of vata, the dosha that governs movement in the body. Too much vata can mean dry
The inherent balance of body, mind, and spirit is our birthright, our natural default, and is always available to us. And what a blessing that is!
Consider the strangely discordant nature of our being. There’s the spirit, already connected to all—deeply quiet, the essence of peace. There’s the mind, eager to rush out of that seat of peace into the illusion of control, into yesterday, while wildly scanning tomorrow. And, finally, there’s the body, which holds the contradictions between the mind and the spirit.
Our minds become the primary operating filter through which we exist. As the mind takes over our experience, our access to the body’s signals weakens and our connection to the spirit diminishes. In order to find the balance between body, mind, and spirit, the mind needs to be trained. Without its training, we deprive ourselves of the depth of information available to us through the body and the spirit. Try these tips to train the mind and re-balance your life:
• At a red light, take three deep breaths. This brief break can help reestablish homeostasis, the body’s relaxation response.
• At work, set an alarm on your phone for a specific time mid-morning. At that point, walk to the restroom, allowing every step to be one of mindful presence. Splash water on your face. Be there, feel it. Enjoy this refreshing, balancing break.
• Take a few minutes at the end of your workday for a mindful transition: Do some simple stretches; go for a short walk. As you release the stress of the workday, you’ll be more relaxed and more available when you return home.