Forget about enjoying the holidays: More and more, the majority of us just want to make it through. Which is why a meditation practice—proven to counter stress, beat depression and illness, keep energy levels up, and help encourage better sleep—can come in especially handy this time of year. The best part: You don’t need to invest a lot of time or commitment (and, unlike most everything else this season, it’s totally free). Angela Wilson, MA, Manager of Evidence-Based Yoga Curriculum for Kripalu’s Institute for Extraordinary Living, offers the following tips for practicing on-the-go mindfulness: no quiet room, dimmed lights, or mat required.
J. L. Johnson, guest blogger
When Edmund Hillary set foot on the summit of Mount Everest in 1953, it was his greatest feat: a first ascent that would forever link his name, along with that of his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, to the world’s highest peak. But it wasn’t his greatest challenge. That would come in 1975, when Hillary’s wife and 16-year-old daughter were killed in a plane crash. “It changed everything,” he told Time magazine. “My life disappeared.”
Hillary did eventually remarry, and carried on with vital environmental and humanitarian work in his beloved Nepal. When he died in 2008, it was as a climbing legend who had conquered the unconquerable—but also as a husband and father who’d spent years tackling a much more personal obstacle.
Whether it’s loss of a job or loss of a loved one, accident or illness, sooner or later we all find something daunting that is standing in our life’s path: An obstacle. A roadblock. Or, as suggested by Kripalu Healthy Living faculty member Maria Sirois, PsyD, a mountain: something that can seem insurmountable but can help us learn to value the climbing process itself and give us greater perspective as we rise.
Ever wonder why it’s easy to call forth self-discipline one moment, but difficult in another? Several years ago, researcher Dr. Roy Baumeister, a professor of psychology at the University of Florida, pondered the same question. To understand why self-discipline can be elusive, Dr. Baumeister and his team ran an experiment: they wanted to know whether or not self-discipline was like a muscle—something that could be weakened with overuse. To test this question, they brought a group of hungry subjects into their lab and had each subject enter into a room with a bowl of cookies and a bowl of radishes on a table. They told half of the group not to eat the cookies, but instead to eat the radishes. The other group could eat whatever they wanted. (They all ate the cookies.) Then, immediately following this experience, the subjects were brought into another room, where they were asked to complete a complex math problem. In actuality, the math problem was insolvable—the researchers were actually measuring how long the subjects persevered in trying to complete it.
Rubin Naiman, PhD, is the sleep and dream specialist and clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of Arizona’s Center for Integrative Medicine, directed by Dr. Andrew Weil. He maintains a private practice and provides consultation and training internationally. He is author of Healing Night and, with Dr. Andrew Weil, Healthy Sleep, and creator of The Sleep Advisor, a software program addressing sleep disorders. www.drnaiman.com
Q Describe what you do in 15 words or less.
A I teach about the tree of daily life being rooted in the ground of nightly 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.
Ashley Winseck, guest blogger
Most of life is a habit. We tend to fall into habitual ways of thinking and being and doing, and we’re living in a world where there are a lot of expectations and demands built up around us—bills, children, work, and more. Giving yourself moments of self-care—even if it’s just five minutes each day—can greatly improve quality of life.
The first step is admitting that you might have some habits are not working for you. Take a look at your daily routines and identify moments that cause you stress or could be improved upon. Then, determine what tools you can incorporate into your routine, what new habits you can establish. When you put some of these tools into practice, you can easily shift the state of your body, mind, and heart away from stress and back into your center.
Early spring may sound lovely—early shedding of thick winter layers, early walks on the beach. However, early spring can also mean a sudden surge of allergies, both for longtime sufferers and those who’d previously been allergy-free. According to Ayurveda, that’s because just as water returns to nature—evidenced by all those new leaves and blooming flowers—so, too, does water return to our bodies. And too much water too quickly can show up in the form of runny noses, watery eyes, and congestion, making those long walks on the beach a little less fun.
“When we shift from one season to the next—which in Ayurveda we refer to as ritusandhi—our immunity is especially low for two to four weeks,” says Ayurvedic specialist Rosy Mann, a senior faculty member of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda. Typically, the transition from winter to spring is slow, with gradual changes in temperatures that allow our bodies time to adjust. “When warm weather comes on very suddenly, though, it overtaxes the system,” clogging our digestive and respiratory tracts and inflaming tissue, says Mann. Our bodies then produce even more fluid—in the form of mucous, usually—to flush out toxins.
There’s good news: