The practice of yoga can help bring balance to our lives. We all have particular tendencies and patterns and, without awareness, these patterns can create imbalance. By becoming aware of our habitual tendencies—and consciously applying their opposites—we can release stuck patterns and bring body, mind, and spirit back into union. Here are some polarities you […]
Where Yoga and Shamanism Meet, Bold Directions Unfold
In 2006, Kripalu faculty member Ray Crist was recovering from a debilitating illness. A yoga teacher, martial artist, and Reiki practitioner, Ray had spent four years traveling the world seeking those who could heal him. His quest took him from the Buddhist monasteries on the borders of Cambodia to the clinics of the National Institutes of Health in Maryland. But when he ventured into the jungles of Peru to study with Incan shamans, the experience opened new doors of perception—and healing—within himself.
Guided by Don Manuel Portugal, a shaman in Cuzco, Peru, Ray discovered the culture, mythology, and practices of Incan shamanism. “Shamans are the medicine people of their tribe,” Ray says. “Their methods of healing center on the ‘energy body’ and plant medicine.” The deeper he delved into Incan shamanism, the more he began to notice profound similarities with yoga. “Yogis and shamans view the world as a physical world,” he explains. “Traumatic experiences are embedded in the body—near a joint, muscle, meridian, internal organ, or chakra. Yoga and shamanism help us delve into the root of our traumas to find healing on physical and emotional levels.” Ray began incorporating shamanistic principles into his yoga practice, imbuing it with a new richness. “Shamanism brought to my practice a direct awareness of energy moving through my body, a visceral understanding of what each asana offers,” he says.
It’s been a record-breaking summer so far, with early-season heat waves pushing temperatures along the typically seasonable Northeast into the upper 90s and past 100. Those of us who are fans of hot yoga— whether we’re talking about mildly heated vinyasa or Bikram, where the room is set to a sweaty 105 degrees F—know that the practice can be a welcome relief in the cold winter months. But what about when temperatures outside the studio are hotter than temperatures in?
Whether induced by vigorous exercise, high heat, or both, sweating is the body’s way of cooling us down, by absorbing heat and releasing it into the atmosphere. The process of evaporation is key to this function; that’s why doctors say to avoid wiping sweat if you can, letting it dissipate on its own instead. (If you’re dripping, however, you might as well wipe; anything that hits the floor won’t get a chance to cool you down.) But when we’re so used to “sweating it out,” how do we know when hot may be getting a little over the top?
It’s a simple matter of self-awareness, says Devarshi Steven Hartman, Dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga and a fan of hot yoga. “Sweating is detoxifying, while the heat itself can make our bodies more amenable to certain postures,” he says, noting that people with high blood pressure or heart conditions should use extra caution—or, even better, get the okay from a doctor first—when doing yoga in high heat. The downsides, of course, include the risk of dehydration and becoming overly exhausted. “Levels of tolerance are very individual, and can vary day by day,” he says.
Most people I know who are really into yoga, meditation, and living a more conscious life are pretty moderate in their TV watching. It’s not that we don’t enjoy an entertainment escape now and then, it’s just that mindlessly consuming lots of TV can feel… icky. Like eating too much cake, it’s kind of antithetical to being in touch with your body, mind, and spirit. Which is why it’s so counterintuitively interesting to see yoga popping up more and more on TV, which these days also means online. Now, instead of just using it to numb out, we can actually harness this medium to move, breathe, and explore our practice. Though nothing compares to an actual, supportive teacher who knows your name and hamstrings, it’s a pretty brilliant innovation for the modern yogi. Weather- and time-related excuses be gone! Here’s a collection of next-best classes when the studio is out of reach.
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.