Energy Elixirs: How to Boost Your Energy

by Courtney Gilardi

At one time or another, almost everyone has experienced inconvenient or unexplainable fatigue. There are times when even the most dedicated yoga practitioner suffers from tiredness both on and off the mat. Stress, overwork, lack of sleep, poor diet, illness, and life transitions, such as menopause, divorce, and losing a loved one, can contribute to both physical and mental fatigue. Noticing when and how we ignore our body’s needs, push ourselves beyond our limits, and engage in depleting behaviors can lead us to make more mindful choices that reconnect us to our natural state of health and vitality.

What is low energy costing you?
We wouldn’t expect a battery to run forever without being recharged, so why should we expect ourselves to? Running on low can mean not having the energy to enjoy precious free time with family and friends or partake in hobbies and activities that fulfill us. When we understand the cost of fatigue, we are more easily able to recommit to healthy living practices that produce thriving and vitality.

What can you do about it?
Once you’ve examined fatigue in your life and decided it’s time to make some changes, there are a myriad of things that you can do to bring more energy into your life. Kripalu’s Healthy Living team has put together the following list of suggestions for increasing your vitality. Enjoy these energy elixirs and the vibrant life-force energy they produce.

Harness the power of green in your diet
Green foods, green herbs, green sea vegetables—plants with the deepest green give us the most energy. Try collard greens, sea greens like kombu and wakame, green peas, and nettle tea for abundant energy this spring.

Collard greens are a leafy green vegetable that belongs to the Brassica family, a group of vegetables that include cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts. Collards are considered a nutritional superstar, rich in phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Steam or sauté collards with garlic and extra virgin olive oil, drizzle with lemon juice, and enjoy a boost of energy for the rest of your day.

Sea vegetables contain significant amounts of protein, in addition to vitamins A, B, C, and E. Kombu and wakame are excellent foods to support vitality and have been used for centuries as a digestive aid when served with beans, legumes, or tofu. Soak the dried kombu in cold water for an hour and add it to soups or stir-fries at the end of the cooking process. You can also add dried sea vegetables to bean or tofu salads to up your nutrient intake of manganese—an important mineral for energy production in the mitochondria, the powerhouse of our cells.

Tea tonic
The nettle (Urtica dioica) is an herb that strengthens and supports the whole body and increases energy by nourishing the adrenal glands. Throughout Europe, nettle tea is used as a spring tonic and as a general detoxifying remedy. To make an infusion of nettles, pour a cup of boiling water onto two teaspoons of the dried herb and leave covered to infuse for 10–15 minutes. Strain and drink. One to three cups of nettle tea taken daily for four to six weeks can nourish even the most depleted nervous and immune systems due to its high content of calcium, magnesium, iron, and vitamin C.

Elemental elixir
Nature literally bathes us in life-force energy—a 30-minute walk in the woods, a park, or by a river or lake has the ability to uplift our energy and enliven our senses. Walking itself relieves tension and stress, elevates heart rate, stretches muscles, and improves circulation. It also increases energy, alertness, and concentration. Walking in nature provides us with the added benefit of reconnecting us to the natural beauty that surrounds us and plugs us into a power greater than ourselves. Nature is teeming with life-force energy. Tap into nature’s bounty by committing to walk outdoors three times a week, and you’ll feel your energy levels soar.

The restorative power of sleep
A 2001 survey by the National Sleep Foundation found that 63 percent of Americans don’t get enough sleep. While the average recommendation is that a person get eight hours of sleep per night, individual needs vary greatly. Reducing sleep by as little as an hour and a half a night can reduce daytime alertness by one third. To accurately gauge if you are getting enough sleep, ask yourself how refreshed you feel when you wake up. If you are still fatigued, you may have a sleep debt that requires more rest. And deep sleep—the sleep that happens between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.—is the most restorative, as the hormone melatonin is at its peak.

Melatonin has been found to stimulate the immune system, prevent tumor growth, and prevent changes that lead to hypertension and heart attack. Melatonin production declines steadily as we age, increasing the importance of a good night’s sleep. Researchers are also discovering that it is not just sleep per se that is important for melatonin production but darkness, too. Aim for lights out at 10:00 p.m. tonight for a deep healing sleep that will provide abundant energy for tomorrow.

Animating aromas
For some, just the smell of fresh brewed coffee calls us to action in the morning. Try replacing the morning java jolt with the uplifting scent of pure, invigorating essential oils. Essential oil of basil (Ocimum basilicum) is one of the most useful oils for relieving mental fatigue. Inhaled using a vaporizer or a tissue, two to three drops gives the mind strength and clarity. Basil stimulates and supports the body’s energy levels when constant fatigue, cold, and depression are prominent. Lime (Citrus medica) is another useful oil known for its restorative and tonic properties. Inhaling lime oil is refreshing, uplifting, and ideal for fatigue, especially when that fatigue is accompanied by anxiety or apathy.

Peak performance posture
Frequent yoga and breathing breaks at work can help combat the midday slump. Many established companies, such as IBM, Microsoft, HBO, Nike, Nexcomm, Intel, AT&T, NYNEX, Forbes, Apple, Pepsico, GE, and Chase Manhattan, use yoga at work to help employees combat poor posture, neck tension, back pain, eye strain, and headaches—all ailments that can lead to fatigue.

Aim for a 60-second stretch and breathing break for each hour of work. Three rounds of Sun Breath combined with a seated spinal twist is a simple and effective way of increasing energy at the office.

Swami Kripalu, whose teachings inspired Kripalu Yoga, said that self-observation without judgment is the highest form of practice. Observe your fatigue, inquire about the reasons for its presence, and take tiredness as an opportunity to connect with yourself. Prevention is the key. Compassionately witness when you push your body and mind beyond its limit, recognize the messages, and take right action to remedy the situation. Soon you will be making more mindful choices that create abundant energy, vitality, and thriving.

What is your life calling for?
Often we have an intuition about what is needed in our lives. What do we need to let go of in order to have more energy? For some, it may be giving up a habit like an afternoon chocolate bar or cup of coffee. For others, it may be something as life-changing as leaving an emotionally draining relationship or job. What do we need to engage in that supports and restores us? Eating fresh, whole foods? Getting good quality sleep? Giving yourself enough spiritual sustenance?

Consider trying out some of the ideas above and seeing what works for you and your body. Incorporating the practice of yoga in all its forms into our lives can help us to connect to these inner urges and impulses and help us act upon more health-promoting practices in our daily lives.

Courtney Gilardi is a naturopath and bodyworker specializing in chronic and stress-related diseases.

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