How Yoga Helps Combat Stress and Depression

Yoga is considered one of the most practical and poignant exercises. Not only does yoga do great things for the body, increasing flexibility, adding core strength, improving balance, and improving breathing and mental focus, but it also provides solutions to many other problems in life. These range from the benign to the severe, and by performing just semi-regular yoga sessions, practitioners are able to both prevent and treat these issues.

One such example is how yoga can help relieve and reduce stress and depression. Depression is a serious affliction that affects millions of people every day. But what is it really?

What Is Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that characterized by persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest. It's not just feeling down – it's a continual cycle and serious illness, marked by hopelessness and disturbances to things like sleep, appetite, and motivation. It affects the person deeply, and includes everything from how to you feel to how you think to how you behave. Resulting complications can lead to variety of emotional physical problems, and in severe cases, even death.
Depression and Yoga
Depression reportedly affects 1 in 10 Americans nationwide, which equates to roughly 35 million cases per year. What's worse, some 80% of those afflicted have never received any type of treatment for their depression. Unfortunately, depression also correlates with an increased risk of other diseases, such as heart disease, obesity, stroke, and sleep disorders.

But there are tools out there for those suffering from depression, and one such tool is yoga.

How Yoga Helps

Yoga is a holistic practice that is both an exercise and a way of life. And while not everyone needs to fully adopt the cultural and spiritual practice of yoga, they can all benefits from the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being that comes from practicing yoga on a regular basis.

Where this really comes to fruition in two large areas: the stress response and mood and functioning.

The Stress Response

Life is full of stressors. These include external stressors, like other people and the environment, and personal stressors, which include things we do to ourselves, and applies to both physical and mental pains. In all cases, stress deals with a deceptive simplistic mechanism in the body, the stress response system in the body. The stress response system works like this: When you perceive a threat, your nervous system responds by releasing  stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones cause the body to change its state. The heart pounds faster, the body's muscles tighten, your blood pressure rises and your  breath quickens.

While the stress response system is a good thing, exaggerated stress responses are at the root of some forms of depression and anxiety. It's here that the practice of yoga has been show to help manage depression.

First, yoga has been show to modulate the stress response system. That is, yoga helps decrease physiological arousal – that's the heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration mentioned above.  Specifically, yoga helps increase heart rate variability, an indicator of the body’s ability to respond to stress more flexibly.

In another case, researchers at the University of Utah correlated stress response to physical pain tolerance. When comparing suffers  of fibromyalgia (a stress-related illness that is characterized by hypersensitivity to pain) to a control group to a group of yoga practitioners, as measured by Functional MRIs on areas in the brain the greatest activity associated with pain response, they found that the yoga practitioners had the highest pain tolerance and lowest pain-related brain activity during the study.

Mood and Functioning

Yoga also helps directly with mood, helping practitioners function normally throughout their day, reducing anxiety and mitigating perceived stress and experienced depression. In one study, "emotionally distress" participants underwent two 90-minute yoga classes a week for three months. Participants in a control group changed nothing about their habits and schedule, nor did they begin any exercise or stress-reduction program for the duration of the study. At the end of the study, the yoga group reported "improvements in perceived stress, depression, anxiety, energy, fatigue, and well-being. Depression scores improved by 50%, anxiety scores by 30%, and overall well-being scores by 65%. Initial complaints of headaches, back pain, and poor sleep quality also resolved much more often in the yoga group than in the control group."

Another 2005 study demonstrated how yoga may help with even clinical and severe disorders. Participants included participants included patients with bipolar disorder, major depression, and schizophrenia, who performed regular yoga classes during the study. Results showed "average levels of tension, anxiety, depression, anger, hostility, and fatigue [drop] significantly." What's more, those patients who opted in to additional classes experienced similar short-term positive effect in relation to mood and functioning.

Yoga and Happiness

Understanding that depression is a real and significant illness also requires an understanding that no one thing is likely to completely solve the issue. Yoga, however, offers a complementary practice that has, in recent studies, been shown to help reduce and help prevent the symptoms associated with these illnesses. In time, that can mean more time spent relaxed and less time tense, anxious, and unhappy.

 


The Top 7 In Season Vegetables

In-season eating is a great way to inspire exposing yourself to new flavors, diverse nutrients, and fabulous dishes. In-season eating simply means eating more of what is naturally "in-season" at the time – that means what would normally be the perfect time to harvest. The benefits are really there, too: beyond experiencing great food, you're more likely to save money and support local farmers.

Here are 7 of some of the best vegetables in season, right now:

1. Arugula

Arugula's tangy, bitter flavor and nutritional profile that provides many of the same benefits as better-known vegetable sin the cruciferous family (like Brussels sprouts, kale, and broccoli) makes this an amazing seasonal vegetable. Arugula is a perfect addition to summer salads, adding a unique and poignant taste profile. It also contains several vital phytochemicals, anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals that may benefit health in numerous ways/

2. Radishes

I'll admit it – I wasn't always a fan of radishes. This hot flavor made them a vegetable that just took some time to acquire a taste for. Ultimately, though, these tasty root crops provides a host of great flavor and nutritional value. The bright outer skins wrap up this vegetable with 14% of your daily vitamin C in just a ½ cup serving, as well as vitamin K, B6, niacin, folate and pantothenic acid. That's good eats!

3. Garlic

Some people say garlic is the world's healthiest food. It's also, hands down, one of the most savory. Raw garlic has a heated, pungent taste, but cooking garlic greatly tones down the flavors, making it more balanced, nuanced, and nutty. The taste is backed up by great sources of nutrients, like manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, selenium, and decent amounts of copper, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and vitamin B1.

4. Carrots

Not only are carrots some of the most powerful seasonal vegetables in summer, but their variety makes them a fun and nutritious food to enjoy. Carrots grow purple, white, red, yellow, and orange, and each contain their own unique set of nutrients. However, the real winner with carrots is their source of beta carotene (vitamin A). In fact, "Carotenoids, the carrot colors, are the most important source of vitamin A for people in the U.S., Africa and Asia."

5. Bell Peppers

Bell peppers are crisp, refreshing, and absolutely delicious. Their mild flavor makes them a favorite for summer vegetable trays, and the bright colors make them great for adding visual variety to the table. They also are champions when it comes to vitamin C content. Bell peppers actually are ranked fourth in vitamin C content among the 42 most common fruits and vegetables, making them one of the best sources for this essential nutrient.

6. Rhubarb

Rhubarb is an interesting vegetable that most of us probably haven't tried before. However, it's unique flavor profile is one that definitely should be experienced. It's tangy taste can add unique flavor notes to summer drinks, pies, and cakes. It's certainly not the best source of all the nutrients you need, but does provide a bit of vitamin C and K, as well as potassium.

7. Beets

Beets are certainly a vegetable most people are on the fence about. The taste, to some, is just too earthy. That, mixed with a wet, flappy texture don't make them the most appeal food on our list. But that aside, beets are actually a great source of nutrition – they're a great source of phytonutrients called betalains, and they have even been shown to increase blood flow to the brain in older adults, which may help combat the progression of diseases like dementia.

7 Seasonal Summer Vegetables

Hit the Farmer's Market for Seasonal Tastes

Next you to visit your local farmer's market, be sure to pick up some of these seasonal veggies to add a bit of color and nutritional variety to your next meal. We also encourage you to talk to your farmers and ask what other great foods are in season. By shopping more in season you'll not only taste new foods but also save money by buying what's in abundance!


The History and Modern Application of Yoga

To some people, the word ‘Yoga’ is something they assume to be a foreign type of ‘yogurt’, maybe a German version of Yoplait. ‘Yoga’, however, is not food for one’s appetite, but rather nourishment for the mind, body, and spirit. Modernly, many people may think of yoga as just a fad, but they couldn't be further from the truth: yoga if a lifestyle that has been utilized for thousands of years by millions of people, and it becomes ever more popular day after day.

True, there is a dichotomy in the community. To some yoga is a good stretch, to some a form of exercise, and to others, it is a spiritual practice. The face of the matter is that it can be used for any of those purposes, as its history is deeply rooted in spirituality, but also in physical health. One great example is how yoga can teach a person how to breathe properly, as not knowing how to breathe correctly makes it near impossible to pull off certain poses, or asanas, which are various angles one holds their body at for prolonged periods of time.

The Origination of Yoga

There are some questions in life that may never be fully answered, like “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Or, where does yoga originate from? Luckily, scholars are able to shed a bit of light on the history of yoga more than the chicken dilemma.

The practice of yoga originates from the Eastern hemisphere of our world, likely from a civilization called the Indus-Sarasvati which existed in Northern India over 5,000 years ago. In the world’s oldest existing texts, the Rig Veda, what we know as yoga was practiced as a spiritual ritual. It was a way to connect with enlightenment, awareness, and realization of God. The Rig Veda is written in ancient Sanskrit, and was thought to have been passed on solely by word of mouth for ages. In modern times, it would be as if the only way someone could access “The New Testament” was to hear it and memorize it, and then pass it on verbally to the next inquiring mind.

The Modern Application of Yoga

Over the course of centuries Yoga evolved from merely being the practice of understanding the world, to understanding oneself, to adding the physical poses encompassed in Hatha yoga, which is now what is popularly followed in yoga studios the world over. Yoga is also a form of meditation, much like chanting mantras in silence or the act of doing the same action continuously. Like religion, there are many types of Yoga, and different kinds suit different people or purposes, but can all be equally fulfilling.

Yoga is universally beautiful. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how strong or flexible, whether you’re male female or completely confused about your gender identity; yoga knows no race or culture. Yoga is for anyone interested. Though the practice of Yoga began in the East, it has blossomed among the west as well, much like meditation or alternative medicine. All over the world there are “baby Yoga” classes, where toddlers learn all the cool ways they can bend.

This is important as children grow up, because practicing Yoga greatly improves a person’s range of motion. This is how I first came to practice Yoga. As I grew up I had multiple injuries to my knees. Dislocations, hyper flections, torn ligaments and so on. As a way to stretch out my legs, I began doing low impact yoga. It came naturally to me because as I looked at the various poses I realized that I’d been doing “Yoga poses” my entire life but I just thought it was comfortable to sit certain ways. Once I started posing and holding the poses on purpose, I found that it was quite a work out, and has since become a staple of exercising for me. In fact, a number of months ago, I had reconstructive surgery on my left knee, and practicing yoga has helped my rehabilitation immensely.

Though holding one of your hands in the air, and holding your other arm out to the side as one leg has its foot touching the other’s knee while standing might not seem very relaxing, being a tree has its benefits, such as knowing what serenity feels like.

The Real Benefit of Yoga

As we've learned, yoga is used for many reasons and has evolved over time. Apart from stretching out sore muscles, it can build new muscles that may be neglected during exercise. My favorite part about yoga is the added flexibility I’ve gained (because who doesn’t love a flexible romantic partner?). If you haven’t given yoga a shot at changing your outlook on life, ask yourself: why not? When all is said and done, what’ve you got to lose by increasing your flexibility, testing the endurance of your muscles, and toning up any areas of your body that you might find “problematic”? Seem like doing yoga is a win-win activity.

This piece was contributed by Benjamin Johnson, a beginning yoga student and author. 


Inspiring Balance in your Practice|Balance in Your Practice

Inspiring Balance in Your Practice

“Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as bird wings.” ~ Rumi

In life, balance is essential. It's in balance that we find equilibrium with the conflicting, at time at odds, energies that exist in our day to day. These are made up emotional energies, in the form of our happiness or sadness, excitement or boredom. These are also made up of our physical energies, which dictate both our emotions and our physical capabilities –sickness debilitates the body, and health empowers it.

But how do we bring balance to our lives, and more so, to our practice? What acts, thoughts, and intentions drive us toward balance?

Balance as a Physical Phenomenon

For the body, which houses the mind, physical balance comes from physical health, wellness, and care. It critical to practice upkeep with your body, as a balanced vessel generally serves as the precursor to a balanced mind.

To bring this balance, consider these three methods:

  • Balance in Nutrition: A healthy body starts with what you put in it, and a healthy, wholesome diet with varied foods that contain diverse vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates, and protein) is the essential starting ingredient. Indeed, most nutritionists refer to such a diet as "balanced diet", as it represents a holistic representation of the foods and nutrients needed by the body.
  • Balance in Exercise: Exercise, like a diet, is a big part of having a balanced physical body. In exercise we maneuver and flex the body in new ways. We tear apart our muscle fibers, encouraging them to regrow even stronger than before. We expand our lungs, our heart, and our diaphragm, pushing our bodies to higher and higher limits. But in this, exercise also does a lot to calm and de-stress the body. Yes, that's right – we exercise to relax!
  • Balance in Relaxation: In relaxation, we find the critical element of balance when contrasted with the hearty and often exhausting acts of 'finding food' (aka. work!) and exercise. Both activities can tire the body, but as we know, they both also help to restore the body. Nutrition provides the body with the building blocks of health, and exercise inspires a restful mind. But what is required here is a devotion to step back and allow yourself to relax and rest. While both of the aforementioned points are essential, without the proper deep rest, your body may not find balance.

Balance isn't just about the body though – it also directly relates to the functioning of the mind.

Balance as a Mental Phenomenon

For the mind, balance relates to our thoughts, motivations, actions, and intentions. Balance is something we find in healthy thought, not unlike the health we learned about above. It too requires a delicate set of ingredients, which require consistent and thoughtful application every day or as often as possible.

Consider these few points when balancing the mind:

  • Meditation: Meditation is the act of quieting the mind. In actuality, it's considered one the of most difficult and fulfilling acts when balancing the mind. Often, we find ourselves with so many thoughts. Our bills, our loved ones, our needs and wants... thoughts of each assail the mind, in the form hopes and fears. Quieting the mind involves pushing these thoughts out of the mind. It acknowledges their existence, but allows you to greatly narrow your focus. This break from thoughts, emotions, and fears, is a direct balance to the opposite: fully conscious thought.
  • Chakra Alignment: Chakras are swirling pools of energy within the body. While chakras may sound too mystic to some, the acts related to opening the chakras can be balancing for the psyche. They deal with understanding root desires, how we love and attach ourselves to things, and how we perceive the world and our own thoughts. Learning about chakras and their meaning is, in many ways, a mystic systemic to understand our thoughts, emotions, motivations, and purpose in life.
  • Positive Mantras: Mantras are word or phrases we repeat to focus the mind on specific points. Mantras can be as simple as repeating "I love myself" or "I deserve to be happy." You can also use mantras long celebrated for their meaning. A personal favorite of mine is "Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu," which translates to "May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all."

Bringing Balance to Your Practice

So how do these things relate to your practice? Equipped with a healthy body and mind, you're more able to engage with your practice and what it means for you. You'll find an invigorated, inspired purpose when you reach your mat, and you'll better able to apply yourself. Indeed, with a balanced body and mind, you'll find almost everything benefits.

Inspiring Balance in your Practice


The Noble Eightfold Path: A Buddhist Perspective

THE NOBLE EIGHTFOLD PATH: A BUDDHIST PERSPECTIVE

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali outlines the eightfold path, known as Ashtanga yoga. This yoga, made up of more than just asanas/poses, is meant to direct you to a path of enlightenment, for physical, mental, and spiritual health. It's a philosophy that is meant to allow one to experience was is described as a final 'god-realization.'

There is a similar philosophy the a neighboring practice of Buddhism. Buddhism and Hinduism (and by extension, yoga) are sister philosophies, rooting themselves in ancient India. But while they share many things, they are also different in important ways. It's true: Buddhism share many ideas and with Vedic philosophy, namely karma and rebirth. But they also reject authority of the Vedas, and deviate from key Vedic principles.

In one variation, Buddhist philosophy is seen in the Noble Eightfold Path. Different than Patanjali's eightfold path, this path is meant to lead on to many the same thing: ultimately, the vanquishing of suffering.

As you'll notice, these principles begin with the "right" or samma.  In this context, samma relates to togetherness and coherence. It's a form of correctness and complete, ultimately relating to the ideal or perfect act. These are also separated by a threefold division: between wisdom, ethical conduct, and concentration.

1. Right Understanding (Samma ditthi)

The right understanding specifically deals with how we see things in the world. While the mind tends to only see things as right or wrong, right understanding compels us to detach ourselves from such views. It a transcendence of perspective, seeing things as they exist.

2. Right Thought/Intention (Samma sankappa)

Right thought or intention is when the practitioner aspires to remove the qualities (habits, both in thought and action) they know to be wrong and immoral. It's a step that encourages you to ask yourself what you must resolve. It's a freedom from ill will. It's the right to resolve, and when practiced, it leads the mind to correctly discern between right and wrong intentions.

3. Right Speech (Samma vaca)

False speech, in the form of lies, idle chatter, divisiveness, and abuse, pulls things apart. In this, the third step of right speech deals with the way the practitioner makes the best of their words. When coming across these thoughts, the practitioner reflects, and if it is not true, beneficial nor timely, one is not to say it.

4. Right Action (Samma kammanta)

Right action deals with exactly what it sounds like: living life with the right conduct. This deals with conducting yourself as morally upright in your activities, avoiding corruption and harm, whether that deals with yourself or others. In a simple way, we may think of this simply as doing the right thing.

5. Right Livelihood (Samma ajiva)

Right livelihood deals with how provide for yourself, specifically with your trade or occupation. In a similar respect to right speech, this requires one to avoid such things that result in harm or pain in other living beings. It's about living an honest discipline, not a dishonest livelihood.

6. Right Effort (Samma vayama)

Right effort is translated as practicing the right endeavor or diligence. Effort is the energy we spend on performing action, much of which are described above. You can apply these with real effort, or you can apply them with little effort. In this, right effort means putting in persisting effort – you must uphold and exert your intent for the sake of preventing the wrong to arise (or rearise).

7. Right Mindfulness (Samma sati)

Mindfulness is something often discussed and focused on in yoga. This is awareness, memory and attention. In right mindfulness, this practice pushes one to keep the mind alert and aware the the phenomena that affect the body and mind. It's about being deliberate and attentive, making sure the mind is protected from greed and distress.

8. Right Concentration (Samma samadhi)

In the last step, we find a lesson on concentration, which is also considered meditation in this context. Meditation is one of the most powerful tools to balancing and leading the mind, and it can be difficult with the breadth and depth of the thoughts that come to us throughout life. Right meditation is the reaching of full concentration – a state of full meditative absorption.

Learn More about the Noble Eightfold Path

The Noble Eightfold Path is much more complex, and contains much deeper philosophies than the ones touched here. If you're interested in learning about the Noble Eightfold Path, considering starting with this text: The Noble Eightfold Path: The Way to the End of Suffering by Bhikkhu Bodhi.


6 Foods for a Fulfilling Summer

The summer season is rich with culinary overtones. Known for family picnics, beachside barbecues, and bright burning bonfires, it's the perfect to treat the palate to some the best summery foods.

Here's a roundup of our 6 favorites. Chosen for their practicality and connection to the season, eating more of these foods means leading a healthy and fulfilling summer!

1. Yellow Corn

This delicious summer staple is full of vitamin A, B-complex vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K. This antioxidant rich quintessential summer treat for any BBQ and cookouts with friends and family. Whether you are throwing it on a grill or using it in a quinoa salad, this nutrient rich starch is a great addition to any meal.

We suggest buying non-GMO and organic corn or if you have a green thumb we suggest and support growing your corn.

2.  Cucumber

Cucumbers are extremely hydrating foods. In fact, they are made up of 95% of water! The are one of the best vegetables to snack on during the summer, as they help keep the body hydrated while helping your body eliminate toxins. Plus, not only are these delicious and refreshing, but they also promote joint health, reduce and control blood pressure, and aid in weight loss and digestion.

Cucumbers are also very flexible. You can add them to any salad, or even any beverage. It can be a simple slice in a glass of water to infusing it into a refreshing summer cocktail. Whatever it is, cucumbers are easy to incorporate into any diet!

3. Watermelon

Nothing says summer like a giant slice of watermelon on a scorching hot summer afternoon. This delicious snack is sweet enough to be a dessert, but it is so much more than that. This fruit is ultra hydrating, containing more than 90% water, in addition to containing ⅓ of the daily recommended amounts of vitamin A and C.

Watermelons have the highest level of lycopene of any fruit or vegetable. Lycopene is an antioxidant that helps to combat heart disease, as well as many different forms of cancer. It also helps with blood pressure and heart disease (perhaps balancing out some of that barbecue you might be eating!).

This summer treat is great to munch on by itself, but it is even better when it chopped up and mixed with other fruits to make a fruit salad!

4. Grapes

Full of vitamin K, copper, and vitamin B2, this delicious small, oval berry shaped fruit is a tasty treat full of electrolytes and flavonoids, a very powerful antioxidant that helps with aging. Grapes are great for a variety of different diseases, including kidney diseases to the prevention to cataracts. Whether you are eating them by themselves as a snack, or accenting with them on a cheese plate, these yummy treats are great for health.

5. Cherries

These tasty summer snacks are bursting with health benefits and nutrients. This superfruit not only helps with memory improvement, due to the high levels of anthocyanin, but if a glass of tart cherry juice is consumed in the morning and the evening, it has been shown to aid in sleep time and sleep quality. Getting more cherries during the summer can help balance out that vibrant, but occasionally exhausting, seasonal energy.

6. Chocolate!

Okay, so chocolate might be very melty during the summer, but that doesn't mean it can't make our seasonal list. Chocolate is rich in antioxidants, and if that doesn't convince you add a bit more your diet, just wait for your next chance to make s'mores over an open campfire. Delicious and points for healthiness? Yes please.

That's not saying all chocolates are created equal, though. We suggest ditching the processed milk chocolates and choosing a wholesome, fair trade and darker chocolate for its higher antioxidant amount.

Get Your Summer Tasting Great

These are just some of the delicious and healthy foods you can eat during the summer. What are some of your favorites? Tell us in the comments below!

6 Foods for a Fulfilling Summer


3 Ways to Inspire Connection this Summer

Warm days with sunny skies define the summer season. It's the perfect time of year to connect with friends and family, over good food and quintessentially summer activities. From sharing stories around bright bonfires to catching up during a day at the beach, summer truly is a time of love. There's just something in the air – it binds us and encourages our hearts to be open.

So what are some great activities to inspire connection this summer? Here's 3 of our favorite!

1. Plan an Al Fresco Movie Night

A summer movie night is always fun, and when it's done al fresco, it can be the source of some of the most amazing memories. Al fresco simply means "in the open air," and it's a style outside entertainment and dining. There's a tons of themes that go along with al fresco entertainment, because its so ubiquitous in cultures around the world. In this rendition, we like to picture this as the theme:

Al Fresco Movie Night
Found on: pinterest.com/pin/70439181644658613

Okay, so what's needed to make this happen?

  • Pillows, blankets, and something comfortable to sit on.
  • A projector +  a tightened sheet. Another great alternative is to us a white canvass!
  • Lighting essentials! That means a few extension cords, some string lights, and candles for presence.
  • Fresh popped heirloom popcorn and plenty to drink!

2. Beach Trip and Bonfire

Bonfires have the ability to pull people together. There's something about the roaring blaze that settles the air. It's a living, vibrant, and creative force of energy, and it fascinates the senses. When it's on the beach, it truly creates a unique, connecting experience.

Planning a trip to beach is something that should be on basically everyone's list during the summer. First off, your skin relishes in the environment: salt water great for your skin, and the sun is something most people just don't get enough of (just be sure not to get over exposed!). It's also a fun place to relax and spend time with friends. From playing in the water to swimming to water sports, it's a place that's conducive to just having fun.

Here's the essential check list for your beach trip:

  • Plenty of water!
  • Beach umbrella, sunblock, and other ways to protect your skin.
  • Make sure the beach you visit allows fires (some do not).
  • All the essentials for summer smores

3. Backyard Barbecue

Almost everyone has been to a memorable backyard barbecue, and if you haven't this is the summer that need to change. Barbecues are a refreshingly relaxing activity, encouraging people to just let loose, hang out, and enjoy the time with their loved ones. They're all about eating good food, but being care free, perhaps setting everyone on "low" and just letting things simmer as you catch up with friends.

So what do we suggest for the perfect barbecue?

  • Again, plenty of water! It's summer, so you can never get enough.
  • Bamboo kabobs. There's just something that makes veggie kabobs so much more fun than regular veggies.
  • Something to inspire a backyard sport or activity.

Inspire Summer Connections

Whatever you choose, your summer is bound to be full of exciting times, as long as you seek out that adventure. Perhaps pull out your calendar, check your dates, and try to plan out your next day with friends and family. Sometimes, all that's needed to get your next activity rolling is you putting out the idea. Go out there and have the summer of your life!

3 WAYS TO INSPIRE CONNECTION THIS SUMMER


4 Evidence-Backed Reasons You Should Do More Yoga

Yoga: it looks strange and is hard to do at first. Nobody likes falling on their face, and carrying around a brightly colored mat doesn't always feel like you're to perform a rigorous or boast-worthy exercise. For that reason, some tend to shy away from the practice. Instead of actually trying to get good at it, they quietly pretend like it's a passing fad or something that "just doesn't suit them."

For these people, they're at a total loss.

Though yoga is so much more than just an exercise, here's 4 evidence-backed reasons yoga is something YOU should be doing more of:

Reason 1: Mental Focus and Acuity

If yoga immediately directs the mind to thoughts of calm, serene monks deeply meditating, that actually isn't a bad representation of the first real benefit of yoga: mental acuity. Acuity is sharpness of thought – the ability for the mind to focus on specific things, think about them critically, and reflect on what they mean for the self.

So how does yoga do this?

First off, in studies, yoga has shown to reduce the levels of cortisol in the body, which is the hormone that’s activated when we begin to "stress out." The result: with reduced cortisol, we're remain calm and are better able to handle stressors and anxiety. This helps keep the mind focused when it would otherwise be distracted by stress. An extreme example: yoga was shown to help reverse PTSD in a marine.

Yoga also improves concentration and memory, both of which are primary agents in mental focus and acuity. In fact, short yoga session can greatly improve brain function after practicing yoga, at a higher rate than when compared to simple aerobic exercise alone. Simply put, if you're looking for a mental boost in your day, yoga might be the best go-to solution.

Reason 2: Flexibility, Joint Mobility and Balance

When it comes to building body coordination, flexibility, and balance, there aren't many exercises better than yoga. Yoga helps to elongate muscle fibers, which, when considered in the context of many day jobs (sitting at a computer all day) greatly improves mobility. It improves what's called ease of movement, which indicates movement that decreases stress on the joints and in turn helps reduce the risk of injury. Flexibility improves blood flow, helping ensure enough circulation to muscles during and after exercise.

Added bonus: practicing flexibility exercises like yoga have also show a relation to improved quality of life.

Reason 3: Core Strength and Lower Back Stability

Yoga also improves core strength and lower back stability. Many asanas (or poses) emphasize muscular control around the lumbar spine to maintain functional stability and improve motor control of this region of the body. Not only is this a preventative exercise, helping to improve health and prevent core and spine injuries, but it also has been shown to be an effective form of rehabilitation for various lumbar spine and musculoskeletal injuries.

Reason 4: Mindfulness

Okay, while performing the asanas of yoga doesn't guarantee enlightenment on its own, you'll still notice a change in your mentality, outside of the mental focus and acuity we talked about earlier. "Mindfulness" is the measure by which you focus your attention on what you are currently experiencing in the present moment, without judging yourself or the situation.

How? Yoga encourages you to be a passive observer of your world. In Western psychology, we might just call this is a lesson in metacognition, or thinking about the way you think. Sit back for a moment now, and think about the way you have perceived your bias, either good or bad, toward yoga. Don't judge the bias for being inherently right or wrong, just acknowledge that it exists. Objectively, how do you feel?

But framing thoughts and emotions through this lens, practicing yoga has been shown to increase mindfulness, not only in yoga classes but also in other areas of life. As pointed out by Harvard authors, researchers have found one example existing in how we eat. That's right – yoga can change the way you perceive and gain satisfaction from that thing you do everyday, several times a day.

Specifically, researchers found that people who practiced yoga were more "mindful eaters," which was described as an awareness how their body feels. This change in awareness affect how practitioners savored each bite or sip and how scents, tastes and textures felt in the mouth.

Do More Yoga!

So there you have it – you no longer have a reason not to start doing more yoga. Not only does yoga help your body, but it also helps your mind, improving everything from flexibility to how much you can enjoy your meals. Best of all, yoga doesn't need to be expensive or confusing – there are tons of resources online that are free. Chances are though, you'll benefit from going to at least one or two group yoga sessions!


Balancing Your Pitta Dosha

Balancing your pitta dosha
Ayurveda is an ancient form of medicine. Translated to the "knowledge of life," Ayurveda holds that all people are composed of three energies that govern the body and its functions. These energies collectively known as the Doshas are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. And just as these energies govern the body, Ayurveda also holds that the Earth is bound to these energies, with three real seasons, based on the same energies. When these doshas are in balance, the individual is healthy.

The doshas are particular, and are made up of specific qualities that affect people in different ways. For example, Vata is the energy of movement and is made up of the elements of Ether (space) and Air. The Vata dosha represents these elements, regulating movement in the body (think circulation, heartbeat, and breathing).

In the same way, Pitta represents its own sent of characteristics. Moreover, it's the dosha associated with summer – the time of year when the sun is king.

About Pitta: Transformative Energy

Pitta is directly associated with an ever-changing, transformative state. It's represented by the elements of water and fire, and when they come together. In the body, it affects metabolic functions, such as digestion, skin health, absorption of nutrients, and body temperature. The stomach, liver and skin are the principle "seats" of the Pitta dosha, and it is in the functions of these organs that balances or imbalances show themselves.

During summer, you're more likely to experience an imbalanced Pitta dosha because of the atmosphere, Summer is a hot, changing season. It the source of incredible energy, fueling growth in our world. At the same time, this energy can prove overwhelming for the body and essentially "burning you out."

Symptoms of over active or imbalanced Pitta in the body include:

  • Peptic Ulcers
  • Acne
  • Skin Rashes
  • Excessive Body Heat
  • Heartburn
  • Hyperacidity
  • Emotionaly complications, like irritation, impatience, anger, and frustration
  • Diarrhea or other gastrointestinal disorders
  • Early graying of the hair of falling hair

Balancing Your Pitta Dosha this Summer

There are a number of ways you can balance your Pitta dosha. The key thing to keep in mind is that Ayruveda recommend treat via opposities – that is, if you pitta dosha is out of balance, you need to provide opposite energy to rebalance it. That means a cooling, stable, and grounding energy (vs. the hot, changing, and vibrant energy of the pitta dosha).

First off, indulge in cooling and hydrating summer foods. Not only do these help get the body healthy sources of nutrition, but they also provide a balance against the tendancies of the pitta dosha. Cucumber, watermelon, cherries, and grapes are all good examples of foods rich in hydration, flavor, and specific nutrients that benefit the body during this hot time of the year. On the flip side, you should try to move away from excessively hot or spicy foods, which may aggravate the dosha.

Additionally, you should always attempt to remain calm, centered, and cool when beginning to feel agitated or frustrated. Work to passify yourself through breathing exercises and resting your eyes. Try to find a cool place and get as cool as possible, perhaps shedding clothes.

Another solution is to apply a bioenergy to the body in the form of essential oils derived from plants. Essential oils like sandalwood, rose (great to add to water to create a mist!), lavender, jasmine, lotus, gardenia, khus, and vertivert all have cooling properties to them, helping restore body and mind and move them away from excessive Pitta energies. Try apply a cool rosewater mist when sipping on an iced cucumber water if you're feeling completely overwhelmed by the Pitta dosha.


4 Positive Summer Mantras

As the summer season slowly takes hold, we begin another period of transition and growth. It's a time of brightness and warmth, a time of freedom and jubilance, and a time of adventure and relaxation. It's the season where the seemingly normal stresses of daily life tend to melt away. Vacations, time with family, and long sunny days dominate the calendar, giving everyone a much needed reprieve from the hustle and bustle of "normal" life.

Summer is also a great time to meditate on specific mantras. Mantras are words or phrases we repeat to help center our minds and focus on specific ideas. Here are some mantras to consider this summer:

Mantra #1: I am beautiful.

It's not just for vanity – this mantra carries with it a powerful message for those who may feel the unnecessary pressure to change or hide their appearances with the summer season. Swimsuit season in the United States is extremely popular, but for some, the season's fashion trend can feel crippling and insurmountable, simply due to the difference of body type. Meditate on this mantra and remember that you are beautiful because you are you. Change not for others, but because you want to or feel good doing so. Never let guilt or embarrassment rule your sense of self-worth.

Mantra #2: Let it go.

Another simple, yet powerful mantra, and it's especially important as the summer also brings something else with it: heat. Traffic at beaches, in the city, or to destination spots, combined with heat and noisy passengers can sometimes be overwhelming. Similarly, it can feel at times – in the depth of summer heat – that everything is debilitating. Use this mantra to cool your mind and help detach yourself from the magma that is summer heat induced frustration.
Summer Mantras

Mantra #3: I deserve this.

For many, removing yourself from work and engaging yourself in play is a lot of, well, work. We can feel obligated to continue working, spending time on the computer, and "grinding" away at our daily tasks. Surely this is honor in this, but remember that taking a break, relaxing, and spending time with loved ones is essential, especially during the summer, when family is back home and out of school. Repeat this mantra and remember that your life and happiness is worth cultivation – you deserve it.

Mantra #4: When the time is on you, start, and the pressure will be off.

In Sanskrit, this mantra reads "Gobinday, mukanday, udaaray, aaparay, hareeung, kareeung, nirnaamay, akaamay" and translates literally into "Sustainer, Liberator, Enlightener, Infinite, Destroyer, Creator, Nameless, Desireless." The mantra is meant to balance the mind and body, and help you realize that the first step to relieving the pressure you feel from your tasks is simply to start on them. Too often, we become overburdened with the thought alone of what we must do. The steps seem numerous, and the pressure we feel from our obligations can plunge us into stress. During the summer months, this can ruin days and weeks, stall or prevent plans, and ultimately zap the energy of growth this season naturally carries with it. Simply remember that by starting on your tasks, you begin to pry away this pressure. Work slowly, and do not worry about anything beside completing the first parts of what must be done.

Practice Positivity this Summer

With these mantras in mind, remember to angle and direct yourself toward positivity this summer. Embrace the light and warmth of the season – absorb this powerful energy, and use it within you to grow, relax, and cherish the moments the world provides.