With thanks to the Kripalu Center for yoga and Health for great teacher training/ resources.
I. Healthy Eating Guidelines
Based on The Kripalu Self Health Guide, 1993.
Most of us have some discomfort if we overeat, eat foods that disagree with us, or eat food combinations that are difficult to digest. If you are one of these folks, here are some pointers to increase your eating happiness.
1. Eat when you are hungry and eat moderate amounts of food. Overloading the stomach leads to poor digestion.
2. Chew your food thoroughly; especially starchy foods like bread, potatoes, rice, other grains, and beans.
3. Physical exercise strengthens digestion.
4. If you are thirsty after meals, try reducing your salt intake.
Suggestions for Conscious Eating
When you are truly hungry, the simplest food tastes the most delicious. After eating, you should feel relaxed and alert. If you feel tired or sluggish, you have eaten too much.
*Try taking a moment, before and after eating , to be grateful for the food.
*Try relaxing and breathing while eating.
*Try dining silently, or without unnecessary talking.
*Try taking personal responsibility for discovering what foods agree with you best.
Food selection Guidelines
Fresh fruit and dried fruit
Fruit or vegetable juices
Nuts and seeds
Whole grains and cereals
Honey, blackstrap molasses, maple syrup, barley malt
Herbal teas, coffee substitutes
Milk and dairy products, in moderation
Foods to Avoid
Canned or processed foods
Refined sugar or sugar products
Artificial preservatives or additives
Refined four products
Non-foods to Avoid
Caffeine, alcohol, and drugs (unless prescribed by a doctor)
II. Breathing Techniques
Life begins with the first breath and ends with the last breath out. A baby breathes diagrammatically (you can see its belly moving) but as we age we learn how to breath shallowly. When we do we take in less oxygen. Oxygen is our primary form of energy. When we are not getting enough we feel insecure no matter how much money we may have in the bank. When we breathe deeply we calm our nervous system, our emotions come into balance and our mind settles down. We are left with more mental clarity. There are many ways to take some control of your breathing. Below are a couple of techniques:
The Complete Breath (Also called The Yogic Breath.)
This breathing technique can be done either in a sitting or a lying position, with the spine straight. The idea is to fill the lungs completely. Filling the body with air is like filling a glass of water: First the bottom is filled, and then the middle, and then the top. Emptying the body happens in the reverse order: First the oxygen is exhaled from the upper lungs, then from beneath the ribs, and finally from the bottom of the abdomen. Directions: Slowly inhale and bring the air into the bottom of the abdomen. (You should notice your abdomen swelling with the inhalation.) Immediately begin to draw the breath up, opening and expanding the rib cage upward and out to the sides. Continue to inhale up under the shoulders to fill the lungs completely. Now exhale slowly from the top of the longs down until all the air is removed from the abdomen. Gently contract the abdominal muscles at the end of the exhalation to squeeze out all of the remaining air. Continue this for a few minutes.
This breathing is calming and relaxing. This exercise uses the full capacity of the lungs, removing stale air and toxins. It keeps the chest and lungs flexible and relaxed. It increases overall energy and improves digestion and elimination.
Find a comfortable place to lie down. Regulate your breath by taking long, deep, and uniform breaths. Gradually slow down the rate of your breathing until you being to sink into relaxation. Continue the deep breathing for a minute or more.
You will be tensing and relaxing each muscle of your body, from your toes to the top of your head. Begin by contracting the muscles of the feet and holding in your breath. Count to three and then release the contraction and the breath. Feel yourself letting go of tension. Follow this same procedure of holding the breath for a count of three as you tense and release your muscles in this order: ankles and calves, knees and thighs, hips, abdomen, back and chest, shoulders and arms, hands, neck, jaw, and face. Finally, tense and relax your forehead and scalp. Once the whole body has been relaxed, continue deep breathing and remain in this state of sleep-relaxation for as long as you wish. When the time is right open your eyes and gently stretch your body. When ready, sit up.
III. Meditation: Tips for Beginners
Who can meditate?
Almost anyone. Search around and find a technique that works best for you. Whichever approach you choose, you will need to have patience and perseverance to reap the rewards.
What is meditation? Many activities and disciplines have been called meditation. We will be practicing meditation on the breath.
When to meditate?
Anytime you want the mind to become stiller, to calm the mental restlessness or emotional upset.
The morning, before the beginning of the day's activity, is a nice time to meditate, or before meals, when the body is not too busy with digestion. You might try meditation at the same time each day. This consistency is encouraged.
Where to meditate? Any comfortable, safe location. Ideally, the setting should be well-ventilated, quiet, and a location where you will be uninterrupted. A natural setting is an added plus.
How do I meditate? (Beginning with exercise or yoga will enhance your meditation.)
Meditation on the breath: Begin with 5-10 minutes and then increase the time as your desire to meditate increases.
1. Sit in a comfortable position, on a chair or on the floor, with your back, neck, and head fairly straight. Try to let your body be comfortable, but not so comfortable that you fall asleep.
2. Close your eyes and begin noticing the sensations of breath at the tip of the nostrils as you breathe naturally. If breathing through your nose is difficult, breathe through your mouth and notice the sensations on your lips.
3. Naturally, the mind will wander into memories of the past and thoughts about the future. Each time you notice your mind wandering, gently return your attention to your breath- again and again. (Be very compassionate with yourself. You may find your mind won't focus on the breath at all. That's OK. You will still benefit from simply sitting still.) Don't get discouraged. Your practice is what's important, not a final goal.
This meditation allows the mind to calm down. It promotes mental focus, brings the mind into the present moment, and enhances the functioning of the intuition (which can be blocked by too much mental activity). You will discover many more benefits as well.
May your efforts bring you peace and joy.