The Solitude of Self
September 16, 2015

BY LINDA EGENES

Kate BolickIn Kate Bolick’s new book Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own, the author credits five writers who helped awaken her to the glories of the solitary life: Neith Boyce, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Edith Wharton and Maeve Brennan.

Some of these writers lived during a time when choosing to remain unmarried was an unconventional lifestyle, and the solitary life was possible for only a select few women who could somehow obtain an education and earn a decent living—or who had their own means.

Yet according to Bolick, even though American women now have the same educational opportunities as men—and statistically are marrying less, marrying older and delaying or forgoing having children—a woman is still defined by the questions “whom to marry and when will it happen?”

Bolick, a single woman, wants to change that. She writes, “We like to pretend that only single people are lonely, and coupledom the cure.”

To my mind it’s a good thing if a woman who doesn’t want to get married feels that she can make that choice without feeling marginalized. As a happily married woman without children, I myself am pursuing a lifestyle that is not exactly the norm either. So I applaud the idea that every woman can follow the lifestyle that suits her best, not a one-size-fits-all prescription deemed by society as the happiest, the healthiest, the ideal.

And as Bolick eventually discovers in writing her book, we don’t really have to choose between independence and marriage anyway. She writes, “A wholesale reclamation of the word spinster is a tall order. My aim is more modest: to offer it up as a shorthand for holding on to that in you which is independent and self-sufficient, whether you’re single or coupled.”

Well, yes, I would have to applaud that aim too. It seems we women too often forget there is one thing that can help guide any women through life, whether young or old; whether married, unmarried or widowed; whether career woman, mother at home or both—and that is to embrace the part of you that is independent and self-sufficient.

This is not a new idea among great women thinkers, but it’s certainly apt for our times, when every woman needs a trusty vessel to help her navigate the ever-evolving landscape of feminism and women’s rights and the ever-increasing choices of lifestyle and career. Journalist Elliott Holt (in her Time magazine book review of Spinster) mentioned that Elizabeth Cady Stanton delivered a speech titled “The Solitude of Self” in 1892, when she was retiring as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association at age 77.

Stanton herself was an unusual woman of her times—even though her father thought only boys should be educated, Stanton had managed to educate herself in Greek language and philosophy. As an early champion of women’s rights, she also had a successful marriage, to fellow abolitionist Henry Brewster Stanton, and was the mother of three boys.

In her retirement speech she said, “No matter how many women prefer to lean, to be protected and supported, nor how much men desire to have them do so, they must make the voyage of life alone.”

By “alone” I don’t think she meant “lonely.” Rather, I think she meant “self-reliant.” For me personally, this resonates. Not only in a physical sense, such as if your partner or husband dies and you are left to support yourself and the children on your own, but in a spiritual sense and a relationships sense. Surely, if there is one lesson I have learned that has contributed to my happiness in life—in my work, in my marriage, and in every single friendship and family relationship—it’s that relationships work out better when they involve two people who are already happy within themselves. Then the marriage or friendship or work relationship is a blessing, an abundance, two people overflowing in love and generosity of spirit. If instead two people are looking to the other one to fill them up, the relationship is off to a rocky start indeed.

In her speech Elizabeth Cady Stanton went on to say, “There is a solitude which each and every one of us has always carried with him, more inaccessible than the ice cold mountains, more profound than the midnight sea; the solitude of self.”

This “solitude of self” is something that every woman already possesses, which never fails, which costs nothing and is not for anyone else to control or to take away. It can be developed no matter what your economic circumstances or choices in lifestyle, whether raising a family or living alone.

In fact, this solitude of self has been the inspiration for many great men and women throughout history. The Tao Te Ching says, “Where there is silence/one finds peace./ When there is silence/one finds the anchor of the universe within himself. The Buddhist Dhammapada says, “The one who has entered a solitary place/Whose mind is calm and who sees the way,/To that one comes insight and truth/And rapturous joy transcending any other.”

Sybil, the oracle of Delphi famously advised, “Know thyself.” Many great women, such as Emily Dickinson, Helen Keller, Emily Bronte, Clare Boothe Luce and Billie Jean King, reported vivid experiences of their inner silence, as described in Dr. Craig Pearson’s beautiful book The Supreme Awakening: Experiences of Enlightenment Throughout Time—And How You Can Cultivate Them.

Here is an excerpt by Charlotte Bronte, author of Wuthering Heights, from Dr. Pearson’s book:
“A messenger of Hope comes every night to me,
And offers, for short life, eternal liberty.
But first a hush of peace, a soundless calm descends;
The struggle of distress and fierce impatience ends;
Mute music soothes my breast — unuttered harmony
That I could never dream till earth was lost to me.
Then dawns the Invisible, the Unseen its truth reveals;
My outward sense is gone, my inward essence feels —
Its wings are almost free, its home, its harbour found;
Measuring the gulf it stoops and dares the final bound!”

While most modern women have a sense of what the “solitude of self” means, and have had some experience of reaching deep to their inner silence to make an important decision or to stay calm in a crisis, we all need help accessing it on a daily basis. But how? Most women today live a hectic life—striving to perform at work, ferrying the kids to soccer, getting dinner on the table and squeezing in a few hours of sleep. Without help getting to the silence inside us, it could, indeed, be as “inaccessible as the ice cold mountains.”

Yet we need it now more than ever. It’s the desire to access the solitude of self that is causing thousands of women today to turn to the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique, to find that oasis of silence and self-sufficient happiness within themselves every day.

Research shows that when people close their eyes to practice TM, their mind experiences a state of consciousness that is different from waking, sleeping or dreaming. Scientists have identified it as a fourth state of consciousness, during which the body experiences deep rest and dissolves stress and fatigue. At the same time, the mind is experiencing a state of silent, pure wakefulness, an unbounded ocean of bliss, a unified experience of wholeness, a state of pure consciousness, in which the knower knows itself, and the mind is awake at its source, an unlimited reservoir of peace, harmony, intelligence and happiness.

With TM, this experience of inner silence is accessible to every woman, no matter how busy she is or how many demands on her day.

Soledad O’Brien, Emmy-award winning journalist and former CNN correspondent and a very busy woman, tells her experience of contacting her inner silence by practicing the TM technique: “I have a crazy schedule, I have four small children and I am always going, so the idea of calming my mind I thought, ‘not possible!’ But I was able to learn, I was able to do it, and I appreciate very much the opportunity to take the time to focus and meditate and it allows me to experience a state of deep rest and relaxation that can be game-changing; and sometimes a life saver in a crazy world. It helps alleviate stress and pressure when you’re trying to balance life and being a mother. And as a journalist I feel healthier and have fewer stressful days and more energy and more clarity of mind. So that’s all my own personal experience.”

Oprah Winfrey, another famously busy person, described her experience of practicing the TM technique with a group of women in Fairfield, Iowa: “I walked away feeling fuller than when I’d come in. Full of hope, a sense of contentment, and deep joy. Knowing for sure that even in the daily craziness that bombards us from every direction, there is—still—the constancy of stillness.”

Linda Egenes writes about green and healthy living and is the author of six books, including Super Healthy Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.

(I originally wrote this post for Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, May 15, 2015. Reprinted with permission.)

An Interview with A NYC Ballet Star

BY LINDA EGENES

Megan Fairchild

“What makes a great performance is when you are free to dance to the music in a way that feels fresh and spontaneous and isn’t contrived. You are in the moment and reacting to the music as the orchestra plays it.” –Megan Fairchild

It’s not often that a fifteen-year-old girl from Salt Lake City finds herself auditioning for the School of American Ballet. And even less likely that the aspiring ballerina gets accepted, graduates, joins the New York City Ballet corps de ballet at age eighteen, becomes a soloist by the time she’s nineteen, and a principal by age twenty. Rarer still for this talented dancer to take the leap from ballet to Broadway star, dazzling crowds and critics alike.

It doesn’t sound real, yet this is the life of Megan Fairchild, age thirty, who is starring in the current revival of the Broadway musical On the Town to great acclaim.

Elisabeth Vincentelli of the New York Post writes, “The bell-bottomed boys traditionally dominate this show, but the brightest star in this new revival isn’t one of them: It’s Megan Fairchild, a New York City Ballet principal now making her Broadway debut. That she’s graceful and strikes breathtakingly beautiful lines was a given.…But it turns out the elfin ballerina’s also a nimble, effortlessly funny comedienne. The show explodes with unfettered joy every time she’s onstage.”

My level of pushing my body was up so high that, basically, a fuse would blow. With TM I turn my stress dial back a little bit every day instead of letting it constantly turn up and build on itself.

My level of pushing my body was up so high that, basically, a fuse would blow. With TM I turn my stress dial back a little bit every day instead of letting it constantly turn up and build on itself.

When I mention the rave reviews to Megan, she says modestly, “Yes, it’s been crazy.”

Megan has agreed to an interview one morning after performing the evening before. Here she talks about technique, artistry, and her life as a ballet dancer and Broadway star.

Linda Egenes: What made you take a year off from your successful career with the New York City Ballet (NYCB)?

Megan Fairchild: I think it’s no coincidence that my little opportunity happened after I learned Transcendental Meditation almost a year ago. Just five months after starting TM, I got a text from the casting director of On the Town, wondering if I’d be interested in auditioning.

And I’m like, “I am not a Broadway performer. This is crazy.” I laughed about it for a day, and then something happened. The next morning I woke up and I thought, “Why not?”

That was a really important moment for me. Normally I would have been too shy, or would have thought no, that is not me and stayed in my little bubble. Instead, I was thinking that I am at a point in my career where I am ready to try new and different things, and this could be an exercise in jumping out of my comfort zone. I honestly believe that TM had something to do with that decision.

Linda Egenes: How is performing on Broadway different from ballet?

Megan Fairchild: It’s more fun than I expected. Not that there isn’t pressure on Broadway, but there is a little bit more of an “it’s just entertainment” kind of attitude, as opposed to ballet where everything has an ideal or perfect line that you are trying to create. There’s a lot more freedom when dancing on Broadway.

Linda Egenes: Would you say it’s less stressful? I mean, there’s a popular perception that ballet is a stressful profession.

Megan Fairchild: I love my job at the NYCB because I love the people I go to work with. I love the jokes that we share and the sense of community. It’s a loyal company, as they only hire graduates of the School of American Ballet, so there are people that I have known since I was fifteen. It’s like family.

I think TM helps you be a little more fearless. Before, I would hold on to trying to be really perfect and also was kind of obsessed with certain technical steps. Now, it’s more of a bigger picture. I am enjoying my own performance more and taking every step and every movement to its fullest.

I think TM helps you be a little more fearless. Before, I would hold on to trying to be really perfect and also was kind of obsessed with certain technical steps. Now, it’s more of a bigger picture. I am enjoying my own performance more and taking every step and every movement to its fullest.

But now that I’m stepping away from ballet for a year, I see how much pressure we are all under. We are never done working on being perfect. It’s never, “Oh, that’s great.” It’s always, “Oh, you need to get your leg higher; I need you to turn around one more time in that pirouette; or, wouldn’t it be better if your feet were pointed more?” It’s endless.

Also, the ballet has a deeper meaning, and there is a lot of stress for the ballet dancer to uphold this legacy that is weighing on you every time you step on stage.

Linda Egenes: I understand that it was stress that brought you to TM in the first place.

Megan Fairchild: I would have panic attacks where I would pass out and be rushed to the emergency room. They were so intense that, literally, when I was regaining consciousness, I heard someone screaming, and it was me.

This happened every two years since I was eighteen. Life would get stressful, and one little thing like going to get a shot at the doctor’s office would trigger my whole system to shut down. Then it started happening more often, just six months apart. I had to miss some performances. So I thought, “OK, this isn’t cool. This is affecting my job. I need to figure out how to manage my life in a way that is going to be a little more relaxing.”

One of my ballet masters at NYCB, who did TM, suggested that I try it. She was the consummate professional and always in the moment and ready to get her job done. I felt like, well, if she does it, and she swears by it, then I’m going to try it.

Linda Egenes: So these episodes have subsided?

Megan Fairchild: Yes. The last one was before I started TM. There have been moments that, in the past, would have caused me to get light-headed and possibly go into an episode, but now I watch the moment pass by without any big event. My level of pushing my body was up so high that, basically, a fuse would blow. With TM I turn my stress dial back a little bit every day instead of letting it constantly turn up and build on itself.

Linda Egenes: How do you reconcile your own creative interpretation with the way the dances have been done in the past?

Megan Fairchild: Even if you get to a point artistically where you are feeling free with your technique, you are also trying to uphold the tradition while you put your stamp on it. I am lucky to work with wonderful ballet masters who are supportive in making me feel like I am the artist here and now, and it’s OK if what I do is a little different from the way ten other really special ballerinas have done it in the past to great fame. My ballet masters tell me the steps, and I feel how my body wants to do it and what feels true to me.

Linda Egenes: Does transcending in your daily TM practice help with balancing artistry with technique?

Megan Fairchild: I think it helps you be a little more fearless. Before, I would hold on to trying to be really perfect and also was kind of obsessed with certain technical steps. Now, it’s more of a bigger picture, being completely in the moment of each step as it’s happening instead of worrying about that technical step coming up. I am enjoying my own performance more and taking every step and every movement to its fullest.

Megan Fairchild

I used to feel that things would stick to me like Velcro, and now, things just roll off. I still recognize moments happening that would normally frustrate me, but they just don’t irritate me as much as they used to. I am more able to deal with the stresses that come with my job.

I think what makes a great performance is when you are free to dance to the music in a way that feels fresh and spontaneous and isn’t contrived. You are in the moment and reacting to the music as the orchestra plays it.

In general, I have more patience with myself.

Linda Egenes: In what ways?

Megan Fairchild: Say I do a bad turn or I don’t feel my best that day, or maybe I don’t feel like always being in a leotard or something. TM helps me to let the little stresses that come with being a ballet dancer just roll off a little easier. I am a lot more resilient. I am not getting obsessed over the difficulties of working with this partner or that. It’s just a little easier.

I used to feel that things would stick to me like Velcro, and now, things just roll off. I still recognize moments happening that would normally frustrate me, but they just don’t irritate me as much as they used to. I am more able to deal with the stresses that come with my job.

Linda Egenes: I understand that your brother is also a ballet dancer and is also taking a year off to star in the forthcoming Broadway musical, American in Paris?

Megan Fairchild: Yes, my brother, Robert Fairchild, is three years younger than me, and he is in the NYCB and so is his wife. And I am married to a principal at the company, Andrew Veyette. So we have a little family.

Linda Egenes: So your brother, Robert Fairchild, is following in your footsteps?

Megan Fairchild: Actually, in terms of Broadway, I am kind of following in his footsteps. He was always more into tap and jazz than I was. I got him to do ballet to work on his technique. He ended up in the NYCB and loves it. But he also loves the musicals, and he’s a great singer, actually. Who knew? [Writer’s note: After this interview, Robert Fairchild was nominated for a Tony for his leading role in American in Paris.]

Linda Egenes: I’m curious about the influences that made you and your brother both become professional ballet dancers?

Megan Fairchild: My mom always liked musicals, and because I was dancing around the house, she took me to tap class when I was growing up. There was never any pressure to become a dancer. I’d be thinking, “Oh, wow! I like this!” Then “I like ballet,” so I would be in the Nutcracker; and then “Oh, this is going well. I am going to do ballet full time.” So it was always, “Oh, I enjoy this. Let’s go to the next level.” It was never a grand plan.

 

(I originally wrote this interview for Enlightenment Magazine, Issue number 22. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

Dr. Suzanne SteinbaumCardiologist Suzanne Steinbaum, MD, is a woman on a mission. As Director of Women and Heart Disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and author of the life-changing Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book: Every Woman’s Guide to a Heart-Healthy Life, she is teaching women a new, heart-centered way to live.

And she is succeeding. While many doctors complain that their patients don’t want to make the lifestyle changes that will truly transform their health, Dr. Steinbaum doesn’t have that problem.

You only have to talk to Dr. Steinbaum for a few minutes to find out why she calls herself a preventive cardiologist. When a patient comes to her office who has not been feeling well for a long time, Dr. Steinbaum gets the patient talking about her unhealthy food choices, her lack of exercise, and the stressors in her life. And then she motivates the patient to change.

“It seems to me that there are two options,” she says. “You can pull out your pad and write a prescription, or you can actually help them change their lives, which is something that they own forever. There is nothing more powerful than that.”

Dr. Steinbaum’s enthusiasm for transforming women’s heart health is contagious.

As a national spokesperson for the Go Red for Women campaign, as a featured guest on 20/20, Good Morning America, and major networks, and as the host of her TV show, Focus OnHealth, she is reaching out to women all over the country.

It’s not only passion for her work that fuels Dr. Steinbaum’s success; it’s authenticity. She has lived what she teaches from an early age.

Sharing Her Own Personal Family History of Health

Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book: Every Woman’s Guide to a Heart-Healthy LifeIn creating the future of women’s medicine, Dr. Steinbaum looked to her past. “When I was writing Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book, I realized that it was my story that drove me to do what I do,” she says.

Her story begins with her grandfather, who, as an athletic teen, was told by his doctor he could not play high school football because of a heart murmur. “He couldn’t understand why a doctor would tell him he was sick when he felt perfectly healthy,” says Steimbaum. “So he decided to learn more about the body, driving to New York City from New Jersey to take classes in nutrition.”

Eventually he became a doctor of osteopathy, which is a more hands-on field of medicine that focuses on holistic healing, beginning a family tradition that now includes eighteen doctors of osteopathy in the Steinbaum family.

Through his research, Steinbaum’s grandfather knew that nutrition affected the heart, and favored foods that modern research has found to be heart-healthy, such as avocados and dark chocolate. “Years later, when I was in my training, I wrote an article on nutrition and prevention of heart disease,” says Steinbaum. “Then I found out my grandfather wrote almost the exact same article in the 1930s. It felt strange, almost surreal. I wondered, ‘Is this genetic?’ ”

Whether nature or nurture, Steinbaum knew she wanted to be a doctor from an early age. As a child she followed her father on his hospital rounds on the weekend, and found it great fun to “assist” her grandfather in his home office.

“I was raised with the belief system that everyone is a holistic being, and you can’t treat just one aspect of the body,” she says.

Tackling the Myths of Women’s Heart Health

Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum

“It’s important that you incorporate habits in your life that aren’t a burden. They have to add to your life, not make it more difficult. I think that TM is one of the easiest things to do. It’s certainly one of the most effective.”

Like her grandfather and father, Steinbaum first trained as a doctor of osteopathy. Two things happened that altered the course of her career.

“As a student I was working in the emergency room, and a relatively young-looking women was wheeled in sweating and vomiting,” she remembers. “The doctors diagnosed it as gastroenteritis and left her to wait in the corner. She had a heart attack right there in the ER. I thought, ‘That’s what I am going to do; help women not get heart attacks.’ ”

Years later, Steinbaum ended up doing a rotation at Block Island in Rhode Island. She was shocked to see a parade of young women visiting her office complaining of heart palpitations and chest pains while on vacation with their families.

“And I thought, ‘What is this?’ ” she says. “I could see that these highly successful, but highly stressed, women needed help. These two things have stayed in my heart my entire career.”

Propelled by the desire to educate women to recognize and prevent heart disease, she went on to become board certified as an MD and a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology.

Dr. Steinbaum likes to point out that although heart disease is thought to be a man’s disease, it is actually the number one killer of women. And because the symptoms are different in women than in men, many doctors don’t recognize the early signs of heart disease—or even heart attacks—in women.

“There is an increased incidence of heart disease in women less than fifty-five years old,” she says. “Women need to start early to prevent it, especially if there is a family history.”

Dr. Steinbaum says the significance of prevention for heart disease was what drew her to the field.“It was so compelling to be able to change the outcomes of people’s lives by simply helping them to change their lifestyles,” she says. “If I could teach people how to prevent the number one killer disease, what could be better than that?”

What Every Woman Can Do to Prevent Heart Disease

When I ask her to name the three most important things women can do for their hearts, Dr. Steinbaum says, “I used to say ‘stop smoking’ first, but now most people are on that bandwagon. Now I’d say eating a really healthy diet, and exercising, which, by far, is the best medication. And having a way to reduce stress is essential.”

For stress, Dr. Steinbaum recommends the Transcendental Meditation technique.

“I tell my patients that we have to treat this issue of overwhelming stress in their lives, and this is an evidence-based technique that has been shown to reduce blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes by 48 percent,” she says. “The American Heart Association recommends it as the most effective stress management tool for reducing hypertension.”

She says she first recommended TM because she was impressed with the research. “And then I learned it myself, and thought, ‘Oh this is huge! This is a really, really big deal; something that goes far beyond the medical benefits. One of my favorite things to say is that I never thought I could sit still that long, and now I look forward to it. I also say, ‘Trust me on this one; this is going to work.’ ”

As a working mother of an eight-year-old, Dr. Steinbaum herself is no stranger to the stress of modern life. “Every day I have about twenty-five million things to do, and before I did TM it sometimes was an overwhelming, daunting task,” she says. “Now that I do TM, it doesn’t mean I have less to do; it just means that it’s easier and calmer. There’s a lack of chaotic thought, and it’s almost like everything falls in place.”

photo_steinbaum01

“Doing what is best for you, eating what feels best for you, exercising, living with passion, living with purpose—that is what living from the heart is all about. And, ultimately, that is the way to be the most heart healthy.”

TM offers a way out of the vicious cycle of stress, notes Dr. Steinbaum. “If you can meditate regularly and slow your breathing, slow your heart rate, dilate your arteries, and decrease your blood pressure, it’s done!”

But just like exercise or changing your diet, you have to do it regularly to create the change in the physiology. “We know that the change is persistent if you make a regular, routine practice of it,” she says.

For Steinbaum, any healthy habit has to resonate with a person’s goals and lifestyle. “It’s important that you incorporate things in your life that aren’t a burden,” she says. “They have to add to your life, not make it more difficult. I think that TM is one of the easiest things to do. It’s certainly one of the most effective.”

Living from the Heart

Dr. Steinbaum calls her philosophy of preventing heart disease “living from the heart.”

When she speaks, her belief in her patients’ ability to transform their lives is palpable.

“Doing what is best for you, eating what feels best for you, exercising, living with passion, living with purpose—that is what living from the heart is all about,” she says. “And, ultimately, that is the way to be the most heart healthy.”

She advises her patients: “Live from your heart and everything else will be fine.”

To help her patients become more aware of who they are and what they need to feel healthy, Dr. Steinbaum leads them in an exercise called “journaling their lives.”

“When people get caught in the minutiae of their own existence, it’s unhealthy, so I try to get people to step outside of themselves and to understand what they are living for,” she says. “For instance, a woman might feel motivated to lose weight so she can enjoy playing with her grandchildren.”

Later on, feeling good itself is enough motivation to eat heart-healthy foods, Dr. Steinbaum explains. But in the beginning, it’s easier for people to tie their goal to something larger than themselves.

“‘I want to lose weight to look thinner’ is usually not enough motivation,” she says.

Dr. Steinbaum has clearly poured her heart into her mission of educating women and preventing heart disease, and it’s her biggest reward when she sees a patient living from her heart and feeling better.

“I feel lucky to be a part of that transformation,” she says. “It’s amazing. Simply amazing.”

Dr. Steinbaum’s Top Five Heart-Health Tips

  1. Never smoke
  2. Exercise
  3. Eat heart-healthy foods
  4. Reduce stress with Transcendental Meditation
  5. Live from your heart
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(I originally wrote this interview for Enlightenment Magazine, Issue number 23. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES
Living From Your Heart: Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum Shares Her Passion for Women’s Heart HealthI don’t know about you, but it seems to me that there is a shift in medicine taking place—not only because patients are demanding more natural, preventive approaches, but because a new generation of doctors is leading the way.No one embodies this new paradigm of medicine more than Suzanne Steinbaum in her incredibly readable book Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s Heart Book: Every Woman’s Guide to a Heart-Healthy Life. As an MD, a cardiologist, the Director of Women and Heart Disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association’s Go Red Women campaign—Dr. Steinbaum has the credentials. And because she speaks with the authentic voice of experience about how to live a healthy life—in her book, on her website and blog, as a columnist for Huffington Post, as a featured guest on 20/20, Good Morning America, and major networks, and as the host of her TV show, Focus OnHealth—women are listening.I sincerely think all women can benefit from reading this book, not only because any woman could be at risk for heart disease, but also for the experience of having a doctor talk to you about your health in a way that lets you know she GETS it. She understands how a woman’s physiology is different from a man’s, how stress and emotions can affect us so deeply, how women are often misdiagnosed, how clinical trials don’t reflect the way women react to treatment because most trials are done on men.Dr. Steinbaum was first inspired to become a cardiologist when she was a student observing in an ER. “I was the kind of student who wrote down everything the doctor said,” she says. “A relatively young-looking women was wheeled in sweating and vomiting. The doctors diagnosed it as gastroenteritis and left her to wait in the corner. She ended up having a heart attack. I thought, ‘That’s what I am going to do, help women not get heart attacks.’”Dr. Steinbaum likes to point out that although heart disease is thought to be a men’s disease, it is actually the number one killer of women. And because the symptoms are different in women than in men, many doctors don’t recognize the early signs of heart disease—or even heart attacks—in women.

“There is an increased incidence of heart disease in women less than 55 years old,” she says. “Women need to start early to prevent it, especially if there is a family history.”

Living from Your Heart

Dr. Steinbaum calls her philosophy of preventing heart disease “living from your heart.” When she speaks, her belief in her patients’ ability to transform their lives is palpable.

“Doing what is best for you, eating what feels best for you, exercising, living with passion, living with purpose—that is what living from the heart is all about,” she says. “And ultimately that is the way to be the most heart healthy.”

She advises her patients, “Live from your heart and everything else will be fine.”

To help her patients become more aware of who they are and what they need to feel healthy, Dr. Steinbaum leads them in an exercise called “journaling their lives.”

“When people get caught in a minutia of their own existence, it’s unhealthy, so I try to get people to step outside of themselves and to understand what they are living for,” she says. “For instance, a woman might feel motivated to lose weight so she can enjoy playing with her grandchildren.”

Later on, feeling good itself is enough motivation to eat heart-healthy foods, Dr. Steinbaum explains. But in the beginning, it’s easier for people to tie their goal to something larger than themselves.

“‘I want to lose weight to look thinner’ is usually not enough motivation,” she says.

Preventing Stress from Turning Into A Heart Attack

When I ask her to name the three most important things women can do for their hearts, Dr. Steinbaum says, “I used to say ‘stop smoking’ but now most people are on that bandwagon. Now I’d say eating a really healthy diet, and exercising, which by far is the best medication. And having a way to reduce stress is essential.”

For reducing stress, Dr. Steinbaum recommends the Transcendental Meditation technique.

“I tell my patients that we have to treat this issue of overwhelming stress in their lives, and this is an evidence-based technique that has been shown to reduce blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes by 48 percent,” she says. “The American Heart Association recommends it as the most effective stress management tool for reducing hypertension.”

She says she first recommended TM because she was impressed with the research. “And then I learned it myself, and thought, ‘Oh this is huge! This is a really, really big deal, something that goes far beyond the medical benefits. One of my favorite things to say is that I never thought I could sit still that long, and now I look forward to it. I also say, ‘Trust me on this one, this is going to work.’”

As a working mother of an eight-year-old, Dr. Steinbaum herself is no stranger to the stress of modern life. “Every day I have about 25 million things to do, and before I did TM it sometimes was an overwhelming, daunting task,” she says. “Now that I do TM, it doesn’t mean I have less to do, it just means that it’s easier and calmer. There’s a lack of chaotic thought, and it’s almost like everything falls into place.”

TM offers a way out of the vicious cycle of stress, notes Dr. Steinbaum. “If you can meditate regularly and slow your breathing, slow your heart rate, dilate your arteries and decrease your blood pressure, it’s done!”

But just like exercise or changing your diet, you have to do it regularly to create the change in the physiology. “We know that the change is persistent if you make a regular, routine practice of it,” she says.

Dr. Steinbaum has clearly poured her heart into her mission of educating women and preventing heart disease, and it’s her biggest reward when she sees a patient living from her heart and feeling better.

“I feel lucky to be a part of that transformation,” she says. “It’s amazing. Simply amazing.”

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Linda Egenes writes about green and healthy living and is the author of six books, including Super Healthy Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.

(I originally wrote this post for Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, April 30, 2015. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

Trinity College Squash Team of 2010

Trinity College Squash Team of 2010

When the women’s squash team at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, began practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique in 2010, they were hoping to make their team experience less stressful and more enjoyable. Little did they know that it would also lead them to the top of their game, finishing the 2010 season as number three in the nation, an amazing feat for a small school. In 2013 and 2014, the team captured the number one spot, edging out much larger schools like Harvard and Penn State.

It all started when Dr. Randy Lee, associate professor of psychology and assistant coach, who was already doing some work with the students to help them reduce stress and improve focus, read the research on TM.

“I’m a scientist and I wanted to see the data,” said Dr. Lee. “There were 700 research studies, and I looked a lot of them up. It occurred to me that TM, given what I’d seen in the research, might be a perfect mesh with what we were already doing,” he said.

The team, who practiced TM together as a group, noticed right away that it made them calmer. Team member Tehani Guruge from Shri Lanka said, “TM helped calm me down. I used to get really angry on court. After TM the anger went away.”

Head coach Wendy Bartlett also noticed the difference. “In general we’re certainly a calmer team,” she said. “We’ve had just as many challenges this year as we’ve had any other year, but we were able to handle them better.”

Some students even found that it helped them reach the “zone,” that coveted space of mental calm and peak performance that many top athletes experience.

“Before I wasn’t able to focus completely on the game and was distracted by external factors like the audience,” says “Nour Bahgat, a student-athlete from Egypt. “TM really helped me to get into the zone. Being in the zone is very important to an athlete because that’s the point where you can perform at your best level, so it was a great thing to learn.”

Alicia Rodriguez, a student from Mexico, reported a similar experience. “Whenever I meditated before a match, my body was so relaxed and my mind so calm. I was thinking on nothing. You already know how to play, so if your mind is calm your body will respond automatically.”

TM also helped the students with their studies. Emily Paton from Canada reported, “This year, especially, we got into a really good routine and schedule. It helped doing TM. Everyone said that after TM we’re so much more relieved and have more energy to go and do our studies afterwards. That’s not usually the case after playing hard.”

McCrea Davison from the US went on to say, “I notice that with the appropriate amount of study, every time I meditate before a major test I haven’t gotten below a 90. I think it’s because I’m more relaxed going into the test, and we learned in our class on the brain that when you’re stressed out your pre-frontal cortex shuts down so you’re not making good judgments and you can’t recall things as well.”

Research on people who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique shows that academic performance improves in students who practice TM. And in addition, reaction time is faster, energy increases, and the mind becomes calmer and more focused. All of these qualities come into play when performing sports.

Emily Lindon, a psychology major at Trinity College, studied the effects of the TM technique in promoting self-efficacy for her senior thesis. Self-efficacy is one’s belief in their ability to accomplish a certain task. According to research, someone who thinks more highly of herselftends to perform at a higher level.

“One of the groups that we studied was the Trinity College women’s squash team. We definitely found an increase in self-efficacy among the pre- and post-tests for those girls.”

Dr. Randy Lee thinks this makes sense. “The most important squash is played on the six-inch court between their ears,” he says. “And I think that is true for most sports. There is that mental peace. Our women are able to say, ‘OK, I can do this. I don’t need to worry about the scores, or what’s happening. I can make this happen.’ ”

With professional athletes like two-time World Series champion and Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito practicing the TM technique, it may just be a matter of time before other athletes discover its performance-enhancing and life-enhancing effects.

“With TM we have a whole new technique to begin to explore more to improve performance for almost any sport,” says Dr. Lee. “I can’t think of a sport I would exclude. It seems to me it can only bring positive outcomes.”

Linda Egenes writes about green and healthy living and is the author of six books, including Super Healthy Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.

(I originally wrote this post for Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, August 4, 2014. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

Tanell Pretorius

Tanell Pretorius

Every woman, at one time or another, desperately wants to change her appearance, usually in the direction of being a supermodel.

Yet if we ordinary women feel a tremendous pressure to look like the images of perfect women that bombard us daily, curiously, the models feel the most pressure of all.

Tanell Pretorius of South Africa and Raquel Zimmermann of Brazil share how the Transcendental Meditation technique helped them to discover that true beauty and happiness lies within. TM gave them the balance they were looking for in life, and now they want to share this experience with others.

The Pressure of Constant Self-Scrutiny

Tanell Pretorius of South Africa postponed college to pursue a glamorous London modeling career that included TV commercials for Sony PlayStation, catalogue work for Marks and Spencer, and shoots with Rankin, the legendary British photographer.

“The TV work was really fun,” she says. “You’d arrive at five a.m. and see hundreds of lighting people, gaffers, and set designers running around, and often you’d be the hero of the whole thing.”

But the long hours (one shoot started at 3:00 in the afternoon and lasted until 9:00 a.m. the next day) and the pressure of constant self-scrutiny started to take their toll.

“In modeling your body is your product,” Tanell says. “Like most models, I started to develop weird habits with food. I was working out too much and injured myself. That’s when I found Transcendental Meditation.”

Tanell says that all her life, she had been looking for something more, even after becoming a top model. Then she found the Transcendental Meditation technique, which helped her find the inner balance she was looking for.

“When I started the TM technique, I immediately felt that this is the missing part of life, this is the thing that makes life complete, that makes it full and amazing,” she says. “I started to feel so deeply in touch with myself, a lot more connected to my body and my needs. It even healed my sports injuries.”

At that point Tanell decided to leave full-time modeling and explore her love of learning at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. A recent graduate with a B.A. in media and communications, she simultaneously earned certification as a wellness consultant. She plans to use her skills in writing to share what she’s learned about health, yoga, and fitness with other women.

“I love helping women to get more in touch with themselves, to work out and choose what to eat from an intuitive level rather than from what a magazine or an article is telling them to do,” she says.

Raquel Zimmermann and TM: A Wake-up Call in My Brain

Raquel Zimmermann

Raquel Zimmermann

Supermodel Raquel Zimmermann, who is currently one of the biggest names in the fashion industry, also sensed that there was something missing from her life.

“It’s a silly thing,” she said. “Models are valued for what they look like. I started to feel that every human being should be valued for what they have inside. Then you start seeing a lot of girls, they want to be skinny like models, they start getting eating disorders. It’s like an obsession to look a certain way. You start to realize—that doesn’t matter. What matters is what you have inside.”

Raquel noticed a significant change in her thinking patterns in the first week of practicing the TM technique. “I remember when I first started meditating, it was like a wake-up call in my brain. All of a sudden, within the first week of meditating I wanted to organize, my life, my personal belongings, everything. It was almost like my brain was turned on.”

After four months, she was able to quit smoking. “Transcendental Meditation changed my whole lifestyle in one year,” she says. “I had been smoking my whole modeling career because I thought it would keep me thin. It made me very proud, to be a nonsmoker and take care of myself.”

Raquel describes her own experience of no longer feeling overwhelmed by the long hours she spends in airports between shoots. “The frustration is gone,” she says. “You get to the hotel room and you meditate and when you’re there in the moment, in total peace with yourself, you’re in paradise no matter where you are.”

Raquel believes that the TM technique can help women today, because most women suffer from stress, with hectic lives and multiple responsibilities to raise their families and work in a career.

”I think TM could help them release that stress,” she says. “It’s like you have your quiet time and all that stress and worries is dissolved and you move on to your day, and all the challenges and problems don’t become problems anymore. You find solutions to everything. I think it’s a stress-killer, and would be good for women everywhere to learn.”

Tanell also recommends TM to other young people. “It’s helped me to not be so confused by the little things, moment to moment,” she says. “The great thing about the TM technique, you’re not just talking about the bigger picture, you’re experiencing it. And it’s so freeing, so liberating, to feel the largeness of life, how big you really are as a person, within yourself. Then you don’t get lost in the small things.”

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycf7YiajDUI

Linda Egenes writes about green and healthy living and is the author of six books, including Super Healthy Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.

(I originally wrote this post for Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, August 12, 2014. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

PF-baby-2_1376795cThere are many times in a woman’s life when she needs extra support, but seldom as urgently as when she is pregnant and during the first year after giving birth. In many traditional cultures, the vulnerability of a mother is well known. The pregnant mother is fussed over and pampered, her cravings are satisfied and the extended family surrounds her with love and support.

In the traditional healthcare system of India, and in many homes in modern India today, by the time the mother gives birth, she has been relieved of her work and household responsibilities by her family members.

After giving birth, she is given a massage on a daily basis, fed special foods and herbs to help her recover her strength and mental balance, and surrounded with love and support the first six weeks so she can establish a strong bond with her baby—and recover her strength and mental and physical balance.

Our modern American mother tends to face a different world. Increasingly, mothers work until the last month of pregnancy, and when they leave the hospital a day after giving birth, they have little support, facing the challenge of feeling mentally and physically exhausted yet also responsible for the needs of a newborn. And with over 50 percent of birth mothers now also single mothers, the challenges are even greater without a partner to help.

No wonder maternal mental illness is on the rise. According to the two-part series in the NY Times, “A Mother’s Mind,” the range and duration of maternal mental illness is more extensive than previously thought, causing heart-breaking mood swings in some mothers that directly impacts the child’s safety and development.

Research now shows that postpartum depression can start earlier (during pregnancy) or later (after the baby is 4 months old—any time during the first year). It can be associated with a wide range of mental disorders, including anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, bi-polar disorder, and intrusive thoughts of doing harm to the baby.

The causes are complex. Some women are genetically wired to react more to the dramatic hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, when hormonal activity increases by more than 100 times and then plummets to zero after giving birth, a phenomenon that Dr. Margaret Spinelli, the director of the Women’s Program in Columbia University’s psychiatric department calls “A roller-coaster ride that disrupts brain chemistry.”

Other women succumb to the stresses of financial insecurity, family dysfunction, exhaustion from childbirth and parenting itself, causing scientists to refer to maternal mental illness as “a complex interplay of genes, stress and hormones.”

While maternal mental illness is not new—reports exist in the literature since the time of Hippocrates—the added stress and isolation of the modern mother can’t be helping.

Yet there are mothers who are finding needed rest and stress relief by practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique. “Particularly in the postpartum period, the woman’s first act of being a mother—and all subsequent acts—will be to give,” says Rebecca Douglas, M.D., a board-certified obstetrician. “As mothers we can only give from what we have. And if what we have is exhaustion, then we’ll have less of a basis from which to give. If, on the other hand, we have a methodology to rest and rejuvenate and give rest to ourselves, then we’ll have that much more to give.”

Available at http://www.mumpress.com/health-maharishi-vedic-approach-to-health/c12.html.

Available at http://www.mumpress.com/health-maharishi-vedic-approach-to-health/c12.html.

My co-authors Dr. Kumuda Reddy, M.D., Margaret Mullins, MSN and nurse practitioner, and I wrote in the book For a Blissful Baby, which describes natural ways to help mothers regain their mental and physical balance after childbirth, “Practicing the Transcendental Meditation program is the most important recommendation to help both husband and wife reduce mental, emotional and physical stress. This simple technique helps develop the healthiest and happiest state of mind and emotions.”

If the mother is practicing the TM technique, she has an opportunity to recover much more quickly from the stress of childbirth. Research on TM also reports faster recovery from depression, anxiety, emotional numbness and insomnia after stressful experiences.

“People who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique experience less depression, because they are able to gain deep rest (both during meditation and at night) and release stress,” says Dr. Reddy. “Many of my patients report that the deep rest experienced during the TM technique helps them recover more quickly from the extreme fatigue after giving birth, and replaces it with more bliss and balance.”

Somehow as a society we need to think of how we can give more support to new mothers. In reading the 504 comments that readers posted online for the NY Times two-part Mother’s Mind series, I was struck by how many mothers cited social isolation as a major cause of maternal depression. As one mother wrote, “It is so, so important for people to check in on new moms, to let them talk about their feelings, to not judge them and to help them with cooking, cleaning, and with the babies. That help will never be forgotten.”

Linda Egenes writes about green and healthy living and is the author of six books, including Super Healthy Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.

(I originally wrote this post for Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, July 28, 2014. Reprinted with permission.)

460px-Baby_teeth_in_human_infantIt’s so easy to love a baby. The super-soft skin, the miniature fingers and toes, and the smell—pure heaven. Just being around a baby makes all of us—men or women—feel more gentle, more protective, more tender.

Yet it seems that girl babies, in particular, have a greater effect on their dads—they make them feel more generous, to the point of donating more to charity and paying their employees more. And this is backed up by research. In a fascinating new study, researchers found that the mere presence of female family members, even infants, was correlated with more giving. Male chief executives tended to raise wages for employees after the birth of a daughter, while the birth of a son caused executives to reduce wages for their workers (likely to claim more resources for his growing family).

As just one example of how the birth of a daughter can inspire greater generosity, twenty years ago Bill Gates was planning to wait a quarter century to start giving away his wealth, but a year later, after his marriage to Melinda and the birth of his daughter, he started the foundation that has made him one of the most generous philanthropists in history. He also credits his mother for influencing him to give.

And apparently girls also affect their brothers in a similar way. In his NY Times article “Why Men Need Women,” Adam Grant, a professor at Wharton School who has written extensively about giving more to increase profits in business, writes, “Social scientists believe that the empathetic, nurturing behaviors of sisters rub off on their brothers.” He cites studies that reveal that boys with more female siblings are spontaneously more generous. (This made sense to me, as my husband, who has a twin sister and thus spent nine months in close proximity to her, is an especially generous and compassionate human being.)

This spontaneous effect on men’s impulse to give more is also a reason for women to assume more leadership positions in society, says Grant. Just by being in the boardroom, for example, women can tilt the thinking to more compassion, to more inclusiveness, to freer sharing of information, to better treatment of employees.

And because women are also known to bring diverse perspectives, collaborative styles, dedication to mentoring and a keen understanding of female employees and customers, this can result in greater profits.  “We already know from considerable research that companies are better off when they have more women in top management roles, especially when it comes to innovation,” writes Grant. He cites recent studies showing that between 1992 and 2006, companies that added women to their top management teams generated an average of 1 percent more economic value, which on average meant more than $40 million. But Grant goes on to wonder aloud whether some of these benefits come simply because the presence of women makes their male peers want to be better human beings.

I loved this idea, that women have a softening effect on men without even having to do anything extra. Just by being ourselves, we can change the world for the better.

I am reminded of this reality every day as I take time for my twice-daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. As I close my eyes and allow my awareness to settle, I transcend the concerns of my daily life and sink into pure Being, the unified wholeness that is my own essence and the essence of every woman and man and creature and plant on earth. When I come out, I feel more peaceful, more harmonious, more happy. And that has an effect on everyone around me. Ask any mom or any school teacher—it’s the days when you feel tired and crabby that the children start fighting. When you’re relaxed, the kids respond to that calming influence and are calmer too.

As Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation technique wrote in Science of Being and Art of Living more than 50 years ago, “Thought waves are much more powerful than the waves of speech and action. Through every thought, word, and action we are creating some wave in the atmosphere, but thought waves are especially penetrating. If we are joyful, happy, and full of kindness and love for the whole world, we receive love from every quarter.”

Based on my personal experience, and the research on the TM Technique, I feel that if women nourish themselves by dipping into the transcendent on a regular basis, they are better able to nourish their families, friends, employees, colleagues and communities—not by doing more, but by Being. What a wonderful thought—just by being our true selves, we can have a profound and lasting positive effect on those around us.

Linda Egenes is a health writer and author of six books, including Super Healthy Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.

(I originally wrote this post for the Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, September 1 2013. Reprinted with permission.)

IMG_2767Last year “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” was one of the most popular articles on The Atlantic’s website (www.theatlantic.com)—and nearly a year later it’s still getting a lot of attention. Clearly, it hit a nerve with thousands of women who are finding themselves stretched thin while juggling career, childcare and, in many cases, parental care.

Written by Princeton Professor Anne-Marie Slaughter, the article shares the author’s personal journey as a feminist, career woman and mother. At the pinnacle of her career she found herself resigning from her dream job as the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department so she could move back to Princeton where her husband and family lived, and where she resumed her teaching position. She needed to spend more time with her teenage sons, one of whom was in crisis. She needed to figure out a better approach to work-life balance.

The article is long and so full of insight that it’s difficult to paraphrase it here, but one of the sections that struck me most was titled, “Rediscovering the Pursuit of Happiness.” In it Slaughter says that because women have been so intent on competing with men, many have lost touch with their own deepest desire to nurture their children and families.

She writes, “One of the most complicated and surprising parts of my journey out of Washington was coming to grips with what I really wanted . . . . I realized that I didn’t just need to go home. Deep down, I wanted to go home.”

Yet, as the author notes, the decision to step down from a position of power—to value family over professional advancement, even for a time—is directly at odds with the prevailing social pressures on career professionals in the United States. “One phrase says it all about current attitudes toward work and family, particularly among elites. In Washington, ‘leaving to spend time with your family’ is a euphemism for being fired,” writes Slaughter.

Not to mention that for most women, taking a break from their jobs is not economically viable, nor are the family-friendly changes in social policies, the workplace and attitudes advocated by the author going to happen overnight.

And, having come this far, most women don’t want to give up on their dreams of success. Rather, they want to strengthen themselves in body, mind and spirit so they can handle their busy lives with grace and ease.  Perhaps the solution lies in finding a way to achieve balance on the inside so that will be reflected in greater balance in outer life.

CNN news anchor Soledad O’Brien says that practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique is helping her to balance work and family. She says, “If you know me, you know I cannot meditate! I have a crazy schedule, I have four small children and I am always going, so the idea of calming my mind I thought, ‘not possible!’ But I was able to learn, I was able to do it, and I appreciate very much the opportunity to take the time to focus and meditate. It allows me to experience a state of deep rest and relaxation that can be game-changing and sometimes a life saver in a crazy world. It helps alleviate stress and pressure when you’re trying to balance life and being a mother. And as a journalist I feel healthier and have fewer stressful days and more energy and more clarity of mind.”

Many other women are finding that practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique is a practical way to stay in touch with the most silent, rested, happy and powerful aspect of themselves. By staying rested, a woman can enjoy life more, find more happiness in whatever task is on her plate. And as Slaughter points out, the pursuit of happiness is essential to wellbeing, an integral part of the American dream.

And certainly that’s the key point here. In order to balance the various demands in our day, we have to take care of ourselves, nurture ourselves, and from that stable base we can nurture the others in our lives, whether at home or in the workplace. And isn’t that an appealing definition of what it means for women “to have it all”?

Linda Egenes is a health writer, blogger and author of six books, including Super Healthy Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.

(I originally wrote this post for Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, July 1 2013. Reprinted with permission.)

An Interview with Sankari Wegman, Ayurvedic Consultant at The Raj Maharishi Ayurveda Health Spa

BY LINDA EGENES

Sankari WegmanFor many women today, it’s hard to find a moment to breathe, let alone take care of your health. Whether you’re working in the office or in the home, raising your children or caring for elderly parents—it’s a balancing act just to get through the day.

Yet taking care of yourself and staying in balance mentally and physically is central to meeting all the demands of your family and career.

“Women today have so many areas of life to attend to, it’s important that they set aside time to maintain their own health and happiness,” says Sankari Wegman, an Ayurvedic expert at The Raj Maharishi Ayurveda Health Spa in Fairfield, Iowa. A wife and mother of two young children, she herself juggles work, teaching and home life.

Here she offers six simple suggestions from Maharishi Ayurveda to create more balance today.

1. Vata – The Key to Balance

“The key for women to stay in balance is to take care of Vata dosha,” Sankari says. “When Vata dosha goes out of balance, it can manifest as worry, stress and tension. And because it is fast-moving by nature, it goes out of balance easily and then leads the other doshas. So Vata dosha is the key to staying calm and healthy.”

Vata dosha, which is the mind-body operator that governs movement in the body, is quick, rough, dry, and irregular by nature.

“To balance Vata, it’s important to maintain a regular daily routine, starting with a consistent, early bedtime and waking time,” Sankari says. “Regular exercise, regular sleep, regular meditation, daily yoga, daily Ayurvedic Oil Massage, regular mealtimes—all of these things help keep Vata dosha in balance.”

2. Enlist the Help of Family

Where do you find the time to add these extra items to your daily routine? For Sankari, the solution is to involve the entire family.

“It can be hard to fit anything new into your already-busy life,” Sankari says. “But the good thing is that your family can do it with you. Then you don’t feel separate from your family while taking care of your health.”

For example, when she’s doing her daily yoga asanas, her children follow along. “They don’t have to do it perfectly, but they are learning healthy habits that will stay with them for life,” notes Sankari. “When you have a regular daily routine, the whole family is on that routine and benefits from it.”

3. Plan Time for Yourself

Once or twice a week, arrange for your husband or friend to take care of the kids so you can take a break from your chores and responsibilities.

“Taking dancing classes once or twice a week in the evening, or meeting a friend for a walk early in the morning—these are things I do just for me,” Sankari says. “I get to exercise and share time with friends. I think it’s really healthy for women to take a break, to do something that brings joy, whether it’s taking a painting class, meeting friends for breakfast, or going to the gym.”

Sankari likes exercising with her friends, because they help motivate her. “The key to balancing Vata dosha is to be regular, so combining exercise with meeting friends is a great way to bring more encouragement and support to staying on a healthy daily routine.”

4. Melt Away Stress with Deep Rest

The importance of good sleep and daily meditation cannot be overestimated.

“There is a tendency for women to do so much for others, to get tired, so you need to make sure you schedule time to rest and rejuvenate with your daily meditation,” Sankari says. “Even though time is tight, you can juggle your schedule to make time. Alternate with your spouse, or meditate before the children come home. Just having that focus, the rest you gain in meditation goes a long way.”

Sankari and her husband, Keith, follow a set morning routine, where one practices the Transcendental Meditation® technique and the other starts the children on their Ayurvedic Oil Massage, bathing and breakfast. Then they switch roles, so they both get to meditate.

“They see us meditating, and they see it as Daddy’s turn, Mommy’s turn,” Sankari says. “And now that my son is 5, he is doing the children’s meditation, so he takes his turn too.”

Sankari says she doesn’t feel guilty about the time she spends away from her children, because her children like it when she meditates. “When you’re rested, you dive within yourself and replenish, and you come out with more love, more to give.”

5. Eat Wholesome, Non-GMO, Organic Foods

Eating regularly (at approximately the same time each day) and eating well-cooked meals helps balance Vata dosha and leads to strong immunity for the whole family.

“Learn to eat those foods that are healthy for your body type, and avoid those things that are hard to digest,” advises Sankari. “If you are tense or worried, for instance, it’s not a good idea to eat salads for lunch every day. Rather, you’ll want to soothe Vata dosha and eat warm, fresh, cooked foods and consume warm drinks.”

Preparing home-cooked meals is healthier and draws the family together. For example, for winter breakfasts, Sankari prepares hot rice cereal or cream of wheat, with cooked apples and raisins that she soaks overnight.

“This is something the kids love and is good for my husband and me too,” she says. “It’s so important for women not to skip breakfast, to sit down for a warm meal rather than eating on the go. It helps start the day right and balances Vata dosha.”

If the family has to eat outside the home at lunch, one Ayurvedic option is to prepare kitchari (a full protein made of rice and split mung-bean dhal that can be carried inside a small thermos), along with steamed vegetables.

“It doesn’t have to be complicated—you can provide a simple home-cooked meal that is much healthier than what you or your children would purchase,” Sankari says.

For the evening meal, it helps to have part of the meal prepared before you come home from work, so you don’t feel pressured and hungry while you cook. You could prep the veggies in the morning, or prepare soup or veggies with grains in a crock pot.

“Even making fresh flatbreads (chapatti) is an easy thing to do, once you get the hang of it,” Sankari says. “Kids love forming the dough into balls and rolling it out.”

Sankari finds that her children have become accustomed to warm foods and drinks, and even request them. “I’ve been giving my older son warm water or warm Organic Calming (Vata) Tea, and now he doesn’t crave cold drinks. The warm foods and warm drinks support good digestion and won’t throw Vata out of balance, thus contributing to better immunity.”

6. Support Your Mind and Body with Herbal Food Supplements

Taking herbal food supplements can help reduce stress and boost immunity.

Vital Lady is ideal for increasing energy levels and clarity of mind, and helps a woman balance so many tasks at work and at home,” Sankari says. “For women over 40, Rejuvenation for Ladies helps restore that youthful glow. It promotes cellular regeneration, which slows both biological and psychological aging.”

Sankari keeps Bio-Immune in her medicine chest to help purify toxins and to support the body’s natural immune response. She also recommends taking Maharishi Amrit Kalash regularly to rejuvenate the mind and body and improve immunity.

“I highly recommend Stress Free Mind and Stress Free Emotions,” she says. “These are wonderful, powerful supplements to help us manage the stresses we encounter every day.”Worry Free is also a powerful Vata-balancing formula. It addresses Apana Vata and is useful not just for worry, but also for general balancing of Vata.

Stress Free Mind is ideal for anyone who is under mental pressure at work, or who is prone to worry and mental tension. Stress Free Emotions helps us handle emotional stressors that are causing irritability or sadness in our lives, whether from the family, money pressures, or work relationships. Sankari cautions that because they are potent, it isn’t necessary to take a lot to get results—just follow the directions on the bottle.

Since Vata dosha also governs the cycles of a woman’s life, such as menstruation, it’s important for the busy woman to give her body extra support, Sankari says. “Smooth Cycle helps us to maintain monthly cycles that are balanced and even blissful. And for the menopause years, Midlife for Women I and II help balance Vata disturbance and help keep the menopause years smooth and comfortable,” she says.

For your best energy, emotional balance and immune strength, Ayurvedic experts emphasize the importance of maintaining a balanced state of digestion (agni). Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus), taken nightly before sleep, supports regular elimination and detoxification. It also helps the body assimilate food and other herbal formulations. It is considered the one Ayurvedic herbal to take daily.

Sankari also recommends consulting an expert in Maharishi Ayurveda to learn which herbal supplements and dietary and lifestyle recommendations are most effective for your mind-body type. And whenever you’re taking herbal supplements, she advises following a regular routine and eating the right foods for best results.

While creating balance in your life can take some effort, it’s an investment well worth making.

“Every stage gives a flavor of the next stage,” Sankari says. “You may not feel you have the time, but if you take care of yourself now, it helps you feel healthier in the future—so you can support and enjoy your family in a blissful way for many years to come. Sometimes it’s hard to see the big picture, but taking care of yourself is the most important thing you can do for your family.”

(I originally wrote this blog for the Maharishi Ayurveda Blog [MAPI], November 16,2012. Reprinted with permission.)