How to Live a Longer, Healthier Life

Living to be over 100 isn’t uncommon at all in regions known as the blue zones. In these areas, life expectancy isn’t just higher; centenarians are generally also healthy in mind and body. Author Dan Buettner teamed up with a team from National Geographic to study these groups, and whittled their longevity down to 9 common denominators. We found their recipe for wellness extremely interesting and wanted to share it with you.

Prana Mudra – (Life Force Seal) for vitality!

As yoga and mindfulness teachers, our own blueprint for wellness always needs refining and fine-tuning. Whether we have time for a long yoga practice or a 5-minute mindfulness meditation, there is one daily constant, and that’s our high-energy dog, Lucy. She crosses a few things off the wellness list – she’s the reason we get up in the morning, she helps relieves stress (she loves snuggles,) and keeps us moving!

1. Move Naturally The world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron, run marathons or join gyms. Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it. They grow gardens and don’t have mechanical conveniences for house and yard work.

What do you do to move naturally and stay active? How can you bring more natural movement into your everyday routine?

Soaking up some joyful movement.

2. Purpose The Okinawans call it “Ikigai” and the Nicoyans call it “plan de vida;” for both it translates to “why I wake up in the morning.” Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy A reason for being.” The word “ikigai” is usually used to indicate the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile.

What inspires you to get out of bed in the morning, what makes your life worth living, or gives your life value? Would you like to find more meaning in your life?

Getting up and taking Lucy for a walk is a great motivator! When she’s happy, so are we.

3. Manage Your Stress / Down Shift Even people in the Blue Zones experience stress. Stress leads to chronic inflammation, associated with every major age-related disease. What the world’s longest-lived people have that we don’t are routines to shed that stress. Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour.

What do you do to actively manage your stress? Can you add a few new stress-relieving habits like yoga or meditation to your list?

Brian in his Tree Pose, bare feet on yellow steps, arms uplifted.

4. 80% Rule “Hara hachi bu”  – the Okinawan, 2500-year old Confucian mantra said before meals reminds them to stop eating when their stomachs are 80 percent full. The 20% gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight or gaining it. People in the blue zones eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and then they don’t eat any more the rest of the day.

When do you eat your biggest meal? Do you continue to eat until you are past full? Can you be more mindful of your hunger levels at the next meal?

Giant sunflowers growing on a small South Philly side street.

5. Plant Slant Beans, including fava, black, soy and lentils, are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Meat—mostly pork—is eaten on average only five times per month.  Serving sizes are 3-4 oz., about the size of a deck of cards.

How often do you eat meat, and how big of a portion size do you put on your plate? Can you substitute beans at your next meal?

6. Wine @ 5 People in all blue zones (except Adventists) drink alcohol moderately and regularly.  Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers. The trick is to drink 1-2 glasses per day (preferably Sardinian Cannonau wine), with friends and/or with food. And no, you can’t save up all week and have 14 drinks on Saturday.

Are you able to drink moderately? We cannot condone drinking, as many Americans have a problem relationship with alcohol, but if you are able to enjoy a glass of wine without any negative consequences, cheers!

Shakti Mudra (Power Seal) Shakti is in everything, she’s the innate creativity at the heart of all living things. Rosemary in our garden scents the scene.

7. Belong / Community All but five of the 263 centenarians we interviewed belonged to some faith-based community.  Denomination doesn’t seem to matter. Research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4-14 years of life expectancy.

Have you found a community where you feel you belong? If you have, can you reach out to someone who seems like they might need help finding theirs? If you haven’t, make a list of possibilities.

8. Loved Ones First/Family Successful centenarians in the blue zones put their families first. This means keeping aging parents and grandparents nearby or in the home (It lowers disease and mortality rates of children in the home too.). They commit to a life partner (which can add up to 3 years of life expectancy) and invest in their children with time and love (They’ll be more likely to care for you when the time comes).

Can you create more quality time with your family? Can you commit more fully to your life partner if you have one?

Brian, my life partner, and our little family member, Lucy.

9. Right Tribe / Social Life The world’s longest lived people chose–or were born into–social circles that supported healthy behaviors, Okinawans created ”moais”–groups of five friends that committed to each other for life. Research from the Framingham Studies shows that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness are contagious. So the social networks of long-lived people have favorably shaped their health behaviors.

Can you set up a phone call or lunch date with a friend this week? Even casual social relationships are important when it comes to longevity. Who is on your best friend list?

Best wishes for health and vitality from Team Sun Wellness!

We are all our own best teachers, of course. What works for someone in Okinawa might not work for you. So listen to your own mind and body as you reach for new ways to be your best self. We continue to wish you health and well-being, and all the vitality you desire!

Resources: Blue Zones Website

The Self-Care Mindset

Seated Meditation and Mindful Movement for All Levels

Wednesday October 2nd 6:00-7:00pm / Swarthmore Town Center / Fresh Air Fitness in Central Park ampitheater – Donation based


We invite you to “put on your own oxygen mask first!”

With the breath as the key to our self-care toolkit, we’ll be exploring simple tools to manage stress, become more present, and foster self-acceptance.

These include seated breath awareness and breath control exercises, breath-connected movement exercises, and a guided mindfulness meditation to finish it off.

Practicing these tools helps develop a mindset that encourages self-care. No experience in meditation or yoga needed. Bring a cushion to sit on, a blanket for your lap if we’re outside, and an open mind. All ages and levels of experience welcome.

Donation-based – pay what you can.

In case of inclement weather: inside Borough Hall

Special May Workshops!

We’re bringing you some special offerings in May and hope to see you come out for something a little different! All workshops meet on Saturdays at Wallingford Presbyterian Church, Fellowship Hall. Click on photos for more.

Mindfulness Meditation Workshop

Saturday May 4th: Drop into the freshness of the present moment! Learn a variety of meditation tools to relieve stress and find calm in your everyday routine. 9:30-10:30am / Wallingford Presbyterian Church

“Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already.”

Pema Chödrön

At the heart of mindfulness is the call to become more present in each moment. In our mindfulness workshop, we’ll utilize techniques learned through Penn Medicine’s Penn Program for Mindfulness, as well as teachings from Buddhist nun, Pema Chödrön. We’ll become more aware of breath, body, and patterns of thought through a variety of meditation exercises. Our goal is to fully experience each moment as it happens, and find peace and relaxation right in the middle of the most chaotic moment – so that we may better navigate the joys and challenges of being human on a daily basis.

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Bring your own coffee or tea and cushion or blanket to sit on if needed. Chairs will also be provided. All ages welcome, and no experience is needed! Leave feeling more awake and alive, more able to manage stress and whatever arises.

About the Instructor: Ann MacMullan Jeans is a certified yoga instructor (EYT-200) and teaches in the Philadelphia area with her company Team Sun Wellness. Ann believes in the healing power of yoga and meditation for everyone, no matter what age, level of fitness, or life circumstance. Ann has completed the foundational 8-week program at Penn Medicine’s Penn Program for Mindfulness, and regularly practices yoga and meditation.

Mindfulness Meditation Workshop

Saturday May 4th 9:30-10:30am Wallingford Presbyterian Church / Fellowship hall

$15.00

Learning to Breathe

One of the most effective tools for managing stress is right under your nose! The breath is one of the few automatic functions we have control over; and the benefits of taming the breath are endless. A daily practice of focused deep breathing is one of the best tools for improving health and well-being and is available to us at all times. Harvard Medical School reports that focused, deep respiration can have many benefits, as listed below.

BENEFITS OF A Regular BREATHING PRACTICE:

  • Lower blood pressure and heart rate
  • Relief from stress, anxiety and depression
  • Increased detoxification
  • Improved memory and focus
  • Heightened metabolism

Ready to get started learning a few simple breathing techniques? One of the best places to start is with our Balancing Breath Exercise. This breathing technique is for anyone who wants to reduce stress and cultivate calm focus even in the middle of the most chaotic moment.  By bringing equilibrium to your in and out-breaths, you can regulate your own nervous system. Try practicing this with Ann, and then explore further on your own. We recommend doing at least one minute of Balancing Breath, but if you only have time for three breaths, it can really make a difference.

MUCH MORE TO COME ON THIS PAGE – CHECK BACK SOON!

Explore more on the blogpost: Thoughts on Finding Balance.

Feel free to browse Breath for more info.

Thoughts on Finding Balance

In this morning’s meditation, I weighed the concept of balance. At first it was a lot of thoughts, then it was more about the feeling of it, and then it was both. In those thirty minutes or so, I must have had a hundred thoughts come and go before I really started to pay close attention to one thing: my breath. Maybe after about ten minutes, some equilibrium was achieved between my in and out breaths. Just breathing in, breathing out, for equal lengths of time. Feeling the inside of the body, feeling the outside of the body. Noticing how after a while, there did not seem to be much difference between the two, and a certain state of wholeness was felt. I was in my mind and my body at the same time, without noticing one or the other too much.

This state of balance between mind and body, of just being, can transform everyday well-being.

As human beings with overly active minds, we love to categorize and assign value to things. We make instant internal pronouncements about everything! Personally, I notice myself closing up or getting ready for a fight when something is not to my liking, or someone is doing something that offends me. I always want a smooth ride, for my life to be happy all the time – without acknowledging pain, by resisting suffering – even though sorrow is a regular part of being alive. Just like everyone else, I place a greater value on joyful happy experiences. When I feel pain, I don’t want it! And that’s all perfectly natural.

“Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both… One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.”

-Pema Chodron

How we react during uncomfortable moments is key: maybe we get angry and lash out at anyone who enters into our crosshairs, try to numb our pain or loneliness with excessive exercise or alcohol, or just run away and leave our jobs or marriages. Maybe we keep telling ourselves the same story about how unfair it is that we have to experience this type of suffering, and that the world really owes us something for having to go through this. And we continue to marinate in more suffering, except now we have created it for ourselves. By reacting, resisting, and complaining, we deny ourselves the full experience of being human and quite possibly the transformation that our pain might bring.

Being “mindful” or “in the present moment” helps us find balance throughout our day, experience more joy in little things, and facilitate a wiser navigation and acceptance of our suffering as part of our human existence.

I’m trying a new approach for myself. When I feel myself wanting to pull away or get angry, or something just really hurts, I try to give it some space by breathing. Maybe little by little, I can begin to open to the idea of accepting it so that I can move through whatever it is more gracefully. And in turn, when things go right, and I feel on top of the world, I’m trying not to get swept away by my own ego. We’ll see how it goes. For me, it all comes back to the breath. By practicing balance between the in and out breaths, practicing this non-dualistic non-judgmental approach, I start to experience a larger sense of balance. I know there’s suffering, I know there’s joy, and I also know that in a way they are the same. They are things we experience as part of being alive. So I’m brought back to balance and being alive and just being.

By just sitting and breathing, we become more aware of our own everyday well-being, which is shifting and changing with each breath.

Would you like to practice this with me? Try the Balancing Breath Exercise as a step towards transforming your own everyday well-being!

Mindfulness

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness is a type of meditation that, if practiced regularly, spills over into every corner of one’s life. While a daily seated meditation practice is encouraged, mindfulness can be incorporated into every aspect of our daily lives so that we can better navigate the joys and challenges of being human. Learning how to take a breath before we react in a difficult situation, engaging more fully with others, or accessing our innate wisdom are a few of the ways that mindfulness can transform your daily existence. At the heart of mindfulness is the call to become more present in each moment.

LISTEN TO A FIVE MINUTE MINDFULNESS MEDITATION

In our mindfulness sessions, we utilize techniques learned through Penn Medicine’s Penn Program for Mindulness, as well as teachings from Buddhist nun, Pema Chödrön. Over the course of our sessions, we’ll become more aware of breath, body, and patterns of thought through a variety of meditation exercises. Our goal is to fully experience each moment as it happens, and find peace and relaxation right in the middle of the most chaotic moment.

“Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already.”

Pema Chödrön

The practice of mindfulness can reduce stress and improve overall quality of life. Contact us to set up a session for your community!

Be Present: The Gift of Yoga

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Prepare for the holidays by wrapping yourself in the grace and joy of yoga. Our lighthearted yoga sequence is safe for all levels, even total beginners and kids! Combat the winter blues and stress of the holidays by meeting yourself fully on the merry mat. Light refreshments and community connection to follow. A percentage of the proceeds will be donated to ABC Strath Haven. Admission is free for ABC students, staff, and host families! Bring your own mat, some extra mats provided.

Saturday December 15th 10:00am – 11:30am Wallingford Presbyterian Church-110 E Brookhaven Rd-$30

In this special winter session, held in Fellowship Hall, we’ll:

  • Practice simple breathing techniques for taming stress and building energy.
  • Fuse breath with movement to achieve a state of balance.
  • Explore the process of staying present during a variety of reclining, seated, and standing postures. Play with the pulse of movement within yoga poses and enjoy extended transitions between poses.
  • Delve into how to navigate moments of resistance we might experience during a yoga class, and find ways to move through potential distractedness, judgment, new physical sensations, or anxiety.
  • Be encouraged to listen to our own needs by turning down the noise of the mind and accepting whatever thought or feeling is in the foreground.

After our yoga practice, feel free to stay and connect with fellow members of the community and enjoy some light refreshments and music. Class size is limited to 35.

To register, email info@teamsunwellness.com and secure your spot. When you pre-register, you’ll have the chance to enter our raffle to win a free spot in your choice of the group sessions scheduled for January! For more information on when those classes meet check out our Wellness Offerings. Two winners will be announced after class. If you have already registered for a group class and you win, you’ll be refunded.

Payment Options:
  • Pay through PayPal or credit card (button below):
  • Send a check: Ann MacMullan / 1809 S. Bancroft St. Philadelphia, PA 19145

Gift of Yoga Workshop

50% will be donated to ABC House Strath Haven

$30.00

annAbout the Instructor: Ann MacMullan Jeans, a native of Swarthmore and a Strath Haven HS alum, is a certified yoga instructor (RYT-200) and teaches in the Philadelphia area with her company Team Sun Wellness. Ann believes in the healing power of yoga and meditation for everyone, no matter what age, level of fitness, or life circumstance.
“Ann is an excellent teacher who knows yoga. More importantly, she is attuned to the abilities of her students. She adapts the practice so that we can safely participate and gain from the experience. It is a true gift.” – Amy S.
About ABC Strath Haven: The mission of A Better Chance Strath Haven is to provide a supportive, nurturing environment for promising, motivated students of color from underserved communities to help them develop personally and academically as they prepare for college. 

Gentle Yoga Winter Session

In our Gentle Flow class, we connect the breath with movement during accessible yoga sequences designed to create balance between mind, body, and spirit. We’ll explore a variety of reclining, seated and standing postures (asana) and the transitions between those poses, adapted to your level. In addition, we’ll learn more about the limbs of yoga beyond asana or the physical postures, such as meditation (dhyana) and breath-work (pranayama.) Props like blocks and straps are sometimes used to help safely attain or deepen a pose. Blocks and straps are provided. Class size limited to 35.

Screen Shot 2018-10-29 at 1.51.38 PMNo matter your level of experience, you can improve your balance, increase flexibility and strength, all while reducing stress.  All levels welcome!

Tuesdays:  January 8th to February 12th – 9:30am-10:30am
Wallingford Presbyterian Church – Fellowship Hall
110 E Brookhaven Rd, Wallingford, PA 19086
  • 1 Drop in Session = $12
  • 6 sessions = $60
Payment Options:
  • Pay through PayPal or credit card (buttons below):
  • Send a check: Ann MacMullan / 1809 S. Bancroft St. Philadelphia, PA 19145

 

WINTER GENTLE YOGA – 6 SESSIONS

$60.00

WINTER GENTLE YOGA – 1 SESSION

$12.00

About the Instructor: Ann MacMullan Jeans, a native of Swarthmore, is a certified yoga instructor (RYT-200) and teaches in the Philadelphia area with her company Team Sun Wellness. Ann believes in the healing power of yoga and meditation for everyone, no matter what age, level of fitness, or life circumstance. For more information, email Ann at info@teamsunwellness.com.

“I have been a grateful student in Ann’s yoga classes for a couple of years. As an older yoga practitioner who has worked with other teachers in the past, I have especially appreciated her non-judgmental and very encouraging approach. Her classes offer increasing challenges for students to stretch their bodies and their repertoire of yoga poses, but always in a compassionate, supportive, and peaceful atmosphere. In addition, her subtle humor and intention to connect personally with her students makes practicing yoga just plain fun. As Ann expands her teaching opportunities, I hope to follow her for as long as I can move my body!” -Judy S.

Post Thanksgiving Gentle Flow

Join us at 12:00pm on the Saturday after Thanksgiving for an all levels Gentle Flow class! We’ll  breathe, stretch, and move to restore precious vitality. This class is safe for all levels: whether you’re a total beginner, haven’t gotten to the mat in a while, or have a regular practice. Show up in whatever state you are in, and be guided through an accessible fun sequence designed to connect mind, body, and spirit.  Blocks and straps are provided, and some extra mats are available as well. $10 to drop in or use your existing class card.

Saturday November 24th – 12:00pm-1:00pm
Wallingford Presbyterian Church – Fellowship Hall
110 E Brookhaven Rd, Wallingford, PA 19086
  • Drop in for $10!
  • Pay through PayPal or credit card using the buttons below
  • Or arrive and pay with Cash

 

Post Thanksgiving Gentle Flow Yoga Class

$10.00

Ann_Jump!About the Instructor: Ann MacMullan Jeans, a native of Swarthmore, is a certified yoga instructor (RYT-200) and teaches in the Philadelphia area with her company Team Sun Wellness. Ann believes in the healing power of yoga and meditation for everyone, no matter what age, level of fitness, or life circumstance. For more information, email Ann at info@teamsunwellness.com.

“I have been a grateful student in Ann’s yoga classes for a couple of years. I have especially appreciated her non-judgmental and very encouraging approach. Her classes offer increasing challenges for students to stretch their bodies and their repertoire of yoga poses, but always in a compassionate, supportive, and peaceful atmosphere. In addition, her subtle humor and intention to connect personally with her students makes practicing yoga just plain fun. As Ann expands her teaching opportunities, I hope to follow her for as long as I can move my body!” -Judy S.

*Affordable yoga in a supportive community environment*