Leigh Taylor- Young Weaves Spirituality and Service Into Hollywood Life
[Recently, our Advisory Board member Dr. Bob Delmonteque spoke To Leigh Taylor- Young about her health secrets so that we could share her success with our readers. -Editor.]
I have always had great admiration for TV, stage, and screen actress Leigh Taylor-Young. I first met Leigh while she was a gifted ingenue on the cast of the torrid TV soap Peyton Place, where she won the heart of costar Ryan O’Neal. Over the years, Leigh became one of the most accomplished actresses of her generation, appearing with and being directed by some of the greatest names in entertainment. The Emmy-winning actress and grandmother of two is still a vibrant creative force. It’s interesting to know that she also puts as much passion and consideration into her spiritual and physical health as she does into the emotionally demanding career she has chosen.
A Spiritual Awakening
When I recently sat down with Leigh to interview her for the Journal of Longevity, she shared the story of her spiritual awakening, and how that path and the desire for a “clean” body led her to a lifestyle that enables her to remain at the peak of her creative powers. At age 60, she is still entertaining TV viewers in her role as Katherine Crane on soap the NBC soap Passions.
“I think acting is a noble profession that mirrors human behavior back to humanity,” she says. “It can be at times uplifting and at times disturbing, and at times banal. I’m proud to be in that profession.” Early in her career, Leigh became friends with actor Peter Sellers on the set of the film I Love You Alice B. Toklas, in which Leigh played a small but memorable role as the hippie chick who turns on his straitlaced character. It was the 1960s. “I got into meditation and yoga, and I became a student of spirit, meditation, and health,” Leigh remembers. “I was intensely curious about the relationship between the mind and the body, and how energy moved through the body.”
Avid Student of Health
Leigh was hooked, and her curiosity regarding health and nutrition has never waned. “I educated myself about nutrition, supplements, organic food, raw food, the way the spiritual impacts the body, colonies and cleansings, and detoxes. I went on every kind of crazy program and every different kind of fast,” she laughs. “I learned a tremendous amount.”
At Sellers’s suggestion, Leigh traveled to Mauritius to meet his spiritual teacher, Swami Vankatesananda. He was the first of many spiritual teachers who Leigh says have expanded her life, both spiritually and physically. Today, Leigh’s spiritual teacher and beloved friend of many years is John-Roger, a well-known educator and author. Leigh became an ordained minister in the Church of the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness (MSIA) in 1975. She views her becoming a minister as a deeply personal intention to affirm her devotion to a spiritual life and a commitment to service. “Service doesn’t have to be noticed,” she explains. “Service can be silent. Service can be simple. It can be reaching out a hand when you sense that somebody might need a loving touch. It could be, ‘How are you today?’ It could be, ‘Could I carry that for you?’ It can be anything that comes from a loving heart and the desire to express it. That’s what ministry is to me. I consider humanity a parish for us all.”
Leigh’s spiritual practice extends to the care of her body. “Being healthy is a very expanded sensibility, and spirit is an expansion by its nature,” Leigh says. “So they do go together.”
Keys to Personal Balance
Meditation, exercise, diet, and water are the keys to Leigh’s personal balance. “Meditation boosts the immune system, massages the entire endocrine system, and keeps the entire nervous system in balance,” she says. “When we are busy and overwhelmed, we breath shallowly, and that feeds anxiety back into the nervous system. The minute you start slowing down your breath, you start slowing down your mind. And you become conscious.”
Leigh varies her regular exercise. After two years of hiking and bicycling, she is getting back into yoga again. But she loves and needs the outdoors. “I’m in a studio on a dark stage all the time, so being outside right now is an antidote.
Leigh also believes that a diet loaded with greens and green supplements is vital to overall health. She eats plenty of green vegetables, especially kale and collard greens. Several times a week, she drinks a l6-ounce glass of freshly juiced parsley, cucumber, celery, and lemon. “It’s very alkaline and it’s wonderful for cleansing the body,” she says. Leigh also drinks a concentrated wheatgrass juice, delivered frozen, that she defrosts as needed, and takes blue-green algae supplements.
Leigh is doing all the right things to stay vibrantly healthy. She’s an excellent example of how a healthy body complements a healthy, happy spirit. On a daily basis, she enjoys various green drinks that have been used as health aids throughout history.
Chlorophyll, the green pigment in plants, is one of nature’s great detoxifiers. It is found in high concentrations in chlorella, alfalfa, and barley. Remarkably, chlorophyll’s molecular structure is almost identical to the hemoglobin molecule in red blood cells, and some speculate that this may explain its powerful ability to purify body cells and tissues (Murray 1998).
Chlorella, a type of alga, is the richest source of chlorophyll. Researchers have found that chlorella may help protect the body from radiation, regulate hemoglobin content, balance protein levels, and maintain blood cholesterol and sugar levels within normal range (Sarma 1993). Chlorophyll’s cell wall binds with heavy metals and other toxins, thereby helping to carry them out of the body.
Chlorophyll-rich spirulina is also reputed to be a strong tissue cleanser. This blue-green alga helps cleanse the liver and kidneys; nourishes the blood; helps maintain healthy arterial function; improves beneficial intestinal flora; and may even inhibit the growth of harmful microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast, and fungi (Challem 1983).
Furthermore, studies conducted in Japan suggest that spirulina may support normal healthy blood glucose levels, promote normal red blood cell volume and its essential oxygen-carrying capacity, enhance liver health, and support brain health in the elderly. Spirulina has also been shown to help the body’s natural defense system by supporting the production of white blood cells, which destroy foreign invaders (Challem 1983).
In one study of spirulina, researchers induced cellular damage in hamster mouth tissue using a potent carcinogen that is known to initiate and promote damaged cell growths. The researchers then administered spirulina to the test subjects. The development of damaged cell growths was reduced, leading the researchers to conclude that micronutrients in spirulina could possibly playa major role in the prevention of damaged cell growths (Schwartz 1988). In addition, a more recent clinical study further showed that spirulina has beneficial effects on blood glucose levels and lipid profiles in people with blood sugar challenges (Parikh 2001).
Love Your Greens
Leigh Taylor- Young’s high regard for broccoli, kale, and collard greens is backed by research on the many health benefits of one of the key active ingredients in these foods: sulforaphane. Studies of rats suggest that sulforaphane may reduce the incidence, multiplicity, and weight of damaged cell growths in tissue, as well as delay their development (Zhang 1994).
Leigh really did her homework when she set out to live a balanced life. “I’ve been my own guinea pig for 40 years,” she says. And she has this advice for Journal of Longevity readers: “Commit to your journey of body and spirit, because this is your body and your life. It is your responsibility. This life is about loving. Loving is the key. And it means loving ourselves no matter what.”