By Myra Lewin
In a rush lately? Leaving lights on? Eating while shopping online? Losing your car keys?
The holidays are full of activity. There’s lots to enjoy, loved ones to see, events to attend and meals to plan. But with a (very) full schedule you might find yourself rushing through the day and feeling like you need to accomplish many things in order to satisfy yourself or other people. But rushing doesn’t feel very good, does it?
By Lisa Day-Lewis
As a mental health counselor working in a public school system, I am often challenged with not having effective immediate interventions for the children I work with. Through my education I was trained in therapies and techniques that were really designed to be delivered in weekly one-hour sessions over a period of months, beginning with rapport building and laying out a series of goals and objectives. Unfortunately the time I end up having to work with kids is typically only 5-20 minutes, and the goal is usually to get them back attending in the classroom. Truth be told, aside from the time limitations, I have often questioned the efficacy of many traditional Western counseling techniques when applied to kids. My question lies not so much in the techniques themselves, but in whether children are equipped to learn and utilize them. In today’s world, are we nourishing children in body and mind such that they will be successful at life, let alone school? That is the question that has led me to shift the focus of my interventions to incorporate Ayurveda.
By Karla Dixon
Bananas Foster. Just typing the words makes my mouth water and ignites such fond, sweet memories.
Childhood dinners, all dressed up, out with the family. Topping the evening with the infamous flaming Bananas Foster prepared tableside.
My dear friend Frankie (sadly gone from this world), who used to make it for me in my 20s after the spectacular, sumptuous, over-the-top dinner parties we would throw.
Then, the silent ashram, pre-dawn....wait....what?
Yes! It's true! Having recently completed my Yoga teacher training at Hale Pule, I literally cried when this delicious treat was offered for breakfast a few weeks into the intensive program.
Now that I am home, we have them for breakfast a few sweet mornings a week. Here is the recipe for no sugar, HEALTHY cooked bananas that will bring you back to those decadent occasions in just one bite. I promise. Eat slowly. Savor. Chew your food. And enjoy!
By Sonja Semion
I used to be the type of person who was offended at any notion that I should rise before 10:00 a.m. From ages 11 to 25, I stayed in bed most days until about 10:00 a.m., then stumbled around in my pajamas until I decided it was finally time to do something with the day. Often, by the time I made it out the door, I found that the day had long since passed.
This woman who used to shuffle through life has long since been transformed. When I traded my late nights for early days, I found something quite fascinating: I actually enjoy the silence of the mornings. When I began setting my alarm to make it to 6:00 a.m. yoga asana classes, I knew that something had shifted in me that would never go back.
Good thing, because when I had a baby, I learned how important it was to make friends with early mornings. Having a baby means I wake up very, very early. But I don’t wake up because she’s crying or because she wakes me up. I actually set my alarm to wake up several hours before her, and it is my secret to finding my grounding as a mother.
By Lisa Åkesson Stryker
Sugar has often been linked to strong emotions for me. I have eaten sugar when I felt happy, sad, lonely, disconnected, tired, hungry, thirsty, anxious, out of control, victimized, unsettled or excited. I could always find a reason why I deserved a piece of candy, and rarely enough strength to say “no.” Sugar was a faithful friend, always there when I needed distraction from what was happening to me. It sounds a bit like an addiction, right?
This winter the negative impact of this relationship became painfully obvious to me. After eating a lot of sugar around Christmas, my skin was breaking out, I felt constantly exhausted and my digestion was protesting. Still I couldn’t stop having the sweets that were presented to me. When my sister shared that she was detoxing from sugar this spring, I jumped right on board with the idea.
By Nicole Lonero
Studying Yoga and Ayurveda has taught me to appreciate and seek out balance in my life. The lessons I learn from these 5,000-year-old traditions often boil down to and point me in the direction of balance. They also remind me to look to nature – the rhythms, the laws, the chaos and the order. There are so many lessons to be found in nature and in us. In Yoga and Ayurveda there is no duality; we are each a unique expression of nature.
So now, when I am lost in doubt or uncertainty, I look to nature. And what I see are elements. Ayurveda examines the elements in nature and in ourselves to understand how our environments affect our individual constitutions and how we express the elements and qualities of nature internally and externally in our minds, in our emotions, in our thoughts, behaviors, actions and patterns. It’s all connected. Ayurveda helped me discover why, when living in Colorado, the cold, dry air aggravated my vata dosha to the point of imbalance. At the time, I was so clouded by my imbalance. I couldn’t see that I needed sunshine, warmth and nourishment in the form of cooked meals and grounding practices to find myself underneath the expression of my imbalance.
By Lisa Åkesson Stryker
I used to burn everything I touched in the kitchen. My vata/pitta constitution was far from balanced, and I rarely could keep my attention on what I was cooking long enough for it to be somewhat edible. After many disasters I started to doubt that I had inherited my grandmother’s finesse in the kitchen. Food and cooking has always been a huge passion of mine, so I kept experimenting, hoping one day things would change.
Finally, I made a conscious decision: I really wanted to get comfortable in the kitchen. I decided to stop eating out and started buying groceries and looking up different recipes that inspired me. I still botched my meals for a good while, but with baby steps I started walking in the right direction. I gradually felt more and more comfortable, and after a few months I knew a handful of meals I could cook really well.
By Sonja Semion
When my daughter was just a few days old, I was startled awake by her cries in the dark of night. I picked up her tiny body and nestled her kicking legs against my chest. Whispering soothing words, I changed her diaper and tucked her next to my breast. She quickly fell back asleep. The next morning, I thought of how many painful stories I had heard about sleep deprivation in early motherhood. Yet I felt no deprivation. In fact, I was surprised at how little I minded being awakened. I felt that something greater was supporting me.
When she was six weeks old, her father left for a weekend trip that had been planned long before she arrived. On the last day of being alone with her, I found myself gasping for air, searching for any space where I could set her down without the incessant wail that followed me from every bassinet and spread of blankets.
Everywhere I looked was a disaster that I had left behind. Dishes were piled next to the sink. Laundry was wet and growing moldy in the washer. I had imagined it would be hard to keep things together, but I didn’t realize that it would be impossible. The weight of my expectations was heavy on my spine.
By Nicole Lonero
Yoga and Ayurveda provide a series of guidelines to help us measure our growth and direction on the often windy and unforeseeable path of self-discovery. In the eight limbs of Yoga, the niyamas are those guidelines: the moral codes that help us launch the principals of Yoga off our mats and into our lives.
Tapas is the code identified with discipline or austerity –purification through discipline. Focus, discipline and commitment create a purifying heat, a fiery blaze that burns away impurities and distractions from our lives so that we can experience true union.
By Lisa Åkesson Stryker
I used to think Ayurveda was just a whole lot of rules to follow. When I first grasped the basic concepts of this ancient Indian science, my perfectionism quickly took over. “I can’t eat this, or do that. I cannot combine those foods or cook that way,” were thoughts that went through my head. It took me a while to get over myself and to accept that I do my best at every given moment, and that it is enough. This, I think, is one of the most important things to remind friends and family interested in Ayurveda. Otherwise it just becomes another thing on our to-do list.
To me, Ayurveda is a way to find balance and live sustainably. When I see the wonderful effects my new ways have on my mind, body and spiritual life, Ayurveda becomes a choice that is easier to make. It has some guidelines, sure, but it doesn’t mean I’m not free to choose. It gives me clarity so I can choose consciously, and makes a connection between the cause and the effect.
Recently I have been looking back to February 2016, when I found myself on my mat in the bright, spacious yoga room at Hale Pule’s Yoga teacher training. In that expansive month-long opportunity, I learned to look ahead.
Landing with a thump in my plank pose, I hear Myra say, “Look ahead.” “Look ahead when you jump back.” Later when I jumped forward to meet myself at the top of the mat, I noticed how I clung to the image of my feet, following them compulsively to meet my hands, as if they might not be there if I didn't strain my neck to ensure they were moving.
By Noriko Morimoto
I had always heard that a woman’s menstrual cycle goes for about 28 to 30 days. But since I first started my period, I have never enjoyed that kind of regularity. There were times when I would have my period just once a year. When it did come, it was preceded by extreme PMS. Sometimes I would experience depression so heavy that I would have suicidal thoughts. These intense emotions would go away as soon as my period came, leaving me confused and scared for the next time. This was no way to live.
By Nafisseh Soroudi
I have a cousin who regularly goes to India to do panchakarma. As a long-timer New Yorker, she says this practice is what keeps her sane. I was intrigued by her experience but had not considered it for myself until I began to experience some digestive and emotional issues that I wanted to get to the heart of.
I found Hale Pule’s program and was attracted to Myra Lewin’s wisdom. I wanted to learn from her and heal my body at the same time. I signed up for panchakarma with these priorities.
By Nicole Matthiesen
I lived for many years with a lot of uncertainty about food. I didn’t know what the outcome of any given meal would be. Would I experience constipation? Diarrhea? Severe abdominal pain that would leave me unable to eat for a week? Or would this time be fine, as it sometimes inexplicably was?
As a student in Hale Pule’s 600-hour Ayurvedic health counselor program, I know now that the issues I was experiencing (what the doctors called Irritable Bowel Syndrome) were a direct result of my highly stressful career as a litigation consultant and my choice to push my health aside to meet demands and deadlines.
By Myra Lewin
One of my favorite parts of leading our Yoga and Ayurveda teacher trainings is watching our students undergo incredible transformations. Every person is a little different, but after seeing hundreds of these transformations, I find that those who undergo the greatest shifts approach their learning without expectations. They look at their time with us as an experience that will lead them to their next step, even if that step isn’t quite clear at the beginning. They come with a willingness to let go of what they think they know, and emerge a more refined version of who they really are.
There is another big difference in these students -- they realize that learning is not just something they do in a training; it is a way of living. If you are studying Ayurveda and Yoga, or simply want to enjoy more out of life, this approach is the best way to see how deep the healing can be.
By Dhokela Yzeiraj
I learned about Hale Pule through a friend who had spent a month on Durga Farms and came back completely different. She talked about bringing consciousness and sacredness to our food consumption – an idea that was quite foreign to me. I was in college at the time, and the dining halls at our school were a place where my mind was more caught up on the social scene and wanting to fit in, rather than taking the time to consider how my food affected me. She shared the knowledge of light from Hale Pule and inspired me to want to know more. I considered applying to become a farmer on Durga Farms, but my insecurity of not being good enough and my pride of being too good got in the way.
By Robin Stamp
It gets easier the moment my feet hit the floor. In the dim light before sunrise, I can feel the grounding energy running through the souls of my feet. I immediately feel more connected. Waking with the natural rhythm is the heartbeat of my day, guiding me and giving me the energy I need to thrive.
It didn't used to be this way. For most of my life I was a nighthawk. My time to shine was between happy hour and 2:00 a.m. I lived on debates fueled by alcohol, spicy food and politics. This is when I thought I was at my best. I sacrificed my mornings for this time; I never took a meeting before 10:00 a.m. I sacrificed the middle of my day too, finding myself in need of a nap after lunch pretty much every day. I thought I was supposed to live this way, because everyone else around me was. And this way of living didn’t seem to be broken. I was successful in my work in politics, I served my community by sitting on the school board and was on my way to fulfilling my dream of going to law school.
By Joanne Cooper
I have always had issues with digestion. As a teenager, I had two bleeding ulcers. For most of my life, I experienced burning indigestion and often could not even lie down to sleep at night because of acid reflux. By the time I reached my early 40s, I began to see significant consequence from the way I was eating and living. I realized that I needed to change my lifestyle in order to enjoy good health.
I began studying Yoga at a local studio as a way to connect more consciously with my body. One of my teachers had a background in Ayurveda which she wove into her weekly asana classes. I was intrigued with the idea that people are inherently connected to, and are meant to live in harmony with, nature. When my teacher announced that she was hosting a workshop at her studio with an Ayurvedic doctor from India, I eagerly signed up.
By Lisa Akesson
In our fast paced lives we often forget how to breathe. I notice that when I’m anxious or stressed, I’m also holding my breath. Just as it’s very difficult to feel balanced and content with your shoulders slouched forward, it’s hard to be calm and relaxed without a conscious full breath.
Pranayama is an ancient Sanskrit word that means breath control or extension of the prana (lifeforce). It is the fourth limb of Raja yoga. I first came in contact with this powerful technique in a Yoga class, with one of the most common pranayama practices, nadi shodhana.
Since I learned more about the different pranayama techniques at my Yoga teacher training with Hale Pule, I’ve made it a priority to start my day with a short series of breathing exercises. It helps me quiet my mind and center myself before meditation. With a calm mind and clear intentions, I can then start my day the way I choose to.
One of my absolute favorites is the bhramari, or bumblebee. It’s simple and you can do it at home. Try it before your asana practice or meditation and pay close attention to how it affects your mind. It fascinates me every time!
This is how to practice bhramari:
I also demonstrate bhramari at the start of my video.
By Shannon Wianecki
I love traveling, but I also love maintaining a balanced, sattvic routine. Over time, I’ve developed a packing list that makes hopping a plane, train, ship or subway a nourishing, rather than depleting, experience.
Commitment to continuing my meditation and asana practice on the road. I learned to connect to my innermost self (and calm vata dosha) by establishing a routine: waking at the same time each morning, meditating for a set time, practicing asana and starting my day with a strong spiritual foundation. I do an abbreviated version of this while traveling.
By Judy Safford
Most of my married life thrived and survived on drama. I used to tell my story to anyone who walked slow enough. Did I ask them first? No! Did I feel better? No! Did it help the situation? No! Some of the listeners commiserated with me and some backed off when they saw me coming. My late husband was bipolar and undiagnosed all of our 23 years of marriage. Approximately every two years he would experience a five-month psychotic episode, which was horrific for him, me, our relatives and children. One day a therapist remarked that perhaps the reason I was baffled at what to do was because I got some needs met through his illness. Those words haunted me for years.
By Stephanie Stillman
Aparigraha is one of the yamas, the ethics of Yoga. Its literal translation is not gripping, or non-attachment. Practicing aparigraha is practicing contentment, adaptability and presence. Being able to flow with life and stay present in the moment is aparigraha. It is the opposite of being attached to a past event or a future outcome.
By Lisa Akesson
I had been dreaming making a trip to India for years when spontaneously my friend and I made the decision to go. It was an overwhelming experience, full of positive and colorful memories that gave me hope and joy! But it wasn’t all smooth sailing.
On our third day I started to feel sick. I thought it just was car sickness, but as the day went on it was clear it was more than that. After days of treating the bacteria with various medications that I would never consume at home, I finally got better. Later on during the trip when I got sick again, I knew better than to take such extreme measures.
By Shannon Wianecki
Before attending my first silent retreat, I wondered: what would happen? Would I go stir crazy? Would I be shocked by what I discovered inside myself? That was 10 years ago. I was a beginning yoga and meditation student and the idea of being totally silent, alone with my thoughts for nine days sounded both enticing and terrifying.
By Judy Michaels Safford
I often find my hand resting on my heart in gratitude for natural healing.
In 2013, I found myself in a time of sickness, facing what appeared to be an allergy to most foods. Nine months of coughing and hives led me to a specialist. Two cortisone shots and surgery seemed to relieve the problem. I was ecstatic and relieved to sleep and eat again until the doctor told me more. I was informed that cortisone would be my friend twice a year along with sleeping on a wedge pillow for silent reflux. Stunned and puzzled, a fork in the road appeared. The road pointed to Western medicine or natural healing. I had no clue where to begin. Intuition, coincidence, inner guidance or something I have no name for attracted me to Hale Pule and Myra Lewin. The natural Ayurvedic way brought peace to my digestive system. Food allergies and silent reflux are no more.