With tapas, the Yogic practice of discipline, you can experience deep change in your life.
The word discipline might not sound like a lot of fun, but if you think of it as a daily commitment to honor your desire to live a fulfilling life then you can see how discipline could become your greatest ally.
When you describe yourself - how much of what you say is true? The story you tell about yourself - where does it come from? Is it from what other people say? Maybe your parents always described you in a certain way - oh Julia, she’s so daring. Scotty! What a clown. And maybe these labels given by others became your identity.
Do you have a regular Yoga and Ayurveda practice? Semi-regular? Regularly irregular? Maybe you’re like many folks out there - you go through phases of practicing consistently and then somehow it falls off.
To build a secure and loving home - the kind you really want to spend time in - the first thing you'll need is a solid foundation.
But oftentimes our mind has us enjoying the view from the top floor before the concrete has dried. This is a common approach to asana practice - students force and contort their bodies into an idealized shape without doing the requisite work. This leads to discomfort, pain and perhaps injury.
By Myra Lewin
Why do you seek transformation?
What does transformation mean, really? Transformation implies deep change. Real change. Change that feels true and lasting. Transformation is about letting go of what you don’t need and creating space for the new. It’s about redefinition, renewal and regeneration. Transformation is inherent in the process of creation and destruction, and that’s why we’re here in this life - to continually open ourselves up to new experiences that we can enjoy and grow from.
By Myra Lewin
A new year, a new you?
How many emails landed in your inbox this month offering you a path to a better version of yourself? A new year carries the energy of a fresh slate, a page turn, a new chapter or maybe even a whole new book. In modern culture, a new year is viewed as an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and invite a brighter future.
But think back to last year, and the year before, and the year before that. Were you able to sustain the inspired momentum of the new year or did motivation give way to old habits and disappointment? Have you found yourself repeating certain types of experiences and relationships year after year?
Intuition and intellect, feminine and masculine, moon and sun, night and day. Throughout the universe, pairs of opposing qualities combine in a dynamic dance. Ayurveda recognizes the value of this interplay of opposites in the environment and within our being. In fact, the idea that the opposite brings balance is a central principle in Ayurvedic healing. We can apply this concept to our diet, to our activities and perhaps most important of all, to how we manage our energy.
Ayurveda and Yoga are essentially forms of pranic medicine. When prana is allowed to flow easily and abundantly through our body-mind, healing occurs naturally, even spontaneously.
By Myra Lewin
I used to race cars, and fix them too. When I was about 14, back in east Tennessee, you could often find me at the garage, hanging with the mechanics, or riding the rolling hills. At that time, being behind the wheel or under the hood felt like freedom to me. I loved being a part of the action - hugging the curves of the road, leading the pack. I was small, young, plenty reckless, and clearly pretty in touch with my masculine energy.
By Myra Lewin
The Sahara belongs to the sun. Among the rolling dunes there was once the world’s largest lake, named Mega Chad, which evaporated over a thousand years ago under the sun’s relentless glare. But today the lake’s silvery remains sustain life half a world away. Each year wind blows mineral-rich dust from the dried Saharan lake bed all of the way to South America, where it fertilizes the lush greenery of the Amazon.
To gain an understanding of Earth’s intricate and fantastic ecological balance, one must examine the planet as a whole. The earth is a holistic system in which balance is sustained by the interaction of different elements. The human being is no different. To initiate true healing we must consider the person as a whole: mind, body and spirit.
Joint health is an important part of your ability to move freely and enjoy life. When prana is absent in your joints, you may feel pain or discomfort, or experience limited mobility.
This short sequence, called Namaste to the Joints, is designed to bring prana to these places where bones intersect and move each joint in its optimum range of motion. You can do most of these exercises in a chair, making this a wonderful sequence to bring to the office or practice while traveling on an airplane.
Watch the video below to say "namaste" to your joints:
Prana is life force. It is the energy that creates and sustains us. When prana flows easily through all parts of our beings, life unfolds with greater ease. Pranayama, one of the eight limbs of Yoga, is a powerful set of practices that harnesses and directs prana to flow the way it is intended. A consistent and balanced pranayama practice can correct emotional and physical disturbances, calm the doshas and support spiritual awakening.
Because it is so powerful, it’s best to learn advanced pranayama practices from an experienced teacher, but there are a few practices that are simple enough to share online. We have posted on bhramari and a version of nadi shodhana. A few months ago, we also shared the practice of yoni mudra as an additional way to direct your flow of energy and connect to your higher self within. This month, we offer one additional pranayama practice that is designed to disperse excess heat in the body and mind.
One of the great benefits of Yoga asana is that it brings prana, or life force, to the body. When prana flows, life is easy and you understand your purpose.
However, you don’t need to master natarajasana or bakasana to feel the flow of prana throughout your body. A simple sequence, such as in the video below for Prana Namaskar, will build strength and move energy throughout your body.
This three-minute sequence may seem simple, but it will provide great mental and physical challenge. As you build pelvic floor strength, you will get in touch with your body and create connection within.
Balance is not so much a point of absolute stillness as it is a dance, one that requires strength and flexibility in body and mind. On the mat and in the rest of life, balance means moving within your current capabilities and accepting the expansion that comes from there.
Natarajasana, or king dancer pose, is a celebration of this dance. At once a backbend and a balancing pose, natarajasana offers many ways to appreciate the journey of your body and mind. The best starting point for most people is using both hands on a strap with the foot lifted behind and away from the body. When you are comfortable there, you can let go of the strap and move into holding your foot with your hands. Eventually you can do the pose with the strap overhead. After that, you may be able to bring your foot and your hands together overhead. Let all of these progressions be part of the journey. Don’t rush or you’ll miss out on the experience.
By Myra Lewin
People often ask what kind of Yoga we practice and teach at Hale Pule. The answer is not as easy as the question appears. While there are certain ways we teach the practices here, what we most like to impart is that Yoga is much more than doing the practices the “right way.” Yoga is a direct path to the God within. The practices are how you connect with this universe inside. How you do the practices matters, but consistency in your approach is what matters most.
When students come here to study, they have usually worked with many different teachers and styles. For some students, what we teach aligns what they have learned into a central channel of wisdom that they use for their personal and professional benefit. For others, what we teach challenges everything they know.
What does it mean to be a hero? The word has become quite mixed up with ideas of war and domination. But heroic qualities, such as courage and strength, take a very different meaning when you look at them through the lens of Yoga.
Our minds pull us into battle all the time with people, institutions or things. But fighting with things outside of you is just a distraction from the real battle within. This is the timeless battle that was outlined in the Bhagavad Gita, one that asks us to put the mind and ego in their right size and place. Being heroic in a battle like this requires us to put down the weapons of our ego and embrace the unity between us and all other forms of life. It may sound easy, but this journey takes deep fortitude.
By Myra Lewin
A man came to stay with us at the urging of his wife, who is a regular guest. He was used to a diet of meat, spicy foods and alcohol and a busy lifestyle filled with things to do and see. After just a week of taking part in morning practices, meals of Ayurvedic food, and being surrounded by the natural world, he said with surprise that he felt 10 years younger.
The recovery that is possible through Ayurveda and Yoga is remarkable. As our guest found, making simple adjustments in what we eat, how we live and where we put our focus is enough to make a person find a new experience of being alive. Often times we do little more than remove what is getting in the way of health and inner peace. This allows us to use the senses wisely and start a journey to true health.
Each of us began in the womb -- a place where our senses were protected and our attention drawn inward. But when we were born, we entered a world with an onslaught of sensory experiences. There are billions of things to see, touch, taste, feel and hear. Most of them are not worth our attention.
Allowed to move unchecked, our senses pull us around, making us do things that are not always aligned to our greatest good. But when we bring our attention inside, withdrawing the senses (the Yogic practice called pratyahara), we learn to turn away from cravings and desires.
By Lisa Åkesson Stryker
In the Swedish language we have a great word for being in the role of a victim, offerkofta. It basically means the victim sweater and unfortunately I put it on quite frequently. I forget how fortunate I am and get caught up in what I consider to be wrong or not good enough. At first “offerkoftan” feels warm and cozy, it makes me feel self-righteous and busy. I have something to do, a position to defend. I’m right about something, which means that someone else is wrong, and poor me who has to be the one to point it out and feel so taken advantage of.
But after awhile, the sweater feels itchy. I don’t really accomplish anything, I’m just sweaty and uncomfortable. The feeling spreads in my body and shows up in my posture. My head starts tilting forward, my shoulders slouch and my back hurts. Poor me.
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 Myra Lewin
I have a client who first began her journey with Ayurveda in the mid 1990s. Over the years, she experienced many changes in her relationship to this science. During times of stress, she sometimes put Ayurveda aside. She would return to old habits of snacking and keeping an irregular schedule, and then rely on Western medicine for a quick fix. Yet she kept coming back to the principles of Ayurveda. They made sense to her and she felt much better and more balanced with Ayurveda as the foundation for her life. After many years of breaking up her Ayurvedic lifestyle with other systems, she found herself facing a full-blown disease. After two years of no progress with Western medicine, she remembered the healing power of Ayurveda, and chose that as her medicine. By stepping fully into the practices, she reversed the disease process and eliminated pain and medications from her life. Now she is enjoying her Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle and her health continues to improve.
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.
Each morning is a new opportunity to greet the day with breath and movement.
After you wake up, your body needs a safe and gentle transition from long, peaceful rest into a day of movement. A sattvic asana sequence in the morning awakens your body from its slumber so it can serve you calmly all day long.
Your asana practice doesn’t need to take hours to be effective. Just 10 minutes on your mat, guided by conscious breath, will make a significant difference in how you feel all day long. If you want a simple way to say hello to the new day and honor the sun, try surya namaskar, sun salutations.
By Myra Lewin
A client recently came to me wanting to learn how to meditate. I flew to his home in Hong Kong to spend a week with him and his family. However, our first meeting together did not involve sitting down on his meditation cushion. Instead, I began by teaching his family about Ayurvedic cooking.
My client was seeking meditation to relieve the stress of his day. He wanted a greater connection to his higher self and for his mind to soften. I shared with him that the connection and softening of the mind is aided by a holistic practice that includes an Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle. This is the purpose of Ayurveda -- it is a way of living that promotes greater consciousness. When my client experienced the tools of Yoga and Ayurveda together, incredible results followed for everyone in his home.
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.