Sixteen years ago this April I founded Hale Pule Ayurveda and Yoga. In the time I have been sharing the gifts of Ayurveda and Yoga, I have run into plenty of skeptics. People ask me how these sciences, developed centuries before our current medical system, can possibly be effective. Well, I am living proof.
My personal journey to health started around the time I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age 30. The prognosis from Western doctors was disheartening at best. According to them, I would face a lifetime of chronic, increasing pain and severe inflammation in my joints. If I didn’t take the medications they were offering me, which came with side effects, such as internal bleeding and kidney damage, I would become deformed and possibly unable to care for myself. I looked at the life they were telling me I would live – one of fear, pain and disconnection. I promptly walked in the opposite direction.
I had been focused on vegetarian eating for more than a decade at that point, so I knew there were other ways to attain health than at a doctor’s office. Someone told me that Yoga could improve my flexibility and relieve the stress that came from my job as an executive for a pharmaceutical distribution company. So I attended my first Iyengar class. Even though I couldn’t touch my toes, had to sit at nearly chair height for meditation and couldn’t raise my arms above my shoulders, my teacher told me that I should become a yoga teacher. At the time I found that amusing, but four years later, I followed that path. I left my high-stress job and made dramatic shifts in my life, including giving up the alcohol and drugs that had helped me cope in those times when I had realized I was not living my truth. I began meditating and was introduced to Ayurveda by a Yoga teacher named Betty Eiler. It wasn’t until six years later that I became convinced of its benefits. I was in India and experiencing joint pain, and I finally tried ghee because I was told it would lubricate my bones. In just a week, I noticed a huge difference. I then began applying simple practices, such as proper food combining to prevent illness. Eating well and practicing asanas daily gave me greater energy and a stronger and more flexible body and mind. But the most important result was a connection to purusha, my higher self. This helped me align with my dharma, or life purpose: to introduce the sister sciences of Ayurveda and Yoga to others seeking better lives.
Then, 11 years ago, I lost a significant amount of weight. I didn’t even realize it had happened until one day I felt lumps in my left underarm. I told only a few people closest to me so that I would not have to deal with other’s fears. Then I paid a visit to a doctor. Although I had long since given up on Western medicine, I wanted to hear what they would say. Leukemia. They outlined a protocol of chemotherapy, radiation, and drugs that they thought would kill cancer. I knew these treatments would kill my life force.
I tell my clients that the manifestation of disease is an opportunity to remove what is holding us back. I took a dose of my own medicine and focused my practice of Ayurveda and Yoga. Over three months I slowed down enough to give my body the space to heal. I worked through the emotional issues and fears at the root of the imbalance. I released old attachments to foods and ways of being that weren’t in my best interest. I healed, washing away old layers into the earth. When I felt ready to begin surfing again, I knew I would be fine. After a year and a half I was free of the leukemia. The experience gave me a deeper grounding in the present moment – every present moment – and cultivated a stronger connection to my dharma.
I turned 60 last November (free of cancer and no symptoms of the arthritis that was supposed to have crippled me years ago) and have spent time reflecting upon what we’ve created here at Hale Pule. As we grow – training more yogis, providing people with simple Ayurvedic tools to change their lives – I feel blessed to have witnessed hundreds of transformations. As people are now waking up to the teachings of Ayurveda and Yoga faster than ever, I am more inspired to grow our work so that I can share what has been passed down through a lineage of teachers that stretches back more than 5,000 years.
When I tell my story, people respond with surprise. Sometimes it is shock (that I chose the science that is true to my heart over the one that is true to its drugs) or awe (that I found the power within to heal myself). But what I learned on this journey is the same lesson available to you. Health is not something that happens to us – health happens through us. Health happens in our kitchens, on our Yoga mats, in our meditation practice. Health happens when we step into our true selves, walk away from our attachments to high-powered jobs, titles and physical objects. Health happens when we embrace our responsibility to be our own healers and become fully in charge of what happens to us every day. Health happens when we love ourselves and our lives.