Advanced IY Hatha, A Deeper Sense of Stilness

There are so many elements of Yoga and Ayurveda that support our health and journey on earth. Diet, herbs, mantras, meditation, pranayama, yoga nidra, the concepts of the gunas and so on. Advanced (or Level 3) Integral Yoga Hatha is one of the main elements on my journey that brings me back hOMe every time. It is such a comprehensive practice for personal transformation, working with all the layers of our being: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

I have been practicing Integral Hatha Yoga for 15 years now. A beautiful seed of grace was planted within me right from the point of my first practice, and it continues to be nourished and encouraged to grow by the Level 3 Hatha practice. I started at the beginners’ level and gradually, mindfully, and joyfully advanced in the practice. I absolutely love to practice level 3 Integral Yoga Hatha, and I enjoy teaching the Advanced Integral Yoga Hatha Teacher Training, which is coming up in August!

The level 3 practice consists of the same elements of levels 1 and 2: asanas (physical postures), yoga nidra (deep relaxation), pranayama (breathing practices), and meditation. Plus, there are new components: the bandhas (locks applied during pranayama), and new asanas and pranayama practices. We also do the inversions after the sun salutations and standing poses, in the beginning of the class. I love how we have more energy to invest in strong inversions, and thus experience the bliss of inversions right away, carrying it throughout the practice, which gives the class a wonderful flow.

The advanced practice of Integral Yoga Hatha can be quite strong, yet very meditative. This challenge is my favorite element of the class. Even though the practice becomes more complex and rigorous, there is an even deeper sense of stillness and internal awareness. I learn to  challenge my body with such mindfulness, that I can still discover the optimal flow of energy. Through the balance between right effort and surrender, I deepen my awareness of the unity of body, mind, and spirit. 

Integral Yoga Hatha Level 3 is my entry into intuitive living movement. The skillful and creative sequences take me smoothly from moment to moment, making it possible to witness the body and mind with loving kindness. Sometimes I begin my practice with either my body aching or my mind talking loudly, and sometimes  both! As I move through the sequence, I witness the body surrendering to softness and the mind is silenced. The unchanging witnesses expands, and the “little me” dissolves into the stillness and quietness of the now.

Ayurvedic Meal Planning

There are many benefits of making our own meals. We know all the ingredients involved in the process. We know the energy put into the process. We can make it balancing for our constitution and beloved ones. We can create a peaceful environment for eating. We save money, and the list goes on.

But within our fast-paced lives, we may end up just eating something processed or eating out. Ayurveda works by looking at the things we have control over. One very important aspect of this way of living, is that Ayurveda asks us to take responsibility for our choices, including our dietary choices. Through this, there is empowerment and we realize we can make a difference in the quality of our life, and how we feel based on our choices.

When you cook for yourself, you are exercising self-responsibility, and making the right choices for your health, both body and mind. Here are four tips to make cooking your own meals both manageable and fun!

  1. Plan your meals in advance. I personally plan my meals at the beginning of each week, in order to save time and reduce stress. But you can even plan it the night before, in which case you would set out the grains and legumes on the counter each night and soak the ones that require it. This helps you get on track when you start cooking the next day.

  2. Have a scheduled shopping time. It is beneficial to have a stock of staple items in your pantry, and to shop regularly. Grocery day in our household is Saturday early morning, which works for our schedules. If you can go daily, then that’s great! For many of us though, we might find the time  to go once or twice a week. Plan around your “grocery day”, so that you always have the ingredients that you need.

  3. Have your largest meal midday. This is ideal. A lot of our health issues today come from having large meals at other times of day, or multiple times a day. Here is how you could make a habit out of this ayurvedic guideline. Depending on your schedule, you may be able to prepare the meal in advance and then eat it at midday. I find that there are days when I have to make lunch right after I have breakfast or even before. I prepare the grains, the legumes, and the vegetables that take longer to cook. Then I leave the greens washed and chopped, and cook them once I arrive home. Also, if you don’t have time to prepare another meal in the early evening, you might have some leftovers that you could use from lunch. In fact, that’s what I do most days. I make a little more for the midday meal and use that for the evening meal and add to it as necessary. What changes from lunch to dinner is the veggies and greens. I usually take what is left from our lunch, combine it together and make a soup out of it. It’s ideal to prepare the meal and then eat it, but if you know this is not possible for you and the alternative is that you might eat out or eat something that’s processed, then this is a good choice. Cook enough food for both lunch and dinner and then supplement dinner as necessary with a different side dish. If you eat your cooked food within 12 hours from when it is ready, you are still getting most of the prana from it.

  4. Keep it simple. Eating simply is very important. It seems that food has become trendy, and people are more focused on using ingredients to make food look and taste exotic. Our digestive tract actually isn’t that fond of exotic ingredients. It really likes simple foods, and especially not too much variety at once, such as having five vegetables for one meal. For simple and delicious recipe suggestions,  I recommend one of my teachers’ books: Simple Ayurvedic Recipes by Myra Lewin.

Simple yet delicious!

Simple yet delicious!

How I overcame back pain

 For a long time I was dealing with low-grade back pain that would flare up at times. The first time I was working in a bank when I started feeling tremendous lower back pain that would radiate down the sides of my thighs. The pain would last a few days before returning to my baseline level of chronic pain. On this first severe episode, I went to a chiropractor for the first time and I left there feeling so light. I remember asking my friend who took me there: “is this how you are supposed to feel?” I then got in a routine to get chiropractic adjustment, but that was just giving me quick relief but not addressing the roots of it all. In one painful episode, I went to the doctor and got one of those cortisone shots. AHHH, immediate relief! We love this, right? No effort and quick relief. But then we get back to old habits and everything is reset. Anyway, a MRI was done and I found out that I had a bulging disk and also a degenerative disc condition!

The truth is I had been dealing with low-grade pain for years, but I really never gave attention to it. I ignored the gentle signs of my body, and only when the pain decided to make me scream did I decide to look at it. All this was happening when I was just beginning my journey into the sciences of Yoga & Ayurveda. Thus I knew that continuing with the quick relief options would not bring me permanent peace. I then pursued the cure through the wisdom of these ancient healing modalities and learned that there are many theories regarding relief of chronic pain. For example, digestive concerns can cause poor circulation and lymph congestion, which can exacerbate muscular pain, joint pain, and dryness of the discs. Stress and one’s emotional health is also linked to spikes in joint and muscle pain. In the end, it requires bringing the whole body into balance.

So then, I decided to directly address the root cause of the aches and pains. I learned about techniques and herbs that supported my healing so I didn’t need to go through the frustrating reality of anti-inflammatory drugs, which potentially do more harm than good. I turned to making lifestyle changes such as dietary adjustments, right exercise, yoga asanas, breathing practices and meditation. I found a way to incorporate these new habits into my life that was doable and sustainable. Such changes not only helped the discs condition but also addressed all the little aches and pains! It is a blessing to experience what it is to bring the whole body into balance and feel abundant energy throughout the day.

Musculoskeletal aches and pains can arise from many sources. It can be from an injury, from sitting for a long time every day, from poor posture, from driving too much, from repetitive activities, from harmful emotions, from digestion, from lack of exercise, from stress, etc. The ancient sciences of Yoga and Ayurveda offer natural and sustainable relief from these pains.  I have been given the joy to share this healing path with others and see them getting consistent results. I am striving to share with you these profound tools so you can experience the grace and light of a balanced body, and tap into the unlimited source of energy that we are!

How I found laughter again

I was struggling with depression and anxiety which I thought was triggered by a life threatened health issue – a blood clot. But then I found out that I have been struggling with a low degree depression and anxiety since I was a teen!

 When I had the blood clot (which I found out later it was due to a genetic disorder), I was also going through main life changes such as marriage and moving out of my home country. All of this contributed to expose strongly the depression and anxiety. I would wake up feeling my body as heavy as a hippopotamus even though I was losing weight. Every inch of my body would ache. An elephant paw was sitting on my heart. My appetite, none. My enthusiasm for life, gone. My laugh, what is that?  But because I am a doer, I would manage to do things and even get some exercise. It took me a while to understand that I had such condition because I push myself hard. A lot was manifesting in anger and the more I pushed myself the more I burst out.  

I also have a family with a history of depression and anxiety and my dad strongly suggested that I would look for medical assistance. I was resistant to take medications. But things were getting very hard so I finally went for it.  The doctor prescribed me an anti-depressant.  Fortunately the first pill I took, my body went bananas! It reacted intensely to it. It was very scary. I had an anxiety attack and could not sleep. This was my turning point.

I took it as my body wisdom screaming to me and saying that I had everything to heal myself in a natural way. I have yoga, Ayurveda, exercise, and Nature all around me and an opportunity to break the samskara (psychological imprints) of generations of my family on anti-depressants drugs. Next morning then, I decided to not touch it ever again and go for the alternative cure. I am not saying that medicine is evil and should not be taken. There are cases, and cases. My case, not the case. Western Medicine can be lifesaving and should be applied when necessary. This system that I used can also be used together with western medicine and eventually you can be out of it.

Through my studies of Yoga and Ayurveda I began to understand why I was inclined to depression and anxiety in the first place; how my mind works and what put me out of balance and how to bring myself back into balance through right diet, lifestyle, and right relationship. I then implement a lifestyle that would nourish my body, mind and spirit. Waking up and bed time, exercise time, nature time, laugh time, friends time, meditation time, right diet time,  and a big part of the time: God time! The way I implemented the new routine was slowly and progressively so my instruments – body and mind, would not rebel. I want the new habits to stick for a lifetime so I had little and short goals; the secret to make them doable and sustainable.  Then I studied and learned more about how to deal with fatigue, body pain, weight management, digestive problems, sleep issues, thyroid imbalance and other issues that depression and anxiety can bring. Then I got a PhD in anger. Then I heard my laugh, then I craved strawberries, then I woke up as light as a hummingbird! Then I knew myself.

I have been sharing this system with other people and I see them getting consistent results. I am striving to give you tools to live a normal healthy life. So you can realize the power of knowing yourself, and this will not lead you astray!