What “yoga is” to me.

At some point during my studies in Yoga, Oriental Medicine, Hawaiian Healing and Ayurveda a teacher once shared with me, “Until you can see Love in all things, until you can Love all people, you’re not ready to practice this medicine.”  I remember being floored, my gut turned inside out (at the time, not good for my IBS, which I’m happy to share is completely healed through Natural Medicine), my dreams dashed for a second, but my heart was racing and the internal me was shouting “Yes, Yes, Yes!”  This was a moment in time when I realized I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Of all the modalities I have studied, in my own heart I consider them all a form and practice of Yoga.  Yoga, in the more general sense of “unification of the present,” is a path to seeing, feeling, hearing, observing and being connected to all things.

In an attempt to bring more clarity to what this means for me in a practical sense, I want to share what yoga is to me.

Yoga is…

Uniting the body, mind, emotions and spirit with the breath of all life.

A breath of life that eventually shows its identity of all things to be LOVE.

Feeling the breath of life breath you.

Where challenges become opportunities to grow and expand our boundaries, and deepen our relationship and understanding of God, of Love.

Hearing the sound of your own heart’s song in the stillness of your mind, and then living in accordance to your authentic heart song, without inhibition.

Choosing Love first.

Forgiving.

Seeing Transformation as a Way of Life.

Recognizing the interconnectedness of ALL life, including your self and choosing to live in HARMONY, in BALANCE, and with RESPECT for all things.

LOVING yourself, recognizing that before you can truly Love another, you must first begin to Love yourself.

The art of remembering, returning to your own Heart Light and refusing to let others tell you otherwise.

Yoga is YOU…You were born from yoga, born into yoga, and will die in yoga.  Yoga is your, his, her, my true nature.  The stillness of the mind simply reminds us of our true nature and our true nature is experienced in Yoga.

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You are the difference!

Another blog discovered in my archives from January 10, 2010.

About two years ago, I was sitting with a close group of soul-sisters who are dedicated, beautiful, and ridiculously funny Change Leaders from the non-profit organization, Shakti Rising, in San Diego.  It was during a fun night of honoring the sacred feminine, speaking our Dharma, and uplifting each other to greatness, that I was introduced to this quote by Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world.  Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

We used this quote to inspire, thank, and remind the 100 volunteers that help run Shakti Rising that each person’s efforts were truly appreciated for the greater good of All.

As I do with most inspirational quotes, I place them on my altar.  This quote, in particular, I placed on my refrigerator next to the picture of Paramahansa Yogananda, Gandhiji, my family, and the Dalai Lama (the second altar in my house that reminds me of my abundant life each time I eat).  Each day reminding me that my thoughts, my actions, my words, my intentions are somehow in someway making a difference.  And if not in someone else’s life, at least in the experience of Love (God, Allah, Spirit, you name it)  flowing through ME in this body, this time around.

Recently this bright yellow reminder has been speaking to me differently.  It’s reminding me that transformation isn’t just possible, but that it is happening.  So, I want to share my “same-same but different” version with you as a source of inspiration, remembrance, and motivation.   A reminder of how AMAZING YOU ARE and how each and every one of your actions, interactions, and intentions are truly making a difference TODAY.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and passionate people can and will change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

Here’s to being YOU…thoughtful and passionate, willing and able!!!  Have a wonderful day.

Aloha & Namaste

The Synergy of Yoga and Ayurveda

 

For thousands of years*, Yoga and Ayurveda have been used to heal, transform and balance the human body, mind, and thus, Spirit. Through globalization, both have spread worldwide assisting people in reclaiming their health and well-being by promoting daily practices to create health, rather than relying on a magic pill.  Both systems were suppressed in India during the British occupation but continued to live-on behind closed doors within households and particular spiritual leaders.  The reemergence of both practices is growing at a rapid rate worldwide.

Yoga and Ayurveda are intimately connected and often hard to separate.  Ayurveda is the healing and therapeutic branch of yoga, also known as Yoga Chikitsa.  Yoga is the spiritual aspect of Ayurveda.  Yoga as an individual practice is known as Yoga Sadhana.  When we use yoga as a medical therapy (i.e. when students come to yoga studios because they’ve been advised by a doctor or because of their own volition to find relief from stress, pain in the body, chronic backache, etc) this is traditionally considered Ayurveda.  In addition, the Ayurveda view of the mind and psychology stems from Yoga philosophy, thus making the practices and exercises for the mind the same.

While “yoga” has become a more integrated part of the western lexicon, Ayurveda still is yet to be discovered, or used, in the same way.  For Ayurveda practitioners like myself, this is both a blessing and a challenge.  A blessing because it means the competition is low and the potential number of people to educate is massive.  The challenge is…the same thing.  That is why Breathe. Connect. Be. was created.  To educate as many people as possible.  So stay tuned!

The Similarities between Yoga and Ayurveda:

  • Life sciences (study and practice of the human experience in relationship to other lives)
  • Acknowledges humans have an intimate connection with Nature
  • We are all connected and are endowed with life through a force and source of energy called Prana.
  • Wisdom designed to help people stay vital while realizing their full human potential.
  • Providing guidelines on ideal daily practices, behaviors, exercises, proper use of the senses,
  • Health is the balanced and dynamic integration between our environment, body, mind, and spirit.
  • Mantra, or sound, are used to balance the mind.
  • When the whole body is balanced (body and mind), we become more at peace with ourselves (spirit) and the world around us.  From this state of internal well-being, you will naturally begin to make wiser choices for your livelihood.
  • There are four main goals of every human’s life: Dharma (purpose, duty), Artha (wealth, prosperity), Kama (desires) and Moksha (liberation).

The Differences:

  • Ayurveda provides guidelines on ideal diet per individual constitution and health conditions.  Yoga has general sweeping recommendations based on the principle observances (eight limbs) of yoga.
  • Ayurveda uses specific asana (postures) as therapy for illness and dis-ease.  Yoga uses asana to redirect energy in our bodies for spiritual awakening or self-realization.  As you might here in India, “same same but different.”
  • Ayurveda outlines a variety of aromatherapy, gem therapy and herbal remedies for illness and dis-ease.  Yoga does not.
  • Ayurveda is a complete system of medicine (refer to What is Ayurveda? blog).  Yoga is a path of spiritual awakening.  Through the path of yoga is deep healing…mostly because when you feel better you begin to make better choices.

In short, Ayurveda provides us daily, seasonal and age-specific guidelines on how to best live according to our Nature, or constitution.  Ayurveda’s main focus is balancing the physical body and mind.  Yoga’s main focus is balancing the mind and expanding the mind to discover deeper truths about one’s self.  When practiced together, they create a whole system of life science medicine which is practical for anyone, at any stage of health or life.

Examples of conditions transformed through the integration of Yoga and Ayurveda: Emotional conditions, chronic back pain, chronic neck pain, irritable bowl syndrome, acid-reflux disorder/GERD, headaches, migraine headaches, menstrual problems or irregularities, low energy, stress, hypertension, anger, anxiety, neuropathy, lifestyle diseases (diabetes type II, hypertension, obesity), dis-empowering life patterns and habits, underweight, joint pain, post-surgery care, poor concentration and depression.

Benefits of Yoga and Ayurveda:

  • Deep Relaxation
  • Reduced stress & tension
  • Increased self-esteem & confidence
  • Better coordination
  • Weight loss
  • Flexibility
  • Stronger bones and toned muscles
  • Overcoming limiting patterns in your life
  • Breaking habits that do not serve you in your Highest
  • Inner-Peace
  • Balance to your overall Life Knowing your inner Self more intimately
  • Becoming more connected with Nature and its cycles
  • Deeper understanding and living your Dharma (life’s purpose…again, an individual discovery only YOU can uncover)
  • Deeper understanding and integration of the four human goals: Dharma (purpose, duty), Artha (wealth, prosperity), Kama (desires) and Moksha (liberation).

*The fist written records of Ayurveda and Yoga date back to 3,000 BCE

References

Frawley, David.  Yoga & Ayurveda, Self-Healing and Self-Realization. Twin Lakes: Lotus Press, 1999. Print.

Frawley, David.  Ayurveda and the Mind, The Healing of Consciousness.  Twin Lakes: Lotus Press, 1996.  Print.

Note: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This is a reference work.  It is not meant for diagnosis or treatment and it is not substitute for consultation with a licensed health care professional.

 

What does it mean to be “Healthy”?

These days, “yoga” is a household term in the United States, while the term Ayurveda is still unknown.  Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science, is also Sanskrit and means Science or Wisdom of Life.  It is the oldest and most complete holistic mind-body medicine still practiced on this planet.  The ancient texts and complete medical books of Ayurveda are over 5,000 years old!  Yes, even Chinese Medicine has its roots in Ayurveda.  Ayurveda and yoga are two of many ancient wisdom traditions that have laid the successful path of self discovery, awareness and transformation.   Together they are a complementary medical system that helps us to understand ourselves from all levels of existence: physical, emotional, mental, higher/spiritual self and Soul Self.  The image above is a visual guideline of this roadmap showing the interconnectedness between self and others and how your personal health and wellbeing can affect others.

Ayurveda gives us guidance and blue prints of what it means to be a Whole Being.  It is the same map that helps one to understand what it means to be healthy.  This road-map to wholeness and wellbeing is called “Swasthavritta” or the science of being established in one’s self.  Ayurveda acknowledges each person as an unique individual with different needs AND at the same time is part of a massive whole (like the image above).  Ayurveda celebrates the connection of physical, sensory, mental, spiritual AND social wellbeing!  Yes, you heard me right, SOCIAL wellbeing!  Recognizing that individual health is just the starting point and social health is a direct reflection of healthy people coming together in union, or yoga.

You might be asking yourself, “Established in one’s self?  Don’t I live with myself each day?”

True, however, are you at peace and acceptance with yourself each day?  Do you make mindful choices and decisions about food, beverage, recreation, medicine, work and relationships that support your Whole Being and, thus, your family and community’s wellbeing?  Do you know Who you are at the core of your being?  I truly believe that each person on this planet is here to understand this question and to discover it for him or herself.  According to Ayurveda, to be healthy means to have awareness and make choices that support and nurture your Whole Being—body, mind and spirit.

The concept of being established in one’s self as part of a medical system truly paves a way for a global paradigm shift in what it means to be healthy.  Healthy is not just being pain or disease free.  It’s more than that.  Healthy is swasthavritta, being established in one’s self.  Healthy is recognizing that each decision you make affects the whole, including your family and society’s wellbeing.  This ancient wisdom has many keys that can help unlock our current medical structure and evolve medicine to new horizons where people come first, not their disease.

I invite you to take a deeper look at the visual map of whole being, or well-being, above.  May you find many “aha!” moments, healing moments and inner-smiles as you begin to contemplate swasthavritta and your own life.

Aloha & Namaste.

What is Ayurveda?

Airuuveeda? huh?

Let’s start at the beginning.   Say it with  me. “Eye-ru” “Vay-duh”…”eye-ru-vay-duh.”

Ayurveda is a word from the Sanskrit language of old India.   Ayur = Life   Veda = Science, Wisdom or The Way.  Therefore, Ayurveda is the Science of Life.  Its origins date back to 1000-700 B.C.E. and continues to be a tradition of professional practice, research and education world-wide.  In India, it is an inseparable part of the culture and daily living.

Today, the word and practice of yoga is more well known.  In fact, in Southern California where I currently live, yoga has become one of the hottest commodities and businesses.  Ayurveda on the other hand is still relatively unknown.  Traditionally, the practices of Ayurveda and Yoga were inseparable.  Inseparable because Ayurveda is considered to be Yoga’s sister-science.  They are complementary systems that address the whole person, body, mind and spirit towards wise living or how to live a long and healthy life.  The ancient wisdom of Ayurveda informs us of daily health and wellness practices that, like yoga, also relieves the mind and body from attachments, unhealthy desires, habits, stagnation or poor health.

Ayurveda honors you as a whole, unique person (body, mind and spirit) who is deeply connected to nature.  Nature expresses itself slightly differently in each person, thereby creating diversity and individuality of physique, personality and even how you respond to stress.  By determining your particular “constitution,” or prakriti, a well-trained practitioner of Ayurveda can offer specific lifestyle solutions (exercise, yoga poses, stretches, activities, daily routines), dietary recommendations, herbal remedies, breathing exercises, aromatherapy and mantras (or sacred sounds).  In the past, and in most parts of India that I traveled to in 2007, Ayurveda and Yoga are practiced together.  They are practiced together to help bring the whole-body into health, balance and inner peace by reducing suffering, pain and relieving physical and energetic stagnation.  Traditionally, a person would spend years practicing and living a lifestyle as prescribed by a Doctor of Ayurvedic before he/she would begin their path of yoga.

One of the most fascinating things I learned during my formal studies of Ayurveda through the Kerala Ayurveda Academy was how detailed, developed and in-depth Ayurveda medicine is in its original form.  While most Ayurveda, as practiced primarily  in the United States are day-to-day activities and choices each one of us can do, Ayurveda is a whole and complete medical system developed in what is now India by the most enlightened physicians and surgeons.  In its entirety, Ayurveda has eight departments of medicine including:  Internal Medicine, Surgery, Ear, Nose, Eyes and Throat Diseases, Pediatrics, Toxicology, Psychiatry, Science of Rejuvenation and Science of Aphrodisiacs (fertility).  Did you know the first records of plastic surgery, particularly rhinoplasy, come from ancient Ayurveda medical texts dating back to 600 B.C.E.?  Rhinoplasty was used to reconstruct noses damaged in battle.

Like I mentioned earlier, despite its age, Ayurveda is practiced around the world today.  In the United States, Ayurveda is not a licensed practice (at least not yet), so most trained practitioners use Ayurveda in combination with other licenses such as Physical Therapy, Western Biomedicine, Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, Chiropractic Medicine or Massage Therapy.  A few trained in Ayurveda use their certification to start a small business as a health coach or in combination with teaching yoga.  For me, I use Ayurveda with all my clients in-person and long distance via Skype or Google+.

Who is Ayurveda for?  Individuals and families who appreciate being acknowledged as a whole person (not their disease) should consider Ayurveda.  It offers natural ways of treating dis-ease and focuses on promoting health by helping you determine foods, drinks, exercises and other lifestyle solutions that will help you at the root-level of health and well-being.  More importantly for modern times, it is complementary to most western medical treatments.  Herbal remedies should be carefully analyzed for potentially dangerous drug-herb interactions by a qualified licensed healthcare provider.  Because Ayurveda focuses on empowering you to take responsibility for your own well-being, most people find after they integrate individual recommendations they begin to have fewer health issues overall and have more energy for the parts of life they enjoy.

Others who might benefit from Ayurveda include:

  • Parents of children who have chronic health conditions
  • Individuals with chronic health conditions that are not improving under other medical care
  • Individuals who understand the importance of PREVENTION
  • Yoga instructors and other holistic health care practitioners

References:

Textbook of Ayurvedic Medicine. Published by Kerala Ayurveda Academy.  2009.

Frawley, David.  Yoga & Ayurveda, Self-Healing and Self-Realization. Twin Lakes: Lotus Press, 1999. Print.

Svoboda, Robert E. Prakruti, Your Ayurvedic Constitution.  Albuquerque: Geocom Limited, 1989.  Print.

Tiwari, Maya.  Ayurveda, A Life of Balance.  Rochester: Healing Arts Press, 1995.  Print.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This is a reference work.  It is not meant for diagnosis or treatment and it is not substitute for consultation with a licensed health care professional.

What’s your Passion?

Last night I rediscovered “What’s your Passion?” from past blogs on an older website.  On the memorial date that changed the world’s events forever, and thus our lives, I felt it was appropriate to repost it.  Especially now as the spouse of an active duty Marine Corps Infantry Officer, I find this post more meaningful than when I first wrote it.   May you continue to find gratitude in all parts of your life including the stranger or person standing next to you.  Every-body is extraordinary with an extraordinary story.  

February 7, 2010 by Haunani Chong

About two weeks ago I was truly blessed to attend a reception sponsored by the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine with special guest Naomi Judd in San Diego, California.  The reception, titled  “Journey into Healing,” turned out to be spiritually uplifting and confirmed the path I’m walking on now and the path that lies before me.

Starting off as an inspirational speech, inviting doctors to consider the more subtle aspects of whole-being (like emotional and spiritual health), the reception turned into a night of promoting and advocating integrative health and wellness solutions for ALL, including our service men, women and veterans.

Towards the end of an hour-long, interactive, and surprising, funny speech, Miss Judd concluded by reading a letter from her lifelong friend.  Miss Judd’s friend was a mother who watched her son’s life change, transform, and eventually end because he chose to live his life’s purpose (dharma)—serving in our Country’s military.  This letter was brutally honest, heart wrenching and at the same time life-promoting.  What struck my heart-chords the most was the line, “Will my country ever learn to love the way he loved for our country?”  Tears filled my eyes.

For the past two weeks I’ve taken this same question personally.  Will I ever learn to love the way he loved for my country and me?  I am touched by this young gentleman’s selflessness.  He was willing to sacrifice it all for my freedom.  And yours.  My freedom to be here now writing this blog, to attend a post-graduate degree in Asian Medicine, to teach yoga and to have the ability to share my ideas and thoughts in public.  That’s love, unconditional love—to serve in a way that allows others to live their dreams.

So, what’s your love?

My love is humanity.  My love is you.  My love is medicine.  My calling is to serve all of humanity by improving medicine by integrating holistic mind-body solutions into clinics, hospitals and all lives, especially the military system.

Today, I ask you: what do you love so much that you’d be willing to sacrifice it all?