Levitating Monkey: Being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age 30, why did you decide to turn to Ayurveda and Yoga to heal yourself?
Myra Lewin: I had been dealing with a range of digestive and health issues long before I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. I had pain in my joints from the time I was seven, but doctors never gave me any reasons or ways to make it go away. I was desperate to be healthy, but my thinking was oriented toward modern medicine. During my teenage years, after a decade of unsuccessfully working with doctors to find solutions that didn’t make me feel worse than the problems, I decided I would go to medical school to change the system. I worked in hospitals during and after college, and I could see that something was missing from the way we regarded health in our country, but I didn’t know what it could be.
I began to explore alternative therapies. I became a vegetarian in my 20s and added a few other components into my life. But it was really at age 30, when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis that I started to see that something bigger had to change if I was to avoid a life of medication and pain. I learned about Yoga and meditation, and saw tremendous differences immediately in my body and mind. My Yoga teacher suggested I cook with ghee to help my joints. I was skeptical, but I tried it and felt more supple and lubricated than I had since I was very young. I was drawn to study Ayurveda and learn more about the eating and living practices that invite health. Each step I took brought me closer to the health I knew I was meant to enjoy.
Ayurveda puts us in the driver’s seat of our health. We need Ayurvedic practitioners to guide us, but it’s up to us as individuals to monitor the effect of our choices. Taking back my personal power has been the most healing aspect of Ayurveda for me and for so many clients and students I’ve worked with in the past three decades. This is the missing link in modern medicine that I and so many others have been awaiting.
Levitating Monkey: What led you to start Hale Pule Ayurveda and Yoga in 1999? Why did you choose the beautiful landscape of Kaua’i, Hawaii as your backdrop?
Myra Lewin: I did not begin studying Ayurveda (or Yoga for that matter) in order to teach, but I feel that they are gifts that I am able to share with others who feel as powerless in the face of their health as I once was. These teachings have given me so much that it seems natural to spread the light as widely as possible.
I started Hale Pule Ayurveda and Yoga to offer an experience of living in line with the Vedas. There are a lot of people adapting the teachings to fit the modern day, but at Hale Pule, we focus on adapting the modern day to fit the classical teachings. It’s easier than you might think. By sticking with the essence of the texts and keeping things simple and practical, our hope is that anyone, anywhere can experience Ayurveda and Yoga.
Kaua’i was a natural backdrop for this work, because the pace of living is moderate, the weather is moderate and we are surrounded by nature, which supports deeper spiritual connection. Kaua’i is the essence of sattva (balance and harmony). I enjoy it and people find great benefit in coming here.
Levitating Monkey: What led you to write your books, Freedom in Your Relationship with Food and Simple Ayurvedic Recipes? (What is one of your favorite recipes that we all should try?)
Myra Lewin: When I decided to write these books, I was working with many people who were struggling to have any kind of positive relationship with food. People didn’t cook, they ate irregularly and often compulsively. Few had any sense of connection to what they ate and it was causing tremendous mental and physical pain. I wanted to bring back the sacred aspect of eating, but to do it in a way that was easy for anyone to implement. I wrote Freedom in Your Relationship with Food to assist people in transitioning from mainstream living toward a health-giving diet and lifestyle. The principles are from Ayurveda, but the content reaches people who have never heard of Ayurveda. Simple Ayurvedic Recipes came shortly thereafter as a companion guide for eating and cooking.
My hope is that people will use these concepts around how to eat and what to cook as a foundation for living in a simple, supported way. My aim is not to deliver a rigid set of recipes or principles, but to open people up to the creative energy that is naturally within. Wonderful things flow from this point.
My favorite recipe is a simple combination of split mung and rice, a sort of kitchadi that I make in a rice cooker. It is so nourishing and yummy. I could eat it every day:
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 1/3 cup split mung beans
- 2 Tbsp. ghee
- 1/2 tsp. grated ginger
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. cumin powder or ground seeds
- 1/2 tsp. fennel powder
Heat the ghee in a small pan over medium heat. Add the spices and simmer until the aroma comes up. Put everything in a rice cooker with 3 cups water and turn it on. Stir before serving. I like to add a little fresh chopped mint on top in the summer.
Levitating Monkey: I read about how you have been come to be known as the “baby whisperer”. Can you tell us a bit more about the amazing success you have had with assisting couples through the use of Ayurveda to overcome infertility issues?
Myra Lewin: Modern living has had a significant effect on couples’ ability to have children. This has roots on the physical level, as toxins from what we eat build up in our bodies, but more importantly, the problem lives in the mind and emotions. Many of my clients who want to get pregnant are often trying to squeeze a child into an already overbooked life. This results in resistance to getting pregnant and makes raising a child much less fun.
About 10 years ago I had a few clients who were desperate to get pregnant. I created an Ayurvedic approach to working with couples experiencing infertility that addressed their unique physical and mental/emotional needs. This includes prayer, mantra and meditation, as well as changes to ahar (diet), vihar (lifestyle) and modified versions of Ayurveda’s traditional panchakarma treatments. I work with both the man and woman to bring balance to their systems on all levels so they can conceive naturally and their home environment is more supportive for the development of the baby. The clients who follow this method not only get pregnant, they have easy pregnancies and deliveries and enjoy stability as they transition into the kind of life that allows a child to thrive.
It’s such a pleasure to get so many holiday cards with pictures of the beautiful children who were born into homes where Ayurveda and meditation are being practiced. It is a blessing to be born into such a home and I’m honored to play a part.
Levitating Monkey: As a NAMA-certified PACE (Professional Ayurvedic Continuing Education) Yoga Alliance Continuing Education provider, what recommendations can you provide to those interested in studying Ayurveda, and where and how to start?
Myra Lewin: There are many good books on Ayurveda available today, and I enjoy reading the different perspectives to deepen my clinical practice. But there is nothing that compares to stepping out of an academic approach to Ayurveda and embracing experiential learning. This was the inspiration for developing two of our signature programs: A State of Health: Getting Started with Ayurveda and our 600-hour Ayurvedic health counselor program. The first is geared toward a person who just wants to make small changes in their life to feel better. In 10 videos, we share simple ways to apply Ayurveda. It may sound basic to chew your food and turn off the television while you eat, but these kinds of shifts are life-changing.
We use A State of Health as the first lesson in our 600-hour Ayurvedic health counselor program because we believe that anyone who wants to guide others on the path to Ayurveda must have this style of living as their foundation, and a surprising number of practitioners do not. Once students move deeper into the program, they learn how to apply these principles to others in a clinical setting, going far beyond an academic approach. Our clients come to us with real challenges from real life. We cannot give them a response we have memorized from a textbook. We must use the principles of Ayurveda, our intuition and our personal experience to help them see what is in the way of them feeling better. From there, incredible transformations are possible.
Levitating Monkey: Seeing as Ayurveda is all about finding one’s individual balance, what three Ayurvedic daily tips or recommendations can you offer those looking to live healthy and happy lives?
Myra Lewin: First, set a dinacharya (daily routine) to create a rhythm for your day. This should include waking before 6:00 a.m. and getting to bed by 10:00 p.m., setting regular meal times and establishing a routine of self-care practices (such as gargling warm water, scraping your tongue, neti/nasya, etc.). Doing so aligns your body to the rhythms of nature and puts your health front and center in your life.
Next, chew your food! Digestion begins in your mouth, but most people chew just enough to be able to swallow. When food is not chewed well, the rest of the digestive process cannot function. Undigested food sits in the small intestine and rots until it can be passed through the colon. This leads to a host of issues that are easily prevented by chewing your food until it is liquid.
Finally, eat three meals a day without snacking. Snacking between meals is like leaving your car running all day long — it taxes your system and will lead to a breakdown. Give your body a routine of eating and not eating and it will serve you much better.
Levitating Monkey: Can you share with us how you make your amazing Hale Pule hand blended herbal formulas for balance? (If there is one you could recommend for all the different dosha types, which would it be and why?)
Myra Lewin: The beautiful thing about Ayurveda is that it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The herbs I select for a choorna (herbal blend) are based on the information that a person gives me in a consultation. The blend takes into account many factors, including a person’s current state of imbalance, how and what they are eating, their environment and other internal and external factors. However, we also make a few standard choornas that work well for most people. Our Super Ojas blend is good for general rejuvenation for anyone experiencing low energy or exhaustion.
Levitating Monkey: Can you tell us a bit more about your Ayurvedic Chef Training Course and what students learn?
Myra Lewin: Our Ayurvedic chef training is one of my favorite programs to teach. I love seeing the transformation as students learn about the healing principles of Ayurvedic food. Over two weeks, we teach them how to understand the qualities in food and ways to create balance and harmony in every meal they make. We also teach about the principles of agni (digestive fire) and how to cook in a way that keeps this fire burning at a steady pace. This means being mindful about combining too many heavy foods (such as nuts and cheese) and using spices appropriately.
Students learn how to cook for a crowd, meal planning, ways to support illness recovery and how to build a business doing all this. But my favorite aspect of this training is showing the students the most important ingredient in any meal: the chef’s energy. We teach simple tools so an Ayurvedic chef can stay grounded and replenish their energy when they are feeling depleted. Being present while you are cooking is what turns a meal into medicine.
Levitating Monkey: As an Ayurvedic and Yoga Practitioner and Teacher, how do you feel these two ancient sciences compliment one another?
Myra Lewin: Ayurveda teaches that the main cause of disease is disconnection from our higher self. This is what causes us to do damaging things, like eating food that we know is junk. Yoga gives us specific tools, such as pranayama, meditation and asana, that support the path back to the God of our heart. When we are connected, we can be more conscious about the effects of our choices and decide to live in a more balanced state, which is what Ayurveda is all about. Better choices lead to more spiritual opening, and the cycle continues.
Students of Yoga need Ayurveda as a guide for balanced living. Students of Ayurveda need Yoga to connect to the divine energies that balanced living needs. They have always been meant to work together.
Levitating Monkey: This last question is one we ask all our Experts to respond to, as it’s our way of providing a bit of uniformity to all our interviews. If you could impart three key life lessons to others on their (spiritual) path, what would they be and why?
1. Life is a process, there is no place to get to. We can avoid many detours in life when we recognize that there isn’t an endpoint. Set goals, but remember that there will always be another one later.
2. Acceptance and forgiveness are essential elements of a life of purpose. A daily (or moment-to-moment) practice is what allows us to enjoy life fully. This practice gives us freedom from attachment and the opportunity to grow.
3. Relationships make up life. Whether it is our relationship with nature, family, co-workers, food or our dog, being present with something other than ourselves supports us knowing our Self and the God of our heart. Enjoy these relationships and work on actively improving all of them.
About Myra Lewin:
Myra Lewin has studied and practiced Ayurveda and Yoga for more than 20 years. She is a professional member of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA), author of two books, Freedom in Your Relationship with Food and Simple Ayurvedic Recipes, and a frequent presenter at international conferences. Myra has guided thousands of people to reclaim their natural state of health through consultations, treatments, workshops and retreats. She has extensive experience working with clients on a range of health issues, including digestive disorders, mental health, weight management, fertility, addiction recovery and autoimmune disorders.
Since 1999, Myra has conducted Yoga and Ayurveda teacher trainings and mentored people to apply in-depth concepts in Yogic living to support a more balanced and bountiful life. She offers a 600-hour Ayurvedic health counselor program and leads workshops and trainings on online and on the beautiful island of Kaua’i. Visit halepule.com to learn more.