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me stretching out with sun, trees, water — connected to all elements! (Washington DC)

We are first drawn to Ayurveda when looking for new/traditional insights into our holistic health, diet, yoga lifestyle, and depth of self-knowledge. Once we move through the beginning stages of shifting perspective from conventional habits, and learn the way our body-minds express natural elements of earth, water, fire, and air/ether, we can enjoy playing with our diet and lifestyle to alter/improve mood.

At their best, the doshas bring us these qualities:

Pitta (water/fire): ambition, drive, learning, powerful action

Vata (air/ether): creative thinking, cerebral energy, clarity, clairvoyance, dreaminess

Kapha (water/earth): heavy, ponderous thinking, love, greed, attachment (when is greed and attachment desirable? …


Recap of two years of writing on Yoga, Ayurveda, and more yoga

As 2020 wraps and we reflect on what we have experienced together, and in solitude, we can gather our lessons from the past and inspire a renewed vision for the holiday celebrations and new year to come.

I first began writing for Medium in 2018, having just moved from DC to Manhattan. Yoga looked different here in the city, and inspired me to write in between teaching group classes at Equinox and private lessons at home in the Village. …


How to consciously keep your metabolism bright for holidays, winter weather, and the second wave of Covid

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Agni (photo from the mantle above my fireplace;Washington DC, 2015)

I believe in yoga as a state of being — more than an activity, a destination, or even a style of living. Its sister tradition, Ayurveda (ayur= life; veda = knowledge), guides yogis in shaping daily habits into sacred, uplifting, healing practices that bring the practitioner in tune with the natural world we connect with during practice.

As the changeability of fall gives way to the steady cold weather of winter, we can keep our body-mind awake and in balanced health by turning up our inner fire. Here are my favorite ways of keeping my Agni burning bright:

Movement

Bring more dynamic, powerful movement into your practices. On the mat, you can work on jumping higher and lighter in your Ashtanga vinyasa transitions, focusing on the strength of your arm balances, and working with dynamic transitions such as drop backs for backbends and drop overs for headstands. …


living yoga and loving life.

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me.

When I am not practicing yoga, teaching yoga, reading, thinking, and writing about yoga, then you’ll find me running, playing tennis or singing with my guitar, gardening, and making beautiful plant based meals. But really, it all comes down to yoga.

My first memory is of my father showing me how to sit in padmasana, lotus pose, the classic seat of the Buddha and every yogi, ever. He doesn’t remember that day. I don’t know why I do — I hadn’t yet learned to walk, don’t have any other memories from that time, but that moment was, and is, golden to me. …


Creating clear intention and sacred space each and every time

Yoga has evolved through every era of human culture, from its ancient origins as secret, spoken teachings, then codified texts taught to royals and seekers, then an increasingly physical system that spread throughout India into group-fitness-loving global culture today. With the pandemic, yoga has evolved yet again, this time reclaiming its roots as a singular pursuit of an individual who values mind-body health and harmony.

Practicing at home is a skill in itself. I had the opportunity to learn this when I was very small, preparing for classical Indian dance performances since age 6, all the way through practicing to perform at Madison Square Garden at age 17. Those years of daily practice eased me into daily practice of Ashtanga, first primary series and now Second. I practice every day at home, and am always looking forward to it. …


Working with the yogic practice of Pratyahara, and your vision, to See clearly

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me practicing Ashtanga; photo by Carly Arnwine

Of all the infinite energies of our environment, our experience of life is determined by what we choose to perceive. We notice our role in our own experience of life when we draw our senses back from their favorite reaches. And when we see the nature of our particular relationship dynamic with the sensory world, we are no longer burdened with the feelings of “why me” or “this is happening again”. Instead, we are empowered to explore who we are, and to be artistic in the way we shape our lives.

Humans are sensual: we live our lives through our senses, and each of us experiences the world differently, based on how we have trained and enjoy our senses, our sensitivities to colors, shapes, nuances of light, of movement — and this is just in our vision, which we can choose to deemphasize, as a musician may close her eyes to sing powerful high tones. …


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me in Bakasana (Crane pose; often mistranslated as “Crow”)

Our favorite habits as grown-up humans are twofold: one, ignoring the invisible and two, forgetting to marvel at what we see often. Watch a child and remember how we forget that a plane in flight is awe-inspiring, because it seems to defy gravity, the immense and invisible force field that we ignore instead of harness.

Airplanes are designed to defy gravity by harnessing the fluids nature of air: Bernouli’s principle is basic physics, and human will can direct air flow for flight. Breathing is not different. With intentional will, each of us is able to direct the volume and pressure of air flowing through us. …


What brought us here and how Aparigraha can empower what is still to come

All of human history is a sine curve of action and reaction. To see the points of interest with clarity and context, we need to look at the lulls that created and followed the high points. Yoga and Buddhism are peaking now, and to understand the power of their philosophy, we can look to the conditions that created them.

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According to the first texts, yoga is stilling of the mind: what we call meditation and associate with Buddhism today

Arguably the most famous yogi of all time, the Buddha was a visionary and a rebel: having grown up in Vedic India, with the medical education and and yogic disciplines befitting a prince, he left his royal roots to wander the forests like an ascetic. With the enlightenment he reached through meditation, the foundational technique of ancient yoga, the Buddha codified and embodied his popular teachings: the 4 noble truths and the eightfold path. …


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Me and my phone.

Ancient yoga philosophy is an entrance into another world, a land before time was standardized. It was possible to live as a nomad — not a digital nomad but a hunting and gathering nomad, spending long stretches of time in contemplative solitude without books or music, wandering in and out of the forest ashrams of sages. Yogic teachers were sought out by kings and warriors; women had an almost 2000 year long wait before being accepted as students.

When yoga was being taught and practiced in ancient India, books and yoga mats were not even on the scene: students sat in mountain and forest ashrams with teachers and learned directly, unlimited by the now-normal framework of 60 minute classes schedules between zoom meetings and coffee dates. Yoga life, before hashtags and green juices and studio-to-street loungewear, was natural in the very core sense of the word: immersed in the dangers and distractions of nature as we, comfortable in our landscaped cities and suburbs, will never know it. …


Drawing on holistic and dualistic perspectives to elevate your yogic potential

Yoga originated long before the dualistic perspective, and monotheism, went global. To understand what yoga can be today and in the future, we need to expand our minds to conceive of a wholeness that surpasses the limitations of dualities to encompass theory/practice, science/art, observable/invisible, physical/mystical, surface/depth, popular/esoteric, discipline/drop-in.

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Yoga postures require balance of strength and length in the body, focus and expansive awareness in the mind (me practicing at home in East Village, NYC)

A good middle ground between duality and the all-encompassing Oneness is another principle of traditional Indian knowledge: Lasya, and Tandav. Central to the theory and practice of India’s classical dance forms (which are as old and enlightening as yoga), Laysa is the feminine principle of grace and Tandav the masculine principle of power. …

About

Megna Paula

unconventional + intellectual | yogi | artist | duke alum | east village nyc | teaching: megnapaula.com and philosophy: consciousandcurious.com

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