100 PORTRAITS Yoga

Beryl Bender Birch | Nantucket Yoga Festival Interview

May 22, 2016

A Delicious Lifestyle | Beryl Bender Birch

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It’s THAT time of year again. Spring. It’s almost Memorial Day. Nantucket has come alive and we are facing a(nother) summer season. Our beautiful island’s magnetic abilities increase exponentially and people are drawn from near and far. The island expands, homes are open, people walk or bike to and fro carrying their yoga mats, and the Nantucket Yoga Festival is almost upon us. As always, the line up is impressive and the classes taught by visiting yogis and yoginis are exciting! Last year, one of our highlights was Beryl Bender Birch.

 

Credited with being one of the leading American yoginis dedicated to spreading awareness of Ashtanga Yoga (or “Power Yoga”), Beryl Bender Birch is a best-selling author (Power Yoga and Yoga for Warriors: Basic Training in Strength, Resilience & Peace of Mind), and Founder and Director of The Hard & Soft Yoga Institute. http://www.power-yoga.com. Beryl taught at the 2015 Nantucket Yoga Festival http://nantucketyogafestival.com and I was delighted to have a conversation with her about her path to yoga and how she leads A Delicious Lifestyle.

 

What does “A Delicious Lifestyle” mean to you?   

Doing exactly what you love and loving what you do – being surrounded by friends, animals, like-minded individuals who care about the earth and all the species that inhabit our beloved planet.  Delicious is whatever I’m doing – sitting on my meditation cushion, or making the bed, or writing a book, or slicing yams for dehydrating for my dogs, mowing the lawn, or teaching asana – all delicious – how lucky am I?

How did you journey from neurofeedback research to yoga?  

I started meditation practice with Choyam Trungpa Rimpoche and Munishree Chitrabhanu in San Francisco and New York, respectively, in l971.  Biofeedback, as neurofeedback was called back then, was yoga – it was teaching people how to pay attention, get their attention in present time, and develop control of the autonomic nervous system; just as yoga does. Shortly after beginning to practice meditation, I stumbled into asana after tripping up some steps on the UCLA campus on my way to a Baba Ram Das lecture.  I sat down, saw a poster advertising “kundalini yoga” with Yogi Bhajan (l971), took the 8 week course, and then went on to study Sivananda Yoga and Iyengar yoga for the next 10  years, before discovering Pattabhi Jois’s astanga yoga with my teacher, Norman Allen, in l979.

What are the benefits of a regular practice?  

The answer to this can only be known through regular practice and it applies to anything one wants to master.

What draws you specifically to Ashtanga Yoga?  

Initially, the physicality, the athleticism and beauty of the form and the sequences as well as the therapeutic benefits when it is taught mindfully and progressively – What draws me to Ashtanga, or classical yoga, the 8 limbed path, is the brilliance of the methodology and its applicability today.

Do you have any advice in the busy world for a healthy lifestyle?  

Eat real food, mostly plants, (which means eat a plant-based diet), exercise daily (walk, bike, hike, swim, play tennis, etc), develop a regular asana practice, meditate regularly, make time for friends and family, be happy, cultivate compassion and joyfulness, have a practice (any kind of spiritual practice), and eschew anything that is a product of factory farming.

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Clearly Beryl appreciates A Delicious Lifestyle…

When you need to shift your mood, what techniques do you use?  

Breathing!!  Take a breath.  The Ashtanga Pranayama practices (from my teacher Norman Allen) – and Tibetan Buddhist and Jain meditation techniques – learned from my meditation teachers Choyam Trungpa Rimpoche and Munishree Chitrabhanu.

On a busy day, what choices would you make for your health if you only had:

10 minutes:  Breathe and walk, drink water

30 minutes:  Sun Salutation, breathe, walk, drink water

60 minutes:  Asana practice (or walk, bike, or swim), drink water

Do we notice a theme of Drinking Water???

Do you have any “Go To” Health Tips (or tricks to keep yourself motivated???)?  

Surround yourself with like minded individuals (as far as levels of consciousness goes) and people who enhance your magnificence – practice with a sanga – whether walking or hiking or swimming or biking or asana-ing – always great to have friends around.

What are some of your favorite Healthy Eating choices?   

Depends on the season – Early summer?  Real food, avocados, kale, swiss chard, kohlrabi, purple carrots, turnips, acorn squash, radishes, black beans and rice, homemade corn tortillas, homemade granola with a little maple syrup and coconut oil – OMG – it goes on, fresh organic raspberries from my neighbors bushes, fresh organic strawberries, champagne mangos, blueberrries just coming into season…

 

How does yoga help us as we age?  

Ask anyone who is aging!!!

For tickets and more information about the 2016 Nantucket Yoga Festival – follow this link: http://nantucketyogafestival.com/

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