It is no secret that the people of Hawaii live longer, are less stressed and are happier than residents of any other state in the US. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Aloha State is not just living longer but they are getting happier as time goes by. So what gives?
This article takes a different spin at exploring “Hawaiian Longevity” through the lens of the ancient teachings of yoga. Yoga, Sanskrit in origin and born in India, is a universal phenomenon that people of every culture in every part of the globe experience, often times unconsciously. Yoga is often described as connection. The ancient seers of India wanted to describe it as a state of “being” that happens when the busy mind gets quiet. They taught that when the noisy mind settles down and a quiet mind emerges a “connection” is made, a yoke or “Yoga”. A connection to what you might wonder? A connection to your Best Self: the individual self with its larger self, or one could say the individual self with that which dwells inside your own heart.
This “plug in” or “hook up” is the act of yoga itself and it immerses one into the present moment removed from thoughts of past or future. Let’s look at an example. Can you recall a time you witnessed a glorious sunset or sunrise? Can you recall the colors of the sky, the feeling in and around your body? Can you recall that brief, wondrous moment in time…where “time stood still?”. vAnd existing in that moment was a sense of pure presence; no thoughts of past or future? Ahh…that is the experience of yoga…a connection, a line up, a plug-in to something highe beyond words, but undeniably leaves one with feelings of contentment, joy, and peace.
One of the strongest features of Hawaii is the raw, natural, and captivating beauty that is present everywhere one looks. Furthermore, if one is to see beyond the eyes, one can begin to sense the “mana” or spiritual essence of this land. The beauty seen with the eyes coupled with the “mana” felt in the heart, is a powerful way to pull a busy mind towards quietude. It is at the doorways of quietude that those repetitive stories and random thoughts begin to fade. That fading reveals the true nature of one’s spirit: peaceful, whole and happy.
These deeper connections with “life” yielding a calmer mind and happier disposition might just be the longevity recipe people are looking for. The current research on centenarians, (people who are 100 years of age or older) demonstrate time and time again that the number one commonality for living long is happiness. Yes some of those people may have “super genes” and are at an advantage, but the research clearly shows that these centenarians are happy, they have a positive attitude, and are grateful. In the Hawaiian language it could be that these people lived “aloha” (joyfully sharing the breath of life) and in the Indian language it could be that these people were practicing “yoga” even if they didn’t realize it. Yoga, in this sense, is not the kind where you touch your toes, but the literal meaning of radical presence due to a less turbulent mind that is connected to a joyous breath.
“Lucky We Live Hawaii” is the truth. The island whether we know it or not, beckons us each day to sit up and take notice of it’s wonder. This wonder is filled with health beneficial magic of longevity. But how can we learn how to savor and prolong that “wondrous magic” at the same time extracting every bit of its last essence?
There is a global sense that you don’t have to live in Hawaii to extract a wonderful moment of magic. There is a global movement that there are things (not just diet) you can do to live a longer, happier and more meaningful life. That movement is called Yoga, and it’s happening in classes, trainings, retreats and festivals all over the world.
Many people today are interested in learning how to tap, savor and prolong the wonder of each moment by learning how to slow down the mind. They are doing this through yoga postures, breath and meditation. The yogis knew a long time ago that a fast-paced and overloaded mind equated to an over-stimulated nervous system. It is difficult to digest your food, relax your heart rate and take in the beauty of each moment if your nervous system is stressed out and on “overdrive.”
Although stress is universal and affects everyone, there are choices we can make and things we can do to authentically slow down, relax and “plug in.” The Hawaiian Islands naturally beckon such an attitude. What if we cultivated this more often? What if we were more conscious and mindful of each moment? If we could learn how to savor moments more, what would that mean — not just for quality of life but for our own longevity?
Jennifer has been certified in the health and fitness industry since 1995, and in 2000 she moved exclusively towards yoga. She is currently a senior student of Dr. Paul Muller-Ortega’s yoga, tantric and meditation-based-studies. Jennifer has been offering RYT teacher training on Oahu since 2008. Her signature class includes a blend of philosophy, mantra, flow, and alignment.