.Sitting Up Straight and Eating it Raw With Heather Haxo Phillips

East Bay yoga/raw-foods instructor encourages wellness in body and mind.

As the child of a food-loving father, Heather Haxo Phillips learned to appreciate fine cuisine. She grew up struggling with her weight, growing ever more fearful while watching her father’s diabetes worsen.

Then she discovered Iyengar yoga. Devised by Indian-born Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar, who has been teaching yoga since 1937, it’s an all-access modality meant to be practiced by people of all ages, sizes, and fitness levels. Pounds melted off, and ten years ago, Phillips became a certified instructor. But another piece of the wellness puzzle was still missing. She found it in Jericho.

On a visit to the ancient Jordan River city, she read a book that she had popped into her luggage at the last minute. It was Victoria Boutenko‘s 12 Steps to Ending Your Dependency on Cooked Foods. “I didn’t know anything about raw food,” Phillips said. “All I knew was that if I didn’t make some serious changes in my life I was going to end up like my dad, conked out on the dining-room floor” in a diabetic coma. “I read the book and said for the first and only time in my life, ‘This is going to change my life.’ I figured it was auspicious to have such clarity in the sacred deserts of Jericho.”

Switching to a 100 percent raw diet, “I felt so much more awake and alive,” she said. Attending culinary school and qualifying as a raw-food chef, Phillips now teaches raw-food preparation throughout the Bay Area. She also teaches yoga; an Iyengar intensive at Adeline Yoga Studio (3320 Adeline St., Berkeley) from Saturday through Monday, September 4-6, incorporates postures, mostly raw meals, and discussions of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

These ancient sutras, which Phillips considers “the world’s oldest and best self-help book,” offer insights into “how your brain gets you into trouble,” revealing how to avoid unreachable desires while accepting real-world stresses peacefully.

Now 92, “Mr. Iyengar teaches that the only way to find peace in the mind is through finding peace in the body, by getting the body to become quiet instead of constantly complaining to you. … Iyengar yoga lets people see not just with their eyes, but with the rest of their bodies as well.” Stimulating body parts to “reactivate” them, Iyengar yoga targets mental and physical pain.

“It’s hard to stay depressed once your chest opens up,” Phillips said. “If you sit slumped over, you feel dark and heavy. But if you sit up really tall, get a lot of length in your trunk, and raise your arms over your head,” that lifts your mood, she said.

Phillips aims to give students “simple, practical tools.” Iyengar yoga can be practiced by anyone “in class, at home, and on the road.” With a date/nut crust here and an avocado filling there, “raw food is simple, too. … I want to help people move from a place of dis-ease to a place of ease, in their bodies and minds.” Sat.-Sun. 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Sun. 9 a.m.-noon. Sliding scale $150-$200 for all classes and two meals, $25-$40 per class. AdelineYogaStudio.com

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