Native American traditions and yoga combine for a holistic holiday
With all the hustle and bustle involved with the holiday season, it's easy to lose sight of why we're doing it all. Shopping, cooking, decorating -- among other things on the to-do list -- can easily pile up and cause unneeded stress during the "most wonderful time of the year."
Having so much to do within so little time can quickly cause an imbalance in the lives of even the most skilled holiday veterans.
It's this imbalance that Dennis Hawk, a Native American spiritual teacher and yoga workshop leader, seeks to help others correct. Hawk, a Cherokee and Mesquaki descendant, combines the healing practices of yoga with Native American teachings as a way to help promote an overall sense of well-being and connection to the natural world.
"In today's society, especially with all the technology we use, we get disconnected from the natural world," he says. "We as people have a yearning to reconnect with that."
To help address this, Hawk has developed workshops that uniquely combine the physical expression of yoga and Reiki practices with his spiritual teachings, which use a combination of music and Native American spiritualism.
"Yoga and Native American teachings fit so well together," he notes. "The concepts used in East Indian and Native American spiritual practices aren't so far apart."
Hawk holds regular workshops and performances across the state of Wisconsin. His most recent local performances, which were held at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center and The Healing Place in Mequon this past weekend, centered on the celebration of the winter solstice and its meanings within the natural progression of life and the seasons.
"For Native Americans, the four parts of the medicine wheel emphasize the seasonal changes and directions, and use animal symbols to help represent those," says Hawk. "With 500 nations, they're all different, and each tribe has different ways of approaching it."
As is the case with many aspects of Native American spirituality, Hawk's teachings also rely heavily on metaphor to convey his message.
"I help people understand the movement into each season using the metaphor of the bear," Hawk says. "The bear is a beautiful symbol of recreation, because it gives birth to its new cubs while it hibernates. This new life then leads the way through hibernation to the spring."
Last week's workshops also featured simultaneous Reiki practice, a spiritual technique that seeks to transfer energy through the palms of practitioners' hands.
"It's very interactive," says Hawk. "It's almost inducing a dream state to raise conscious awareness of the season changes and winter. Being indoors, we never really experience winter. My teachings ceremonially welcome in the winter in a process of rest and renewal."
As a yoga workshop leader, Hawk performs regularly with yoga jams -- sessions of live music and yoga practice -- but also uses music to facilitate the message in his other performances, including the celebration of the winter solstice.
While he is primarily a Native American flute player and flute maker, Hawk also performs on guitar, sings and writes his own music. He has made over 700 flutes since his interest in the instrument began.
"My wife's cousin played a flute concert, and it just caught me," he says of his beginnings in the art. "I looked up the maker, and he helped me begin to make flutes. I have about seven flutes I take with me everywhere, and they all have their own story and voice."
Much like his teachings, his flutes have their own metaphors.
"They all have a different voice, which is part of the beauty of them," says Hawk. "The flute represents our own pipes; it represents our breath. When I'm playing, that's prayer."
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