Danielle Ryan, MS
Hi! I’m Danielle Ryan, founder of Samana Wellness and passionate supporter of Whole Life Health. I realize that to effectively be of service in our work, families, and communities, we must continually replenish ourselves, so I have dedicated my life to empowering others toward authentic wellbeing. I have a Master of Science degree in Holistic Nutrition, and am a certified yoga instructor with 14 years of experience facilitating cleanses. My background in Ayurveda, Adventure Therapy, and Experiential Education, has shaped my outlook on life and provided me with a wide variety of tools for inspiring change.
A Little More About Me
When I was a kid, my father encouraged me to do what I love. As an adult, I am incredibly grateful for his advice, as I feel so fulfilled by my life every single day. I started teaching at a very early age offering creative assignments to all my dolls and stuffed animals. While I don’t teach in classrooms very often these days, I consider myself an educator in the study of healthy living, which I call Whole-Life-Health. I thrive from assisting others in discovering and implementing what they love into the rhythm of their daily lives. I aim to allow my life to be my message by living the principles and practices that I teach, since as Emerson so aptly said,
“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Why not? After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1999, I took off traveling West across the country and around the globe. After about six months, I found myself craving more stability and wanting to settle into a home. It was fall, and Hawaii seemed like the perfect place to land. I was drawn to the whales and dolphins, rainbows, rainforest, waterfalls, and the spirit of aloha that pervades these islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
That’s how I got here, but I stayed because I am best able to be myself here. There is more happening on Maui than the small town where I grew up, and there are limitless ways to adventure from hiking, to surfing, to stand-up paddle boarding to ecstatic dance. My soul loves the pace of life, and my skin loves the perfect humidity. I am now married to an organic permaculture farmer who finds Maui’s climate very supportive for year-round food growing. I am thrilled about that as I find tremendous joy in preparing and eating freshly picked vegetables!
For many years, I worked as an adventure guide leading people of all ages on wilderness excursions throughout the world. From backpacking in Alaska, scuba diving Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, whitewater rafting in Nepal, and kayaking the coasts of these beautiful Hawaiian Islands, I thrived communing with others in nature as we challenged ourselves to move beyond our comfort zones. During one trip, I went 26 days without a shower. (Ok, I was in the ocean almost every day, so it wasn’t quite as gross as it sounds.) While my spirit loved these pursuits, my body cracked and popped every time I moved. I knew if I wanted to be active for the rest of my life, which of course I did, I was going to have to make some changes.
One day, I had a premonition that I would become a yoga teacher. I laughed out loud because in the one yoga class I had attended in college, the only pose I could contort my body into was savasana (deep relaxation lying on the floor flat on my back). Now I know that I wasn’t even doing that pose properly, because my mind wasn’t calm. Even though the thought of me becoming yoga teacher was about as far-fetched as my becoming a professional basketball player, I decided to check it out.
While I started practicing yoga to address the physical tension I had cultivated from years of pushing my body as an athlete, what kept me coming back to class was the spiritual component. My teachers read passages and told stories that I was certain were chosen just for me, because the messages they conveyed were so relevant to the internal struggles I was experiencing at that very moment. It didn’t take long before I was hooked. I still couldn’t touch my toes, or do half of the actions they were instructing me to do, but I was using lots of props and benefitting in ways beyond measure. Eventually I did complete two yoga teacher trainings in 2005 and 2007, and have been committed to learning new things about my body and my mind in daily practice ever since.
My Yoga Teachers
In recent years, I have primarily studied Raja Yoga with Myra Lewin, and have assisted her in numerous yoga teacher trainings. I have studied extensively in the Iyengar tradition with a variety of teachers including Deni Roman, Laura Antelmi, and Kay Huckabee. I have also participated in numerous Maya Yoga intensives with Nicki Doane and Eddie Modestini, and have enjoyed classes with many of their great students. I can honestly say that I have learned something useful from every yoga class I have ever attended. My greatest teacher has been my breath, and learning to listen and attend to my specific needs during my yoga practice as well as in my life off my mat.
Why I Became a Nutritionist
It would be safe to say that I have always been deeply interested in food. As a kid, I was more interested in certain types of foods than others, as most children are. By my early teens, I was packing my own (relatively healthy) lunch for school, a practice that continued until I went to boarding school my junior year. This transition was the beginning of a dark period in my eating choices as I remember way too many meals consisting of lucky charms and cappuccino chillers. Yikes! Luckily, I regained my senses in college and starting cooking more and more healthy meals, and became a real foodie. One of my friends and I used to take turns preparing meals for each other always aiming to concoct the most authentic ethnic dish, or the most gourmet of gourmet. Around this same time, I began to see the social implications of food and eating, and how in our culture we really vote with our dollars. I started shopping at the local health food stores, buying organic as much as possible. Yes it costs more, but the way I see it, we pay now for prevention or we pay later when disease culminates.
I was particularly drawn to study Holistic Nutrition at Hawthorn University because I see myself as an educational bridge making it possible for people to move closer toward living the life of their dreams by taking responsibility for how they feel. How is this related you ask? When we feel well, we have more energy, and a clearer vantage point from which to take a look at what is and is not working in our lives. When we don’t feel well, we do our best to just get by. In my experience, what I put in my body (food, beverages, substances) directly affects how I feel. So with my nutritional counseling practice, I assist people first to assess how they feel, then to determine what they are willing to change, and finally in the co-creation of a plan that feels manageable and appropriate for each person’s specific needs. As client’s start to feel better, have more energy and are more in tune with themselves, then we can take a look at what other parts of life might need a makeover.
Ayurveda Just Made Sense
In my studies with Myra Lewin, I found that Ayurveda just made sense to me, so I enrolled in an Ayurvedic Healing Course through the American Institute of Vedic Studies designed by leading Ayurvedic scholar David Frawley. The ancient system of Ayurveda guides us toward balance through remembering that we are a part of nature. Ayurvedic science has helped me recognize that every impression we consume through our senses has an effect on our wellbeing. In other words, every choice I make feeds either health or disease, and that at the end of the day, month, year, or lifetime what I have fed is what I have become. This awareness of choice empowers me to be the best person I can be, and so it is my goal as a certified Ayurvedic Lifestyle Counselor to empower you to make choices to support your Whole Life Health too.
The Role of Samana Wellness
I know that as I change the things I can control which usually only involve me, I gain a fresh perspective on everything else. So, I created Samana Wellness as a vehicle for world change, at the slow pace of one grateful person at a time. Changing lives is incredibly rewarding work that requires patience, persistence, and great honesty. Whether the spark ignites in a retreat or on Skype, in ten days or over the course of three years, I absolutely love being a part of the transformation process.
“The only thing we really have is now.”
– Albert Einstein