Home » Community Posts

Category: Community Posts

Wellness Around the World: Latvian Summer Solstice

latvian summer solstice celebrationMy name is Datza and I was born and raised in Latvia. I’m currently a teacher and owner of Datza Studios here in cozy Eastlake neighborhood. Latvia is a tiny country by the Baltic Sea, just across from Sweden, east of Poland and west of Russia. Yasss, we were part of Soviet Union but we have way a different language and culture. Proud to be pagans, proud to be Latvians! I love love my country but somehow life brought be me to US. First, it was east coast for a few summers and a little over 15 years ago – Seattle. Change is constant and life thrives on change; it is the essence of the 2nd chakra and the story of my life. It’s also one the main teachings of Yoga (union of mind, body and soul). Yoga for me is more than just asanas, yoga is the practice through which we are able to liberate ourselves and create the freedom we desire (in the yoga universe we call it Moksha). I’m more than grateful for my Yoga Teacher Training at Samadhi where most of the teachings were about yoga philosophy and most of the practice teaching was done after the regular hours with friends, other trainees and our mentor. Shout out to Jennifer Isaacson, Kathleen Hunt and Steve Shiva! garden yogaIt’s been over 10 years since I was introduced to yoga and I constantly find similarities between yoga and my upbringings in Latvia. As pagans, we believe that there are higher spirits and nature Gods who guide us, who help us, and who can also destroy us, if we are ignorant to their messages. Yoga sutras states:  “Ignorance is the seed of the suffering.” We have our Earth, Wind, Sun and other gods similar to Hinduism where there is Kali, Shakti, Shiva etc. We have Latvian mythology symbols weaved into our clothing, put in our houses, and even on our bodies. We accept that mood and energy levels change, and when we get sick the first treatment would be natural remedy – herb tea, mixture etc. Ayurveda would be the word we know here and is a sister of yoga! We have always been taught to live in the moment – the power of NOW. We believe that happiness is freedom and you become more free by getting together and singing and dancing (which is pretty much a must for every event), whether it’s a name day, birthday or other festivity. Every 4 years we have a National Song and Folk festival when Latvians from our country and abroad come together for a week and express themselves through singing and movement. Did you know that Latvian language is one of the closest languages to Sanskrit? Did you know that we still celebrate summer solstice and it’s a national holiday? Summer solstice celebration is the biggest festivity in Latvian culture, same as the Deities celebration in Hinduism (celebrating deities like Kali, Shiva etc.) latvian summer solstice attireIn Latvia we call it “Jani” and it is always the night from June 23 to June 24 when all Latvians participate in joyous festivities just like the ancestors did centuries ago. “Jani” celebration dates back to middle ages and is a celebration of nature and the changing of seasons mixed with all traditions. Yes, it is a national holiday!  Everyone tries to get out in the country to their relatives and our friends and just eat, drink, dance and sing. I can tell you for hours and go in details but to keep it short yet sweet, there are few things which are just plain mandatory and you will find during the celebration:
  1. Bonfire – definitely the hallmark of the festivities. We sit by the bonfire and wait for the sun to come up. Late in the evening when the bonfire becomes smaller, we jump over it which signifies ridding people of their burdens. Couples jump together and the magical force of the flames binds them for life. The bonfire also helps to keep the insects away.
  2. Latvian food– must have “Jani”cheese (a sour cheese made with caraway seeds) and beer. Gotta keep our bodies alive all night long!
  3. Garlands for everyone made of oak leaves or wild flowers – they were believed to have magic powers during the summer solstice. Houses are also decorated with birch oak and rowan branches to keep the evil spirits away.
  4. “Field Trip Into the Woods” – it is believed that the Summer Solstice night is the only night when one can see the mysterious and mythical fern flower. No one really has seen it yet, but it is a great excuse for couples to wander into the unknown. The fact is, 9 month later there are lots of newborns.
  5. Stay up till the Sunrise – we are up in the North and daylight on the “Jani” night is only a few hours. If you end up falling asleep by the time the sun rises, you will be sleepy all summer long and who wants that? At dawn, one should find water and wash their face in order to have a fresh glow all summer long. Walking through the morning dew is said to bring wealth.
summer solstice bonfireSummer Solstice from early childhood has been the highlight of the year because finally we could stay up all night, wander around in nature and see family and friends getting silly, yet happy. I’m more than stoked to announce that we will be celebrating the Summer Solstice and National Yoga Day on Friday, June 21st at our Studio – Datza Studios. Most of our studio teachers will be there to guide you through their own variation of Sun Salutations since the Sun is what we celebrate on Summer Solstice. In between, Teju (professional story teller from India who is going back on her travels after the event) will educate us on Creator (Brahma), Preserver (Vishnu) and Destroyer (Shiva) and how it is linked with the summer solstice even though down in India they don’t celebrate it (too close to the equator). The best part – you will feel and look good since after the practice there will be a Nordstrom beauty pop-up with oxygen facials and other goodies. For more info & to register, follow this link.
Datza Telmane is a local yoga teacher and owner of Datza Studios in Eastlake.

Wellness: Create Your Own Definition

Wellness is a buzzy word these days.

It’s an umbrella term that we can apply to almost anything, and the amount of wellness modalities, practices, and rituals that are out there is frankly overwhelming. So how exactly do we define wellness for ourselves? Some people might think that wellness is waking up at sunrise and meditating or practicing yoga. If this is your version of wellness, that’s amazing! For me, it’s not at all realistic. But for a long time (and until just very recently!) I thought that this early-rising, lengthy ritual of morning wellness was THE epitome of wellness and what I needed to do in order to consider myself a “well” person. The truth is, we are not allowed to beat ourselves up with things that are good for us (learned this from a former life coach). If we read self-help books, we can’t punish ourselves for not following their guidance. If we practice yoga occasionally, we can’t berate ourselves in class for not coming more often. If we buy into this cycle of negativity, our vision of self-care and attainable wellness practices will become narrower, and narrower, until we’d rather just call the whole thing off. What I’d like to propose, is instead of viewing wellness as something that we are grasping for, to view wellness as something that we already do (!) and can layer on to. I have a few suggestions on how to do so below, but above all I want to give you permission to create a new definition of wellness for yourself. One that is free of any outside influence, unique to you, and that you actually enjoy!

food as wellness“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

This is the simple motto of US-based journalist Michael Pollan who explores this idea in his book and accompanying show, “In Defense of Food.” When it comes to nutritional wellness, keeping it simple is the way to go. I also no longer force myself to eat “healthy” foods that I don’t like. If you don’t like the currently trending “super food,” don’t eat it! It’s much easier for me to nourish my body now that I eat foods I enjoy.

Add movement to your meditation.

A seated meditation practice has always been difficult for me, so I was really excited when I was recently introduced to Kundalini Yoga / Meditation. It’s weird, but the repetitive movements that you perform in sets or “kriyas,” are incredibly powerful for moving stagnant energy and uniting mind and body. I would highly recommend going to a class for the full experience (There is a Kundalini-focused studio opening in Seattle this summer!), but you can also find short and impactful Kundalini meditations on Insight Timer or Gabby Bernstein has some good intro ones as well.

wellness teaUp-level the ways you already take care of yourself.

Some days, I wake up late and seem to move straight into my day without even taking a moment to be intentional or breathe deeply. But what do I always do before leaving the house? Brush my teeth and go through my skin care routine. These are ways I already care for my body (but didn’t really count as wellness), and by adding an extra layer of intention like adding a drop of essential oil to my dry brush, or lovingly massaging lotion onto my body, or even listening to my favorite song while brushing my teeth, has allowed me to practice self-care without adding a lot of extra time or steps. What are the things you always do that you could add a little intention to? Here’s a list of 45 small self-care practices if you need some inspiration.  

Reinvent your definition of wellness.

I will assume that because you are here, you most likely have an interest in wellness. But if any of my words don’t resonate, that is totally okay because I am not for everyone and even more importantly, everyone is not for you! As you chart your own wellness path, you get to choose who your teachers are, where you attend class, and what kind of inspiration you take from those around you. Wellness is incredibly personal, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. My mission through Three Moon Collective is to introduce and share many kinds of wellness in hopes that they resonate with our community. If you’re interested in being part of this community and exploring wellness with us, I’d encourage you to sign up for our weekly newsletter here, or explore our Collective of diverse wellness practitioners. For a daily dose of wellness, follow us at @threemooncollective on Instagram. 
Hannah Exner is the founder of Three Moon Collective and still creating her own personal definition of wellness. Follow her at @hannahexner or send her an email at hello@threemooncollective.com. This blog post originally appeared on Head + Heart

Wellness Around The World: Curanderos in Mexico

My name is Rafael Toledo but just about everyone calls me Kiko. I was born in Texas, first generation American of Mexican parents. I spent every summer in Mexico as a child then at 15, I moved there. From there I lived in San Diego, Florida, Beijing for a bit, Seattle and recently a little island offshore called Vashon. I studied biology and chemistry in college and worked as a research scientist in neuroscience for about 6 years before completely changing careers. I initially became interested in wellness because of experiences I had with my father and the world he introduced me to at a young age. Which brings me to a topic that extends wellness past our southern border: Curanderos, aka Mexican Alternative Healers. My father practiced traditional pediatric cardiology but quickly became frustrated with its limits and inefficiencies and began to explore alternatives. He began in Mexico and let me tag along as an 11 or 12 year-old kid. We visited and interviewed dozens of Curanderos. They were somewhat underground, though not hard to find since most people hesitated to admit visiting one, but visited nonetheless. There was plenty of wonder in these visits, especially for a curious boy. Dark smoky rooms filled with a roller-coaster ride of quiet whispers, frantic screaming, cry-sobbing, flicking out demons and curses, as well as rolling eggs along the body and cracking them open to expose black, smelly and spoiled yolks. Lots of candles and incense and chanting. I loved it, and thought it was quite the adventure. Recently, we’ve come to appreciate many of these ancient practices – Ayahuasca, Tepezcohuite and Nopales to name a few. But it was a bit different in the late 80’s. These remedies were seen as superstitious and a just a little bit backwoodsy (before backwoodsy was a good thing). The conclusion we came to after many sessions and interviews was that in many cases, yes, the herb, oil or tea helped. But more than that, folks needed a space to unload. To talk about their taboo desires and anxieties disguised as demons. Metaphor manifested as reality. Most people wouldn’t go to a Curandero for a broken bone and the good Curanderos (there were crooked ones as in any industry) would send away people with more serious maladies. No, most would visit for those hard-to-pinpoint ailments. The pains traditional medicine is terrible at diagnosing, let alone correcting. It’s so much easier to unload, inspect and let go of emotions and uncertainties in a dark room smelling of burnt herbs with a cup of pungent tea in your hands than it is with a cardiologist and his unblinking notepad in a sterile medical facility. As the child of an MD, I know this first hand. What I took away from those experiences, as well as my stint in science, was to try to keep an open mind. To try to not judge what works for others as a way to heal. To not be intimidated by new words or concepts and use it as an opportunity to learn. To not let the uncertainty of something lead me to grasp at the first person with a purported cure. To question, experiment and be grateful for what works for me and put aside that which doesn’t. To challenge the things I don’t understand, but to try and be willing to listen to the response without prejudice. To take the best of time-tested remedies (the healing power of Manuka honey is real ya’ll!) and those developed by science.
After all, the best science is just an interpretation of Nature. The powerful results of meditation are as real as the life saving capabilities of a heart transplant.

Kiko Toledo works in video production and lives on Vashon Island with his wife Lindsey. Feel free to tell him about your favorite backwoodsy remedies or ask about what they use in Mexico at @rkikotoledo. Or if you’re as interested in seeing the various sides of the world as he is, say hello at @ramblinhombrefoto

Nutrition – A Health Journey

a healthy balanced mealMy name is Kerry Smith and I’d like to take you on a little health journey with me.

For many years my health was declining and I suffered from a lot of symptoms. To name a few: adrenal depletion, depression, kidney stones, gall bladder removal, carpal tunnel, osteoarthritis, food allergies, seasonal allergies, high cholesterol, benign arrhythmia, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Graves disease, inflammation, and severe leaky gut (malabsorption syndrome). Whew! It wasn’t a fun time of life. I was taking over 30 pills a day, including supplements and digestive enzymes. I was reluctant to leave home because of the severe lack of energy. Some days I could barely get out of bed. When I did go places, I would have huge anxiety that I might not get to a bathroom fast enough when I needed to. After many doctors and lab tests, I eliminated the food allergens (including gluten and dairy) and started on a 10 year journey of personal trials and research to find relief and healing. I had such severe leaky gut that labs showed I wasn’t absorbing nutrients at all. Needless to say, I was extremely discouraged, feeling hopeless and thinking that I would never heal. whole foods are the key to healthThe good news though, is that I was introduced to some amazing whole food plant powders that I COULD absorb, and the rest is history. Because they were readily bioavailable and because I was so nutritionally depleted, I could feel the nutrients going through my blood stream within a couple of hours. I thought of it as “Veggie Crack”! I had so much energy I couldn’t sit still. It was crazy. After 4 months my labs showed that my nutrient levels were coming up, my hormones levels were increasing, and I felt so much better! People were commenting on how much better I looked. My skin was glowing, and I had boundless energy. I have gluten and dairy allergies, so I never eat them, but I can now eat most any other foods when before I could only tolerate bone broth and a few lightly steamed veggies. My labs have continued to improve. In fact, my cholesterol dropped almost 100 points. I haven’t had any kidney stones, my heart rate has stabilized, I have no seasonal allergies any more, and I am off all my medications, including thyroid meds. And if that isn’t enough good news, I no longer have leaky gut symptoms! kerry's health journey takes her everywhere!I am so healthy that when I had a complete hip replacement a year ago, 2 weeks post-surgery I walked in to the doctor’s office with no walker, only using one crutch as a precaution. He told me I could ditch the crutch. He said I was in the top 5 percent of his patients for fast healing and he operates on a lot of athletes! I was a 65-year-old woman with osteoarthritis!! Three months after the replacement, the doctor sent me on my way to travel and hike around the country, no follow-ups necessary. I have been traveling with my husband in our Airstream trailer since June of 2018. I would NEVER have been able to do that, even 2 years ago. My health has changed so dramatically that this is my lifestyle now, my new normal, and I love it!
Kerry Smith is the founder of Granny Owl and a wholesome lifestyle blogger and advocate. Follow her health journey on her Instagram and on her website, or connect with her via email at kerry@grannyowl.com. Looking for more nutrition support? Browse our Collective of recommended and referred nutrition-focused practitioners.

Going to PT sucks…and I’m a Physical Therapist

Guys – I’m going to level with you. I hated the thought of going to physical therapy (PT). I hated the idea of having to be someplace at a certain time. I hated the thought of doing something I didn’t want to do, and I hated paying $40 a visit for it. So I didn’t. And I limped around for 1.5 years until I had a “Come to Jesus” talk with a friend and decided I was too young to be limping. So I got on board, made an appointment, went to a PT that someone recommended to me, and laid it all on the table. She listened to me and let me vent a bit as I gave her my long history of aches and pains. I’m also fairly certain I told her I was going to be a “bad patient”, and then she pointedly asked me, “do you want to get better?” My response was, “I’m here, aren’t I?” (side note: I knew this was the wrong answer, but I couldn’t help myself!)
First rule of PT: if you don’t actually want to be there, you’re not going to get anything out of it.
It was after my first or second session, that I started thinking about the bigger picture – that being someplace physically is not the same as being “all in” and mentally present. That half-assing it wasn’t going to work and I wasn’t going to measure up. So I dug deep and decided I was going to practice what I preached. I was on time for each of my sessions, I worked hard at it, and I got better.
But that’s not really the lesson I’m working on teaching you guys. I’m here to tell you that I know what it’s like to be on the other side; to be a patient and to not want to be there.
My first session was an hour long, spent one-on-one with my PT where she asked me a lot of questions! We spent a good chunk of time going over what brought me there to begin with, how long I had been in pain, and what my goals were for PT. She typed while I talked, and then she took at look at my body; she watched me walk, squat, monitored my movements in my hip and spine, and also measured my strength. After that, she walked me through her findings. What I loved was that Jen asked if I wanted to be the patient or a PT patient (most PTs are terrible patients!). She took me through the mechanics of what she saw and the plan she would like for me. The most important thing, was that she asked how I felt about that plan and if I had any input that needed to be added. To all you readers out there, this is the most important thing I can teach you:
Find a PT who values your opinion and recognizes that you know your body better than anyone else! The only way you will benefit from PT, is if there is a true partnership between you and your PT.
Being the patient was terrible! I sucked at the exercises – they were all hard and made me feel super klutzy. I knew they were valuable, but man did I break a sweat. Jen chatted with me through all my exercises to keep my mind distracted, but made a point to check in and see how my body was feeling. If I was in pain or uncomfortable, she also made it a point to re-direct my body if it was going haywire and moving of its own volition. After my first session, I felt rough because my body was tired; but also felt incredibly humbled. Most of us challenge our bodies on a daily basis – 90 min yoga classes in heated rooms, 75 min spin classes, 10 mile obstacle course races, etc; but these itty bitty exercises put all of that to shame. Standing on one leg with your eyes closed on an unstable surface is LEGIT. Because I’m a terrible patient, I didn’t do nearly as much of my homework as I should have. Once I told Jen that, she tapered my exercises down each week and would say things like “how many exercises are manageable for you this week?” Being able to choose made a big difference in my mental shift from “homework” to “exercise I choose to do”. They were still tough, but I made it a point to do them daily! I’m not sure that I can pinpoint the exact session when it all clicked, but what I can tell you is this:
When I sat down to write this article, I realized that what I got out of those sessions was more than physical.
Yes my hip got stronger, but so did my mind. I learned that I can always push myself to do “one more rep”, that I can be completely unwavering when it comes to doing a hard exercise. I learned that the mind-body connection is one of the most important connections we have and shouldn’t be undervalued. Lastly, I learned that all of the things I tell my patients are things I truly believe in:
Your attitude can change your pain, sleep matters, and having a good relationship with your PT can be inspiring, insightful, and one of the most powerful agents in helping you achieve your goals. So find one you like!

Sejal Gajarawala is a local physical therapist with 15 years of experience. She believes in a holistic and comprehensive approach – along with manual therapy – leads to a mindful treatment. She can be reached at: sgajarawala@gmail.com