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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.

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