CLAIRE RAGOZZINO OF VIDYA | AN IWR INTERVIEW
We just wrapped up our 2014 Ayurveda, Alignment, and Yoga Retreat in Malibu, California. We are so humbled that our retreat was named one of The Top 10 Retreats around the world to check out, so, needless to say, we are excited to ride that wave of success down into Mexico this February for our upcoming offering! Earlier this year we spent about 3 months mindfully choosing a chef that was truly aligned with what we wanted to offer. We spoke with Chef Claire Ragozzino, and immediately knew she was "the one." We can definitely say one of the things that made our Malibu Retreat such a success was our soulful collaboration with Claire, the beauty and the brains behind wellness and lifestyle brand Vidya. We didn't think twice about partnering up with her again for a spirited adventure down to Tulum, Mexico for a winter renewal. She's a plant-based chef, yoga instructor, holistic wellness educator and incredibly inspiring! We're happy to have this opportunity to peek into her kitchen and hear what she's servin' up in 2015.
- No. 1| Integrative Wellness Retreat (IWR) : In our latest newsletter, we give our readers some exclusive insight into what led us to create IWR. Ultimately, we wanted to take what we were passionate about and make a bigger impact. We refer to this decision as "making the deep shift." We've collaborated a lot with you this year, and we have heard the story of how + why you started Vidya (check out this podcast or this one to hear about her journey) , but now we want to know where you're headed! 2015 is on the horizon, where are you looking to make deep, meaningful shifts in your life?
Claire Ragozzino (CR): 2014 was my year of levity, breathing more lightness and joy into creating, traveling and sharing life. I’ve deemed 2015 as my year of depth. I’m ready to go deep into all the knowledge I’ve learned and turn that into some meaningful wisdom, I think the IWR mantra of “making the deep shift” fits right into that! This year you’ll find me in svadhyaya, taking time for self-study through Ayurveda to find a deeper inner clarity. On the business end, I’ll be working more one-on-one with clients through holistic nutrition and lifestyle coaching and leading more workshops that share the beautiful overlap of yoga and food. I’m even entertaining the idea of hosting a monthly supper club! Eager to see what this new year brings!
- No. 2| IWR: At our Malibu Retreat one of your roles was to nourish our attendees with local, seasonal, ayurvedic- inspired cuisine. Although that food is still dancing on our taste buds, we all agree that you had a big impact on everyone by educating on digestive health, teaching how food is medicine, and helping everyone understand that their kitchen can be their living pharmacy. Tell us, in your life, how did food become an avenue for deep healing?
CR: It was out of necessity. I was 15 when I started struggling with serious digestive issues that led me to explore the connection of what I ate = how I felt. In my journey, I’ve been vegetarian, vegan, raw vegan, pescetarian, and flextarian…when being culturally mindful living abroad. I’ve done the candida diet, colonics, and cleanses of all sorts. You name it – I’ve tried it. But what I’ve realized over my years of studies and personal trials is that health isn’t static. What may work for you one month, may not the next. And that no single food, diet, or belief system is meant for everyone. So I’ve ditched the dietary dogma and strict beliefs, and have made the vow to honor what my body and soul needs in each moment. I believe the energetics of food and how you bless each experience is just as important as the type of food you eat. Nowadays, my food philosophy tends to blend Ayurvedic nutrition, macrobiotic principles, and lots of raw foods, though there are some days you might find me eating fish. I focus on using organic, sustainably sourced ingredients that help support local agriculture efforts. I eat this way because these are the practices I’ve learned make me feel the best – eating simple, eating seasonally, and eating with intention.
- No. 3| IWR: We totally envision your kitchen to be this divinely sacred space and in your seasonal cooking videos (Spring, Summer , Fall + Winter) it's apparent that cooking is your meditation. How do you set the vibe in your kitchen and what things do you do to elevate the vibration of the food you're cooking?
CR: My kitchen is totally my sacred space! I start by keeping it clean and organized. Mason jars and viles of spices make my kitchen feel like an accessible apothecary, and my fridge is always stocked with great produce. I also keep fresh flowers and plants around to liven up the vibe. In the spring and summer, cooking with the windows open is my absolute favorite, and music is a must for all cooking endeavors. I usually match the music to my mood and sometimes to energy of a dish I’m creating. In summer, tons of Ethiopian jazz and Buena Vista Social Club. Lately, it’s been a lot of classical baroque music because somehow the moody introspective weather of early winter seems to match that. And on the flipside, a whole lot of Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack on repeat as the holidays draw near.
- No. 4| IWR: We're expanding your role in Tulum beyond the kitchen! In conjunction to cooking, you'll also be teaching a few yoga classes, guiding a group meditation, and lecturing on self-care. You're a total holistic wellness guru and goddess in the kitchen. This is fact. What are some tangible things you know the retreat attendees will walk away with?
CR: My hope is that our guests walk away with a feeling of calm connectedness and a confidence they can maintain that feeling when they return home. Alongside cooking nourishing locally-inspired meals, I’ll be leading yoga nidra – a guided meditation practice that takes you past the dreaming state and into a state of conscious deep sleep where healing of nervous system, heart and mind take place. I’ll provide some resources so you can even do this meditation on the flight home! I’m also eager to share my daily rituals of self-care and how I stay balanced through the seasons. Guests will also take home a book of self-care practices and recipes to try at home!
- No. 5| IWR: IWR brings the focus to the whole person. We bring together several elements of health + wellness to help people understand the bigger picture of how the mind-body-spirit are all interconnected. Tell us about a time when on the surface two things seemed completely unrelated with your body, but then you had that A-ha! moment of realizing that it was all connected?
CR: Coming back to the story of my digestive problems, I had tried all sorts of dietary theories and supplements for better digestive health, but it wasn’t until I tied in that my emotions affected my body on a deep physical level did I really start to find healing. I could track back to all the times I felt secure, at ease and happy and notice a massive difference in my overall digestion and energy. When I was stressed, upset and ungrounded – it would all shut down. Taking care of my emotional state - or in my case making sure my vata is balanced – ensures my life is better all around. A-ha!
- No .6| IWR: Vidya has been blowin' up girl. We're 2 entrepreneurs that totally admire your business sense. Can you give some business advice to the aspiring entrepreneurs out there that are totally crushing on you from afar.
CR: My friend Kathleen over at Braid Creative is really my guiding star when it comes to advice on being a creative entrepreneur. One of the best tips I’ve taken away from her is to show up consistently and create/share content that is authentically you. It can be scary and downright overwhelming running a business, but if you can stay present and keep showing up in meaningful ways you’ll keep moving forward.
- No. 7| IWR: We know there's a probably a days worth of things you do to keep you in balance, but what's the ONE health/wellness technique that you swear by?
CR: Get enough sleep.
- No. 8| IWR: If you're in the health and wellness world, you're always trying something new... What are you experimenting with these days?
CR: I’m trying to do the exact opposite thing right now. Nothing new, no more fads, no more obsessing over new superfoods. Gimme the deep stuff, gimme that ancient knowledge, gimme that Ayurveda!
- No. 9| IWR: Food, movement, lifestyle, and soulful travel is how we at IWR connect with people. We've touched on food, travel, and lifestyle, now we want to know how you move your body outside of yoga?
CR: Hiking and rock climbing are my next favorite ways to move my body…and dance! Turn that salsa music on and let’s get moving.
- No. 10| IWR: With all the cooking that you do, you've gotten pretty damn good at cooking for large groups. Any tips for the people out there struggling to cook for two or getting overwhelmed cooking for four?
CR: Keep the essentials around your house so you can reach for what you want without getting lost in the kitchen for hours. I always recommend investing in a rice cooker, so you can always have a pot of cooked whole grains on hand in your fridge. I also keep roasted veggies and a jar a favorite sauce that goes with everything (like this garlic tahini sauce) around. This way I can mix and match to create cooked + raw meal in a matter of minutes. It’s all about simple prep work so making a meal doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
- No. 11| IWR: Okay we had to bring this up... a little behind the scenes from the Malibu 2014 retreat. We just got back from a 3 hour adventure through farmer's markets + grocery stores sourcing local ingredients to cook with for the next 4 days. You even traveled to California with some precious ingredients all the way from Oklahoma. You make this incredible frosting for a gluten-free Fall Harvest Cake (picture above + recipe here), all your taste testers approve, guests are arriving in T minus 4 hours, you go to open the fridge and the bowl of vegan maple macadamia frosting falls out and shatters all over the floor. Glass is everywhere and you've just lost about two hours worth of work...how did you recover? Plus I am sure this wasn't the first time something like this happened... Any advice for those moments of complete defeat in the kitchen?
CR: I get this a lot…“Oh you’re very relaxed and calm all the time.” And what I really want to say is, “Oh yeah? You should see me when I ruin a recipe!”. There’s nothing that makes my blood boil more than wasting good ingredients, like that time you noted above when that perfectly creamy maple macadamia cake frosting shattered on the ground with a thousand tiny pieces of glass. I still stew about that. But alas, the show must go on! So you either have two options: 1) make do with what you have and improvise, or 2) suck it up and go out to get more ingredients to make it again. Sometimes accidents happen in the kitchen, or sometimes I’m just not being present so I’ll take some time to gather myself and remember that how I’m cooking matters just as much as what I’m cooking!
- No. 12| IWR: Tell us something most people don't know about you!
CR: I’m currently diving into the world of holistic women’s health and hope to specialize in peri-natal health down the line. You’ll find me nose deep in Shakti-empowering books like Maya Tiwari’s “Women’s Power to Heal” and Uma Dinsmore-Tuli’s “Yoni Shakti”. I was a total tomboy growing up (picture me living in hiking books and covered head-to-toe in dirt), so even I was shocked when I found myself totally intrigued by this whole new world of womanhood.
Click here to get all the details on how we're collaborating with Claire to bring you our upcoming Tulum, Mexico Ayurveda, Alignment, + Yoga Retreat February 4-8, 2015.
Speaking of soulful travel, want to know the 3 things Claire can't be caught without when she travels? Check 'em out here.
You can also connect with Claire via one of her online seasonal Ayurvedic-inspired cleanses. Check out her upcoming e-courses here.