Integrative Wellness Retreat

Food| Movement | Lifestyle | Soulful Travel

MALIBU 2015 RECAP | Ayurveda, Alignment + Yoga Retreat

Ayurveda, Alignment + Yoga| Malibu, CA | October 2015

Click the VW bus link above to check out the video recap of IWR Malibu 2015! Much love and gratitude goes out to our Soulful Travel Tribe Member Elizabeth Krenke for bringing this footage to life. 

Interestingly, fall and spring are the two times per year that the seasonal harvest foods have an especially cleansing effect on the body, helping us transition into the extreme weather cycles of winter and summer (both of which have great impact on our body’s inflammatory response, stress levels, and digestive health).

In the early fall months we have a great opportunity for deeper cleansing, signaled by the arrival of apples, beets and green beans. This harvest of lymph-cleansing foods expels heat we’ve accumulated in our bodies all summer, resetting the body’s inflammatory response before the colder, harsher months of winter (when the available foods are naturally heavier, richer, and more difficult to digest). Should we miss this opportunity for fall cleansing, we can likely expect to catch more seasonal illnesses in the winter, experience digestive imbalances, and have difficulty maintaining a healthy weight.
— Hopi Darnell, Ayurvedic Wellness Educator + Herbalist

September 23, 2015 marked the Autumnal Equinox here in the Northern Hemisphere, signaling our transition into Fall. Shortly thereafter on September 27, 2015, we welcomed the full moon in which we were able to witness the infrequent occurrence of a supermoon in combination with a lunar eclipse. The full moon that occurs closest to the autumnal equinox is deemed the "Harvest Moon" because it shines bright enough and long enough to allow for the final harvest chores to be completed. According to the old farmer's almanac, "at this time, crops such as corn, pumpkins, squash, and wild rice are ready for gathering." Native American tribes used the full moon to track the seasons. Each full moon was named differently based on what particular activity/event occurred during that time in their location. Some September full moon names include: scarlet plum full moon, moon when corn is taken in, time of much freshness, moon of drying grass, and moon when the wind shakes the leaves. 

According to Ayurveda, Fall ushers in more of the Vata (wind) dosha, the element of air and ether. The qualities of vata are: dry, light, cold, rough and mobile.  It is a time when transition and transformation take place. Scott Blossom, a licensed practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), an Ayurvedic consultant, and Yoga teacher, explains that fall is the perfect time to reset because "when the accumulated heat of (summer's) pitta is fanned by (autumn's) vata, it can lead to mental and physical burnout, stressing our adrenals and nervous system and putting some of the body’s natural detoxification processes on hold." We can help support our body and mind during this transition into fall with a few vata balancing strategies. In fall, we naturally crave and ought to opt for: routine (kids go back to school), warmth (a cup of chai tea + a cozy wool sweater, anyone?), serenity (giving into the art of slowing down), and nourishment (warm, hearty, healthy, whole meals). 

Specifically, during this year's transition into fall some may have felt more tension building at work or more intensity in their lives. With all that went down in the cosmos, there may be some reason for that. According to Mystic Mamma's astral insights, "Lunar Eclipses tend to symbolically super-charge Full Moon energy. It will turn up the volume of emotions and highlight the issue that needs to be felt through and processed." Desai says do all the affirmations, rituals, and ceremonies you please, but they'll only be half received if you're not taking the time to slow down and empty out; "the key to a full moon and lunar eclipse is to feel it all, as intense or potent as it may be."

 Cathy Pagano, lends her wisdom by advising that after the intensity passes, give the energies and emotions a week or so to calm down before trying to integrate the endings, awakenings, and transformations. “Choices begin the process of change. Our brain chemistry changes when we make choices. Making a choice signals our brain that we’re ready to begin a journey. So the choice is the first step in changing our behaviors.”

October 12, 2015 marked the beginning of a new moon cycle and we were excited to bring together a group of like-minded people who made the choice to join in on our annual Malibu, CA Ayurveda, Alignment + Yoga Retreat. Coming off the full moon energy, this new moon retreat experience was the medicine many needed. 

To help people find their feet on the ground, the elements that our offerings emphasize are: food, movement, lifestyle, and soulful travel. In order to bring our attendees into seasonal balance it starts with the food- nourishment with plentiful immune support and loads of spices that aid in digestive balance. Our holsitic chef, Claire Ragozzino of VIDYA Living, crafted an Ayurvedic-inspired menu that highlighted local, organic, and seasonal foods. 

Our guests arrived, and were welcomed with apps- raw goat cheese, Chef Claire's basil macadamia nut and cashew "cheese" log, organic olives, the last of the farmer's market's tomato harvest and THE best gluten-free crackers. We take our food sourcing seriously so we happily explained to our guests that for the next 4 days they would be eating the freshest produce purchased from California farmers and would re-hydrate their post-travel dry skin with Fountain of Truth's fresh spring water harvested from Ojai, CA.

Our sunset welcome dinner got started with a simple herb + citrus salad dressed in a vinaigrette made with plenty of healthy oils, followed by a Creamy Cauliflower Truffle Pasta with Roasted Romanesco and for dessert, a rustic galette filled with all the seasonal fruit (berries and figs) our hearts could handle.  

While Claire prepared nourishing foods, Amanda Ramirez, Doctor of Physical Therapy + Yoga Instructor infused the days with nutritious movement- a concept created by biomechanist Katy Bowman. Katy Bowman's work promotes the idea that just like food has both macronutrients (fat, carbs, protein) and micronutrients (vitamis, minerals), so does movement (walking + squatting being examples of macronutrients and calf length + ankle mobility being examples of micronutrients). In the same way that the quality and quantity of what you eat matters, the same applies to the way you move (eating a highly processed snickers bar for dinner won't do your body as much long-term good, as say the herb citrus salad we had for dinner made with fresh and natural ingredients. In the same way, doing a leg-press on a machine at the gym may meet a short-term movement need, it doesn't provide the whole-body stimulating input that comes with a more natural load like walking uphill outside). And when it comes to both food and movement, turns out frequency matters too. Just like it wouldn't be very sustainable to try to eat all your calories for the day in one sitting, it's neither logical to try to get all your movement requirements in one daily, hour-long gym or yoga session.  What we need in conjunction with that stress-busting gym sesh and mind-clearing yoga class is more VARIETY of movement THROUGHOUT the entire day. 

Amanda helped the attendees realize that in order to move with ease, skill, and grace they needed to first restore many of the movement micronutrients we often neglect- like assuring we restore ankle and foot mobility after wearing shoes all day and increasing hip range of motion after long bouts of sitting in a chair. It's this attention to detail that creates a solid foundation for those bigger, and often more  appealing, yoga moves. Without the foot mobility, hamstring length, and pelvic proprioception (knowing where your pelvis is in space) we risk having a movement practice that feeds into movement dysfunction and starves us of loads in the places where our bodies need them the most. Since movement is KEY to keep lymphatic fluid flowing, Amanda helped us to better understand why consistently bringing blood flow to the ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders (all areas where lymph nodes are concentrated) is an integral part of maintaining a robust immune system- just the knowledge we needed as we head into fall and winter.  

A cloudy day and crisp breeze reminded us that even in sunny SoCal we get a hit of fall. Which brings to mind that great Nathaniel Hawthorne quote, “I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house. So I have spent almost all the daylight hours in the open air.” In that spirit, a few of us crammed into Amanda's VW bus named Sophie and met our daily need for vitamin fresh air with a good dose of walking over natural terrain. In 5 miles, our senses were stimulated, our minds were cleared, and as we gazed far into the distance searching for the end of the pacific, our eyes released the unnecessary tension we no longer needed to hold onto (muscles in your eyes become chronically shortened from repetitively focusing on small text on screens- that's your cue to take an eye break).

To be in sync with the seasons of the year, one must develop an awareness of the rhythm within each day. In Ayurveda, it is advised to rise with the sun and wind down as the daylight fades. Honoring that cycle, Amanda led a dynamic, heat building vinyasa sequence in the morning and a cooling restorative, candle lit class in the evenings.

There are 8 morning rituals that are at the core of how we start all of our days together at an IWR experience:

  1. Rise + Shine (wake up with the sun)
  2. Celebrate (say a prayer, express gratitude, dance)
  3. Hydrate (ideally with fresh spring water with a squeeze of lemon)
  4. Tongue Scrape (to kick off your oral health routine)
  5. Eliminate (you gotta poop)
  6. Meditate (for mental clarity)
  7. Circulate (blood, lymph, breath + prana)
  8. Oleate (the skin with abhyanga, an Ayurvedic self massage. We also did a nightly oil foot massage prior to our candlelit yoga class using  Banyan Botanicals Daily Massage Oil)

After facilitating and prioritizing all that self-care, our Fall mornings together called for several cups of Claire's housemade Herbal Chai Tea turned into creamy cosmic lattes with a splash of her activated almond milk.  To help us wind down in the evenings we enjoyed Plum Deluxe's hand-blended, all-organic loose leaf teas.

Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences for healing, integration and transformation on all levels of our being. Traditional Ayurveda focuses more on the treatment side of this process (Chikitsa) for body and mind, while Traditional Yoga aims more at self-development and self-realization (Sadhana). We were honored to have Kamala offering Traditional Ayurvedic Bodywork to our guests. Kamala explains, "Ayurvedic body treatments help to return your Dosha (Vata/Pitta/Kapha) to balance and are specifically designed for rejuvenation and restoring vitality to the mind, body and spirit. The focus of these therapies are to help replenish the nervous system, feed the muscles and body tissues with nourishing herbs and oils. The massage oil is the medium through which healing herbs are absorbed into the body and through which toxins are expelled." Ayurveda recommends a massage with warm herbal oils as a part of daily life (abhyanga). Her bodywork used massage oils that were specifically tailored to each client's needs using only the highest quality organic oils.

One of our most memorable moments together was our hands-on abhyanga how-to lecture. We prepped bowls of organic, cold-pressed coconut oil. Instead of infusing the oil with herbs, as traditionally done, we added a few drops of high-quality essential oils into our bowls. Potent scents delightfully stimulated our senses and eventually we each decided which scent(s) we were most drawn to. After smelling and mixing, we sat around in awe reading about the therapeutic benefits each scent offered. Amazing how many of us intuitively chose what we most needed- from liver support to anxiety relief. We proceeded to sit beachside on rocks lathering ourselves in our concoctions, laughing, and loving life. A necessary salt-water swim provided a natural rinse and from there we hula hooped and hot tubbed until sunset.

After hula-hooping our hearts out, we made our way back into the kitchen for Claire's Kitchari Cooking Class. We made a Vata Balancing Kitchari with Cilantro Coconut Chutney. Claire explained that "the Ayurvedic system believes that all healing begins with the digestive tract.  Consuming kitchari alone for a few days at the change of the season can provide rest to our digestive systems from having to break down processed foods, while nourishing our bodies with essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids. It is said to nourish all three body types (doshas).  The combination of beans and rice makes for a complete protein, while the spices stoke the fires of Agni, our innate digestive fire that becomes weakened as a result of poor food combining and constant grazing." Ending our retreat with this easily digestible meal created a deep sense of grounding and nourishment for all and helped us support the restorative routines we promoted all week.

Deep rest awaits us in the dark days of winter and to send us on our way the following morning Amanda prepared our bodies with deep squats and spinal twists and Claire brought a little sunshine to the journey ahead with her Turmeric, Banana, Blood-Orange Muffins. In our closing circle, gratitude flooded our hearts knowing that sometimes the best journeys are the ones that answer the questions you never thought to ask.

Grateful for the divine intervention that brought this incredible crew together. As always, Jenn Marks was on all things logistic and Amanda Ramirez was the VW bus provider and mindful movement guider. Thanks for telling our story from behind the lens Alexa Gray and thanks for supporting IWR's vision in the kitchen and beyond Claire Ragozzino.  And to our soulful travel tribe, we wouldn't be here without you. You remind us that happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, or earned. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living with love, grace and gratitude. To all the people, places, and things that continuously bring us back to that place where our hearts are conscious of our treasures- we are endlessly grateful for you. 

Our Tulum 2015 retreat was a tall order after our Malibu 2014 Ayurveda, Alignment, and Yoga Retreat was named one of the top 10 retreats around the world to check out.  Now a full year of growth later, we brought you yet another Ayurveda, Alignment + Yoga Retreat experience and all we can say is we can't wait to gain new insights and knowledge to integrate into next year's event! Check in with our retreat offering page to join us next time and subscribe to our newsletter to be in the know about our upcoming events.

Morning Yoga led by Amanda Ramirez at Integrative Wellness Retreat's Malibu 2015 Ayurveda, Alignment, and Yoga Retreat. Video by: Andrea Young

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