In this world, where life is fast and furious and sometimes tough, there’s nothing more important than intimate and authentic connections with a loving community of sisters. This monthly Q&A series is all about sharing some of my favorite women in wellness and how they shape, shift and uplift others to live life more fully. It’s only fitting, as we co-lead the New Year Renewal Cleanse this month, that we welcome my dear friend, Adena Bright of Adena Rose Ayurveda, to the Journal this month. Adena and I have been walking this path towards wellness and self-realization together since 2009 when we met in Burlington, Vermont to do our first yoga teacher training. Through the years, she’s been a steady inspiration for me as someone who truly lives their practice and integrates the teachings into inner wisdom. As a yoga teacher, Ayurvedic practitioner and Maya Abdominal Therapist, her work with women is rooted in tradition and practical experience. Here this month, she shares her journey and wisdom with us….
Every great journey has a story, tell us about you and your journey towards holistic living?
I feel so blessed to have grown up in a situation that not only invited me to think and live this way, but dropped me right into it. This is not to say my parents would have even used those words, nor were they ‘healers.’ In fact, they were really just quite earthy, practical and simple people. They were aware of eating and growing healthy whole foods, and the knowledge that those foods would also affect your mind, and connect you to spirit, as well as your place on earth, and that this is what makes one healthy and whole. Though, again, most of this was just unspoken. We raised animals, had a huge garden, cooked and ate meals at home, spent as much time as possible outdoors, and these values have just always been a part of me.
At what point in your journey did you decide you wanted to make a career out of your experience?
It started with yoga – and my first 200 hour YTT with Kathy McNames. I did not go into it to become a yoga teacher, though – I just wanted to find a place to dive deeper into my own practice of yoga. I taught my first class when a friend needed a sub, and it just grew from there. I love teaching – but now I teach about Ayurveda. I feel as though it is my dharma to teach, share, educate, and serve, ultimately, and I am lucky that it has manifested this way over the last few years. I was literally a server at a restaurant for 12 or so years of my life…and in learning about yoga and Ayurveda, it has allowed me to serve in a new way. I can’t help sharing what I learn – it just comes out of my natural tendency to share and teach what I love and what works for me in my life! I am not afraid to say have made and make a big effort for this to be lucrative for myself recently.
How would you describe your approach to wellness? What modalities do you work with?
Just this Spring I think I found a term that describes my approach to wellness for myself and with my clients – the Wise Woman Way. Susan Weed, a famous Western herbalist uses this word to describe her way of practicing medicine. The Wise Woman Way is a way of healing and herbalism which understands we are all healers and that we can self-heal by finding our allies – teachers, foods, plants, otherwise. The more I teach and practice Ayurvedic medicine, I resonate with this understanding.
Last year I launched a ten week course called The Healing Diet which is all about how Ayurveda uses food as medicine, and launches my students on a path to lifelong health. We focus on healing digestive problem, which debilitate so many people. Ayurveda’s focus is on healing digestion first in any disease.
I believe in this information more and more each time I share it – it changes the students’ lives. People come in with different goals – healing digestive troubles, poor sleep, just taking better care of themselves, losing weight, learning more about Ayurveda as a yoga teacher, massage therapist, or herbalist – and it’s so cool to see everyone get something different out of it. And over the ten weeks it’s about living Ayurveda, trying it, incorporating it, not just studying or reading or taking a test, etc. I offer this twice per year and anyone around the world can join.
I also am IN LOVE with Maya Abdominal Therapy. I blend Ayurveda with this body work which can help women to heal from painful periods, bad digestive complaints, back pain, infertility, endometriosis and more. I teach the self massage to many of my clients who I work with at a distance, if I can’t get my hands on them. The self care massage is what I have found to be invaluable to my own healing. The combo of the two healing modalities is really powerful, though both stand alone as healing systems.
If you could name 3 women who shaped your life and work, who would they be?
Those that first come to mind are Dr. Claudia Welch, Cate Stillman, and Kathy McNames. I feel so lucky to say that I could keep listing my mentors, and almost all of them happen to be women.
Kathy is my first yoga teacher, and I still find myself coming back to her based in real life teachings. Dr. Claudia is one of my favorite people, and one of my most influential teachers in Ayurveda. She embodies what she teaches – in fact, all of these women do – and that’s is what makes her so inspiring. (Please, check out her work, and her books!) And Cate Stillman is a woman know knows how to push all of my buttons…in all the right ways…when it comes to making a living with healing.
What’s a typical day like for you now?
If you had asked me a month or so ago…I’d have a different answer! I am coming into a new routine, a new stage of life. I just became a mom for the first time in July. My daily rhythms are shaped by another being, which is tough because I have so many ideas in my head what a healthy Ayurvedic routine ‘should’ look like. Though, this is what it’s really about, to surrender into this rhythm, because this is really aligning oneself with mother nature’s rhythm. I do not look at the clock, or judge what time I wake up or go to bed. I do have the tools to know and practice self massage every morning, every morning, and I fit in a yoga nidra in the afternoon when I have someone else at home, or a short one while he is napping. I also know which foods to eat and prepare to keep my agni strong, and to avoid us both getting gassy. Another reason I love teaching and sharing Ayurveda – sounds cheesy but it’s so true – because the tools just work, and they can be pulled out of your back pocket whenever you need them. The knowledge doesn’t go away – and in my experience don’t just sit in your back pocket, eventually they are a part of the every day (because they are so good.)
What ways do you nourish yourself daily?
One thing that is most important to me is to take time to cook. I am lucky that I enjoy cooking, it is a release, food is a medium for me. I spend a large portion of my income on things that I know are going to make me feel good. Also, I relish sleep. With my constitution, I need at least 8 hours. When I don’t get it, I’m under the weather. I can not understate how important sleep is for healing. And, I am severely depleted of that right now…which has been my biggest challenge coming into motherhood! May sound boring, but true!
To help keep me in balance even on less sleep, two of the most valuable practices I know are self massage, and cooking kitchari. This simple one pot meal resets my digestion, and brings me mental clarity whenever, wherever. Get 2 recipes for kitchari (and more about Ayurveda food rules) in my cleanse guide you can get when you sign up for my mailing list here.
Tell us about a dream project or collaboration you’re manifesting? What do you desire to (co-)create? What’s on the horizon for you!
My dream within the next two years is to create a big program for women, and women’s health, based on Ayurveda and Mayan medicine. Selfcare (womb massage) and charting my cycles have been two empoering practices I can not understate, and I NEED to share them. Women NEED to know this stuff. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I want to help women take care of their wombs who are looking to conceive, who are looking to heal from trauma (the world?) and who are looking to return to their center…and I know empowering women to take charge of their health (which is synonymous with reproductive health) is where it’s at!
I am also beginning talks with an integrative medicine doctor here in Vermont about creating The Healing Diet for Doctors and Med Students. Many of them are interested in CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) but there are VERY few outlets. Doctors NEED to know about Agni. And I know I need help presenting this information in a way students of medicine, or or doctors, will be receptive to.
Your parting wisdom + the most transformational piece of advice you’ve received:
A few mantras from favorite teachers: Keep good company. Pee when you have to pee. Slowly and slowly. Prana follows focus. Fall in love. Remain calm.