Posts Tagged ‘health’

Still Waters Pond Yoga Retreat in Connecticut


Written by Jane Webb

Certain places lay claim to your soul as though you were revisiting a beloved home from a previous life. Still Waters Retreat Center was like that for me.

Coming from the city the first thing that is clear is that the air quality is something entirely different- a luxurious and potent entity being exhaled by ancient woods and deep earth: pure, rare and endangered.

When I alighted from my generic faceless rent a car Amy came rushing with her two rescue dogs (a Lab and a Poodle) to help with my luggage trailing vapors of spent smudged sage and geranium essential oil, full of hugs and good will. After we deposited my 20 plus pounds of Produce and raw/vegan snacks ( one can never be too prepared) in my cottage she gave me a tour.

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Several rustic/chic cottages surround a large pond and verdant lush woods.

One can easily imagine idling away an afternoon kayaking, meditating by the stream or perfecting a headstand on the outdoor yoga platform while the wind chimes lull one into a deep trance.

It is obvious that two artists own this place and their aesthetic sensibility informs every room and vista in this 100 acre paradise. Amy is accessible and engaging in a sincere manner that puts you right at ease. You know that you could say practically anything to her as though she were an old friend. She led me to her kitchen where we sampled her delicious well water and discussed the merits of various supplements she was taking. We marveled over the reishi mushrooms that she had foraged on her property. Her large kitchen in the main house is a chef’s dream and the adjacent dining room with it’s large fire place was a magnetizing gathering place for all that weekend.

It happened to be Amy’s birthday and she had arranged for Brendan Burns to perform a sound healing ceremony that evening which as it turned out was the perfect way to kick off the weekend. Amy’s husband Tao brings a strong design sensibility to all of his modifications and designs on the property. It is clear that this is an ongoing life project. I have no doubt that each year will bring more cottages, consciousness and great art to this land.

One of the great surprises was coming upon Tao’s (and his friends) art on our nature walks. I particularly loved the Rose’s Thorns and also The Alice In Wonderland plundered tea party that resembled Miss Havisham’s wedding al fresco.

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The following day mycologist Ryan Bouchard presented a lecture on the treasures of the forest: mushrooms- benign and otherwise. Afterwards we went in search of the funky fungi and what was truly impressive was the sheer vastness of the property that belongs to Still Waters. We also found a very large Hen Of the Woods mushroom but unfortunately bugs had found it first so we left it behind.

Our evenings ended around a huge bonfire that leapt in the crisp October air and made one supremely happy to be alive.

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With two large spaces for yoga (indoors and outdoors) it is just a matter of time before the yogini stampede begins in earnest… and lucky and happy they will be to have found this place.

The cottages are well appointed and spacious with fully equipped kitchens and comfy porches that invite you to wile away the afternoon reading that book that has been collecting dust by your bedside for the last few months.
Random seating areas around the pond present the perfect day dreaming/meditating spaces to fall in love with all of god’s creation. This place was designed for the perfect zen moment and if you string those all together you have a pretty stunning day.


On a more practical note: Another detail that was a welcome relief was Amy’s willingness to eschew using any fragranced products in my room prior to my visit. She also expressed an interest in learning more about how to be truly green and I applaud that and think that that will create another demographic to appeal to. The person who wants to vacation in a place that is as non toxic as their own home.

It is always amazing to me that in the closets of so many eco-resorts, health spas, yoga ashrams and health food establishments are still the toxic standbys of Clorox, Windex, Ajax, Tide, heavily fragranced soaps and various pesticides…Didn’t they get the memo? This stuff is bad for the individual and the environment and there are safe and effective alternatives that have no negative impact at all. Come on, hippies! Let’s get it together.


The very beautiful Still Waters is open from May to October for groups and individuals.
I will definitely go back.

Amy & Tao are excellent hosts with a glorious space in a dramatically stunning location. Dare I say it is a spiritual mecca, a vortex of sorts and a very cool place to spend time: Plan to stay for at least a few days to truly unwind!

If you pass Fairfield, Ct on your way here be sure to stop at Catch A Healthy Habit which has superb raw vegan food.
Also nearby but I didn’t get a chance to visit is G-Zen in Branford, Ct which was just voted Connecticut’s Most Sustainable Restaurant. Next time…G-Zen!

Check out Still Waters online and follow them on Facebook here.

Why Wanderlust Festival Rocks: Something for the Soul, Plenty for the Body

Multiple bands play every night at Wanderlust; above is a mid-dance shot from Fela Cuti’s second set.

This is the second year I have attended Wanderlust, both times at Stratton, Vermont, though they have festivals throughout North America (coming in just a few days to Copper, Colorado; then on to Squaw Valley, California; Whistler, B.C.;Quebec; and in 2014 on to Chile and Hawaii!). I always have such an amazing time; surrounded by yogi, health nuts, dancers, creators, designers and life-lovers, I can’t help but come away feeling refreshed and really ready for a fantastic summer season. Beyond the great attendees, the teachers—whether it be yoga, dance, meditation, music or hiking—are the best in the business, and I always learn something new (body and soul).

I took a Hoop Vinyasa class with the Hoop Yogini. Yoga mixed with hooping, it was equal parts challenging, fun, silly and a crazy-good core workout.

We had as much fresh, filtered water as we could drink courtesy of Camelbak. Imagine if all those plastic bottles had been drunk, how much garbage would have been made? ALL festivals should have free, fresh water, no?

Check out my awesome shorts from Victoria Keen, made in NYC! (That’s me on the right, the designer herself, Victoria, in the gorgeous blue dress—her own design, of course—in the middle, and my friend Cara Joy on the left.)

This was just before Seane Corn’s vinyasa class began; she is one of my favorite yoga teachers, and it’s an amazing opportunity to get to go to an event like Wanderlust and get to practice with her.

The bonus of having Wanderlust at a ski mountain is….gondolas! My legs were utterly pooped from dancing and hoop vinyasa, so the ride up to the top of the mountain was a wonderful treat.

I took some time in the shade to relax, enjoy the view, and meditate in the cool summer air.

It was fun to walk around the village area, and enjoy healthy treats (like So Delicious coconut milk ice cream pops, KIND bars, and Tumeric drinks) the random music that played all afternoon and all the awesome vendors selling yoga clothes, incredible jewelry, and more.

Mrs. Meyers had a big booth set up at Wanderlust, perfect for the frequent hand-washing I availed myself of. My friend Cara Joy poses here with all the lovely samples the company was passing out.

A Feast for the Palate at Farm-to-Table Stowe, VT Restaurant Michael’s on the Hill


It was Cristi’s birthday (that’s her aglow above on the left), and a group of us were out to celebrate it in style. In Stowe, that meant Michael’s on the Hill, which is celebrity chef-owned by Swiss-born Michael Kloueti (his wife, Laura, runs the business side of things). The couple moved to Vermont and founded the restaurant when they had children, and have spent the last decade creating a local institution.

Crispy Rhode Island Calimari with Frisee, Reggiano & Capers

Not only is Michael a world-renown chef, having worked in restaurants from Hawaii to New York City, but he and Laura recognize the importance of healthy, locally-grown food. The restaurant is a member of the Vermont Fresh Network, Local First Vermont and Slow Food, and “the usage of local, organic products is of premier importance.”

From top right (counter-clockwise) are Starre Vartan, Healing Arts practitioner Cara Joy, Kristen Rosfeld and Kelly Cunningham.

All of that is in evidence when you sit down at your table in the circa-1820′s farmhouse with giant wrap-around porch which affords gorgeous views of the Green Mountains; everything on the menu is based on both seasonality and nearby availability, which means local meats (some in our party had the venison and local pork), seafood and fish from the nearby New England Atlantic coast, and of course, a host of harvest vegetables during the second week of October when I visited to see the last of the brilliant leaves blanket northern Vermont valleys.

Smoked Local Trout with Heirloom Bean Salad & Horseradish Cream

That One Thing We All Need: A Retreat at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health

The view of the lake and the Berkshires from Kripalu’s front lawn.

Kripalu is many things, but really it is just one. It’s one of those rare places where you get to explore just ‘being’. Because that’s not an easy place to get to – between taking care of ourselves and our families, doing our best at our workplaces, not to mention the myriad random details life throws at the modern person, it’s no wonder the Monkey Mind* sometimes seems like he’s taking over.

Because our lives are so full (sometimes wonderfully, sometimes frustratingly) finding the space to be quiet with ourselves doesn’t happen as easily as we would like. Places like Kripalu offer us a variety of tools by which to better understand our own processes and habits, whether they be mental, physical, psychological or spiritual. And it is only by being able to both look and learn to modify those things that we are able to make the true changes in our lives that we really need to move forward, live more consciously, feel healthier, and love more openly.

In other words, Kripalu rocks. (Because yes, all of the above can be plenty of fun too!)

The meals at Kripalu were fresh, delicious, and varied delightfully from day to day.

Last month I was lucky enough to be invited to Kripalu to check it out – I had never been. I signed up for the “R&R Retreat“. The center offers both open-plan visits like the R&R as well as retreats and programs around a specific focus, like yoga (at all levels), couples communication, heart health care, chanting and dancing, and more.

The R&R program includes three meals a day (more on that below), and yoga classes three times a day (at three levels each time – so one can take a Beginner class in the morning and a more advanced one later in the day) as well as open classes in ecstatic dance, meditation, nutrition, mind-body communication and other health and spiritual topics. (Check out a sample schedule here.) There are also live music performances, films, and lectures, and plenty of on-your-own activities like hiking the grounds, going for a canoe ride, or napping (I can’t imagine any kind of getaway that doesn’t include at least one nap a day).

Meditation is an important part of a Kripalu yoga class.

Upon check-in, after a lovely and leisurely ride from my home in coastal Connecticut to the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, I organized my things in my Standard Plus room (this always makes me feel more relaxed), which was relatively spare and not gigantic, but cozy in a modern sort of way (see my photo below). The bathroom’s tub was deliciously deep and I definitely enjoyed it one evening post-yoga. My room was located in the newly-constructed annex, an impressively green addition to the main building, and it was extremely quiet every time I was in my room, which is a necessary part of being able to truly relax.

Yellow Leaf Hammocks: Relax Naturally While Helping Those in Need

Starre Vartan happily hammocking at SeaU Guest House in Barbados. Photo: Simon Apter

The fact that I am writing this post from an actual hammock should demonstrate to you my dedication to the art and craft of hammocking (yes, it’s a verb, at least in my world – as it should be). Growing up, I availed myself of the large hammock in my backyard on a pretty regular basis – after mowing our acre of lawn, when I needed a mid-Summer’s nap, or when I needed to get away from my grandma’s pretty demanding routine.

Looks like a bit of bliss, no?

Yellow Leaf Hammocks make the variety of hammocks you see below, which includes a number of colors, patterns and styles (love the chair version – perfect for reading!) and they also have impressive social and sustainable cred, including economic health, environmental stewardship, social equity and cultural stewardship.

A hammock on a boat! Genius!

The company calls themselves a ‘social enterprise, not a charity’:

In Southeast Asia, hill tribes such as the Mlabri are among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of society. Hammocks have been the means to securing civil rights, combating deforestation, creating basic infrastructure and achieving financial security for hill tribe villages in this region of Northern Thailand.

As a hunter-gatherer society with no concept of land ownership or relationship with the outside world, the Mlabri way of life was devastated when the land around them was claimed and deforested. Impoverished, without citizenship, and enslaved by opportunists, their future appeared bleak.

Yellow Leaf aims to engineer a turnaround in which marginalized ethnic groups such as the Mlabri apply their artisan talents towards creating a micro-economy that will elevate them from their former state and maintain their cultural identity, with the added benefit of eradicating toxic farming methods within the communities we partner with.

Love the ‘hammock chairs’ that are shaped to provide a bit of support.

Get your hammock on AND support people in need with honest work. How much more awesome can it get?

All photos courtesy of Yellow Leaf Hammocks except where indicated.

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