Dandelion Effect Podcast - Baxter Bell & Melina Meza: Seasonal Wellness - Andy Vantrease

Dandelion Effect Podcast – Baxter Bell & Melina Meza: Seasonal Wellness

Baxter Bell, MD, is a certified Yoga Therapist, medical acupuncturist, co-author of the book Yoga for Healthy Aging, and former family doctor of 14 years. He teaches public yoga classes, is on the faculty for several teacher trainings around the country, and hosts virtual workshops and retreats specific to the benefits of yoga for healthy aging, back care, digestive health, brain function, sleep and more.

Melina Meza is a pioneer in the field of yoga, nutrition, and Ayurvedic Health, sharing her knowledge around the world for more than 20 years. She is also a photographer and the creator of Seasonal Vinyasa Yoga, a holistic practice that features lifestyle, diet, and yoga practices tailored to the rhythms of the four seasons. Melina’s books Seasonal Health and Wellness and The Art of Sequencing series combine her passion for nature, the five elements, movement and beauty to help people stay vibrant and creative in their minds and bodies.

Today, they join us from their home in Oakland, California to talk about the power of routine, the physiological effects of being in community, the roles that sleep (by 10pm!), local foods and 20 minutes of daily exercise play in your overall health, and how setting boundaries can be the ticket to finding more space—and creativity—in your day.

We dip our toes into the rich wellspring of wisdom that the ancient health sciences of Ayurveda can offer our busy, modern lifestyles. Plus, Baxter walks us through breathing techniques to strengthen the respiratory system for focused prevention against COVID-19 and other seasonal colds and flus.


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Episode Transcript

Andy Vantrease  00:17
Welcome to The Dandelion Effect podcast, a space for organic conversation about the magic of living a connected life. Just like the natural world around us, we are all linked through an intricate web, a never ending ripple that spans across the globe. Here we explore the ideas that our guests carry through the world, remember who and what inspired them along the way, and uncover the seeds that helped them blossom into their unique version of this human experience.

Andy Vantrease  00:43
This podcast is in partnership with the Feather Pipe Foundation, whose mission is to help people find their direction through access to programs and experiences that support healing, education, community and empowerment.

Andy Vantrease  01:05
Welcome back to another episode of The Dandelion Effect Podcast. I’m your host, Andy Vantrease. And I’m thrilled that this episode on seasonal wellness is landing in your apps as we prepare to transition into winter here in the Northern Hemisphere, a time when typically we all need extra motivation and nourishment both mentally and physically, especially this year. Today we have two podcast guests for you. Baxter Bell as a certified yoga therapist, medical acupuncturist, co-author of the book Yoga for Healthy Aging, and former family doctor a 14 years. He teaches public yoga classes, is on the faculty for several teacher trainings around the country, and host virtual workshops and retreats specific to the benefits of yoga for healthy aging, back care digestive health, brain function, sleep and much more. His partner Melina Meza is a pioneer in the field of yoga, nutrition and Ayurvedic health, and she’s been sharing her knowledge around the world for more than 20 years. Melina is also a photographer and the creator of seasonal vinyasa yoga, a holistic practice that features lifestyle, diet, and yoga practices tailored to the rhythms of the four seasons. Her books Seasonal Health and Wellness, as well as The Art of Sequencing series combine her passions for nature, the five elements, movement and beauty, to help people stay vibrant and creative and their minds and bodies. Today they join us from their home in Oakland, California, to talk about the power of routine, the physiological effects of being in community, the roles that sleep by 10pm and 20 minutes of daily exercise play in your overall health, as well as how setting boundaries can be the ticket to finding more space and creativity in your day. We dip our toes into the rich wellspring of wisdom that the ancient health sciences of Ayurveda can offer our busy modern lifestyles. Plus, Baxter walks us through breathing techniques to strengthen the respiratory system for focused prevention against COVID-19 and other seasonal colds and flus. Disclaimer that this episode, audio quality is different than previous episodes. Forgive us as we share a three way conversation and max out the speakers with laughter at certain points. Please take the blips as a sign that we’re simply having a little bit too much fun. Without further ado, help me welcome our two guests, Baxter Bell and Melina Meza.

Andy Vantrease  03:23
This year has obviously presented a lot of new challenges for people. And as yoga teachers who typically travel a lot and hold retreats, and otherwise are very mobile, I just want to check in, and kind of hear how you’re doing this year amidst all the changes. And what does it look like for you right now.

Baxter Bell  03:44
It’s looking great. I’ll tell ya. You know, for the first couple of weeks, things were so in the air, we didn’t know what’s going to happen. But now where we are now in December, it seems like we’ve established a really great new routine that’s working surprisingly well when we can’t be together in person. And so I have seven or eight weekly, live streaming classes that I do for people all around the country now, since my local crews now mixed in with all my friends from around the country. I translated my in person events into online events. And I’ve done something at a couple different studios, and Melina and I have twice now taught the Yoga for Healthy Aging Immersion as a live streaming online event to rave reviews. So, there are limitations obviously, to what we can offer when we’re not in person, but it’s been you know, not bad. There have been personal challenges of course, you know, I think we find that we enjoy being around each other generally, but after day in and day out when our desk are right next to each other. About a week ago, two weeks ago, Melina realized she could move her office up into the bedroom. And its been much quieter, happier around here. It wasn’t unhappy, but it’s happier.

Andy Vantrease  04:57
Realizing that spaces is helpful sometimes

Baxter Bell  05:00
Oh my gosh, yeah. But you know, we’ve been getting out for walks. Fortunately, we play tennis. And that’s considered a fairly safe social distancing kind of activity. So we’ve been able to stay active outside the home, in the home. We try to get up every morning and meditate together. And so, you know, we’ve shifted. It’s, it was a gradual process, but I think we adapted fairly quickly. And maybe we did so because we did have, you know, the tools of yoga. To help us with that a little bit.

Melina Meza  05:01
In the beginning, too, it was all about like, pivoting as quickly as possible. Because the studios where we were teaching were closing down and still wanting to host classes. So it was like orienting everybody to Zoom. And then making your house yoga studio, making sure you have the right lights, and, and microphones, and like a month of just figuring out the right gear for the job of teaching at home. So that was kind of interesting. And I’m so relieved that that phase is over.

Andy Vantrease  05:57

Melina Meza  05:58
These changes, really, that I might have seen in the beginning as challenges opened up to a ton of really wonderful opportunities, to share more of what I love with a wider audience. That’s unfortunate why everybody’s so excited about learning more about the health sciences. But it’s really lovely to see so much interest in Ayurveda and nutrition and wellness right now. These changes have allowed me really through Zoom to connect to people that I’ve interacted with, you know, all around the country.

Andy Vantrease  06:34
What are the tools that you specifically use to help you smoothly transition into kind of this new normal, or at least temporary normal?

Baxter Bell  06:43
I think one of the most welcome changes is that I let go a lot of my early morning in person classes. I had several classes every week where I was getting up at 6am, just to get to class on time, which meant I really didn’t have time for my own sitting practice. Typically, I’m not, I’m not the kind of yogi who believes in getting up at 5am every day. You know, I like to be a little more reasonable with myself and get a good night’s sleep. And so one of the things that Melina and I started doing pretty early on, [was] to start the day off and doing our meditation first thing in the morning. But I typically don’t have most of my classes till midday, which means I can often have more time in the morning for my personal yoga practice. And so I’ll often especially early in the week, spend the first couple days of the week with a great early morning practice. And that really seems to set my my day up for better enjoyment, success, and just an overall sense of feeling better in my mind and body. I made the conscious decision a while back to not click on to my New York Times news feed, or my Huffington Post feed and until well into the mid morning, so that I kind of had a sacred time where I could be more creative, and not so distracted by what’s, what’s happening in terms of, you know, news and that sort of thing. So that’s been helpful. And then I mentioned that Melina and I had been doing some walking and playing tennis. And so I’ve been trying to be very diligent about scheduling times, because it’s become so popular in our area for people to play tennis that you actually have to even reserve the public tennis courts if you want to have a chance to get out and play. So I’ve been pretty consistent doing that. And that’s just been, felt, felt phenomenal, to be outside in fresh air moving around, and just that that the aliveness and the movement that that requires has been really something I found that my body and my mind have really been enjoying a great deal.

Melina Meza  08:35
And then for me, I think of the routines are going to bed at the same time every night. We definitely have a go to bed by 10 o’clock policy at home. And that’s one of the things that was not happening when I was traveling. I couldn’t necessarily always get to bed at the same time. And I really, I can feel the difference. Now several months into it, I really appreciate for how I feel in the morning, how much more focused and energetic I am right away. And then one of my favorite other things is that, also because we, you know, have solid yoga teaching times now, is that we have three regular meals a day, you know, sitting at the kitchen table, and it’s food that I’ve made, or we’ve made and it’s easy to digest, you know, it’s got all the right things in it that I want to eat. And so because of that routine, I feel like then it’s really clear for me when I go outside to have my regular breaks, or to take photographs, I feel like my mind is much more calm and relaxed. I’m not tracking. So I think when I go outside, I’m able to be much more present and focused. I think even more challenging as an artist to be creative when you see the same things all the time, you know, the photography is even progressing because of the routine of me seeing my neighborhood more, and being more creative with seeing, you know, even deeper into the plant life around me.

Andy Vantrease  10:04
So much of it lately in the past few months has been these really up close, amazing pictures of insides of flowers and the veins and the leaves, and just these things that I was curious of where that was coming from. So thanks for touching on that it sounds like it’s, part of the routine is allowing you to see, you know, maybe the same landscape in in just a different way, in a deeper way.

Melina Meza  10:31
Yeah, that’s true.

Andy Vantrease  10:33
And so, Baxter, tell me a little bit about, I’ve heard you say, in your own life, just the importance of establishing this type of routine, when everything around you is unpredictable. Why is that so important to have, and create some stability when there’s so much chaos, and there’s so much uncertainty, and rules and regulations are changing every day.

Baxter Bell  10:58
Let’s step back for a moment, and consider that as soon as we leave the house, we have to follow some new behavioral guidelines that we didn’t have to before. And yet, when we’re in our own home, we really have in many ways the same freedoms we’ve always had. I think that by having routines, especially when we’re at home, which most of us are now, if we’re not going to a workplace that’s outside of the home, or we’re not traveling, like we did before, is that we have, we can still have a sense of a certain amount of control over our day. It allows us to feel grounded. And as Melina and I both have experienced, when we’re grounded in our daily routine, we can also tap into those moments where we do have time to nurture ourselves for both self care and for creative endeavors. Right? So, you know, if I’m very clear about my routine at home, when my classes are, when I’m taking care of my nutrition, and whatever might be going on, it actually leaves me some pockets of time, where I actually have flexibility and the ability to do things that might be really beneficial to my mental-emotional well being. Kind of my magic place is grabbing my violin, and playing in a way that I’ve never really played before. I pretty much have consistently played almost every day since the pandemic started. And prior to that, I would pull out my violin when I was going to a jam maybe every couple of months. So, I mean, this huge shift for me personally. And because of the routine, and then the realization that there was actually a little bit of space and time here and there, I was actually able to reintroduce something that I really love deeply, and that’s been with me since I was five years of age. And so that’s been kind of my way to, you know, support my emotional and mental well being through it through a creative endeavor. And you know, this is not, I don’t think my experience is unique at all. I think if you talk to the fabulous Anne Jablonski, who’s a past president of the board of Feather Pipe Foundation, you’ll discover that she too, has discovered music during the pandemic. In fact, we kind of launched this together when I was visiting the DC area back in February. And I talked to lots of folks who are finding these same sort of anchors that are providing a sense of, as we mentioned, that stability on the level of the mind and the emotions.

Melina Meza  13:19
And when there’s those irregular patterns, it seems like one’s mind can be really indecisive and scattered, anxious and all these changes. And ultimately, I think what we’re able to cultivate with healthy practices like yoga and meditation and Ayurveda is to cultivate more prana, so that we actually feel more energized and more stable, more focused, as we consider establishing some routines to have smooth transitions in our day, like little anchor points in our day to ground us more than once. Because it’s so easy for vata to get stirred up when we start reading the news online, or because we’re on the computer so much that that is just kind of a place that’s really stimulating for a lot of people. You know, once we’re aware that we’re in that state of feeling something from the irregular patterns, that we might be able to make choices to create some routine to start working more with the qualities of prana instead of vata.

Andy Vantrease  14:25
Melina, that’s an awesome and very smooth segue into Ayurveda. So if you are ready, I’d love for you to give an introduction into what Ayurveda is for listeners who aren’t familiar with this ancient wisdom tradition.

Melina Meza  14:39
If we think of Ayurveda as the health science, the sister science to yoga, one of the definitions of Ayurveda is life science. And one of the definitions I really love these days is the art of living. And so what it’s trying to do is keep us in relationship to nature, wherever you live. And to learn how to read nature, for when to potentially make changes in your life based on what’s happening out in the external environment around you. And so if there are changes going on around you externally in nature, that we’re most likely going to be affected by some way, because we are connected to nature. But this is the perspective from someone, you know, studying Ayurveda. So what’s valuable then is nature isn’t always the same. There’s, it’s constantly changing, and so are we. So how to learn to accept change, whether it’s seasonal basis, or daily basis, or hourly basis, to acknowledge, oh, my energy is different from the morning to the afternoon to the evening, or my energy might be different from summer to winter. We have different cravings based on the amount of light, for example, that we have within a day. So for those of us when we’re in summertime, and we have these really long days, you know, it’s interesting to point to what’s going on in nature around you. And there’s tons of no food growing in that season, where the days are really long, and we’re really productive and active. And so there’s like lots of food to feed us and nourish us, these quick carbs, that we would have to get through a really long day. And then the opposite would be in winter, when we’re in these really short days. And there is not that much light, there’s not that much food that grows in winter in a lot of places. And so you know, we’ve picked the food. We’ve harvested the food. And now we have food that needs to be cooked, that we’ve stored. And now that brings us close to the fire, which keeps us warm, which is helpful when it’s cold outside. And so you know, in nature, it’s always producing what we need to stay healthy for that particular season. There’s obviously way more layers to it than what I’ve just explained. But I just love this idea of using nature as the primary teacher to lead us into changes in our diet, in our lifestyle, like what time you go to bed, for example, maybe what kind of yoga practices you do.

Andy Vantrease  17:21
So what are some of the things that you are focusing on in this new 13 week group that you’ve started that will go through February because I imagine you’re, you are teaching folks a lot about what it actually means to rest in winter, and the importance of cooking your food, and eating warm foods, because it’s typically colder outside? Can you dive a little bit into some of those particular to winter practices?

Melina Meza  17:53
In particular, for this month of December, I’ve kind of break it up into a few month themes. And I’m kicking off the winter. And if you’re listening, that’s wintery where you are, I feel like the most important things are the three pillars I’m calling, diet, sleep, and exercise. And these are things that we tend to every single day. And what’s helpful is to keep the momentum going not to take breaks while we’re in this dark, kind of cold season where it’s easy for people to get stuck, especially if you’re of that nature to be caught a kapha nature constitution. So we know we’re focusing on, you know, a 20 to 30 minute exercise for 30 days. We’re focusing on going to bed by 10 o’clock for 30 days. We’re focusing on eating warm foods for 30 days. And really seeing, you know, that for most of us that are in my program, I think we have maybe 27 states covered this time, so it’s time to get rid of salad right now and bring in all the cooked food, as I mentioned earlier, for warmth, and also to bring in the heavy fibrous foods that are going to actually be good for feeding your gut health, and how your gut health is connected to your immune health. And this is why I’m bringing Baxter in to kind of also bring in more Western-side and research-based information around immune health and digestive health and brain health, as we’re going into this winter season. And then and then sleep as I mentioned. So sleep, diet and exercise are the main starting pillars for the program. And I feel like if people are sleeping well good, get good sleep, that we’ll be able to get through this, you know, in a way where we have energy to redesign the life we want to live.

Andy Vantrease  19:54
Yeah, Baxter, do you have anything to add to that either from the western perspective or the yogic perspective on sleep?

Baxter Bell  20:02
What we’ve learned from research in science over the last 30 or 40 years, about how important sleep is for health. It’s so fascinating that until the last short period of time historically, we didn’t really know why we slept. It seemed like an odd thing to actually become unconscious for one third of the day, where we could be, you know, victims of predation and other things while we were asleep. But research has shown that you know, everything from our overall brain health, functioning of our organs, the ability to avoid developing diabetes, and heart disease, all these things are being shown to be linked to really good sleep. And in addition to Ayurveda, having a huge focus on improving sleep hygiene, modern yoga has often looked at that as an important side effect of a regular yoga practice. So, in practicing physical asana, in regulating our breath, and becoming more aware of healthy and unhealthy breath patterns, in sitting quietly, even while awake, doing meditation to quiet the mind, all these things typically contribute to improve sleep patterns as well.

Andy Vantrease  21:08
My brother said to me the other day, “Is your life’s mission just to get a good night’s sleep?” I was like, “Yes, it actually is.” I have this routine set up, and I’m always just honing and going like, okay, you know, what’s working and what’s not. And, and I dig into, you know, hormones, and all of these different things that can that can change and disrupt sleep and trying to counteract that.

Melina Meza  21:32
One of the important other pieces I left out was community. So part of having the program or even just regular yoga classes is to maintain community with people. I think, in particular, where, you know, folks might be alone and more isolated, that, that has an effect on their health as well. And so, in this program, in particular, we’re meeting once a week for a meeting, and then we’ll be meeting once a week for a yoga class. And there’s always opportunities for people to see, you know, other people and have breakout groups, and to actually be connected to a group of people focusing on health practices. And there’s Facebook groups, you know, and things that for some people are really helpful to stay a part of a group, of a community. Normally, we were meeting people a lot in the holidays, and we’re with family or friends together to, you know, keep us going out of the house, so we don’t, you know, crawl into a ball. If, you know, if we’re struggling with isolation or loneliness, like you know, all those holidays get you out of the house, typically in the past. And so now we’re not doing that. And I just felt like this is also really valuable to continue again, to help people show [and] up be seen.

Andy Vantrease  22:48
Absolutely. And it really feels like having things on Zoom. And doing some of these longer commitment programs is just such a great way to still see your people and meet new people. And then of course, anything where you’re gathering around common interest or common goal, that is just so powerful for emotional and mental health and longevity really.

Baxter Bell  23:14
Yeah, I heard from so many of my students, my regular weekly students, after being in this whole situation for months that they feel like this, the ability to connect in class a couple times a week, with a similar group of people, people they see regularly, has been a lifesaver for them. They use those words – this has been a lifesaver, or this has kept me sane, or this is allowed me to remain grounded. So, you know, it’s interesting, I wouldn’t necessarily say I heard that kind of feedback when I was teaching in person to my students. But I’m hearing it all the time now from students. It’s reassuring to know that the work we’re able to offer has that kind of powerful benefit for folks.

Andy Vantrease  23:56
Definitely, I went to a retreat last summer, and the folks from that particular retreat have been doing check ins, you know, every probably two months or so. And we had just all kind of bonded as a cohort there in New Mexico. And these check ins feel like a lifeline for me sometimes, depending on what I’m going through. And for a lot of other people like you said, Baxter, they’ve, they’re using this language that is like, this is life saving, this is a lifeline. It’s been really interesting to me how we can create that type of connection through a screen. I did I just actually didn’t know that was possible. Honestly.

Baxter Bell  24:36
You know, there’s a there’s a book I recently read called the Upside of Stress. Actually, I read it a couple years ago, but it’s so interesting that the book talks about alternative options to fight and flight. You know, when we talked about being stressed out with the uncertainty of things, usually we go kind of into the dark place of, you know, being frightened and worried and scared. And it turns out that another possible choice. And when we pause for a moment, we come to realize we have other choices. And that one of the choices of that is, has been shown to have positive health benefits, as opposed to continually choosing the fight or flight response, is the tend and befriend response. And basically what you’re describing with your cohort, and what I’ve been experiencing with my students, and also with a group of musicians that I meet with regularly, is that we are tending to one another. We’re befriending new people. And that sense of community releases things like oxytocin in the brain, which is the hugging hormone. It releases higher levels of dopamine, and serotonin, which are important for giving us a sense of feeling rewarded for the work that we’re doing. And also for feeling generally happier emotionally. So you know, it’s so cool that without even someone saying you should join a group, we’ve all started to find one another, and be together in these unique ways.

Andy Vantrease  25:58
Mm hmm.

Melina Meza  25:59
And that sense of showing up is like how it also affects their house, and the people they live with, the things that they’re doing, and citing their partners or their kids to also get involved now that…

Baxter Bell  26:15
Tell the story about the little girl.

Melina Meza  26:17
Do you want me to read one of the quotes, or one of the feedback pieces, I got it? It’s just so moving. So, this is from a person in Seattle. And she wrote, I thought making any time for myself was near impossible with my one year old, always hanging on my leg. But it has actually been quite doable, and something I’m sharing with her. She loves to sip lemon water in the morning, too. She loves the oil massage, and sits down next to me, and hand signs for more. So together, we’re both benefiting from the program. A little each week feels impactful in my life, and is making me more positive.

Andy Vantrease  26:56

Melina Meza  26:56
One other one that is also pretty cool is I have a little calendar for them. And they write at the end of their meditation one word to describe how their body feels, one word to describe how their mind is after meditation, one word to describe their heart or emotional state. So each month they have a calendar to fill those in. She wrote, I appreciate the check in with heart, mind and body in the morning. I am introducing these things to my husband too. And he isn’t as dedicated. But I can see it brings joy. And it is nice to connect and share how we feel at the beginning of the day.

Melina Meza  27:07
There are ways that these things are deepening connection, I think, which also can be difficult when two people are home, or family is home together all the time constantly, to have quality time together too in the midst of each other’s busy, business. Right?

Andy Vantrease  27:50
Mm hmm. And I just love getting the kids involved. It’s just so wonderful to be teaching these ways of expressing and the self-awareness at a young age. That can only be positive…teaching these tools that young.

Melina Meza  28:05
Yeah, it’s really exciting.

Andy Vantrease  28:08
So you know, we’ve talked a lot about the emotional health and then touched on immune system and meditation. I want to focus for a bit on pranayama and the breath. COVID targets the respiratory system, and people really thinking about respiratory health, even just going into typical winter season of cold and flu, scratchy throat strep all these things, that, Baxter, I’m sure you’re very familiar with from your background as a medical doctor. What are you focusing on when it comes to breath work to be a part of the equation when we are wanting to be proactive in this season?

Baxter Bell  28:47
Sure. Well, I think for anybody who’s tuning in, who already does yoga and practices pranayama, you actually do some regular work with your breathing, that’s going to increase the amount of air you can comfortably move in and out of the body. It’s going to expand a larger portion of your lung tissue, which allows you to transfer oxygen and carbon dioxide out of your your circulatory system more effectively. So, I think, if you’re already practicing yoga, Bravo, keep it up, because you’re going to want to do that. There was an interesting little anecdotal video that I came across in March from a physician in England, who was working in the hospital there. And they had come to discover not through yoga from any, they didn’t mention yoga pranayama. But they described a breath technique they were doing, where they had people take a quick deep breath in, hold the breath in for five seconds, and then breathe out. And you would repeat that six times. And on the sixth time, you would cough twice, and you would repeat that cycle twice. And then they would have people lie on their belly almost like in Sphinx pose with a little support underneath the chest and head, and focus on taking a slightly longer breath in and out for anywhere up to 10 minutes. And they claimed that they were seeing a reduced rate at which they’re hospitalized patients were needing to go on to the ventilator. So this is an anecdotal report. It wasn’t a formal study. But that information made its way across the Big Pond. And I found another video a short while later from an East Coast-based allergist and pulmonologist, who is basically recommending the same technique and suggesting that it could be a great preventative tool for everybody to be practicing to help optimize your lung function. So that if you even did get COVID, you would have a great tool you could use during your period of illness that would perhaps shorten the course, or make you do better than folks that might not have that tool in their toolbox. So you know, that was really piqued my interest. And I started to play around with it, because they really weren’t describing a typical pranayama practice. So I actually changed it, to make it a little more modern pranayama. And I actually have a video on my YouTube channel, Baxter Bell Yoga. It’s free. They can look up a breath practices for COVID. And then there was a white paper that came out. Deepak Chopra was a contributing member. Harvard Medical Center, the University of San Diego, in California, all got together. And they talked about the scientific evidence right now around the different tools of yoga, specifically, asana, pranayama, and meditation, and the research to date showing the positive benefits for supporting good immune function. And they suggested that we ought to be integrating these tools into preventative programs, during the pandemic. It was a very strong, bold statement by people in academia, looking at the research that’s been done around yoga, talking about how it could really benefit our population pretty dramatically. So I’ve been trying to remind people and point them in that direction as well, if they’d like to have kind of a western science-based reason for recommending these kinds of Eastern practices, that can sometimes feel very foreign otherwise.

Andy Vantrease  31:58
Mm hmm. It’s more of a proactive approach rather than the wash hands and wear a mask and social distance. You know, I’m always so excited when Western establishments are talking about yoga, talking about some of these lifestyle-based medicines.

Baxter Bell  32:17
Yeah. It opens the door for them, then to form local people who can give them an experience of what it’s like to practice yoga and to do pranayama, and to do meditation. You know, it plugs into the three pillars of Ayurveda, which are really the three pillars of good immune health. Right? Eating the right foods, getting a good night’s sleep, exercising regularly. If you really dedicate yourself to putting those in your daily routine, you’re going to be taking care of 80 to 90% of what you need to do. And then you can add in some supplements and some other cool lifestyle practices. And you’re gonna be doing pretty well I think, for most average folks.

Melina Meza  32:50
And lots of water.

Baxter Bell  32:52
Lots of water?

Melina Meza  32:53
Lots of water. We forgot that, warm water.

Andy Vantrease  32:57
I was just gonna ask, because they know that in Chinese medicine, it’s like ice is an absolute no-no.

Melina Meza  33:04
That’s the same. Yes. Every now and then, somebody might need some ice. But that’s rare. Not in the winter, you know, maybe summer.

Andy Vantrease  33:11
Mm hmm. While we’re kind of all stuck at home, or trying to work from home, and parent, and do all the other things, is there anything particular that you’re seeing? And then what are some of the solutions to those challenges.

Melina Meza  33:26
At some point along the way, going to bed at 10 o’clock comes up in the program. And I was really surprised by how difficult that is, for a lot of people and how many people don’t go to bed. A lot of people might be in bed at that time, but they read or they watch TV or they’re on their phone. 11-11:30 was a time that I noticed a lot of people reported that they were going to bed, so there’s a lot more freak out around that ask. What I realized through doing this now, this modern Ayurveda with people, like nine or 10pm is when the kids are asleep, or all the responsibilities are done, and it’s like their only free time of the day. And that was a lot of people, right? That this is the time they’re going to sit on the couch, and they’re going to either be with tea or wine or snacks or whatever it might be, but it’s like their time, their precious time. And so it’s sort of a difficult trade off to, you know, go to bed and give up this, you know, precious alone time, this spaciousness. And you know, goes to point to how essential space is in our life for our health.

Melina Meza  34:39
Some of the things that I kind of helped some people work with was, you know, to look at the consequence of going to bed that late, or the consequence of eating later in the evening right before bed, the impact that had on how well you slept, or a glass of wine that late in the evening, the impact that has how well you sleep. And over the course of a week of not quite sleeping that well, or maybe we start to notice over the winter that we’re starting to put on what might feel more like uncomfortable weight, by maybe eating late in the evening, that’s one easy way for that to start to happen, is next thing, you know, it’s spring, and we don’t really feel all that well, and we’re really tired. So to like, look at a longer term view of what happens when we aren’t sleeping enough. And when we aren’t going to bed like with the circadian rhythm, with our natural body’s clock, that there’s a cost to that in the long term, or maybe even…

Baxter Bell  35:40
Over the short term too.

Melina Meza  35:41
Yeah, even in the short term. You know, how patient and kind are you the next day when you haven’t slept well. I know I’m not all that patient are kind. So I just, so what we’ve come up with is looking at where else potentially in the day could we make some requests maybe of themselves, or other people that they might be living with, for a little bit of timeout, some of free time actually in the day, by putting some more responsibilities on other people or by creating new boundaries, which is like usually, the big aha, is that, you know, we all need boundaries, on some level to have some space in our day. Like people don’t usually just give you space in your day. Like, you’ve got to create that. And it’s different scenario, of course, for every person. But that was kind of an interesting turnaround to look at. One section in the fall was around boundaries. And it’s always a part of my November, the No November practice. And for a lot of people, it extends well beyond November.

Baxter Bell  36:45
Define No November.

Melina Meza  36:46
Oh, saying, so let’s say there’s an invitation to go…

Baxter Bell  36:53
Social distancing veers at the place down the street.

Melina Meza  36:57
And that if there’s some part of you that pauses and has this doubt about it. That’s “No.” Then when somebody says, “Oh, I’m going to deliver you some soup on your porch. Would you do a Zoom meeting with me? We can taste the soup together on Zoom?” That’s like a “Yeah.”

Baxter Bell  37:15
We found the yes?

Melina Meza  37:17
When there’s invitations that don’t feel like an automatic “yes,” or you kind of have to pause and you kind of doubt, I encourage people to trust that pause, as a “no.” And then what usually happens is you’ll have more time for yourself. And oftentimes in that time is when you can like make your lunch for the next day, or take a bath and do an oil massage, journal or play music, whatever it is that you’d like to do, when you’re not over committed. Because the school programs are always changing, or because their work situations are changing, that people were just tired, right, from being on Zoom. People are tired from having to constantly reinvent how to survive, that there was a certain fatigue. And, and that what I loved was the ability to sort of give people permission to like, not worry about not doing practices that day, or that week. That there’s always a new entry point. And so like when you’re ready, there’s a new entry point that might just start with like, feeling the effect of drinking your water in the morning. Now your tissues go from dry to moist.

Melina Meza  38:29
This is part of the practice is bringing mindfulness to these little pieces. And people really appreciated that, you know, maybe they didn’t do the whole Ayurveda checklist that you see when you do searches on was the daily routine for Ayurveda. It looks really intimidating. But the point that like to emphasize is like, it’s the small things that actually end up really making a difference. And I think that was a part of what helped people stay committed. And to know it’s not going to all happen at once. And it’s, you know, a gift to have, you know, three months of somebody emailing you weekly, to just give you a little nudge, and then a little poem, to keep you inspired and hopeful that this is a cycle that we’re in. And in nature, in relationship to nature that’s always in cycles, it’s always changing. So we’ll not we won’t be in this COVID forever. People won’t be you know, the situation in their homes with the families the way they are forever. That this tool change. And those are some fun reminders to give people weekly, that made a difference and just accepting what they could do. And actually just kind of acknowledging and appreciating [that] I’m, you know, making steps on a regular basis.

Andy Vantrease  39:46
Yeah. Baxter Is there anything along those lines that you would recommend as a way to get started with a practice? You know, one or two things that you find the most beneficial when either somebody feeling a lull and trying to get back on the wagon, or wanting to start a new practice? Where are the places that you would point them?

Baxter Bell  40:12
One of my teachers used to say, “Put your sticky mat out in a place where you can see it, and commit to sitting down on it for 10 minutes every morning, just put the timer on.” So you know, when you’re ready, someone’s ready to restart, or kickstart their practice, again, that you actually make a commitment like that. That’s your only commitment, 10 minutes in the morning. And if you end up, you know, hanging out for 30 minutes, cool. If you get to 10 minutes, and you’re like, “Nope, I’m ready to move on with my day,” then you go ahead and do that you give yourself that kind of permission. So that it’s something you look forward to doing but it’s not a should. But it’s something that you actually want to do, right? So you have to kind of, there needs to almost be a little shift in mindset. As opposed to it being some sort of an obligation, it becomes the treat that you give yourself. I get 10 minutes by myself, without the cat or my beloved, and it’s just for me, right? So I think that mindset can be really helpful.

Baxter Bell  41:05
The other thing is, there’s so much free content right now online, that if someone says, “I don’t know what to do,” they can find, they could just put in beginner yoga practice in a Google search window, and they’ll probably pull up a dozen or more 30 minute practices that they could try out. We both teach a lot of people, both gentle and beginning styles of practice. So, we would say, “Hey, check out what we’re doing.” But there’s lots of options out there. And I think that, you know, if you’re looking for trying to support someone who’s a local teacher that you might get to practice with in the future, I think it’s great to look for those people in your community that might have some free content online that can help you out as well.

Andy Vantrease  41:45
Cool. And and where can people find you if they want to get started? I know you have a Yoga for Healthy Aging Immersion coming up? Why don’t you tell us about that. And then Melina where people can find Ayurvedic work as well.

Baxter Bell  42:01
You can find information at both of our websites, BaxterBell.com, and MelinaMeza.com. And we do have a January event coming up, our Yoga for Healthy Aging Immersion, it’s a 30-hour dive into the content of Yoga for Healthy Aging. And it’s appropriate for people that are new to yoga, people that have been practicing for quite a while, and also for yoga teachers who might want to share this content with our own students down the road. We’ve now done this twice online in 2020. And although it was always taught in person before, as I mentioned earlier, we got really great feedback and people felt it was incredibly valuable. And we’re actually collaborating with organizations and studios around the country, including the Feather Pipe Foundation. If folks actually click through and sign up to do the program, if you simply mentioned that Feather Pipe was where you found out about the program, the Ranch will receive 25% of their registration fee. So we’re trying to support organizations like the Ranch that have done such amazing work over the last 40 years for local and worldwide communities. And it’s a great opportunity for you to learn some new material and support the Ranch if it’s a place that you personally love and want to support.

Melina Meza  43:19
Yeah, and I also have quite a lot of video content on Yoga Anytime, that’s really current. And on December 21, actually, we’ll be launching the winter 5-day Yoga and Ayurveda Challenge. And we did one in the summer. We did one in the fall. And if you use the code “nature” when you sign in, I believe you get an extended free trial. So there’ll be one class a day as part of the challenge. And there are lots of little talks around seasonal practices. There’s classes with themes, you know, the elements and things that are pretty much all tied into some degree to Ayurveda. And so that’s a great resource for you know, “yoga anytime” you want to watch, and a pretty reasonable monthly fee, if you’re enjoying just that type of content versus in-person classes. And then I’ll be running my Ayurveda courses, now, I feel like forever, because they’re really doing well. And I have just really touched and honored to, to work with people on this content that I’ve just loved for so long. And it’s really the time, it feels like now, to share that topic with people.

Andy Vantrease  44:32
The winter one is already underway, so people can’t jump on that. Can they?

Melina Meza  44:38
Yeah, it just started and so my enrollment as we get to the end of the month, I was thinking that just to support people in this weird winter we’re having that I’m going to make some accommodations to kind of have a prorated January start, if you know, our closing period will end for the December really soon. And January and February are going to be their own, you know, to some degree, it’s like their own program. Each month kind of has a full cycle in and of itself. So we’ll be wrapping up the first cycle at the end of December. And I’ll be starting the new cycle for January. And I’m open to enrollment at that time, and that’ll be posted on my website.

Andy Vantrease  45:21
The other thing I do want to mention too, for people listening, and Baxter, maybe you can say a few words on this is, if you’re not familiar with Yoga for Healthy Aging, there is no age bracket. When I did that first retreat with you guys, I think I was like 27. It gave me an amazing foundation that I still work from. And I still think about things that I learned in that first retreat.

Melina Meza  45:45
Thank you.

Baxter Bell  45:46
Yeah, Yoga for Healthy Aging is for people of all ages. Because the sooner you start, the better the results are going to be. We know from studies in yoga, that consistency of practice over time, is more important than doing like, for instance, if you took two really hard, long classes a week, and someone else was practicing every day for 20 to 30 minutes, the science says that the person who’s practicing every day gets better results. So if you adopt the Yoga for Healthy Aging tools, and you start using them regularly over time, there’s an added benefit that we’re discovering. I always joke around the Yoga for Healthy Aging is not yoga for older people. It’s yoga for healthy aging. And every single one of us is aging every day. So why not start today? Right? So keep that in mind. If you’re, if you’re wondering if it’s right for you. It is! It absolutely is.

Andy Vantrease  46:38
Awesome. Well, thank you both so much for being here. Is there any any last comments or insights that you want to share before we sign off?

Melina Meza  46:46
I think the more we all do our part to stay healthy and stay home and take care of ourselves that this will all pass much more quickly. And, and I hope that that is happening for everybody out there that we’re seeing some silver lining in the midst of all the sadness and the hardships going on with COVID and winter.

Andy Vantrease  47:20
Boom! We covered so much in that podcast. And yeah, it really barely skimmed the surface of Ayurveda and all the benefits that yoga has to offer. But I hope this conversation left you with a few gems to weave into your current routines as we slip into the shorter days of winter in 2021. There’s one thing I took from this interview, it’s that the small steps matter and the consistency is what really makes a difference. I’ve been committed to drinking tons of water living here in Montana. The dehydration is real and shows on your skin quickly. And making that warm water to nourish me from the inside out during these dark, cold days of winter. No ice for me at all.

Andy Vantrease  48:00
Don’t forget to sign up for Baxter and Melina’s Yoga for Healthy Aging Online Immersion January 22 to the 24th and 29th to the 31st. If you tell them you heard about the program through this podcast, 20% of your registration fee will be donated to the Feather Pipe Ranch. That’s a win win situation in my eyes.

Andy Vantrease  48:19
A special thank you to Matthew Marsolek and the Drum Brothers whose music you hear at the beginning and end of this podcast, as well as Jean Shinoda Bolen, who first turned us on to the phenomenon of “The Dandelion Effect.”

Andy Vantrease  48:30
This podcast is brought to you by the Feathered Pipe Foundation, a 501(c)3 dedicated to healing, education, community and empowerment. If you’d like to help support this project, please visit featheredpip.com/gratitude, or leave a review and share with friends. Positive reviews really helped to get this podcast out to an even wider audience. And we’d greatly appreciate you being a seed carrier in that way. Be sure to tune in to our next episode in two weeks. I cannot wait to share another amazing conversation with you. As always have a beautiful day.

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