Claire Ragozzino of Vidya Living is a certified yoga instructor, Ayurvedic counselor, and one of my dearest soul sisters and creative collaborators. Her dharma is to live by and inspire other women to access the wisdom within us all and do so with nourishing food, breath, meditation, and movement practices. With these intuitive practices, we have the ability to obtain a dynamic state of harmony in our “home and heart” (physical body, mind & soul).
In this conversation, Claire and I dive into the lifestyle and mindset shifts that can bring about sustainable immunity, even in uncertain times. We explore how our daily self care practices, no matter how small, ultimately lead us towards a place where our outer and inner landscapes are in better alignment with one another. I hope this conversation inspires a softer approach to showing up for yourself and the reminds you that your wisdom comes from within. Enjoy!
Q: Welcome Claire! It’s so good to finally have you on as a blog contributor after years of collaboration. It’s been one year since the first Covid-19 lockdown. How has a year of uncertainty transformed your mindset in a way that now bolsters a more sustainable immunity?
When the lockdown first happened, I remember feeling a strange sense of relief as the collective pace took a moment to pause. This forced pause felt like a deep exhale as we all got a brief respite from the endlessly churning hamster wheel of perceived productivity. Being a business owner, I’ve often felt guilty taking time off and held the quiet fear that if I slowed down I would be forgotten (hello algorithm). In the months leading up to the lockdown, life’s pace was feeling increasingly unsustainable yet relentlessly unceasing. I think for many of us, the lockdown gave the much needed permission to slow down—because it wasn’t just you who wasn’t showing up to play the game, we all were forced to literally stop together.
The silver lining for me was the opportunity to re-evaluate my energetic expenditures and re-prioritize my wellbeing, which ultimately meant giving myself permission to rest. It seems I need this reminder every few years, and this past year was no exception to the potency of this message.
Q: Our shared love for Ayurveda is rooted in the belief that our bodies are inherently wise. In regards to fortifying our immunity and creating vitality, how can this inner wisdom guide us when it feels like our overall wellness is being put to the test?
When we talk of vitality and immunity, we’re speaking of the Ayurvedic concept of Ojas (ओजस्). Ojas is the subtle essence of kapha dosha, that which gives the body strength, vigor, nourishment and that healthy juiciness. It’s formed when we properly digest our food and life’s experiences. Dr. Vasant Lad describes this formation of ojas in a beautiful way:
“Mobility and stability go together in para ojas (the more refined version of ojas). There is freedom and freedom is love, freedom is awareness. Therefore, awareness is love. Awareness is an all-inclusive state of consciousness. It is expansion. Therefore, love is expansion and selfishness is contraction. The moment one becomes selfish, one contracts the mind. This contraction dries ojas. Awareness enhances ojas, because para ojas becomes awareness.” – Vasant Lad
Even though it permeates the whole body, ojas is seated in the heart.
Ultimately, what leads to the bolstering of immunity is faith—faith in the body’s natural rhythms, in its healing capacity and faith in your ability to listen to what you need.
Faith is a form of love. And how do we cultivate faith? Sadhana. When we’re being put to the test, sometimes surrender and faith is the medicine we need to create the parameters for healing.
Q: As women and mothers, so much of our “immunity in the heart” is tethered to our service and support of our communities, and the ability to pursue our individual dharma (our individual purpose). What do you feel tending to the heart means when we are speaking about overall immunity?
Hṛdaya (हृदय) is the Sanskrit word for the heart. In Ayurvedic physiology, the heart is the root for the three major channels — prana, rasa and mano vaha srotas — that nourish and feed the whole body and mind. The phrase “Head over Heart” seems to be the value system of our culture, as if honoring our thinking mind has more logic and hierarchy of purpose. But in Sanskrit, the word citta (चित्त) means heart-mind, implying the two are inseparable. What if one didn’t have to rule over the other, but instead worked together to inform more wholeness and alignment in our lives? As women, we have this innate intuition that moves from a place beyond our thinking analytical mind. Subtle practices like meditation and pranayama, can help to cultivate and strengthen this superpower we have, connecting to this citta. It’s in this space of listening to the inner wisdom of our heart that we become clear about our inner values, purpose and how we want to be in service.
Q: During times of uncertainty or times of great change (or even seasonal shifts), anchoring into a daily sadhana or personal practice might be the perfect remedy for easing turbulent waters. How has personal practice provided a sense of balance and ease for you during the past few years?
My understanding of sadhana has evolved and grown over the past few years. In my younger days, I thought sadhana was about the rituals you performed, the outward physical practices. Before the pandemic, I experienced a series of natural disasters (floods, hurricanes, fires) that uprooted my physical home and sense of safety. It shook up the very core of who I thought I was and made me question why I was doing any of these practices at all. I lost all interest in getting on my yoga mat or sitting for a long mantra or meditation practice. At times, I found myself cynical about the state of the world.
There eventually came a point when I was fed up with my inner cynicism, yet I could no longer hold onto my ideal of what I thought sadhana needed to look like. It forced me to look at what I could reasonably integrate into my day without holding onto the perfectionism of form or time. I began to approach my personal practice by looking at ways to anchor in moments of quiet reflection and care throughout my day.
I realized that sadhana was not so much about what strict sequence of practices I did, but the state it ultimately brought me to.
Though my cynicism wanted me to ditch it all, I realized that these moments, these touch points, were essential to my wellbeing and mental hygiene.
Ayurveda provides an outline for a daily routine, known as dinacharya. This outline provides anchors of self-care throughout the morning, afternoon and evening – think body cleansing, exercise, meditation and nourishing meals. Approaching this daily routine as sadhana brought a sense of devotion and loving discipline back to my day. Though it doesn’t follow the exact same outline each day, these touch points of presence and awareness give space for gentle reflection and a returning to center through the changing seasons and cycles of life. Looking back, I suppose this time was a sort of training or preparation for the global events that have transpired since and for the journey of motherhood ahead.
Q: Fear can take a stronghold, influencing all aspects of our overall well being. Do you have any go-to rituals or exercises for moving through fear?
When I notice fear arising in myself, I look at it as a sign of excess vata dosha. Vata dosha is primarily responsible for the functioning of the nervous system. Vata represents movement, so too much movement and stimulation can cause an imbalance that can lead to feelings of nervousness, anxiety and fear. Rather than being frustrated that fear is present, it’s a cue to look at where I can create more nourishment, grounding and stability in my life.
Fear is subtle, just like vata dosha is subtle, and it can really sneak up on you and take hold quickly! When this happens, I stop what I’m doing and place a hand on the crown of my head and on my heart. I take several deep breaths, and tune into my senses. By focusing my attention on listening to the sounds around me and to the sound of my breath, I can shift the inner dialogue away from fear and into a neutral place. From there, I can ask what is behind the fear and what is needed to nourish safety and stability within.
Q: Your 5 favorite ways to build ojas (vital life force) for women living modern, fast-paced, ever-changing lives?
Rest, speak kind words to yourself and others, feed yourself like you would a loved one, take intentional pauses in your day, and don’t forget to give yourself permission to be joyful and play!
Q: Favorite immunity boosting recipe from your new book, Living Ayurveda?
The Shatavari Rose Herbal Latte in Fall recipe section is a wonderful nourishing tonic drink for women. Shatavari, known as “The Queen of Herbs”, is a supportive rasayana, or rejuvenative substance, that can replenish your system. It’s also a wonderful reproductive tonic for both men and women through all stages of life.
Shatavari Rose Latte
❋ 2 cups organic raw milk (or non-dairy milk of choice)
❋ 1 tsp rosewater
❋ 1-2 tsp maple syrup
❋ ½ tsp shatavari powder
❋ ¼ tsp ground cardamom
❋ Optional: ½ tsp dried rose petals
In a small saucepan, heat the milk. Transfer to a high-speed blender and combine the rosewater, shatavari, cardamom and sweetener. Blend until frothy. Pour into a mug and sprinkle with cardamom and dried rose petals to garnish. Sip hot.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes
Yield: 1-2 servings
Recipe excerpt from Living Ayurveda. You can purchase Claire’s book wherever books are sold!
Q: Question: Any “must-read/must-see” resources you’d like to share to inspire sustainable immunity in the home and in the heart?
A few of my favorite books, podcasts and playlists right now…
❋ David Whyte’s book of poetry Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words + this podcast interview with the author
❋ Nishala Joy Devi’s book Secret Power of Yoga: A Woman’s Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras
❋ This calming and uplifting playlist of mantras
❋ Banyan Botanicals’ new Joyful Heart CCF Tea Blend with rose and hibiscus
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