On Saturday, November 12, I joined 14 women at Jonathan Edwards Winery in North Stonington for a Wellness Workshop. The fall air was crisp, and I was looking forward to a rejuvenating and educational day (and wine, of course!). I was welcomed by Kim Welch and Lynn Goodwin, co-founders of Farm to Gold, a company that locally produces grass-fed ghee for a range of culinary and self-care uses, and Erica, director of marketing/events at the winery.
I rolled out my yoga mat in the loft—a warm, well-lit room transformed into our studio for the day. Fresh air poured through the window and wafted the essential oil diffuser’s scent around the room. We started the day at 10am with a 45-minute morning yoga practice. Lynn explained the benefits of yoga and led us through a light vinyasa flow, giving us modifications along the way. The focus of this practice was to draw attention to our breath as well as find and relieve any tension we brought in that morning.
Following our yoga practice and a healthy time for resting pose (savasana), we migrated into a guided meditation, led by Kim. Our mantras throughout this practice were, “I am in charge of my own well-being,” and “I find total balance when I am my true self.” I chose to rest my eyes through meditation, as my job has me staring at a computer screen most of the day. Closing my eyes, focusing on my breath, and repeating these phrases helped me to let other thoughts come and go. Others use a meditation candle to help focus—Farm to Gold even makes ghee candles for just that! Meditation isn’t meant to clear your mind immediately, one should acknowledge thoughts that come to the surface, with the hopes of discovering what makes you you and truly happy.
Education and A Healthy Digestive System
We then had a break for nutritious snacks that included local apples, molasses ginger bread, plain yogurt and homemade oat and seed granola. All snacks were prepared with either maple syrup or molasses, which have a lower glycemic index than refined white sugar and can prevent spikes in blood sugar levels and energy crashes. To rehydrate, we were offered pomegranate and lemon-infused water, various teas, or golden milk (a homemade anti-inflammatory beverage that also helps digestion; tastes similar to spiced chai tea).
The next hour and a half was dedicated to an introduction to Ayurveda – the world’s oldest holistic healing system that focuses on balance of mind, body and spirit. It is a natural way to be at one’s best and go out and live a happy, healthy and fulfilling life. Both Kim and Lynn have dedicated much of their adult lives to learning and teaching Ayurveda; both are graduates of the California College of Ayurveda. Though the event advertised Ayurveda as a main focus of the workshop, I don’t think the majority of the group knew what it was, but we were actively engaged in learning about its benefits.
To get some fresh air and our blood pumping again, Erica then led us on a hike through the vineyard property. This tour gave us the history of the property and the types of grapes used. Rose bushes lining the rows of vines are present for tradition; if the rose bushes were riddled with insects or eaten by other nuisances, it was a sign of things to come for the grapes. We learned that the 20 planted acres are protected by netting as the fruit starts to ripen, and that harvest volunteers are called upon in September with as little as 24 hours notice (get ready for September 2017!). Erica shared that [North] Stonington was aptly named for the abundance of stones in the soil, which have been historically utilized throughout the region for stone walls to separate fields and property lines.
When we arrived back at the winery, lunch was prepared for us on the patio. Complete with a Sweet Potato and Kale Salad with Quinoa, Kuri Squash Thai Soup, Maple Glazed Salmon and Corn Bread, we got to pair our lunch with various Jonathan Edwards wines. Cozy in our coats, we applied good eating habit tips for healthy digestion as we ate our meals.
After we finished our meals, Kim gave us a cooking demo where we learned how to use their Ghee to make a version of the Thai soup we had for lunch. Ghee is a healthy fat made from grass-fed butter. The butter is cooked slowly to remove milk solids, water and impurities. What’s left is a lactose-free, casein-free, and shelf-stable cooking oil that has a very high flashpoint of 485 degrees. The aroma of the ghee in the 400-degree pan, mixed with a house-made spice blend smelled incredible. The most important thing I learned is that adding spices directly to the oils in cooking makes more of an impact than adding it to vegetables or meats afterwards. More information on Ghee can be found on Farm to Gold’s website.
We stripped off our coats and shoes, returning to the comfort of aromatherapy in the loft. Lynn and Kim shared with us the rest of their product line and how you can make some adjustments to your morning routine to give yourself “me-time” each and every day. Self-care is so important to your performance (“look good—feel good,” right?); it is not something to be sacrificed (especially as a parent). Most of us were introduced to new methods, like “oil pulling” mouthwash, using dry-brushing methods to prep your skin for oils, using a neti pot to clear sinuses, and cleansing mucus membranes with their Nasya nasal oil. Oils from ghee and essential oils are utilized in two ways in these practices: to cleanse/absorb toxins and to rehydrate your body.
Lastly, Erica opened multiple estate-grown whites as well as some reds that have a bold French-style taste, and utilize some grapes from Napa and Sonoma Valleys in California. When owner Jonathan Edwards and his parents bought the old Chester Main Farm property, they knew that they wanted to keep the agriculture nature of the property, but weren’t sure what to do with it. Jonathan went to California to learn the process of wine-making, and enjoyed the combination of farming, chemistry in the winery, and the craft of developing flavors. To continue to make the style and quality of wines he was used to, he decided to source some grapes from out of state. Still, a majority of the wines are grown right here in Connecticut.
The end of the day was a casual time for discussion, asking questions, and enjoying wine. Throughout the day, there was a running joke of it being like the Oprah show, where each product shared with us would later be in our gift bags, “Everyone gets a jar of ghee!” In a world where everyone is go-go-go all the time, it was such a positive way to spend a Saturday. I look forward to learning more about Ayurveda and wish Kim and Lynn lots of luck with their new building to open in North Stonington in 2017. And spoiler alert – most of my family and friends can expect Jonathan Edwards wine and Farm to Gold ghee as gifts…too good not to share!
Ayurveda, the 5,000 year old science of life originated in India and focused on finding inner peace and joy, healthy digestion, building strong immune systems, and addressing the root causes of diseases rather than treating symptoms. The brief introduction included how the 5 elements (Fire, Water, Air, Earth and Ether) introduce things to your body through your 5 senses (sight, touch, taste, hear, smell), and comparing these in sensory forms of measurement. Think hot/cold, light/heavy, cloudy/clear, etc. These can be present in your body, the seasons, and in your food.
We learned about how each person has a personal “constitution,” which is their body type or genetics. In Ayurveda, one is believed to be born with their constitution, so in the nature vs. nurture debate, it is believed that nature decides one’s psychology (personality) and body type, not their experiences. Exploring the “constitution” you fit into, a combination of “doshas” named Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, can lead to self-acceptance and understanding. When one fully is aware of who they are, they will stop trying to be something else; this acceptance leads to a happier life.
If this sounds crunchy to you – there are very practical ways in which it plays out. For example, I will be the first to admit that I am not a morning person. I would describe this as “Dull,” as I’m slow to respond, or “Cloudy,” with a foggy mind. If I choose to add catalysts, say, coffee/caffeine or exercise to add energy and focus, I’d start feeling more “Sharp” or “Clear.” It’s also easy to think about being “Dry,” like your skin can get this time of year. Adding oils to your body, whether you eat healthy oils (ghee, avocado) or apply them to your body, your moisture will increase. This scale of measurement isn’t always black or white, and one side isn’t always good or bad. It’s a sliding scale. For instance, “Light” could be a way to measure something good (not over-stuffed from eating too much) or bad (lightheaded). When you think about these forms of balance, you can really start to evaluate and apply something to counter-balance. When any one thing gets too strong, this is when illness or disease sets in.
Ayurvedic medicine includes custom diets, finding routines that work for your dosha, implementing exercise, yoga, meditation, as well as aroma-, color-, and sound-therapies. It only works if you take the time to evaluate everything and the effect it has on your body. It is especially helpful in today’s world, where we let media influence us more than we focus on what is right for ourselves. We are so busy that we choose things like dinner by how quick or easy it is to make, or the ability to eat it on-the-go. Ayurveda encourages us to be aware and slow down in order to see the effects, which begin with balancing the digestive system.
I still have not completely determined the dosha profile that best fits me by my physical nature, body function, psychology, sensitivities and what can throw me out of balance. If I took the time to explain the dosha profiles to you, you’d be reading for days. You can explore more about doshas or take a quiz to determine yours here.
Going into the holiday season, being aware of your dosha and thinking about what your colleagues, friends and family might be, can really help to be more empathetic. You can recognize when they may be in need of something to find balance, and make that suggestion. It may take a while to get it down, but I know I for one will try it!
This Wellness Workshop cost participants $125, including the 10-4 workshop, lunch, wine tasting, and a lovely gift bag with a bottle of Jonathan Edwards white wine, Farm to Gold Ghee, body oils and chocolates. It was truly a wonderful and balanced day. Contact Farm to Gold for more information on how you may be able to schedule a Wellness Workshop or private event for your friends! And visit Jonathan Edwards Winery page for events and more information.