Guest blogger Ingrid Bauer MD, certified physician and owner of 5 Flavors online herbal shop, explains how the use of herbs combined with the regular practice of yoga can affect your overall health and wellness.
The year 2020 has left most people worldwide facing social, financial, ecological, physical, and emotional stressors at every turn. As a physician, a small businessperson, a mom, and global citizen concerned with justice, I feel overwhelmed yet fortunate to have a supportive family, a stable job, healthy food, and a safe home during these tumultuous times. I am also grateful for two practices I have cultivated over the past 20 years to care for myself and others under stress: yoga and herbs.
My yoga journey began at the very end of college, when I started practicing yoga because I could no longer play sports due to debilitating tendonitis. Soon after, I was injured doing farm work, and I turned to yoga to heal my back. From then on, yoga became a daily practice. I was fortunate to study with Mitra Treadway, an Iyengar yoga teacher in Santa Cruz, California, where I learned to slow down, attend to breath & alignment, and to integrate yoga philosophy into life off the mat. My practice supported me through two natural homebirths and rapid post-partum recoveries. I became a mom and a medical student simultaneously, which meant I had to shift from in person classes to home videos that fit my busy schedule. That’s actually when I discovered Yoga Today, and I have been a member ever since, because it allows me the flexibility to practice for how long and at what time I can, focusing on what my mind and body need on any given day.
Wanna know Dr Bauer’s favorite asana? “I love working through lunges and Warrior poses to warm up to Utthita Parsvakonasana (extended side-angle pose), which opens the hips and torso while balancing the front & back of the body. This pose leaves me feeling open, strong, balanced and relaxed.”
Botanical medicine has helped me through life from conception–my mother used Chinese herbs for fertility support–to my current practice as a physician. I grew up using herbs for most childhood illnesses and started to make my own herbal remedies while organic farming in college. Studies in Western and Chinese herbal traditions eventually led me to become a physician, in order to bridge the divide between conventional and alternative medicine, as well as to serve low-income communities who often cannot afford integrative therapies. I currently divide my time between working as a primary care physician in a community health center in rural Nevada County, California, and running an herbal extract company, Five Flavors, with my husband and acupuncturist, Benjamin Zappin. Together we have also started a farm, Sunset Ranch, where we aim to raise not only our own food & animals but also to cultivate organic herbs for Five Flavors.
While I love my jobs, my kids, and my farm, it’s a lot to juggle. Too many people have called me “Superwoman.” I reply, “I’m not special, I just work really hard.” To work this hard, I need to care for myself. I do this by eating (not perfectly, but well), sleeping (as much as I can), taking herbs (I forget sometimes), and practicing yoga (not everyday, but most days). I also share these tools with my patients, many of whom struggle with chronic medical conditions, anxiety, and pain.
Dr Bauer’s stand-by herbal remedy is Sustainable Energy, which nourishes the endocrine and nervous systems, relaxes the mind and uplifts the mood. Adaptogens are a class of tonic herbs that build our resilience under stress, and allow us to tame our response to everyday worries. Eleuthero supports vitality and endurance. Ashwaganda and Milky Oats have been used traditionally to boost the mood and nourish the nervous system, support restful sleep, and for sexual vitality. Rhodiola has developed a reputation as a premier adaptogenic herb. Holy Basil’s ability to support healthy mood, mental function, and stable energy levels are well documented. Schisandra and Licorice both calm the mind, support the adrenals, and supplement the vital energy of the lungs.*
*FDA Disclaimer: This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.
Herbs and yoga are not just wonderful aids for self-care, they are affordable, accessible strategies for building community resilience. Growing herbs in your garden or ethically wildcrafting common plants (please don’t overharvest or pick at risk plants!) is a cost-effective way to incorporate botanicals to support well-being. Similarly, many online and in-person yoga programs are available for low cost or sliding-scale, including many projects that extend yoga classes and yoga teacher training to underserved communities (such as Stay Engaged Yoga in San Francisco). The practice of yoga can become a wellness skillset anybody can use anywhere there is space & time. So, whether you are feeling burned out, wired, fragile, exhausted, angry, sad, afraid, overwhelmed, and/or hopeful, consider incorporating the power of herbs & yoga into your life.