Friday, September 14, 2018

Hi Fellow Earth Lovers,

Like many kids, I spent much of my childhood outside. Our yard housed trees, tiny moss forests, briars thick with animal life, and innumerable seeds, plant pods, and jeweled tree cones. I remember washing the trees and singing to them because they seemed to call out for loving care.

Childhood was magical because the earth was magical. I would spend hours staring through the twisted branches of old oak and black locust trees and loved splashing through the creeks barefoot on hot summer days.

This fascination with the forest and plants never faded. As a young adult, I sought out travel to exotic landscapes and stood among the redwoods, tropical mangroves, and young seagrass.

My favorite rituals in life have always revolved around spending time in secluded outdoor spaces. Preferably ones I get to know over months, seasons, and years. In these spaces, time slows down and I get to experience the budding, blossoming, and fruiting of trees, the playful exchanges among animals, and the eventual blanketing of the landscape with winter's sleep.

Nature teaches the patient. It takes time to form relationships with the environment, with the plants, with our own inner voice and to listen to the wisdom captured inside a drop of dew or a cicada wing. At a young age I learned how to listen to the plants and as a young adult, I learned how to take in their wisdom as medicine. My first herb walk in the mountains of North Carolina was a confirmation of so many things I deeply knew as a child, that the earth loves us and we can love her back. I learned how the plants are like little messengers that connect the physical world to the astral world and how they contain coded secrets that can heal and protect us.

I never wanted this to end. This learning and exchange between me and the plants. So in 2005 I started my studies at a school that housed an appreciation for the healing arts and deep wisdom about the plants and how they work. Three years later I graduated with a masters of science in clinical herbal medicine, started my practice, opened an apothecary and vowed to share this knowledge with as many people as I can.

It was a natural next step. In 2012 I started the herbal apprenticeship program at Sky House to bring others into this deep communion with the natural world. Every class starts with a few quiet moments to feel our bodies in time and space. We move our attention to the breath which connects us so intimately with the plants. We then humbly open ourselves to become carriers of plant wisdom through the material shared in our online classroom. Then, and the clock strikes our closing time we end with a nature poem or wise words from an herbal elder. It is a ritual in itself and time spent in the natural world.

This fall we have a few spaces left in our year one course. If you are looking for a way to bring back your childlike wonder and bring the medicine of plants and nature into your body and mind, come.

Everyone is welcome and everyone will benefit.

Green Love,
Ashley Litecky Elenbaas, MSc., RH(AHG)

Saturday, December 31, 2016

NYE: Here's to a Hopeful 2017

Cheers to a challenging 2016, a year speckled with both grief and gratitude. This will be a year I will never forget. 

So many seeds planted, so many fruits stolen away. In these moments I am reminded of the cold harsh reality of life, of nature, of death. 

Yet even in these darker spaces there is still room for hope. Still enough space for light. In the moments when my grief would eclipse my hope, it was still there, hidden, obscured, but there. In 2017 I hope this process of uncovering continues. I know it will not be easy. That the deep work of Pluto and loss cuts and leaves scars. 

Yet there is beauty here too. In the pain and scars there is the carving out of our character and the sharpening of our living senses. I am learning that hope is not something we have "in" something. Like hope in the goodness of humanity, but rather something that stands alone. We hope for hope's sake. Hope, like faith, just is. 

I pray to feel this hope throughout every cell in my body. That 2017 is the year for hope's return. 

Sending light and love and blessings and the return of hope in 2017.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

An End of Autumn/Early Winter Treat

Guest Writer: Hannah Leatherbury

It’s the end of autumn – my good friend in college always said “Fall makes me CRAZY.”

Until my friend said that, I had never considered the effect the seasons had on my mood and my choices, but flash forward 10 years and it’s something I constantly consider. I study and practice many teachings from the traditional medicinal system of India – Ayurveda. One of the things I love about this system is that it clearly states that I am a reflection of nature and that if I can find harmony with nature’s rhythms, my health and well-being improve.

Ayurveda teaches that the season of Autumn/Fall is the season that favors the qualities of air and space – it’s colder, windier, unpredictable, erratic, exciting, creative and a little CRAZY.  That means that in order to find harmony, I need to look for warming, predictable, cozy, stable influences to help ground me in the strong winds.

One of my favorite practices in the fall is to massage my face with warmed oil. This practice is designed to help re-hydrate chapped/dry/irritated skin and soothe tension in the muscles around your face. Self-massage with oil is an ancient practice from India -- in the Sanskrit language, the word for "love" and "oil" are the same. Oil not only hydrates your tissues fully (meaning that it absorbs deeper into the pores and tissues beneath the top layer of skin than lotions and moisturizers will), it also draws out toxins within the tissues. You really have to try it to believe it.

First, choose an organic oil that you have on hand. I now use Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula with Vitamin E Skin Therapy Oil for Faces because it is such a nice blend, but, you can use plain ole’ sesame oil (if you have dry skin) or coconut oil (if you have inflamed/acne-irritated skin).

Next, find two containers, one smaller than the other. This could be a small glass and a large glass, or a squeeze bottle and a large glass (shown here). The smaller container will hold about two tablespoons of the organic oil you have chosen. The larger container will hold the smaller container plus enough hot water to warm the oil from the outside.

After the oil has warmed for a few minutes, pour a little of it into the palm of your hand.

Massage oil into the skin using circular motions around the temples, cheeks and chin. Use long strokes on the nose and forehead. Let the face feel completely saturated, just short of dripping with the oil. Wear this around your house for about 5-10 minutes (or longer if you wish).

Take a washcloth that has been run under hot water and feels warm to the touch. Squeeze out excess water.

This is my favorite part, can you tell?!

Unfold the steaming washcloth onto your face and gently pat away any excess oil. Notice the subtle glow left behind and enjoy! Your face is ready to dance with the wind and the cold of Autumn.

If you want to learn more Ayurvedic practices and tips, we start our next 30-Hour Ayurveda Immersion in January of 2017! Check out details here!

More About Hannah:

Hannah Leatherbury (E-RYT-200/RYT-500, YACEP) has been a student of yoga and Ayurveda for over a decade. She co-leads Sky House Yoga's 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training Program and directs the 30-Hour Ayurveda Immersion. You can read about her journey from being a disenchanted goody-goody to a slightly more enchanted and mischievous yogi here:

Monday, October 10, 2016

Three Ingredient Immune Boosting Tea

As a new mother I am constantly trying to simplify my life. Gone are the days of highly structured schedules, ambitious meals, and leisurely coffee dates. These days I am chasing around a highly mobile 9 month old and trying to stay well and nourished along the way.

Recently after a few weeks of travel and the usual back-and-forth weather changes that come with autumn I noticed my throat was feeling scratchy. You know that feeling. That on-no-I-might-be-getting-sick feeling. So, I ran to my fridge and herb cabinet to see what I could whip up.

In 2015 a Yale-led study found that the common cold virus can reproduce itself more efficiently in the cooler temperature found inside the nose than at core body temperature. So, the first thing we should do when we are feeling on the edge of a cold is to WARM the body, especially the nose.

One of my favorite herbs to quickly heat the body is Ginger. Fresh Ginger root is warming, sweet, pungent, and stimulates circulation of both blood and reflexively moves lymph. Ginger root is an " indispensable herb suited to people who feel chilly" according to herbalist Matthew Wood and is a popular household remedy for chills associated with colds and flus. It is a superb diaphoretic which means it will quickly open the pores to induce sweating which is exactly what is needed to overcome a cold.

Since Ginger is a peripheral circulatory stimulant it will not only increase circulation but it will also bring warm blood to the periphery of the body and places like the hands, feet, and NOSE. So yes, Ginger went right into my pot of water.

Next I went to my herb cabinet and pulled out Chamomile. You might be thinking that Chamomile is an herb for relaxation. Well, it is, but what is interesting is "how" it relaxes us. It relaxes us by warming us up! Chamomile is a gentle yet powerfully warming plant that relaxes tension, spasms, and restores the flow of blood through its fragrant volatile oils. This is a wonderful way to warm and boost circulation while also relaxing the body which will protect it from the immune suppressing effects of stress.

The third ingredient in my tea was lemon. While lemon isn't considered an "herb" per se, it is a powerful ally and is a great immune boosting fruit that is packed with Vitamin C and cell protecting flavonoids. Lemon also adds a sour taste to the tea which balances out the spicy ginger and flowery taste of Chamomile.

You can just stop here. However, if you have access to other herbs and are like me, you like to throw in a "pinch" of this and a "pinch" of that. My pinches came from my potted herb garden and from a recent harvest of reishi mushrooms. I added a few slices of Ganoderma appalatum, a pinch of fresh basil, lemon balm, sage, oregano, and some dried lemon verbena leaves that a friend had given me.

Three Ingredient Immune Boosting Tea Recipe

    Image result for ginger and chamomile
  •  5-6 slices of fresh ginger root (or 1 tbsp dried if you don't have fresh)
  •  1/8 lemon juice and rind
  •  3 tablespoons of dried chamomile flowers
  •  4 cups of water

Optional Additions: Basil, Oregano, Sage, Thyme, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, and Black Pepper.

Directions: Add all of the herbs to your pot of water and simmer on low heat covered for 30-45 minutes. Keep the pot covered to keep all of the volatile oils inside and let sit for 15 minutes. You can also double this recipe to make larger batches. Once you are ready to drink it, pour it through a strainer and enjoy! I will leave this pot on my stove for a few days and will add more herbs and keep it cooking until I am feeling better.

In addition to sipping this tea all day and night, take a hot bath which will also warm your body and kick start your circulatory and immune systems.

Even if you are not feeling sick you can still enjoy this tasty golden tea and use it to keep you healthy all autumn long!

Be well!