Seasonal Yoga & Connecting to Nature With Farm to Table Yoga Retreat’s Melina Meza
April 4, 2016
Yoga retreat leader Melina Meza is an experienced “Seasonal Vinyasa Yoga” teacher, Ayurveda expert, and whole foods nutrition professional, boasting over 20 years of experience, so when we were seaching for the perfect Farm to Table Yoga Retreat leader, Melina was at the top of our list.
We spoke to Melina a bit about her yoga, nature and food passions to help us prepare for our upcoming retreat. Learn all about her below.
We are so excited that you are leading our Farm to Table Yoga Retreat! Can you tell us a little bit about what makes this retreat special? What are you looking forward to the most?
One of the factors that makes this retreat special is that retreat participants get two experienced yogis to study with over the weekend! I will be sharing the work I love called, “Seasonal Vinyasa Yoga” and consider it a unique offering to the yoga community. It’s based on my interest in and exploration of Hatha yoga, nutrition, and Ayurveda, similar but different paths that produce alchemical changes in the body and mind.
Each Seasonal Vinyasa Yoga class will emphasize the importance of sequencing and being in alignment with nature.
In addition to asana practice, I look forward to sharing insights on physical health and nutrition as well as how to inspire self-knowledge that allows for the conscious adjustment of day-to-day choices.
Obviously, a major part of every retreat that we have is the yoga. Can you tell us a bit about how you got into yoga? What made you interested in becoming a teacher as well? What styles are you the most inspired by these days?
I found yoga the first day I started college at Bastyr University in Seattle in 1993. I was 23 years old at the time and was a dedicated runner who thought yoga would be helpful to loosen up my tight legs and upper body. Little did I know that taking that first yoga class would change my life!
After my first class, I still remember thinking to myself, “I’m going to do this for the rest of my life,” and so far that still holds true. What I remember is for the first time perhaps feeling connected with my Self, totally at peace while sitting still.
I’m not necessarily inspired by any particular “style” these days but am always inspired by nature.
Nature is my greatest inspiration, always generous. I feel in her presence most like myself; clear, calm, strong, curious, and awake. Nature is like church to me as well as a place to really experience the five elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth and their value. In Nature, I totally understand what the ancient Ayurvedic healer’s meant by the saying, “Physicians don’t heal patients, Nature heals patients,” because I’ve felt it myself a million times.
Can you tell us a bit about your yoga classes and the style that you teach? In particular, can you tell us a bit about how the yoga practice should differ from season to season? What will you be focusing on for this retreat in particular?
One of the key practices I emphasize within Seasonal Vinyasa Yoga is to put a comma—envisioning a momentary pause—after each season. Your body can benefit from experiencing and adapting to new environments, exercise routines, and foods; growing stronger, more resilient, and keeping you in touch with the cycles of nature.
Summer is a Pitta season, and as such, fire and water elements will be more predominant, and most people will feel the heat, sweat more, and seek refuge in cool water to help regulate their internal furnace. Relaxing is one of the best ways to decrease Pitta’s hot, ambitious nature and prevent your elements from going out of balance in the first place. It’s best to take it easy, do less, and take frequent deep breaths in a hammock under the shade of your favorite tree.
I believe summer is the one and only season where Westerners live at the appropriate pace, one that is in sync with Nature. It is the one time of year where you are encouraged to take a break from school, go on vacations, swim, hike, play outdoor sports, eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, hang out with friends, work less, and even take a nap in the middle of the day.
As pre what I intend to focus on for this retreat…here’s what I have in mind:
>>Asanas that are noncompetitive, cooling, nurturing, expansive, relaxing, and playful!
>> Moving in creative ways that emerge from intuitive reflection rather than outer drive or competition.
>> Special attention to counter-balancing postures, such as seated forward bends and supine poses, after practices that create a lot of heat, such as Sun Salutations, arm balances, and strong backbends.
>> Practice with your eyes closed to connect to your intuition and breath. Closing your eyes will also alleviate any eye irritation caused by the hot, bright environment.
>> Yoga classes outside to enjoy the smell of fresh air, feel the ground under your feet, see the sky above your head, hear the sounds of nature, and absorb the sun’s warming rays into your skin.
What do you hope your students gain through your classes on retreat and on retreat in general?
Knowledge to build seasonal practices and daily routines that work for their constitution
Can you tell us a bit about the significance of food for you? Why throw a farm to table retreat?
Like yoga, food creates specific alchemical changes in your body and has the power to both nourish and transform your unique being. Food has the magical power to become the foundation the body. You are what you eat so as a yogi, nutritionist, and Ayurvedic health educator, I believe eating well for your constitution is really important to staying healthy.
As unique beings, we all have different hopes, fears, conditioning, expectations, and agendas around our health and relationship to food and eating. Over the years of teaching and doing nutritional counseling, I have found it valuable to establish my own set of personal ethics in regards to my health and that of the planet. As Marion Nestle says, “We change the world by what we eat or chose not to eat.” I believe this to be true and am a firm believer that each person choosing with their fork CAN make a difference!
I’ve used the Yamas from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras to make a wheel of ethics, which support and frame my holistic lifestyle. From my own experience, I have found a great deal of benefits from weaving these principles – compassion, honesty, non-stealing, moderation, non-hoarding, cleanliness, contentment, heat, self-examination, and faith – into my daily life routines beyond the yoga mat. As a nutritionist, I find exploring these moral values in relationship to food and eating fascinating. UCLA Professor Peter Sellars poses the question, “Can you put your belief system into your body”? It’s a question like this that moves me to look deeper into my own ethics with food and eating. I often ask myself “Am I putting my belief system into my body?”
I can’t think of a more perfect place to lead a seasonal retreat than on a farm where food is being grown and prepared. It doesn’t get much better than that in my opinion! I believe that by being at the farm we’ll have rich conversations about the future of food, personal ethics, mindfulness, and appreciation for summer abundance.
Tell us a bit about your teachers. Who and what inspires you?
I would say Dr. Robert Svoboda has had the greatest impact on my life. He was the first to introduce me to the world of Ayurveda and I will forever be grateful for the lessons I learned from him. I love his intense intellect, humor, and storytelling style of teaching which weaves Ayurvedic concepts beautifully into modern times and our challenges.
Sarah Powers has also been a role model to me for over a decade and I so appreciate her wisdom, curiosity, and tenderness. In my mind, Sarah as been my mentor and Robert is my guru.
Besides yoga, what are you passionate about?
We try to encourage self-care and love on all of our retreats. What’s one essential element to your self-care routine? What’s one self-care tip for the spring?
Eating kitchari once a week is a big part of my self-care routine. I recommend folks try doing the kitchari mono-diet for at least three days during the spring transition.
What’s one quote that inspires you?
“Awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.” — John ODonohue