Eat mindfully. Do you want to lose weight? Break unhealthy eating habits? Do you want to have easy digestion and high energy after every meal? The mindset you are in when you are eating makes a huge difference in how your body assimilates the energy from your food. Even if you are eating an incredibly healthy meal, if you are eating in a negative state of mind then the association your body is making with the food you are eating is a negative one. If you are trying to be more disciplined in your eating habits but you are craving something that you want to stay away from, if you give into the craving, do it with a joyous mindset. Enjoy every juicy moment and let your body know that you are simply giving into the simple pleasures of life instead of the guilty energy we normally sink into when we ‘cheat.’ Before you eat, take a moment to give thanks to your food. That moment of appreciation will make you eat with a calmer mindful pace which is healthier for complete digestion.
I had the pleasure to interview Joan Varini. Joan is a yoga instructor, educator, spiritual counselor and holistic healer based in Miami, FL. Joan’s skill set is based on a long-standing study of yoga and meditation (over 25 years) and many other techniques in healing arts including: energetic and shamanic healing, channeling and Akashic reading, Chakra balancing and body talk. Joan collaborates with musician Carlos Andrade in live transformative music and mystical healing events and recorded guided meditations. She offers multiple healing yoga retreats per year in various global locations and leads the yoga teacher trainings at OM Movement studio in Coral Gables. She is also publishing her first book — a chakra-based journal for self-awareness and healing titled ‘Shifting Spaces’.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Joan! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?
In-spite of having Asthma from the age of eight, until adulthood, I always loved being physically active. But my love of fitness had more to do with my kinship with the outdoors. I have to thank my father for my passion for outdoor adventure. I was the young tomboy that loved everything from swimming, to camping to hiking and skiing. I never shied away from a physical challenge if it had something to do with the outdoors and that is still true today. I didn’t particularly see it as fitness and wellness, I just knew that I needed to be outdoors to feel peaceful and energized. I think my love of nature also fueled my desire to live a life that is more eco-conscious but again I saw this more as my spiritual connection to mother earth. Although my current occupation is based on raising consciousness through the path of yoga, I know that one day soon I will retrace my steps back to the environmental ethics I studies in college and integrate that level of eco-consciousness in a more activist kind of way. This awareness has seeped into all aspects of my life from how I eat to how I see myself and the interconnectivity of all creation.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I can honestly say that my career as a counselor and yoga instructor is constantly filled with fascinating moments of discovery, healing and pure magic. I can’t pinpoint one story that stands out above the rest but what I can say is I am in awe at how my career has become what it is today. From the day I first started teaching yoga I never would have imagined that I would be guiding yoga retreats around the world, giving spiritual counseling, channeling guidance through Akashic readings and integrating many philosophies into the endlessly fulfilling spiritual path that is my life and career. Every step has unfolded very organically. I advise my students to trust their passion and intuition. Even if you don’t know where it will lead you, if you listen to your authentic self, it will always guide you to a space of greater fulfillment.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
It wasn’t a mistake, but it was a humorous situation that I handled through blatant honesty. Because I teach yoga all day long I also have to make sure I eat in a way that I don’t experience unpredictable bladder and bowel movements, but I don’t always have that kind of control, especially when I’m so attracted to ultra-healthy food that can sometimes digest in unpredictable ways. It was one such moment during a restorative yoga class that I experienced such discomfort that I had to leave the class and relieve myself. This could have been a very humiliating situation, but I was honest with my students. I gave them a few poses and instruction of what to do in the postures and asked one of my more experienced students to be a gentle guide and I apologetically went to the bathroom to take care of my discomfort. There were no complaints, all of my students were very understanding, and their class was not disturbed by the incident. I’ve always tried to teach from a place of open honestly, even in embarrassing moments. I think that’s what makes me an effective teacher. I teach what I know, and I am raw about all aspects of life so that everyone feels comfortable seeing even the grittier parts of themselves in a compassionate way.
Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
I am an authority only in that I’ve worked with many people from different age groups, health conditions, belief systems, etc. From holding a safe nonjudgmental space for self-exploration, I can tell you that one of the most important steps to overall health and wellness is honest, raw self-awareness and self-acceptance. We can’t heal if we don’t start by looking at honoring who we are right now. What constitutes a healthy lifestyle is different for everyone. We will never be happy by putting on what we think others expect of us or what society says is healthy. The sure path to holistic wellness comes from knowing ourselves from the eyes of the heart as intimately as possible.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’ve had many great teachers and dear friends that have guided and supported me. Although the actions and intentions must come from decisions that reflect our authentic selves, none of us are meant to try to figure this thing called life on our own. But hands down, my greatest teacher is Tate Mahinto Wi. She is a Sioux medicine woman who passed away in 2012. I met her when I was 21 and she still teaches and guides me. She was the first person that really saw me for who I was from the level of my soul. She lifted me up to my greatest potential by calling me out on my b.s. and by constantly making me challenge my views of the world. She broke me open and lifted me up and forced me to find the discipline I needed to soar.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
We seem to have our priorities screwed up. Self-care should be first on our list. We can’t work at our peak if we don’t sleep and eat well and exercise. We shouldn’t see self-care as an extracurricular thing we do, it should be seen as more important than showing up to work. Another huge blockage is self-worth. We all judge ourselves too harshly. If we have a healthy sense of self-worth then we won’t hesitate to make taking care of ourselves a top priority. Lastly, we put external expectations on ourselves. We need to stop listening to the fads and making unreasonable goals and just make small feel good shifts in our daily lives. With small fun, feel good changes we realize the benefits of living a healthy life and it will become a natural part of who we are because that’s what our bodies and minds have been craving all along.
Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)
1. Eat mindfully. Do you want to lose weight? Break unhealthy eating habits? Do you want to have easy digestion and high energy after every meal? The mindset you are in when you are eating makes a huge difference in how your body assimilates the energy from your food. Even if you are eating an incredibly healthy meal, if you are eating in a negative state of mind then the association your body is making with the food you are eating is a negative one. If you are trying to be more disciplined in your eating habits but you are craving something that you want to stay away from, if you give into the craving, do it with a joyous mindset. Enjoy every juicy moment and let your body know that you are simply giving into the simple pleasures of life instead of the guilty energy we normally sink into when we ‘cheat.’ Before you eat, take a moment to give thanks to your food. That moment of appreciation will make you eat with a calmer mindful pace which is healthier for complete digestion.
2. Be choosy with your sources of information and entertainment. Refrain from watching or listening to too much news. Unfortunately, our mainstream news sources typically report on the events that they think will create the most coverage, which unfortunately seems to also be the most violent and negative events or the most superficial. I’m not saying to turn a blind eye, but defiantly limit your news media intake. And don’t just keep it on in the background. A part of your mind is still picking up on the violent images. I’ve done an experiment and I discovered that I can get the same news coverage and hear about the main stories if I tune in once a week instead of once a day. I am guaranteed to hear about main events through friends about current events that I may have missed out on. The truth is, there is just as much if not better and beauty things occurring on this planet as there are bad. If mainstream media is our only source of information, we begin to get the impression that the planet is doomed. So, tune in to mainstream new less frequently and I promise you will be a more peaceful person.
3. Create an emotional emergency contact list. Remember, back in the day with phones were still attached to cords and everyone had an emergency contact list on their refrigerator? We all should have our emergency contact list handy. It’s interesting that when we are in a balanced emotional and mental space, it’s easy to remember the things we need for self-care. We reach for the books that inspire us, we don’t hesitate to call that friend that we can say anything to, we effortlessly find the time in our day to sit in the sun, meditate or pray and exercise. But it seems when we get overwhelmed, anxious or depressed we seem to forget all the things we do to pick ourselves up. So I encourage my students to create a list that includes the books that give you positive insight into healthy living, the number of a friend that will listen to you, non-judgmentally no matter what mainframe you’re in, and the easy to do practices that will help you break the negativity cycle such as walk barefoot outside, listen to beautiful music and dance, take a bath. This list is helpful because oddly enough we forget that we have the tools and the support we need to eventually find balance again. This list makes it easy to just reach for this tried and true things that will bring us back to ourselves.
4. Make a regular habit of hugging a tree and/or an animal. If you have a pet, you know how easily they make up feel grounded and loved. I have the softest most playful kitty named Charlie. She is mischievous and loves to have her belly rubbed and just taking 10 minutes to play with her laser pointer to see how high up the wall she can jump or cuddle with her on the floor always makes me happy. If you don’t regularly spend mindful time in nature, you should. Hiking is my favorite thing to do in the world because it always brings me peace and a sense of connectivity. Both animals and nature help calm our nervous system and open our hearts. They are simply acts that will always, if done mindfully will keep us in check.
5. Take yourself out on a date. This is all about self-love, appreciation and self-care. We normally think that we need to wait for someone to ask us to go out and do something exciting or romantic, but why not show yourself you appreciate your beautiful self by giving a personal act of loving kindness to yourself? This is not just for women. Choose an activity that you don’t regularly do but it makes you feel appreciated and sexy. I have a couple close friends that I love enjoying music with, but I recently decided that I was going to buy a single orchestra seat ticket to a Buika concert. I had an unforgettable evening. I was so moved by her music and I love taking it all in for myself. I left the show feeling so empowered and beautiful.
As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?
Stress reduction. Working out stimulates feel good hormones. A strong, supple, healthy is powerful medicine in building good self-esteem. Working out helps us eliminate toxins in the body and keeps things circuiting in a healthy balanced way.
For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?
Yoga, cardio and weightlifting for stabilization.
In my experience, many people begin an exercise regimen but stop because they get too sore afterwards. What ideas would you recommend to someone who plays sports or does heavy exercise to shorten the recovery time, and to prevent short term or long-term injury?
Stretch and roll it out. Stretching right after a workout lessens lactic acid build up which causes the soreness in muscles. When you get knots in your muscles, grab a foam roller and roll it out, it hurts so good. Take Epsom salt baths, they are magical at relaxing the whole body and reducing muscle soreness. Drink lots of water and don’t skip your rest days. Rest days are just as important as the workouts themselves.
There are so many different diets today. Can you share what kind of diet you follow? Which diet do you recommend to most of your clients?
For my personal reasons and beliefs, I have been mostly vegetarian for most of my life. I stopped for a few years because I was concerned my health was suffering because of it, but I was never fully comfortable in that dietary shift. Recently I have returned to being mostly vegetarian. With that said, I one hundred percent belief that what and how you eat is a personal decision. No one should force their chosen diet on anyone else. Even if you are eating what you think is the healthiest diet for yourself and for the planet, it might not be healthy for someone else and when you are judging you are filling yourself and others with harmful negativity. It is well known that whole, organic foods are the healthiest source of energy and nutrition. What those specific foods are differ for each body type and lifestyle and even those change throughout our lives.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
‘The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times,’ — Pema Chodron
I frequently return to the teachings of this book. I first discovered Pema Chodron’s Buddhist teachings during a particularly difficult time when the stressors of being a single mom on a new yoga teacher’s income and demanding schedule brought all of the anxiety of financial instability and loneliness bombarded me. The teaching of this book is based on learning to allow ourselves to sit in the face of fear and pain and to compassionately allow ourselves to be broken without shutting down our minds and hearts. Since my introduction to Pema’s teachings, I’ve realized that most of our suffering comes from a lack of self-acceptance. We judge ourselves too harshly. When in reality all we really need is to honor that we are doing the best we can with where we are and in that space of self-acceptance then healing and growth can occur.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I think that most of our personal and global issues both politically and ecologically will rectified if we all shift our perspective to taking care of the planet first. Eco conscious communities, legislation, earth first oriented education, holistic eco oriented farming and industry policies will have a trickledown effect in every aspect of humanity and global health. If we make taking care of our home the most important priority, a side effect will be more compassionate communities, healthier lifestyles and a greater sense of working for the health of the greater good instead of this fear-based separation that our current politicians are ruling with.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
‘I am another you.’ -Tate Mahinto Wi
Mahinto is my soul teacher. Although she passed in 2012, her teachings and her spirit are always with me. When I would sit with her, she frequently would say, ‘and remember, I am another you.’ To hear this from a powerful healer and a larger than life personality, it was hard to take seriously. But over the years I began to realize the profound meanings of this statement. In these simple words is invoked the knowledge of collective consciousness, the knowing that we all come from the same place and we all return to the same source and we are all in this evolutionarily thing called life together. All of us have collectively co-created everything on this planet and we are all responsible for healing ourselves because when we do that, we also heal the whole.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I would be honored to sit with Esther/Abraham Hicks. I follow her teachings on the Law of Attraction. The philosophy she channels has helped me put my life in a high vibrational perspective and I turn to her teachings on a daily basis for guidance and reassurance. I’m also curious as to how she balances being a medium and living a balanced life for herself.
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Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!