Yoga Highlands Therapeutic Studio recently held a retreat on July 15 that combined two activities that attendees said go hand in hand, foraging for food in the wild followed by a yoga practice. The group went to Many Hands Peace Farm located on The Mountain Retreat and Learning Center. Owner of Yoga Highlands Ashby Underwood said that nature and yoga are both sources of replenishment.
“Eating wild foods and doing yoga lets you connect with your environment as a source of healing and sustenance,” said Underwood. “We as a society spend too much time in front of screens or in cars and we become disconnected from all the opportunity and diversity around us.”
The group took a tour of the farm and ate wild plants including leaves, mushrooms, flowers and stems. Specifically attendees were shown edible plants throughout the farm such as sassafras (good for salad and as a thickening agent), white clover (flowers are edible raw or cooked, the leaves can be chopped or sautéed), and plantains (leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, contains vitamin A and has medicinal benefits).
“Yoga and farming are so connected,” said Rachel Kinback, instructor at Yoga Highlands. “Both practices are about looking for beauty and utility.”
Guides throughout the tour were farm Co-managers Joey Kyle and Ben Galindo. The two lead the group through the fields while everyone snacked on wild lettuce, which is used for pain relief and known as “opium lettuce,” mugwort, which is used in tea and is said to give a person vivid dreams after consumption, and dandelions that can be eaten raw or partially boiled.
Underwood said that wild plants can also have medicinal benefits.
“Our common imbalances and sicknesses (flu, cold, etc.,) that we tend to think of as normal, the remedy can be right in your backyard,” she said.
Farm Apprentice Anna Beaver said learning about foraging practices is beneficial to everyone.
“We introduce people to the wild edibles and medicinals that grow all around them,” she said. “We’re teaching sustainable and ethical practices in agriculture and wild crafting.”
Jean Tuft is a baker at The Mountain and wants to incorporate what she learned on the farm into her cooking.
“I think it’s exciting, particularly being a baker,” said Tuft. “I like to take inspiration in what is available and foraging is the ultimate in doing that.”
Highlands resident Donna Woods lives near The Mountain and was always curious about what goes on there.
“I’ve always been interested in The Mountain and have always followed Yoga Highlands,” said Woods. “It’s nice to support the yoga and farming communities. And today was great. The farmers did an amazing job and so did Rachel (Kinback).”
Part-time resident Cynthia Trescott said she hoped to pick up some tips for managing avariety of plants in her yard.
“I have a lot of mushrooms and plants at home and want to learn more about how to manage my property,” she said. “It piques my curiosity every day I go out. Today was great. I really love seeing people who are gentle with the Earth.”
Zoe Perkins from Sugarland, Texas, wasn’t sure what to expect from the day’s excursion.
“I thought it was fun, very different from anything I’ve ever done,” said Perkins. “It was cool to get involved in all that natural stuff and it was very surprising. I didn’t think any of the flowers or leaves would be edible, but they were.”
Highlands resident Robert E. Smith said the farm managers were a “fountain of knowledge,” and wanted to experience foraging first hand.
“You’re always surrounded by these plants but it’s different when you’re up close and tasting it,” said Smith.
After touring the farm and sampling several kinds of wild edibles the group capped the day off with a relaxing yoga session lead by Kinback.
“We wanted to expand peoples’ horizons and immerse them in nourishment for an afternoon,” said Underwood. “To me, a retreat is defined as taking a break from your known environment to spend time learning something new about the world around you and/or something new about yourself.”
The Mountain Retreat is located at 3872 Dillard Road, Highlands, N.C. To learn more about the Mountain visit their website.
Yoga Highlands is located at 464 Carolina Way, Highlands, N.C. To see class and event information from Yoga Highlands click here.
Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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