An Icelandic Retreat of Yoga & Herbs
Just this past week I was in Iceland with an amazing group of people. It was my second trip to this gorgeous country... Eight years ago my best friend Jenn and I spontaneously traveled to Iceland for the first time and ever since then this special land has stayed firmly rooted in our hearts.
After all these years it was amazing to return. This time Jenn and I took a group of 11 people on a yoga and herbalism retreat. For five days we traveled around the rugged and remote Snaefellsnes Peninsula, having daily yoga and herbalism classes. We went on incredible hikes, visited waterfalls and streams, gathered wild herbs, and were even lucky enough to see the northern lights one night.
Jenn taught her special blend of yin and vinyasa yoga, with a combination of movement and restorative introspective poses. And I was so happy to be able to offer a different herbal class each day, on topics such as how to connect with plants through drawing, to making different kinds of teas, to using herbs during transitional times.
Throughout the trip we spotted some of my favorite herbs, and became better acquainted with the Icelandic flora. Even so late in the season there were still many vibrant plants -- we saw lots of dandelions, chickweed, dock, yarrow, lady's mantle, wild thyme, blueberries, crowberries, angelica and rose root, amongst others!
We were guided throughout the trip by our fearless local tour organizer, Vally. She was an incredible guide who enriched our trip so much with her vast knowledge of Icelandic history, culture and geology. She brought us to the top of a crater, showed us a secret waterfall, led us to a beach full of magic stones, and even introduced us to "chocolate-covered lava!"
I am still coming down to earth after being in such a majestic and expansive place. Words cannot describe the beauty, mystery and intensity of Iceland, so I'll let these photos speak for me...
Lemon Balm: The Gateway Herb
Lemon Balm is a cheerful little plant. With uplifting, lemon-scented leaves and tiny sweet white flowers, it is a pleasant addition to any garden or kitchen apothecary. I have never found anyone who does not enjoy lemon balm, so I call it a “gateway herb.” Even the most wary newcomers to herbs fall in love with its scent and taste, and then become open to trying many more new and unusual herbs…!
Both bees and humans find this plant irresistibly attractive. In fact its Latin name Melissa refers to “bees” — these insects will flock to it whenever it is in bloom.
Lemon balm is originally from southern Europe but is now widely cultivated around the world. Like many mint family plants it is a very prolific grower. If you have limited garden space, you may want to place it in a container so that it does not take over the whole garden. (However, I don’t think that that would be such a terrible thing if it did happen...)