Episode 4: Fall in Love With Yogapuncture

Episode 4: Fall in Love With Yogapuncture

This week we are joined by Erin Sonn from Eat Yoga Drink to discuss the unique experience of Yogapuncture. The Virginia University of Integrative Medicine partners with Eat Yoga Drink to blend the healing modalities of yoga and acupuncture.

Guest Bios

Erin Sonn
Owner, Yoga Instructor & Mindfulness Coach at eat.YOGA.drink., LLC.

Erin Sonn, M.Ed., E-RYT, YACEP teaches traditional styles of yoga and mindfulness in nontraditional spaces to make the practice accessible and fun. Erin offers modifications and amplifications to suit every level of yogi, from beginner to advanced. Based in Northern Virginia, Erin is a yoga instructor and mindfulness coach, helping people discover their happiness, creativity, and serenity by linking awareness, breath, and movement. She teaches vinyasa flow classes in nontraditional spaces, offering unique opportunities to connect within and to others in the community.

Key Takeaways:

Yogapuncture is a unique combination of yoga and acupuncture which triggers peaceful energetic changes in the body. It has proven effectiveness in reducing stress, anxiety and eliciting deep levels of relaxation.

Links and Other Goodies:


Speaker 1 (00:04):

Integrative medicine has been around for thousands of years and is now a widely used form of healthcare across the modern world. In this podcast we discuss holistic wellness and share how integrative medicine has evolved to become a part of our culture today. This is all things integrative brought to you by Virginia university of integrated medicine.

Speaker: Erin Sonn (00:32):

So my name is Erin Sonn and I own Eat Yoga Drink, which is a wellness business that brings yoga and mindfulness experiences to non-traditional spaces. And I began this company at the beginning of 2016 after I went through yoga teacher training as a way to make the practices of yoga and mindfulness really accessible to people. I noticed that there are lots of yoga studios all over the place and there were many people who are comfortable practicing within the studios, but there were also people who felt that the studios were intimidating or that they had to already have a practice established before they went to the yoga studio. And so they, they were intimidated to, to step into the studio. So I knew that I wanted to make the practices available to everyone. And so bringing it into nontraditional spaces, sort of stripped some of that intimidation factor and makes it fun. So my Eat Yoga Drink experiences, pair yoga and mindfulness with sometimes beverages, sometimes food, sometimes just unique spaces with really cool views. And so that’s what led me to here, to the Virginia University of Integrative Medicine.

Speaker: Byung Kim (01:49):

My name is Byung Kim. I am the Chief Marketing Officer at Virginia University of Integrative Medicine and I oversee the overall marketing for both university and the clinic. And these days we’ve been focusing on taking our marketing on a digital scale. So we’re trying to do a lot of digital marketing and now we’re trying to launch our podcast through these episodes. So we are serving our community at large and we have patients from age group from 20s til late seventies. And these are working professionals and sometimes family members. And we provide treatments to these people and we cover various different symptoms and we are here to help them to really live better with less elements and less symptoms. And at the university we offer training for students to become a competent professional acupuncturist. And it’s a master’s program where they’re learning about acupuncture, Oriental medicine, as well as biomedicine in their program. And they will be competently prepared to become a practitioner by the time they’re graduating from our school.

Speaker: Erin Sonn (02:58):

Integrative to me is a comprehensive wellness approach that combines different modalities and looking very holistically at, at a person and how they’re feeling and what they’re hoping to achieve in terms of their wellness goals and reaching out to the community and all the resources available to find what package we can put together to make them feel complete and whole and well, living their very best life. And so in the, in the case of, of yoga and mindfulness, it’s giving clients an opportunity to feel aware at any given moment of how they’re feeling, how are the sensations of the body, how is the breath serving you? Do you have any particular parts of the body that are in pain, that are healing? Is your energy level low? Is that high? How, how can you blend together these modalities of yoga and mindfulness to overall be connected to how you’re feeling?

Speaker: Erin Sonn (04:00):

And then to serve you in better ways using your own your own movement, your own energy transference, your own healing breath. And of course in addition to yoga and mindfulness, the modalities that I’m most familiar with and trained in, in offering I was really excited when I was approached by the admission staff at the Virginia University of Integrative Medicine to partner to blend the modalities, the healing modalities of yoga and acupuncture, both of which are so incredibly effective on their own. Identifying energy channels within the body, identifying blockages and working to solve and heal those blockages by promoting energy movement. And when you take yoga and pair it with acupuncture, not only are you stimulating this connection to your energy centers, but you’re also bringing this huge promotion to healing within the body and using the body’s own response to the needles or to different shapes you put your body in to nurture and heal.

Speaker: Erin Sonn (05:10):

So on their own, they’re incredible modalities for wellness, but when you pair them, it’s just magical. It’s even that much more effective to promote wellness. Many of the students that come to our yogapuncture experience are students who have been in my Eat Yoga Drink experiences at a brewery or a winery or a rooftop or a pool. So it’s really, really different, and bringing it into this clinical setting people are excited. So some of the students have come with previous acupuncture experience so they know what they’re in for and they’re really excited to pair it with yoga. Many of them though, have never tried it before. And so coming here, it’s an incredible gateway exposure to the practice of acupuncture as another healing modality they can add in their toolbox of wellness. And they have said, most of them that I’ve heard from have said that they experience a relaxation like nothing they’ve ever experienced before.

Speaker: Erin Sonn (06:12):

So the final resting shape that we always land them in at the end of pranayama and asana practice is called Savasana and it’s the corpse pose and it’s releasing all of the, the gripping of the muscles and softening into stillness and allowing the breath to breathe itself. So you’re not controlling anything, you’re just aware and present. And usually that’s a pretty relaxing shape for people. Sometimes people get a little uncomfortable with stillness so it can be challenging for others. But when you pair that with the three or five or six or eight point needle system that the clinicians have been offering to the Yogi’s it continues to activate again that the healing responses in the body and energetically it’s offering such a release that it just thinks them deeper and deeper into relaxation and ease and, and quieting any stress responses in the mind or the body so that they can fully surrender into this, this place of stillness.

Speaker: Erin Sonn (07:13):

And so they’re like, they wake up and they feel like they’ve had a two hour long nap and it’s a, usually about a 30 minute time in which they’re resting in Savasana. That includes about 15 to 20 minutes with the needles. And they wake up so happy. I mean, everyone always has a big smile on their face and some of them have even had to like hang out in the room a little bit. Just to make sure they’re fully awake and alert enough to drive back home. So it’s a pretty incredible pairing for, for an experience that again, finds a sense of relaxation that’s not typically accessible in just a typical yoga class. Byung and I welcome the clients who come in the yogis and they roll out their mat and we invite them to this space to, to settle in where they feel comfortable.

Speaker: Erin Sonn (08:10):

And we introduce ourselves and we talk a little bit about the format. And Dr. Lee always comes in and explains what’s going to happen cause we don’t want to be interrupted of the rest and talk about it during Savasana. So we always tell them before we even start the class so that they’re well aware of the expectations. We give them a chance- He talks about the different points along the Meridian that he’s going to be engaging with the needles so they know what to expect. And it gives the yogis a chance to ask questions if they’re curious about anything. And once their curiosities are settled, we began and it’s a typical hour long Vinyasa class in which we begin with a centering exercise to bring them to the present moment to bring them in connection to the physical sensations of the body and with the breath.

Speaker: Erin Sonn (08:59):

Then we do spinal warmups moving and engaging through the seven directions of the spine and then we start to flow and it’s an all levels class that invites anyone, whether you’ve practiced a bazillion times or whether you’ve never been on the map before it, there is something in it for you because all of the shapes are accessible and within each shape I’ll offer an amplification for someone who is looking for a little bit more physical engagement in the practice or someone who’s done it many times and they’re looking for something new and I give modifications for anyone who’s brand new to the practice, who wants to be a little bit more gentle in the body. We also have blocks that we use as prompts to make the practice accessible and so we practice and we flow and we connect our breath and movement. It’s all very mindfulness-based.

Speaker: Erin Sonn (09:45):

So I cue them to be aware of what’s going on as they’re participating. And then as we start to make our way back down to do some final stretches and then welcome the bodies to lay down into Savasana. That is when we, without any, we don’t let them know that the clinicians are coming cause they know that that’s happening. But it’s just this, it’s from my perspective watching it all as the instructor, it’s this beautiful processional of these clinicians that come in, like little ants marching, almost very quiet, very clean. They sterilize the different spots in the body that are going to receive the needles and they engage the needles, they twist them, they make sure that everything is just right. And then they quietly go out and we usually let the needle stay in for about 15 minutes.

Speaker: Erin Sonn (10:40):

And then in that, at the end of that 15 minutes, the clinicians again come back in just so quietly and they work to remove the needles so that everyone has had a chance to have at least 15 minute engagement with acupuncture. And then it’s over. And, and then I cue them as I normally would any other class for them to reconnect. Awareness to our breath invites a movement into the body. Just notice the residual effects of the practice. Notice the benefits of the practice that are available to them off the mat so that they can after long after the practices over come back to that space where they’re feeling calm and quiet in the mind and comfortable and at peace so that they can be resilient it out off the mat in life when they’re facing any sort of challenges. Eat Yoga Drink was born again from this passion to bring yoga to nontraditional spaces to make it accessible and affordable for people because the average ticket price is still cheaper than the average drop-in cost at a yoga studio.

Speaker: Erin Sonn (11:44):

And paired with the yoga experience, which is a studio quality experience is usually a some food experience or a drink or in this case acupuncture. The “Eat” part is we all have to eat to nourish our bodies. And so in the logo eat is green to represent freshness of food that vegetables, fruits and other healthy foods that we can welcome into our body to feel good. The “Yoga” is in bright yellow to represent sun energy cause we invite solar energy into our bodies when we stimulate the energy through movement, through our yoga practice. And the blue is “Drink” because my friend who designed the logo told me that back in the day when glassware was made a little differently, a little thicker when you looked down from an aerial perspective onto a wine glass or a beer glass or any kind of glass that held juice or water, it made a little blue rim.

Speaker: Erin Sonn (12:40):

And so that’s the significance of the blue and the order is the such that we all have to eat to nourish our bodies. You have to have energy through calories. You cannot survive right in an, in a yoga class typically without having a little sustenance. The yoga comes next and then we follow it with a drink. And the drink is a way for us to take our yoga practice off the mat into a common space where we can share community and conversation and just toast life. Oftentimes when you do a yoga class at a studio when it’s all said and done, you roll up your mat, you get in your car and you’re all by yourself. And the yoga practice stimulates so many thoughts and feelings, so much energy and oftentimes when you’re by yourself after that, it can feel lonely. I like to encourage space for the yoga to travel off the mat into that open community space so that people can talk about what’s on their mind, gives them a chance to feel continued release and that connecting, you know, in the yoga practice we’re connecting with ourself, with our, with our thoughts, with our feelings, with our sensations.

Speaker: Erin Sonn (13:47):

And when you take it off the mat, you make that interpersonal connection with others, which can really fill your soul.

Speaker: Byung Kim (13:53):

Yogapuncture is something we offer to our community at large, but also our students on campus and staff members as well. And we’ve encouraged them to participate in these types of events because it’s a great way for them to engage outside of the classroom, but actually incorporate what they’ve learned and what they’re learning into their exercises and practices. We have courses such as Tai Chi or Qigong that involve these types of movements and exercises and yoga, you know, we cannot exclude it because it’s one of the most practiced wellness practices in the country, in the world. And we thought, we thought by combining these two modalities together, we can truly show how integration can be done in various different ways and settings and methodology. So students have been coming and participating and they’ve been really enjoying it a lot because this deep belief can also help them to promote our medicine in various different ways on the platform. We always want to make acupuncture more approachable and friendly to the community and the people who’ve never been exposed. And this allows us to bring these different ways to engage with acupuncture and learn about her medicine through a more friendly, approachable way.

Speaker: Erin Sonn (15:16):

I’d like to add to that too, that Byung and his colleagues have been really generous. And one of the parting gifts besides feeling great for the yogis is a coupon for two treatments here at the Virginia University of Integrative Medicine. And I know several of the students who not only use it, most of them have a chance to use it, but several who have not only used it, but they’ve continued to practice here coming back over and over again to help them relieve symptoms of particular chronic illnesses or episodic ailments. And so I know that it’s, it’s a partnership that is serving my yoga students really, really well and we’re grateful for all that you do to support us.

Speaker: Byung Kim (16:05):

And I guess one thing I also want to add is when you said how you want yogis or the participants to enjoy the sensation, the feeling after or off the mat. And I think there are certain things we can include in our services such as a regular acupuncture, which involves ear seeds, where these are little seeds that are taped in your ears or on certain points to give you continuous stimulation even after the treatment. So I think something like that would be an added value for our yogis and participants so they can continuously benefit after the yoga session off the mat.

Speaker: Erin Sonn (16:47):

I’ll just say one more thing, this, that I have been promoting every time we schedule a session, which I’m grateful for, I always promote it to all of my students at all the other classes that I teach. And there’s a lot of curiosity about the pairing and there are a lot of people who are just acupuncture, curious to be in with. And so it’s such a great, like, I can’t say this enough. It’s a great way to explore acupuncture as a healing modality in a very safe, approachable way. It’s not you know, you’re safe because you’re in a clinic that’s very clean and hygienic. But you’re also in a community of like minded people who are in it with you. So you’re not in a room by yourself with a clinician, which is nothing wrong with, there’s nothing unsafe about that.

Speaker: Erin Sonn (17:38):

But it just gives people a chance who have always been curious about acupuncture to explore it in a really approachable way. So I think the more people we can expose to acupuncture as a modality paired with yoga, something that’s familiar to them, the more long term acupuncture patients, hopefully we’re grooming it, is said that our biology is our biography. So we wear our experiences, our memories, our traumas, all of our just any, anything that’s happened to us. We wear it on a cellular level. And oftentimes we tend to grip and hold onto things that don’t necessarily serve us, but they’re the things that sort of haunt us and that are always fresh in our minds. And so both yoga and acupuncture serve to stimulate different energy centers of the body that can offer release. So when you invite attention to the breath or when you invite a needle into a particular energy Meridian, it’s stimulating it so that it can soften and release.

Speaker: Erin Sonn (18:42):

And maybe you can speak to the medical piece of acupuncture. But that’s how I’ve come to understand it. And so when we tend to grip or when we tend to be resistant, right? Either direction, where we’re holding on too tightly or we’re pushing away, we’re not in the moment, we’re not noticing what’s happening as it’s happening at this moment. This is one of my favorite quotes. “The present moment is the only moment with a legitimate claim on reality.” So we spend a lot of our time ruminating in the past, which is just an illusion. We spend a lot of time forecasting and planning the few and having anxiety about the future, which is just our imagination. And where we are is right here right now. And so when we lay on the yoga mat and work to connect breath and movement in this very mindful practice and when we receive the needles in acupuncture, we are very much living in the moment.

Speaker: Erin Sonn (19:37):

And our mind is fresh too, to enjoy all of the pleasures and the joys of taking care of ourselves in that moment. So we’re not holding thoughts of things that have happened and things that are yet to come that could destroy our connection to that peace and that joy and that calmness that are created by these two practices. It is so critical that people engage in self-care practices because we are the only ones that truly hold the intuition and the wisdom to know what’s happening within us. And there are lots of people in our lives who love us, who want to take care of us in different ways, but they don’t know what we need. They think they may know, they may think they know what they need, but we truly are the only ones who can connect with the physical body, the energetic body, the subtle body, and know at any given time what the thoughts are in our mind, what the energy feels like in the body, what the physical body is offering, and everyone has time for self-care.

Speaker: Erin Sonn (20:34):

And if it means simply pausing for two minutes every day to notice the body and invite a deeper sensation of breath, that is self-care. If it goes a little longer and you time to engage in a meditation or some other contemplative practice that gets you connected with what is and what isn’t and just finding a greater sense of ease. That is self-care. If you’d like to go to the gym or go outside and go for a walk or go running anytime you are offering attention to yourself at catering to your wellness needs, it is self-care. So it doesn’t have to be a consuming 85, 90 minute practice every single day. It could be done in a minute or two. Washing your hands is self-care, being attentive and to, removing the germs so that you know you’re, you’re being healthy and safe is self-care.

Speaker: Erin Sonn (21:25):

Anything that you can do to offer attention to yourself, catering to your needs and coming out feeling better. That is self-care and we all have time for it. And if you believe you don’t have time for it, you do. We can’t afford not to spend time on it. Truly is the, is the reality. I have some students who come to my yoga practice as a compliment to other athletic endeavors. So they come to yoga as more of a restoration or restorative practice or a way to increase flexibility if they’re involved in strength, some strength training, activity or strength, a sport that really relies on their physical strength. I’ve also had a lot of students come who are injured because of the sports or am I allowed to say CrossFit? A lot of people have come because they’ve sustained injuries from these really impacting activities and they gave those up realizing that their bodies just aren’t suited for it anymore and they wanted to come do something that was a little bit more nourishing to the body.

Speaker: Erin Sonn (22:35):

And the beautiful thing about yoga practice that I teach a Vinyasa style yoga. So we link breath and movement in a flow and it truly builds mental and physical flexibility, balance and strength. So we are not just weightlifting. There is a lot of weight resistance going on when we do like a high pushup to a low pushup, you’re using your own body weight as resistance to build strength. But then we will float through shapes that extend and flex through the spine to offer lengthening to the vertebra. And so throughout an hour long yoga practice or a 75 minute yoga practice, you’re getting a beautiful combination of those goals, the flexibility, balance and strength. So it’s a practice that is low impact, high reward. It’s low, it can be cardio intensive. If we’re doing a lot of flows, it can also be a very slow practice that holds shapes a little longer.

Speaker: Erin Sonn (23:39):

It depends on what our focus is each, each class. But I’ve never had anyone come from a an intense cardio style sports slash workout regimen to yoga and decide that yoga is not right for them. They melt into yoga, wishing they had done it all along as a compliment to the other things because they believe they could have staved off some of the injuries just by having stronger joints and more flexible muscles and so forth. I also have a good number of students who come, not even for the physical benefits, even though they appreciate them, they’re just, they’re there for the well mental wellness. They’re there for the, the, the presence and developing resilience and giving themselves a chance to get out of their head. And in yoga we work a lot on bringing some stillness to, to the swirl in the mind and quieting the chatter in the mind and not pretending it doesn’t exist, but just bringing it down to a whisper so that you have more clarity of the mind and can connect with your true self a little bit deeper.

Speaker: Erin Sonn (24:49):

So there are so many different reasons that compel people to come to yoga practice and there’s so many benefits that one can gain from the practice. It’s not a one size fit all. And that’s what makes yoga a great practice for anyone. There’s so many styles of teachers, so many styles of practice out there. Some are really very strictly alignment based. Some are very cardio oriented, some are like Jian yoga. A beautiful practice gets just into the connective tissues in the body. It’s not engaging the musculoskeletal system at all. So we’re not looking to build the heart rate. We’re looking to build presence and settle the body into spaces of discomfort so that you can be comfortable with discomfort off the mat. You can breathe into it and you can know that you can endure it. So again, so many different types of yoga for different people. No matter what your goals are, no matter what your physical body can and can’t do, there’s something for you. On the yoga mat.

Speaker: Byung Kim (25:48):

In Western medicine, they tend to really focus on the symptom, what’s really bothering the patient and how do we relieve those pain or detention. And they sometimes fail to look really at the cause of all these concerns and pains and ailments. And our approach is a little bit different because we’re trying to take care of the costs so we can alleviate the symptoms by taking care of what’s causing these symptoms. And our approach is a little bit different because we’re trying to encourage your body to naturally heal itself by stimulating certain circulation or certain things around your body by targeting the central nervous system with various different points that we trigger through not just acupuncture needles, but also cupping method where you’re doing the suction or we actually even use moxibustion, which is lighting up the herb incense to stimulate a circulation in certain area with the heat sensation. So we believe our approach is similar to yoga because we are trying to naturally encourage your body to find inner peace mentally, physically. But what we are also trying to do is to allow you to recognize that preventative care is a great way to take care of your body as well as your mind.

Speaker: Erin Sonn (27:08):

I say this all the time, particularly at the beginning of the year, that don’t make resolutions. Number one, resolutions are predicated on fear and a sense of inadequacy. And when we make resolutions, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. Cause as soon as the, you know, as soon as the Valentine’s candy hits the shelves and you get invited to the wine and, and chocolate pairing, like out, it goes dry January, right? I’ll pose your sense of a connection to, to some of the goals you set for yourself. So instead of resolutions, I encourage people to set intentions. And an intention is different. It’s not a goal, it’s not a future focused statement. It’s a personal statement that taps into your current sense of being. And it gives you a chance to empower a particular energy that you’re carrying with you. It’s like planting a seed and watching throughout the year that seed grow.

Speaker: Erin Sonn (28:03):

And the seed doesn’t grow the first day you plant it. We don’t pick the fruit the day we plant the seed, we have to nurture it with our attention and in this case, with our breath, with our practices, with our habits, so that we can eventually bear the fruit and reap the rewards. So what I would say is what is most important to you in your life? What are you looking, not to change but to empower yourself to connect with. So instead of saying, I want to lose weight, which many people want, too many people have trouble doing. So it’s just that I just want to feel healthier, right? I want to respect, continue to respect my body and all the choices that I make will align with that intention. So I’m going to park the car a little further away, take a few extra steps, going to make sure I’m drinking water, even when I’m not thirsty, I’m going to get as much sleep as I can, putting my phone downstairs rather than next to my bed.

Speaker: Erin Sonn (29:05):

There are little habits that you can, that you can change or begin or continue that can help to feed into this intention to help watch your seed grow. But take baby steps. You don’t have to automatically begin a yoga practice because you’ve been curious about it. Maybe you just start by taking five minutes at home to route the body down and breath being present for what you notice. And then maybe the next day you add breath and a few shapes in the body and then maybe the next day you find a YouTube video that’s 20 minutes long and you try the whole class and then maybe the next week you go into a studio and try a class and just take baby steps so that you’re not setting unrealistic expectations for yourself and you’re giving yourself a chance to really notice step-by-step how it’s feeling. Building up to a lifelong habit that you can sustain.

Speaker: Byung Kim (29:59):

Any advice for anyone who’s given up practice of yoga or practice of self-care? Anyone who, sort of ditched that and thought, I cannot afford that at this point in my life. What would you tell those people? What would be your advice? Because we do want them to get back on a better track.

Speaker: Erin Sonn (30:18):

No, that you are always welcome back to your mat. We are happy to roll out a mat for you if you burned your mat when you got rid of the habit, you’re always welcome back to our community to practice with us. And you’re welcome to come and lay down in Savasana for an hour or sit in child’s pose for an hour and just be part of the community. There is no need for you to jump right in and do everything everyone else is doing. Just showing up on your mat to be present for yourself is, is the practice. So if you need help or encouragement, go back to when you were actively in the practice and try to think about how that made you feel. How did it make you feel? How did it make you feel to be present for yourself? How did it feel to offer a deeper respiration, to clean out the body of residue and toxins?

Speaker: Erin Sonn (31:07):

How did it feel to move the body? And how are you feeling now? And if there’s a disconnect and you’d rather feel better, you can always come back and maybe find a buddy, someone who can perhaps hold help hold you accountable to your intention. Say your intention nice and loudly to yourself each and every day that you respect yourself. You want to show up for yourself and make choices that align with that intention. So that your time is spent wisely and so that you ultimately feel better whatever the practices for you. Our next yoga puncture experience is going to be on Saturday, February 8th we begin at 9:00 AM and we wrap up by 11:00 AM so it’s a luscious two hour experience of movement, mindfulness, acupuncture, wellness rest, and you can sign up on eventbrite.com or you can sign up from my website at EatYogaDrink.com I believe it’s on the VUIM website as well. So we’ve offered you lots of opportunities for signing up. It’s a $20 investment in your wellness and that includes the yoga, the acupuncture treatment, as well as an additional coupon for a visit for treatment when you want to come back. So it’s a, it’s a good deal. Again, considering that a typical drop in class at a yoga studio is at least $25 so we hope you can join us. There’s always room for you until there’s not so sign up to make sure that it doesn’t fill.

Speaker 1 (32:40):

Thanks for listening to All Things Integrated. Be sure to tune into our next episode where we’ll share more information on how integrative medicine can help you lead a happier, healthier life.