Feeling bloated from pie and difficult holiday season emotions? Resident fitness witch Russ Marshalek shows you how to burn calories AND bad feelings by making your workout a forgiveness practice …
For most of us living in post-Woke America, the “saveable” facet of the holiday season is the food—and idea of togetherness at any cost, through gritted teeth, regardless of how racist Grandpa is.
And what you “indulged in,” this can also be a time to practice the art of forgiveness.
“Why should I let that asshole off the hook by forgiving and forgetting?” you might ask (especially if you’re a witch with a penchant for revenge).
Well, true forgiveness isn’t the same thing as forgetting or shitty faux-happiness. Instead, it’s the act of acknowledging what’s happened, and actively choosing to allow past grievances to be fuel for your personal power.
You’ll be surprised at how damn good it feels—so good, you may even be able to deal with good ol’ racist Grandpa without biting your own hand off.
Turning bullshit into power: that’s magic.
But it also takes practice and rock solid awareness. Try these 5 fitness practices to summon the core strength and mental fortitude you need …
1// Walk it Off When you can’t stomach any more negativity and are ready let go and let Goddess, take a walk and hug a tree. Seriously.
As witches, the healing power of nature is a truth we hold to be self-evident, but I feel like it bears repeating til the cows come home.
Feel your negative energy leaving you and imagine the tree breathing a deep green or white energy into you in its place. If you want to add more to this—a run, sprint, etc, or incorporate this into an existing outdoor workout—feel free. But the important and non-negotiable part is to hug a tree. Definitely do a quick but sincere offering to the local spirits as a thank you after.
2// Sit with Forgiveness, aka “Let’s take a time out” Ok, so Grandpa/Uncle/whathaveyou was offensive, admitted to voting for Trump, and basically stands in total opposition to you, your beliefs, and your existence.
The best way to let that shit go? The incredibly challenging practice known as active meditation. This guided meditation from The Mindfulness Movement is an excellent starting point until you’re able to guide yourself.
3// Breathe Into Self-Forgiveness “Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck,” you say to yourself, “I can not fucking believe I did that.” Whatever THAT is, I can assure you that you are dwelling on it way more than anyone else. And even if that’s not the case: so what?
Use this planking exercise to embody the sensation of “letting go,” get over it/yourself, and be grateful for the experiences that have brought you here, even the sucky ones.
While holding a plank, suck your stomach all the way in and tighten your stomach muscles. Breathe normally, ideally through your nose. Hold this position for one minute, and then relax your stomach slowly as your lower down to the ground from plank position. Try raising the length of the exercise by 30 seconds every week to keep pushing yourself.
4// Knock This One Out Feeling overwhelmed by all of the internalized crap you’ve been bottling up?
Try this drill for starters. Imagine the air in front of you filled with the charged emotions that have made you feel bad, kept you from moving forward, and locked your heart in a dark place. Then punch it out, imagining the air in front of you purifying into a bright white light.
5// Reps for Retribution Ok, I’d feel remiss if I didn’t include a post-Thanksgiving “Bye, Pie” type workout in here, so this is that one. Sure, you can meditate on the meaning of self-love or whatever, but mainly this is here to make you sweat.
In his latest column, resident fitness witch Russ Marshalek shares how to make your next dance party a witchy workout—whether you’re dancing solo or with friends …
Last weekend, the Scissor Sisters’ Ana Matronic threw a rave for hurricane relief with her activist group W.A.F.T (Witches Against Fascist Totalitarianism).
What are a bunch of witches doing throwing parties and DJing? While using the adjective “spiritual” to describe a dance party might seem cliche, sweaty, unconscious movement to raw primal beats IS a magical thing.
Dancing raises our energy, loosens inhibitions, connects the physical body with the earth, and creates a feeling of “in-between” where anything can happen and creation is limitless. And a great DJ commands a crowd and uses song selection to cast a spell.
As Alkistis Dimech of Sabbatic Dance told me in an interview on the New Jack Witch blog, “For me, [dance] is to do with crisis and transformation. I hurl myself into the unknown, I encounter the ‘other’ in my body. In this way I remember and invoke the witches, demoniacs, ecstatics, hysterics, whores, the mothers who came before me.”
Ultimately, it’s the alchemy of all of this—joy, pleasure, connection to body and spirit—that makes dancing the ultimate witchy workout. An act of spiritual rebellion. Particularly in these times when legislation on and regulation of the body, particularly the female body, is at an all-time dangerous high.
This is reflected in the “radical softness” movement that empowers sensitivity and the body, and in media like Brit Marling’s stunning reflection on dance as resistance on Netflix’s “The OA,” and in the canonical “body as a tool of magic” essay Forging The Body Of The Witch.
So if your dancing body can be a weapon of resistance—be it against that jealous witch in the corner or the modern fascist regime—how can you put it to work? Read on for the Numinous rules of rave …
DANCING AT A PARTY
So you’re out dancing. This is the physical work, congrats! There are a few ways you can subtly alter your reality or tweak your consciousness to bring a ritualistic element to your night out.
1) When you first enter the venue, set your eyes on the dance floor/dance area. Imagine it being circled in a ring of white light, ideally one white candle at a time encircling the dance floor. Guess what? You’ve just done a moonshine version of casting a circle! Expect to feel more protected and in control of your dancing body from just from this simple act. (If you can, on your way out, imagine the lights going out one at a time, or fading away.)
2) At the start of the night/party, set an intention, however major or minor, for something you’d like to achieve relatively soon. This could be as simple as finding your favorite flavor of seltzer at the store tomorrow, or more complex, like getting a new job. As you dance, imagine all your movements infusing that goal with positive energy, grounding it in the here and now.
3) Close your eyes. No, really, close your eyes. Allow yourself to merge with the beat of the music and become one with it. This is harder than you think, and a rapture that seasoned ravers have come to treasure as a way to touch the ekstatik (which, coincidentally, is also the name of the next New Jack Witch dance party!)
DANCING ON YOUR OWN
1) If you live by yourself, great. If not, kick everyone out for the night, or shut yourself in your room. Take off your clothes. Turn off the lights. Sit with yourself for a moment. Think of something you need release: a care, a concern, a shitty thing your boss said, a voice inside your head saying heinous shit about yourself. Meditate on this for a moment, and recall how it made you feel. With this in your mind, say aloud “Do. Not. Need”. Believe it and feel it in your core.
2) Now, feel your feet touching the floor, whatever that surface is for you. Let yourself feel your feet, the ground, your spine, your body. Take one or two slow forward folds. Then, with your intention firmly set to rid your body of whatever needs to get the fuck out, crank up some music and let your body move. To paraphrase Twin Peaks’ Agent Cooper, don’t plan it, don’t overthink it, just do it, allowing the music to flow through you and your body in whatever ways feel right in the moment. Allow any emotions that surface to pass, acknowledging them but not dwelling on any feeling overlong.
CHOOSING YOUR MUSIC AND YOUR MOVES
Depending what you need and how you’re feeling, one song might be perfect, or nowhere near enough. I’ve chosen 4 songs, one for each element, as a guide …
For instance, for Earth, try rolling around on the ground. For air, make wispy moves. Fire can be big, bold leaps, suited to the drum beats of the track chosen here, and water should be fluid, rolling your shoulders and limbs like a stream (but not necessarily gentle).
Again, these are just suggestions. Ultimately, this is about you and your body, and what it needs and wants to express. When you’re done moving, sit quietly with yourself for a moment, and offer up a silent thank you to the Gods, Goddesses, and spirits guides that have been your silent dance partners.
Lost both your mystical practice and your fitness routine in a sea of BBQs and long-weekends away? In the inaugural installment of his Fitness Witch column, Russ Marshalek shares 4 on-the-go magic workouts for fall, that will fast track you back towards body alchemy.
:: A Life on the Road: Taco Bell & Alchemy :: After having steeped myself in my practice to cope with a remarkably terrible 2016, full of betrayals and trauma, magic had become literally just one more thing to cross off on a daily list of to-dos. Not coincidentally, I’d also had a falling off in my personal fitness practice.
As I embarked on a two-week tour this summer with my band, a place both wonderful and strange, I realized I’d come to an impasse in my personal practice as a self-trained fitness witch.
As we set out, I had fully resigned myself to embracing a traditional “dude on the road with his band” approach to physical and spiritual wellness: Taco Bell, drinking heavily, occasional substance consumption, Applebees, gas station fountain drinks, sleeping in every morning until the last possible second.
At the last minute, I threw a kettlebell and a shitty yoga mat in the trunk as an attempt to appease my own ever-dwindling sense of self-care. This worked out fairly well for me for a few days, and I blocked out the existence of my body while subsisting solely on bottles of Chardonnay and vegan-friendly trash food (and some pretty trashy non-vegan, food too).
Then, one morning I woke up sobbing and in that hilarious and terrifying way people discuss Ayahuasca trips, I had a 6-hour chat with myself in the back seat of the car and came to a few fundamental truths:
That I simply wasn’t drinking enough water. That performing every night both deserved and required a spiritual and physical groundedness and presence that I had been outright ignoring. And that I was a fucking lucky duck; I had the opportunity to travel for work and get paid for creating art, every night, with two of my best friends.
In short, I owed it to everyone involved, myself included, to actually show up for it.
From that day forward, I was never without a bottle of water, I started performing simple offerings to local spirits in each town we visited, and I developed a simple on-the-road exercise routine coupled with daily rituals.
Within two days of kicking my own ass into realizing that my body was unwell because my spirit was unwell, and vice versa, I was happier, more energized, and the shows that ended the tour were the best we’d ever done.
It took me being hundreds of miles away from home for me to be reminded that the true meaning of “self-care” isn’t “tuck inside a brownie and a blanket” but rather “make sure you’re as well as you can be in body and spirit.” And the true meaning of “giving a good performance” is basically the same.
Whether you’re literally on-the-go, or just feeling far from home, here are 4 magic workouts for fall to up your mystical body mojo …
1/ Get Out Regardless of where you are and what the situation is, there’s comfort and solace to be found in exploring local nature. It’s where we came from, and it’s where we are going.
Fitness: Get up as early as makes sense, lace up your sneakers, find a park or path, and go for a 20 minute jog or brisk walk. Recognize and acknowledge the foliage, the rocks, the ways in which nature finds a way.
Magic: On your journey into nature, find a patch of green that’s particularly appealing to you, and make an offering to local spirits. Alternate between drinking water from your water bottle, ideally filled with water from a local source, and pouring it on the ground as you recite the following:
Spirits of this place in which I dwell/Please accept this offering/May it multiply to the 10 directions and take the form that is most pleasing to you/Take your fill and maintain peace between me and thee/So shall it be *Drafted by Vanessa Irena and inspired by the writings of Jason Miller
Feel at peace in your surroundings.
Music: a place both wonderful and strange, “W*tch”
2// Peace In Discomfort The assimilation/accommodation process is an incredibly valuable and powerful one when in any type of new environment, and particularly so when you’re away from your literal home or just out of your comfort zone. Learn how to be at peace with the discomfort of the unfamiliar.
Fitness: This is a modified version of a routine I developed myself for use on the road, and requires nothing more than a yoga mat and a kettle bell.
Experiment with using just a little more weight than you’re comfortable with (safely of course). If you don’t have a kettle bell, find a heavy thing–other free weights/hand weights, phone books, flanks of meat, a cat. If you don’t have a yoga mat, just make sure the surface you’re on is soft enough to not destroy your knees and tailbone. Grass is a wonderful substitute.
20 kettle bell squats/20 kettle bell swings/20 Russian twists/Plank for 30 seconds/Repeat 3x. **If this is too easy and you want to really shake yourself up, feel free to add more reps or sets. I do 5 sets of 30, with a 90 second plank in each.
Magic: A simple mind-clearing ritual to help achieve calmness and clarity. It’s best to perform this at an open window or outside. Light a yellow candle, face towards the open window, close your eyes, and recite:
I call upon the power of Air/To clear the mind of confusion/To focus my thinking/And blow away the clutter/That keeps me from making good choices/Blow in the winds of clarity/And help me to think rationally and clearly/So Mote It Be *Adapted from Witches of the Craft
Imagine any internal strife quieting. Take three slow, deep breaths. Open your eyes. Leave the yellow candle burning as long as possible.
3// Mother Night We owe a debt of gratitude to the Moon and as such, it’s only fitting that we get outside and both observe and pay tribute to her.
Fitness:Under the cover of night, find a space that’s safe, that’s just yours, and take your clothes off. The freeing feeling of being naked, at night, and sweating, is an unbelievable, freeing high like no other. Do any routine that feels good and challenging to you. If you’re stumped, repeat the routine from #1, noticing how different your body feels.
Magic: Ideally, you’d be performing this simple blessing honoring the Moon after having just completed the workout above, and would still be nude. Sit crosslegged, with your palms resting on your knees facing up, in view of the Moon. Take a moment to ponder it in whatever form it’s presenting on this night. Unlike most rituals, don’t close your eyes–continue staring at the Moon, and allow its magic to dance in your mind. Repeat the following:
Mother Moon/I am restored by you/I am divinely protected by you/Help me feel your strength/Help me feel your power
4// Sleep Well, Beast When in unfamiliar or uncomfortable territory, our inner life can turn to a raging beast that causes us to sacrifice our own sense of well-being. For many, myself included, the first thing that that gets thrown out the window is a good night’s sleep. When I don’t sleep well, I have maybe about a day’s reserve of top-level adult functionality before I begin to get angry, withdrawn, and paranoid. In those situations, sleep is quite literally the only cure.
Fitness: There’s literally nothing like bedtime yoga to help with sleep. This Popsugar routine helped me find a good night’s sleep on the road.
Magic: Sit crosslegged in a quiet, dark, cool spot. Close your eyes. Feel your breathing as you breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth. Become aware of your breath and your body.
Inhale through the nose for a count of six/Hold for 3 seconds/Exhale through the nose for a count of six/Hold again for 3 seconds/Repeat this series four more times.
Imagine your body as a slowly glowing, calming blue light, originating at your heart and slowly spreading to the rest of your body. Feel gratitude for yourself, your body, and your accomplishments of the day.
Fitness becomes truly powerful when we also get our spiritual sweat on. Former NFL cheerleader turned conscious trainer Kayla Vernaglia shares her top tricks for how to have a magic workout …
Let’s get real. It seems like everywhere we look these days there’s an ad to get “beach body” ready or “slim down for summer.” It’s no wonder we’re all running for our tarot decks and tubs of vegan matcha ice cream …
There certainly isn’t anything wrong with honoring your bod, taking a sexy ass photo, and flaunting what your momma gave ya! But beyond the physical vessel fitness is a FEELING, and that’s where the magic lies and the change happens. When meeting our physical wellness goals is challenging, it’s often because there’s a mental, spiritual, or emotional weight behind it.
Which might sound like some heavy sh*t if it’s hard enough to find time to go for a run or get your down dog on.
Below are some of my pro tips for getting your spiritually conscious sweat on, and bringing an extra layer to your magic workout …
:: 1/CREATE A WORKOUT ALTAR :: Clear the space and really set the intention! This is especially great for in-home workouts. If you’re using a mat, find sacred items that hold meaning to you and place them at the head or foot. Perhaps you line the mat with spell-infused candles or a freshly pulled tarot spread. Maybe you incorporate the four elements in some way.
Don’t have a mat to create the traditional vibe? Alternatives could include anything from practicing on a patch of grass or dirt in your backyard that calls to you, using your own body as a moving altar (with your outfit choices, for example), or mapping a route on your walk/run, starting North, and then hitting the other three magical directions.
You can make it as non-traditional or traditional as you’d like—it’s your space to connect to. Work with what you’ve got and if the intention is pure, you”ll always be able to harness the magic.
:: 2/PRACTICE MIND CONTROL :: The mind is powerful AF. Truly, every choice we make, from the foods we eat to the words we say, start in the mind. If you are mid sweat and can’t stop thinking about how much you hate your thighs, well they’re probably not gonna respond with loving you back, sister. Flip the script and write a little love note to those puppies: “I love and appreciate my thighs for holding me up and keeping me strong.” Ah, doesn’t that just feel better?
:: 3/LOVE UP ON YOURSELF :: Stay in your own lane and let go of comparisons. Whether you’re an avid fitness goer or a complete novice, you are right where you should be in your journey. Focus on what you CAN do, not what you can’t. Be kind to yourself, and give yourself some love for showing up and granting your soul the beautiful opportunity to move energy and connect to the core.
Words count for sure, but there are so many other magical ways to tell yourself yor’re worthy. Perhaps you put on your sauciest pair of skivvies and walk around all day like you’re carrying a sexy little secret, or wear sensual fabrics and colors that make you feel desirable. When was the last time you sent yourself flowers? Do it up and love yourself up cause you deserve it baby!
:: 4/CHECK IN WITH YOUR “EARTH SUIT”:: We are different day to day, moment to moment—what might feel okay for you now might be different later. Have you ever had those days where you just feel sluggish or sad? Or maybe you feel really jazzed and inspired? Listen to those feelings and follow suit, literally. If something does not feel accessible for you, then modify or take that sacred pause. Modifying does not mean you’re doing less than, it means you’re honoring your body.
:: 5/GET DIRTY :: Get outside and do your workout barefoot! There is something incredibly magical about placing your feet into the earth and really grounding into her energy. Whether it’s by the ocean, in a garden, or beyond, taking our sweat sesh outside is a wonderful way to remind us that we are connected to something greater. With that sense of security, it may just allow you to reach new sweat levels you never dreamed possible.
:: 6/SWEAT WITH THE MOON :: Allow your workouts to follow the moon cycle. If the moon is waning, perhaps you go for a long run to help sweat out the toxins and release. If it’s waxing, you might work on strength building exercises such as lifting free weights to help connect to the idea of adding power to your life. If it’s summer and your workout lands around a Strawberry Full Moon, you may focus more on pelvic floor exercises for sexual liberation. Perhaps, it’s closer to the colder months, such as a Snow Moon, and you shift your focus to gentle stretching to enhance relaxation and yoke mind with body.
:: 7/BREAK OUT THE TUTU :: Like for real … HAVE FUN! Working out doesn’t have to be a horrible experience. It might even be *GASP* enjoyable! If someone farts in yoga class, we’re all still gonna make it people. As adults, sometimes it’s like we need permission to play. Add the element of fun whenever you can—maybe mid gym sesh you pretend the floor is lava, or wear a tutu to yoga class. Get creative and release that little kid who just wants to experience the world through light and laughter.
And always remember: you are a strong ass warrior queen. A Wonder Woman. Next time you lace up your sneakers or slip into your leotard (do people still wear those—please say yes!), harness the power of thought, try a few magic tricks, and allow self-love to transform you from the inside out. Now go get ’em (cue Rocky theme music)!
Kayla Vernaglia has always allowed her love of music, fashion, performance, and fun to infiltrate her active lifestyle. She is a former team captain and NFL cheerleader for The New England Patriots. In 2010, she teamed up with her sister to create The Mind Body Barre Method® – a multi-level workout emphasizing body awareness, functional fitness, and spiritual connection. Her mentorshipprogram lovingly displays her passion for helping people embrace their inner wild, connect to their core, and push past societal bullshit to uncover their own deep sacred truths. She currently resides in Boston with her 10lb fur baby, Lucy.
Wanna get jacked up on magic? Bess Matassa explores workout as ritual with fitness witches Shanda Woods and Russ Marshalek of New Jack Witch…
“The working of the human body is in and of itself a magical process”—New Jack Witch
Inside of a dimly-lit warehouse on the Greenpoint waterfront, New Jack Witch is making sweaty magic. Musicians. Witches. Fitness Instructors. This is where Russ Marshalek, an excitable, feline moon prince, and rooted revolutionary Shanda Woods, craft seamless, full-body enchantment—that also gets you ripped.
What exactly is their signature “Fitcraft” session? As I strip down and start to move to a soundtrack of goth rock, witch house, and Twin Peaks instrumentals, it seems deceptively simple. Combining yoga and cardio, it’s a minimalistic workout that thrives on repetition.
But as we continue through our reps, the energy begins to shift. “You’ve got your own back,” Russ repeats. “You’re fucking alive,” commands Shanda. I begin to experience an invigorating collision between light and dark, and a deep sense that feeling good and strong in my body can coexist with the widest, rawest range of emotion.
Post session, I sat down with the fitness witches to talk rockstars, ritual, and a workout that’s both wonderful and strange.
TN: How did you each come to your fitness practice? And when did it merge with witchcraft?
Russ: The torture and torment of being the “fat kid” really fucked with me, and was the beginning of a lifelong flirtation with an eating disorder. To quiet my anxiety, and strike the balance between my deep-fried youth and my anorexic high school years, I started exercising. Combine that with a deep disdain for the patriarchy, a seed first sown through Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, and you have the foundation.
When I moved to New York 7 years ago, I had a really intense period of unemployment that found me focusing on both witchcraft and fitness for self stability. And the more I worked on both, the more the two became vital facets of my everyday that I can’t really separate.
Shanda: My witchcraft and fitness practice have been intertwined for as long as I can remember. I’m a member of the Chickasaw Native American Tribe, and other parts of my lineage are from Ireland, so my blood is steeped in the craft. And I have always been physical—playing competitive sports since elementary school and practicing yoga since high school.
I also loved playing nontraditional “yoga” music in my classes, and got hooked on the energy of a room full of people working to change themselves. So I’ve forged my own style that blends my personal history with lessons from all of my great mentors.
TN: Both of you mention a dissatisfaction with existing fitness culture that led you to your current practice. What was lacking for you?
Russ: The “new year, new you” concept sold by gyms everywhere actually removes the agency and ability of the individual, and places “fitness” as some unattainable goal. Self-care and working out should simply be present in everyday life. You don’t need a “new you,” you just need to actualize your intentions. You’re perfect and you’re strong and you’re powerful. That’s what magic is about for me, too.
Shanda: Turning the art of helping and healing people into a commodity or ego-boosting strategy is what I really cringe at in the industry. Not to say you shouldn’t make money as a fitness professional, or that you can’t become well known, but those should be additional outcomes of helping people, not the goals.
I also believe that a lack of authenticity inspires the perpetuation of stereotypes, which leads to less variety for people who may not subscribe to the mainstream ideals of what “fitness” is. This is where we come in—we provide an honest version of ourselves, so others that are not seeking mainstream content or delivery can find a place to belong.
TN: Tell me about some of your early icons and inspirations in both worlds. Who are the “patron saints” of New Jack Witch? Who do you see as your audience?
Russ: For me, this traverses boundaries. It’s Janet Jackson in Rhythm Nation—force, grace, power, intention. Gordon White of Rune Soup fame is another, for his combo of magic and political theory with pop culture observation. Grant Morrison. Tori Amos is our Ultimate Mother Witch. Michael Macneal of MonsterCycle is the fitness person who has inspired me the most. And my wife, Vanessa Irena (the third facet of New Jack Witch), inspires me daily to be a better person and a better witch.
But our patron saints are all those witches getting their fingers dirty, planting and growing and renewing and sweating and fucking, every day. I think our audience is everyone who wants to exist outside the currently established systems. Those for whom magic and fitness are both methods of creation and self-improvement, or those who want to align to that frame of mind and learn how.
Shanda: My mom and her best friend of 40+ years (who recently passed away, but is still here to guide me from the other side) are huge influences on my connection to the craft. As far as athletes, I’ve always loved the Williams sisters and any athletes or yogis that are rebellious and caring, sharp but kind. And patrons who speak to me through NJW are the Goddesses Isis and Diana.
TN: People often discuss the “mind/body” connection, but what’s the relationship between making magic and working out?
Russ: Magic uses the body and mind, as does exercise, and both require centering, intention, and the synching of the two. Think of breathing. Really. Your mind has your body do it subconsciously. It’s a brilliant trick when you think about it! When you’re in tune, both magic and exercise are like that—the two moving as one.
Shanda: Magic is learning how to control and manipulate frequencies, elements, and energy. Fitness is learning how to control your personal frequencies, energy, and breath. To me, they both address the strength and ability of the individual to transcend the artificial disconnect we’ve been conditioned to believe in—melting and coalescing mind, heart, spirit, body, and the physical external world, in order to manifest a desired outcome or reality.
TN: You’re both musicians also. How does your music-making feed into your witchcraft and your fitness practice?
Russ: Music is ritual, fitness is ritual. It’s about creating a spell, setting an intention, and eventually enacting a change, be it large or small. In our music and our workouts, ultimately it’s about creating a spell to get from point a to point b, to reach the desired intention and response.
Shanda: Just like magic and fitness, music is the art of controlling or manipulating frequencies, energy, and emotions in order to produce a visceral emotional connection or shift in consciousness. They are all the same thing, just in different forms!
TN: You mention wanting to “rebrand” the notion of the “rockstar.” What do you mean by that?
Russ:The concept of the rockstar has meant egotistical, out of touch, slobby, etc. Yes, we drink, and we have fun, and there’s a certain glamor to the showmanship of the music industry, but we’re also engaging with our bodies daily to keep them strong and healthy. It makes us better performers, humans, and witches when the main tool we have (our body) is sharp.
Shanda: We are trying to show people that caring for yourself and finding your power is one of the biggest things you can do for yourself and the world. There is an archetype of the rockstar that doesn’t cherish this internal divinity. It’s an outmoded archetype of self-abuse, unnecessary decadence, and an egocentric notion that’s not based on service, which is really what all musicians and teachers offer through art and knowledge.
While indulgence or the use of substances isn’t always a bad thing (witchcract is often connected to entering a trancelike state either through meditation or substances, after all), indulgence to an excessive degree is counterproductive to lifting the spirit.
TN: Some people think of goth culture and music as dark or cynical. What myths would you like to dispel about both witchcraft and about the music you use during your sessions?
Russ:Well, first off, there isn’t any separation between “darkness and light.” And once you start saying things like “I don’t fuck with that dark shit,” well, you’re already off to a highly misguided start. Both goth and witchcraft celebrate the lightness in the dark and the darkness in the light. Playing Godflesh’s “Streetcleaner” in a fitness class puts a huge smile on students’ faces.
Shanda: I believe that there’s a clarity that comes from practicing ritual or fitness, or creating music, when you approach them through a lens of innocent excitement. I believe everything should be viewed with an open heart. Vulnerability allows for the truth to filter through easier than upholding a wall of judgment. When you break down the walls, nothing but truth is left, and that’s where real growth and change can occur.
TN: What are your personal definitions of a witch? A fitness instructor? A musician?
Russ:A conjurer. A creator. A fighter. The definitions for all have been too rigid for far too long.
Shanda: Wavelength manipulators.
TN: How do you want people to walk away from a Fitcraft session feeling?
Russ:To steal a phrase from President Bartlet: Ready for “what’s next.”
Shanda:Empowerment, which is the knowledge of and faith in their own beauty and strength, backed by an infinite sense of self-love.
Learn more about New Jack Witch here, and check out their upcoming Goth Cycle + Yoga Class on Saturday, February 25 2017 at The Monster Cycle Limelight: 47 West 20th Street, New York, NY, 10011
Forget everything you know about the Windy City—there are plenty of high-vibe happenings in Spiritual Chicago, says Andrea Kasprzak…
The Windy City may be better known for the Cubs than the cosmic, but it’s not all deep dish pizza and boozy baseball fans. When it comes to tapping spiritual Chicago, you just have to know where to look. Here’s our itinerary for a day of crystals, yoga, and high vibrational cuisine.
9AM :: Kundalini Yoga at Sat Nam Yoga The second you step into this cozy, sanctuary-within-the-city you’ll want to curl up on a white sheepskin rug and never leave. Take a kundalini class in the sun drenched front room, shop for sage and crystals in the store, or book a treatment with some of the area’s most sought after healers. Not to be missed: lunar tune-ups in the outdoor courtyard during monthly new and full moon rituals and cosmic vinyasa (yoga and symphonic gong immersion under the projection of the stars).
11 AM :: Soak at Float Sixty Whether you consider sensory deprivation tanks a spiritual experience or a just a slightly trippy way to spend an hour, you’ll never regret the experience. Head to this River North haven to soak in style. The industrial cool space features tons of tubs, a meditation room to hang out in post-soak, and a grooming area. Try the Samadhi Tank for a super cool intergalactic womb-like vibe.
1PM :: Juice and Crystals at Infiniteus Kill two birds with one (high energy) stone at this Wicker Park rocks and juice shop. First, hydrate with a cold-pressed juice or purified alkaline water amidst massive amethysts and orange calcite covered tables in the cafe. Then, hit up the back room to shop for gems and crystals. Owner Alex Drummond is super knowledgable and on hand to help. Bonus: they’ll even deliver your gems and juices to your door.
2PM :: Gong Therapy with Mason Pain Transportive, elevating, and a little bit other-worldly, getting gonged by sound therapist Mason Pain offers deep release on a higher level. Surrender to the healing vibrations of three gongs, as well as singing bowls and chimes. Sessions begin with Yoga Nidra to open you up to maximum receptivity.
3PM :: Nut Milk at Owen + Alchemy Think you’re over juice after too many cleanses? This gothic cool Logan Square juice bar from Anne Owen and Jared Van Camp may change your mind. Try the nut milks. We suggest the dessert-y 54 (raw hazelnut, cacao, cinnamon, vanilla bean, raw local honey) or the fresh and creamy 59 (young raw coconut juice and young raw coconut meat).
4PM :: Tarot Reading with Laura Gonzalez Laura, a self-described Mexican witch, has felt a true connection and psychic insights since childhood. Tarot card reading is her passion and it shows. Sessions are meant to offer guidance and clarity. Go deeper by asking specific questions. Laura’s hyper presence makes it easier to digest tough truths.
5PM :: Reiki with Jerry Mikutis Clear energy blocks and connect with a like-minded sensi soul during a session with Reiki healer and yoga instructor Jerry Mikutis. Her warm personality and magic touch puts clients at instant ease.
6PM :: Vegetarian Dinner at Green Zebra Bar and ballpark snacks may get first bill, but there’s still plenty of high vibe, creative and veggie-centric places to grab a bite. Case in point: Green Zebra. Fresh, local, and elevated, the West Town restaurant is a standout not to be missed. Small plate dishes like the Hen of the Woods mushroom pate and fermented beet tartare with borscht yogurt, candied pistachios, and dill pickles are plated to impress.
8PM :: Crystallsage Massage atRuby Room Cap off the night with a Crystallsage Massage at this Wicker Park healing hybrid space. Sessions start with a flower and gem essence spray and reading. Move into a treatment room for an intense 90-minute massage featuring Himalayan salt crystals for serious grounding. After, shop for crystals and spend the night in one of the upstairs rooms.
We caught up with Rebecca to get the inside scoop on astrology for self-healing, and to learn how astrology is intimately related to your body. PLUS scroll down to do a cosmic body-scan by sign, and learn what practices and techniques can help you achieve optimal health and wellbeing…
The Numinous: What’s the first thing to know about astrology for self-healing? Rebecca Gordon: As well as your personality characteristics, your chart speaks volumes about your body and soul disposition. This is because each Sign of the zodiac has rulership over a region of your body, and so the signs you are born under will tell a story of your physical strengths and susceptibilities.
In ancient times, medicine and astrology were practiced in concert together—and in fact, in most Universities of the middle ages and Renaissances, and in the Hippocratic school of Medicine, a physician would not be allowed to practice medicine without a prior knowledge of astrology.
TN: And how is your new book designed to be used? RG: First of all, remember that each sign of the zodiac lives within you—since every sign is somewhere in your chart, and each sign is also represented in one part of your body. The condition of that region of your body can tell a lot about your character and life lessons at any given moment.
As such, the book is designed to give you deep insight into your emotions, mind and spirit through the lens of your body. You can strengthen your life force by simply looking up your Sun sign, learning about the lessons and doing the exercises. You can also do this for your Moon and rising signs.
But let’s say you have this reoccurring low back pain. Then you can turn to the chapter on Libra, and use it to assess where you’re at. On a more emotional level, if you have a big speech to give and you are mortified about public speaking I’d recommend focusing on Leo practices, and incorporating them into your life for at least a month prior—to strengthen a heartfelt sense of self-expression.
The recommended practices are meant to ‘tonify’ each sign and they will range from breath work, to physical exercises, Yoga poses, affirmations, and lifestyle routines.
TN: How have you used astrology for self-healing yourself? RG: Whenever I feel a blockage in my body such as sinus infection or neck pain, I immediately ask myself ‘what else could this mean?’ Asking the questions related to the sign ruling these areas (Aries and Taurus) I always learn so much about myself, and often when any internal imbalances are addressed, my physical symptoms will also clear up. Not always in one day, and I am a huge fan of doing one practice for a 40-day period, the time frame required to carve new neural pathways.
TN: Besides your Sun and rising signs, which other planets can give clues to your overall health? RG: Sometimes our Saturn sign will show where there can be tightness or blockages. It shows where there are deeper lessons to learn on the emotional, psychological and physical plane. The Jupiter sign can often show where there may be inflammation or an over-extended region of the body.
But every planet has its say. In relationship to overall health, I see the natal chart as a holistic map of the spirit, psyche and physical body. It’s really all the same thing, as the physical body is merely an interpretation of the spirit body.
Below, Rebecca shares a brief insight into the health issues commonly faced by each sign, as well tip for how to use astrology for self-healing. As well as your Sun and rising, read all signs so you can do a general body scan, and find much more explicit descriptions in the book! Get your copy here.
ARIES Aries rules over the head and has a reputation for being headstrong in life. When the Aries in you is out of balance, you can often feel symptoms like blocked or runny sinus’s or headaches.
Tip for healing: Say “I am X” aloud, finishing with a quality you aspire to—i.e.: “I am focused and efficient.”
TAURUS When the Taurus in you is out of balance, it can show up as neck tension, the urge to crack your neck often, sore throat, unsteady voice or thyroid imbalance.
Tips for healing: Try daily neck circles (refer to book for details), and making the seed sound Ham (say “h-a-r-m”) which will work to balance the throat chakra.
GEMINI Gemini serves as a messenger of the illuminated mind. A scattered mind, fear of expressing yourself, or maybe there is arm and hand pain are signals that the Gemini in you is out of balance.
Tips for healing: Try making Uttarabodhi Mudra (directions in book), and figure-8 circles using hands and extending fingers.
CANCER The chest is the body part ruled by Cancer so imbalances here can show up in the form of cysts, fibroids, slumped chest, excess phlegm or emotional eating.
Tip for healing: Three-part breath. Count a six-second slow inhale through the nose; hold the breath inside the low belly for another six seconds; then slowly exhale through the nose for six seconds. Repeat daily for 11 minutes.
LEO Imbalance in Leo can show in the form of heart problems, tightness or weakness in the upper back.
Tip for healing: Sphinx pose and Camel pose can help you to open to the light of your heart (directions in book). Do these on a daily basis for at least a few weeks and note the difference in your feeling of openness.
VIRGO When Virgo’s quest for purity is either absent or goes overboard, then the body can show symptoms like stomach ulcers, poor digestion, eating disorders, obsessive behavior and a weak core.
Tips for Healing: Forearm plank for core strength; Breath of Fire (see book) for purification.
LIBRA When the Libra in you is out of balance, it can show as low back or kidney pain, limited range of motion or extreme S shaped posture.
Tips for healing: Sa Ta Na Ma mantra and finger Mudra (details in book).
SCORPIO When the Scorpio in you is out of balance, this can show up as a urinary tract infection, menstrual irregularity, IBS, or a weak pelvic floor.
Tips for healing: Dance, swim, stand under a waterfall, declutter and throw things away; Cat & Cow pose with deep ujjayi breath.
SAGITTARIUS When Sagittarius has fallen out of balance, this can often show up as tight hips, turned out hips, liver problems and a tendency to over-indulge in food and drink.
Tips for healing: Chair pose, Pigeon pose, hip circles.
CAPRICORN Weak knees, tight knees, knee pain or excess fluid around knees can be a sign of a Capricorn kind of imbalance within.
Tips for healing: Saturn finger meditation, Warrior Two pose (descriptions in book).
AQUARIUS When the Aquarius within you is out of balance, it may result in weak ankles, often sprained ankles, and stiffness and cracking around the ankles.
Tips for healing: Tree pose to refine and strengthen your stance.
PISCES Hypermobile or stiff feet, growths like warts or bunions, inflammation of the feet or stubbed toes can often occur to signal an imbalance with Pisces.
Tips for healing: Try foot massage / reflexology, and either foot stomping or simply walking barefoot on the earth.
Rebecca Gordon is the resident astrologer for Harper’s Bazaar. Discover more about her Astrology School and book a reading here, and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Taryn Toomey has built a cult following for her Shamanic-inspired workout, the class. She explains how it’s all been part of her own healing journey. Video and portrait: Jennifer Medina
You have to have the courage to let it all go.
I have had a very long, sticky road these past few years. Hell, let’s call it like it is – the past 36 years. From the outside it could look all rosy but, like our lives on social media, there’s always something deeper, truer.
I grew up in a very complicated family (didn’t we all in some way?) but as a child, I absorbed a lot of those unsupportive patterns and continued to think: “it always has to be this way.” I called myself names, believed them, hated myself, was embarrassed to live in my body. I didn’t trust those around me; I questioned everything; it seemed like everyone was “out to get me.”
I didn’t want it to feel that way, but I was so fearful of letting it go, because it was what I knew.
These past few years have been about breaking that cycle. For my children, for the forward of my family, and, once and for all, for me. I decided that the history I lived doesn’t need to be part of the future I continue to create. It happened. Let’s move on. Right? I wish! It wasn’t that EASY.
Over the years I worked with psychologists, analysts, plant medicines, shamans, Eastern doctors, invested in good old fashioned friendships and more. But, in the end, I realized I didn’t need to talk about it anymore; I had TO MOVE IT. But I also had to keep it simple and do it BEAT BY BEAT.
And so came ‘the class.’ I knew I would need fire, heart and soul to get this story up and out of my DNA. I needed shaking, contraction, sound, release,intention, forgiveness and stillness. And music, to help me take it beat by beat, breath by breath.
In the world of fitness I have heard way too many things pushed into people’s psyches that are FEAR based, stemming from the “guru’s” own fears, ego, and the need to make others live in fear with them.
“Don’t do THIS it will bulk you, don’t do THAT you’ll ruin your body!”
But we aren’t all made the same, and these “theories” don’t apply to us as a whole.
Move how you NEED TO. Move so you can FEEL GOOD. Move to CREATE NEW SPACE for YOU TO LIVE IN. Move to wake up, be alive, present, engaged, and to come UNSTUCK from the past. Move to get out of the EGO – the one that makes you stare at yourself and size up every last centimeter of your body, gripping the mirror with your eyes, criticizing, loving and over dramatizing the things that don’t matter.
At the end of the day, if you don’t work on the parts of you that no one can see, you can change the shape of your body all you want, but living inside of it wont be pretty. It’s time to close your eyes and go INSIDE. The body you’re looking for is not out there. IT’S IN YOU.
Set’s move, people. Not in the “right” way, not in the “pretty” way, but in the way that you need to release the fear. Let’s gather the courage to let it all go. Moving this way is what’s saved my life, the future lives of my children, their children, and hopefully a whole lot of others.
When you move, summon the courage to let it all go. And take it beat, by beat, by beat…
Follow the link to book and experience the class with Taryn Toomey for yourself.
On a mission to shape up? Forget blood type diets and fitness for your body type – work out what otherworldly realm you’ve incarnated from, and find a sweat session that truly feeds your soul says Madeline Giles.
A few years ago, a psychic told me I am an incarnated mermaid. I had no idea what she was talking about, but I obviously wanted to learn more. Were there more incarnated mermaids – or was I the only one on earth? How come I decided to leave merworld? Was it possible to develop a relationship with the mermaids in current space and time?
I somewhat obsessively Googled these thoughts for weeks, but at the time there wasn’t much information on the Internet about this. A few months later, however, I discovered Doreen Virtue’s book Realms of the Earth Angels, which pretty much changed my life. I learned that the realm we come from shapes our personality traits, physical characteristics, likes and dislikes, career, the people we hang out with and beyond.
To my surprise, I also found out there are multiple realms people come from, including incarnated angels, incarnated elementals, incarnated starpeople, the wise one’s (reincarnated witches, wizards, etc.) and various hybrids of the aforementioned. Needless to say, it seemed I had accidentally discovered my passion – and thus have been studying, writing and teaching about realms ever since.
In the spirit of our collective New Year leaning towards personal transformation, I got to thinking what workout with wings would be most motivating based on the unique magical flavor of each specific realm.
But first, find out what realm you’re from by taking thefree quiz here.
INCARNATED ANGELS Pure-hearted incarnated angels tend to be total givers, and thus need a workout that encourages both self-care and, let’s say it together now, RECEIVING! Cue Qoya, which integrates yoga, dance and sensual movement in one magical session. Thanks to free online classes, over-giving incarnated angels can clear stuck energy by hip swaying through all their troubles, their friends’ troubles, their family’s troubles, their neighbor’s troubles, and yes – even the world’s troubles in the comfort of their own home. Incarnated angels who make Qoya a regular priority will find it much easier to give those in need proof of heaven on earth.
INCARNATED ELEMENTALS (includes incarnated fairies, pixies, brownies, elves, tree spirits, crystals, etc.) Earth-loving elementals are happiest while outdoors. Since getting you to follow the rules is near impossible, you’ll have the most fun making your own plans, which will invariably include lots of fresh air and play. You’d enjoy outdoor sports and regular hikes in the woods – just make sure to bring a recyclable bag so you can pick up trash along the way! Your elemental family will be seriously stoked and might even reward you with a gift or wish. If, however, the weather really isn’t conducive to play outdoors, plan to attend a high-vibe freeform dance class (such as 5 Rhythms or Journey Dance). You’ll definitely meet fellow fairy friends who will be so down to go hug some trees with you after class.
INCARNATED STARPEOPLE Earth life can be awkward for you, sweet starperson, but you’ll feel right at home at a Kundalini yoga class– where otherworldy experiences are not only encouraged, they’re expected. Chanting, chakra cleansing, and meditations that sync you with the planets may sound woo woo to some, but to you it feels peculiarly familiar. After you get the hang of Kundalini kriyas, don’t be surprised if you spontaneously start receiving cosmic messages from your galactic family.
THE WISE ONES (incarnated sorcerers, high priests/priestesses, witches, wizards, etc.) Been there, done that is your mantra, oh wise one. You’ve lived on earth so many times, it seems nothing can surprise you. Though some may mistake your wisdom for cynicism, you are the true wayshowers of our world and thus really don’t want (or need) anyone telling you how to best work your muscles, or live your life for that matter. But in case you’re open to suggestions (hold the eye rolls please), a combination of high-intensity classes like kickboxing balanced with routine walking meditations will keep you connected to your powerful healing energy.
MERMAIDS Darling…isn’t it better down where it’s wetter? Mermaids LOVE water and feel most connected to their true essence while swimming (with wild dolphins), surfing, – or my personal favorite – mermaiding! Many mermaids are quite sensitive to the chemicals in chlorine, so whenever possible, choose natural water sources over swimming in pools. Since you tend to get cold easily, be sure to heat up a sea salt bath post-swim to relax and recharge with the magic of your element.
ATLANTEANS As an Atlantean, you thrive in like-minded communities where conversations about crystals, pyramids and sacred geometry are the norm. You love your tribe and want to work and play together as often as possible, so starting a belly dancing troop or taking a class with synchronized routines will leave you feeling fulfilled. While tightening your tummy and strengthening your spine, you’ll also get connected to the primal healing energy of Atlantis, which is so what the earth needs right now. Get to it!
ALADDINS / GENIES Nomadic Aladdin, you love all things fire. The desert is your playground, sunsets make you melt and super spicy sauce is a must at every meal. In other words, Bikram yoga was pretty much made for you. You might even consider becoming a teacher, so you can squeeze in serendipitous storytelling (one of your realm gifts) during the 20-second savasanas.
SHAPESHIFTERS We know, dear shapeshifter, you’ll have one of everything! Since the thought of doing the same exercise everyday (or every week, for that matter) makes you cringe, you’d fare best by joining a gym that offers a variety of classes. That way you can aerobicize in the pool, lift weights, flow into Vinyasa, chant affirmations at intenSati, and sweat through spin class all in one day if you really wanted to!