Health November 28, 2012

Be Good to Your Body


Cleansing the Spirit [pg. 2]
The Winter Feast for the Soul [p.3]
Yoga Masters [pg. 4]
Farm to Fork [pg. 5]


healing for more than the heart

Polar Bear Plungers make a mad dash into Lucky Peak Reservoir.

Wanna know the best cure for a year-long hangover?

At 11am every New Year’s Day, a gang of post-partiers—some still sporting disheveled tuxedos and smeared lipstick—gather at Grumpy’s Bar and Grill in Ketchum to slosh schooners together and keep the party partying. At high noon Bryant Dunn leads a handful of brave souls who run cheering through the snow to the “Polar Bear Hole” of the icy Big Wood River (located near the Ketchum Skate Park), to strip down to their skivvies and dive head-first into the frigid water.

The “Polar Bear Plunge,” as it is commonly known, is said to be a celebration of the New Year while “washing away” the old—traditionally a sort of baptismal rebirth. And yes, admitted Dunn, they do it to kill off the more persistent hangovers. “Our intention is definitely to cleanse and purify,” he said, either of bad chemicals, bad decisions or just an all-around bad year.

Originating in the wilds of Scandinavia and northern Russia, where ice-swimming is a longstanding tradition among natives, Polar Bear Clubs became popular in the United States and Canada through charity organizations. In places like New Jersey and Minnesota, where participation numbers reach the thousands, money is often donated to non-profits like the Special Olympics—one plunge in 2012 alone raised $2.8 million.

Boise, Idaho, holds a similar annual “Great Polar Bear Challenge” to support the “Make-A-Wish” Foundation each New Year’s Day at Lucky Peak Reservoir. This year will mark their 10th plunge and includes divers of all ages who participate in wakeboarding and water ski competitions to “demonstrate that we can all brave adversity for the right cause,” explained April Wilbur, the developmental coordinator for the Idaho chapter.

And while the health effects of ice-swimming are still widely debated, many Europeans—where such swims have been popular for centuries—have long claimed benefits for the heart, immune system and skin (and possibly libido). Some doctors frown at the temperature shock to the body, citing constriction of blood vessels, decreased motor skills or potential hypothermia as possible, if infrequent, consequences.

But as Dunn—one of the original 1996 pioneers of the Ketchum Polar Bear Club— explained, anyone can do it: “Our oldest member was 70 and the youngest girl was nine—it’s a family-friendly event that spans the generations. And if you kick back and relax, it’s really not that bad.”

“All are welcome,” he said. “Just meet us at Grumpy’s on New Year’s Day.”

Elbow your way to the bar for a few feel-better beers and join the thousands of crazies around the world for a heart-pumping and literally breath-taking dive, whether you want to do-good for charity or just get rid of that pounding in your brain. Either way, it’s considered to bring good luck for the upcoming year. –Kate Elgee


Sustaining the Meditation Online

Kenny Connolly lands his first fish.The Winter Feast for the Soul hinges gracefully on a short poem by the Sufi mystic, Rumi, who wrote, “What nine months does for the embryo/ Forty early mornings/ Will do for your growing awareness.” Founder Valerie Skonie, while meditating herself one morning, was powerfully struck by the notion. “I read those lines and I thought, ‘Somebody has to do something with this,’” she said. “And it didn’t take but 24 hours before I had a whole vision of how this would look.” The result was an event dedicated to daily spiritual practice: 40 minutes of stillness each morning for 40 days, just as Rumi recommended. Entering its sixth year, the Winter Feast has grown far beyond the original concept—and its web-savvy creator has gone fully digital to keep growing.

According to Skonie, who lives in Hailey, the Winter Feast for the Soul is an invitation to create planetary peace by first creating personal peace. When diagnosed with Lyme disease over a decade ago, said Skonie, “I spent a lot of time learning how to slow down and take care of myself.” She believes in the transformative power of meditation, both personally and collectively, insisting that entire communities can benefit from a contemplative populace. Yet she also understands the difficulties of doing anything on a daily basis, let alone being still for 40 minutes. To make the Winter Feast more accessible, Skonie has consolidated everything online, from streaming meditations (for those who prefer instruction) and daily inspirational quotes, to a monthly newsletter and events calendar, all of which are available for free and year-round.

In doing so, the Winter Feast has become a campaign with staying power. The website, now a highly trafficked resource, supports many individuals in their daily practice long after the Feast has ended. Interested in Buddhist Insight Meditation? What about Christian Contemplative Prayer? Skonie has recruited an interfaith medley of instructors for 2013, whose guided meditations will be hosted on the website each day.  Afterward, Skonie will archive the recordings alongside those from previous years, adding elements to the Winter Feast’s online hub of spiritual encouragement.

At first, said Skonie, “I didn’t see it as a worldwide event, but just as something local to show people in the Valley how to have a daily practice—and for them to know what that experience would mean in their lives.” But the connective power of the Internet has transformed the Winter Feast into an event without borders. Considering our global pandemic of stress-related disorders, perhaps a break in the noise, if only for 40 days, is precisely the nourishment our souls have been craving. -Alec Barfield


Richard Odom, Yoga Instructor

Yoga instructor Richard Odom has been in Ketchum for nearly 40 years, visiting for a winter and staying for a lifetime. “The place gets into your bone marrow—there’s something about the rocks, the air, the sky,” mused Odom. Now teaching at the YMCA, he’s a yoga instructor with a following, and is currently shooting another in a series of DVDs, this one for tennis players, which comes out in late 2012. We caught up with Richard between takes to talk about his road to yoga.

How did you discover this healing art?

My parents had a large library with all kinds of books on the shelves. I picked up a selection on Hatha yoga, and, being a jock, I was attracted to it. I began practicing it all by myself. I was drawing my information from yogis, hermits, sages, seers and the martial arts. It would give me these incredible moments of clarity, calm and stillness and I loved that. It was an adolescent desire to have power over my environment. I’ve cultivated that theme and that peacefulness and that communication in my practice. It’s a space that you go inside.

How do you define your practice?

What it’s about is learning to make the body your teacher and letting the mind be the student. You create a whole new relationship with the body, and the body teaches you what it needs. I’ve eliminated the mirrors and the costumes and I’ve found the essence of it down on the ground. I become your mind for an hour. I don’t like to criticize what’s going on around me—I try to take ancient concepts and translate them into the modern world.  I overheard a doctor who is a student of mine once say, “Richard provides a safe and powerful environment in which to escape the mind. You have to walk in that room and take off all your hats for an hour.”

What are the benefits of yoga?

I think it’s a form of self-healing, a way of teaching the mind to be in the moment, and then creating a dialogue between the body and the mind.  The mind is given the chance to reach its full potential. It’s basically exercise without distraction.

Why do you think people come to you for yoga?

My classes are non-threatening. People can walk in my room and they don’t have to be someone for me.  I won’t allow them to compare themselves with others. I take you out of that little personality for an hour.

How do you find balance?

I gauge my intellect with reading just like my parents did. I read a lot of different subjects, a lot of military history. I attended West Point, briefly; maybe I could bring yoga to West Point?

Who inspires you?

Certainly my students do. No matter how bad aspects of my life are, when I hear their stories, my heart just opens up. If I can give them a moment of reprieve from their lives, I’m happy. -Jody Orr

Richard now has an instructional DVD for sale, focusing on stretching specific to tennis players, which is available in local retailers or at


Sonia Sommer

Sonia SommerGrowing up in Australia, Sonia Sommer loved sports— tennis, track and field, triathlons, skiing—she did them all. While working with the Australian Freestyle Ski team, she became an intern at the Australian Institute of Sport, which is where her education in Structural Integration (SI), also known as Rolfing™, first began. Developed by biochemist, Ida Rolf in 1971, SI was born out of her desire to relieve pain in chronically disabled people and seeks to return the body to its natural state of equilibrium by manually freeing up adhesions in fascia (the connective tissue that surrounds muscles). Sommer, who trained in Colorado with Tom Myers, a student of Ida Rolf’s, moved to Ketchum with her former husband 15 years ago, and opened Sonia Sommer Structural Integration.

What is Structural Integration?

Structural Integration (SI) brings patterns of distortion back into balance so that people can move around free of pain and get a better psychological outlook on the world.  It’s the most amazing process that I’ve come across.

How do you define your practice?

I like to separate it from massage because it’s so different in its intention— which is to change things, whereas massage deals with what is there. There is a lot mutual observation that goes on. We watch how patients walk, how they breathe, and how they move.  A fair bit of reeducation of those habits goes on in the process as well as practices to facilitate change. It’s really its own beast.

What are the benefits of Structural Integration?

Essentially you get to be who you really are again.  People come in because they just want to be out of pain.  Many of them are hardcore athletes who are starting to break down.  I try to return them to their best possible selves athletically. Other people come for the deeper results. They’ll shed patterns in themselves psychologically and get to feel free again.  Ultimately, your body is a representation of everything that has ever happened to you. When you change your body, you change your life.

What’s the emotional impact of Structural Integration?

You can’t separate the physical from the emotional. Anything that’s been emotionally stored in your system over time will get released, and we store things all the time. We can’t always experience them in the moment because we have other things to do, like go to work for instance. So in going through SI, people often times fully re-experience things either when they’re on the table or later on, at home.

Who inspires you?

At this moment in time, it’s Ida Rolf, who came up with this work. She was a pioneer and a really strong, multi-dimensional woman.

How do you find balance?

Sometimes I feel like I’m riding a unicycle juggling lots of balls. I practice Qigong. I take really good care of myself and have really good people in my life.  I try not to take it all too seriously—I just have fun. -Jody Orr


Wahneta Trotter

Named for her grandmother, a Chickasaw Indian, Wahneta Trotter is an Ayurvedic practitioner who owns the Satmya Ayurvedic Clinical Spa in Ketchum. She helps clients find perfect balance by teaching them to approach life from the inside out. Our curiosities piqued, we chatted with Wahneta about her practice and how it changes lives.

How did you choose Sun Valley?

I decided to leave New Orleans nearly 20 years ago, when they were experiencing a deep economic depression. I thought, ‘this is not a normal way to live or to raise my son.’ So I explored the Pacific Northwest and came to Ketchum. I drove down Main Street on a Friday night in August and everyone looked so healthy and radiant— like people I just wanted to sit down and talk to.

What is Ayurveda?

It’s a holistic medical tradition that teaches us how to live in harmony with our inherent constitutional balance. Ayurveda has broken down the human mind and body into three different constitutions or doshas, called the Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. The doshas are made up of the five elements in nature—air, fire, water, earth and space. There are general physical and mental characteristics in each dosha.  When you see an Ayurvedic practitioner you learn about the state of your body and how to achieve perfect balance.

How did you discover Ayurveda?

I went on a retreat with Rod Stryker, a very famous yoga instructor. In my teacher training I was required to study Ayurveda. On the first day when the teacher wrote Ayurveda on the chalkboard I knew somehow, some way, I was going to study Ayurveda and that was my dharma. Five years later, I enrolled in the California College of Ayurveda.

How do you define your practice?

Mine is a full spectrum practice—clients come in and we do a two-hour intake.  Ayurveda looks at everything you eat and how you live: ‘When do you get up, when do you go to bed?  What’s your menstrual cycle like?’ I then provide a treatment plan using herbal therapies, food protocols, massage, yoga, aroma and light therapy, and meditation. I also use Pancha Karma, which is a deep tissue cleansing and rejuvenation.

What are the benefits of Ayurveda?

It’s nothing less than a process of deep, radical, transformation. You take someone who is depleted, lost and confused, and transform them into someone who feels 100 percent balanced physically, emotionally, and spiritually. You clean them out, educate them and teach them how to make appropriate choices and they become very empowered individuals. We look at the digestive system, because it’s at the root of all disease. We rebuild healthy digestion and then the body takes care of itself, healing its tissue. When the body builds healthy tissue that recreates a healthy immune system. We call it Ojas (translated from the Sanskrit, it means vigor). That’s the overarching goal in Ayurveda— we’re looking to rebuild people’s Ojas.

Who inspires you?

The person who is sitting across the desk from me for an Ayurvedic consultation, because it takes so much courage to embark on this kind of a healing journey.

How do you find balance?

By meditating, practicing yoga, and eating the correct, organic foods.


Cathie Caccia

Cathie Caccia, yoga teacher and massage therapist, has been practicing her art for 30 years. Founder of the Hailey Yoga Center (which closed its doors in November), Caccia teaches Hatha and Yin yoga at All Things Sacred in Ketchum, gives private lessons and massage out of her Ketchum office. “I’ve been passionate about the healing arts since 1980.  I kind of stumbled into this whole lifestyle of massage, yoga and healing and I’m just as devoted to it now as I was then. It just fascinates me,” Cathie told us.

How did you land in the Wood River Valley?

I was living in the Boston area and visited my brother, Steve Haim who lived in Ketchum.  When he bought Galena Lodge in 1987, I came out to help him open it. At the time I was a full time massage therapist and part time yoga teacher who loved to ski.

How did you discover Yoga?

My very first yoga class was in college.  I had a boyfriend who suggested I take an Iyengar class—and after two classes I absolutely fell in love with it. It really clicked with me. Since then I’ve studied a number of different types of yoga and I like them all.

How do you define your practice?

I consider my practice Hatha yoga, which in the West means it has a strong base in the yoga postures. I am deeply inspired by my chanting practice. I often spend 30 minutes chanting mantras for purification, unification and healing to prepare me for my own practice and for teaching. My teaching focus is more on accessing, balancing and building energy and clarity to support myself and my students in navigating life’s challenges.

What are the benefits of yoga?

I feel like yoga can address so many issues. So many people come to yoga because they want to be more flexible or get stress relief. There’s so much connection to the outer world and I think you come to yoga to connect to your inner world. You really learn how to take care of yourself. Instead of going to the doctor or taking a pill, by coming to yoga you become your own health care practitioner.

Who inspires you?

Right now, I am most inspired by Rod Stryker, a yoga teacher based in Colorado, whom I study with. He’s helping me incorporate much more of the traditional yoga practices and develop my meditation practice, my mantra and chanting. Hopefully, he’s helping me become a better human being.

How do you find balance?

I walk or hike my dogs every day. Some days I feel like that’s the medicine. On other days I find my Hatha yoga practice is the medicine, and sometimes it’s chanting. Sometimes I have to go get acupuncture, and sometimes it’s going to the movies with a girlfriend.  I do feel like I’m very sensitive to what brings me back to the center and depending on the day, it’s something different.


Winter Farming in Idaho

Outdoor Spin class at Zenergy. Photo courtesy Zenergy/Ben Kerns.When winter takes its hold on Sun Valley, and the summer days of lush gardens and blooming farmers’ markets are just warm memories, the concept of buying a fresh apple without a “grown in New Zealand” sticker may seem far-fetched.

There are, however, lots of people growing high-quality produce year-round, right here in the state of Idaho—many of whom are right around the corner from America’s original ski resort and who practice (labor-intensive) winter farming methods. Organizations like Idaho’s Bounty, an online non-profit food market, and restaurants like CK’s Real Food in Hailey, which includes locally grown and raised ingredients as staples of their menu, are helping to make sure that even during the freezing and snow-filled months, fresh, local food can make its way from farms to forks.

Clarence and Tona Stilwill of Fair Mountain Farm have been growing fruits and vegetables at the base of Soldier Mountain in Fairfield for 20 years now and they know the wilds of Idaho winters well. Clarence explained that during the winter months, when the ground is frozen and unsuitable for growing vegetables, they use “hoop houses,” which are solar-powered greenhouses, to produce hearty leafy vegetables like spinach, arugula and mustard greens. In addition to wintery greens, they harvest starchy root vegetables like beets, turnips and onions during the fall and store them so that they’re available all winter. Fair Mountain Farm also produces organic eggs all year, even though Clarence said many of his 40 hens would prefer to head to Florida for the winter.

Lynea Petty has a frenzied schedule as Idaho’s Bounty general manager, and she certainly doesn’t slow down just because produce is not as plentiful during the winter months. Although most root vegetables and storage crops are available throughout the winter, Lynea said, “People would be surprised to know that produce like kale and chard are not available only during January and the first half of February.” That said, generally only those farmers with access to geothermal heating can produce a variety of vegetables in the winter and Onsen Farm in Buhl is one of the most well-known. Onsen (which is Japanese for healing hot springs) grows vegetables like tomatoes in late winter and salad crops in early spring. The neighboring Hagerman High School greenhouse also contributes a tomato or two to Idaho’s Bounty, but the majority of their 4,000 products are grown and crafted by Idaho co-op farmers.

One Wood River Valley resident with a serious commitment to seasonal eating is Chris Kastner of CK’s Real Food in Hailey, whose obvious passion for local food fills his winter menu with unique flavors created from hot and hearty vegetables. Kastner’s mantra is to cook out of the refrigerator, just like at home. He sticks to this idea even during the cold winter months, transitioning mainly to root veggies, featuring them in potato dishes, soups and purees, and sticking to roasting and pureeing vegetables like parsnips and sweet potatoes. Kastner said that he gets a few greenhouse vegetables like cucumbers during the winter, but that there is simply “not enough light during the Idaho winter and that the energy commitment is too great.”

Whether your idea of a winter-worthy meal is a salad of local greens and roasted beets or a plate of CK’s roasted leg of lamb and creamy mashed potatoes, make sure to check out what Sun Valley has to offer in the way of local winter produce. Our Idaho farmers work hard during these months so support them by eating your vegetables this winter. -Margot Ramsay

This article appears in the Winter 2012-2013 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.