From Yoga and HeartMath to Chakra Balancing and Marma Therapy – this interview has it all. Sheetal Contractor from Soluna Solutions was kind enough to discuss all these topics, as well as the book she’s currently working on, with MysticMag. If you’re looking to improve your overall well-being, you chose the right interview to read!
What inspired you to leave the corporate world and dedicate your time to yoga and massage therapies? What did the transition look like?
My interest in yoga began in childhood. So by the time I entered the corporate world in the early 1990s after graduating college, it was already a part of my life. As a manager of software support teams, I certainly experienced my share of stress in the workplace. My regular yoga practice helped me deal with not only the stressors in my work life but also those in my personal life during that time. In my late 20s, I experienced a physical issue with my back, and I decided to see a chiropractor. While in the chiropractor’s office, I noticed that there was a massage therapist on their staff. I’d never had a professional massage before and didn’t even really know what that entailed, but suddenly I had an epiphany. The voice inside said, “That’s what I want to do.” I can’t tell you where that voice came from or why that thought arose — I simply had a “knowing” about what I needed to do, o as soon as I got home, I researched massage therapy programs and enrolled in one a few months later.
A year later, at the beginning of 2001, I became a certified massage therapist. Synchronistically, that same year, I also felt called to become a yoga teacher. So I pursued that as well! For six years, I was a corporate manager during the day and a massage therapist and yoga teacher during the evenings. Finally, in 2006, I again heard “the voice” that told me to leave my corporate job to professionally pursue yoga and massage. So I did. It was a leap of faith for sure. I went from having the security of a regular paycheck and benefits to living off my savings and having no health insurance, paid vacation, etc. Needless to say, the transition was scary. But despite the uncertainty, it was the most liberating and honest thing I had done to date, and it shifted the trajectory of my life. It wasn’t easy, and it took time, patience, and faith, but eventually, I was able to develop a business model that enabled me to share my newly found passions of yoga and bodywork.
What specific services do you offer?
I offer various wellness services geared toward personal healing and spiritual empowerment. As a licensed massage therapist (LMT), I have trained in a wide range of modalities and developed my own style of bodywork that is deeply relaxing, gentle, and healing. My role is not to “fix” something in your body. I believe we do our own healing, but we often need help getting out of our own way. When I do bodywork, my intention is to always support the client in finding whatever relief, balance, and/or healing they are ready to receive. As a yoga teacher/trainer, I participate in Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) programs where I offer lessons ranging from anatomy and alignment to yoga philosophy and spirituality. I also offer themed yoga workshops and customized programs at local studios, organized events, and retreats. With my workshops and programs, my goal is to make yoga accessible and applicable. I’m really big on sharing how the practices we do on the mat can be applied off the mat in our daily lives.
In fact, through my Empowered Wellness Coaching programs, I basically teach and support individuals in “living their yoga!” I offer these one-on-ones, as well as in group settings… either on location in Allentown, PA, or online via Zoom. I bring my 20+ years of yoga and bodywork experience into these customized programs so I can meet clients wherever they may be in their personal and/or spiritual journey.
Finally, when COVID hit in 2020, I felt called to share yoga and meditation videos on my YouTube channel, ‘Empowered Wellness with Sheetal’. It was a way to feel connected with others during a time when we were forced to become physically disconnected from each other. I began a meditation series that I called “Raise the Vibe – Spread the Word”. My intention was to offer an opportunity for people to focus their minds on high-vibration, empowering and uplifting words. In doing so, we would not only raise our personal vibration and feel better, but we’d help raise the collective Vibe and uplift the world. While I don’t post weekly anymore, I have a considerable library of videos and continue to periodically share through my channel.
What HeartMath techniques do you use, and how do you implement them into your work?
I just love the HeartMath techniques and have a few favorites that I use all the time! After becoming a licensed HearthMath® Certified Mentor, I began weaving the basic Heart-Focused BreathingTM and Quick Coherence® into workshops and even created a few videos featuring these techniques. I also incorporated them into my own personal practice as well. They are so simple, effective, and accessible (right up my alley!). In addition to these two, I also teach the Attitude BreathingTM Technique with my wellness coaching clients What I love about these techniques is how I can easily include them when teaching yoga breathing exercises called pranayama. While the HeartMath tools are not the same as traditional yogic breath-work, they can be used in a very similar way to create calm, connection, and coherence.
The Attitude BreathingTM Technique is a great application of a specific yoga teaching called pratipaksha bhavanam, the practice of cultivating the opposite. The basis for Attitude BreathingTM is that feelings, emotions, and attitudes can be changed through conscious mindful effort. Similarly, pratipaksha bhavanam is a discipline of shifting negative or disempowering thinking to more neutral or positive thinking. The Attitude BreathingTM is a practical tool that my coaching clients can use when they catch themselves falling into their old patterns and habits. The technique helps them shift their mindset from their old conditioning to how they want to be.
Can you tell us more about Chakra Balancing & Marma Therapy that you offer?
In Chakra Balancing in Marma Therapy, I am working with two of the many energy systems of the body. Our chakras are concentrated energy centers — sometimes also described as swirling energy vortexes — where life force is stored and expressed. There are seven main chakras that reside along the spine from the tailbone to the crown of the head. Life challenges and negative experiences can often throw these energy centers out of balance, thus limiting our ability to feel our highest level of well-being. Chakra balancing involves energetically tapping into the movement of each chakra and supporting their re-balancing.
Marma-s are less known than the chakras and can be compared to acupressure or acupuncture points. The marma points represent junctions in the body where two or more types of tissue meet, such as muscles, veins, ligaments, bones, or joints. This therapy involves applying gentle pressure at the specific marma points of the body to release blocked energy and promote balanced free flow. By treating the chakras and marma, we address the underlying energetic landscape of the body.
This treatment is usually done fully clothed, but it can also be incorporated into an integrated full-body massage as well. Therapeutic grade essential oils are used during the session to enhance the experience of deep relaxation and healing.
How do you customize your services for individual clients?
The first step is to have an hour-long complimentary discovery session with potential clients. During this time, I ask them to share where they feel their wellness is lacking and describe what their ideal state of wellness (body, mind, and spirit) looks like. I then share a brief exercise — breath-work, meditation, visualization, movement, etc. — to give them a taste of what a coaching session with me would entail. We discuss the commitment required from both of us and together, we determine if my program is a good fit for them.
Once clients enroll, their discovery session helps me to determine how to approach their specific needs. For example, I have clients come to me because they’ve been injured and even after completing the prescribed rehabilitation and physical therapy, they still don’t have full mobility or they still experience tension, discomfort, and/or pain in their bodies. For these clients, I would include a variety of therapeutic yoga poses and movements along with gentle breath-work and mindfulness that is specifically geared toward further healing their injury.
Contrastingly, I also work with individuals who are looking for relief from some type of mental/emotional trauma. While I would definitely still include some sort of physical practices, I would probably focus more on breath-work and meditation and even suggest they receive regular bodywork. If the person is open to it, I may share some of the spiritual teachings of yoga to support their whole-being healing. That’s why I strive to meet each client wherever he/she is at the time of each session. Each subsequent session builds on previous lessons and I always suggest “homework” in between our meetings. While I usually have a template for what I will bring to the table, I like to allow each client’s program to organically evolve as well. As long as clients are committed to doing “the work”, they make great strides in their personal growth and well-being.
You are currently working on your next book. What is it about and when can we expect it to be published?
The current book I am working on is called “Yoga and Meditation for the Spiritual Seeker – A Guide to Knowing and Loving Your Whole Authentic Self”. It is geared toward yoga teachers, yoga teachers in-training, and any spiritual aspirants who may be unfamiliar with yoga but interested in learning about its spiritual teachings. When most people think of yoga, they think of poses for flexibility and/or strength, practices to manage stress, or meditation to quiet their minds. But fundamentally, yoga is a life-long spiritual pursuit, not just a variety of wellness exercises we do for an hour in a class or workshop a few times a week.
Even most 200-hour yoga teacher training programs do not delve into the spiritual aspect of yoga very much. Yogic spirituality addresses the quintessential question of “Who am I?” without trespassing on religion. I’ve read many great yoga books addressing this question; however, most are quite scholarly and not an easy read. My desire is to make the exploration of “Who am I?” more accessible (there’s that word again!) to the average yogi or spiritual seeker. In this book, I share teachings that help us to understand our wholeness as human beings and the importance of loving all of who we are — the good, bad, and ugly! I also invite readers to investigate the concept of authenticity and what it means to live an authentic life. Finally, I include a chapter with a variety of practices and meditations to support the reader’s personal exploration. I hope to have the book published and available in print and digital formats by early summer. I also plan to have it available as an audiobook later this year.