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  • shayngrant

My Journey to the Herbs

My journey to herbalism was a winding one, as most journeys are. If I look back, I notice the odd seed being planted in the soil. But we all have seeds of many things in our pasts, and not all of them germinate. Ultimately, we get to choose what grows in our life’s garden.




There is the early seed of my mother’s interest in alternative health. My atopic eczema as a child, and memories of oat baths to soothe the itch.


Another is of an early start to dance, after telling my mother I wanted to be a ballerina when I watched Macaulay Culkin’s Nutcracker ballet (yes, this exists).


The two threads of movement and an early exposure to health and wellness begin the tapestry of my vocations.


Dance was a key part of my life for the entirety of my youth. I trained heavily for competitions and ballet exams, and pushed my body to its limits. Most of my free time was spent in the studio, and I remember an almost constant muscle soreness. It all ended abruptly with a broken foot in my second year of University though (from landing from a well-practiced jump I was performing for a dance team photoshoot, no less).





This redirected my need to move towards yoga, which I had been practicing a little, but only as a way to support my flexibility for dance. Living in Vancouver, a city rich with outdoor sports and foodie culture, I had so much in the way of this lifestyle at my doorstep. As I practiced with a little more consistency, I found that I could relax my nearly always busy mind. My insomnia, an old companion of many years, fell away after my evening practices. It was enough to keep me going.


There were beautiful moments in those studios where I cried, I laughed, and I worked through the stresses of being a student. As I did, I became more interested in the things my mother had always talked about. I wanted to do well by my body when I walked out of the yoga studio. And I was surrounded by people interested in the same.



After University, I moved to London (well, with a year-long detour to Paris, but we’ll skip that bit of the story). I started my first yoga teacher training that day after my arrival, and I was so unwell! Practicing the Primary Series with a raging temperature is not something I would recommend, but there I was. That training was more brutal physically, emotionally, and mentally than I could have ever expected. Like many other yoga teachers will tell you, your first training can change your life. And it certainly shifted mine. It kickstarted my journey of living in alignment with what was true for me, which required a whole lot of letting go of the ways I thought I was meant to live.





I went to yoga teaching full time and was surrounded by a community of other people who were interested in complementary and alternative health. We all had different stories, but all of us had found more than we had hoped through our practice. If yoga could help us this much, what other lifestyle adjustments would also be supportive? There’s something about the practice that either makes you a seeker, or it appeals to those already with the proclivity.


I noticed wild plants for the first time, really, as I was eyes deep in yoga trainings. I can’t tell you why or how. I suddenly saw a world of possibility in the hedgerows that I had never contemplated. The idea that any of those plants could be medicinal was gripping. I no longer was satisfied with this knowledge remaining a mystery to me. So I bought my first herbal (A Modern Herbal by David Hoffman, which is by some magic the first herbal for many of us herbalists), and consulted Google.



Time passed, I made recipes out of Hoffman's book and found them to be surprisingly helpful. As soon as I could, I set off to Scotland for two months as a residential herbal apprentice with Keith Robertson. This was a sacred time and the most powerful parts of it are beyond words, but I will say that myself and the other two apprentices created a potent container. I connected deeply with the land, the plants, and parts of myself that had yet to be revealed. Another shedding, another letting go. A commitment was made to another way of being.





The following year, I began my studies with Betonica to become a medical Herbalist. I studied full-time throughout the pandemic. I continued to teach yoga in the capacity that was available. It was extremely demanding. I have done many hard things, and I think it is safe to say that pursuing my herbal training has been the hardest.


I am now a qualified medical Herbalist, with a BSc-equivalent level training. I love bringing the plants and people together, whether its a sensory-rich herb walk, or a private consultation focussing on a certain health issue.


I have 500 hours of yoga teacher trainings under my belt, and countless hours of teaching over the last 8 years. The movement style that I teach is in various paces of flowing movement, sometimes with some Ashtanga based inspiration on one hand, or sprinkled with Yin on the other.





The core of it all is simple, really. You have two homes, and you must find a way to love them. Because when you love something, you will take care of it. And I mean real love, the love where you have taken the time to get to know the reality of a thing intimately, and not just romanticise the idea of it.


Your body is one home, and you deserve to inhabit it comfortably and celebrate its ability. The land is also your home. A tapestry of so many other bodies for you to commune with. There are plants, fungi, animals. And the more you build your relationship to these beings, the more you will feel that belonging that I think we all yearn for. My journey has led me to find ways of building a bridge between the two. I hope you can join me.





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