06 Aug Stories of Starting #3 Renee Mollitt, Yoga Therapist and Artist
Today on Stories of Starting we speak with my friend and fellow artist Renee Mollitt about her yoga therapy practice, meditation, gardening, motorcycles and Art.
Intro: Welcome to the stories of starting podcast. I’m Heather Boyd. As a self-employed artist for the last thirty years I’m fascinated with people’s passions and creative projects. In this series we discover how people like you have started new projects by thinking outside the box, going with the flow and tapping into their childhood imagination.
Heather: Today we are with my friend Renee Mollitt. We’re here in her beautiful yoga studio and we just visited her painting studio outside. As you can tell Renee has a lot of talents. Please introduce yourself and tell us what you do.
Renee: My name is Renee Mollitt. I am a yoga therapist and an artist. I’m a yoga teacher for anybody that doesn’t know what a therapist is, I’m also a yoga teacher. I would spend a little bit more time with yoga for years and then Art was calling to me. I think there’s really a pull back and forth between the two. There’s really a calling to do the yoga which I love and and the Art is the creative aspect of myself that always wants exploring.
Heather: You just showed me a painting you did when you were studying that really shows the combination of the Art and the therapy. Maybe just touch on a little bit what you told me about the painting and your schooling.
Renee: I did my to yoga trainings but I was also very fascinated by anything to do with natural health. We all face these challenges in life and curiosity developed on how to become well and how to feel better. I have had some back issues and I was on pain medication. I was close to having surgery and then stopped myself short and I said no. I don’t want to do this and then the pain medication that I was on was really horrible so I thought; how can I overcome this? So I started to do more yoga and then I started to be interested in all the other natural health aspects and realized that there was a lot of importance and value to understanding a little bit more about myself and how I interacted in the in the world. How my thought process was very important. My overall emotions and being in tune with those, aware of those and realizing that they were also very important. I was developing more conscious awareness about how I am. I studied for a couple of years at the Natural Health Institute in Montreal. We learned a lot about who we are as individuals. One of the courses was called Healing Journey. It was a beautiful course. One of the paintings I did was was a sort of a self portrait but more artistic. There is this image of me dancing with my shadow. So learning to accept ourselves the way we are and moving forward, evolving from the deeper where awareness that we developed by doing this kind of inner work.
Heather: That’s beautiful. I’ll insert a little picture of the painting in the video so people can see it. That’s actually something that has always really struck me about you. You live in the country you have this beautiful lifestyle. I always love your Instagram pictures of the food, of the the things you’ve grown in your garden. You have your studio outside. I think that’s one of the things that strikes me about you is you’re very in tune with nature very in tune with your body. I think it’s a beautiful thing.
Renee: Thank you. It’s a process, right? It’s these things that you realize you start to do that make you feel really good. I’m doing these things and how important it is for our well-being. I think being close to nature is very important. I grew up in the country and I moved to the city. I spent many years living in the city, which was wonderful but there was a draw, a pull to get back to nature. When you think about the closer we are to nature, the closer we are to divinity. For me that’s become the most important part of my own personal practice.
Heather: That’s amazing because I was gonna ask you if there was anything from your childhood that’s influenced what you’re doing today. That must be a big part of it all, growing up in the country.
Renee: Yes, as kids when we grew up in the country we would just be gone for the day and my mom would ring a big bell and we’d have to come home for dinner. Things are very different now for children but that’s the way it was back then. We were in the forest for hours at a time. The smell of pine trees was really grounding and nurturing.
Heather: It’s true and I can tell in your house you have incense.
Renee: Yes, it’s cedar. Cedar is a beautiful smell.
Heather: Did your mom or anyone in your family do yoga, meditation or art?
Renee: I think my mom dabbled in all of it. Both my mom and my dad were very creative people. They both passed away. My mom had studied commercial art. She was very much into drawing. She never really did it as a as a career. I think she got wrapped up in being a mom. She went back to school later on and did all kinds of things. My dad was a photojournalist.
Heather: Oh cool.
Renee: He worked for the Formula One. He followed the Formula One around for years. So there was that very creative artistic side and my two brothers are very creative and artistic. It sort of runs in the family.
Heather: So the Formula One…is that why you like motorcycles? Because that was another thing I was going to mention. You have a motorcycle.
Renee: I never was really interested in it until I was dating someone years ago. I was riding on the back of it and I thought, oh this is really nice. I like it but his his head was in the way. I thought well the only way to get his head out of the ways to get my own bike. I went and got my own license. Now my life partner that I’m with we both bike together and love it. A lot of people say to me, that’s such a dangerous thing and the moment that I stop feeling the liberated free feeling that I have, then I’ll stop. But for now every time I get it just feels wonderful.
Heather: And you have control over what you’re doing and I’m sure you’re careful.
Renee: And it’s not the speed that I’m drawn to. It’s being outside. Even though we have to wear helmets, which I would always wear anyway, it’s just the feeling of being out. I just feels really good. And there’s always a beautiful element of exploration because we we stay off highways. We’re always exploring little back roads into different little areas. We’ve explored beautiful places of Ontario and Quebec just by going.
Heather: I remember when we were kids we had a moped. I had a couple of friends that had mopeds. I think they were in style in the 70s. I remember puttering around in the park on this moped and having that feeling I’m being free and in touch with the nature going around the park. I can understand (how you feel). I should definitely try it sometime.
Renee: Well it’s not for everybody, that’s for sure. But anything that gives clarity to the mind. I’ve found that being on the motorcycle is a very meditative practice. All of the practices that I’ve drawn to have been drawn to now; restorative yoga which you’re very familiar with and meditation which I’ve started to do every day for an hour. Being on the motorcycle I have a really good feeling in my body. I can notice, I can feel my body, feel the two sides of my body. Do I feel balanced? And really being aware of posture as well as everything that’s around. It’s a really meditative thing to do.
Heather: It’s true and that’s part of the safety thing, being able to balance and control of the motorcycle. You must have read Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance!
Renee: I started. I got about halfway through and then decided there’s so many things to read.
Heather: It was a long time ago. I think I read it when I was in my early twenties. I should be read it again or get an audiobook.
Renee: There’s a lot of books out there that are worth rereading.
Heather: I don’t remember the exact time but I know we met through We2 which is the Women’s Entrepreneurial Exchange in Montreal on the West Island. It’s a women’s networking group. I met you and I found out that you did restorative yoga. That’s how I first knew you. I think after a couple of times having met you, I decided to take one of your classes that was at a studio that probably no longer longer exists anymore. I remember I took one of your classes and I remember I made you some little yoga earrings.
Renee: I loved those.
Heather: I loved the class but I didn’t really pursue it at that time. When I joined the Om West I started taking doing your restorative classes there. You did a regular class and you did a gentle yoga class which I loved. Then about a year and a half ago I actually put my back out really badly and I went to see an osteopath. And you were one of the first people I thought of to call. So I called you and you came over to my house and set me up with my own routine. We sat down together and we filmed the whole thing. I still have it on private on my YouTube channel so I watch it it whenever I need to. And then I put my back out again recently but because I know these techniques now I was able to quickly take care of it and get back into the exercises. It’s incredible how these exercises that are so gentle and you can’t even imagine how they’re going to help you but they do. So can you talk a little bit about the restorative yoga and what people can do at home for themselves.
Renee: I think in particular if you have injured yourself it’s usually better to to have this one-on-one time with someone to really help you move through it. But there there are so many tools at our disposal now. And the thing is once we’ve injured ourselves it’s almost like we create this protection mechanism around the places where we’re hurt. It’s like we’re creating a wall of tension around where we’ve hurt. So what we want to try and do is is explore the places where we’re hurting and bring some awareness in and bring some subtle movement in. Some people after they’ve hurt themselves are afraid to move. But we need to keep moving. So it’s finding this really subtler yoga, softer yoga especially if we’re ‘going and doing’ kinds of people. People have a tendency to want to push through. They want to push through this. I find there’s two types of people that want to push through and the ones that want to push it away. The truth is you cannot heal your body if you can’t feel your body.
Renee: So the more we’re up in our minds the more we’re dissociated from the body. It’s about coming back to the body, feeling the body again and doing what’s necessary to get it moving in the best way possible.
Heather: I often do the exercises even sometimes I do a few of them before I even get out of bed in the morning. It’s a way to sort of wake myself up. But something that I remember in one of the restorative positions and I guess most of them you do the same thing, you say to breathe in to that pain point. At first it’s hard to wrap your head around, like what do you mean by that? But then with practice you get the idea. You actually breathe in to that spot and it’s like it melts the pain away which is amazing.
Renee: I think the best way to describe it is if you think about using a flashlight to look into a dark space. We can use the breath as a tool to bring awareness and subtle movement into those places. And our minds get in the way and say “well you can’t breathe there”. A really big part of the practice of developing this sense of awareness and wellness is moving away from those outdated thoughts and beliefs.
Renee: Really being creative and playful. Like okay, well my mind is telling me that’s kind of weird but I’m gonna go with it and see what happens.
Heather: You’ve got nothing to lose right?
Renee: Right. So bringing that curious element into our recovery, into our healing. Not getting sucked down by the negativity that we can sometimes get wrapped up in when we feel like it’s just stopped us in our tracks.
Heather: I love that idea being playful. It’s so funny because more and more with everything, I do a lot of listening to personal development and success videos for selling online and a lot of people talk about that idea of being playful. Even with Law of Attraction a big part of it is, you just play with it. Does it work? I don’t know it might work, it could work but if you’re playing with it and having fun you’ve got nothing to lose and you’re bringing positive energy to what you’re doing. I mean so it’s bound to do something positive.
Reneee: The breath is really the foundation of every yoga practice right which sometimes we forget. You forget how powerful the breath really is and it’s true until we start to do it regularly. On so many levels how breathing helps moving energy more efficiently in your body, moving oxygen more efficiently in your body. Not to mention all of the other aspects of just developing more awareness in your body. yeah and and you know diving in in that way to help your body. People have noticed such a big difference just by tuning into their breath for a few moments, a few minutes every day is really helpful. Especially you know we have such crazy lives now. There’s just so much going on. There’s so much happening. So many people are suffering from anxiety and stress. The first step away from that, the first step back is through the breathing.
Heather: It’s true. Tell me a little bit about your meditation practice. Is this something that’s evolved?
Renee: Yes. I think like a lot of people you’re off and on the wagon with meditation. I’m no different than everybody else. I’ll do it for a little while and then I’ll stop. In the spring I went to Vipassana which is at ten day silent retreat.
Heather: Good for you. (high five)
Renee: It was the first time that I’ve ever done it. I really didn’t know what to expect. It was challenging but I was also pleasantly surprised. I think that was the big turning point. When you start to connect to something bigger than yourself. When you start to get to those places. Sometimes I get to that beautiful blissful place and sometimes I don’t. But I’m gonna keep going, keep going, keep going because no matter whether I get there or not it just felt really good for my body. It felt really good to just connect and move away from the busyness of the mind and really connect into something greater than my own self.
Heather: That’s beautiful. I don’t have a personal meditation practice myself, but I do go somewhere every two weeks. We’re a group of eight women that get together and we have a guided meditation with the sound (bowls) and I cherish that time.
Renee: Wonderful. I’m sure you notice how you feel when you walk away from that.
Heather: Definitely at least I tell myself don’t feel guilty about not doing it on your own. At least you’re doing that once every weeks. It’s better than nothing.
Renee: You have to fit it in where you can. Not everybody has the time or the desire to want to meditate every day for an hour. Ten years ago I probably wouldn’t have done it. It’s fitting in well into my life right now and I’m making the time for it because I know that it’s benefiting me. But a lot of people can find meditation in how they move about their day. There was this wonderful teacher I remember said to me or said to the group when you get really lost in your head and you want to try becoming more focused just try adding ‘ing’ to whatever it is you’re doing. If you’re doing the dishes your’e ‘cleaning’. Just bringing that into a whole bunch of the things that you’re doing to try and bring more awareness into what you’re doing moment by moment.
Heather: Be more present in what you’re doing. That’s an amazing idea. It’s so funny, I’ve never heard that before but I don’t know if you know Gabby Bernstein…
Heather: Her first book was called Add More ~ing In Your Life
Renee: Well there you go.
Heather: But it wasn’t necessarily because of that. I’m going to go reread it because I think she was talking more about a higher power and consciousness. But that is so interesting. I’m going to compare the two and see how they overlap. That’s really cool. I love that.
Heather: The other thing I’d like to touch on is something that I’ve noticed is you have a lot of integrity. I’m going to reference it in a couple of ways. One is I got together with you a couple of years ago to make some YouTube videos. We put together some videos. Your idea was to put together a challenge. People would do a restorative yoga challenge. The videos are still up on your channel. The first video you were showing props then you were showing how to make the props and then showing the different positions. It was a great series and I think you got quite a few views. Check out Renee’s Youtube channel
Renee: I think so. They were fun.
Heather: I think it was a great idea. I remember the one thing that you were very firm about was you didn’t want to have ads on your videos.
Renee: Oh yes.
Heather: It just struck me but with everything you do in general I just I find you have a lot of integrity. You’re very honest and true yourself. You do things very intentionally and I just I love that about you.
Renee: Well thank you. I think it’s important because I’m teaching and I’m trying to share what I know because it’s worked so well for me. I don’t have to pretend. And then the YouTube thing I think I’d be totally mortified if there was a fast food ad or something. It wouldn’t feel so good. So yes I make these choices because I know that. I’m also very sensitive person so it has to feel good for me. I don’t want it to stress me out to think that oh my god I’ve just done. What have I done? It’s important for me to you walk the talk.
Heather: Yes, the Internet is so vast. I know you do a little bit of social media but how do you balance being online. Do you spend a lot of time online?
Renee: No I Facebook, more promotion than anything else. Although I have to say that all of the friends that I have on Facebook are amazing and have a beautiful positive posts. I can’t help but get sucked into that a little bit. I think we all do a little bit. I try to limit myself but I am a bit of an Instagram junkie.
Heather: You like it.
Renee: I love taking photos.
Heather: Instagram is nice because you don’t have ads. Well, you have a few more ads now but you never used to have big ads. And there’s not a lot of text, although some people do use it as a blog now. But you really focus on the images which I love about it.
Renee: Yes, the images and just how there’s so much metaphor in life. The beauty of nature and how we can let that translate it into into our day to day lives. Everything really becomes a metaphor. It’s interesting and fascinating for me to see what the correlations are between the imagery that I’m capturing and how that relates to how we look at life. So that’s a lot of fun. Sometimes I get a little carried away but for the most part I think I have it under control. If I do three posts a week I’m pretty happy.
Heather: I love seeing pictures of the the healthy food that you eat. You have a garden.
Renee: Yes, I have a wonderful partner Danny. He built this wonderful raised garden for us a couple of years ago. We started growing our own food. There’s a big learning curve there. Dealing with with creatures in the area. We have a critter that really likes our broccoli so I may have to give up on broccoli. There’s just something amazing about eating these fresh cooked beans that you just picked or making a salad from the lettuce you’ve just grown. Our tomatoes are all ripening now and the colours are beautiful. A friend of mine says you’ve got to eat the rainbow. We’re trying to eat the rainbow and it tastes so incredible. And trying to encourage other people to do the same. Who says you have to have grass on your front lawn. Why can’t you just pop up a little garden there and start growing some of your favourite fruits and vegetables.
Heather: That’s it. I was talking to our friend Allison and she says she has a basil plant that she keeps all winter long and she keeps it going in her kitchen. Actually basil is one of my favourites.
Renee: It’s delicious. I just made pesto yesterday.
Heather: Cool. So please tell us where we can find you. Let’s start with the yoga. Where can we find you in Montreal for your yoga?
Renee: I work primarily on the West Island. I work at a couple of different places. Om West in Pointe Claire Village on Saint Anne. You can check their schedule at OmWest.com I also teach Yogalogy Centre which is a beautiful centre that’s that was created by some wonderful sisters to help people with anxiety and stress in their lives. I teach restorative there as well and you can find them at Yogalogy.ca I teach from home and I teach privately. I also teach from a clinic in DDO the Continuum Clinic that’s private sessions. If anybody is interested in exploring the private sessions of yoga therapy. It’s something that I really love to help people work with pain or tension or even just wanting to improve their practice that they’re with now. Those are the three primary places and I teach from home (in Rigaud) and I also do home visits.
Renee: You can see more details on my website which is LusciousLotus.com
Heather: I’ll link it up in the show notes
Heather: Fantastic. I had a little sneak peek in your studio and you’re working on a really interesting collection of pendants. Tell us a little bit about those pendants.
Renee: The jewelry, well actually this is thanks to you. I was encouraged to start an Etsy shop and I started with these larger paintings and you kept saying: smaller, smaller, smaller. So I would go to the store and get these smaller canvases and I just kind of went <blah>. I was uninspired. I’d actually studied jewelry design for two years, way back when. I thought instead of making canvases why don’t I just try making jewelry with paint. I started exploring with wood. So the jewelry stuff started to come back. I was curious to see what I could repurpose. Then I found mango pits turned out to the amazing canvases.
Heather: They are beautiful pieces, nice shape.
Renee: Thank you. The pendants and the earrings have been a lot of fun to do.
Heather: These are all mangoes that you eat?
Renee: Yes and some people have been donating. My three favourites are mango pits and avocado pits.
Heather: What would you do it with an avocado?
Renee: You would slice it. While they’re still soft you can actually slice it. If you slice them in half they make this beautiful teardrop shape which is really cool.
Heather: How long do they have to dry?
Renee: They have to dry for a long time.
Heather: You don’t have a dehydrator?
Renee: No I don’t I probably should because I like painting wood as well.
Heather: We used to have one, I’m gonna check my garage.
Renee: My other my most recent favourite is acorns.
Heather: And you can cut those?
Renee: No, acorns just have a beautiful oval shape. I just take off the top, they have that little hat top. I take off the top drill and a hole through. They’re really lovely and fun to work.
Heather: I’ll grab a little pic of your jewelry so I can add it to the video. It’s interesting we talked about the garden and your love of nature and now you’re doing jewelry with pieces from the nature. It all comes together.
Renee: It’s a big creative thing. There’s a lot of trial and error. I look at my first pieces that I did when I first started and then compared them. It’s just like anybody else with practice you develop more comfort in what you’re doing. You get more playful, more explorative, more experimental. Working a lot and experimenting with different things. Now I just have to figure out how to how to sell them.
Heather: I’ll help you with that.
Heather: It’s great you have such a beautiful space to work. I’m looking at the water out there and it’s just incredible.
Renee: It’s very inspiring. Nature is very inspiring. Plus amazing people are very inspiring.
Heather: And that’s what these episodes are all about. It’s all my amazing friends and people that I meet and all the creative stuff that they do. Thank you so much for coming on (hug) it was so much fun. We’ll see everybody the next time. Bye
Renee: Thank you, bye.
Outro: Thanks so much for tuning in to Stories of Starting. Until next time always remember your story matters.