Rocky Gorge Wellness July-August 2020 Newsletter

Safe and Strong: Phase II

In May we explored the themes of “Safe and Strong.” As Rocky Gorge Wellness adjusts this summer to reopening phases as mandated by the state, we’re thrilled that we’ve been able to increase our in-studio visits and outdoor classes safely. We continue virtual consultations so we can bring you a fulfilling health and wellness experience wherever you are.

In recent months, we’ve learned so much about avoiding the insidious COVID-19 virus. New realities have prompted many adjustments, transforming the way we navigate new approaches to learning, working, shopping, seeking medical care, socializing, and of course, exercising. The processes have been challenging as we try to maintain stability (and sanity!) as situations in our areas continue to change on a daily basis. The priority to stay safe in all activities is crystal clear. We continue to make our health and fitness habits consistent with our need to revisit some key aspects of staying safe and strong.


A: ACTIVELY meet physical, creative, mental challenges
F: Get FOCUSED on physical, emotional, and immune strength
E: Get EDUCATED and do your homework!


LUNGevity” A Cardio-Respiratory Focus

As we know, COVID-19 is especially hard on the lungs, so improving respiratory immunity is crucial.

The stronger our respiratory system, the better we can resist pathogens, sustain us through illness, and maintain overall functional health. This is the perfect time to take advantage of the mild weather with physical activities that pump freshly oxygenated blood to the lungs, the pipeline to our precious hearts.

Breathing Exercises

The American Lung Association (ALA) offers recommendations about breathing exercises that increase lung reserve, expel accumulated stale air, and boost oxygen reserves. Here are a couple of effective regimens: so easy to do!

Belly breathing, aka diaphragmic breathing

If you’ve practiced Pilates or Tai Chi, you’re familiar with belly breathing. Inhale gently through your nose, focusing on letting your belly fill, rather than expanding your lungs, by letting your diaphragm gently descend as your belly presses down. Exhale slowly through your mouth. Relax your neck and shoulders to help expel most of the air before your next inhalation.

Pursed lip breathing

According to ALA, pursed-lip breathing “reduces the number of breaths you take and keeps your airways open longer.” More air can flow through your lungs for more effective physical activity. Inhale through your nose and exhale at least twice as long through your mouth with pursed lips.

Both exercises are also great for maintaining calm and suppressing high blood pressure.

Exercise and Lung Health

Physical activity improves health because it makes our lungs work harder to supply fresh oxygen to our heart and muscles. With regular movement, our bodies become more efficient at getting oxygen. Over time we become less strained and out of breath when we increase our activity levels.

Moderate activity at least five days a week improves lung function: brisk walking, swimming, biking, and gardening all keep you moving. Consider a more energetic approach to everyday activities, such as wearing headphones while vacuuming. Play some upbeat tunes and you’ll be dancing away the dust bunnies!

More strenuous movement, such as aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities, improve lung and heart function even more! Strength training, such as weightlifting; body core practices such as Pilates and yoga; and of course, running, powerwalking, swimming laps, jumping rope, roller skating, long-distance biking, and playing basketball and tennis are excellent ways to boost your lung capacity.


Mask-Wearing While Exercising

Naturally, during the ongoing COVID crisis, we’re concerned about how masks affect our respiration when we increase our activity because when we exercise, we expel more respiratory droplets.

Fortunately, this issue has recently been scrutinized more closely as people adjust their physical routines to be safe around others, whether indoors or outside. Our information here is intended for situations when you’re exercising in areas where you cannot safely manage a distance of six feet or less.

Our heart rates can rise when exercising a mask. President and chief science officer Cedric Bryant of the American Council on Exercise (ACE) expects that heartrate “will be about eight to 10 beats higher per minute.” But it’s totally doable and it’s crucial that we consider the wellbeing of others as well as ourselves.

We can minimize mask discomforts while exercising by considering the following:

  • Cloth masks made of one or two layers of breathable synthetic materials are less likely to get soggy and reduce overheating.
  • Consider a neck gaiter: Also called buffs, gaiters can be pulled over the nose and mouth, leaving room below the chin for more airflow. A bandana will work, but several companies manufacture a variety of appealing models in high tech materials.
  • Reconsider surgical paper and cotton masks, which can accumulate moisture, making it harder to breathe and block out infectious droplets.
  • Carry extra masks or gaiters, so if it gets too moist, you can swap it out for a fresh, sanitized item. Dispose or discard safely (don’t touch the front of the mask); put reusable masks in a designated bag and sanitize later.
  • A cool mask hack for opening up your airway: Try adding a drop or two of eucalyptus oil to a dab of unfractionated coconut oil (or petroleum jelly) and apply lightly to the rim of your nostrils. You can also add the oil to the tip of a stick of unscented lip balm and apply in the same manner. The treated lip balm is convenient for carrying with you whenever you need to don your mask.

A Word to the Wise

Remember to consult with a medical professional before beginning more rigorous activities if you’ve been sedentary or have a medical condition, especially if you’re wearing a mask. Study air quality conditions and heat and humidity levels before engaging in outdoor activities that might compromise your respiratory health. 



In addition to the invisible threat of virus particles, this time of year attracts other types of pests eager to nibble on us. While most of them are irritating but harmless, we must be vigilant about insect-borne diseases from mosquitos and ticks. Here’s our favorite formula for an all-natural bug repellent that contains no toxic ingredients, such as DEET.

Summer Bug Repellent with Young Living™ Essential Oils

One 4-oz. spray bottle
12 drops Purification™ essential oil
8 drops Peppermint essential oil
6 drops Lavender essential oil
4 drops Thieves™ essential oil
1/2 ounce witch hazel
Filtered or distilled water

Put the essential oil drops in the bottle first; then add the witch hazel and fill with water. Shake well before spraying liberally, especially behind the ears, under the neckline and sleeves of your shirt, and around your legs and sock tops. It works and smells great!

FYI: If you would like to purchase any of the oils mentioned here or the Summer Bug Repellent from us, we have these formulas available in the studio. Please contact us if you would like to order these products.


Herbal Focus: Mullein for Lung Health

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) gives us the warm fuzzies. A wild plant in the snapdragon family native to many regions of the world, its large, soft flannel-like leaves have been used for centuries for alleviating respiratory tract troubles caused by flu, colds, bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, smoking (no!), radiation, and air pollution.

Mullein’s expectorant and cough suppressant properties boost pulmonary wellness. It’s been studied for its antiviral actions, too. You can purchase loose dried mullein leaves to make an infusion. But if you can collect it wild from areas uncontaminated from vehicle exhaust and animal waste, you’re good as gold. Incredibly hardy, it thrives in poor, dry soil.

Mullein’s life cycle is biennial, meaning that it blooms in the second year, sending up a beautiful slender spike of yellow flowers. If you choose to “wildcraft” your mullein, gather the leaves with the stems. The potency of the plant is strongest in its first year, but the second-year leaves can also be harvested. Bind the stems with twine, hang in a cool, shady spot with good ventilation, and when the plant material is completely dry, store in a glass jar. Crumble several leaves and stalks into a teapot or heatproof glass jar and infuse for two to four hours before straining in a sieve for a lung-soothing concoction. It keeps for 5-6 days refrigerated.

Mullein Chai
From Amy Metnick, Rocky Gorge contributor, adapted from Susun Weed

Make 1 pint of mullein infusion

Make the milk chai mixture: 1-pint milk or nondairy milk; 2 cinnamon sticks, 1 pinch each of ground cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, and nutmeg, 3-5 tablespoons honey or maple syrup.

In a two-quart pan infuse the milk chai on low heat for 20 minutes or more. Do not let it scald or boil. Add the strained mullein infusion and continue to heat on low flame until very warm. Strain and enjoy!

Delicious iced!

Keep moving and keep breathing…and stay safe and strong!


Keep tuned and keep healthy!