Spring is the perfect time to start thinking about getting your mind, soul, and body fit. Thankfully, there are people out there who want to help, including Cayla Sweeney, owner of Otherworld Wellness. Cayla is on a mission to teach people about holistic ways that they can get in shape, whether it’s through her teas, tinctures, infused herbal smoking blends (as a tobacco free substitute), or even a workshop.
Otherworld Wellness promotes balance, healing and connection by combining ancient practices of herbalism and yoga with modern wellness practices.
Cayla told me that it is her unique wellness perspective background – as it relates to anthropologic ritual practices, working with plants for example – that allows her to excel in her practice. It’s these long-lost life lessons that she melds into her products, workshops, and coaching, all of which are aligned with nature (and the growing seasons).
“When I was living in Buffalo as an undergraduate at Canisius, yoga wasn’t even a thing yet,” said Cayla. “I ended up moving out to the West Coast. It was transformative and healing. I found a yoga school for my own needs… to build my own toolkit. I began looking for natural tools. I learned about Ayurveda, and have been a on/off practicing E-RYT (certified to certify new yoga teachers) since 2011 and began working with veterans who had PSTD as part of my training. I was the manager of a medical marijuana dispensary back in those days, and worked on several farms, which informed this work a bit too.”
Eventually, Cayla found herself living for a short time back on the East Coast, working as a hiking guide in the Adirondack mountains. That’s when [she recalled] she started paying attention to plants. Hikers would ask her about the various species, and she didn’t have a lot of answers… yet.
“I started taking workshops and educational programming,” said Cayla. “Then I attended a formal herbal school to get advanced knowledge beyond folk herbalism. After that, I lived down south, working in the corporate sector as a researcher, but I got laid off during the pandemic. I knew that my knowledge was valuable and I wanted to share it.”
Interaction with 'nature' is scientifically proven to decrease stressors, among other things.
Throughout the years, Cayla moved around to a lot of cities, living different lives. In one life, she was living off the grid in a van. In another life, she was wearing a suit and building apps. Now, she’s most happy applying all of her life lessons to Otherworld Wellness, as they are all interconnected (especially in the eyes of an anthropologist). To that end, she feels that it’s important that people develop a sense of kinship with nature.
Offerings include holistic movement + wellness workshops, small batch herbal remedies.
“It’s nothing new,” Cayla explained. “This has been around since the cave dwellers (and their drawings). Yoga postures were based on animals and natural cycles. These days, people don’t even know what berries are safe to eat. This is not some ‘foofoo’ stuff. It’s tangible and has practical value. I’m trying to get more people curious about this, so that they venture down the road. And get healthy in the process.”
All of Cayla’s products – tea blends, tinctures, and smoke blends – are made with organic and sustainably sourced plants. Aside from selling online, she attends markets and pop-ups, where she answers any of the questions that people might have about the products.
“The teas and tinctures – people are interested in the nature-aspect of the products. I’m also finding people interested in my Nurture Your Nature Wellness Program – a four week curated breakdown of dietary and herbal practices, movement yoga and breath-work – I even offer organizational and practical programming, for people who have a hard time carving out time, or committing to the practices that have been outlined. I work with a person where he or she is at. Sometimes it’s as easy as finding the ideal urban sit spot – people are so disconnected from nature when they are living in a city. We tend to forget why the seasonal stuff is so helpful… it grows for a reason at certain times of year, to fortify our bodies and replace nutrients that we depleted the previous season. I teach how to incorporate herbal medicine as part of the food as medicine umbrella.”
Cayla hosts private lessons, events, and teaches seasonal workshops.
In less than a year’s time, Cayla has managed to get a lot under her belt, business-wise. She’s busy making and selling her products, while consulting with people about best health approaches to getting their bodies and minds back in shape.
“Im also testing the market to see what people are most interested in,” she said. “This is all new to a lot of people.”
I can’t wait to run into Cayla at a pop-up market this summer. There are a few items that I want to try out. I’m not only interested in the products, I’m also piqued by Cayla’s holistic commitment to the brand. Who knows, maybe I’ll take a class or a workshop. Often times I feel that sitting in front of a computer for so long should be offset with a hike through the woods. Or maybe I should take a break and have a soothing cup of tea. But time flies, and by the end of the day I realize that I didn’t do much to counteract the hours spent in front of a screen. I need to allocate time to do that. Maybe Cayla can help me with that too.
Lead image: photo of Cayla at Inspiration Point on Elmwood Avenue