“Maria Villella is more than a friend. She and I speak the same language, have the same core values; she is the one I go to for advice. I trust in her care as my acupuncturist keeping me be proactive in my health; her treatments are powerful. She is strong, yet soft. Sweet, yet playful. Godmother to my son, River. And she will hate me for saying this, but she has the best dance moves.”
- Christy Dawn
Story and Interview by Chasity Glass
As her bio on the Elysia Life Care website reads, Maria Villella has a ‘compassionate, non-judgemental nature that allows her clients to open up to her and together, grow and thrive in physical well-being.’ She is a busy clinician, new mother, and wife, and yet, her voice is soft, tranquil and composed. She is present. I can feel her ease through the iPhone speaker before I’ve even asked our first question. And, although we aren’t sipping tea over this conversation, her voice calms like chamomile as she describes learning from a Qigong master, the art of acupuncture and the importance of family.
How do you know Christy Dawn?
I knew Christy (and Aras) from working as a Yoga instructor; she encouraged my husband and me to meet with her Qigong Master, George Flacon. Christy and Aras were studying with him and thought we too might appreciate his teaching. We too started working with George, becoming his students. That gave us (Christy and Aras) common ground and common language, and we bonded over retreats and talking about George’s teachings and integrating those principles into our lives. I consider her and them my closest friends. We have that same voice in our heads, George Falcon saying, ‘Right here, right now, you are free.’ And we hold each other accountable and offer reminders of George’s teaching now that he has passed.
Where are you right now?
I’m whispering in another room as my husband watches our sleeping baby girl. She's four months old. Still so new. So precious.
And, how is motherhood treating you so far?
I’m settling into it. I almost can’t remember who I was before, [giggles fondly] because it is such a big change. And yet, it’s the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done. Seeing my baby smile warms my heart in such a big way. When I came home from the hospital after having her, I felt so behind, because the learning curve was so steep. And I was trying to figure out what this baby wanted from me, and what was my parenting plan and ‘ohmygoodness do I have a plan’? But, [pause] this is an incredible opportunity to practice the principles that George instilled in me. Not coming from a place of fear but continually experiencing love and remembering love, and knowing that whatever is happening is within God’s plan, and it’s all of God’s doing, and God’s work, and God’s love.
[I’m stumbling for the right response.] Wow, that is quite powerful.
Being a new parent has your idea of family changed?
Oh my goodness, so much. So much. Since my daughter was born, my parents are very present in my life, and my brother and I are closer than ever. It’s been a real source of inspiration for the whole family. It’s also given me a whole level of compassion for my mother. Before there might have been triggers of things she would do, now having walked this path and seen that she too walked this path. Now, I can understand her actions and can appreciate them because I need her support more than I’ve ever needed.
So tell me, what do you do for a living?
Acupuncturist, and practitioner of Chinese Medicine. I work with women’s health issues addressing things like hormone imbalances, menstrual irregularities, fertility, menopause, prenatal and postnatal support, emotional struggles, pain issues, and general wellness. People who want to achieve optimal health.
How did you get interested in this?
I was teaching yoga and had a very intense daily practice. I was in India, and I wanted to work as intensely as I could. I had a very athletic, extensive yoga practice with very deep arm balances, hip openers, and back bends when I hurt my back. After I hurt myself, I got the most relief from acupuncture. I became interested in eastern medicine. It was very similar to the yoga philosophy, considered the body as a whole, yet there is an internal medicine component that interested me, especially the herbal medicine.
Why focus on women's health?
Being a woman, I was always interested in women's health and optimizing that. I love when women can support each other. I love being there for other women who are going to walk down a path that I’ve walked down, or am walking down because we can learn so much from each other's experiences. Each one of us is unique, but there is a connection where common ground is shared. That’s why I wanted to help women, to have that connection, to be support for them and well, for them to support me too.
For someone who hasn't received acupuncture before, how does it help?
Acupuncture is both an art and science. It has been used effectively for thousands of years, based on observation of patterns in the body and nature. The goal of treatment is to harmonize the energetics of the body. When that happens, the physiology follows. Most recent studies on the efficacy of acupuncture have observed changes in brain activity on MRIs. The frontal lobe activates ‘healing’ during acupuncture treatments when the needles are inserted. So we know acupuncture has a positive effect on the nervous system. Acupuncture is mostly known for pain management. However, it is used effectively for fertility and woman health concerns, anxiety, addiction, issues of digestion, headaches, stroke rehabilitation, and just about anything. In some cases, it is appropriate treatment on its own in some cases it is helpful as adjunct therapy alongside Western medical interventions.
Is acupuncture for everyone?
Yes, unless they have a phobia of needles that can’t be overcome. If that were the case acupressure, tuina, qi gong, cupping, moxibustion, and herbal therapy are other modalities which utilize the same principles of acupuncture and are in the training and scope of Acupuncturists. Everyone in the world is subject to fluctuations and can use help rebalancing their system. Acupuncture is preventative medicine, and if it is incorporated into self-care, it will help the body and mind function better.
What are three tips you can share for say, a 'busy mom' to maintain her health?
1) Exercise: fit it in anywhere you can. Carrying around the baby in a Bjorn or an Ergo and walking places rather than driving.
2) Eat healthy nourishing foods. Pregnancy, delivery, and breast feeding are depleting to mom’s body. It’s so important to eat protein and healthy fats post-partum. Continue taking your prenatal and DHA for as long as you are breast feeding, so many moms stop after child birth. That’s a mistake.
3) Take time to care for yourself and your mind, if mom falls apart, then the whole family will. Take time away from everyone and give yourself a break. If meditation and breathing exercises aren’t for you, then find something that does let your mind settle. Maybe it’s a good book, a TV show, acupuncture, a massage, or spa day; whatever gives you a break from trying to meet everyone else’s needs.
Has your style changed since having a child?
YES! Wait. In acupuncture or do you mean fashion style?
[Laughter.] My acupuncture practice has changed because I feel I can access my intuition much quicker. I read this article about ‘mom brain’ and it isn’t a negative connotation of being forgetful, but rather you shift to the side of your brain where intuition and creativity become much more dominant because that’s what you need to be a mom. The work that I do, intuition is so very important. I feel more tapped into it. My fashion style has shifted for breastfeeding and pumping, and maybe it’s changed a little too as I move into a more mature role in my life.
What Christy Dawn dress do you own?
Oh goodness. SO MANY
Is there is a favorite?
The classic Dawn dress in soft cotton. It’s comfortable and so versatile. I wear them to work, to lunch, out...and I can breastfeed in them so easily! I have to ask, and it’s one of my favorite questions, are you a sunrise or sunset? Sunrise. I love the mornings. It used to be yoga; now it’s my time with my baby. The way she moves is so sweet and restful.
What gets you out of bed each morning?
Inspiration. Life, in general, inspires me. Love for myself, my husband, my baby, my patients, my community.
What does love mean to you?
Connection. It means connection. To others. To God. I guess that’s where inspiration comes from too.
I could have chatted with Maria for hours, her voice tranquil and soothing. I asked her this question. It fits nowhere in this interview but her laughter was pure therapy, and her answer is too good not to include:
Favorite song? Or book? Or film?
This must have been an Aras question. [Both of us laughing, spilling our tea.]