Staying Healthy in the Fall Season - A Lesson on Acupuncture with Ari Odamaki, Certified Acupuncturist


I’m often asked this question regarding the length of study required in the acupuncture profession. Currently in the United States, a Master’s Degree is the entry-level standard for professional practice. The length of training for the Acupuncture program is 3 years. The Oriental Medicine program, which includes acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, is 4 or 5 years. Where I received my graduate training at the Tri-State College of Acupuncture, a minimum of 2,168 hours of training were required for the program in acupuncture; and 2,978 hours for the program in Oriental Medicine. Most students completed more hours by taking extra courses throughout their study. My curriculum in Oriental Medicine consisted of Chinese medicine theory, diagnosis and treatment techniques in acupuncture, didactic Chinese herbal studies, acupuncture and herbal clinical training, biomedical clinical sciences, counseling, communication, ethics and practice management. In both programs, a year long internship is completed in the final year in the school’s community clinic providing treatments as supervised student practitioners. While each state’s regulatory board has their own requirements for licensure, most states require most, if not all of the NCCAOM certification examinations and/or national board certification. To become board certified as a Diplomate of Acupuncture, one must show professional competency by passing all 3 certification examinations in Foundations of Oriental Medicine, Acupuncture, and Biomedicine.

The World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture to be effective for over 43 common disorders. Conditions I often treat in my office include: allergies, asthma, anxiety, depression, arthritis, joint pain, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, colds, flu, cough, bronchitis, fatigue, gastrointestinal disorders, gynecological disorders, headaches, migraines, high blood pressure, immune system deficiency, infertility, insomnia, knee pain, musculoskeletal injuries, sciatica, shoulder pain, skin disorders, stress, tension, and tendinitis. Acupuncture has been shown to improve generalized oxygenation and blood flow. It balances the autonomic nervous system and restores homeostasis. It can reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure and promote relaxation by stimulating the release of oxytocin, a hormone that regulates the parasympathetic nervous system. Acupuncture also increases the production of anti-inflammatory secretions. It can help relieve pain by releasing natural painkillers such as endorphins and adenosine.

Fall is the time of year when the yang energy begins to submerge and the yin energy increases as the sunny and warmer days decrease to cooler temperatures. There is a shift from the expansiveness of summer to a more contractive time of slowing down and introspection as we draw inwards both physically and emotionally. We move forward from the abundance of summer and begin to prepare for hibernation by conserving our energy and sleeping more. When we are in tune with how the seasons affect our bodies, we can adjust our lifestyles to be in natural rhythm with the change of seasons. By doing so we can strengthen our immune system and protect our health during the fall to fortify and sustain us through the winter months.

In Chinese medicine, the fall season is associated with the Metal element. Much like the ore deep within a mountain, the Metal element represents the most refined part of ourselves and our core issues. The emotion connected with Metal is grief or sadness and the meridians associated with the element are the yin and yang pair of the Lung and Large Intestine channels, which reflect the season’s nature of letting go. While the lungs carry oxygen to the body and exhale carbon dioxide, the large intestine absorbs nutrients and eliminates digestive waste. Both the lungs and large Intestines are organs of absorption and elimination. In emotional terms, the yin and yang pair of Lung and Large Intestine channels which are associated with grief are involved in releasing what no longer serves us and making room for new experiences.

In addition to treating more respiratory issues in the fall such as seasonal allergies, sinus infections, asthma, coughing, and colds, it is common to see more emotions associated with the grieving process and difficulty in letting go. In Chinese medicine, the back of the neck is thought to be particularly vulnerable to invasion of wind and cold, so dress warmly and wear a scarf to cover your neck. Eat warm foods and avoid raw salad and cold beverages. Eat foods which are available seasonally. Fall vegetables and fruits include squashes, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, beets, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, pears and apples. Since the taste associated with the metal element is pungent or spicy, add in some horseradish, onions, garlic, ginger, or mustard in your cooking.

For more information on acupuncture and scheduling an individual session with Ari, check out her bio and session information.

New to acupuncture and want to try it out without paying for a private session? Register for Ari’s upcoming workshop “Staying Healthy in Autumn with Acupuncture”.

Meet Our Newest Staff Member and Certified Pet Therapist, Parker


Have you ever noticed that when you see a new puppy or get to pet an animal, there’s something a bit lighter about all of your problems for a moment? Your mood brightens, even for just a short time, and it allows a little light into your heart that maybe wasn’t there before. Pets can provide a sense of unconditional love and calmness that we don’t always feel with another person. It’s even been shown that animals can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. And the scientific research beyond that has shown a lowering of blood pressure and heart rate and an increase in oxytocin when we are interacting with animals.


That’s where Pet Therapists come in. Pets used in the therapeutic process can be very helpful in sessions and can be used for a wide variety of goals like improving self-esteem, developing social skills, as well as helping with post-traumatic stress disorder anxiety. Patients have reported less pain when interacting with a Pet Therapist and children with autism have shown an increase in positive social behaviors. These pets can also work in a variety of clinical settings, including psychiatric hospitals, therapist offices, and nursing homes.


Parker, the Village Center’s new Pet Therapist, is certified through Pittsburgh’s Animal Friends’ Therapet Program. Pet assisted therapy is a specialty that can be incorporated into traditional therapy sessions. Not to be confused with a service or emotional support dog, Parker is trained to offer comfort and affectionate support to individuals other than his owner. Pet assisted therapy services are currently offered at the Village Center for Holistic Therapy with Therapist Jenna Weidner, LCSW. In addition to therapy sessions at the Village, Parker volunteers visiting with individuals and families residing in the HOPE Center Domestic Violence Shelter, Good Samaritan Hospice respite home, UPMC Shadyside Hospital and Reading with Rover (a program offered to assist children with reading).

Parker was born in November of 2016. He is a long haired dachshund with a charismatic personality. Parker is very people friendly and enjoys working with individuals of all ages. He loves to play with other dogs and take naps. Parker goes EVERY WHERE with Jenna. The hair salon, hiking, and swimming. Parker has been to several camping places, the beach, fairs, and soccer games. He also loves to go in the car and be around people.

Please feel free to contact Jenna with any questions about Parker or pet assisted therapy at the Village Center. 412-455-6890 ext. 524

Energy Medicine with Rita Lampe, MSW, LCSW,


If you’ve never used Reiki or Energy Medicine, it can sound a little intimidating. But one of our own Village therapists, Rita Lampe, is giving us some much needed insight on how beneficial this holistic healing practice can be, as well as how much it has improved her well-being since she started.

1. How did you get started in therapy/reiki/energy healing?

After having chronic pain and hip issues for years, I decided I needed to find a way to start helping myself to heal. I had heard of Reiki and took my first training in 2001. Years later I started reading about Energy Medicine and was very intrigued by Donna Eden, the founder of Eden Energy Medicine, and her own self-healing journey utilizing these techniques. I took an introduction course and was hooked and the next year started the 2 year certification program, which I completed in March 2019. I love Eden Energy Medicine because it combines traditional Chinese Medicine with Therapeutic Touch, working with the body’s own energies helping to balance, restore and renew those energies. Energy Medicine works with the 9 energy systems of the body, in particular the Meridians and the Chakras, to bring about needed shifts to restore the body to a state of homeostasis and harmony. Seeing these shifts in myself and my clients is amazing. I feel honored to be able to bring this healing modality to others.

2. What’s can a client expect when they do a session with you?

After doing a short intake with a client about what their particular concerns are, I then do a brief overview of Energy Medicine, how it works and how I utilize energy muscle testing to assess their body’s energies. With Energy Medicine we are treating the individual and their particular energies and issues. This starts with assessing a person’s energies using energy muscle testing. After gathering this information, I, along with the client, develop a plan for the session. The client is fully clothed during a session. A typical session will start with doing what we call a “Quickie Energy Balancer”, where the person will be on the table and I will be moving and balancing energy with a hands on approach. After this, we will begin a specific protocol based on the initial assessment. This can be working with sedating or strengthening specific meridian pathways, balancing the chakras, working with the neurovascular system by holding specific points on and around the head which help provide deep relaxation and balance emotions, doing a hormone or pre-pregnancy protocol, working with alleviating a specific pain pattern, etc. During this time I am also following the information I am receiving about the person’s energies and using my intuition to address their specific needs.

3. What’s your best holistic health tip that you practice yourself and recommend to clients?

In every session I talk to clients about doing the Daily Energy Routine Exercises, created by Donna Eden. These exercises take only about 5-8 minutes a day and are a great tool for people to keep their own energies balanced daily. I have been practicing this routine for over 2 years now and it helps me feel stronger, healthier and more mentally and emotionally balanced. This is one of the best ways to be your own primary care physician! I feel healthier than I have in decades and I feel more empowered to be in charge of my health.

As a Certified Eden Energy Medicine Practitioner, Rita is very excited to share the experience of energy medicine with you and can be contacted for more information or to schedule a Reiki/Energy Medicine session at (412.455.6890 ext 6) or

Spring Cleaning: Marie Kondo Style


The warmer weather and longer days that spring brings inspires us to open up the windows, do some deep cleaning, and freshen up our living space.  But do you still feel like your house is stuck in the winter blues?  Before you start deep cleaning, clearing out the clutter can help improve your space even more, making it happier and easier to keep up with.  Follow some of Marie Kondo’s famous tip for getting your house spring ready and filled with joy.

The six basic rules to the Konmari method, as the author calls it, are as follows:  commit yourself to tidying up, imagine your ideal lifestyle, finish discarding first, tidy by category not location, follow the right order, and only keep items that spark joy.  More details on these can be found in her book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”.

So what can these tips do for you and how are they really going to change your life?  First of all, getting rid of things in your house that don’t “spark joy”, which is the backbone in the Konmari method, can be extremely rewarding.  You know that piece of artwork you inherited that you really don’t like or the piece of clothing a family member gifted you that has never fit right?  Get it out of your house.  It’s that simple.  It served its purpose, you no longer need it, and it’s time in your house is over.  It’s a very liberating feeling not having to carry around items that you don’t truly love.  And it leaves you with only items that you treasure and way less stuff to keep up with!

Another product of clearing out your house with this method is not needing as much space.  Do you use up all the closets in your house or extra rooms with things you’re not even using or really need?  Once you’ve completed the Konmari method steps for clearing things out, you’ll have new options for your space.  You could set up that yoga room you’ve always wanted, have a usable guest room or maybe even downsize to a smaller, less expensive home. 

Finally, you will feel more peaceful and relaxed in your home.  One task in the Konmari method is going through all sentimental items, including old letters, things from your school days, and anything else that is from the past.  Sometimes these things can make us feel weighed down with the old days of our lives.  By clearing these out, you make your home more about the present with no regrets from the past, and looking towards the future. 

A Lesson in Ayurveda and Self-Care

Abby Ritter, Ayurvedic Health Counselor and Yoga Instructor

Abby Ritter, Ayurvedic Health Counselor and Yoga Instructor

Have you ever wondered about Ayurveda or maybe heard the term but never knew what it meant? Ayurveda originated in the East and it translates to the “Science of Longevity”. It looks to the seasons to incorporate different wellness paths and you become an active participant in healing yourself, rather than just taking medicine to heal.

The daily routine or, dinacharya, is one of the best Ayurvedic tools for improving overall health and well-being. Incorporating a daily routine, promotes health and simplicity into your life and is considered extremely grounding and nurturing. Your daily routine can be adapted to meet your own unique needs, although a general template is followed. With the right routine in place, you can see a big improvement in your daily life.

We took some time to chat with Abby Ritter, Ayurveda Health Counselor and Yoga Instructor, and found out some of what she knows about Ayurveda and how she incorporates these methods into her own life.

1.  What benefits do you feel come with the Ayurvedic lifestyle?

In essence Ayurveda is the practice of “self-love” or as you hear more often, “self-care.”  When we live an Ayurvedic lifestyle we become more connected to ourselves because we learn to live in sync with the rhythms of nature.  This in turn supports stronger digestion, helps to eliminate toxins and reduces stress giving us a greater sense of well-being.  Ayurveda teaches us that when we live out of sync with the rhythms of nature we ourselves feel out of sync, low energy, stressed and depleted.  As we learn how to implement Ayurveda into our daily lives it creates consistency and is a support the gives us more stable energy, calmness and a sense of empowerment.  So no matter what your day brings, your daily practices support you physically, mentally and emotionally.

2.  Tell us about your daily self-care routine.

I adjust my routine when the seasons change so that it best supports me during that time, but my staples are:

1: Waking by 7AM (during the winter)

2: Upon waking taking time expressing gratitude and setting an intention for my day

3: Tongue Scrape

4: Drinking warm lemon water

3.  What can someone expect from attending your Ayurveda 101 workshop in March?

They can expect to come away with a lot of wonderful new knowledge about self-care, nutrition and lifestyle. Students will also receive a self-care package so they can begin to implement Ayurvedic practices into their daily life.

If you are interested in learning more about Ayurveda and a self-care routine, register for Abby’s upcoming Ayurveda 101: Creating a Self Care Routine workshop taking place on Saturday, March 16th from 12pm to 2pm in our Shaler Village location.

The Village Gives Back at the Ronald McDonald House Pittsburgh


This past weekend, the Village Staff joined together for some team building at the Ronald McDonald House kitchen. We wanted to plan a fun, interactive day, and decided what better way to do that than to help others while we spent time together as a team. The morning consisted of putting all of our recipes together and creating a fabulous taco bar lunch for the families who are staying there while their child receives treatment at the adjacent Children’s Hospital.


The Ronald McDonald House Pittsburgh is a place that families can stay to receive comfort, care, and support while they are seeking medical care for their children. They have approximately 74 family apartments and provide 24/7 onsite services such as laundry, linens, play areas, tv rooms, a toy forest with hundreds of donated new toys to gift, and other common areas for living. One of the services the Ronald McDonald House provides is pantries full of comfort food and cooked meals provided by volunteers on a weekly basis.

This is where the Village stepped in to help! Through meal train, a meal scheduling program, individuals, families, or other organizational groups can schedule a meal that they prepare on-site for the families staying there. This helps take some of the burden of everyday cooking off the families so they can still receive a home-cooked meal while being able to focus on getting their children well.

If you have any interest in volunteering for meals, social hour entertainment, wish list giving, and more as a family, group, or individual, click on the link below for more information on how to sign up! There are so many ways to give back and these families are so appreciative.

Ronald McDonald Volunteer Opportunities

Staff Spotlight - Ari Odamaki, Board Certified Acupuncturist

We are starting off the year with a new addition to our Village, Ari Odamaki, Board Certified Acupuncturist. Ari will be taking on new clients and will be available at our Shaler location. Appointments can be made by reaching Ari at or (718.737.6350) For more information about Ari, please visit her website at

Find out more about her in our interview below.


How did you get started in acupuncture. What’s your inspiration?

I was first introduced to acupuncture as an undergraduate student in NYC. I had chronic neck and shoulder tension since my teenage years, which had worsened in college due to stress. The student health clinic at my college began offering acupuncture and out of curiosity I signed up for a few sessions. I discovered not only did my neck and shoulders feel better, I also felt more relaxed and had better concentration during that semester. A year later, I was under the care of a physical therapist for a meniscus tear, and as it turned out, he was in his final year of acupuncture school. I had the opportunity to visit the teaching clinic at his acupuncture school (at the Tri-State College of Acupuncture, where I later enrolled) after straining my low back and experienced almost immediate relief. His well-rounded approach to pain management left an impression. Another great influence on my journey into holistic health a few years earlier, was an integrative doctor who helped me during a bout of chronic fatigue and a myriad of symptoms which my primary care physician was unable diagnose. Through an improved diet and taking nutritional and homeopathic supplements, I was able to regain my energy and felt better than I had in years. I learned the importance of being heard and acknowledged, which is an important aspect in the process of healing and wellness. Fast forward a few more years and I was working in textile design in the fashion industry. While I enjoyed my work and found it satisfying, there was something important missing; a sense of greater purpose. Around this time, I had a close friend who bravely fought and ultimately lost her battle with lymphangioleiomyomatosis. She taught me important lessons which I’m still learning; how to live with courage, dignity and grace, how to achieve health and happiness even in illness. I witnessed the challenges she faced advocating for herself and navigating the healthcare system. After her passing, I decided to change career paths and prepared to enroll in a graduate program for acupuncture. I was fortunate to be under the care of a massage therapist at the time, who encouraged me to pursue my goals.

What inspires me are my parents, friends, and professional mentors who demonstrate compassion through their work and interactions with others and ultimately how to deepen our humanity. I’m also inspired by people who have sought care of my acupuncture services over the years as they have been integral to my growth as a practitioner. I have immense gratitude for my Kampo teacher, Nigel Dawes, for his many years of mentorship. I feel encouraged and supported by the talented and diverse practitioners I continue to meet within the holistic health community in Pittsburgh.

What is something people may not know about the practice of acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an ancient medical system developed in China over 2,500 years ago. The spread of Chinese acupuncture and herbology to Korea and Japan occurred in the 6th century. These countries still utilize both therapies in their modern medical systems along with Western medicine. Acupuncture arrived in Vietnam between the 8th and 10th centuries through trade routes. In the West, Jesuit missionaries brought back reports of acupuncture in the 16th century and the practice was adopted by French clinicians. America and Britain became interested in acupuncture in the first half of the 19th century and appeared in various scientific literature. In 1971, acupuncture was back in the spotlight, when a US press corps was given acupuncture during recovery from an emergency appendectomy in China. With the spread of acupuncture to many cultures throughout history, various styles of acupuncture originating from different countries emerged and are practiced today.

Acupuncture is a physiological medicine and works through neural signaling. Most acupuncture points are located on or adjacent to peripheral nerve trunks or branches, which are rich in nerve supply, blood and lymphatic vessels. Acupuncture balances the autonomic nervous system and restores homeostasis. By stimulating the release of oxytocin, a hormone that regulates the parasympathetic nervous system while turning down the sympathetic nervous system, it reduces heart rate, lowers blood pressure and promotes relaxation. Acupuncture creates an anti-inflammatory response in the body and increases blood flow. Insertion of acupuncture needles send a signal through the nervous system to the brain, releasing chemicals such as endorphins, norepinephrine, and enkephalin which are natural painkillers.

What is your approach to holistic therapy?

My approach is working together to achieve your full potential for health. What I love about acupuncture is that it allows me to treat the individual as a whole person and address the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of wellness. In Chinese Medicine, acupuncture is one of the 5 pillars of health. This means there are many components to wellness, including self- cultivation of healthy habits and empowers you to be in charge of your own healing process.

Whether someone is coming to see me for stress reduction, management of a chronic condition, or help with a pain or injury, I like to provide self-care tips to incorporate at home between sessions for optimal results.

What can clients expect when they sign up for an acupuncture session with you?

An initial acupuncture session is approximately 75 minutes to allow for time for a full intake, assessment and treatment. We will discuss your health history and what your health goals are. Follow up sessions are approximately 60 minutes where we will review progress and current symptoms before treatment. Each session is tailored to you and depending on your specific needs, I will incorporate acupuncture with other modalities such as moxibustion, cupping, gua sha, tui na, and electro-acupuncture. My acupuncture training at the Tri-State College of Acupuncture included Traditional Chinese Medicine, Japanese Acupuncture in the teachings of Kiiko Matsumoto, and Acupuncture Physical Medicine developed by Dr. Mark Seem during which I received extensive training in trigger point acupuncture. I’m also certified in facial rejuvenation acupuncture which I offer as a specialty. I integrate various styles of acupuncture to effectively treat and offer support for a wide range of conditions including stress, women’s health, fertility, acute and chronic illness, pain and sports injuries.

What’s your favorite health tip that you practice yourself and that you recommend to clients?

I have a variety of health tips. So I’ll name a few that I incorporate into my daily routine which I think almost anyone could benefit from. I think it’s important to eat according to the seasons and makes it easier to find what is in season locally. Drink warm or room temperature water, avoid cold and iced beverages as this is not beneficial for digestion, which is especially important in the fall and winter. Soups, stews and congee are great for colder months. During the warmer months, I recommend adding steamed veggies or ingredients that are cooked to salads to increase digestibility. When I have fresh juices in the summer, I like to add ginger or turmeric to aid with digestion. Growing up in a Japanese household, my family and I would drink green tea after our meals. A non-caffeinated alternative I recommend is ginger tea. During the cold season, garlic, ginger and turmeric are staples in my cooking. Traditional fermented foods are rich in probiotics and promote healthy gut bacteria that boost the immune system. My favorites are sauerkraut and kimchi available at the farmers market. Epsom baths are not only great for alleviating sore muscles and reducing inflammation but also beneficial for relaxation and sleep. Along with Vitamin D deficiency, many of us are magnesium deficient. Magnesium sulfate in epsom salts relax muscles and reduce stress. It also assists the body in flushing out toxins. I usually recommend 2 cups of epsom salt in a bathtub. Foot baths are also a quick and effective routine for relaxation. Add a cup of epsom salt in a half-filled tub and soak your feet several hours before bedtime. I like to add a few drops of lavender essential oil. Try to avoid tv, laptops and smartphones right before bed, as electronics emit a particular type of blue light that interrupt the brain from producing melatonin. Since sleep is essential for the body’s regenerative abilities, incorporating self-care routines before bed prepares us for relaxation and better sleep.

Make “Giving” the Real STAR this Holiday Season

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Each year around the holidays at the Village, we come together to support a local charity to give back to.  And this year, like last, we’ve chosen to give back and support Project STAR of the Children’s Institute.  Project STAR was created as a way to help potential adopting families recognize their own abilities, strengths and see all the support available to them when considering the adoption of children with special needs.  Placing these children had been challenging, and Project STAR has helped give these children a better opportunity to be a part of a permanent family.  The STAR in Project STAR stands for Specialized Training for Adoption Readiness and has been very successful at opening the hearts and minds of potential forever families.  This project has been a combined effort through The Children’s Institute, Three Rivers Adoption Council, and Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth, and Families.

Project STAR’s services have expanded to include all children and families in Western Pennsylvania, although children with special needs are still a major focus. The organization opened an office in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, with their primary goal of creating a permanent home for children remaining constant. Because of this, Project STAR has won numerous awards. Project STAR is licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare as an adoption, foster care and private children and youth social service agency. They are also an affiliate member of the Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN) and maintain contracts with local, statewide and out-of-state counties in the areas of placement services and family preservation/reunification services. 

November is also National Adoption Awareness month.  If you or anyone you know is interested in helping a child in need find a forever home, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Project STAR or attend an upcoming informational meeting to find out more. 

The Village, along with Casey’s Family Restaurant, and Salon 13, are hosting Christmas on the Beach Saturday, December 8th.  This fundraising event will be held at Casey’s Family Restaurant in Shaler with generously donated raffle basket drawings starting at 3pm and family friendly activities from 6pm to 10pm.  Activities include, DJ, basket raffles, snow cones, face painting, balloon artist, photo booth, and pictures with Olaf the Snowman.   We invite you to come join the fun and help us give back and support Project Star.  All donations for the raffle baskets will go towards the program.  We ask that you bring an unwrapped gift that will be given to a child in foster care.  Gifts for children of all ages are needed, with an increased need for kids ages 13 – 21.  If you cannot attend the benefit, we will also be accepting drop off donations at both Village locations, Casey’s Family Restaurant, and Salon 13 now through December 7th.  As always, we appreciate your generosity and support!

The Summer Slow Down


As summer approaches and our schedules get less full, we have more time to enjoy the beautiful weather and fun activities that come with it.  There’s something about this time of year where we can slow down and really enjoy life.  And it’s always a good idea to stay mindful of our habits and to create new ones along the way.  While we usually use this time to get into a new book, enjoy the beach, or just relax outside, it’s also a great time to add some yoga and meditation to your daily routine for many reasons. 

To start, it will help you truly savor the moments of summer that you might normally overlook.  The way the grass feels on your bare feet, the smell of the salty beach air, or even the sweet taste of watermelon.  Secondly, you’ll start to notice your self-confidence increasing in situations where you used to feel less confident, because you become capable of doing things you never thought you could before (like sticking to a yoga routine or doing a certain stretch!).  Another benefit is that you may start to crave a good yoga and meditation class rather in place of a sweet treat.  Many people report that the feeling they get from finishing a session is just as enjoyable as the good feeling they get after rewarding themselves with a treat, and this one is calorie free! Lastly, adding a new yoga and meditation routine may help your life perspective change for the better.  You can really start to slow down and see the things that really matter and take the time to appreciate them fully and presently.

If you’re looking to add a new yoga or mediation class to your summer routine, we have many options to choose from this summer.  Check out our class schedule to see what fits your times/needs best.  We are also partnering with Venture Outdoors on Saturday, July 28th for a fun nature hike at North Park, followed by an hour long meditative yoga session with Abby Ritter!  Register for the North Park Hike and Yoga here.

A Celebration of New Beginnings - Saving Animals. Serving Community.

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This spring, the Village is teaming up with Salon 13 as they hold their grand opening and celebrate a new beginning for their salon and a new beginning for the dogs from Gentle Ben’s Giant Breed Rescue.  The new beginnings event will be held Saturday, April 14th between 1:30 and 5:30pm at Salon 13 in Allison Park.  The event will feature raffle baskets, live music, food for sale from Sonny’s Smorgasbord Food Truck, and interactions with adoptable dogs from Gentle Ben’s. Donations needed for the dogs are collars, leashes, non-skid stainless steel food and water bowls, tug ropes, Kong toys, Nylabones, Milkbones, canned dog food, and XL dog beds. 

Gentle Ben’s Giant Breed Rescue is a non-profit large breed dog rescue, and runs solely on donations and funds from the owners of the rescue.  Its main focus is to help families who find themselves in unfortunate circumstances such as losing their home, military obligations, divorce, loss of job, medical issue or death of a family member, and can no longer keep their beloved dog. Gentle Ben’s helps give these families peace of mind that their dog will be taken care of in a safe place, fostered, and will be placed in a loving new family.  The dogs that are taken by Gentle Ben’s become like part of their family and will stay in their rescue home until a perfect, permanent home is found for them.  Once they are placed in a new home, the original family is updated on the journey with pictures and updates so they can see their dog is now happy and safe in their new home.  Some dogs may even be placed as therapy dogs.

All dogs are fully vetted, vaccinated, heartworm tested, spayed/neutered, and fully socialized and microchipped before being placed for adoption.  They also take very seriously the placement of each dog, knowing that these dogs have been through enough changes, and need a forever home. 

 If you are unable to attend the event on April 14th, donations are being accepted at Salon 13 and the Village Center for Holistic Therapy beginning April 1st – April 30th.  

We are also collecting shoe donations at both Village locations beginning March 1st through April 30th for another charitable cause featuring dogs, Nittany Greyhounds who partners with Funds2Org.  Shoes of any kind or condition, even slippers and flip-flops, are accepted.  We will bag 25 pairs of shoes to be sent to developing nations where they may help start businesses of shoe repair or recycling or are donated to those in need, especially after natural disasters such a hurricanes.  Nittany Greyhounds is one of the few groups that does not just take healthy dogs, but this can be a big expense.  For every 100 bags of 25 pairs of shoes, Funds2Org will donate $1,000 to Nittany Greyhounds, who uses this money to rehabilitate any sick or injured dogs that they take in to get them ready for adoption, as well as provide a month's worth of food, a collar and least, a coat and ID, which is given to all adoptees.

We appreciate your generosity and kindness in support of places like Gentle Ben’s Giant Breed Rescue and Nittany Greyhounds who help our community and our animal friends.  And don’t forget that National Adopt a Shelter Pet day is April 30th!

Mindfulness - Be. Here. Now.


Mindfulness, which has become a very popular buzzword, is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, through meditation or other training.  If done properly, it can help improve your health, restore emotional balance, increase your resilience to stress, slow the aging process, improve your concentration, and create better sleeping and eating habits.  Once you create a mindfulness habit, you’ll start to see your stress level reduced and your happiness level increased.  And one of the best things about the practice of mindfulness is that you don’t have to have any special knowledge or skill to do it.  Just your mind.  And by allowing ourselves to stay in the present, we stop focusing on the past which can bring up feeling of regret or longing, as well as the anxiety that comes from focusing on the future and all the unknowns, and we are able to fully enjoy what is happening right now.  We start to feel more alive because we are actually living our life in the moment it’s happening and putting our focus into the present.

The practice of mindfulness has grown so much that there are multiple way to practice it these days, many of which are very easy to incorporate into your everyday life.  One of the easiest to start with is a mindfulness app.  These usually contain guided session focusing on different categories to pull your focus into the present and take you step by step through the process.  Another way is to become aware of your breathing.  This is a very simple trick that can be done anywhere and anytime.  Thought clouds are another mindfulness technique.  It involves stepping away from your thoughts and seeing them from a distance without giving them traction to turn negative.  Meal times can be another easy mindful activity by using all of our senses while you eat and slowing way down during your meal.  Finally, yoga is a great way to incorporate mindfulness and exercise as it allows you to use breathing techniques, body awareness, and to be focused on the present. 

There are so many opportunities to practice mindfulness in your everyday life that can help strengthen our mind, body, and spirit. No matter what you do to practice mindfulness, remember that it will get easier with time and you will start seeing all the benefits being fully present has to offer.

Annual Holiday Benefit


Every year around the holidays, the Village chooses a worthwhile cause to sponsor at our annual benefit.  This year, our hearts and help are going to Project STAR at the Children’s Institute.  Project STAR was created as a way to help potential adopting families recognize their own abilities, strengths and see all the support available to them when considering the adoption of children with special needs.  Placing these children had been challenging, and Project STAR has helped give these children a better opportunity to be a part of a permanent family.  The STAR in Project STAR stands for Specialized Training for Adoption Readiness and has been very successful at opening the hearts and minds of potential forever families.  This project has been a combined effort through The Children’s Institute, Three Rivers Adoption Council, and Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth, and Families.

Project STAR’s services have expanded to include all children and families in Western Pennsylvania, although children with special needs are still a major focus. The organization opened an office in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, with their primary goal of creating a permanent home for children remaining constant. Because of this, Project STAR has won numerous awards. Project STAR is licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare as an adoption, foster care and private children and youth social service agency. They are also an affiliate member of the Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN) and maintain contracts with local, statewide and out-of-state counties in the areas of placement services and family preservation/reunification services.

For everything that Project STAR has done and continues to do, we invite you to come out and support this amazing cause at our annual Holiday Benefit at Casey’s Family Restaurant, Christmas Circus, on Saturday, December 16th from 3 to 11pm.  We will have basket raffles and family entertainment.  We ask that you bring an unwrapped gift that will be given to a child in foster care.  Gifts for children of all ages are needed, with an increased need for kids ages 13 – 21.  If you cannot attend the benefit, we will also be accepting drop off donations at both Village locations, Casey’s Family Restaurant, and Salon 13 starting November 20th – December 15th.  We appreciate your generosity, kindness, and support!

Staff Spotlight - Dr. Nuket Curran, PT

Coming up next month, we are adding a cardio based workout workshop series to our Fall schedule.  Not only is this a new type of workout for the Village, but the instructor is new to us as well.  That's why this month, we are featuring Dr. Nuket Curran, PT in our staff spotlight interview.  Nuket offers both physical therapy and fitness training.  Here's what she had to share with us.


1.  How did you get started in fitness training? What's your inspiration? As a physical therapist for over 20 years, maintaining health is powerful.  Not only does it help someone return from injury but it also improves their mind set by increasing their strength. I found myself in need and sought out fitness training to keep me on track and that is what started it all.

2.  What is your approach to Holistic therapy? Holistic therapy is one that centers on all of the individual’s needs, not just the single one they are coming to you for.  In my role as a physical therapist, developing plans for rehabilitation after injury and fitness programs encompasses the client’s individual set of needs.

3.  What can clients expect when they sign up for a session with you? Focus and attention.  I try to gear the group workouts to match up with everyone in the room. Modification options to decrease impact, range of motion and aerobic effort.  The bottom line is enjoying yourself and as a result, finding yourself committed to getting fit for YOU.

4.  What's your favorite health tip that you practice yourself and that you recommend to clients? Accountability.  Finding someone to commit with you helps so much.  Making your exercise and commitment to your health non-negotiable.  That means doing it even when you don’t feel like it. With my fitness clients, I offer them a check-in system to keep them on track.

If you're interested in checking out Cardio Soul, the upoming cardio based workout workshop series taught by Nuket starting Thursday, October 5th from 12:00pm to 12:45pm at our Shaler location, click here to sign up.

We're Opening Our Doors for Our OPEN HOUSE!

Here at the Village North - Shaler location, we've been awaiting the completion of our expanded space over the summer and now that it's finished, we can't wait to OPEN up our HOUSE to the community!  Join us during the week of September 11th through the 15th for FREE CLASSES, light snacks, and a tour of the new space.  Check out our new Fall Community Class Schedule below as well as pics of the new space. We can't wait to see you there!


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From top left clockwise - Yoga studio, kitchen space, waiting areas

From top left clockwise - Yoga studio, kitchen space, waiting areas

New Season Comes with a New Schedule

School's almost in session and summer's coming to an end.  It's time to get back to a routine.  At the Village, we've been getting our new space in Shaler ready and anxiously anticipating some exciting events for the fall.  One of the biggest changes to our space is the new, upper level Yoga studio.  We've added some new classes and new times to our upcoming schedule, which will start Monday, September 11th.

In addition to our previous evening meditation class, we have also added a lunchtime meditation class.  In these classes, you will enter into a state of awareness to reduce stress, promote relaxation and experience mental clarity.  Along with that, we've incorporated more yoga and Piyo classes. Our yoga classes offer a chance to use breath work, work on standing poses, and increase flexibility, while our PiYO class uses bodyweight exercises and Pilates techniques with low impact movements. If you're starting to get your fall routine in order, check out our new fall schedule to see what works best for you. We're hopeful that we can meet your needs better with our expanded options this year!


Out with the Old, In with the New

It's been an exciting time at the Village in Shaler over the last few months as long awaited visions of expansion have finally started coming to life.  After realizing that extra space would be beneficial, Victor Barbetti and Kristy Weidner, Co-Owners of the Village, jumped at the opportunity to expand into the 2nd floor of the Shaler location. "Holistic healing and the mind/body connection are the foundation by which our practice was built, " said Kristy Weidner. "The new space will allow us to offer more services that promote better wellness and self-care to the Pittsburgh community, and we are really looking forward to this opportunity."

Since last Spring, the Village has refurbished the entire 2nd floor and has been able to add more therapy offices, a brand new kitchen and eating space, as well as a beautiful new yoga studio.  And final touches are just a few short weeks away.  The Village in Shaler is very excited to be able to offer more client space for their therapists as well as doubling its class options and other holistic services, which will start this fall.  An open house to showcase the new space and our new services will be Friday September 8th.  More information to come!

Add Some Green to Your Exercise Routine

We all know the many benefits of exercising and meditating, especially their stress reducing effects.  But did you know that bringing these practices outdoors and into nature can add even more beneficial elements to your life? Nature by itself is good for improving your focus, making you more relaxed, improving cognitive function, and making us happy.  Add in some exercise and meditation, and you’ve got a winning combo!

When we are in nature, we are able to use all five of our senses to their full ability.  The sight of the green trees and plants around us, the sounds of birds and other creatures, the feel of the wind on our face and grass beneath our feet, the smell of all the plants around us, and even the taste of the air.  Everything becomes more vibrant and alive.  It’s also much easier to find yourself being fully grounded when you are outside and can connect with the earth and the present moment. When we exercise outdoors we are also able to gain some sun exposure, giving us some necessary vitamin D.  Being outdoors for exercise can also hold a restorative benefit in that we don’t have to give our direct attention to nature, giving our minds a chance to fully relax and recover from mental fatigue.  Another benefit to exercising outdoors is that it seems easier than an indoor exercise.  Going on a jog around the lake is more stimulating and fun than just running indoors on a treadmill, thus tricking our minds to see it as not as strenuous which could lead to exercising more.  And that’s always a benefit!

This month, the Village is partnering with Venture Outdoors to host a hike to the West End overlook and will be offering a yoga class in nature, taught by Abby Ritter, E-RYT 200, RYT 500, Sunday July 16th from 10am to 1pm.  The hike will begin at our West End location.  Venture Outdoors is a local program whose mission is to help as many people as possible have the chance to get in nature and experience how fun outdoor recreation can be.  Come join us and experience all the benefits that exercising in nature has to offer!

May - Mental Health Awareness Month

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This month, we’re focusing our attention on a subject that’s close to our heart at the Village; Mental Health Awareness.  Mental illnesses can affect people of any age, race, religion, or income. It is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, and ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Statistics show that at least 1 in 5 people will experience a mental health issue in their life.  Because of this, it’s important that we all work together to learn how to recognize a problem, provide support, and fight the stigma that can surround mental health problems. 

When someone you care about is suffering from a mental health disorder, it may or may not be as obvious as it seems.  Some symptoms to watch for could include sadness, sudden change in moods, change in performance at work, change in weight or appearance, changes in sleep patterns, and withdrawal from socializing.  The person suffering from a mental health issue may also have hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, be in denial of very obvious problems, or turn to drugs and/or alcohol as a coping mechanism. 

If any of these symptoms are present, your loved one may need help.  In some cases, just having someone to talk to about what they’re going through is helpful and in some rare cases, can be enough.  Most of the time though, professional treatment needs to be sought.  Many times, a loved one will need to help set up and take them to the first therapy session.  Another important point to remember is that there should be no judgement towards the person seeking treatment. Express your concerns, listen to them genuinely, and encourage them to continue seeking treatment.

Finally, we have to learn how to remove the stigma that comes with mental health disorders.  Many people who live with these conditions end up feeling isolated and ashamed.  We have to realize, just like any other disease, mental health is a real disorder that requires help and there should be no shame in receiving it.  And the more stories that are shared from people suffering from mental illnesses, along with their loved ones, the more we can spread the awareness that it is a real problem and that there is real help available, with no need to feel bad about it.

If you or someone you know needs help, don’t put it off.  Below are some useful links for receiving support and more info on mental health.

Staff Spotlight - Angie Phares, Yoga Instructor, Health Coach

As we approach the summer months and start to peel off the layers we’ve been wearing all winter and spring, many people get inspired to make major health changes and start new fitness goals.  Which is why our featured staffer, Angie Phares, couldn’t be more perfect.  Angie has been a yoga instructor with the Village, but as we expand our services, she is now offering integrative health coaching.  Health coaching is a relatively new approach to reaching health and fitness goals.  It’s similar to a personal trainer, but with a focus on the whole self, not just the physical aspect.  We caught up with Angie to find out more and here’s what she had to say:

1.  How did you get started in health coaching? What's your inspiration?  I have been interested in health and wellness since I was in high school.  I majored in biology in college and then went on to be a physician assistant.  After about 6 years of life within the medical system, I realized that medicine was more about sickness than health and I was doing very little to improve people's quality of life.  When I discovered Health Coaching, I felt like I finally found where I was meant to be and I really enjoy helping people feel better.  

2.  What is your approach to Holistic therapy?  Integrative Health Coaching sees the whole person, including where they work and live, their relationships, and their health behaviors and evaluates it within the individual's vision of the ideal health.  Longer term goals are broken down in to smaller steps so that long lasting behavior change can occur, not just a quick fix.       

3.  What can clients expect when they sign up for a health coaching session with you?  Anyone who is interested in Health Coaching can get in touch with me to have a complementary consultation where we'll review the client's ideas about what they'd like to change.  Coaching works best with people who would really like to change a health behavior, but have had trouble succeeding in the past or just need a little extra support.  If we both agree that it's a good match, we'll meet 8 times over the course of 3-4 months for about 30-45 minutes each time.  This can be done in person or over the phone.

4.  What's your favorite health tip that you practice yourself and that you recommend to clients? Health coaching is a little different in that I really don't make recommendations.  Each client is seen as the expert on their own lives and I'm there to help them live achieve their goals.  What works for me may not work for them.  If someone needs new ideas we brainstorm or I offer them resources and guidelines to explore new possibilities.  That being said, I have two health practices that have helped me the most:  practicing mindfulness and 'eating close to the earth', meaning simple whole foods that have been minimally processed. 

If you are interested in a health coaching session or would just like more information, you can contact Angie Phares at or by phone at (412)860-2630.


Positive Mind, Positive Image

It’s easy to get pulled into the social media trap of seeing perfect bodies everywhere and feeling less than perfect about your own.  Posting pictures to receive more likes and followers and validate our worth is becoming an addiction and it can wreak havoc on our self-image if we’re not careful.  According to Common Sense Media, adolescence are experiencing pressure to be camera ready at all times, leading to an increase in dissatisfaction with their bodies, causing a rise in self-destructive behavior.  Our body image is not something we are born with, but is a very complex subject that is influenced by many factors such as our friends, social media interaction, and our families. 

So how can we turn this negative body image into a more positive one?  We have to practice healthier ways of looking at ourselves and our body, and continually reinforce these positive thoughts.  We have to appreciate our body for everything it CAN do for us.  Remind yourself that beauty isn’t about what’s on the outside, but rather is more about having a sense of self-confidence, self-awareness, and liking who you are as a person.  See yourself as a whole person and not just certain body parts.  Surround yourself with positive people who are supportive and loving of the authentic you.  Step back from social media when you feel certain images and messages are bringing you down.  Do something nice for yourself every day, such as making time to do an activity you love or taking time to just relax and be yourself.  Finally, make a positive change in someone else’s life by finding time to reach out and help others.  Nothing makes you feel better than doing something for someone else. 

If you’re looking to do something to positively improve your body and mind, check out one of our yoga or meditation classes we offer each week here.  We are also offering two amazing meditation workshops this month as well.