Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Wednesday's Woman: MaryBeth Janssen, Writer, Yoga Master, Mind-Body Educator

LddIt is a great honor to feature Mary Beth Janssen in the Wednesdays Woman feature on TBC blog. She is a truly exceptional person and I am thrilled to know her, inspired by her on a daily basis thru her communications on social media - inspiring messages and powerful force on living your best life. It seems her wisdom is what we need more of. She's has so many unique experiences that I was so thrilled to have some time to interview her about her life- fascinating.

Mary Beth Janssen is a highly respected beauty and wellness educator who teaches mind-body health and organic lifestyle seminars, workshops, and retreats worldwide. She is a certified mind-body health educator for Deepak Chopra's Chopra Center for Well-Being, as well as a massage therapist, aromatherapist, herbalist, and yoga teacher. Janssen is also founder of the Green Beauty and Wellness Group. She writes for Organic Spa Magazine, Conscious Enlightenment Media, and several blogs, and has authored six books, including Radiant Beauty and Rejuvenation. Janssen lives in the greater Chicago area, IL. We will be giving away one of her books called Pleasure Healing, I have a copy in my library and its a go to book that I enjoy reading over and over.
BC: Mary Beth, you have such interesting experiences and expertise - how did you begin your career?
MBJ: I was working in the salon...went to a Pivot Point cutting class at the midwest beauty show...we're talking late 70's here...and the late great Leo Passage and Grace Doran (who became not only wonderful mentors but great friends) met with me and suggested going into teaching.they got me hook, line, and sinker! ;-) got my teacher's license and 8 months into teaching.
Leo Passage sent me to Holland to teach 16 government teachers the pivot point scientific approach to hair dutch, mind you! went swimmingly and this started my traveling/teaching internationally...Leo also brought me into the publishing department at Pivot Point, where I worked hard on the creation of educational programming for undergraduate and graduate training...produced/directed design forum for many years... 
I ultimately became the company's international artistic director and was in this position til I was head hunted away in 1993 to ISO (innovative styling options)/Unilever...a whole new world opened up to me working for a major manufacturer and being in the position as creative and education director...a huge responsibility but I thrived...among them, was intimately involved in developing and launching the ISO liquid line with a wellness positioning...
I asked my boss (to shore up my wellness cred) if I could attend a week-long training for medical professionals to learn from Dr. Deepak Chopra and his partner Dr. David Simon...called "journey into healing" I had been in trainings for years related to the healing arts and wellness(energy healing, massage therapist, yoga, shamanism, etc.)--was a CMT at this point as well.
My boss sent me to the Deepak training on iso's dime! How cool was that?...and it changed my life...I knew at that training that this is what I meant to be teaching, writing about etc.
I started my own company, the Janssen Source in 1997 and haven't looked back since...spent 2 1/2 years to become a certified ayurvedic/ mindbody health expert through Chopra center for well-being/university...staffed many deepak seminars/workshops around the globe with him--from India to Oxford, and San Diego to Chicago and  more...
At this time my book writing career  (now on number 7!) and writing about beauty and wellness integration for the media began (various magazines/blogs)...and was also asked to take on other assorted projects that really resonated with me...development and launch of mop (modern organic products) and innersense amongst this point I've successfully traveled into a large number of beauty and specifically spa environments nationwide...always working and teaching but also always learning...
I met Horst (Editors comment: Horst Rechelbacher the founder of Aveda and Intelligent Nutrients who passed just recently) during this time and we became friends...I spent some very interesting times on the phone or in-person with Horst discussing life, health, spirituality...he graciously wrote a beautiful foreword for my pleasure healing book...
BC: And what was the journey like for you to become an expert in body mind field? Was there a time in your life that you shifted toward a career in wellness?
MBJ: I grew up on an organic farm...and wellness has always been in my travels at Pivot Point and beyond informed much of my wellness learning as well...I've ALWAYS been a seeker. On a pivot point booking in Europe in the late 70's I went to the TM (transcendental meditation center in Antwerp, Belgium and did a week-end course to learn tm...)
BC: Life feels more frenetic today I imagine than years previous and I believe most people long to master their days, their time and slow the pace. I often feel the stress most people feel is affecting chronic health but if we could master our emotional selves we would present and experience life at a different level. When I read your book Pleasure Healing I realized one of the biggest voids on my own life is the mindfulness in each moment. How can we achieve being present in our day to day?
MBJ: This is a very loaded question Elaine! ;-) the short answer would be to read the chapter in my book titled "embracing mindfulness."
Mindfulness (also called present moment awareness means "paying attention on purpose." this takes a commitment...making a commitment is our responsibility--no one else's. intentionality plays into this. mindfulness and intentionality are setting an intention each and every morning as to being in the moment as much as possible, or committing to accomplishing some goal (getting healthier or fit, learning something new, being happier, etc), or verbalizing how we want our day to go, or how we want to feel is important for programming our subconscious to follow-through (versus flying by the seat of our pants every day!).
BC: I love that setting the intention the moment your waking up. I have started doing that each morning for the past month! And really feel this working for me. How can we start this shift in our own lives?
MJB: Remember that new habits take 21 days to take you hold the reins in committing to and making a daily mindfulness meditation practice a reality and a habit. And when you do...your life, your health, your relationships, your joy will begin to find natural balance and powerfully deepen, transform, grow, expand exponentially...I promise! mindfulness brings to mind..."the past is history, the future a mystery, but today, ah, today, it is such a gift...and that's why they call it the 'present.'"
If you are depressed, you are living in the past.
If you are anxious, you are living in the future.
If you are at peace, you are living in the present.

Lao Tzu  


BC: I'm so interested in psychoneuroimmunology - I don't think western medicine is far enough along with this. Explain it and how we might use this to change our health.
MBJ: Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) is the study of the interaction between psychological processes--our mental and emotional states--and the nervous and immune systems of the human body. Understanding it is the first step for us to change our health for the better...Have you heard the expression "our issues are in our tissues" or "our biography becomes our biology?" Tis true! ;-)

Every single thought we have becomes a molecule in our body...mind over matter, if you will. One of my great mentors Dr. Candace Pert (she discovered endorphins--our bodies natural pain-reliever and mood enhancing chemical-- in the laboratory)--who wrote the book "the Molecules of Emotion" simply stated that if you have angry thoughts you create angry cells in your body, sad thoughts--sad cells, happy thoughts--happy cells....

When we are mindful....we can have a more evolutionary response to stress. Stress or the fight or flight response is hard-wired into is governed by the sympathetic nervous system. When we perceive a threat whether real or imagined--our HPA axis (hypothalamus tells the pituitary to tell the adrenals to start releasing stress hormones) kicks into high gear--with the requisite and drastic bodily changes that prepare us for fighting or fleeing.

If this stress response is allowed to always be turned on with no will eventually and ultimately break us down. Stress when uncontrolled is a killer...that's well established now. 85-90 percent of doctor's visits are attributable to stress--physical, mental, emotional and environmental. In this country 7 out of 10 people will die of chronic disease--the kind that builds and takes hold in our mind-body physiology over time (and can be modulated/prevented through lifestyle choices). 

Stress is at the root of much of this. You CAN choose between war and peace. We can choose a more life-affirming way that will safe-guard our's called the relaxation response and is governed by the parasympathetic nervous system...but you must be in mindfulness mode to do this.

Healing breathwork (pranayama) is your number one friend in creating this shift from stress to relaxation mode... (SO many folks I see are breathing shallowly in the upper part of their chest putting themselves in perpetual stress mode) along with a dedicated meditation (or other contemplative) practice, a daily physical fitness regimen--(including yoga, cardio,and strengthening), optimal nutrition, sensory modulation therapies(massage, aroma, sound, color, etc)...all integral in controlling stress and shifting into relaxation mode...

BC: I love the quote in your book from Deepak Chopra about "we are doing the best we can from the level of consciousness we're in" - sometimes its easy to forget that when dealing with people day to day.

MBJ: Yes, so true! This thought process can dramatically change your interactions and relationships. When you understand where someone is coming from, you're auto-magically less judgmental. When you become less judgmental, you become more tolerant. When you become more tolerant, you become more able to forgive....and when you are more forgiving, you are more apt to love...unconditionally.
BC: What does Ahimsa mean (is it pronounced A Him sa?)

MBJ: Ah-him-sa...   Ahimsa means non-violence or non harming which = kindness and compassion in all you do toward and for  yourself, others and the environment...              
As a yoga teacher, I have a choice. I can live and teach the whole of yoga as delineated in Patanjali's Yoga Sutra, or can simply focus on the physical practice of asana. If we choose the whole of yoga, the first two steps on the ladder of the eightfold path are the yamas and niyamas. These ethical and spiritual observances help us develop the more profound qualities of our humanity...
The name of the first limb of the eightfold path, yama, originally meant "bridle" or "rein." Patanjali used it to describe a restraint that we willingly and joyfully place on ourselves to focus our efforts, the way a rein allows a rider to guide his horse in the direction he would like to go. In this sense, self-restraint can be a positive force in our lives, the necessary self-discipline that allows us to head toward the fulfillment of our dharma, or life purpose. The five yamas—kindness, truthfulness, abundance, continence, and self-reliance—are oriented toward our public behavior and allow us to coexist harmoniously with others.
Ahimsa traditionally meant "do not kill or hurt people."

This can be extrapolated to mean that we should not be violent in feelings, thoughts, words, or actions. At root, ahimsa means maintaining compassion towards yourself and others. It means being kind and treating all things with care.
In class, we often see students being harsh toward themselves—pushing when they should be pulling back, fighting when they need to surrender, forcing their bodies to do things they are not yet ready to do. When we see this kind of behavior, it is an opportune time to bring up the topic of ahimsa and explain that to be violent to the body means we are no longer listening to it. Violence and awareness cannot coexist. When we are forcing, we are not feeling. Conversely, when we are feeling, we cannot be forcing.

One of the main purposes of yoga is to cultivate feeling and awareness in the body, and violence only achieves the opposite result. We carry this knowingness out of the yoga class and into all facets of our lives...
Kindness, truthfulness, abundance, continence, and self-reliance—living and teaching these yamas puts us on the fulfilling path of an all-encompassing yoga for life, an approach to the inner quest that makes us whole.

BC: With your vast experience, what part of your career is the most fulfilling?

MBJ: Simply wake every day and question "how may I serve?" as opposed to "what's in it for me?" And specifically, I'm humbled by my patients or wellness class attendees who share what an impact my teachings have had on their life--their health, emotions, anxiety, depression, pain, etc...and I have to say that I do love writing about the wide variety of wellness topics which then become (fodder for!) my curriculum of offerings....

BC: Tell me about your dog and how you are both certified to help others?

MBJ: Hogan, my German Shepherd and I are a certified therapy dog team...Hogan loves to just sit next to those who are hurting...those in hospice, hospitals, etc. he is brilliant and loves to be of service to others(and petted!) we all know now when we reach out and touch, hug, or in the case of our pets, stroke their fur...we release the "love hormone" oxytocin...which has a wonderful, healing affect on our mindbody physiology.

Hogan in the front and Luna in the back

BC: Lastly what is a day in the life like? I 'd love this ..I know it's a personal peek into someone else's life...

MBJ: eyes/set intention/meditation...evacuate kidneys...pooches out the door to do same...;-)...a couple big glasses of pure water with lemon, evacuate bowels, breakfast/social media, yoga, dog walk, run, self massage, nasya/neti, walk...mid-afternoon pooch walk, personal run, meditation, dinner, reading/writing/ television, social media/phone

Big Thank YOU! I loved learning more about you and your journey. You have had an amazingly interesting career that has many lives and its so awesome to see that you continue to develop and have so many more options in life to fulfill your creative outlet. _/\_Namaste Mary Beth!

Mary Beth is a writer for Organic Spa magazine, she has a regular column ask the Organic Beauty Expert and she is available for speaking engagements, yoga retreats, corporate events, retreats. If you would like to reach Mary Beth, you can link to her via

Please sign up for the blog and you could win a copy of Mary Beth's book Pleasure Healing. We are hosting a little drawing ;-)


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