Ingenious Wellness

08 Feb 2021

The way of the medicine wheel

Winter 2020/2021

| Images: Courtesy Harneet Bajwa and Sofia Jaramillo

Those of us who have been on a mission to connect, create community, and unify consciousness certainly didn’t think it would happen like this. But here we are, more unified then ever under a common denominator: a highly contagious and utterly shocking global pandemic.

The virus has added challenge to a world that already felt challenging enough. Over the years, mental health disorders, stress, insomnia, and
fatigue have been creeping in, and in Jackson, we have seen an influx of people seeking spaciousness and peace, further limiting the ideals for wildlife and local people already here for the same reason.

We feel the impact everywhere we go, whether it be the bank, grocery store, lift lines, or the drive to and from work. On the other side of the coin are
closures due to the virus, the sense of lack and the desperation to hold onto work, pay the bills, and somehow, for parents, find the time, energy, and skills to homeschool.

Our routines have been swept away and what remains is a deep desire to just straight-up feel better and avoid getting sick. Through it all, there’s
an opportunity to simplify, be more efficient, live with less, and those actions can actually bring us into better health.

As a local small business owner and entrepreneur, Francine Bartlett, founder of Medicine Wheel Wellness and co-owner of Excel Physical Therapy, sits on both sides, wanting growth but also preservation of the land. She finds her comfort in the balance that exists between and likes to describe this as tapping into the flow state. She applies it to everything from athletics, managing stress, optimizing work and personal relationships, and navigating through life in general.

Francine has been a practicing physical therapist and athletic trainer for over 20 years, but it wasn’t until she took a deep dive into indigenous healing
methods and yoga philosophy that she discovered the key that unlocked her own stress, past traumas, work, and life challenges. She was invited to
participate in a traditional sweat lodge ceremony at the base of the Tetons in 2008, emerging with a new awareness of health and healing by way of the medicine wheel.

In some indigenous cultures, the medicine wheel provides a path to optimal well-being through a balance of the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical bodies with connection to the earth and sky. When all of these aspects are addressed equally, the essential flow state emerges, bringing harmony to health, healing, and happiness. This is the way of the medicine wheel, and its directives of healing have been integrated with modern medical practices to create Medicine Wheel Wellness, a holistic healing and training facility located in downtown Jackson.

Medicine Wheel Wellness may at first appear to be a typical health and wellness facility, but it offers a very unique and specialized quality of care. It houses a collective of local professional practitioners and its services are built on the four aspects of well-being and several qualities found in nature. A particular order is followed for those in need of a comprehensive healing process; just as we progress through the seasons and stages of life in a particular order. And, inspired by local Native American culture, regional plant medicines like sage and sweetgrass may be integrated into sessions along with calling in the animal spirits of the bear, buffalo, eagle, and wolf to create energetic guidance and strength.

Francine is a strong supporter of Western medicine, but felt limited when only considering standard principles in her practice. By considering spiritual and emotional health as contributors to the root cause of pain, along with mental and physical health, integrative, and preventative medicine, Francine has witnessed expedited healing, greater patient outcomes, decreased wait times, and lowered costs.

Medicine Wheel Wellness integrates their professional services with the medicine wheel’s directions, so the client has an order and plan for their
care instead of questioning what comes next or how to progress through the healing process. Creating certainty in a time of so much uncertainty offers comfort for clients, and that alone can expedite the healing process.

Healing by way of the medicine wheel starts with spiritual health. When assistance is needed, this is the stepping-in aspect of offering support and guidance to initiate healing from the inside out through modalities like acupuncture and energy medicine. The mental health aspect is about consistency and showing up to do the work it takes for change. This aspect is often supported by professional counseling or sound healing, which has been proven to alter abnormal brainwave patterns. Emotional health offers a sense of rebirth and the growth of new healthy habits. This is where nutrition and massage may be incorporated. Finally, physical health is approached by restoring mobility and strength, connecting with community, and solidifying change.

"...bringing the healing properties of the medicine wheel into mainstream medicine is the key to improving healing and health care both locally and globally."

Through the work of Francine and the professional practitioners at Medicine Wheel Wellness, clients play an active role in acknowledging the healing progress and working through their pain — gaining lessons from the experience to break harmful patterns, rather than trying to eliminate, avoid, or stick a band aid on them.

While the medicine wheel is a metaphor for a variety of spiritual concepts in Native cultures, over 100 physical medicine wheels exist in our greater region, as well as in Alberta and Saskatchewan. One of the most recognized and preserved is located in the Bighorn Range, east of Lovell, Wyoming. It is Francine’s mission to give the ancient wisdom of the medicine wheel, whose methods and natural remedies are being lost, a voice. She hopes to help preserve its culture and meaning and feels that bringing the healing properties of the medicine wheel into mainstream medicine is the key to improving healing and health care both locally and globally.

For Francine, working with the medicine wheel has dramatically shifted her work as a sports-based physical therapist. She regularly incorporates sound healing, essential oils, and energy medicine techniques into her rehab and training sessions, teaches yoga, and offers healing retreats. Francine has also brought these qualities into high-level sports environments, like the athlete’s lounge at the Winter and Summer X Games and the Arc’teryx Athlete Summit and Arc’teryx Backcountry Academies. As a collective, Medicine Wheel Wellness works with Exum Mountain Guides, Jackson Hole Moose Hockey, and serves a stellar athlete team that includes Jimmy Chin, Travis Rice, and Kelly Halpin, among others.

Francine’s emphasis is on offering the best care for all people. Whether you are a professional athlete, a hard-working mom, or an elder holding onto your health, the door at Medicine Wheel Wellness is open. The center offers a variety of services — from privates, workshops, and retreats to group classes and online sessions. And if you can’t make it in to see them, they will more than likely come to you. Just another reason why Medicine Wheel
Wellness has been voted Jackson’s best health and fitness center for 2020 by Best of Jackson Hole — it’s truly the best place for comprehensive community healing, training, and even shopping at their on-site Wellness Shoppe!

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