When I first met Sarah Swanberg (M.S. L.Ac. Dipl.O.M.) of Indigo Acupuncture and Wellness I was struck by her combination of kindness and intelligence. We immediately connected over our passion for all things wellness and she has been an amazing supporter of Inner Light. She is a wellness guru in the local community, and has referred many wonderful clients to us, co-hosted events with us, and we recently started carrying her adaptogen line with Maikana Foods!
Sarah recently moved her acupuncture and herbology practice into the most beautiful, zen space in Stamford, CT near the Tully Center. I had a session with her a couple weeks ago and it was the most relaxed I have been in months! Though Sarah is highly-trained and knowledgeable, her approach to wellness is laid-back and common sense. She's all about being your own healer and listening to your gut - no wonder her business color is indigo, the color of third eye & intuition!
Sarah an incredible mom to her two little girls Sadie and Remi - oh and she herself is a twin! I admire her on so many levels - as an entrepreneur in wellness, an amazing mama, a healer, and for her kindness and positivity. She is such a ray of light and I LOVED learning more about her journey into her career in acupuncture & Chinese medicine, her tips for fertility - and all mamas, and motherhood!
Kelly: I am so excited to catch up with you and all things Indigo! First off, congratulations on your new space! You have been practicing acupuncture for years, but it must feel incredible to now being operating out of your own studio. Can you tell me more about how it feels to be opening up your new beautiful space?
Sarah: First of all thank you so much for asking me to do this Kelly! I’m so inspired by you and am honored to be chatting with you. I just opened my space in Stamford in June, and had previously been renting space in a shared wellness center just around the corner. It was the perfect set up for me to get my practice started, but I have always dreamed of having my own setup and am so thrilled to have finally turned it into a reality. I had so much fun designing a space that I am excited about going to everyday and that hopefully all of my patients enjoy. I really wanted it to feel professional but also comfortable and relaxing and with a bit of fun mixed in- definitely NOT clinical. So far the feedback has been wonderful! I want all my patients to feel excited about coming to see me, so the space is as much about them as it as about me.
I would love to learn more about how you came into the field of acupuncture and herbalism. What led you down this path to being a healer?
It’s a long story but the short version is that I fell in love with acupuncture in my mid 20s when I started receiving acupuncture for help with some sleep and anxiety issues. I was working in the post-production/ visual effects world and had no intention of leaving that career, but I found myself really fascinated with Chinese Medicine and had started recommending it to friends and family whenever a particular issue or health concern popped up. I loved that way Chinese Medicine looked at all the systems as a whole and found ways to connect symptoms that I thought were totally unrelated. I have had Type 1 Diabetes since age 7, and give SO much credit to the miracles or modern medicine- I wouldn’t be writing this without the artificial insulin delivered through an insulin pump- but I think there is so much more to healthcare than just suppressing symptoms with medications. One of the principals of Chinese medicine is to look for the root cause of issues rather than just treating the symptoms and that really appealed to my problem-solving brain. There’s definitely an art to it as well and my creative brain enjoyed that too. My husband, (then-boyfriend) Randie noticed my interest and suggested I look into formal education. I thought that was CRAZY- I couldn’t leave my job and go back to school for 4 years! But a seed was planted and when I realized that I could make it work, it wasn’t long before I enrolled and started down this path. And now I look back on that as one of the best decisions of my life (shared with marrying that supportive guy). I absolutely LOVE what I do and am so grateful to be part of all of my patient’s stories. I will say that I shy away from the term healer, I think we all have an AMAZING capacity to heal if we put in the work and our bodies really deserve the credit- I like to think of myself more as a guide- both working with people’s bodies to encourage healing and teaching people tools that they can use on their own.
I LOVE your approach to everyone being their own healer and learning how Randie helped guide you on this path! I wouldn't have been able to open Inner Light without my husband Taylor's support. Speaking of family, you have two amazing little girls and I look up to you so much as a working mama. This is kind of an unwieldy question, but what would you say are a couple of the ways being a mother has changed or shaped your business?
Aw thank you so much. What an interesting question- I’ve never really thought about this before but I think I’ve learned a lot of lessons in both parenting and business-ownership that have influenced each other. For sure being a mom has taught me patience and problem solving, and also the very important lesson that sometimes there isn’t a solution and the most helpful thing is just to be present and hold space for someone. Because both my personal and professional roles are in the caregiving sphere, I can easily find myself drained out, and while I’ve always had the ability to sort of “power through” that fatigue, Im learning to slow down and fill my cup so that I have more to give.
The lesson that there isn't always a solution is a huge one I am learning too! I love how you talk about just holding space - so powerful and so true. What's working for you right now in terms of striking a balance or better yet, rhythm, as a small business-owning mama?
I’ve sort of given up on the term “balance”- I think as a culture we put way too much pressure on women to “have it all” and it can throw us into #momguilt overdrive. If we stop obsessing about finding and maintaining balance, and instead realize it’s a constant ebb and flow (or like you said, rhythm) it might allow us all to breathe a little. There are highs and lows and lots of sacrifices thrown in- but mostly I’m just enjoying being along for the ride! I have to give a huge shoutout to all the people who care for my children so that I can pursue this passion- especially my mom who does lots of dinners and bathtimes and bedtimes so that I can work and my husband who has always been an equal co-parent (and can produce some pretty sweet pigtails when needed.) I definitely have moments where I feel guilty for not being 100% present in their lives but then I step back and look at them and am immensely proud of the little humans they are becoming so I know we must be doing something right… and I trust that it’s good for their little independent spirits to see that I have a life outside of just caring for them.
Beautiful words. You work with so many mamas on everything from fertility and conception to post-partum healing and anxiety. What are some of your biggest wellness tips or advice for mamas and mamas to be?
Rest. This is a hard one for me because I like to go-go-go and then wonder why I am exhausted, and I think this is a huge problem for a lot of mamas. I’ve spent the last year studying Function and Integrative medicine in Women’s health under the incredible Aviva Romm, MD and we’ve really done a deep dive into what happens when we get stuck too long in stress-response… so many things start to go haywire from sleep to hormones to digestion. The root cause of a lot of it is simply not taking moments to breathe and reset and engage our rest & digest branch of our nervous systems. I also always think we need to trust our guts and listen to our bodies more. We have so much information coming at us externally these days from news to social media that we often forget how to listen to our own bodies. If you feel terrible following a certain diet, it’s probably not for you. If your gut instinct is not to sign up for something, don’t. If you’re tired, rest. It’s not always this simple, but our bodies are always sending us signals and we all really need to tap into that more.
Yes! Rest is paramount. I know you have many amazing success stories and testimonials. Are there any that stick out as especially inspiring or something moving that happened recently?
I have saved so many “Im pregnant!” emails and those are definitely at the top of my list, because there’s so much joy involved. I had one patient who recently became pregnant after being told by her doctors that it would probably never happen. She believed it could and so did I, and when she came in to report that she was in her words “miraculously pregnant”, that one really got me choked up. I also really love when someone who has been suffering from chronic migraines comes in reporting that they haven’t had a headache in a week- seeing people who have previously been in pain be able to resume normal lives is immensely gratifying. Chinese medicine is full-body medicine, and emotions are as important as physical symptoms, and I spend a lot of time getting to know my patients and what makes them tick, and I get a lot of wonderful feedback from patients that they’ve never had any healthcare practitioner care or spend time with them like that. I’m really happy and grateful to be able to fill that gap for people.
Aw I am so happy for those clients of yours especially your fertility clients! What are your favorite self-care treatments and rituals? I'd love to know what acupuncture treatments and herbs you use personally!
I’ve become really aware that there’s a difference between BASIC self-care and #treatyoself self-care and I’m trying to get a little more back to basics, because as much as I love an indulgent spa day or a great blow-out, I need to focus on more concrete self-care practices that keep my gas tank full. One simple and probably silly sounding thing is that I am trying not to jump into saying YES to everything. I am a people-pleaser with serious FOMO so I rarely say no to things but I’m learning to slow down and really think about what I have the time and energy for. I’ve also gotten into japa meditation which is the use of mala beads and a mantra or breathing technique. It’s a great way for me to quiet my brain and focus on breathing but provides some structure that I really need. I try to get acupuncture regularly and use adaptogens daily and then have a few favorite herbal formulas in my medicine cabinet that I reach for for everything from PMS to sinus congestion. I am very sensitive to the side effects of more conventional medicines so whenever possible I go herbal first, and it almost always does the trick!
Indigo is the color of the third-eye and intuition. How did you choose the name Indigo and would you say that color best describes you? If not, what color would you say best describes you and your energy?
Indigo is such a cool color and is best known as a beautiful natural dye for textiles but it’s also a really important medicinal plant in Chinese herbology. It has amazing antiviral properties and many health benefits and can be found in several classical herbal formulas. I have always been drawn to the color (and all colors, really) and love that the plant is used in so many ways. It’s also my daughter Sadie’s middle name, so its definitely special to me! I do find myself drawn to different colors in different seasons, but I always go back to this color because I find it calming and grounding!
Any other wisdom you'd like to leave us all with?
Here’s a quick and easy trick for when you’re stressed out or need a quick reset: When we are at rest our exhales are naturally longer than our inhales- we can trick our bodies into triggering the rest & digest part of our nervous systems by focusing on breathing like this! I like 4-7-8 breathing- inhale for 4, hold for 7, exhale for 8. Do this for a few minutes and you will feel your whole body relax!