Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Charlotte

You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman

Jan 12, 2009 12:53PM
 By Lisa Moore “If a woman is sufficiently ambitious, determined and gifted, there is practically nothing she can't do,” once said the late Helen Lawrenson, an author who became editor of Vanity Fair magazine in her 20’s.

Five local women have proven that theory by transforming their personal passions into success. Drawing on the inspirations of strong women who have gone before them, these focused and innovative ladies have created bold realities from their dreams. Never underestimate the power of positive thinking. And never underestimate the power of a woman.

Charlotte’s First Lady of Yoga Mary Lou Buck-Yoga for Life in Dilworth 

In the early 1970’s Mary Lou Buck’s friends were taking yoga and remarking about how great they felt. Curious to see what the buzz was about, she began reading yoga books and watching “Lilias” on TV. Eventually she started taking classes around town and became hooked herself. For over 30 years Buck has enhanced the lives of hundreds of people in the Charlotte area with her joy for yoga.

Buck started out teaching for friends. Enthusiastic but inexperienced, she was eager to please. Buck drew upon her Physical Education background and really “showed them what I knew! Most of my students today know more than I did when I started teaching,” she laughed.

Buck eventually taught at several places in Charlotte, but realized she needed further training. In 1985 she attended the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Massachussets. She discovered her passion for the Kripalu system - an experiential path that develops deep awareness of the self while giving specific guidance in the physical aspects of hatha yoga.

“In Kripalu Yoga you are encouraged to move at your own pace, honoring your body’s needs in each moment. Kripalu Yoga develops the body, mind and spirit in a compassionate and non-judgmental way,” said Buck.

This was exactly what Buck needed. An admitted Type A person, Buck claims that growing up she was a “good little girl who had to do everything right and grew into an adult with chronic tension and difficulty sleeping.” Yoga transformed her life.

“I learned to sleep at night, knew what it was like to have my shoulders pain-free, began to appreciate how my body felt and developed an awareness of how to focus and relax in stressful situations,” Buck recalled.

Buck completed her 200-hour Kripalu teacher training in 1987. Weary of lugging mats, blankets and her tape player to her various class locations and tired of teaching in undesirable spaces, she searched for tranquil space conducive to teaching yoga. “I had no intention of operating a studio – Yoga for Life in Dilworth just evolved,” states Buck, who opened the area’s only Kripalu affiliated studio in 1998.

Buck considers yogini Ann Owens, her first yoga teacher at Myers Park Baptist Church, her inspiration. “She was a wonderful example of a calm, beautiful, centered woman. Now in her seventies, she is still beautiful. It is obvious that yoga has affected her life,” concluded Buck, who recently celebrated her 70th birthday and is as radiant as ever.

Yoga for Life in Dilworth is located at 1920-B Cleveland Avenue. Info: 704-344-9642. Fulfilling a Mother’s Wish     Virginia Howie and Kathy Bramhall -Clara’s Choice for Herbs

Sisters Virginia Howie and Kathy Bramhall helped their beloved mother, Clara, endure a 20-year battle with breast cancer using the traditional allopathic means of surgery and drug treatments. “It was the only way she knew to go, but as she neared the end of her journey, she encouraged us to find a better way to deal with it should we ever have to face what she went through,” recalled Bramhall.

After Clara passed in 1991 at the age of 63, the sisters began to ponder their mother’s wish and wondered what they could do differently if they ever became ill. This marked the beginning of their journey in natural healing. 

“We began this so we could help ourselves and our children. But as time passed, we realized we had to try to do for other people what we could not do for our mother,” Bramhall stated.

After years of extensive training and much prayer and deliberation, Clara’s Choice for Herbs opened in 2000. Tucked in the corner of a shopping center in Indian Trail, clients travel from near and far to seek the sisters’ knowledge, expertise and down-home hospitality. The small, but well-stocked establishment offers a wide variety of high quality, all natural supplements, vitamins, homeopathics, aromatherapy and vibrational remedies for the mind and spirit.

The sisters are able to help clients select the right remedies for them using kinesiology, or muscle testing - a noninvasive way of evaluating the body’s imbalances and assessing its needs. The technique involves testing the body’s responses when applying slight pressure to a large muscle, to provide information on energy blockages, organ function, nutritional deficiencies, and food sensitivities among other things.

“We have both have training in kinesiology and with this tool we can help people choose supplements which offer the most benefit for their particular needs,” said Bramhall.

Howie and Bramhall passionately believe in the natural healing methods and have tried and proven them. They have a strong desire to share their knowledge with all who will listen. Howie acknowledges a “deep satisfaction in knowing that someone’s quality of life is improved.”

Naturally, Clara has been her daughters’ most valued inspiration. “The strength of her faith when walking through the darkest valley anyone could walk has been our example,” noted Bramhall. “We learned from her to always have hope and perseverance.

Clara’s Choice for Herbs is located in Indian Trail at 590 N. Indian Trail Rd. Info: 704-821-5306. Restoring Clean and Safe Air for a Vibrant Community June Blotnick-Carolinas Clean Air Coalition   

June Blotnick’s appreciation for nature was cultivated early on.  She recalls childhood family camping experiences and spending summer days at her grandparents’ traipsing through the woods, swimming in lakes and ponds, picking raspberries and climbing trees. “I am grateful to my father for piling us in the car and getting us out of the city,” Blotnick said.

Blotnick showed signs of a budding environmentalist when she organized kids to pick up litter in her Philadelphia neighborhood in the late 60’s. During college in the 70’s she organized the student group Environmental Action to promote recycling and other conservation efforts.

Today Blotnick works diligently to improve our local environment. She’s the executive director for the Carolina’s Clean Air Coalition, a small non-profit trying to do the big job of restoring clean and healthy air to the Central Carolina region. Blotnick works with a board of directors and volunteers on various clean air initiatives.

The Clean Air for Kids! campaign is aimed at reducing children’s exposure to harmful diesel emissions from school buses. Our Clean Energy campaign encourages people to reduce the amount of electricity they use since it often comes from coal fired power plants, to replace light bulbs with compact fluorescents and to support renewable sources of power like solar and wind.

“I believe we have a moral obligation to care for our planet.  It’s incredible how much of our modern society has grown away from our connection to the land and as a result has spoiled so much of our natural environment—wildlife, water resources, vegetation and of course, even the air we breathe,” noted Blotnick 

Blotnick recalls how people used to be connected to the land because they depended on it for their livelihood. “Now we spend most of our days in an office, in a car or in our homes,” she stated. “Nature has so much to offer us and if we aren’t appreciating it, we won’t care about protecting it. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to keep our planet healthy.”

Blotnick says she is grateful to several local female environmental leaders that have encouraged her to take strong environmental leadership positions whether popular or not.

She also received inspiration from Miss Ada Hooker, a “dear, sweet woman in her 80’s” that Blotnick collaborated with on an environmental health project. Hooker lived to be 105 and offered Blotnick one of her best pieces of advice: “Tell it like it is and tell it quick.” “That still reminds me to speak my truth boldly but simply,” smiled Blotnick. The Power to Heal is Lies Within Us    Vaishali Shah, Homeopathist       

Growing up in India, Vaishali Shah wanted to become a doctor of allopathic medicine. But much to her disappointment, she fell short of nine marks for admission. Nonetheless, her mother encouraged her to go to college and study homeopathy instead, pointing out that Shah could still serve people while working out of her home and tending her family.

Shah admits that she was never attracted to homeopathy, but that quickly changed after her admission into homeopathic college. “After getting into the system and studying the philosophy, I felt blessed for my decision and I knew that I could offer much more to the community than I had ever thought,” said Shah, a mother of three.

Shah received a Bachelor of Homeopathic Medicine from the University of Bombay in 1991. She completed five years of rigorous training in homeopathy as well as anatomy, physiology, surgery, gynecology, ENT and dermatology.

While simultaneously training at a homeopathic hospital, Shah worked with patients suffering from chronic disease, cancer and acute illness. “We were assigned cases in the outpatient department and came to conclusions regarding diagnosis and treatment,” Shah recollected.

As a homeopathist, Shah prescribes remedies based on treating the person as a whole, considering the mind and body as one. She notes that homeopathy is a huge branch of medicine that is not a part of any other alternative system.

“Homeopathy believes that every person has a doctor within himself and this is called the natural life force. Disease is nothing more than a disturbance of this life force due to stress, abuse or an unhealthy lifestyle,” stated Shah. “Homeopathy aims to correct this vital force with remedy and enhance the power of the body to heal itself. Therefore, every ailment is cured within and not suppressed.”

Shah draws inspiration from her mother, Nirmala, who she considers her friend, philosopher and guide. Nirmala is a long time yoga and meditation teacher and Shah feels this lifestyle created a path of healthy living for her to follow.

PETA President Ingrid Newkirk has made a strong impression on Shah who is a vegetarian. She said, “I have learned to be more compassionate towards animals and that is the only reason I do not use cosmetics or do not wear leather or silk. I believe beauty cannot come from cruelty and only a true friend or a family member will accept us as we are. We need not have any artificial cover to please anybody.”

Vaishali Shah can be reached at 704-975-8590.

Building Bridges Across Race and Faith  Maria Hanlin-Mecklenburg Ministries

“I have always considered myself to be a person of deep faith,” said Maria Hanlin. As Executive Director of Mecklenburg Ministries, she relies on that opinion to honor the integrity of the rich religious faiths in Charlotte.

Mecklenburg Ministries builds bridges across differences by engaging clergy, encouraging congregations and energizing the community through the inspiration of shared faith traditions. Hanlin works to create relationships among the spiritual leaders of Charlotte so they can work together to address issues in our city.

Mecklenburg Ministries has 79 member houses of faith including the Baha’i, Christian, Islamic, Jewish and Unitarian and offers a variety of interesting programs and interfaith community events. “We work for interfaith cooperation, racial reconciliation, ethnic understanding and social justice issues,” stated Hanlin, who is working with Habitat for Humanity to create the first ever all clergy interfaith Habitat Build.

Hanlin, who has a Doctor of Ministry from Wesley Theological Seminary, was a pastor for 18 years. She acknowledges that her upbringing guided her to become a religious leader. “I was raised by a family who respected people of other faiths, who believed people of all races were created in the image of God and deserved equal rights. My mother was passionate about social and justice issues,” said Hanlin, a mother of two teenagers.

Growing up in Montgomery, Alabama in the 60’s and 70’s gave Hanlin “a great passion for interracial reconciliation.” Hanlin remembers her mother striving to make a difference. Bettye Davis was a civil rights advocate, she participated in marches and volunteered at Good Samaritan Ministries. “Mom taught her daughters to be passionate about the justice issues in our communities and world…and she always practiced what she preached!” Hanlin fondly recalled.

Davis taught Sunday school to high schoolers and focused on social justice issues, particularly poverty and racism. Hanlin recollects three questions her mother asked her students during a 1970 class: What does the bible teach about race and racism? Is segregation a form of hatred? If segregation is a form of hatred, why have good Christian people tolerated it for over 100 years? “Pretty radical for her day!” laughed Hanlin.

Hanlin lovingly carries on the work of her mother today. “I want to help build bridges across people’s differences so they can learn to appreciate and respect every person as a child of God.”

To learn more about Mecklenburg Ministries and the programs offered visit or call 704-347-2404.


Lisa Moore is a freelance journalist in Charlotte, NC. She honors all the powerful females who have mentored and guided her throughout her life.

Upcoming Events Near You
Current Issue


Global Brief
Health Brief
Join Our Email List

Receive Digital Magazine and Special Offers

* indicates required
Email Format

Receive Digital Magazine, Special Offers and Advertising Information

* indicates required
Email Format