NY YOGA LIFE: Healing Issue

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DEPUTY EDITOR Sabrina Moscola FEATURES EDITOR Stephanie Jade Wong BEAUTY & WELLNESS EDITOR LouLou Piscatore MANAGAING EDITOR Frances Hunt SALES DIRECTOR Ethel Kambourian ADVERTISING INQUIRIES ethel@nyyogalife.com VISIT US ONLINE www.nyyogalife.com CONTACT US info@nyyogalife.com

ON OUR COVER Cover art by Amanda Leon: “I have a degree in Fine Arts and also studied and worked a lot of years in graphic design and art direction in different creative fields. With a passion for art and yoga, my yoga-inspired art is created to motivate people to lead a healthy lifestyle and cultivate a spiritual life.” learn more @_amandaleon

2021 NY YOGA + Life™ All rights reserved. No portion may be duplicated, in whole or in part, without the written consent of NY YOGA + Life™. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this publication. NY YOGA + Life™ assumes no responsibility for accuracy of information or omissions from the material provided. Company cannot be held liable for the quality or performance of goods and services rendered by the advertisers published in this magazine or content featured. The exercise instructions and advice presented in this magazine are designed for people who are in good health and are not intended to substitute for medical counseling. The creators, producers, participants, and distributors of NY YOGA + Life™ disclaim any liability for loss or injury in connection with the exercises shown or the instruction and advice expressed herein.





Discover the healing power of Himalayan art and ideas. Digital Care Package Resources to help you handle stress and foster peace of mind wherever you are. Virtual Shrine Room Stream two hours of meditative chanting as a refuge in times of anxiety and uncertainty. The Rubin Daily Offering Videos Ten minutes of insights and tools featuring art and practices inspired by our collection to help achieve greater balance.

RUBINMUSEUM.ORG/CAREPACKAGE @RubinMuseum 150 WEST 17TH STREET BETWEEN 6TH AND 7TH AVES. Green Tara; Tibet; 13th century; brass with inlays of silver; Rubin Museum of Art; C2005.16.30 (HAR 65453)



digital issue 02: Healing

Contents 20


Our Editor in Chief and NY YOGA + LIFE team


Support our NY YOGA + LIFE community


Stephanie picks her favorite masks



How COVID-19 affected our local community


Profile of artist Kristina Libby



Interviews with mental health professionals


Our community reflects


Exploring, art, movement and sound



Interview with Petrel Wallace

70. REIKI 101

An intro guide to Reiki Healing


Interview with Author Lara Paker


Our team test drives new lipsticks

82 4


Upcoming virtual events


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Nothing is more rewarding than introducing children to the world of yoga! Learn over 500 yoga poses, partner poses, group poses, yoga games and mindful activities, breathing exercises, relaxation and visualization techniques, classroom management skills and more for sharing yoga with toddlers through teenagers! Also check out our Teen Yoga Teacher Training Intensive for doing deeper work with the population that needs yoga most...teens! YA approved through Children’s Yoga Teacher Training Collaborative.

COME PLAY YOGA ! Karma Kids Yoga | downdog@karmakidsyoga.com | (646)638-1444 Register online at karmakidsyoga.com oct16_training_flier.indd 1


2/1/17 7:35 PM









Healing. Such a loaded word. It is the morning of the Presidential Inauguration, and as I sit here finishing up this letter I am still in shock at the state of the world these days. Two weeks ago our Capitol was violently attacked, here in NYC there is ongoing daily violence, and it is hard to believe we are ten months into a global pandemic. Healing. We could all use some now. The theme of this issue is HEALING. I pick a theme when we start production of every issue of NY YOGA LIFE, and this theme always reflects something I am drawn to learn more about. Because healing comes in all shapes, colors and sizes, I reached out to our community to share their stories with us. I loved hearing the difference in how healing has been discovered on each personal path. Some healed through art, others through movement, others through therapy, family or teaching. Everyone found comfort and was soothed by different things, but the end goal was always the same: healing. I am not one to quote Swamis, but there is one quote by Satchidananda that seemed appropriate, one most yoga students are familiar with: “Truth is one, Paths are many.” So it is with healing. I’d like to believe that healing is the journey back to my natural state, which is joy and completeness. Healing is remembering and living in my truth. Are we ever fully healed? I have no idea. But I also don't know if we were ever really broken in the first place. What I do know is that healing for me is a journey, it is never linear and can offer vast opportunities for growth. In my life I have found that some of my greatest personal triumphs have come right after my darkest days. My hope is that we look out for one another, and maybe our collective healing journeys will help us grow and flourish as a society. I hope you find comfort and healing in the pages that follow, as we have found creating them for you.

iana velez

publisher & editor in chief



meet the

Digital Team



Meet the team behind NY YOGA + LIFE magazine as they share here their HEALING stories. Did you know we are a volunteer based publication? Follow our team on IG @nyyogalifemag to join in on our adventures.




Creativity has always been a form of healing for me. Whether it's painting, making jewelry, embroidering or another form of art, it feels very meditative and helps to get me still and ground me. @sabrinamarienyc




Laughter is my healing. Telling the truth is a close second. @loulounyyogalife






Covid stopped and I felt a huge loss of control and power. The physicality of the BLM Rocket Yoga training reminded me of my physical strength which also supported my mental strength. @findingswithfrances

When everything in the world seems backward, dance is my way of healing. From cardio ballet to lyrical, dancing makes me feel free. @stephaniejadewong








O aC

My head is my spirit’s house. When I am not well, I use head wraps to heal and protect my center for coolness and realignment. @di.coolpath

'Coffee talk' as I like to call it is my healing. Drinking coffee with friends and family as we laugh and catch up, heals my soul. A cup of coffee is my healing for migraines and gives me time with the ones I love. @laurenalannac


- JO N E S











Nature has been my healing companion, especially H2O; "The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea" - Karen Blixen @veronyyogalife


Dirt, earth, grounding, digging, planting, nurturing, growing. I have made a deeper connection to not just making things green or knowing how to "grow grass" but to recreate all of the aspects of an entire English garden vibe that has been in my head since early childhood. Reconnecting with all of the serenity that I watched my grandmother, mom and dad create have made my soul shine for sure. @angelanyyogalifemag


Support our Studio


MINDBODYSOUL YOGA mindbodysoulyoga.com

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Support our Studio Partners by visiting them online and checking out all their great classes and workshops!

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S P I C Y A N D H E A LT H Y G I N G E R T R E AT ! F I N D A F L AV O R N E A R Y O U @







We offer a wide variety of online classes and workshops based in different yoga styles and levels of intensity. Each practice is a moving meditation. We believe in yoga as a lifestyle and a tradition, and we endeavor to honor the sanctity of the practice. Our instructors offer modifications for all levels and encourage mindfulness to keep your practice safe. We know that the real yoga is what happens off the mat, so our goal is to inspire our students to weave their practice into every moment of their day. Join bambooYOGA for online live streamed or recorded classes! Special for new students: $59 for one month unlimited.* Yogis from all levels (beginner to advanced) are welcome. Check our website for our online yoga schedule.

*Unlimited Membership includes all studio group classes (does not include any series, workshops or special classes).








We are a diverse community that believes in the power of yoga to bring quiet to the mind, strength to the body, and a deeper connection to the soul. We pursue peace on and off the mat by doing the inner and the outer work necessary to eradicate injustice wherever we see it. True peace cannot exist until it is available to all. We are a space of inclusivity and kinship. We offer our group and private classes via livestream, as well as speciality workshops. Visit our online boutique to order your wellness essentials for curb side pick up at our Washington Heights Studio.







SOULFest is back, with more amazing events coming in 2021! soulfestrevolution.com






Buy a Mat, Plant a Tree



Nature’s Best Yoga Mat




To Rid the 2020 Worries


Forty percent of adults reported struggling with mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, according to the CDC, in a study conducted in late June of 2020. The CDC also gives insight into ways to cope with stress, such as getting treatment, connecting to community, and taking care of your body through proper eating and exercise. I wanted to make the ways I personally handle stress fun, so I took to the wellness world to try out products boasting anti-anxiety benefits. Here are 3 products I’m using right now to let go of the 2020 collective anxiety, create a soothing home environment, and conjure up contentment in 2021.

The Shift Necklace by Komuso

Baloo Weighted Blanket


This pendant is a much needed reminder to breathe. Whenever life feels overwhelming, I’m finding this to be a useful tool to work through those moments. To use it: Take The Shift, which hangs on a long, sturdy chain, and lift it to your mouth. There is a little bevel at the end to rest your lips on. Inhale through the nose and exhale out of the mouth through the hollow center of the tubular pedant. I usually do this 3-10 times and feel much more calm, allowing me to focus on the task at hand with a more level head. The Shift comes in 3 color options — gold, rose gold and silver. I picked gold — the quality is beautiful. Even the packaging is thoughtfully created to induce a supported and calm effect.

The first night I used this weighted blanket, I draped it over me, ready for what I thought would be a robust reading session. The book quickly fell to the side — I fell asleep at 7pm, without waking until 5am. I usually sleep through the night, but like many people, the past year has brought forward strange dreams and restless thoughts, causing me to become very familiar with the 3am hour. This blanket provides a comforting weight, like a big bear hug, allowing me to drift, and stay asleep. It’s also really warm, which has been great on cold nights. It creates a calming space, and having something tangible to comfort me has made a world of difference.

This hip iteration of the classic bean bag chair is the best thing I’ve ever sat on. Pair it with the Lunar Lift foot rest, and your sofa will soon be wondering why you’re cheating on it. The first time I collapsed into the MoonPod, I felt like I was being absorbed into a cloud. I tend to get distracted when reading to look at texts and check email, but sitting in the MoonPod has helped me to stay present. What I love best about it is the versatility. Depending on how you position it, you can sit in it like a chair to read or work, lounge back to binge Netflix, or lie down on it like a bed. I could even see using this as a spot for a guest to sleep on… you know, when having guests becomes a thing again.





Wallet? Check. Phone? Check. Keys? Check. Mask? Check. COVID-19 has changed the way we function in public spaces. I never thought I’d be browsing the web for different styles of face masks, but that’s exactly what I ended up doing throughout 2020. So what makes a perfect mask? It’s really about trial and error. If a mask fits my face, doesn’t fog up my glasses, doesn’t pinch my ears, and doesn’t shrink, it’s great in my book. Here are a few of my favorite reusable masks (in no particular order):

Violet & Brooks This linen face mask is one of my favorites! It comes in various colors and has adjustable ear straps. It doesn’t shrink after going through the dryer, either. The only con would be that it doesn’t come with a filter pocket.

Graf Lantz This mask feels the most durable of all the ones I own. You can choose between three different styles, two different fabrics, and three different sizes. Ten meals are also donated for every mask purchased via Feeding America. There’s a pocket for a filter, adjustable ear straps, and an adjustable built-in nose bridge wire.


Simple Satch This cotton face mask is another favorite. I love the built-in, adjustable nose bridge wire. The ear straps are adjustable, the mask doesn’t shrink, and there’s a pocket for a filter.


Accessible Masks Have you had a hard time understanding others when you’re both wearing masks? Could you imagine how difficult this is for someone who’s deaf or hard of hearing? Clear masks can be really helpful to those around you, and you can find them in a variety of different styles on AccessibleMasks.org. What’s great about the site is that you can filter your search for different styles, materials, quantities, and sizes

Little Design Shoppe If you’re not a fan of masks with ear loops or over-thehead straps, this cotton mask comes with two sets of strings you tie to secure it to your head. There’s a filter pocket and it doesn’t shrink in the dryer.

While I did purchase this sun/moon design around Halloween, I like wearing this mask when it’s chilly out because of the thicker cotton material. It has adjustable ear straps, a filter pocket, and doesn’t shrink.

Lockwood “Halloween” Face Masks


I don’t think face masks will disappear from our lifestyles anytime soon. Whether you’ve started matching your masks to your outfits (what, just me?) or don’t care what they look like as long as they’re functional, be sure to grab a mask before you head outside to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.


Yoga Studio Letters Closed studios in NYC share their stories COMPILED BY: VERONICA BELTRAN & IANA VELEZ

One of the first things I always noticed about people I meet who work in wellness is that they truly love what they do. Most people don’t become yoga teachers, and especially yoga studio owners, because their goal is to make tons of money. The people I have been lucky enough to meet who opened yoga studios, did so because they love the practice and wanted to share it with their community. I have found that in NY, the majority of studio owners are also in fact women. COVID-19 hit yoga studios hard. There was a period of time last year when everyday I was reading of yet another beloved yoga studio that was unable to survive the pandemic. Everytime another yoga studio closed, it felt like punch in the gut. I knew most of these women well, how hard they worked and the level of time, passion and business savvy that was required for them to keep their studios open as long as they did. When they closed, it wasn’t just another small business closing, it was a vital part of the community that closed. A yoga studio for so many people is a place of comfort, joy and even refuge. A place where communities join together to celebrate and move, their bodies, spirit and mind. We reached out to our NY YOGA LIFE community and asked them to share this experience of closing their studios in the form of a letter. The letter could be either from their current self to their past self, or from the perspective of their studios, to them. Chynna owner of Yogi Life and Nicole owner of The Yoga Collective both wrote letters from the perspective of their studios to themselves. Lara owner of Land Yoga and Joy, owner of Cosmic Fit club wrote letters to themselves. To all four women, and the countless others who closed their studio doors, we wanted to say: thank you. Thank you for the love and growth the four walls you built provided us with. Thank you for nurturing and celebrating us. Thank you for being inspirational women and business owners. We all know this is not the end, but the start of your new chapter, and we are cheering you all on.

iana velez



The Yoga Collective OPENED: APRIL 1, 2015 CLOSED DOORS: MARCH 22, 2020

Dear Nicole, You poured your heart and soul into me over the past 5 years and I know it was a rewarding experience for you. I saw so many teachers and students come through my door, and they filled me with warmth and joy. You made my space beautiful and inviting for countless teachers to help them build their businesses. I know it was a huge endeavor and the decision to close was not easy, but it was for the best. I know you will continue my space online. Even without the lavender walls, or purple mats and props, the hugs and smiles in person, I know the warmth and joy continues online. No experience is a waste; everything teaches us something. I hope I taught you that you can run a business in busy NYC. I hope the last 5 years gave you confidence and inspiration.

The Yoga Collec tive





Cosmic Fit Club OPENED: APRIL 22, 2017 CLOSED DOORS: MARCH 14, 2020

Dear Joy, Although you didn’t know it then, the Cosmic Fit Club yoga class you taught on the 16th of March would be your last in the Long Island City studio. Days before, you held a buzzing Open House where regulars and newcomers from around the city sampled classes in yoga, acroyoga, handstands, tumbling, flexibility and tai chi. It was exciting to sell twenty class packages to new customers and you felt optimistic about the future, despite news of the spreading virus. You thought Governor Cuomo's executive order closing all non-essential businesses (including yours) on March 22nd would be temporary. But the chilling next few weeks of eerie empty streets then protests and police violence stretched into months. Do you remember the gut-punch feeling of having to break your lease and forfeit your security deposit when the landlord wouldn’t negotiate? The sense of loss and tears while packing up the space you worked so hard to create. The artwork, the flooring, the lights, rolling up the mats to take them to a storage space, not knowing when or where they would be used again? You felt sad and adrift, like you were losing your home. But do you also remember doing handstands in Alley Pond Park and Massapequa Preserve and how healing and peaceful those quiet times were? Long bike rides in the spring, connecting to nature and to your own thoughts and emotions? Cosmic wasn’t just “another yoga studio.” It was a place where kids could wave lightsabers and have birthday parties, a place where circus performers practiced and ordinary people played. It was a community. The love and effort you poured into the creation of Cosmic will always be a source of strength. You and your business partner launched live-streaming video classes early on in the pandemic. Later on you taught “socially distant” acroyoga classes on the Long Island City waterfront, and at the 31st Avenue “Open Street” in Astoria. You also organized an evening of rooftop candlelit yoga with live music. You felt hopeful and connected with the broader community again. And consider this: Did you have enough time for self-care when you were running the studio? Slowing down hasn’t been all bad. To heal is to mend what was broken. It takes time and patience. Even though the studio is closed now, the spirit of Cosmic lives on. You are still teaching, learning new things, loving life. Keep it up



Yogi Life OPENED: APRIL 5, 2017 CLOSED DOORS: AUGUST 31, 2020

Dear Chynna, I know you feel defeated, broken, and uncertain at this time. It was just a simple idea years ago, but you created a vision. You built me from the ground up and made me into reality. Thank you for making me look beautiful. Thank you for believing. The colors and mural will forever be embedded within me. I will miss feeling the vibration of a simple, OM, and even listening to the music of your chants. I will miss the prana energy within me. I will remember all of the bare feet walking on top of me. You allowed me to hold space and to serve others, to make them feel noticed or even alive. I have seen the souls open up, and I thank you for that. I have felt all the emotions: sadness, fear, joy, happiness, all because of you. I’ve witnessed you growing, learning — all of the ups and downs, because I am not easy. I was new to you. I was your first, like your first newborn. I am ready to see you flourish into your dreams and purpose in this life. Your mission has not changed. Four walls and a ceiling don’t reflect the person you are. If you feel like you have failed, I am here to tell you, you have not. I am your lesson, continue to learn from me. It is OK to pivot, and spread yourself, and open yourself to more opportunities. Just know, it will be OK. I will be grateful for everything you have given me. But it’s time for you to let go.

Yogi Life







Land Yoga OPENED: JUNE 16, 2011 CLOSED DOORS: MAY 29, 2020

Dear Lara, When you opened Land Yoga, you were a baby! Just 30, and you had no idea about the things you didn’t know. What you had was passion, energy, and time. Yoga was your life! You had taught and practiced at so many studios, and you knew what you would do the same and what you would do differently. You were so excited to put it into action in your very own space. You knew that space had to be in your neighborhood. It was your beautiful, inspiring community you wanted to serve. Everything was on the menu: yoga, kids yoga, family yoga, prenatal, birthday parties, Girl Scouts meetings, astrology, even a screening of The Matrix. It was a lot. As the years went on there was a lot of joy, and also a good amount of exhaustion, too. The rent went up, and up, and up. There were a lot of floods to rebuild and recover from. It was tiring, but the love from and for the community was so strong, it was like two cups of coffee and an espresso combined. Pure fuel. Fire. That love continues. It couldn’t keep the 4+ walls of the studio alive in a pandemic, but it is a love that is actually bigger than that. It is beyond walls. Broader than a single space. This is knowledge that keeps you thriving, a healing mantra that has brought you beyond the studio closure. Lara, I want you to see that the love is still there — in your daily online classes, in your workshops and festivals, in your non-profit and coaching, and in all that you do. Perhaps without those often dripping-with-water studio walls, that love can grow even bigger and encompass the world. Who knows? Nothing is predictable, but the strengths you carry inside of you can get you through. Continue to listen, to serve, to fight, and to feel those feelings. Whatever is next, you will be OK. I know you will never forget all that went into building the physical space of Land Yoga, from putting together the lockers with your dad and brother, to hanging the lights and having your tallest friend reach up his arms to make sure they didn’t touch, to sweeping those studio floors daily. It was a labor of love, your first baby, and your joy. It will not be forgotten. It cannot be taken. It can only evolve and inform. Whatever form Land Yoga takes, let it serve as a space of healing for all who need it. So much gratitude for that space and all who breathed life into it. The story continues.





Teaching Online

A Teacher's Perspective BY: ANGELA WILLIAMS -JONES

So here we are months after the pandemic started still navigating how to teach, interact, and be healthy and safe at all times. Many of us never thought for a second, that we would consider teaching virtually if you asked us eight months ago. This was something best reserved for the world renowned, traveling yogis of the universe. Perhaps, like many, you thought that this will be over in a couple of weeks. You thought it best to use that time to slow down, relax a bit, and treated it more like a mini staycation. Noticeably, after the first couple of weeks, you missed your students, you missed your classroom energy, your vibe, and most of all teaching. Maybe, you jumped right in and tried your hand at every turn. Perhaps, it didn’t resonate with you so you chose to wait a bit longer and again, here we are. So, barring having an in-home recording studio with pristine white walls and a blank canvas to work with, you shifted like the rest of us. Moving furniture around, hanging scarves or blankets behind you to hide your bookshelves, propped your camera, tablet, or iPad on a chair or a couch cushion with pillows to make a scene, and then wondered what to do! Fortunately, since we weren’t alone, this is a great opportunity to learn from each other. I’d Iike to share a bit of my experience, pros and cons, and the like of trying three virtual platforms in the hopes to teach a successful class.


In watching the world pop up for every occasion on Facebook Live, what worked best for me and several teaching friends initially, was to create a private FB group. This not only made us feel a bit less vulnerable (again, learning curve) but it also allowed those who wanted to join us to be admitted into the group after answering some basic questions. It also allowed the teachers to feel as though they were in a guarded and safe environment of students. We were able to more specifically invite our current students and demographic into the space and continue to build and hold our community together. It also allowed us to establish a precise schedule, bringing continuity and familiarity to our practice and teaching once again. The settings on Facebook improved tremendously from March to now. You can easily change the orientation to 16:9 widescreen, you can mirror the image so that you could appear to practice on the same side of the body as your students, or make sure that if you had words on your shirt


they would appear in the correct direction. You also have the ability to interact with emojis or a quick comment as class went on. As we learned further, you can tag your students in the commentary prior to starting class. You could alert them that you are “live” as a reminder when class begins. You could play music from a separate speaker in the background, but would need to type, “I do not own the rights to this music” when labeling your class to avoid Facebook adding in a mute feature after it has been published for future viewing. Lastly, you can decide to leave the videos there for viewing. Another great feature is that you are able to save your videos and can upload them to Google Drive or Dropbox to share for free. An option that we did not take advantage of was to “bring someone on live” which would possibly seem quite like Zoom. We weren’t aware of what our students might be doing behind their cameras, so it was not something that we wanted to implement.




As far as teaching goes, I only tried Instagram Live once. I found it to be amazing for podcasts and live interviews when I was brought on by various hosts.

With a strong WiFi connection, Zoom was ideal.

To teach a specialty class, I figured it would be just as simple as using FB Live or Zoom so, I turned my camera orientation to 16:9 for a full wide screen effect having now done this many times logged into the account and pressed “live.” Initially, it all appeared to be going well and everything looked the same to me on screen, however while teaching I began to notice that the orientation of the words of who was watching and commenting scrolled sideways along the page, making it illegible to me. It was also just as easy to utilize music in the background at the same time as the class. Upon its conclusion, the saved and uploaded video played back choppy as the motion of my mouth did not match the spoken words. This did not change even after trying to play it back on different platforms.

You can control who is entering by enabling a waiting room, and create a password for each class. You’re able to set it in your calendar for perpetuity or with an end date (great for series), and invite as many students as you would like. It’s viable for use all over the world, and you can even offer personalized privates with full interaction. Teaching from NY, there were never issues connecting with students in Europe, Australia, South Africa, Canada, or any of the 50 states barring a serious hurricane in an area. You also have the ability to mute your participants upon arrival and it provides them with the option to either have their video on or off depending on how they feel that day. You may even post announcements in the chat to greet everyone or to share pertinent information, reminders, payment options, etc. There are a few ways to successfully play music or be heard on Zoom clearly as well. You can utilize AirPods, a mic, or voice amplifier. You can also simply play music in the background whether it is on the device that you are using or on a separate speaker. All of these options are extremely affordable and conducive to your students depending upon what you are seeking to achieve. It has grown to a space of being able to offer virtual office hours, peer support, teacher trainings, interactive meetings and so much more. In all forms, although we are all apart, they each bring us closer together in our chosen tribes.

Learn more @angelanyyogalifemag



Support NY YOGA LIFE magazine with your purchase of past issues of our print magazine. Get yours today! www.nyyogalife.com










t a time when our world is yoked with heartbreak, grief, anxiety, fear, loss, and entrapment, (we could use many one-word descriptions to detail our personal processes of the effects of COVID-19) one Greenwich Village local centered herself in love and acknowledgement. Kristina Libby, like many of us New Yorkers, holds many crowns. “I write a lot,” she said. “I have a technical science job at an AI company, and I teach at NYU, and so I have lots of different hats that I wear. I guess in this forum, I’m really a public artist focused not just on art that I’m making in a studio for myself, but art that I am trying to make with and for the community.” She decided to make visual art out of empathy and remorse. NYC’s 2020 springtime shutdown showed us that many people contracted the virus, many people were dying, and many were at home in quarantine. Our city of flash and lights became an empty city of shadow and darkness. Tears were pouring and numbers were soaring due to this pandemic. Devastated by the state of sadness, Kristina opened her heart with The Floral Heart Project. “There’s so much grief, and there is so much heartache, and why can’t we see it anywhere?,” Kristina asked. “We were all trapped in our homes, but other than clapping for people at 7:00 p.m., there was no communal outpouring, and particularly nothing that was visual.” During her quarantine, she reflected on our past social atrocities. 9/11, the shooting at Sandy Hook, both had visual acknowledgement. The memorials of those lost from those tragedies ranged from flowers to photos to love notes. Kristina questioned the invisibility that was taking place for those lost to COVID-19. “I dug really deep into this research on grief, and specifically on this idea of disenfranchised grief. Disenfranchised grief is what happens when you don’t feel like you can publicly and communally mourn,” she said. Kristina explains that when soldiers go WWW.NY YOGALIFE.COM

"Our city of flash and lights became an empty city of shadow and darkness. Tears were pouring and numbers were soaring due to this pandemic. Devastated by the state of sadness, Kristina opened her heart with The Floral Heart Project." to war, they’re at war and can’t mourn. “Then when you come home, you have all of these really intense PTSD symptoms: anxiety, depression, physical violence, and substance abuse, “she explained. “The research on natural disasters and grief and disenfranchised grief sparked this thing in my mind.” The research revealed if something was not in effect as an outlet for our grief, 10% - 15% of the population will end up in extreme PTSD. “When I look at America right now, the idea that 10% - 15% of the population could be in a situation of severe trauma feels to me like another complete collapse of America,” Kristina said. “How much more trauma can we withstand? ” Kristina affirmed to herself that she had to do something. As she brainstormed how she could supply this antidote, the fact that she is not a public artist in any form; It was time for Kristina to do something in the streets of our communities. “I was a florist in my early 20s,” she shared. “I’ve always been someone who’s obsessed with flowers, and the act of giving flowers is a really natural thing. BY: PAMELA BROWN Florals are a traditional sign of sympaPHOTOS: ERICA READE thy. People pretty much understand what you’re doing when you send flowers, and then hearts are a really easy visual symbol of love. I’m making a heart to express love.” The first Floral Heart placement was

anonymously shared with a few friends, and the reaction was well-received: “Wow, this really means something to me; I feel like you care about me. I feel like someone cares.” The feedback fortified Kristina’s confidence to continue with her vision. “If I can help people visualize grief, if I can create a safe space for grieving, then maybe that will help a little,” she said. The goal is to make some change, “Maybe instead of 15% of the population having PTSD, 14.99% of the people will. Even if we can make those small changes, that tiny .01%, the fabric of our nation is better.” As the flower placements kept coming, more people’s hearts were touched. People who lost someone close to them to COVID-19 kept coming out with gratitude for her contribution. “No one recognized my dad’s death,” or “He feels like just a number,” or “My sister died and all that I saw was an obituary.” Kristina’s vision is for her world’s process. “I personally haven’t lost anyone close to me from COVID-19,” she shared. “Everyone I know is through other people. I felt so sad at the idea that a huge portion of America would suffer this grief and this feeling of being at loss without a community and this feeling of extreme trauma.” The subject of death is no discomfort to Kristina. With a Master’s Degree in International Studies, she studied topics like genocide. She feels that makes her equipped to support and connect to those who’ve suffered losses. “In America, we live in this society (where) we don’t want to talk about death. But if we don’t talk about 200,000 who have died, that means that there are at least 2 million people who are distinctly suffering; and if those 2 million people don’t get any kind of treatment, that’s going to overwhelm our mental health system” Kristina said. Holding a bubble for those who are unable to express their hurt and sadness due to the effects of COVID-19 is the key focus that will help provide the ability for those to move forward. This space is mutually healing for Kristina, who prior to the pandemic, was socially active. She went from host-

flower child


ing home dinners and parties with friends to now hosting social distance, Floral Heart ceremonies for the public. The floral pieces are 6x6 feet, laid in the shape of a heart, with respect to social distancing. The placements have evolved from the initial anonymous ones to include community-added pieces such as pillows, garland placed inside of the heart, and candles lit around the heart. Kristina will soon leave love notes written by a grief influencer, so those experiencing loss can take it with them. The placements are building as Kristina moves forward with the Floral Heart Project. Though the floral hearts are uniformed they are each individual with a different energy based on where they are placed, each neighborhood has its own vibe. “Visually, my favorite was the one that I did in Times Square,” Kristina shared. “I’m really drawn by the contrast between the floral heart and the extremely urban area. It’s the lights and the colors and the digital billboards. That contrast was very nice.” The Floral Hearts have been placed in around the East River, Brooklyn Bridge, City Hall, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill Park, Columbus Park, Cobble Hill, Times Square, Bryant Park, Herald Square, Greeley Square, Adam Yauch Park, Pier 6/Brooklyn Bridge Park, Washington Square Park, and Carroll Gardens. The Floral Heart Project has progressed from the earlier days 34

"Kristina would like to see an enormous platform where the people can feel, remember, and properly pay homage to their lost loved one. The Floral Heart Project is the start of this movement." of Kristina buying hundreds of flowers to make the placements, to the blessings of sponsorship from 1-800-Flowers providing all the flowers for the installations. 1-800-Flowers’ contribution has given more room for expansion and creative growth for the flower placements and event holding. “I would love to just make this national,” Kristina shared. “I would love for people to make floral hearts in cities around America.” A key goal for Kristina is that her Floral Heart Project inspires others to utilize their own skills and materials to build creative communities. “I think it’s a bit of a call out to our artistic community or people who feel creatively inclined at all to do something.” The overall goal is to push decentralized living COVID-19 memorials, which would involve the stronger efforts of accountability from the @NY YOGALIFEMAG

cities and governments for our current state and to recognize the mental health challenge to their communities; make something happen on an enormous scale. Kristina would like to see an enormous platform where the people can feel, remember, and properly pay homage to their lost loved one. The Floral Heart Project is the start of this movement. To learn more about the mission of Kristina Libby’s The Floral Heart Project, visit floralheartproject.com. You will be able to donate to the cause and petition the lack of recognized empathy for those who have lost lives and those who lost loved ones to COVID-19.






Zen, Art & Nature

Interview with Artist Bradley Theodore BY: SABRINA MOSCOLA

The first time I heard about artist Bradley Theodore was at a New York Art Week show. I saw him strolling the aisles and he had this...presence. Later, I saw his art and realized the man I saw walking around was the artist. I was mesmerized. He has a way with color, shape, and later I’d find out, with words. Bradley Theodore logged on to our Zoom interview from Miami while swinging in a suspended chair with palm trees as his backdrop. We spoke about death, fashion and zen. SM: What made me really interested in your work was kind of piecing together, it looks like, life and death. There are images of skulls paired with bright, bold colors. Tell me a little about those two things in your work. BT: I never equate skulls with death. I believe skulls represent existence. Whenever we go back to find our past in archeology, we have to find skeletal remains of a human. If we don’t find that, there’s no assumption that man lived there. So, the skeletal remains are the center of our existence. And the colors represent our spirits because the concept of no color means a dark spirit or a spirit that is empty. Empty doesn’t necessarily mean a negative thing. You could empty your spirit, meaning you could let go of all the things that bind you to our physical world, and then you’d be without color. But color also represents more of a spiritual emotion. SM: Where did your inspiration come from with the fashion icons you paint? BT: That’s been my experience in New York. I went to school downtown at the


School of Visual Arts, and I was studying computer art. I hung out downtown. Most of my friends were fashion designers. My friend’s mom was a designer for Donna Karan. I was introduced to Donatella Versace one day when my friend and I were hanging out. This was back in, let’s say the ‘90s, and prior to mid-2000, when everything became corporate. Anyone could hang out with anyone. No one cared about how much money you had. It was

"Art is man’s attempt to reconnect with nature and understand nature. That’s the beginning of art." your street clout. If you had clout, you were a cool guy. Fashion week would happen in Soho, before they moved it to the tents or Bryant Park. So it was about fashion and art galleries. That’s what I did for 20 years — skateboard, fashion, and art galleries. I saw Karl Lagerfeld throwing a party in Paris during fashion week, and I was like, “I’m going to paint him one day.” It was just a thing I said. My friends lived around the corner from Anna Wintour, and they would throw parties, and she would call the police on them. Somebody would call the police, we assumed it was her. These were my areas, this was my circumference, so when

I decided to paint, I decided to paint what I felt comfortable with and what I missed. Fashion has turned into this big conglomerate. It used to be young fashion designers in SoHo, who had a store. They’d pay $2,000 a month on rent, you know? Now, it’s like $10,000 a month and nobody can do it. There were people who had fashion brands as a side hobby. You had a regular job and you invested in a fashion brand for fun. That was my New York. Art, fashion, skateboard, and parties, and at night I would go to work on the computer. SM: I’ve seen you talk about art being zen in some of your videos that you post. BT: Art is the epitome of zen. In terms for humans, we are created by something higher than ourselves, whether it’s by design or chance. It’s funny because I think about it all the time. I always contemplate life and existence, something I never tell people about. One of my theories is that in order for what we call God to make man, you need materials. You just can’t make something. Even in our society, it takes something to make something. You cannot just create something. Everything exists. These materials are nature. Hence, why we get our sustenance from nature. Now, there are shortcuts to it, like let’s say meat eaters, that’s a shortcut. That’s another animal that goes and – well, in general there’s the sun which gives a ray of energy. That ray of energy hits the plant, the plant takes that ray, converts that to energy and sucks in the nutrients from the earth. The animal eats the nutrients and then the shortcuts are people that go and kill the animals and instead of going and finding all the nutrients you’d have to forage through


this luscious garden, technically, that’s a shortcut. That being said, everything that we are, we are part of nature. Hence, why we need nature. All the drug companies try to present you with this concept of, “We just invented this.” What is this? For example, Botox. Most people don’t know that Botox comes from South America. It’s from the frogs that the indigenous people used to use. They would put them on the tips of their arrows and spears and they would paralyze the person that you shot with it. But Botox, what it does is, it paralyzes the nerves of your face which allows your face to kind of be smoother. It paralyzes the muscles. This is in our society, scientists say, “We created this.” No. This is something created by the Most High that you appropriated for one specific thing. Which means that like everything that’s in nature is in us in certain ways and forms, and we have distanced ourselves from understanding that, that we are nature, hence why, it’s been branded that we are not nature, that’s why it is easy for us to look the other way when people destroy nature. Art is man’s attempt to reconnect with nature and understand nature. That’s the beginning of art. The first piece of art ever created was a cave painting and that painting described this is where you went to hunt. But that was a drawing of nature. These are the mountains, these are the animals you will get. We are recreating nature. And now we’re in a society where we try to improve on nature. And I’m not saying we do improve on it, I’m just saying that there are people who are trying to improve on nature in many different ways. It could be the nature of killing; that’s a part of nature. Animals kill other animals. People have learned to kill other people. That’s not our true nature, but that’s now our nature. So, you have someone that is trying to improve on a faster way to kill people, or a better way, a faster way to get from A to B. “How can we beat a dolphin?” This is the premise of how art fits in our society, and we don’t know it, but artists are people that are in tune with a kind of understanding of, or decryption, of the 38

creation of nature. SM: I’m really interested in your process of doing street art versus painting on a canvas. BT: I think street art in itself is interesting, because I’ve just always done it. We’re in a society of rules and some of these rules are good and some of these rules are bad. For example, if you’re in SoHo near Mercer Street, and you own a store and you want to paint the building pink, you can’t. These rules in that area dictate that the building must be painted brown, gray, white, or

"Any computer can compute an easier way to draw a face, but when you’re using your hand, you’re using the paint from the brush, that’s a direct connection to your soul, which in return, is a direct connection to the universe." black, or maybe this particular Pantone blue.

did it hand-painted, because one, that was against – at some point, street art became mainstream and everyone and their mother had stencils. To do a stencil nowadays is easy. You take a photo, you put it into Photoshop, you rasterize it, you streamline it, you put a line filter on it, and then you export it as a paper, and then you Exacto knife it out, and then you spray it on a site. But to actually go out and paint, that’s different. That’s directly from your soul, that’s directly from your emotion. Any computer can compute an easier way to draw a face, but when you’re using your hand, you’re using the paint from the brush, that’s a direct connection to your soul, which in return, is a direct connection to the universe. It is almost impossible to have a piece of artwork, (street art or otherwise, even an ad), on the streets of New York for more than two days without anybody going over it. I’ve had pieces in New York for over five years and no one has touched it because they see the quality, they see the brush strokes. It’s not a five-minute throw up, you know? And if it’s gone, it won’t be there ever again. So, the respect that I’m getting from people is that they feel it’s a connection, they feel the connection of the art, to the artist. People who normally don’t respect anything, and I’ve seen people, you know New York, people don’t care. People have written around my pieces as opposed to on my pieces because they consider it an emotional connection. Learn more @bradleytheodore

Street art is about going against that rule. For example, the term graffiti is a Roman term. The first graffiti existed when Rome was sacked for the first time. The barbarians sacked Rome and wrote all over the walls. They destroyed sculptures. I’m not saying I’m pro to that, but that’s what happened. And then later on when the Romans were protesting, they started writing all over the walls about this senator, and that senator. I mean, street art in itself is the ability to express one’s self outside the realm of a society. So, the way I go upon doing it is, even when I started my first pieces, were all hand-painted. They weren’t spray-painted. The reason I




Healing the Self During Covid BY: FRANCES HUNT

What an insane year 2020 was! NY began its shutdown around March 14th and everything happened so fast. The reality of what we were going through was so shocking that I didn't have time to stop and think. I realized early on my mental health would be affected. The first week of quarantine was all news all day. Around the second week mark, cabin fever began to kick in. The third week of lockdown I was increasingly becoming sad and feeling alone. There was so much uncertainty. I noticed my mental health was beginning to decline, so I immersed myself in doing things around my apartment. I cleaned everything from the windows, walls, baseboards, to inside and under cabinets and dresser drawers. Things I had not cleaned in longer than I care to admit. I needed to keep busy. I then began home projects including reorganizing, painting, and redecorating. About seven weeks into quarantine, there wasn't much left to do around the apartment. Slowly, depression began to set in. It was exactly what I was trying to avoid. I know depression, so I know when I need to push through before it gets

bigger than I can handle alone. Thankfully, yoga studios began online teacher trainings. I eagerly jumped in, taking as many trainings as I could. Being in the classes with my yoga community made being alone inside the apartment manageable. I always had my camera on. I needed the gallery views. I needed to be in community with others. My cousins and I had a weekly cousin call that helped me push through. In between those trainings and calls the loneliness and depression would resurface. COVID-19 took away so many things we take for granted such as choice and freedom to do as we please when we please. Even a trip to the local store became a chore given the long lines, need for gloves and masks, and the shortage of items such toilet tissue and Clorox wipes. Each person's experience with quarantine is different. My experience living alone is different than that of families forced to be together, work from home, remote learn, and be alone for such extended periods of time. We asked some mental health professionals about the impact of COVID-19 and some recommendations on caring for our mental health during this time.

Melissa Metoyer, MRC, RYT, RCYT myresurrectionfern.com How does COVID-19 affect mental health? The past 9-10 months have been very tough on all of us, we’re currently under the shadow of uncertainty and chaos. Difficult times such as these give rise to difficult emotions such as: frustration, anxiety, loneliness, melancholy, apathy, along with a host of many more. If these emotions are not communicated or expressed properly, it can take a detrimental toll on multiple areas of one’s life.



Has there been a significant increase in your patient loads? What are the demographics? I’ve experienced an increase in my established clients scheduling more appointment slots, and seen an increase among women and teen girls.


Have patients expressed specific negative impacts on their mental health and wellbeing, such as difficulty sleeping and eating? Yes, although each individual’s reaction to the pandemic is different, I am witnessing similar manifestations of anxiety resulting in insomnia, increased irritability, and restlessness. What are the mental health impacts of COVID-19 on employees working from home and children remote learning? Working and attending school remotely can cause individuals, no matter their age, to feel isolated. Some adults are facing challenges simultaneously balancing the roles: of parents, employees, teachers, caregivers, and friends, to name a few — all of which can most commonly trigger a stress or anxiety response with symptoms of: being on-edge, feeling weak or tired, difficulty concentrating, or trouble sleeping. Have you seen an increase in alcohol and substance abuse, and domestic violence? I have witnessed an increase in relationship disagreements and alcohol consumption, but not to the level I would categorize it as abuse. A few of my peers have relayed witnessing an uptick in regard to abuse and violence in their demographics. What are your recommendations for those who may feel overwhelmed and have not sought a mental health professional? Consistency and structure are calming techniques to implement during times of stress. The symptoms of fear and isolation can be very dangerous for those suffering from depression. It’s critically important for those individuals to focus on self-care and connection. Setting and sticking to a regular schedule at home is essential. Many people with children benefit from printing out their schedule and reviewing it as a family each morning. This will embed predictability and consistency to their WWW.NY YOGALIFE.COM

Consistency and structure are calming techniques to implement during times of stress.

day to help minimize meltdowns, especially, in times of transitioning from one activity to the next. Build in activities that incorporate exercise and getting outside. Be mindful of your thoughts and catastrophic thinking. Stay connected to others as much as possible. Depending on your state’s coronavirus restrictions, you can safely plan an in-person lunch date or have lunch virtually with a friend. There are also many worthy nonprofit organizations in your local areas to see how to become involved in your communities. Be patient with yourself and give yourself the same grace you give to those you love. What do you do to care for your mental health? I set aside time each morning to slow down my thoughts through meditation for 15 minutes. I find this sets the tone for my day and what I allow in my space. I maintain a structured schedule for myself and my home. I take time daily to practice activities that I enjoy and have proven to add personal balance to my life such as yoga and running. Some days, my 5-year-old daughter joins me on the mat, and I cherish those sweet silent tender breaths of connection.

Silvia B. Arias, M.S.Ed., LMHC silviaariaslmhc.com

How does COVID-19 affect mental health? In my line of work as a licensed mental health counselor, I have had the privilege to observe the ways in which COVID-19 has impacted mental health. Since day one of quarantine, many clients have demonstrated either an interest in changing their lives for the better and to begin a journey of self-growth, or they have been severely impacted by the negative effects of the coronavirus. In those clients, I have seen an increase in depression, anxiety, OCD, and paranoia. However, most clients saw this as an opportunity to work on themselves as it offered them the time to do so. Has there been a significant increase in your patient loads? What are the demographics? Prior to the pandemic, I was working part-time in private practice. A few weeks into quarantine, more and more clients were reaching out and ready to receive therapy. I had a full-time caseload within two weeks. The majority of the clients on my caseload are primarily adult women, specifically of the millennial generation.


Have patients expressed specific negative impacts on their mental health and wellbeing, such as difficulty sleeping and eating? Most of the clients I have met with have expressed difficulty adjusting to an appropriate sleeping pattern, issues with time management, and feeling out of control due to the lack of structure in their lives. The majority of my work during this pandemic has been assisting clients to figure out an acceptable routine and structure that works for them, so that they can regain the control they lost. Some clients with underlying medi-

It is essential for everyone to be as kind as possible to themselves during this difficult time, continue to be patient, and reach out to their loved ones and their friends in an effort to

cal conditions have prolonged their quarantine and are now demonstrating higher levels of depression and anxiety due to the length of time they have isolated themselves from the rest of the world. What are the mental health impacts of COVID-19 on employees working from home and children remote learning? Parents who are currently working from home are experiencing this as the greatest struggle of their lives. Some of these clients have described this as having two full-time jobs. Other parents have had to resign from their jobs because their child re42

quired more attention and supervision. These particular clients are exhibiting an increase in depression and anxiety as well. Have you seen an Increase in alcohol and substance abuse and domestic violence? It seems as though every mental health clinician has experienced different versions of the ways in which COVID-19 has impacted their clients. In my line of work, I have not observed an increase in substance abuse or domestic violence. However, many of my colleagues have experienced otherwise. What are your recommendations for those who may feel overwhelmed and have not sought a mental health professional? Although the pandemic has negatively affected our entire world, many of my clients report that this has given them the opportunity to focus more on the “little things in life,” and that it has forced them to “slow down” and be more present with themselves and their families. This perspective has assisted them to tolerate the effects of COVID-19. It is essential for everyone to be as kind as possible to themselves during this difficult time, continue to be patient, and reach out to their loved ones and their friends in an effort to avoid complete isolation. What do you do to care for your mental health? As a therapist, I have also been impacted by the negative effects of the coronavirus. I have interpreted this pandemic as an opportunity to work on myself, and also as a sign that we live in a high-paced society and truly need to “slow down”. I have been trying to be as kind as possible with myself during these unusual times, and I ensure that I take it one day at a time. I have learned to accept the uncertainties this will continue to bring, and that resisting to adapt to the changes this pandemic has forced upon us will make this experience more difficult.

Marcia T. Leftwich @inspiredtovictory

How does COVID-19 affect mental health? Covid-19 affects mental health in a variety of ways. It triggers fear and worry, which can lead to anxiety and depression. Forced quarantine, which for some people is complete isolation, can lead to negative impacts on one's mental health. In some situations, the risk of suicide or suicide ideation increase for people with pre-existing mental health challeges or with the onset of mental health challenges. COVID-19 causes feelings of despair and loss of control, which can be very difficult for people to navigate. The sense of helplessness and often hopelessness that is being triggered by the pandemic is causing additional strain on people's mental health. With the unprecedented number of fatalities, it causes people to question and consider their own possible mortality should they contract COVID-19. The fear of the unknown and the inability to control or predict the outcome has an effect on mental health. In addition, the overexposure to media and conflicting information and safety guidelines can cause confusion and @NY YOGALIFEMAG

affect how people view themselves and the world around them. This pandemic has caused people to focus on themselves or their issues versus having other distractions such as going to work, the gym, or social engagements. For some, COVID-19 is affecting how they view their spiritual or religious beliefs, and this can cause inner conflict which affects mental health. While it

COVID-19 has continued longer than anyone could predict. As a result, more people are seeking mental health resources for coping strategies, new issues, or to deal with issues they had been neglecting.

has strengthened some people's faith, others have questioned it. Others are feeling a sense of apocalyptic doom, which can trigger anxiety. The initial lack of essentials and scarcity, caused people to have a sense of panic and possible paranoia, this definitely impacted the mental health of people. The fragility of the economy which has caused reduced workforces, closed businesses, and layoffs has negatively impacted society’s mental health and increased financial stress on many. Has there been a significant increase in your patient loads? What are the demographics? In the beginning of the pandemic, patient loads were steadily increasing across all gender and age demographWWW.NY YOGALIFE.COM

ics. However, as the pandemic has continued, patient loads have spiked, specifically with couples and those experiencing grief. We are currently at capacity, with new counseling requests being wait-listed, or there is the option of a referral.

being at home with more distractions and with the comforts of home. Children are also experiencing the challenges of online learning; it will cause some to thrive, but for many others, it is difficult to maintain focus and get the academic support needed.

COVID-19 has continued longer than anyone could predict. As a result, more people are seeking mental health resources for coping strategies, new issues, or to deal with issues they had been neglecting. People are realizing issues they may have previously ignored, and the isolation/quarantine has forced self-reflection of their life and challenging situations. Another reason for the increase is the taboo and stigma of seeking mental health assistance is being reduced and seeking help is being normalized, particularly during this time.

For children with domestic or other extenuating circumstances at home, being home without the escape or safety of school affects their mental health and their ability to have an outlet from the stress of their home environment. High School seniors have been affected as this disrupts their plans to celebrate all of the events and culminating activities prior to their graduation. For athletes that are being scouted, this changes how they may be recruited and offered scholarships. Students anticipate their senior year, and now it looks very different than what they expected. They are experiencing grief, stress, and some are dealing with depression.

What are the mental health impacts of COVID-19 on employees working from home and children remote learning? While working from home has benefits, for some, the need for social interaction and consistent routine has become challenging. From a mental standpoint, the feeling of being trapped inside is something that is difficult to navigate. The switch from working outside the home, and having children go to school has disrupted the normal routines that families have been operating in; reestablishing routine and normalcy has been difficult. Having children at home while parents are working can be a distraction, and it increases frustration. Parents are stressed and overwhelmed with the realization they may be ill-equipped to help with the online schooling that is occurring nationwide. It is difficult to focus on a full time job, while trying to manage your children’s needs. Working from home causes people to feel distant and disconnected from their peers. Children have lost focus

Have patients expressed specific negative impacts on their mental health and wellbeing, such as difficulty sleeping and eating? Eating has been one of the biggest negative impacts and has affected individuals' self-image. Overeating to cope or the immediate access to food at home can cause one to eat more or more frequently versus if they were at work. With access to the gym or other physical activities being eliminated or reduced, the decrease in mobility has increased weight issues. With limited access to physical activities to reduce stress, it has an effect on one's overall health The overall wellbeing of a lot of people has declined. People are more isolated and feeling a sense of anxiety of the unknown, and fear. Most people have a sense of fear in terms of catching COVID-19, and whether a friend or loved one will be infected. People are living in a state of confusion as well, as to how is this happening and how long will we be affected. 43

Other negative aspects are related to people’s ability to congregate to worship. This has been a large issue in a number of religious communities. The ability to gather and worship is a cornerstone in many people's lives. While online worshiping is an option, for many, this is not the same as being in the “house of the Lord.” For the elderly population, this is extremely challenging, especially for those who may not be technologically savvy. The wellbeing of the elderly population is being affected as well due to necessary safeguards and restrictions of having contact with others. For those in nursing facilities, this means limited access to face-to-face family visits. Social isolation has become problematic, especially for students. The inability to socialize daily with their peers, and for college students to exercise their independence away from home, has affected the wellbeing of our young people greatly. Another negative aspect is for those who have lost friends or loved ones; funeral logistics and services are completely different during COVID-19. Some have not been able to travel to say goodbye, and in other cases, the services have been restricted. Families and friends are being faced with grief on numerous levels. Have you seen an increase in alcohol and substance abuse and domestic violence? I have seen an increase in domestic issues with couples; I specialize in couples therapy so that has been a focus, especially since the pandemic. I would imagine overall, alcohol and substance abuse has increased as people are using it as a coping mechanism. In addition to those who have substance abuse problems, COVID-19 has exacerbated their need to cope, in addition to the other issues they were using substances for numbing or escape purposes.


What are your recommendations for those who may feel overwhelmed and have not sought a mental health professional? Consider seeking initial advice from a primary physician. A lot of primary physicians do mental health checks during their visits, and sometimes they can offer suggestions or guide the patient to seek mental health resources. Also, for those that are overwhelmed, provide them the ability to talk and normalize their situation. Everyone feels overwhelmed at times,

Everyone feels overwhelmed at times, and during a pandemic is definitely a time where there are a range of emotions. It is important to assure them that they are experiencing a normal reaction to a crisis.

and during a pandemic is definitely a time where there are a range of emotions. It is important to assure them that they are experiencing a normal reaction to a crisis. A pandemic is a crisis. Most people are afraid to seek assistance because of the stigma associated with seeing a mental health professional. If they are still not planning to seek outside assistance, I suggest making sure they have a strong connection to others, tap into their support network, and practice self-care.

What do you do to care for your mental health? Practicing daily self-care is a proactive strategy that I have implemented so I do not have to respond with reactive behavior. I incorporate aspects of: physical, psychological, spiritual, professional, emotional, and social self-care on a daily basis. With this approach, I intentionally have activities that target each type of self-care. I have a self-care plan, that is written and posted, and I practice my strategies throughout the day. I focus on certain aspects in the morning, during work, and in the evening. I meditate and practice yoga daily. Journaling and freelance writing has become an essential way for me to decompress, but also to allow my creativity to flow. The discovery of cooking healthy, plant-based meals is important as part of my physical selfcare strategy. I also walk daily and hike once a week. Juicing and concocting recipes for different health targets helps me keep my immune system enhanced, as well as other health benefits. Staying closely connected to my circle of friends is essential, and COVID-19 video calls are now an integral part. Practicing gratitude helps keep me grounded and focused and increases my ability to stay joyful even when things may seem challenging; this is part of my emotional self-care. I have an amazing therapist; this is one of the best acts of psychological selfcare. It allows me to decompress, safely navigate any challenges I am experiencing, and helps me validate thoughts and forward plan strategically.


at the hands of police, for the deaths of our trans siblings, for the insidious violence against Black women, for the injustices we face, for...[fill in the blank]. There are numerous ways in which the pandemic affects mental health, but the collective anxiety of, “When will this all end?!” seems to be the most prevalent and connected feeling at the moment.

Tishania (Shana) Louallen, LMSW @shanalovesall How does COVID-19 affect mental health? What I’ve seen is that a collective sense of anxiety has been activated progressively since March. I say progressively because those who grew up in chaotic and unstable environments found themselves right at home at the top of the pandemic, and even a bit emotionally delayed in terms of experiencing anxious symptoms than others. Ten months in, folks who didn’t have immediate anxiety are experiencing it with the larger collective. Isolation has promoted both high levels of depression and unchanged levels for those whose depression basks in isolation. Some have found themselves more productive since there is now a sense that the world is feeling what they have always felt, thereby countering the image of what isolation has felt like because they are technically no longer “alone.” Death and longing is another area that’s affecting mental health in general. We are a collective of folks: in mourning, going through the various intervals of the 5 stages of grief and loss of our pre-pandemic lives, our loved ones who have died, for the deaths of Black and brown people WWW.NY YOGALIFE.COM

Has there been a significant increase in your patient loads? What are the demographics? Yes! But in my case, the increase is due in part to the revolution for Black lives converging with the pandemic. This lends itself to the countless stories we hear about the load Black folks, as

The isolation is really touching people in places they didn’t know existed. I also find issues with memory loss have been surfacing quite a bit, which makes sense given its connections to trauma and depression. The brain is working overtime to cope with managing swift life changes (and your feelings) so memory is taking a bit of hit right now in folks. It varies from person to person. On the flip side, I have found that folks are diving deeper into spirituality ranging from online connections in religious houses of worship, to an enhanced study of astrology, mysticism, crystals, tarot, and ancestral veneration. Folks are trying to cope and heal in the best and most accessible ways they can.

Folks are trying to cope and heal in the best and most accessible ways they can.

What are the mental health impacts of COVID-19 on employees working from home and children remote learning? This varies by employee and is based on what level of support they have in their lives. To name a few impacts: burnout, depression, anxiety, guilt, shame. Many, if not all, roads lead to burnout.

well as those pushed the far margins of our society, have had to shoulder prior to and during this pandemic. I’ve noticed a stark increase in Black and Latinx women (slightly less increase for men of color), ages 19-42, seeking mental health support. This could be different depending on where a clinician lives and works.

Burnout seems so much more tangible for employees working from home, particularly if they are struggling with COVID-19, or have a family member impacted or deceased by COVID-19. It’s intensified by interpersonal thoughts/feelings, care-taking (children and other family members), and the tension the pandemic has placed on relationships within the home. This is stressful to manage and deal with.

Have patients expressed specific negative impacts on their mental health and wellbeing, such as difficulty sleeping and eating? Generally speaking, difficulty sleeping is a big one. Negative impact varies wildly from paranoia about contracting COVID-19; genuine fear of one’s safety all the way to, “Screw it! I’m not letting this take over my life (but I’m still lowkey afraid)!”

Not all children find remote learning to work for them, particularly when the virtual learning doesn't hold their attention or help with comfort in asking questions. Further, the issue I'm finding is the managing of schedules when there is only one device in the home and multiple needs.


Families cannot keep going at this rate. Breakdowns and burnout are imminent. Have you seen an increase in alcohol and substance abuse and domestic violence? I know that there is an increase in domestic violence based on the articles, survey summaries and organizations I follow that support survivors prior to and during the pandemic.They’re shouting from the mountain tops that it’s happening. While I haven’t seen the increase in intimate partner violence on my caseload, I find the same organizations, journalists, and activists writing these articles are also supporting the fact that there is an increase in alcohol and substance use during this time that’s converging with spikes in intimate partner violence. If you or a loved one is experiencing intimate partner violence and need anonymous and confidential help, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (24/7) at: 1-800-799-7233 (1-800-799-SAFE) What are your recommendations for those who may feel overwhelmed and have not sought a mental health professional? People Mapping: Who are your trusted people? What communities do you belong to? What is currently available to you? Whoever your trusted people/communities are, please reach out to them. Nine times out of ten, they want to hear you, support you and be in solidarity with you. Given the pandemic’s impact on the collective, they might also be going through their own challenges, so I’d just take the extra step to ask if they have space/capacity to support you right now, as a courtesy, before unloading. Writing utensils and paper: Journal writing is very helpful for lots of folks. I’ve jotted my thoughts down on anything I could find, even the backs 46

of envelopes! I say that to illuminate that you don’t have to have the perfect journal book. Writing feelings can help alleviate some tension. That act of purging through writing is undervalued as a tool for healing. Talking into your notes app or even recording a voice memo also works when the moment hits you and if a phone is accessible to you. Me Time: Section off one hour of time per day to do something enjoyable to you. That could be dancing, art, listening to good music, reading a good book, and for those who can, doing Zoom activities like group bingo or brunch. Breathing: Sometimes, we just can’t get out of the house. I find that deep breathing activities can happen in the shower, just before sleep and when you first wake up. Find three different times of the day that work for you to sit, feet on the ground (in shoes or not), and do deep breathing. Start counting backwards from 20 down to 1. The backwards counting is an attempt to trick the brain into decreasing anxious feelings back down to manageable levels. Play with this one. Some people have to start at 50. Some only have enough time to start at 10. Do what works for you. Outdoors: Take outdoor breaks if you can. Getting fresh air is the best thing for our mental health, especially with the sun outside. Sunlight naturally increases serotonin levels so head out using the best modality that works for your body and take it in with your senses. Walking works as do a wealth of other modalities. Use what works best for you. Meditation: For those who have the ability, time, and space, mediation just before bedtime can do wonders for getting good sleep as well as calming the feelings of the day.

Stretching: (when possible) The body holds a lot of tension and stress. Sometimes stretching out our body parts can help release some of what's being stored. Remember, long after the event of a trauma has passed, your body is still holding it, and is still keeping score. If your body allows, simple twists, arm stretches, bending, and extending can help loosen the grip intense experiences may have on our body. Yoga and easy stretching videos are available on YouTube, Instagram, and other videostreaming outlets. Know when to call in for help. Sometimes we don’t know that we need help until things have gone too far. Whenever that point arrives, no matter what, please seek out the help you need. There’s no shame in this, and the gift sometimes is in realizing the need for care. Folks tend to move into seeking help when they’ve had enough and feel ready for change. It’s never too late to get the help you need, no matter how many times you may have tried in the past. A number of local organizations have stepped up efforts to make mental health support accessible and free (or sliding scale) during the pandemic. Many therapists are hosting virtual or phone sessions. Find the one closest to you via Psychology Today, Therapy for Black Girls, Therapy for Latinx, National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network (NQTTCN), Therapy for Black Men. If you find that you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Hotline immediately: 800-273-8255 (800-273TALK). Zoom support groups have been really helpful for many people as they offer drop in/"come when you can" options. Many local organizations have been supporting these efforts as well.


BIOS Melissa Metoyer MRC, RYT, RCYT, is the founder of My Resurrection Fern (MRF), a curated, sacred space without judgment. MRF offers an opportunity for others to step into the now to claim the joy that life has to offer by feeling seen and truly being heard. Metoyer has more than 19 years of experience working in public and private sectors in the mental wellness field, and her mission is to elevate the collective experience of wellness. Metoyer holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology Pre-Medicine from Xavier University and a Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. She is a Yoga Alliance registered yoga teacher, as well as a registered children’s yoga teacher with a certification in prenatal yoga. Silvia B. Arias M.S.Ed., LMHC Silvia B. Arias is a trilingual (English, Spanish, and German) licensed mental health counselor in the state of New York. Ms. Arias currently treats adolescents and adults dealing with severe anxiety, depression, and difficult life transitions. Due to COVID-19, Ms. Arias has been only offering teletherapy appointments to all of her current and new clients.


Marcia T. Leftwich Marcia has a passion for mentoring, empowering and helping others fight to see their light in darkness. She is the owner of Inspired to Victory, LLC. Marcia is an advocate of holistic living and is a mouthpiece for promoting wellness and destigmatizing mental health in minority and underserved communities. As a motivational speaker and author, she empowers others to find victory in their circumstances. Marcia is an advocate against domestic abuse who provides guidance to those in various parts of their abuse journey. Based on her strong calling and life experiences, she became a pastoral counselor. She provides spiritual development, couples counseling, grief navigation, as well as guiding people through trauma and transitional issues that occur on the journey of life. She passionately teaches yoga, meditation, and self-care to inspire people to find a pathway to heal and reduce stress. She is a certified 200-hour (Hatha) and 300-hour yoga instructor, as well as a Reiki master healer. One of her guiding principles is to allow her life and story to empower others to not just survive but thrive. She is blessed to have two pillars in her life, Myles and Adin, who have taught her the meaning of unconditional love.

Tishania (Shana) Louallen, LMSW Shana Louallen is a New York Citybased social worker, advocate and organizer around social policy, race, gender, and sexuality. While her primary focus is on the intersectionalities of trauma and racial justice, she remains committed, both locally and abroad, to youth-based organizations, stakeholders and organizers collaborating on impactful solutions in the face of discrimination. Shana began her career engaging in case management for homeless adults and transitioned to working with young folks engaged in commercial sexual exploitation. She expanded her work to seeing young folks in school-based clinics and community-based organizations, engaging in trauma-focused therapies and building youth-facing programs. She currently coaches leaders on building restorative justice within their schools and organizations and works as a therapist (remotely). When not steeped in work, she can be found on (Black) Twitter opining about the intersections of social justice, astrology, and pop culture.


Diversity in Yoga our community speaks out BY: BRE SCULLARK

Quentin Vennie

Lauren Solomon

Joshua Dorfman



There are words that are loosely used in the wellness community such as awakening, enlightenment, and guru. We hear these terms so often that it seems the true depth of their meaning gets lost in the perception, circumstances, and beliefs of the masses. We commercialize the same words that once attracted us to this spiritual way of life. Among those are the term and language connected to healing and being a “Healer.” I have practiced at several wellness centers and sat with many self-proclaimed healers who promise healing if only we do things in a sacred way, which has always flushed out to be “their way.” As 2020 glared the shortcomings of our country, fears, and beliefs, some of us raised our eyebrows to the response, or lack thereof, from spiritual and sacred wellness groups. Where are our healers? The racial tension in the U.S. rapidly spread globally following the consecutive murders of African American women and men during the COVID-19 lockdown. As many began protesting in the street for weeks and months, yoga and mindfulness practitioners of color wondered, “Where are our healers?” Many yoga and meditation spaces and practitioners had fallen silent. They preferred not to align themselves or their brand with organizations such as Black Lives Matter, which they deemed as making a political stance. There were studios who posted to social media about diversity reluctantly to avoid scrutiny. Sending positive affirmations, memes, reposted hashtags with a surface promise to support inclusivity in the holistic community. Some even proposed financial support. But, where were our healers? Where were our self proclaimed healers and gurus? Where were our beloved studios that always offered catchy quotes in savasana, simple but tangible resolutions to all of our daily challenges? Where were our People of Peace? I had the pleasure of virtually meeting with three of my close friends in the wellness community to discuss words like HEALING, especially during times such as these. Joshua Dorfman is a meditation teacher, life coach, and spiritual advisor. Lauren Solomon is an international yoga instructor, birth doula, and energy worker. Quentin Vennie: International speaker, author of “Strong in Broken Places,” and advocate for humanity. Here is our talk on healing, healers and our ideals of how wellness should begin to motion forward.

What does “healing” mean to you? Quentin: Healing is moving beyond our trauma and not allowing it to dictate the value of who we are. It’s learning from our experiences for the betterment of humanity. Lauren: Healing is a journey of physical and metaphysical alchemy. Healing/Healer are terms used too liberally and inappropriately for capitalistic reasons/opportunity. These terms are overused and undervalued. Joshua: Healing is a process to liberation. Liberation of being susceptible to stress, anxiety, trauma, and fear. Of course, healing is a general term. There’s the mental, physical, and spiritual level. Healing is the process of freeing ourselves from those bondages. Our eyes are open. We begin to ask questions. We begin

"Healing is moving beyond our trauma and not allowing it to dictate the value of who we are. It’s learning from our experiences for the betterment of humanity." -Quentin

to seek truth and we wonder, “How can things change?” ”How do I live better?” What I’ve learned is, whatever trials, tribulations, and traumas that we go through, we are supposed to share our solutions with others. We are supposed to share our tools and techniques with the world. How would you describe the importance of wellness in communities of color? Lauren: Holistic wellness is vital to African Americans and POC ability to survive and thrive as a people. Illness of all kinds will continue to kill and destroy. One of my favorite quotes by Toni Cade Bambara is, “Wholeness is no trifling matter.” Sometimes generational trauma plays out in our classroom. Some instructors are more authoritarian which can be perceived as a superior/inferior dynamic and also create trauma bonds. How can non-POC instructors and students support POC on their journey to self-healing? Joshua: We must begin by irradiating ourselves from the sickness of separatism and competitive mentality.



Lauren: Non-POC must courageously become acquainted with their own darkness. They must focus on the inner work so that they will teach and be willing to learn from a space of authenticity and balance. PTSD and trauma informed trainings are commonly talked about in the wellness community. We don’t often talk about Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS) or Shadow Slavery. Many POC, specifically African Americans, have been triggered by the systematic injustice and police neutrality that has gone overlooked for centuries. Have you, or do you plan to implement classes that support healing in this area? Lauren: All people can experience PTSD but only Black People can and have experienced PTSS. Let’s unapologetically acknowledge that first, and then we can begin the work. My work, experiences, guidance, offerings, and language all implement the process of healing specifically in this area. For example, it is important to me that I am unapologetic about centering myself and my work for people who look like me without seeing it as a hindrance, limitation or exclusion. I don’t see anything wrong with that! I think many establishments do and feel the same way. They may not openly say it but their business strategy screams it. Hiring predominantly one race, price point for classes, marketing campaigns, etc. I think sometimes we (African Americans) feel uncomfortable with saying this particular program or guidance for healing is specifically for us. We may feel bad or as though there will be a consequence for not sharing. Joshua: I think we have POC, become conditioned to GIVE... Ahhh! I love that! Are you proud of how the wellness community represented African Americans, POC and BIPOC during the several acts of violence from police brutality and racial injustice last year?


Lauren: No. They did not support us. What many studios and centers did at best, they showed us exactly who they are and who they are not. They engaged in superficial disingenuous optical allyship and hashtag activism. If they didn’t care, then I would prefer that they truly do not care. What many studios showed us was our money mattered but not our lives. Breonna Taylor’s face was trending. George Floyd’s video of him being murdered went viral. Our trauma became a way to monetize our suffering.

"We must create that which we want to see, do, and be. Additionally we must be considerate of how we wield our collective energy and consciousness, and permanently do away with disempowerment." -Lauren

To me, it felt like modern day lynching and several wellness studios participated in it. It was capitalistic and opportunist. But we didn’t need a civil rights movement to show us what African Americans, POC and BIPOC meant to these centers. We knew that based on their leadership and their marketing strategy. We always knew who and what mattered to them. Quentin: Lauren’s sentiment is my sentiment. For real. There is nothing more that I can add to that that she hasn’t already addressed. Quentin, your wife is white. How does that affect your household dynamic if at all? What are some of the conversations

that you, your wife and your children have around race and wellness? Having two totally different ethnicities living under one roof during a civil rights movement, how has this been for you? Quentin: The reality is that all of this is personal. And to be honest, my wife is one of the rarities in this space. She holds me when I need to be held, she can console me when my soul is weary, not as a Black man but as a human. Society will tell me I am a Black man and then society will dehumanize me for being a Black man. They limit my experience of humanity. Thinking back to the reason Blacks were selected for slavery was because of our propensity to “endure.” So if I am expected to be strong, who is going to see me when I am weak? My wife does. The conversations that we have are geared towards the Black experience and the white impression. And even with her, helping her to identify where she is actively fighting against racism and or passively moving towards it. Joshua: When Gorge Floyd passed, it really sparked a fire under me to get the message across about racial and social injustice in the wellness community. I remember companies reaching out to me because I am a person of color just so that they could say they had a POC on their platform. It felt inauthentic so I turned them all down. It felt like a branding opportunity to say that they were a part but it did not feel like they authentically wanted to help. How do you believe non-POC in the wellness community can authentically help? Lauren: I don’t need to be affirmed in my life’s value from non-POC. What I would like is for non-POC to turn the work inward. Focus on you. No more “I’m not a racist” or wearing BLACK LIVES MATTERS shirts. Let’s focus on deepening the work by looking inward. “Where am I?” or “Where have I contributed to what’s at hand?” Quentin: It starts with self, I agree. You can’t authentically do much to change the past. What you can do is begin to change self. I think it starts with acknowledging @NY YOGALIFEMAG

how many non-POC have upheld white supremacy subconsciously just by rules of society and continued to sustain a system of oppression. Deal with that discomfort that comes up. Sit in it and continue to heal from it. Joshua: If non-POC want to authentically help, it has to come with humility and the acknowledgment of oppression. What is your vision for the future of the wellness community? Joshua: Seeking out those who have a genuine calling to serve and find truth. I want to flood the wellness community with realism. “Humans always want to do something about death when we should want to do something about life...” Quentin: I want to see the continuation of these types of dialogue, of this level of humility and vulnerability, and stripping away the fear so we can begin to trust. Too many people have died without knowing that this can exist. This conversation was healing for me. Lauren: We must decolonize ourselves in all ways. We must create that which we want to see, do, and be. Additionally we must be considerate of how we wield our collective energy and consciousness, and permanently do way with disempowerment.

BIOS Quentin Vennie @quentinvennie Celebrated wellness expert, philanthropist, keynote speaker and author of the bestselling memoir, Strong In The Broken Places. His work has been featured in the Huffington Post, Thrive Global, Entrepreneur, Chicago Tribune, NBC News, Fox News, MindBodyGreen, and others. Quentin has been recognized as one of Black Enterprise magazine’s 100 Modern Men of Distinction and by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for his contribution in raising awareness for mental health and suicide prevention, as well as appearing as the wellness keynote speaker for Colin Kaepernick’s “Know My Rights” Camp. Quentin has guided meditations and given talks at the Wagner Youth Facility at Belize Central Prison, shared his journey of healing childhood trauma for the University of Maryland Medical Systems & University of Maryland Symposium “Not All Wounds Are Visible”, and was recognized by Lululemon at their annual Here To Be Conference. Having spent years practicing yoga and meditation, Quentin has found a recent passion in gardening and interior design as forms of anxiety management. He continues to work with youth in underresourced communities, helping them understand their traumas and turn them into triumphs. He spearheads initiatives


that support positive mental health and challenges food insecurity by teaching and promoting sustainable vegetable gardening, as well as making yoga and mindfulness accessible among communities and populations that don’t ordinarily have access to them.

Lauren Solomon lotussol.com A former Wall Street professional and graduate of Columbia Business School, Lauren boldly transitioned from a decadelong career in Finance and Project Management to a lifetime journey as a certified international yoga instructor, reiki practitioner and birth doula. From Lauren's most recent feature in the 1st volume of "My Yoga. My City" photography table book showcasing Lauren as among NYC's premier yoga instructors, to her inclusion in NY Yoga + Life Magazine recognizing her as a trailblazer in the "Teachers We Love" section and in WELL Summit's "7 Black Women Making Waves in Alternative Medicine" - to Lauren’s leading international yoga retreats, and her dedication as a birth companion centering Black women and families on the childbirth continuum, she radically affirms her community in a myriad of meaningful and deeply impactful ways.

Joshua Dorfman @joshua.dorfman For over 15 years, Joshua has been self-taught, accepting wisdom and influence from teachers along the way while adhering to his inner guidance and direct connection to Source. Joshua stepped into his role of leadership in 2014 offering healing, meditation and life coaching services as a walking embodiment of Light. He is a community builder and space holder for unity and communication, creating a safe space for people of all walks of life to evolve through self-realization and the integration of Spirit into the human experience. He has been offering his services one on one and in group environments and has even brought meditation to corporate settings such as A&E TV Networks, Broadway productions such as Hamilton, in addition to the fashion industry while simultaneously working with your everyday man and woman. Joshua is a certified Reiki Master and holds multiple certifications in Vortex Healing.



"I, like a butterfly, flew from one place to another. I was lost, until I met other wonderful people like me, who helped me fly again." Maria B., The Brave House member

Belonging, being seen, loved, and understood play an important role to our wellbeing. Lacking any of these pillars at any time of our lives can fracture our mental, spiritual, and physical stability, which can take a lifetime to reconcile – heal. Lauren E. Blodgett, Esq. is the founder and executive director of The Brave House, the first and only non-profit in NYC that works specifically with immigrant women, ages 16-24 and youth who identify as female, gender non-conforming, transgender, or non-binary. As an immigration attorney and youth worker living in Brooklyn, Lauren is a self-described hugger, meditator, optimist, feminist, and a kid at heart who loves dreaming big, creating new things, and connecting with people. She describes The Brave House as, “Love. A reminder that we all need support, and that life is so much easier and more beautiful when you’re going through hard times while in a community. It’s a reminder that we are not alone, and that sometimes there’s no better feeling than connecting with someone who has walked similar paths to you and just gets you. It’s a space to feel understood, supported, and loved.” Lauren comes from long decades of Portuguese immigrants living in Boston, working in either education or government. They supported the creation of a Portuguese immigrant community outside of Boston where in “a cramped church basement, people could go to seek help with anything from English tutoring, to learning how to file taxes, to sharing a hot meal.” Lauren’s family’s immigrant


stories instilled her commitment to public service, along with the power and importance of community spaces for immigrants who are trying to navigate life in a new country. Living abroad after college gave Lauren “a deep respect for other cultures and a glimpse into the immigrant experience, though very different from what people experience when coming to the U.S.” This led Lauren to her current work with The Brave House. I asked her and some of The Brave House members a few more questions about the non-profit.

“The Brave House is an attempt to provide trauma-informed, holistic services to this community so that they can thrive and live the type of life they choose for themselves.”

Lauren, what drove you to start The Brave House? During my years as an immigration attorney representing teenage girls, a recurring theme I observed was a lack of non-legal support for my clients. They often asked me for assistance with many issues that fell outside the scope of their legal case, from enrolling in Medicaid, to obtaining birth control, to applying for financial aid for college, to signing up for English tutoring, to making friends. Many of these social services exist in New York, but

the barriers this population encounters in accessing them is often prohibitive, including: a lack of information, language barriers, a hesitancy to trust a new person/organization, and the challenge of having a young person locate a new office in a large city on their own. I saw a real need and opportunity to create spaces for them to connect with each other, heal together, and navigate the complex legal and social systems with the support of their peers. The Brave House is an attempt to provide trauma-informed, holistic services to this community so that they can thrive and live the type of life they choose for themselves. The more resources we connect them with, the more legal rights we can fight for, The more community we can cultivate, the more fully they can show up as their amazing, brilliant, radiant selves and achieve their dreams. Do you find doing this work healing? Absolutely. It is the biggest honor in my life that our members allow me to be a part of their journey. I find inspiration and strength from them every day, and I feel so fortunate that I get to spend each day in love and service. I’ve experienced forms of trauma in my own life, and I’ve found that peer support and friendship has been the most healing response, so being able to do this work really speaks to my soul. Do you find that the services provided by The Brave House are healing to its members? I hope so! But I’m very aware that I can’t speak for them and their unique experiences. One of my values as a leader is to be radically open to feedback. To that end, we’ve launched a youth leadership board







with seven of our members. We meet monthly and offer them a stipend for their time and input. We use those meetings to discuss what’s going well at The Brave House and what we can be doing even better. The goal is to have more of the young women in our community in leadership roles at our organization in order to make our services truly youth-led and youth-designed. We also want to create leadership opportunities so that they can continue to grow into leadership roles in their communities as well. How do those who need the services find you? Our members find us in a variety of ways: from coming to us seeking legal help, to joining because their friend or sister is also a member, to learning about us from their school counselor, to even finding us on Instagram! A major reason that members seek us out for legal help is because immigrants do not have the right to free legal representation in immigration court. This means that children as young as six years old must represent themselves in court. Facing this complex system alone is not only traumatic, but it has serious legal consequences. With an attorney, these girls can win their case 90% of the time, but without an attorney, those chances plummet to 20%. This statistic is even more shocking when considering that over 18,000 youth currently in New York immigration court do not have an attorney, creating a real risk that children are being sent back to life-threatening situations. This is truly a human rights crisis of our time, and it is why offering free legal services is a cornerstone of our work at The Brave House. Mia is one of many members whose healing and wellbeing journey has been supported by The Brave House. She calls it her second home, a place where she has learned many skills and from other members’ stories too. “Lauren and her amazing team have helped me a lot in a long journey,” Mia said. “Thanks to them, now I’m not afraid to speak mine or even share my story as an immigrant or even as a trans woman.”

“The goal is to have more of the young women in our community in leadership roles at our organization in order to make our services truly youth-led and youth-designed.”

Mia immigrated from El Salvador with low self-esteem and with dreams of becoming the “next top trans person to educate the younger generation that it’s OK to be you, and the only opinion that matters is yours and no one else’s.” Mia aspires to be the first member of her family to attend college and join the professional workforce, too. We can see how the community support Mia has received from The Brave House is helping her soar, and she has some great advice for us all starting with the need to “work 10 times harder. “You’ve got to be consistent when you want something,” Mia stated. “In this world, people would give you lots of ‘no,’ but that can’t stop you. Just keep trying again, and again, and again.” It takes a village to heal, and The Brave House is a light to many in The Big Apple. Learn more: thebravehouse.com




What does the word healing mean to you? This is just one of the questions we asked the artists, musicians and dancers who inspire our community. Here’s what they had to say...



What does the word healing mean to you? Healing means believing in life and the transcendental wisdom in everything around me. Healing is to live with mindfulness, and be brave to accept what life offers me, even if at first I think it's not good. To create space for looking inward, to recognize and accept all my emotions, all of which are pure and authentic, and to offer valuable information. It is to look beyond what I have been told it has to be, to find my truth, my sense of life, and what transcends myself. The path of self-knowledge is basic for healing, and you have to go through pain in order to grow and discover yourself. Describe one person, place, or event that inspired your healing journey. Many things inspire me, but above all, it’s Nature — the overflowing life around us, being able to connect with life on Earth, and feel that I am part of a whole. To acknowledge that we are interdependent and ecodependent beings who build lives with values. To observe and see the beauty that surrounds us and be willing to understand it. By understanding it, I mean accepting it with the brightness but also with the darkness. This happens by accepting our own darkness, because where there is light there is shadow. Accept that life has its rhythms and cycles, and learn to navigate and accept them. Acceptance is very important in the path of healing, and yoga could help us in this path.



How has creating art helped you heal yourself? Creating art helps me heal by connecting with the present moment, making me be here and now with all the senses and flowing through the pencil. It is like a meditation in which the mental noise disappears completely, and I feel full and happy regardless of the result. The search for beauty through art is healing for me and to be able to express things that, otherwise, I’m incapable to communicate with words. You give yourself in some way with what you create, and that what you do is true. It is also a way to connect with my essence; as a child, drawing was a way of genuinely expressing myself, but it was also simply a game. There is a healing power in the game, and I don't know why when we become adults, we stop playing. Playing should be part of all stages of our life. In play there is creativity, there is imagination, there is growth, and there is healing. Has creating art helped you heal others? I would love to think it has. It is one of the main motivations for me to do what I do, feeling that I can help or inspire others on their healing journey. This happens when you do it with authenticity, without any pretentiousness, but from your own experiences and life lessons. There is no greater satisfaction for me than someone telling me that my work motivates, inspires or helps them in any way. It is the best they can tell me, and it makes me feel immensely happy and fulfilled.




CHETNA MEHTA @MOSAICEYE deep-cleaning my body and mind from the inside out. All to eventually step forward again with a slap-in-the-face awareness that I am literally in the driver's seat of my own life and can either show up for it or take the passenger's seat, letting the values or expectations of others and these oppressive systems drive me. This experience was a turning point in my career. It inspired me to explore therapeutic facilitation, creativity as healing, and embodied gratitude for: my feet, of being able to dance, run, walk, skip, and stand the fuck up. I’m grateful for being grounded on the grass, absorbing the energy from earth, of the gifts of balance, speed, and stillness that this body, mind, and spirit give me daily. How has creating art helped you heal yourself? It’s an insatiable habit to look to other people, things, achievements, and circumstances to affirm our worth and goodness. I often found myself longing for validation from my partner, my friends, my mother, even random strangers, thinking that it’d be a balm for my anxiety, doubt, and depression.

What does the word healing mean to you? Healing is a practice of unlearning, relearning, remembering, and liberating. The -ing in the word healing is particularly important to me as it’s an indication of how much of a progressive process it actually is. Healing involves the consistent unlearning of colonial, patriarchal, and oppressive values and systems that we are immersed in. It means relearning what values we truly hold — beneath all the values we were told we should hold. Healing is remembering who we are in our miraculous, divine, playful, complex, and compassionate selves beneath the trauma and pain that life can imbue us with. We are healing, as we practice liberating our stories, visions, voices, pains, our gifts for ourselves, and our collective. Describe one person, place, or event that inspired your healing journey. Nine years ago, I fell asleep, literally and metaphorically, on Interstate 280 between San Francisco and San Jose at 1 A.M. on a cool night in September, and landed in a wheelchair to spend a few forced months



Drawing became my portal to a deeply nurturing and faithful voice within me. I remember the first time I approached my sketchpad with the question, “What do I long to hear right now?” One of the first affirmations that came told me that I was smart, purposeful, and important, alongside a woman embracing herself among nature. It was so potent for me to see this character on the page looking like me in peace and realization. She felt so connected. I felt oxytocin releasing in my body like I was actually being embraced. Although I didn’t know it at the time, it was a start to an empowering practice. The more I drew, the more I began to feel inspired by the things around me. I found muses in flowers, in trees, in podcasts, in people on the train, in my pain, and most lovingly, in myself.

The art gives permission to express, cry, and unapologetically affirm ourselves, especially as brown-bodied people.

Has creating art helped you heal others? I don’t believe I heal others so much as inspire them to heal themselves. The art I share normalizes the spectrum of humanity. Human shadows and powers, interconnection with one another and the planet. The art gives permission to express, cry, and unapologetically affirm ourselves, especially as brown-bodied people. I often share art from my own personal perspective; so rather than it being educational or telling people what to do, I illustrate characters who stand in their power, who affirm their own dignity, connection, and belonging. Seeing this often opens up something in others and invites them to practice it for themselves. As I depict in the art what I want to see in the world; kindness, compassion, forgiveness, self-awareness, and community, affirmation has found a home at the tip of my tongue. My inner voice of empowerment is emboldened and overflowing, ready to be offered to myself and anyone around me as called for. Being an affirmational and encouraging force, I know how to cultivate environments that are uplifting and kind, thereby making more space for those in it to compassionately explore their work of healing.







What does the word healing mean to you? Healing means repair. It means fixing the old sink that keeps giving you problems instead of leaving it there until it eventually breaks. If you are consistent in your “healing” practice, hopefully that means you’ll be installing the latest top-model sink that comes with a lifetime money-back guarantee. If you dabble in your practice, you’ll get the middle-of-theline sink installed that will give you problems here and there, but overall, it’ll work steadily when you need it. If you aren’t willing to put in the time/work to heal, then when that sink eventually breaks overtime, don’t expect the miracle delivery guy to show up at your door holding a fancy new sink. Healing means repair. Healing requires work. Healing ultimately means self-love. Describe one person, place, or event that inspired your healing journey. My own healing started the day I came into awareness that I get to choose how I want to feel. That awareness was triggered at its maximum capacity during my lowest point, after my divorce, that came with a story of endless lies and infidelity on my ex-husband’s behalf. That kind of deception smacks you so hard across the face you can no longer ignore what you have always intuitively known (even beyond that narrative). The reptilian brain kicks in and sends you into survival mode. For me, that mode meant healing, and tons of it! After two years celibate, homeless, alone, traveling around the world in search of coming back home to my SELF, I realized I’d always been there. That was part one of my healing journey. I am currently on chapter 100,303, and I see no end in sight. How has movement/dance helped you heal yourself Since day one, movement has been part of


my life. I was/am a professional dancer, an Olympian, choreographer, artist, teacher, and emotional guide. The tool for my entire life and career has been movement. I always say that without the healing, therapeutic aspect movement provides, I’d be dead. In fact, I’ve had two separate psychics say that to me as well. That’s why I created MovMEANT, my own technique guiding others into their freedom using movement as the tool to release

sarily have been through similar narratives, but we’re emotional bodies connecting with one another on a higher vibration. To heal oneself is to heal another; to heal another is to heal oneself. How we feel about ourselves is the energy we put out in the world. All of us are connected through this energy. There is no way healing is a solo sport. It involves everyone, even if they aren’t conscious of it. That is why I always say, “You want to make a positive change in the world? Start with you.” Heal yourself, love yourself and you will be healing and loving everyone else in return.

How we feel about ourselves is the energy we put out in the world. All of us are connected through this energy. There is no way healing is a solo sport. It involves everyone, even if they aren’t conscious of it.

trauma and come into clarity. It’s magical! It’s one thing to move, it’s ENTIRELY another thing to move in awareness with an experienced guide. That is what I share through MovMEANT. It’s my life calling. How has it helped you heal others? We can always help others, but we can do it more profoundly when we ourselves have walked in similar shoes. We may not neces-



EAST FOREST EASTFOREST.ORG What does the word healing mean to you? I reject the idea that we are inherently broken as humans. Yet I do adhere to the notion that we are here to learn, and in walking our walk, we are stepping deeper into love and karmic understanding. Any healing is just a loosening of the grip perhaps, as we let go into what is. Describe one person, place, or event that inspired your healing journey. Certainly meeting and working with Ram Dass during the last two years of his life was a profound


Simply put, I do not think I could make it in this world without music, and I do it because I have to.


experience that is still loudly reverberating in my life. His introduction to Maharaj-ji has opened my heart and propelled my own journey beyond where I expected it to go. How has music helped you heal yourself? Creativity and the expression of the human spirit is a vital aspect of my practice. Simply put, I do not think I could make it in this world without music, and I do it because I have to. How has music helped you heal others? I do not think I am healing anyone. I am aiming to set the stage to open doorways of perceptions for individuals to dive into their inner landscape and empower their own choices by hearing their interior truth.







What does the word healing mean to you? After all that I have witnessed in my own life and seen in the lives of many seriously ill people, I have come to the conclusion that healing has more to do with acceptance and adjustment to change than it does with “getting better” or being “healed” in the conventional sense of what that has come to mean. I’m not denying how wonderful it is to be cured of some serious ailment or debilitating illness, but it is in one’s approach, attitude, and perspective during a time of “dis-ease,” which is where the “healing” is actually allowed to take place. But whether the illness is gone or not on the physical level, a patient can still be healed on a mental and emotional level. The word “healing,” or I might say “true health,” is the ability to adjust to change. The quicker you can adjust to the changes that life brings, the healthier you are. Describe one person, place or event that inspired your healing journey. While working as a professional musician since 1980, I had an opportunity to do a live musical performance for a group of seriously ill children. During the entire performance I found myself holding back the tears. When It was done, I said I would never do anything like that ever again. Well as they say, never say never. I could not forget the look on the children’s faces, the joy, the response to the music each of them seemed to have. After that performance my focus shifted. My reason for being a musician was changing, it had become a more meaningful thing to do in life. It was no longer about being famous or dreaming about winning a Grammy, it was about giving the gift of music to others to possibly help them heal, feel better, change their mood, or simply put a smile on the otherwise


sad faces of those not feeling well and very much in need of a positive distraction. It was that moment that was the beginning of my road to co-founding Music That Heals, an organization that brings the healing power of music to ill children and adults through live, professional musical performances in various healthcare facilities throughout the five boroughs of NYC and beyond. At this time of COVID-19 we have initiated the “Through the Window” series, which brings personalized musical performances to patients, and now there are no barriers. We can send virtual performances anywhere in the world. How has music helped you heal yourself? It is with tremendous gratitude that I am able to say my life has been one filled with music and all the joy it has to bring. I started playing guitar when I was 12 years old, began doing live performances when I was 21, and have performed throughout the United States and Europe. It has been through bringing live musical performances into healthcare facilities

that I was able to find one of music’s most magical gifts: that is the power music has to heal both the audience and the performer, in other words, it is in giving that we receive. Of all the things in my life that I have experienced, music has been the ingredient that has allowed me to walk this life’s journey with gratitude, joy, love, and compassion. It is through the lens of music that I have been able to see the world. It has been both my ebb and flow, my healing in so many ways and on so many levels. How has music helped you heal others? Since co-founding Music That Heals in 1997 with my music partner Susan Weber, it has brought the healing power of music to over 1.5 million people. Through the Music That Heals program, each day we are sending something positive into the world. Touching lives one note at a time. Bringing a few moments of normalcy to lives that have been very disrupted due to illness and diagnosis. Music is a positive force in the world and is, as they say, the “universal language.”




What does the word healing mean to you? Healing is a return to a sense of home within oneself. Healing is the process of becoming empowered to know who we are beneath the layers of imposed conditioning from family and culture, and beyond the challenging circumstances of our lives. Healing occurs when we make peace with the past, integrating all our experiences, and cultivating wisdom along the way. There are many pathways to healing, and many wonderful modalities and facilitators, but none of us can heal each other. Healing comes from within, as we reclaim our power, reframe our narratives, and transform our relationship with ourselves. Describe one person, place, or event that inspired your healing journey? Also, how has music helped you heal yourself? I have been a musician all my life. From as early as I can remember, music was my saving grace. When times were challenging in my family, I would often escape into an inner world created through music, finding my peace there. While in music school, I began to explore the ancient traditions of sound, music, yoga, and meditation, known as NÄ da Yoga, and became quite curious about music as a transformative discipline.


Between 2003 and 2008, I journeyed around the world seeking to connect with sacred traditions in cultures other than my own, as well as exploring my own connection with Spirit. Though many people and places in-

spired me immensely, my experience in Peru was life changing. It was there that I was first exposed to cultural traditions that worked with music and vibration within the context of mind-body-spirit healing, and my path as a musician began to open in new ways. I have been blessed to connect with medicine people and healers who work with sound and music in a ceremonial way. I have made numerous journeys back to Peru, spending months at a time immersed in their company,

and receiving the healing transmission of their songs and traditions. In those spaces, the music drops me into my body and into my heart. I have been well- supported in learning to care lovingly for the wounded parts of myself, coming to understand my own shadows and radiance. Over and over again, this healing music has helped me to find safety, to take down the barriers within me, and to open my heart. As I deepened my healing journey, I was also inspired and encouraged by my mentors to explore the evolution of my own path as a musician. I began to receive original music and songs that were healing medicine for me. As I sang and played them, I grew in my understanding of how to carry their medicine to others as well. It was only through experiencing the healing gifts of those songs myself that I could embody their healing energy, and share them with others through my work. Having been a performer for most of my life, it was a profound and welcome shift to work with the subtle healing energy of sound and music, and I have never looked back.


Music allows me to experience an intimate connection with Spirit, and to listen well for what is needed for my community and clients. I facilitate healing spaces that invite others to heal themselves through their own direct connection with Spirit.

How has music helped you heal others? As I felt the call to step forward into healing work, I was reticent. The healing songs and energies continued to flow through me, and I eventually surrendered. I don’t see myself as one who heals others. Music allows me to experience an intimate connection with Spirit, and to listen well for what is needed for my community and clients. I facilitate healing spaces that invite others to heal themselves through their own direct connection with Spirit. In facilitating Sound Medicine work, I have many tools and instruments that create different sound qualities that evoke different states of being, internal landscapes, and ways of opening — all of which create the space for shift to occur. Perhaps it’s the words of a song that will help someone to surrender into a deeper internal space, or to have some new insight into a personal challenge. Perhaps it’s the clear frequencies of a particular singing bowl or chime that will help a client to find inner stillness and clarity. Perhaps it’s the gong that will awaken every cell in the body, bringing profound energetic, emotional, mental, or physical clearing. Perhaps it’s the synergy of it all that helps people to feel a deep sense of nurture and care that isn’t always available in busy day-to-day life. My role is to stay open and present, listening carefully for what is most needed through the musical capacity and tools that I work with.







It has taken me a while to recognize and accept some of my childhood experiences as trauma. For years, I found myself making excuses and minimizing events growing up. Now, I recognize that the events were traumatic and have shaped who I am both positively and negatively. As a way to deal with and grow from my personal trauma, I continue the exploration of different ways to heal, which has led me to ancestral healing. Although I believe there is afterlife after physical death, I want to understand what role my ancestors have in who I am. How does relating in conscious ways with my ancestors support my psychological health? How does ancestral work help heal the intergenerational patterns of my own and my family's dysfunction. I want to understand why certain patterns of behavior seem to be ingrained in me and how certain trauma still reflects and shows up for me. I recognize this work is important to break the chain by being fully aware of the patterns and making the change. As I continue to delve into ancestral healing I invited Petrel Wallace, a mindfulness guide and energy healer to expand on how we can begin the journey of ancestral healing. How did you begin your exploration of ancestral healing? I was completely unaware of what ancestral healing was years ago, but three profound experiences during the practices of Yoga Nidra, Kundalini, and energy healing left me deeply moved. I knew I had transcended to a state of being that connected me to a higher, yet familiar place where I was surrounded by nurturing energy of loved ones. Later, upon learning about


epigenetics and transgenerational trauma, I realized those three specific experiences were much more; I had opened the lines of communication with my ancestors. These experiences grounded me and became a catalyst in my journey of self discovery. As a Mindfulness Guide, I introduce modalities of energy healing to lead people back to themselves, their center, and their

"Once connected with ancestors, you experience an awakening of self-awareness, which requires a commitment of a deeper respect and responsibility to live life differently."

energetic foundation, so they may live the fulfilled lives they are called to live. Can you explain what ancestral healing is? Ultimately, it’s a personal relationship with those before us, the environment, and our Creator. It’s a direct line of communication with elders and gurus. The presence of spirits, animals, and elements of nature provide guidance through conversation, visions, dreams, and day to day confirmations (aka “coincidences”). Ancestral relationships give us a connection to something greater. We carry their energy, DNA, knowledge, joys, and

traumas. Once connected with ancestors, you experience an awakening of selfawareness, which requires a commitment of a deeper respect and responsibility to live life differently. Ancestral healing practices are personal but may involve: prayers, meditation, chanting, dance, the offerings of libations or foods, lighting candles or smoke rituals through burning herbs or incense, and creating altars or sacred spaces with mementos honoring their presence. Holding space through cultural practices keeps the ancestral energy alive and near. What are the benefits of ancestral healing? When one discovers ancestors or familial lineage, they become more self-aware. Connecting with ancestors brings us closer to our true, unfiltered being. We are comprised of many elements, from biological to energetically or spiritually, of those before us. We are made of the land our ancestors lived upon. The greatest benefit for me has been connecting the dots of the generational stories of my family. Ancestral healing has supported me in gaining confidence in my voice and more compassion for others. I am learning that I can move at an unpopular pace and still get where I’m supposed to be. I am becoming a warrior of self-care, prioritizing rest and finding ways to nourish my spirit. I now understand self-care is not selfish, it’s actually a service or love to others. Who is considered a spiritual ancestor? One’s direct physical lineage only holds so much value in our normal day-to-day life, especially due to the fact we typically 67

only develop relationships with relatives we know personally. A fortunate few of us may actually know our great-grandparents, but seldom do we know generations beyond. Spiritual ancestors can be that connection we’ve been longing for. Spiritual ancestors can be someone from your genetic lineage or someone that has been sent to guide or protect you. They can present themselves through energy, animals, elements, a voice, a vision, an intuitive thought, or meditative practices. In my journey, the most profound experiences have been through Yoga Nidra, Kundalini, Energy Work, or Reiki. Is ancestral healing on both bloodlines or just the maternal bloodline? Both sides of my family have deep roots in various modalities of healing. I have heard stories about healers going back for many generations on both sides, This includes everything from conventional western medicine professions, revered community leaders, and those sought for guidance on variations of African and Indigenous cultural practices. Like many, there's a lot of dysfunction in my family! How does ancestral healing help with our families' patterns of family dysfunction? I completely identify with that! I was reared by my great-grandparents, so I have always had a different perspective when it came to mother/daughter or father/daughter relationships. My biological parents maintained an active but somewhat distant presence. I never felt a parental void because my great-grandparents fulfilled my needs. Love was abundant, and they worked hard to provide my wants and needs. I had an amazing childhood and felt that I lacked nothing however, the greatest challenge in this journey has been coming to terms with the latent impact of my relationship with my biological parents and how it has shown up in adulthood. Ancestral healing has been a journey of discovering why these relationships have been so problematic. Gaining greater depth and holistic understanding of who they were, birthed a level of compassion I could have never imagined having for either of 68

"Ancestral ties can expose traits within you that you may not be aware. The pain or anger we project may be a reaction from generational trauma.

them. Although it has been a rocky journey, I am grateful for new perspectives and healthier boundaries. I suggest ancestral work for anyone struggling in this area, as it creates space for recognition of the toxic patterns carried through familial relationships. It brings more attention to the reasoning behind what we consider natural reactions and how they may be interpreted by others. In my personal experience, it has been about developing a greater sense of why I am who I am, how I show up in the world, the impact I make and the various elements of my being that require more contemplative assessment and day to day work. How does ancestral healing transform patterns of pain and abuse? Ancestral ties can expose traits within you that you may not be aware. The pain or anger we project may be a reaction from generational trauma. Surprisingly, these can be very tightly interwoven. Unveiling the layers and removing the filters of our behaviors can be quite transformational. Once we are able to identify certain components of our behavioral patterns, we can begin to assess what is reactionary versus what is truly from the heart or core of our being. What we register as pain in some cases, may be disappointment in unmet expectations. While unmet expectations may be hurtful, ancestral connection may give insight to view this momentary disappointment as a form of protection or even

redirection. These revelations are pivotal to healing ourselves as well as relationships with others. Applying this concept to dysfunctional parental relationships for instance, one may never arrive at a place where they can “forgive and forget.” However, sitting in the reality that there is a possibility that a parent did the very best they could do with what they were given may allow a release of the burdens we carry from being the victim of their dysfunctional parenting. We instead, can choose to redefine the relationship and empower ourselves by considering the lessons we have learned in the journey as gifts for self development. Does Reiki help in generational healing? Yes, energy healing in all its various modalities such as the Japanese practice of Reiki, the African practice of Kemetic energy work, and even Western nurses’ practice of “laying of hands,” all aid in the release of energetic blocks that lie deep within our bodies. These blocks or imbalances may present emotionally, physically and in our relationships with others. We are often unaware of where and why these imbalances exist. Through energy healing, we have the ability to reset our energy system or return to our natural center or harmony, which can renew and reinforce our connection to a greater source. Energy work taps into parts of our energetic makeup and creates space for us to operate in the highest and best versions of ourselves. It nourishes an awakening of sorts, the revelation that your ancestors are actually right beside you; they have been there and will continue to be there for a long time. Honoring their presence and acknowledging their guidance is how we show gratitude to not only them, but our creator as well. Petrel Wallace is a certified advanced yoga teacher and Reiki Master Teacher with specialized training in yin, meditation, breathwork, sound and energy healing. Learn more colibrimarlife.com.







What the heck is Reiki? We sent our friend Melissa to experience a session with Dr. Sarah Biffen and to report back to us about her experience. We also asked Dr. Biffen to share with us what a Reiki experience is like from her perspective, and what you can expect. We share both their perspectives with you here in our contiuning 101 series. “Whoa! I just won Monday!” Or at least that’s how I felt after I completed my first 60-minute Reiki session. Who knew that midday Reiki would prove to be exactly what this gal needed to start the year. Here’s what happened. Dr. Sarah Biffen was warm and inviting, and I immediately felt at ease in her office. We sat down for an initial consultation, detailing I had no major ailments. She explained that reiki would engage the parasympathetic nervous system, or simply put, our “rest and digest” system, the opposite of our sympathetic nervous system, or our “fight or flight” response. Dr. Biffen iterated that she would be transferring energy using a light and gentle pulsating touch. I was still mystified. As I settled onto the heated massage table, I couldn’t help but wonder if the experience would feel like a deluxe yoga savasana. The room began to fill with scents of sage and lavender, and an eye pillow was appropriately placed. Although Dr. Biffen highlighted she would use her acupuncture expertise during the session, I knew she wouldn’t be using needles. Could Reiki also target specific medians? Dr. Biffen began the Reiki session with a sustained light pressure with fingertips on my brow ridge. The sensation made me feel more relaxed. In fact, being so relaxed the entire time, I didn’t peek to check to see what was actually happening. Nonetheless, I surely felt like her entire palm or hand creating an energy force on specific points along my ribs, hip points, calf and knee. The light and sustained pressure exuded a positive, warm and healing energy. The session ended with a light sensation of her fingertips on the knuckle points on my big toes. Although the reiki session was completely relaxing, I was curious about the energy exchange. Did she realize I felt exhausted? I received a hard yes in our post-Reiki discussion. Dr. Biffen had absolutely sensed my energy was depleted. I was impressed. As Nikola Tesla famously said, “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”


Are you ready to let the power of reiki balance your energy? Here are 10 tips to help you enjoy your Reiki experience. 1. No Shoes, No Socks, No Worries I discovered that Reiki is best with exposed feet. However, I am sure Dr. Biffen would have made an exception if requested. 2. Mindful Breathing Slow it down. Let your breath move deeper and slower. 3. Meditate The Reiki table is definitely an opportunity for meditation as well as relaxation. 4. Aromatherapy Dr. Biffen allowed a choice. I love lavender! 5. Vulnerability There were definitely moments I felt vulnerable and unsure of what would happen next. If you feel triggered, don’t hesitate to tell your Reiki practitioner. 6. Ghost Hands I felt the phenomenon of the Reiki practitioner’s hands on my body after they’d been removed. Crazy! 7. Tummy Rumbles ‘Tis a rest-and-digest experience, so I appreciated that Dr. Biffen alerted me that my stomach may rumble. It did! 8. Emotional Release She mentioned I may have an emotional release within 24 hours after a Reiki session. I didn’t notice any particular emotion, but I did feel more energetic. 9. Water Dr. Biffen recommends drinking lots of water afterwards. Let any toxins be released. 10. Follow-Up Expect a neat follow-up email from her detailing how to increase the benefits of Reiki.



The origins of Reiki begin a long way from New York City. Roughly translated from Japanese to mean “universal life energy,” this increasingly popular form of light or non-touch energy work was developed by Dr. Mikao Usui. Revealed to him by way of his own spiritual quest, Dr. Usui sought to find a form of medicine accessible to all. Introduced to the United States by Hawayo Takata in the 1930s, it dwelled quietly among the American public for decades. By the time I connected with this practice 10 years ago, the quietness of Reiki in American culture had elevated to a murmur. While it was often recognized in wellness circles as an effective energy therapy, it had yet to develop a popular understanding. In fact, I feel it’s safe to say it was still largely considered “fringe.” When I first sought out training, the options were limited and relatively difficult to find, even in a progressively-minded hub like New York City. Finally settling on a small training group held in an Upper West Side apartment, I received my first attunement and certification. continued on next page



The landscape has changed drastically within that time, as people continually seek out complementary therapies. With a wellness industry nearing $5 trillion, Reiki has rightfully attained a place within the American cultural consciousness. It has gone from “woo woo” to an increasingly recognized form of adjunct therapy. Now you can find Reiki trainings in the city with relative ease, with the therapy widely offered by private practitioners, at wellness centers and even hospitals. The word is officially out, and even the government is taking note. Several intriguing National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) studies are examining Reiki’s efficacy in controlling heart rate variability, decreasing cortisol levels and regulating body temperature. In short: tackling burnout. Reiki was only the beginning of my healers’ journey. Shortly thereafter diving headfirst into a master’s degree in acupuncture and Chinese medicine. However, a Reiki practice remained throughout, and enabled me to course correct my own burnout along the way. Now, as a private practitioner, I often incorporate this healing modality into my work. Having an extensive background in Chinese medicine, and primarily working as an acupuncturist, I’ve been able to recognize the synergistic relationship between these two forms of medicine. Reiki like acupuncture is a powerful tool to stimulate the meridian channels of the body. This partly works by activating the parasympathetic nervous system (our “rest and digest” functions) and calming our sympathetic nervous system (our “fight or flight” responses). I often give clients the example of a tried-and-true test of patience in New York City: the subway system. Not only do our meridians comprise our body’s circulatory, lymphatic and metabolic transit systems, but a backup on one will almost assuredly inhibit the others. Easing flow within meridians is crucial for systemic health, and these interventions nurture an optimal healing environment. Proprioception is another important mechanism in Reiki response, and one I like to draw attention to in my discussion with clients. This is our body’s innate ability to sense where and what it’s doing, without us having to actively think about it. It’s sometimes lovingly referred to as our “sixth sense,” and I like to think of it as part of our aura. This hardwired extra-sensory perception is sensitive to the intention of what is in our personal field. Again, thinking back to the subway. We may walk on to a train feeling wonderful, but if that’s not the general vibe, you will almost certainly walk off feeling very different. Even without physical aggression. The same goes for who and/or what is in our sensory field. Reiki therapy partially works by tapping into that innate DNA-level intelligence. Being such an individualized experience, the reactions of each client are incredibly personal. For this reason, I like to be in touch with patients both before and after Reiki treatments. Offering guidance on how to prepare and what to expect. Here you’ll find some of my favorite tips for before and after your treatment. Always remembering that we are our greatest healers.


HOW TO PREPARE: Have a light meal Don’t arrive hungry or incredibly full. Clothing Wear comfortable, preferably unrestrictive, clothing. Avoid caffeine and alcohol consumption Both before and after treatment. Keep an open mind!

POST-REIKI SELF-CARE: Stay Hydrated Be sure to drink lots of non-caffeinated fluids for the rest of the day. This continues to help fluid metabolism and lymphatic drainage in your body. Plus, water is an excellent energetic conduit. Nourish Yourself A sense of hunger post-Reiki is not uncommon. Be sure to listen to your body and nourish it with a healthy snack or light meal in the hours following your session. Gentle Movement Moving your body with light activity and gentle stretching is an important way to increase the calming effects of your treatment and continue to clear the mind. This can take the form of a long walk, restorative yoga or simply stretching at home. Meditation and Mindfulness Buzz words these days, but for good reason. The benefits of these mental states are being studied, and are widely shown to increase mental function and clarity throughout the day. This practice offers the perfect support for Reiki treatments. Go With the Flow Reiki can bring up various emotional responses. This looks different for everyone and is often something dormant that’s finally able to release. Don’t fear this: our bodies and minds need an emotional release. I find it helpful to channel this into whatever creative way speaks to you. Find something that is relieving for you to express. Whatever helps you relax and reflect.








odern man and woman broke their connection with the soil in the 1920s when tractors were introduced to farming. We leaned more and more on machines for doing our work with the earth in the 1950s and 60s and never looked back. This led to the mass production and transportation of food, and a subsequent explosion in population. Humans have a need to stir the soil with their hands and feet in order to interact with the microorganisms that help to build our immune system. As more of us moved to cities and began living in sterile environments, we compromised our internal gut flora and immune system. This is why weak viruses like COVID-19 impact westernized nations so powerfully. We are ill-equipped to mount a decent fight against a moderate pathogen. Our ancestors have been battling the microscopic world for millions of years in order for the genome to spiral all the way to the present moment. We are descended from the strong.


In the practice of asana, we become acutely aware of the concept of rebalancing. In warrior three for example, the ankle will tremor as energy shifts between the lateral aspect of the foot and back to the medial aspect of the standing foot. The foot also works to balance weight between the ball and heel, as the motor cortex in our head fires electricity through the nerves, to reach the most distal parts of our anatomy. With training, we become sensitive to the stability offered by the earth, though our feet. Rebalancing is part of the art of life. We are a species that lives and learns, and our greatest strength that has helped us survive the tough times is our adaptability. We can practice an asana hundreds of times, in a habitual way. Then when a skillful teacher offers an insightful assist, we experience a shift, a free flow of subtle energy that was previously unavailable. When the skeleton is properly aligned, ease replaces that obstruction so prana can flow freely.


Our global economic culture has been ignoring the need to replace the resources we consume. We are cutting down trees at a faster rate than we can plant them. Fossil fuel consumption is altering the quality of air we breathe. Our imbalance with nature is now starting to show itself in adverse health effects on the human body, particularly among those living in cities. We have fallen out of sync with the divine mother.


I grew up on a 36 acre farm in Upstate New York. I’ve been dreaming, in my 40’s to return to nature. When we locked down New York City in March 2020, I decided to live that dream. I thought it was the perfect nudge from the Universe, to return to my roots. After 25 years in New York City, I bid farewell to the concrete jungle and traded in my Diesel jeans for Carhartts and Wranglers. I moved to a log cabin on a farm with 10 acres and a stream. I got 21 chickens, a fistfull of seeds, a bunch of tools, two barns, a wheelbarrow and some work gloves. I started to recall skills from my childhood and began to recover memories of lessons about the land from my parents. I was making a circle and began appreciating the simple life. There was a fourmonth adaptive process because the shift to country living takes time. In the country, there is no 24-hour Korean deli around the corner. Instead of sirens and helicopters, one hears coyotes howling and owls hooting. You drive from place to place instead of walking or riding a train. The night is pitch black and the stars shine bright. Frogs, fireflies, and crickets make a nonstop symphony of fluid, converging vibrations. Time slows down once you adjust to the rhythms of nature. You don’t have to be a shaman, farmer, or lumberjack to tune your mind-body system to nature’s song. Here a few practices that can help you reconnect to nature, no matter where you live.


Find a plot of land in a park or the forest. Take off your shoes and socks, and walk barefoot. Feel each step, and as your weight finds footing with the soil, know that you are interacting with the frequency of the earth. There is an energy that emanates from the center of the earth, due to its spin over the molten core, that sends a vibration to your feet. Draw that energy to your root, at the pubococcygeal muscles, or mula bandha. Feel how you are connecting the ground of your being, to the earth beneath your feet. Notice how the earth supports you, always giving you the energy to sustain your body from the food it grows.


Our planet is fueled by the power of the sun via photosynthesis. Like the plants, our bodies too need the light of the sun, for the endocrine system to be balanced. There is a natural rhythm to entraining with the sun, as so many Ashtanga yogis will tell you. It is wise to rise with the sun and slow down as it leaves the sky. Try to take a 20 minute walk in the sunlight a few times a week. As you walk, thank the sun for fueling your body and the planet. If you would like, you can even repeat this mantra mentally, “Om Surya-Ya Namaha” meaning (Sun) The dispeller of darkness, responsible for generating activity. Feel the sun on the crown of your head, your face, and your hands, and think of cosmic consciousness. Allow the light of the sun to overcome any darkness in the mind from fear and self-limiting beliefs. Channel positivity inside yourself with the light.


I recommend fasting with the seasons to anyone interested in optimal energetic alignment. Fasting taps us into our innate capacity for healing and rebooting our entire physiology. As the season turns, I recommend blocking out three days to yourself, to reduce your intake of food, or to only drink water over 72 hours. As you


practice your seasonal fast, find the patterns of nature within your own body. Notice the seasons within the body, and how each season has an emotional context. You can consider the spirit of each season, as you fast. In the winter, think about how you move inward. In the spring, think about how you prepare to plant seeds. In the summer, think about the fruitage of the seeds you planted. What has bloomed for you? Come fall, you can think about what is coming to an end for you as things die and prepare for frost. In this way, we can sync the emotions (our insides) with the seasons (the outside). The body begins to heal itself and strengthen the immune system during a fast. Think of “cleaning the pipes” inside you. Imagine that you are scrubbing the taste buds clean of sugar, fried foods, and food additives. Your natural ability to taste is reignited after a fast, and your senses will go for a ride from the simple bite of an apple or a tomato. One definitely appreciates healthy food after a fast. Fasting is not appropriate for everyone, so check in with your doctor if you are brand new to the idea of restricting food.


We develop a strong immune system when we eat the food of our region. If food is shipped from afar, it loses potency, and doesn’t usually merge well with our bodies. When we ingest locally-grown


food, our immune system is fit to fight the pathogens of that area. This way of eating matches our ancestral history. Local eating aligns us with the ability to unlock our personal genetic potential by reducing inflammation. Train yourself to eat foods that you can efficiently break down and merge with. If we are inflamed, we are constantly at war with our food, burning more energy to digest it than it yields. Knowing your regional agricultural production taps you into the local environment and it’s needs. One can feel a sense of pride, in caring for the area that is nourishing and constituting their body!


The new moon and the full moon are opportunities for potent meditations. The new moon is the emptiest time of the month; this is the fertile moment to plant your seeds. Consider what it is you want more of in your life. The full moon is the ripest moment of the month; you are ready to reap what you’ve sowed. Be grateful for gifts received lessons learned. As you tune your body with these external patterns, you will find yourself flowing more with the cosmic rhythm. Our body is a piece of nature we take everywhere, it is our motherly body. When we honor our body we honor the larger part of nature that we are part of! Learn more: jaisugrim.com @NY YOGALIFEMAG

Mindful Sparks BY: DR. NIDHI KAUR

One hundred trillion connections and eighty-six billion neurons create the complex network of our brain. However, the true sophistication of construct lies in its endlessly changing nature. Every second of every day, our brains are analyzing each facet of our existence to help make sense of…well, everything. Each time the brain’s intricate neuronal network fires up, it follows a specific path based upon our past conditioning. This means that what has happened to us shapes how we perceive and analyze our present reality. Our brain integrates the information our senses gather, with the neuronal pathways it is familiar with, to manage cognitive function. What does this mean and why should I care? It's important to discuss the difference between the mind and the brain. Your mind is your consciousness – the thoughts, emotions, and awareness of the world around you. It is likely how you define and see yourself. Your brain is the highly complex structure recognized as the physical source of your mind. Understanding that those are separate, yet inextricably intertwined, is illuminating. When you have a thought or experience an emotion, a series of electrical signals must fire in your brain for it to exist. These signals consist of a string of neurons that pass specific neurochemicals to one another until the thought is complete. So, what happens in the brain manifests itself as the mind and what happens in the mind can determine how signals happen in the brain. Are you trying to tell me that I can control electrical signals in my brain? In a way – yes. Consciousness changes the brain while also being changed by the brain. In other words, if we can change our mind, then we can change existing neuronal pathways, and re-wire our brain. The brain’s cortical re-mapping capabilities is called neuroplasticity. This ultimately means that we can choose to make the area of the WWW.NY YOGALIFE.COM

brain associated with happiness, stronger. By training the mind in the same way we train our bodies, we can create new neurons and new neuronal networks in our brain.

It is the consistency of that action, the ability to perform it repeatedly, that makes it an incredibly challenging practice. Well—at first anyway.

The relationship between our mind and brain is not unlike a beautiful, delicate dance. How we understand it and approach it, dynamically changes our experience for either better or worse. If we allow our mind to respond to the world around us negatively, then we fire up the neuronal network associated with those negative thoughts. If we allow it to happen over and over again, we effectively make the area of the brain associated with unhappiness stronger. However, if we allow our mind to respond to the world around us positively, then we reinforce the neural network associated with happiness stronger.

What do you mean at first? Does it get easier? The relationship between your mind and brain is sine qua non, which means that one cannot indispensably exist without the other. More importantly, if you strengthen one then you strengthen the other. Building the practice and the habit of being mindful is the most challenging part. Consider this: ballet can appear “effortless” from the outside looking in, but make no mistake, the art is a rigorous sport. Ballet dancers notoriously harbor an unparalleled discipline, a fraction of which, could make a world of difference for us.

So, the more important question becomes —how do we respond to our own lives? How do we stop our mind from jumping out of the present moment and into a story about a story about our reality. We must first bear witness to the very existence of our mind, as it relates to our life. My mind is what I’m using to bear witness – how can I observe my mind? Let’s think of this as non-judgmental mind inception. You observe your thoughts, sit with them, and watch them pass through – without judgment. In doing so, you slowly begin to understand the quality of the neuronal superhighways you have built over the years. That is absolutely remarkable. We can bring a part of our consciousness—or the mind, to become aware of another part—a different part—that is no longer serving us well. Mind inception, the conscious watching your consciousness, when exercised without judgment, is mindfulness. Mindfulness means to bear witness to yourself and the present experience, just as it is. Silent, non-reactive observation in of itself is a very simple act of consciousness.

A deliberate, disciplined practice is the only way to strengthen our brains, and effectively, our minds. Adopting a meditation habit, where we set aside 10 minutes every morning, can shift the trajectory of our lives. It’s really hard to make the choice and actively set those minutes aside but once we do, it gets easier over time. We get better at sitting still. So, meditation is mindfulness? Meditation is a tool to develop mindfulness. Try it, you may be surprised by what you uncover about yourself. Every day we must choose the quality of our neuronal pathways—actively choose healthy thoughts that support our well-being, hearts, and consciousness. The better the quality of our neural pathways, the happier our greater neural network becomes. Reinforcing thoughts that make us happy will allow us to shift our relationships to life. Choosing a higher consciousness, one that is aware of and non-judgmental of your present consciousness, is choosing to expand your mind. It’s a choice that can spark a whole new world of possibilities. Mindful sparks – how beautiful.







For the last ten years, Lindsay Fauntleroy has been supporting women, especially women of color, with acupuncture and plant medicine. Even in the best of times, she has seen how difficult it is for people to get the spiritual and emotional help they need. The harsh realities of 2020 brought into sharp focus the gap between those who are in need of healing and those who have access to it. In direct response, she created the Soul Medicine Clinic to make alternative medicine more affordable and accessible to communities that may not normally have access. For a sliding scale fee, patients receive a 45 minute virtual session with a certified practitioner, and a flower essence remedy mailed to their door. What was your inspiration behind the Soul Medicine Clinic? My inspiration for the Soul Medicine Clinic was seeing how many people in my community are struggling right now. 2020 started off with a bang — Black and Brown communities were hit hard with COVID-19 both medically and financially. The health disparities, along with economic disparities, became really visible here in NYC. Before we could deal with the impact of COVID-19, we were catapulted into an exploration of institutionalized and systemic racism. It’s traumatic, it’s triggering, and many are witnessing for the first time the discomfort of feeling unwelcome, threatened, and violated in their country. The clinic is a space to process those things. It's also a way for folks who are WWW.NY YOGALIFE.COM

not necessarily used to trying holistic and alternative medicine to experience it. In indigenous medicine, there is no psychology without nature or spirituality. I think the Soul Medicine Clinic brings this back. I’m happy that we are moving back into a paradigm where it's more widely recognized that stress and trauma live in our bodies, and humanity is not separate from nature.

"The clinic is a virtual space that integrates plant medicine with mind-body medicine. It recognizes that the healing the world needs right now is not just the mind or the body, but the spirit." There is an African proverb that says, “I am because we are, and We are because I am.” Because we are coming together collectively, we are able to do so much more for the community than any of us would be able to do individually. That really inspires and empowers me. What does the clinic do? The clinic is a virtual space that integrates plant medicine with mind-body medicine. It recognizes that the healing the world needs right now is not just the mind or the body, but the spirit. It is a collaboration between myself and practitioners that have gone through my practitioner certification

program. We offer services Monday through Friday for folks to call in and process this moment of change and transition, emotionally and spiritually. After the session, we send a flower essence remedy to support that person’s goal — whether that’s healing from trauma, mending a broken heart, reconnecting with a sense of purpose, or welcoming abundance. What communities does it support? All of the practitioners are professionals with successful clinical practices, and are available for full length consultations. However, this clinic is especially supporting: 1. Those that are underrepresented in the alternative wellness industry, such as people of color. 2. Those who are facing economic strain. Typically speaking, alternative medicine services are not covered by insurance with very few exceptions. So acupuncture, massage therapy, all of these wellness practices are really accessed more easily by people who have fluid, disposable income. The Soul Medicine Clinic is a way to support those facing economic strain, pre-COVID-19 or as a result of COVID-19 3. We're also recognizing and welcoming people whose service love and labor are under compensated. That includes: our essential workers that we applauded for every night here in New York City during the height of the pandemic, undocumented immigrants, Black women who are statistically


compensated at lower rates than their white colleagues. 4. We’re supporting populations with statistically higher rates of untreated stress, anxiety and depression, especially and including Black men. I’ve been running a program for high school students, and I hear their fear, resilience, vulnerability, and triumph. 5. There are a lot of activists, community organizers, and social change agents who are on the front lines. We want to support those folks in feeling clear, healthy, and whole so that they can go out and continue to do the work that needs to be done to heal the karmic wounds of this country. 6. People of color who are energy workers. Most of the practices and modalities that are part of alternative medicine come from


Black and Brown lineages. And even though we don't necessarily see that face, we want to give a shout out to the ancestral energy that's carrying this work forward. How can we support? Please help us spread the word. If you know folks who fit into any of those categories, people who need some extra support, send them to Soul Medicine Clinic. We are also welcoming financial support. Of course, your love and prayers are welcome, but we really need financial support to compensate our practitioners and keep this sustainable. We have a Patreon account, and we hope that you will reach out to us and support us there. Learn more: oceansandrivers.com


Preserve Yourself


“Trust the process,” we all repeat. I think of a crystal — its development is basically a harsh reaction of mixed Earth elements which manifests to what we see and find deep connection with. Another is a caterpillar’s natural submission into a period of darkness to welcome its new form, a beautiful butterfly. I try to inscribe these relations in my head to keep focused on getting through the times of today. We’re in a very interesting vortex, a lot of things are happening in strong consistency. I felt a general pressure from the masses to operate in an unfamiliar level of hasty panic and confusion, not process. In mid-March, we experienced the pandemic of coronavirus causing our entire world to shut down, which led to the forced acknowledgement of prejudice against African-Americans in this country, leading into the 2020 election. Where exactly are we going? I couldn’t help but feel drained physically, mentally, and spiritually. I only heard the call of a much-needed pause, a side road to park in life; I needed something to slow the pace down. Where’s the guide reminding us to breathe when we forget? The rat race has transformed without hesitation from physical to spiritual. How is one expected to thrive in, literally, destination unknown? How can one trust the process when trying to process? I, by my own nature, became recluse and observant. I manifested with caution; I felt the times are too fragile for any errors made. With a strong understanding that karma in Sanskrit means action, I knew my actions would be major factors of what my process’ completion looks like. The COVID-19 pandemic taught us all one major lesson, “YOU ARE NOT IN CONTROL.” This acknowledgement took me into a hole, AKA my bedroom, where I


laid in torment of our shared reality. I was stranded in NY, away from my family, and people were dying by chance of flu symptoms or by the hands of racism. My bedroom was my safest place. I understood and understand that we all are in this gap, so I could not allow this to be a reflection of me. The isolation of quarantine forced me to see me. I saw me the human, the spirit, the individual. I heard only my spirit and the divine forces guiding. I was not making money due to lack of work, but acquired wealth spiritually. Instead of being social, I fine-tuned my alignment with destiny. When you know your destiny, how can one truly give into outside factors? I couldn’t just say yes anymore as I once did to every request or inquiry; everything is now after me. I guess fear will reshape you to apply more to yourself. This new discovery of true self-preservation gave me room to be present with myself. It forced me to tell myself the truth so I could no longer carry anything outside of my control. My focus was/is to deepen a harmonious personal relationship with myself mentally, physically, and spiritually; provide for myself what the outside world lacked for me. This personal space gives me authority on my boundaries. My new direction opened the door for me to see exactly where I flawed in this execution. Pre-COVID-19, I was able to tackle misguided attachments, faux relationships (intimate and associate), imposter syndrome, and acknowledge many things buried in my subconscious. I was recommended by a mentor to attempt a method called psychography, most commonly known as automatic writing or spirit writing. Automatic writing allows a person to produce written words without consciously writing. I made it my own by just waking up daily, posting my morning meditations, preparing my tea and notebook, then just

writing whatever came to my mind. This morning exercise allowed me to sort my thoughts. I was able to account for aged deep thoughts that were never properly processed. I traced habits that were selfsabotaging and habits that needed to be utilized more in my life. I developed a comfort in the present. I was able to free up mental space from many blockages of past occurrences. I found myself more upfront with my current circumstances and conditions. This concept allowed me to speak with a confident truth. My yeses and noes were all authentic. As an Ifá devotee and practitioner, this method has cleansed my mind’s space and strengthened my prayers, building the ability to conjure a strong command in one’s manifestation to destiny with our multiverse. I see our current condition as "destination unknown.” We have no clue what’s happening next, yet we’re all here rightfully. The battle of living in destination unknown, and letting go of the previous normal has been a journey. It has led me to hold the notion to be a part of Earth like a crystal or a caterpillar. How can I allow myself to go through this process effortlessly and in confidence of my safety? I do not have the answer. I have to just be and receive this as a mysterious wonder in my life. I am carving a vision of my destiny in my head. Holding it as my gold, praying for all protection from invaded access; that image is me blessed, blissed out, and victorious is my fortune. I have to, by any means necessary, protect it; access is denied. Last year, I dreamt of a child incarnation of Ọṣun (the orisa, the spirit, deity, Yoruba mother of all mothers, divine femininity, healing and fertility). She told me to be like the sky: be present, be beautiful, be seen but not reachable to many. Now the message is very clear: Preserve yourself.




Lara Parker Interview BY: JL STERMER

Lara Parker has had vagina problems since she was 14 years old, suffering from constant pain in her abdomen and vagina that got much worse during her period. Figuring everyone was having the same experience and just not complaining about it, Lara kept her extreme discomfort to herself. Each month would get worse as she would throw up, pass out, and miss days of school because of the pain. When she eventually spoke to her doctor, she got the brush off: "Periods are supposed to hurt," she was told. Lara has spent many years working with multiple doctors and has spent tens of thousands of dollars to get a handle on what's going on with her body. As a deputy editor at BuzzFeed, Lara shared her experiences online. Last fall, her debut book Vagina Problems gave readers a candid look at how she navigates life, sex, work, dating and the pain of putting on jeans when your vagina just hurts. I’m a huge fan of Lara and I'm also her literary agent at New Leaf Literary & Media. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Lara for this issue, especially after working with her to develop and sell this timely and much-needed book. JL: How would you describe your relationship with your body? How has it evolved over the years? LP: My relationship with my body now is the best it has ever been. Anyone with a chronic illness can likely understand the feeling of being at war with your own body. I've felt like I've been at war with mine since I was a teenager. I started experiencing debilitating symptoms when I was around 15. At 28 now, I never thought I would get to the place where I felt that I could put down my armor and sort



of be at peace with my own body. But now, most days, I feel that peace. It took a lot of work — years in therapy, meditation, journaling, and just letting myself fucking feel it. But I finally got here. I think the turning point for me was redefining what it meant to be a person with a chronic illness. I had this idea in my head of what life should look like (especially in your twenties) and I had to sort of throw that out the window. I did the same thing with the idea I had in my head about what sex should be. Life for me didn't have to be climbing mountains or going on amazing vacations to Thailand. Life could also look like me sitting on my couch surrounded by friends as we watch the latest episode of 90 Day Fiance. Sex didn't have to mean penetration. Sex could mean sitting naked in a bathtub with someone I deeply care about. And once I was able to give myself permission to redefine these things, it was easier for me to stop hating my body so much for what I felt like I was forced to miss out on. Of course I still have bad days. I still have days where I pick that armor back up again and go back to war. But I suppose these days it's more like small battles and less like a seven year, never-ending war. JL: You are super candid about the daily physical pain you endure from endometriosis and it seems unbearable at times, but you inspire so many people by being open — were you always this truthful with your partners, friends and family, or was this level of honesty something that grew out of experience? LP: Absolutely not. It took me a very long time to find the courage to open up about the pain that I felt was eating me alive from the inside out. When I was first diagnosed with endometriosis and then subsequently diagnosed with vaginismus and vulvodynia, I honestly felt like my life was over. I felt so alone, every single day. It was the darkest and deepest depression that I have experienced in my life thus far. And I think a large part of that was because I had no one to talk to about what I was feeling and what was happening to my body every single day. Part of the reason it was so difficult to speak up was because a lot of my


"And suddenly it dawned on me how not alone I actually was in this. I just never stopped talking about it after that. In part because it was such a relief, but also because I wanted it to be less stigmatized so that the next young girl who was going through this didn't have to feel that hopelessness." issues and pain were centered around my vagina! And that's not necessarily something you can easily discuss at any given moment. I certainly wasn't going up to my friends in college and asking them if they had ever cried putting a tampon in. But the more I kept it inside and didn't talk about it, the more I felt it eating away at me. So one day, I just opened up. And I felt such a sense of relief afterwards. I didn't even stop to think about the fact that my seventh grade english teacher now knew I wasn't able to have sex without crying out in pain. I was just so relieved to fucking talk about it. And slowly but surely other people who were suffering with similar issues came out of the woodwork. And suddenly it dawned on me how not alone I actually was in this. I just never stopped talking about it after that. In part because it was such a relief, but also because I wanted it to be less stigmatized so that the next young girl who was going through this didn't have to feel that hopelessness. So that she could know she wasn't alone.

a pedicure or whatever. And honestly? I think that's fine. To me, it's all about being kind to yourself. If your body is hurting really fucking bad and you're feeling low and you just want to get your damn toes painted, you should do that. For me it looks different every day. It could be sitting on my couch with cannabis watching my favorite reality TV shows one day, and the next day it could be me taking my dog on a walk. I don't necessarily consider it spiritual, but it's been very important for me to find a way to be on my own side during this. And a lot of times that means treating myself well and not denying myself the small pleasures in life. JL: You get more CBD and weed promo treats than anyone I know! How has weed affected your outlook on life? Do you partake to escape your body or to have a better understanding of how to live inside of it? LP: Cannabis has truly transformed my life. I use it for so many different things — pain relief, appetite stimulation, sleep, etc. — and it has helped my symptoms so much more than anything else I've ever experienced. But to be honest, a lot of times when I use cannabis it is to escape my body. When I smoke a really good joint during a pain flare, it's almost like it allows me to float out of my painful body and watch it from above. I am still aware that the pain is there, but it's harder to care about it when I'm high. It's harder to focus on it. Instead, I want to focus on the TV show I'm watching or the D-list reality star that I am stalking on Instagram. It's an escape many days, but an escape that doesn't take me very far away and doesn't leave me feeling worse off when I finally come back to my body.

JL: Do you have a spiritual practice? Physical or otherwise?

JL: Anyone who follows you knows you are an expert shopper. What role does shopping play in your life? How does clothing, lingerie or being in the buff affect how you feel about your body?

LP: I believe 100% in self-care. So much of the discourse around self-care has sort of been...transformed into this idea of getting

LP: Shopping and I have had a tumultuous relationship over the years. For many, many years shopping to me was like a way


to pretend I wasn't sick. I would buy jeans that I knew would murder my vagina and my stomach but I would tell myself, "One day, when you're feeling better and you aren't sick anymore, you're gonna wear these." I would take the jeans home and put them in my closet and there they would stay. Because I didn't feel better that week. Or that month. Or that year. And every time I would open that closet door and see those jeans, I would just be reminded of the life and the body that I didn't yet have, and maybe would never have. These days, shopping is a way to take back ownership of a body that has felt so out of my control for so long. Wearing lingerie allows me to remind myself that I am sexy and desirable and a bad fucking bitch despite the fact that my vagina hurts. JL: Do you ever wish for a Freaky Friday scenario where you could switch bodies with another person for a day/week/month/indefinitely? LP: I have wished for this so many times that I've lost count. Of course there is a part of me that wishes I could trade places with someone who is able-bodied just to see what it's like. I want to have pain-free sex. I want to eat a piece of chocolate cake without feeling sick as hell afterwards. I want to run a fucking marathon. I want to swim with dolphins. But I find that wishing for things like this only set me up for failure. So I'll say that for the most part, I don't. Not anymore. I'm more focused on my own life and celebrating all the shit I can do that 19-year-old Lara never thought possible. JL: And lastly, what do you want people who are trying to cope with a chronic illness to understand about how you navigate your journey? And for those who want to be an ally — what basic advice can you share that will help people be supportive of what they don't truly understand? LP: Everyone living with any sort of chronic illness has to find their own journey. These journeys are going to look similar, but they don't always have to be the same. There is no "right" way to live with an illness. You don't have to eat plant-based or do yoga every day. You can do whatever the hell you want to make yourself happy. I think that's the biggest (and one of the hardest!) lessons I've had to learn on my own journey. And for anyone who wants to be an ally — it's OK to just sit with us in our pain. I think oftentimes people can become frustrated with a chronic illness because they are unable to "fix" it. There is no cure. There is nothing you can do to fix the medical part of it. But you can be there! You can sit with us in


our pain and say, "I am so sorry you have to live with this. But let's get high and watch TV." Order your copy of the book Vagina Problems: Endometriosis, Painful Sex, and Other Taboo Topics


Healing Cards HealingArt OG’s


There are so many good quotes reminding us to live in our highest potential and perhaps to even heal that which doesn’t permit us to do so, as is the case of musician Dave Grohl’s “No one is you, and that is your biggest power.” As our own worst critics, oftentimes we forget to trust the inner wisdom that knows “what’s up” — the truth like no one else does. Luckily for us, there are traditional OG healing art practices like yoga, meditation. There are also fun tools like tarot/oracle cards, encouraging us to look inward and powering up our individual gifts in order to step into the world fully integrated — mind, body and soul. It’s so great to have choices and fun ones too. I like to think of the tarot cards as our traditional wise grandmother, requiring patience to get to know all the secrets it holds within its set of 78 cards holding the Major and Minor Arcana. They provide detailed personalized subconscious insights. Oracle cards on the other hand, is the younger spin-off, the wild child. Oracle decks can hold any number of cards and are great for a quick dive anytime to set goals and affirmations. I am not a tarot/oracle expert by any means, but like many, I enjoy interpreting images and messages in cards to help me organize my feelings and thoughts. I still remember sitting underneath a tree in Central Park with the first deck I purchased flexing my intuition muscle some years ago. Since then, I’ve become an avid tarot/oracle card collector, creating a wellness mixology practice that includes meditation, journaling, and yoga. It brings me joy to see how others in my community, like actress and yoga instructor Amanda Gloria, take the cards for a spin, weaving them into their offerings to the


studying Bhakti Yoga in Rishikesh, India with LL Studio. During our breaks, I would go to the market by The Ganges. I found a quaint and fascinating bookstore where I found Goddess Oracle Deck by Doreen Virtue. When did you start incorporating them with meditation and yoga classes? I started reading about the goddesses in the deck and found some threads of Indian mythology of goddess in the deck. I expanded my collection to include Crystal Angles deck, Ethereal Tarot, Ganesha deck, Paths of the Heart, Spirit Animal deck, and most recently, The Moonology deck.

community so we can all be reminded to shine bright! Amanda, tell us a little about yourself and how you got introduced to using tarot/oracle cards? I grew up in Edison, NJ and spent most of my adult life living in Brooklyn, NY. I spend most of my time exploring life through the lens of arts and yoga. I have been an actress since I was 10 years old, and have been teaching yoga since 2012. I am inspired by storytelling and that has added a huge layer to my practice and offerings, whether it's poetry, myths, or tarot/oracle cards. As a late teen and in college, I used to get tarot readings done with a family friend. I fell in love with oracle cards and exploring tarot/storytelling, and I found a place where I could understand it. I have many friends that read tarot and oracle cards, but I wanted to pave my own way. Do you remember the first deck you got? I got my own deck in 2015 when I was

I used to teach a big Friday night yoga class, that was like our Friday party, where I would thread specific themed classes into card reading. Years later, I had an Instagram Live community show series called, "Sit and Sip", where I would lead an interview with inspiring community members who specifically have a mission in sustainability, community, mindfulness, equity, and more. We would kick off the show with chat, sip tea/coffee, then do oracle card reading into a meditation. It was a phenomenal experience. A lot of folks come to yoga to work, heal something whether it's body, mind or spirit related. Do you find tarot/oracle cards healing for yourself and your students? I think healing comes from within and to truly believe in our potential. The tarot/oracle cards are like additional insight or tool to your story. I do not believe they tell the future, but rather add color, shape, and creativity to our story called life! Learn more about Amanada: amandagloriavaldes.com and read her card pull online nyyogalife.com


We tried it series:



Red lipstick, oh how I loved thee. Before COVID, you could always find a tube of red lipstick in my purse. No matter what I was wearing, the moment I added red lipstick (and a pair of gold hoops didn't hurt!) I instantly felt better. Needless to say, my lipstick tubes have all been acquiring dust over the last 10 months, as masks have overtaken our lives.


HONORABLE MENTION: Ogee Hydraganics Sculpted Lip Oil, Color: Fuschia Love the smooth application. The jojoba oil and CBD are super moisturizing for my dry lips.







TOP PICK: Kosas, Color: Violet Fury As much as I loved the lipstick it didn't survive long under my mask. Without a mask the lipstick lasts longer. It started to come off after about four hours. I absolutely LOVED the color and how moisturizing it was on my lips.


I was amused at how shocked I was to see red lipstick again, and flawless at that. How had she managed to keep her lipstick perfectly intact under her mask? In that moment our next installment of “I tried it” was born and our beauty and wellness editor LouLou, set out to find us the best in non-toxic mask proof lip wear for the NY YOGA LIFE team to test drive. Check out our lipstick experiments below.






I clearly remember one day last fall walking down a rather empty street, and a woman walking in my direction was carrying an iced coffee wearing her mask. She looked around and seeing as I was still a good social distance away, she quickly moved her mask

to the side and took a sip of her drink, revealing the brightest lipstick’d red lips!

TOP PICK: Clove and Hallow Lip Velvet, Color: Darling WiIth a mask I’d give this five stars! The formula stayed on my lips while wearing a mask for hours without smearing on the mask or feathering on my face. Without a mask: The lipstick is flattering and has become my go-to shade. HONORABLE MENTION: Vapour Beauty High Voltage Lipstick, Color: Legend While the color smears when you’re wearing a face mask, it’s the perfect pop of red for a last-minute Zoom meeting or FaceTime happy hour.











TOP PICK: Be Natural Organics, Color: Wild Orchid When wearing a mask, the lipstick does come off so I would only wear it with a disposable mask. It has a very smooth and shiny application that makes my lips feel like butter so I don't mind reapplying. I loved this brand!


HONORABLE MENTION: Jane Iredale Lip Fixation, Color: Blissed Out This is definitely a lipstick you can wear under a mask that will not stain the mask or come off. The color is a lot darker once applied so I would wear it for a fancier event and not everyday.



TOP PICK: Jane Iredale Lip Fixation, Color: Content It’s a natural stain, I appreciate the very nude hue. It was not as messy on the mask and not all over the face. HONORABLE MENTION: Moreau Regime Cosmetics, Color: Googles. With a mask, I’m not a fan. The lipstick was messy — I look like I had a very hot make out session with my mask. Without a mask I’d give it 10 for hue and vibrancy. The color is beautiful. I love the dark rouge.


TOP PICK: Lipslut Matte Liquid Lipstick, Color: F**k Trump This color is a miracle — honest to god it lasted all day. Mask on, mask off, eating, drinking, everything. At the end of the day (after wiping it off!) there was still a bit of color left on my lips like a natural rosy flush. In addition, Lipslut donates 50% of profits to charities that fight for women’s issues like ACLU, Planned Parenthood, NOW and She Should Run. You get to pick the charity of your choice at check out. HONORABLE MENTION: Fat and the Moon Lip and Cheek Stain. While the color is very subtle, I love the way this feels on my lips — incredibly moisturizing, and it smells like geranium.




- JO N E S












TOP PICK: Pacifica Glow Stick Lip Oil, Color: Crimson Crush Comfortable and vibrant. The color was exactly as pictured after only two coats of application. It was moisturizing, no scent, comfortable to wear. It should be patted prior to wearing a mask to avoid color transfer (Leaves some minimal lip crease marks in the mask). HONORABLE MENTION: Plant Makeup Lip Tint, Color: Red Rose I was aware that it was on the entire time as it has weight to the oil, however, if you pat away the outer layer of gloss, it leaves a nice stain that can be worn underneath the mask without transferring.




TOP PICK: Thrive Causmetics, Color: Rowan This lip gloss goes on with a matte finish and stays in place. No messy lip prints on the inside of my mask at the end of the day! Stayed on after eating, even after wiping with a napkin. Lasted after hours of wear! HONORABLE MENTION: Vapour, Color: Blaze. I love the feel and finish of this lip color. It did leave a bit of a print on the inside of my mask, but not as much as some of the brands I had previously been wearing. I’d reserve this for disposable masks and virtual socializing.


TOP PICK: Moreau Regime, Color: Jack D. Ripper I loved everything about this lipstick, from the beautiful deep color, fun name, and the long lasting wear. This lipstick stood up the the mask test with flying colors! HONORABLE MENTION: Lucky Chick, Color: Courage 2 While I loved the shine and pop of color that works with most skin tones (even my mom looked good in it!) it was way too glossy for under mask wear. This one is better suited for zoom calls.



Real Talk:

Sunscreen, Blue Light and

Protecting Your Skin Year-Round


As we’ve started to spend more time in front of our screens, the topic of skin damage from blue light has become more present. As someone who is at high risk for melanoma, sunscreen is a fixed expense for me, and topics of skin protection are always front of mind. The more I see on the topic, the more questions I have. I spoke with Chicago-based dermatologist, Mona Gandhi, to get the real talk on skin protection. SM: What are your thoughts on the benefits of sunscreen vs. the effects of its chemicals on the skin? MG: The benefits of wearing sunscreen far outweigh the risks. Sunscreen protects our skin from harmful UV radiation which can lead to skin cancer and premature aging. I recommend daily physical blocker sunscreen, ones that contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, which are not absorbed into the skin. They act like a shield reflecting the harmful rays.

MG: Yes, sunscreen should be like brushing your teeth. Everyone, everyday, no matter what the temperature is outside.

SM: There's been a buzz lately about protecting skin from blue light. Are our phones and computers really damaging our skin? Are we doing damage by spending so much extra time in front of a screen due to quarantine during COVID-19? MG: Yes, simply put screen time and exposure to blue light damages collagen. I recommend daily sunscreen and adding an antioxidant vitamin C serum to boost protection against the free radical damage caused by blue light exposure.

SM: Are there any negative effects happening to our skin from wearing a mask every day? Wearing a mask for longer periods of time can flare acne or cause MG: more breakouts. In general, washing your mask often will help. It is important to cleanse the skin twice daily and apply a moisturizer to help prevent mask irritation.

SM: Should everyone wear sunscreen year-round?


SM: Are there other ways we can protect our skin if we are worried about the effects of chemicals in sunscreen? MG: I recommend minimizing prolonged sun exposure during peak sun hours from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. Wearing wide-brimmed hats and sunprotective clothing provides added protection.

SM: Are there any skin care tips you'd like to share as we face colder weather? MG: Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!


Game Changer’s Guide to

Healing Your Life


I knew something in me was broken. My heart hurt. Nothing seemed to help. It didn’t matter how much I practiced asana, ate the right foods, meditated, or read the words of great sages. My relationship with life was broken. I am a successful culture consultant, a wellness advocate, a yogi. I work with corporations to heal their organizations and improve employee productivity. I love what I do. But even with all my success, I couldn’t help feeling that something was missing. I felt the gap of this something in the ache I felt after a meeting; the social anxiety I felt when gathered with friends; the wee-hours spent wide awake, cast aglow by that eerie blue light of my phone as I tried to distract myself from the feelings in my heart. I knew I needed help, but had no idea that the issue was my relationship with life. Recognizing When Life is Broken I found that help behind a nondescript door in a fancy apartment building on NYC’s Upper East Side. I had the option of taking two trains to get there, but my diva nature told me to hop in a cab. I didn’t know what this meeting would be like, but I harbored hope that it would be lifechanging. I needed it to be. A swarthy, handsome man, middle stature, greeted me. He had converted the one-bedroom into an office, with few items, nothing extra, everything topnotch quality — a deep jewel toned, finely woven wool carpet covered the floor, two simple carved wood chairs were positioned facing each other. He waved me


into the one, and took the other. Within minutes, I knew that simple space would be the container to important lessons. In the forty sessions that followed, he walked me through all the ways that we damage our relationship with life, the cost of it, and the benefits and steps for healing. Life is a Relationship Think about the nature of life — random, organic, unfolding, wild. Life resists control, defies expectation, and is incapable of being untrue to itself. Contrast that with what we have been taught to do — cultivate identity, assert our will, scrutinize all that happens around us with an “I LIKE” or “I DON’T LIKE.” We judge everything and everyone that happens across our path, like pouty children convinced that we must have things our way. If you imagine life as a friend, these patterns would surely be destructive to the relationship. Who among us would be safe to unfold, to reveal and to evolve in the face of such scrutiny, such constant critique? I had studied Buddhism and other Eastern traditions enough to understand the nature of suffering as well as aversion and attachment. Thinking about life in this way was new. What if life itself is the most important relationship there is? What if we treated life as a Beloved? The Wall of Negativity Working with this teacher, I learned to look at things differently. I began to see that my habit of judging everything put a wall of negativity between myself and life — harboring deep conviction about how

things should be prevented me from aligning with what is. The cost of this is constant heartache, victimhood, and an indignant sense of injustice in the face of Life simply being life. The symptoms and resulting dis-eases are countless. Others can feel this wall of negativity which limits the ability for those interactions and relationships to flourish. In work and other pursuits, the rigidity of expectation limits creativity and functions as a roadblock to working collaboratively with what is, as we become mired in our expectation of what should be — should-ing all over the world, ourselves, life itself. Cleaning the House, Tending the Garden To heal your life, you must enter into it by first cleaning the house where your energy literally lives — in your thoughts. My teacher invited me to consider all I am as a dwelling, an abode, a garden. The negativity I was bringing into my dwelling was the equivalent to smearing grime anywhere I might look. By cultivating a clean “house,” by tending to your garden, by lavishing it with light and good nutrients, you allow life to flourish. The upside — energy, empowerment, a renewed sense of self and the sovereignty to participate in the dance life is always inviting us into. You’ll know the difference between having a feeling and investing precious energy into rightness that doesn’t lead to action. You’ll be able to hold the whole of what is happening around you with a sense of options and power to direct your impact in alignment with who you are. In a word: wholeness.


While it is as simple as aligning words, thoughts and actions with life as it is, like all simple truths, it can be tough to create a new habit. Here are five practices to get you started: 1.Notice negative thoughts Upon awakening each day, remind yourself to notice the content of your thoughts. Are they negative? Do they put you in opposition to whatever you are watching around you or inside of you? As you use this practice, you’ll see how often you are unconsciously finding fault with the world around you, with others, with yourself. As you catch this habit in action, ask yourself what it serves. Superiority? Indignation? Rightness? When you tuck into bed in the evening, replay your day with loving appreciation for however life has unfolded. Imagine whatever you behold as a complex living being, and imagine the damage that stance would be to your relationship. 2. Watch energy As you hone your ability to be aware of your thoughts, the other aspect of becoming the witness is to watch your energy shifts. As you experience life, notice how your opinion about your experience goes beyond the cognitive and becomes a physical or felt sense. When finding fault with life, you will feel an internal contraction of some sort, for each of us these may present in specific habituated patterns. Any time you feel yourself contracting, it is a red flag. It is a gift signaling you to look at how you are framing or applying a negative narrative to whatever is happening. 3. Take time to dwell Dwelling doesn’t mean mulling something over or ruminating. It means to truly inhabit a space, and as my teacher taught me, the space that is your own being. Set time aside to literally move your awareness into your experience of being. Set a timer for this and choose a comfortable position, such as laying on the floor or bed. Close your eyes and train your awareness on what it is for you to simply be. Like in meditation, thoughts will arise,


and like in meditation you can simply watch them, but different from meditation, you’ll watch how those thoughts trigger shifts in your being. By becoming an expert on your being, you are taking another step in developing the skill of optimizing it. 4. Nurture vision What if whatever you see is part of the vision you are creating for yourself being in harmony in life? Yes, including COVID-19, including the economy,

"As we look at the world around us, this need for deep alignment and healing of our relationship with life is evident in much of the strife present." including whatever you are watching in the geopolitical arena. Your visions should encompass and include whatever is there as a springboard for what you would like to evolve into, even if how you would like to evolve is the abject opposite of what you currently see. What if your ability to create was unfettered by needless expenditure of energy, conversation or actions that are not aligned with what is? Pick an issue that you would like to see different than you see it today. What if the allocation of energy to critiquing or being enraged saps you from being able to see the situation fully and take action? 5. Align action This is where you become that skillful gardener. Before undertaking any action, ask yourself if that action is in alignment with

your truest flourishing. This may mean questioning and correcting long-held routines or patterns. It may mean speaking your truth in new, loving ways. It will mean working to evolve relationships to reflect this aligned relationship you have with life. Your aligned actions become the nurturing of the garden of your life. To keep myself honest, aligned, and deeply connected to this generative relationship with life, I created an anchor or litmus test for myself. You can think of this as a navigational true north on your heart compass that you check each time you engage with others or even in your interaction with yourself. My anchor is a question, “Is this my greatest good?” It could result in a quick yes or no. Equally, it often expands my consideration of whatever I am engaging in for deeper alignment with self and compassion for my heart’s needs. Yours may be a catch phrase, an idea, a lyric, or even an image. Choose one for yourself and use it without hesitation. As we look at the world around us, this need for deep alignment and healing of our relationship with life is evident in much of the strife present. For me, these insights and practices have yielded greater physical health. They’ve brought lightening efficiency in how I say yes or no to whatever comes my way. My work and social interactions are more fulfilling. Allowing life to be itself with me has reduced my anxiety, along with it’s sidekick, depression. I feel more whole and authentic in all I do and am able to do so with deep peace in knowing that life is on my side. Am I always aligned? No. But rather than wandering the energetic black hole of judging my life for whether or not it conforms to my idea of how I think it should be, I now have alignment as the path that matters.

Learn more about Tevis and her work balanceintegration.com. Her book, The Game Changers Guide to Radical Success is now availiable.




When we think of how to define health we think of being free from disease. Many people today are living with chronic debilitating symptoms, but until they are given a “label” or “diagnosis” by a medical provider, they are viewed as “healthy.” Some of the most common symptoms I see people suffering with every day include: migraines, fatigue, insomnia, gas, bloating, autoimmune disease, bowel changes such as constipation or diarrhea, skin problems like acne and eczema, and much more. Often these symptoms get pushed aside and people believe they have to just accept living with this life-altering ailment or depend on prescription medications for relief. We forget how incredibly smart and protective our bodies are. Our symptoms are the body's way of talking to us, but too often we fail to listen or are told nothing is wrong even though we know this is not true. So what exactly triggers our bodies to speak up and how should we be responding? The common ways of maintaining health include a good diet, exercise, and rest. What impact does the environment have on our well-being? Inflammation is the root of most symptoms, but what is the root of the inflammation? Conventional medicine fails to recognize how toxicity from our environment can drive a chronic inflammatory state, leading to a chronic stress state inside the body. This is the root cause of most chronic illness. When this happens, our immune system senses a forgein “invader” — this can be a pathogen such as a bacteria, parasite and/ or virus, or an environmental toxin. The immune system, in an attempt to protect the rest of the body, increases inflammation to the area to isolate the “invader.” 92

"Our symptoms are the body's way of talking to us, but too often we fail to listen or are told nothing is wrong even though we know this is not true."

This inflammation is then sensed by our pituitary gland and stimulates the adrenals to secrete cortisol. Cortisol is our body's internal steroid but it can also put us into a sympathetic state or “fight-or-flight mode,” Constant excretion of cortisol leads to eventual burnout and inability of the adrenals to manage blood sugar, inflammation, and control our immune system. This can lead to chronic illness such as: heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, weight gain, fatigue, and a weakened immune system. When the immune system is weakened, we begin to have overgrowth of viruses, bacteria, and candida, a normal yeast that everyone has in their gut, that otherwise would not have caused a problem. Today, people try to sterilize an environment to avoid pathogens, but in reality, we live with bacteria on and within us all the time. We can actually live in harmony with these bacteria until our immune system is weak-

ened. For example, candida can overgrow when the immune system is weakened by toxicity. This overgrowth of candida can lead to symptoms like bloating, skin rashes, vaginal yeast infections, and even mood changes. Where do these toxins come from and how do we avoid them? Unfortunately, they are present in almost everything we use on a daily basis: from the air we breathe, to the water we drink, to the food we eat, self-care and beauty products we use, the clothes we wear, and cleaning products we use. Thankfully, this is becoming more recognized and many companies are developing non-toxic products for safer consumer use. To find out if a product is toxic, visit the Environmental Working Group website. There, you will find resources for clean products and ways to reduce your toxic exposure. How do you get rid of toxins that you are already exposed to? Well, this is a bit more complex because each person has an individual genetic makeup that affects their ability to detox. Working with a functional medicine practitioner is the most effective approach, but sometimes this isn't an option, so here are some tips to get started at home: Eat detoxifying food: • Foods that detox heavy metals from your system include: cilantro, dandelion, blueberries, chlorella and green tea. • Broccoli, cauliflower, and kale support the liver, as do healthy fats (nuts, seeds, and avocados.) • Ginger Increases the body’s natural antioxidants in the kidneys, and


parsley is a powerful herb that naturally cleanses the kidney. Garlic, oregano, rosemary, pumpkin, and papaya seeds help rid the gut of opportunistic bacteria, yeast, and parasites.

Dry brushing: The lymphatic system is responsible for the removal of white blood cells, bacteria, viruses, toxins, and other molecular debris from every tissue in your body. Dry brushing pressurizes the tissues, which helps push fluid through the system. Exercise and movement also help the lymphatics to drain, and you can give yourself a lymphatic drainage massage (there are helpful tutorials on YouTube). Passive sweating: One of the best ways to support detox is through passive sweating. Passive sweating occurs when we are still, and our body is much more focused on detox as opposed to active sweating, when our body is focused on muscle movement. Passive sweating can be achieved through the use of far infrared saunas which is much more effective at moving toxins than traditional saunas. In a far infrared sauna, only 80-85% of the sweat is water — the non-water portion is cholesterol, fat-soluble toxins, toxic heavy metals, sulfuric acid, sodium, ammonia, and uric acid. If you don’t have access to an infrared sauna, try an epsom salt bath. Use an air filter: Air filters can filter out unwanted microbes, toxins, and other dust pollutants. Many people think being indoors keeps them safe from air pollutants, but often indoors is more toxic than outdoors. Formaldehyde is the most common pollutant found in homes today. It's found in plywood paneling, medium-density fiberboard, particle board furniture, shelving, and paneling. Other common indoor chemical pollutants are: glues, paints, cleaning products, garden and pool chemicals, air fresheners, and personal care products. When looking for a high-quality air filter, look for a True HEPA Filter and UV-C Sanitizer. These filters can also kill airborne viruses, which is clearly a big issue these days. In addition, try to exercise in clean air — movement, especially in fresh air, can filter out the lungs. This prevents stagnation and WWW.NY YOGALIFE.COM

the accumulation of toxins and bacteria. Getting into nature and areas where there are more trees, such as parks, is best. Invest in a good water filter: Most people think drinking tap water is “safe.” In reality, all tap water contains some level of toxicity that slowly builds in the body and eventually leads to chronic illness. I advise everyone to avoid drinking any tap water. Many people are aware of the idea of filtering our water, but it's important to use an effective filter that removes all potential toxins. Examples are: Aqua Gear, Zero Water, or a Berkey. There are also whole house instal-

"The great news is that our bodies love us and want us to stay in balance. We just sometimes need to give them a little extra love in order to maintain our health." lations that can be done to ensure bath and all sink water is filtered. Try some herbs: • Peppermint tea upregulates bile flow through the liver. This allows for the passing of more toxins into the gut. • Milk thistle is another simple and safe herb that helps support liver detoxification. • Marshmallow root can act as a diuretic to help your body have a natural kidney cleanse. • Bromelain, papain, turmeric, sarsaparilla, and red root help cleanse the lymph. Use binders when detoxing: Take binders, especially when you are supporting the organs of detox. Binders are substances that can bind to toxins in the body,

at the gut level so they can be excreted through bowel movements. This is important because when we support the organs of detox, it can dump toxins into the bloodstream, but they don't necessarily leave the body unless they bind something else. An example includes activated charcoal, which should be taken on an empty stomach and only take for 3 days on, 3 days off. It’s so effective it can bind to nutrients as well, and should be used carefully. Chlorella is especially helpful for mercury (one of the most common heavy metals) and is a smart binder, which means you can take it with food and it will only bind to toxins. Look out for an upset stomach with this one since some people are sensitive to it. Take probiotics: Gut health is foundation to wellness. Most people aren't aware that our gut health plays a role in our immune system, mental health, and even hormone balance. Consider taking a high-quality probiotic to support gut health. My favorite is a spore-based probiotic. Unlike live probiotics, the spores implant in the gut and are not depleted by the acidity. It's also important to “feed“ the healthy bacteria with fiber and lots of vegetables (oatmeal and Jerusalem artichokes are two of my favorite “prebiotics”). Look out for increased bloating when you add probiotics or fiber to your diet — it may be a sign of small bacterial overgrowth. In this case, you should work with a functional medicine doctor to treat appropriately. The great news is that our bodies love us and want us to stay in balance. We just sometimes need to give them a little extra love in order to maintain our health. This information is meant to empower us and remind us that there are things we can do to reduce and remove toxins, and prevent and/or reverse chronic illness. Learn more: Danelle Aliseo, AGNP, AHN is a Board-Certified Holistic Nurse Practitioner. She works at Rahav Wellness with Dr. Miriam Rahav. Her focus is to help as many people as she can to achieve optimal wellness and root-cause resolution from a multi-disciplinary approach. Learn more rahavwellness.com. 93

The Healing Power of

Physical Therapy Interview with Dr. Candace Harding BY:FRANCES HUNT

Over the last year, I have experienced increasing pain in my iliotibial (IT) band. The IT band runs along the outside of the thigh, from just above the hip to just below the knee. According to my physical therapist, it's likely due to overstretching, overuse, and incorrect form after years of yoga practice. Currently, physical therapy includes some yoga poses as well as additional strength exercises. As a result of my physical issues, I have become increasingly interested in anatomy as it relates to yoga, as well as how I can protect my body in order to continue my practice as I become older. As a yoga student and teacher, yoga brought me to seek physical therapy, yet it’s pretty ironic that my healing involves practicing yoga. I am excited to begin this conversation with Dr. Candace P. Harding PT, DPT, OCS, PYT-c who is a physical therapist and yoga instructor.




Dr. Candace Harding on Physical Therapy and Yoga Health is multifactorial, but in order to heal, people have to be willing to change and grow. It is important to acknowledge that people have to be committed to healing and open to the ways that it may take form. As a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a yoga instructor and practitioner, I am aware of the therapeutic benefits that the two mediums provide. In the orthopedic sector, physical therapists (PTs) prescribe movement, provide activity modifications, and educate on lifestyle factors that will assist the body in its innate ability to heal. Healing and wellness are about more than the physical body. For true health, we need to address the physical, psycho-emotional, social, energetic, spiritual, and intellectual factors that make a person who they are. Physical therapists are trained to identify barriers to physical healing within the aforementioned realms, so that we might address them or refer you to someone best suited to help address them. However, that does not mean that all patients are ready to address many of the “other” factors that impact healing, most of which are driven by mentation and choices. Physical therapy is not only beneficial for your physical function, but meant to educate regarding healthy lifestyle choices associated with nutrition and exercise, so that physical function is optimized for longevity and assists in the prevention and/or reduction of chronic illnesses (i.e. diabetes, elevated cholesterol, hypertension, coronary artery disease, etc.). Yoga lends itself to the care of the psychoemotional, energetic, and spiritual factors that determine how people experience pain and healing. Yoga provides the benefit of movement, but recognizes that movement doesn’t become therapeutic until it has been prescribed for an individual by a professional. One’s mental state controls the neurochemical and physiological state of the body. Yoga provides space for practitioners to turn inward, reflect upon them-


selves, to yolk with the universe, and reduce stress. As a result of the choice to withdraw, the vagus nerve activates and allows the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) to function. The PNS is responsible for our sense of safety, our bodies ability to prioritize rest, digestion, and healing. Pranayama is one of the limbs of yoga. When pranayama employs the thoracic diaphragm and/or the practice of lengthening exhalation, the PNS is activated. PNS activation allows the body to become an environment where the heart doesn’t have to work as hard and there is less physiologic stress. Thus, pranayama translated

Healing and wellness are about more than the physical body. For true health, we need to address the physical, psycho-emotional, social, energetic, spiritual, and intellectual factors that make a person who they are.

as the “extension of vital life force,” is accurate. Even the sound, “Om,” creates vibrations throughout the body that activates the PNS. Pain and stress are functions of the sympathetic nervous system; therefore, yoga is likely to reduce pain from a neurochemical standpoint by reducing your body’s ability to create an environment suited for pain and inflammation. For true healing to occur, people have to desire to change, to put the work in, and know that the innate capability is within. They just need people to educate, guide, and instruct them along the way. Given you are both a physical therapist and yoga instructor how do you think movement informs your therapy with yoga students?

Even though lots of us go to regular yoga classes because of perceived therapeutic benefits, it is not a form of therapy unless the class is led by a certified yoga therapist. If I’m teaching a vinyasa class, for example, I sequence in a way that safely builds internal heat and stability first with intentional cues regarding building blocks for stability to maximize student safety. I also enjoy providing asana variations that require use of muscle groups that I frequently see in dysfunction with the hopes of maximizing prevention. What is the effect of yoga on bone, joint, and muscle pain in any body region? Pain-free movement is beneficial for healing whether the tissue is bony, joint, or muscular. There are two reasons for that: Movement stimulates blood flow. Blood carries nutrients to the tissue in question allowing for a healing environment. Pain is ultimately decided by the brain, and it is a protective mechanism. If you continuously perform movements that hurt, you will effectively begin to hurt more because either you’re causing further tissue damage and/or your brain has decided that you’re not listening and needs to send a stronger pain signal in order to make you stop. You also have the benefits of increased control of your respiratory rate through pranayama practice, specifically with the use of the diaphragm. Your respiratory rate, heart rate, and blood pressure are designed to rise and fall in tandem. If you can slow your breathing, you can slow your heart rate and reduce your blood pressure; increasing the function of your parasympathetic nervous system and increasing the difficulty for your body to send pain signals. What are the most common poses that cause issues requiring PT? Chaturanga: Many practitioners will allow their shoulders to drop below elbow height. Ideally, there should be a 90-degree angle created at the elbow. The shoulder joint is inherently unstable allowing for our ability to move our arms


in full circles. The head of the humerus (top of your arm bone) is bigger than the glenoid fossa (semicircular surface coming off of your trunk). This means that most of the stability at the front of the shoulder is provided by connective tissue structures (which aren’t designed to stretch) and muscles. By repetitively dumping the shoulders below elbows, you’re inviting greater laxity into the same structures that hold the shoulder in place.

and backbends will swear that yoga is the best thing for their symptoms, if the source of their pain is a lumbar disc pathology. Someone with lumbar stenosis can have the same symptoms as the person with a lumbar disc pathology, but if they go to a Bikram yoga class, they’re likely to feel worse at the end because stenosis responds negatively to backbends (extension) and positively to forward folds (flexion). You have two people with the same symptoms and completely different experiences regarding yoga causing condition improvement or exacerbation.

Warrior 1: It’s an asymmetrical pose. It is not possible to “square your hips” when one foot is straightforward and the other is cued to be at a 45-degree angle of hip external rotation. The hips have a lot of anatomical variation between sides, but most people don’t have enough hip mobility to “square” the hips with the foot planted at such an extreme angle without compromising integrity of the knee, hips, SI joint, and/or low back over time. Most people have enough hip mobility to have the back foot rotated out about 10 degrees.

How often do you recommend patients stop yoga as part of their treatment plan? That really depends on the style of yoga that the

Any posture that requires you to keep both sitz bones (ischial tuberosities) on the floor while twisting: The sacroiliac joint is designed to move asymmetrically, so to perform a marichyasana with both of your ischial tuberosities on the floor is going to create stress through the pelvis. How is that yoga can cause pain and heal it? If you do something that isn’t biomechanically sound a million times over, eventually, it’ll cause dysfunction. Doing a chaturanga wrong once won’t necessarily send you to PT, but if you’ve been practicing it incorrectly for years, you’ve definitely created a muscular imbalance that will likely lead to a dysfunction. Sometimes it simply has to do with condition etiology, an example is sciatica. Depending on the cause of an individual’s sciatic nerve irritation (burning, numbness, tingling down the back of the leg), some people will have symptom relief with forward folds and others will have symptom relief with backbends. Therefore, the person who takes Bikram yoga classes with lots of standing postures


If you do something that isn’t biomechanically sound a million times over, eventually, it’ll cause dysfunction. Doing a chaturanga wrong once won’t necessarily send you to PT, but if you’ve been practicing it incorrectly for years, you’ve definitely created a muscular imbalance that will likely lead to a dysfunction.

patient practices in relation to the patient’s condition and the irritability of their symptoms. In general, I try not to completely remove people from activities they enjoy unless absolutely necessary, and at temporary cessation is necessary for healing to occur.

stay out of pain than it is to get pain to stop once it has started or elevated. If you’re told to stop practicing yoga, it’s to give you a fighting chance at healing; when you do begin a prescribed progressive return to yoga, you shouldn’t have to worry about completely ceasing the activity again. Are there poses that you recommend yoga students limit in order to avoid pain in the future? Lotus, unless it’s “easy” to get into, I don’t suggest “working” to get it. As I mentioned before, there is a lot of variability in the bony anatomy of the hip within and between people. If you’ve been trying to “open your hips” for years with no avail, it’s probably because of the shape/size of your bones and/or their orientation. “Working,” into a lotus really just means you’ve increased your ligamentous laxity over time which makes the hips inherently more unstable. While you’re active and have strong muscles for support, it won’t make much of a difference, but as you get older and potentially weaker, that increased laxity just increases your risk for issues. Otherwise, the principle of ahimsa should be each individual’s guide. If at any point you feel burning, numbness, or tingling during a posture, it’s best to personalize or stop. When should we consider a visit with a physical therapist? • If you develop a pain that doesn’t improve within a week or two. Even if your pain has already reduced by the time you arrive at your appointment, the PT can still evaluate and determine the imbalances or impairments present that prompted your development of pain. In this case, your course of PT will likely be shorter and overall more pleasant because they’ll be able to help you correct the imbalances without having to reduce the pain first.

If a patient can tell me specific poses that reproduce their pain, then I can take the time within a session to help them personalize that posture or give them an alternative that won’t cause further irritation. However, if they can’t narrow down provocative postures, or by the end of a practice their pain elevates from a 4 to a 7 and they can’t calm the pain down for a whole day, then I might suggest that they stop practicing until • their condition is more stable. It’s all about long-term consequences. It’s easier to

If you have pain for any length of time that keeps you from participating in normal activities. Activity cessation to avoid pain is a slippery


slope that can easily lead to sedentary behavior and muscular weakness, which usually leads to more pain. •

If you have had a pain for at least two months. Once the body/mind have been in a pain state for about three months, the condition is considered chronic and can be harder to treat. After three months, the brain has had enough time to become more efficient in sending pain signals. Pain is ultimately a defense mechanism. Your brain wants you to stop activity in order to preserve whatever “tissue” is being irritated. If you continue to work through pain, your brain just makes the pain signals louder and more frequent until you stop. Chronic conditions and pain can still be treated, but it’s likely to take longer.

In most states, physical therapists are direct access providers. You don’t need a physician prescription to receive an evaluation and begin care. Call your local physical therapy practice and they should be able to inform you of the laws in your state. You offer movement coaching and medical therapeutic yoga. What are they and what are the benefits of each? Movement coaching is a private session with me that isn’t strictly based on yoga and does not include therapy. It’s for people who don’t have an active pain element that want to optimize physical function through improved motor control and stability. The benefit is improved efficiency of movement and reduced risk of future disorders. To clarify, physical therapy is employed when the aim is to rehabilitate or treat disorders. Should someone seek care for a physical disorder that would require skilled physical therapy. Medical therapeutic yoga is a methodology for using yoga in healthcare and wellness care as a form of integrative and WWW.NY YOGALIFE.COM


functional medicine by licensed healthcare professionals with certificates and certificate candidates of the Living Well Institute. It is non-dogmatic, non-guru, and non-lineage based. Sessions are taught as classes and prioritize breath and biopsychosocial stability over mobility. Biopsychosocial referencing the “whole person,” physical, energetic, psychosocialemotional, intellectual, and spiritual. As one or a group progresses through a series, each class will focus on one of the above biopsychosocial elements and build stability from more relaxed breathing methods lying on one’s back learning alignment and relaxation prior to learning volitional activation of spinal stabilizers and transition into seated posture. Progressive levels of mobility are offered when participants are able to maintain stability first. You’d be surprised how difficult true biopsychosocial stability is to attain. Asanas taught may or may not be similar to those used in traditional yoga lineages, but they are modified for biomechanical

safety (ex. warrior 1 isn’t performed with the back foot turned out to 45 degrees). This practice is appropriate for anyone and everyone with an aim to improve whole- person stability, physically and mentally. It’s also a good bridge for people who have had injuries in the past looking to return to traditional yoga classes, so that they have an increased awareness for their body and how to protect it moving forward. Again, for the intent of treatment or rehabilitation of a specific disorder, that requires a formal physical therapy evaluation and treatment. Learn more: thrivewithdrc.com and @apaigeofcandace



Wild Rose Education’s Leave No Trace Trainer Course February 1-9

Even though your social calendar may have looked different last year, it’s important to remember that virtual events still remain a convenient way for you to gather safely with a community.

The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics course is ideal for outdoor leaders. You’ll learn skills, ethics, and techniques for sharing low-impact practices with students of all ages.

Rhonda Liebig Health Coach’s Podcast Release Party February 2 The Fresh Inspiration Show podcast party brings Mindset Transformation Entertainment.

92Y The Contemporary Photo Scene February 18, March 11 April 1 and 22 Dive into the photo world and learn about why and how artists create meaningful images and objects with veteran art guide, Margaret Mathews-Berenson.


Just because you’re behind a computer screen doesn’t mean you can’t network, learn, socialize, and have fun. Here are some events to add to your calendar this year.

National Association of Women Business Owners of Orange County's Monthly Book Club Meeting February 2 NAWBO-OC’s monthly book club reviews “Take Control of Your Life” by Mel Robbins.

92Y The Contemporary Art Scene Margaret Mathews-Berenson’s dates: February 18, March 11 April 1 and 22 Donna Harkavy’s dates: Jan 27, February 10 and 12 March 17 and 19 April 21 and 23 Explore how artists use visual language to express commentaries with our veteran contemporary art education team.

Islands of Brilliance Smactivities February 12: Create Your Own Movie Poster February 26: Design Your Own Planet Smactivities (Subject Matter Activities) offer STEAM-based projects to students on the spectrum ages 8+. The activities are taught by subject-matter experts and guided by special education professionals.



FEBRUARY MINKA Brooklyn’s Portal of Dimensional Dreaming: A Shamanic Lucid Dreamtime

February 20

February 17 Irma StarSpirit Turtle Woman facilitates an exploration of the multi-dimensional dreamtime planes.

Pamela Buckner Shanti Vira Tribe Production's Soul Long Beach Yoga Festival February 20-21 The theme of the second annual Soul Long Beach Yoga Festival is #YogaIncludesMe. Celebrate yoga, diversity, and love.

APRIL YogaTalk’s Global Yoga Festival April 14-18 Get ready for: kirtan, lectures, meditation, music, workshops, yoga, and more.

MAY Holistic Festival of Life’s 11th Holistic Festival of Life and Wellness May 29 Learn more about: aromatherapy, astrology, Ayurveda, chakra, feng shui, herbal nutrition, meditation, Reiki, tarot, and more.


MINKA Brooklyn’s The Hummingbird’s Map

Identify and ground your soul-purpose in this workshop series created by Reina Prado.

Mariana Scotti’s Iyengar Yoga Festival: February 20-21 Connect and practice with 11 instructors over two days.

MARCH Arianne Traverso’s The Yoga Expo March 13-14 This sixth annual event lets you plan and personalize your experience by interest and ability level. Look forward to: classes, a marketplace, speakers, vendors, workshops, and more.

University of Maryland’s Project Management Symposium April 22-23 Project management professionals share knowledge about trends, best practices, research, lessons, and case studies.





















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Our favorite quarantine products as chosen by the NY YOGA + LIFE team!








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Love &


This whole being a human is a risk. We are all so fragile and yet so strong. I love that saying that there are two certainties in life, death and taxes. I would respectfully like to add one more — the third certainty in life is that we will get hurt. Getting hurt is part of the human experience. When our soul chose our heart, it took the biggest risk on this earth, and that is coming here. The risk of loving ourselves through all of the hurt, traumas, joy, grief, depression, and excitement. If you are reading this, I can almost guarantee that you have been hurt, and I can guarantee that you can also heal. Whether the pain is physical or emotional, you are so strong, yet so fragile. Loving and healing are two of the biggest risks we can take daily. Bring your hands to your heart and whisper to your heart, “I love you, I'll take care of you, and I'll protect you”. Loving ourselves is often not taught to us mostly because love doesn’t have a definition and love is not a noun or just a word. Love is action. “Love is a mix of various ingredients: care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment and trust, honesty and communication.” - Bell Hooks. All these ingredients that form love are action-based. To love ourselves through our human experiences is healing. Take your journal or phone out and write: For today, I will care for myself. For today, I will show myself affection. For today, I will give myself the recognition I deserve. For today, I will be respectful toward myself. For today, I will commit to myself. For today, I will trust myself. For today, I will be honest with myself. For today, I will communicate with myself.” Slowly and daily, we learn how to love ourselves. Through this kindness and love, we heal our pain, our worries, our sadness, and our experiences. Healing requires a love that no other can give you, your love. Healing requires courage no one can give you, your courage. Healing requires heart no can give you, your heart. This beautiful life is yours. Love yourself and heal the wounds that life brings. Remember this: You are so strong, and yet so fragile. Then again, so is life.

Learn more: denissemonge.com and @denisse_monge



8 Months After My Coronavirus Vaccine BY: MELISSA HONKANEN



Hi! My name is Melissa Honkanen, and I’m the founder of Melissa Ann Yoga based in Manhattan. I believe in a holistic approach to wellness, and I also believe in science. As you may recall from the PAUSE issue, I was the first coronavirus vaccine trial participant in New York City in the Pfizer and BioNTech clinical trial. My first clinical vaccination was on Monday, May 4, and I received my second coronavirus vaccination three weeks later on Tuesday, May 26. You may have seen the first vaccination unfold on NBC Nightly News. Crazy times. Here are 5 follow-up questions I receive frequently. I hope this helps you in your journey to discover what is the best decision for you. 1. Did you receive the vaccine or the placebo? As I was enrolled in a randomized blinded clinical trial, I do not know. However, I believe that I have received the coronavirus vaccine based on how I felt after the first and second dose: a mild headache, achy joints, and a low-grade temperature. I took a 500 mg Tylenol and felt better within 24 hours. My husband, who is a physician, (who has also operated national clinical trials in his own field) reviewed my symptoms and cross-referenced with the symptoms revealed in Pfizer and BioNTech’s published study. To no surprise, participants’ symptoms who also received the vaccine were similar to mine. I’m 99.9% certain of my vaccinated status. Many people are worried about allergic reactions. As part of the trial, I revealed that I have cat allergies, horse allergies, and seasonal allergies. I was under supervision for 4 hours after my first injection to confirm I wouldn’t go into anaphylactic shock. Fortunately, I did not, and I continue to sustain no allergic reactions. 2. How do you feel now? I feel great. When Britain approved the


Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine on December 2, I watched 91-year-old Margaret Keenan receive the first approved vaccination. My heart was so warmed that I began to ugly cry with big, heaving sobs. Somebody get me a tissue! Tears even started coming down my face when I was walking my dog on the streets of Manhattan. My biggest side effect is how full my heart feels from seeing so much hope and relief across the world. When the healthcare workers at Boston

"My biggest side effect is how full my heart feels from seeing so much hope and relief across the world."

Medical Center danced to Lizzo’s “Good as Hell,” I immediately got up and began dancing with them. I feel part of Margaret’s journey, the Boston Medical Center healthcare workers’ journeys, and your journey too, if you determine you’ll receive the vaccine. 3. Do you still wear your mask? Absolutely. We are getting closer to herd immunity, but we are not there yet. I’ve seen projections for Summer/Fall 2021, but we will wait to learn more. 4. What are the next steps with regard to the vaccine trial? Have you completed your involvement, or is there more for you to do? I’ll continue participating in the trial and will complete my weekly COVID-19 e-diary until 2022. I’ve already completed several follow-up visits with blood draws in 2020. I’ll receive a yearly follow-up exam in 2021 and 2022, where my blood will be drawn again for further evaluation.

Fortunately, all participants who received the placebo will also have the opportunity to transfer into the vaccinated group. The Vaccine Transition Option is voluntary for participants 16 and older. Participants are encouraged to stay in the study, although we have always had the option to leave the study. 5. Has your life changed at all since you’ve been on national newscasts at least a couple of times this year? It’s a pretty amazing feeling to be one of 44,000 participants in Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine study. I feel more connected to humanity and Mother Earth now more than ever. NYU and Pfizer sent me and other participants ecards recently giving thanks. The card reads: “Yes. That’s what you said when the world needed it most. Together with tens of thousands of volunteers around the world, your courage became something greater than all of us. It became hope. Thank you. Your participation in the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial has changed the world. With your courage, science will win.” - NYU Langone Vaccine Center and Pfizer 44 thousand participants 153 research sites 6 countries Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Study I’m not crying. You’re crying. Please stay safe. Eat healthy foods. Take all the herbs. Get that rest. Practice yoga. Continue to meditate. Please stay safe. Stay connected to your community. Wear your mask. Drink lots of water. Inhale all the healing aromatherapy oils. I hope the best for you and your decision to vaccinate against the coronavirus.

Learn more: melissaannyoga.com