MY WELLNESS STORY
I am grateful that life has brought me to understand a broad stroke of human beingness. Like most, my story is riddled with drama and discomfort, but it has also been bolstered by love.
It was yoga that revealed my earliest glimpses of holistic wellness. I took my first yoga class as a student at University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and fell in love with the way it foiled the intensity of Ivy League academia. Right way, I noticed a sense of invigorated inner calm and learned that expansive stability could be my only goal. I could have a lifelong practice with no competition, only community. These ideas were radical for me as an athletic, achievement-oriented teen, setting off to find my place in this world.
For years, weekly yoga practice and daily transcendental meditation grounded my experience as a grantwriter for marginalized youth, arts, education and wellness in DC and later as a creative producer for a rapidly growing fashion-tech startup in New York. I worked long, hard hours; I partied like a rockstar. I travelled the world, found romance and felt nods of success; but eventually I was overcome with anxiety and apathy. With the help of some amazing friends, I started to consider how my stagnant vision of success was conflicting with my evolving values and contributing to my malaise. I did not care about fashion or tech; I cared about people and inspiration.
After a year of deep psychological and spiritual work, nine months of yoga teacher training, and dozens of transformative coaching sessions, I was finally unraveling all that I had done to silence my truth and resist my calling. As I got honest with myself, released stress and drama from several areas of my life, my energy began to improve and my work started to align with personal passions. Ever since that summer in 2013, my life has been consciously dedicated to generating positive energy.
I became a certified yoga teacher and was invited to teach at Urban Asanas, a rare yoga studio owned and operated by a Black woman. Within months, people of color, queer and elderly neighbors, and young men became my regulars. My students reflected Brooklyn's diversity, and I felt honored to hold space for populations who often felt marginalized from the wellness world. Because I believe feeling well should feel good and be fun, I designed playful yoga sequences for all body types, uplifted by dope music and rooted in visualization and breathwork.
By the end of that high-vibe year, I'd aligned with a few brilliant friends to introduce a deliciously hydrating, cold-pressed watermelon beverage to the public. Our marketing plans integrated my yoga world with my creative production background. Focused on integrity as a mission-driven start-up, we developed the brand to attract investors like Beyonce Knowles Carter, Michael Strahan, as well as partners like LuluLemon, Uninterrupted, Wanderlust, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, The Grammys, The Ellen Show and Afropunk. Five years later, WTRMLN WTR was sold at 25,000 locations nationwide, and I continue to develop brand partnerships and infuse marketing experiences with love as Director of Culture. This work allowed me to dive into the clean food movement and learn the science behind my gut feelings. It felt amazing!
Just when I thought my wellness was in the clear, I noticed that my monthly cycle was becoming unusually heavy and sex was becoming unpleasantly painful. After a few expensive exams, my doctor showed me a grainy image of my uterus, fit with four dense fibroids, one that was slowly pushing my copper IUD out of my body. She said they would just grow and continue to limit my contraception choices, making my menstruation cycle miserable and eventually compromising my fertility unless I had surgery. She told me there was nothing else I could do as the other pea-sized fibroids grew; I would probably need another surgery or personality-altering prescription drugs to prevent further tumor growth.
At first I felt powerless, ashamed and exhausted. Were these physical remnants of my post-graduate career stress? What was my body telling me? Because I had been exposed to food science and plant medicine, I knew there was more to the story. So as a start, I decided to hold myself accountable for everything happening in my body and reconsider what healthy meant for me. My IUD was removed and I actually had the surgery to remove the most problematic fibroid. While healing, I started paying close attention to the knowledge I had been getting from my body and from the world around me. Drastically reducing my meat consumption, breaking my sugar addiction, and eliminating inflammatory factors from my cooking made a huge difference. And after six months of dedicated clean eating –to my doctor’s surprise– I had successfully shrunken the remaining fibroids.
I am still on that mindful journey, learning about changes in the food system, evolving stress management techniques, and just listening to my body as it responds to my environment. I became even more grateful to my teachers, family, friends for sharing this precious path with me and helping me to live more fully. I still teach yoga. I still drink my watermelons. I still travel the world. I still feel successful. But now, I also feel good, most of the time, and when I do not, I know it is only predicting change. I exist to empower all of us to feel better, more of the time.
That is the mission of my latest venture, Blind Seed. It is a creative organization that curates intimate wellness programming, events and retreats for marginalized communities. Through collective-care, meditative movement, and socially conscious education; our gatherings are designed to cultivate clarity and build positive momentum. We give city-dwellers permission to slow down and feel well. Our intentional and inclusive approach has reaped benefits for hundreds of New Yorkers, including me, in less than two years, and I am deeply inspired by Blind Seed because I know that sharing our wellness practices will continue to inspire growth of the greater good and foster more meaningful human connections.