Hello, my friends! I decided to record this blog also, as it invoked a lot of passion within me while contemplating the subject and putting it into words…I hope you enjoy it. Namaste.
“Not too long ago, I accompanied my parents to a plant nursery that specializes in bonsai trees. My mom told me that they had a beautiful area where they host yoga classes, so I decided to check it out. When we arrived, I remember feeling a bit overwhelmed by the size of the nursery and the sheer volume of plants that they had on display. Rows and rows of these tiny potted trees were arranged everywhere throughout the vast 5 acres of property, and as my overwhelm subsided, it was quickly replaced by feelings of sadness, isolation, and restraint…Thousands of trees, and yet, no room to grow. They were all confined to their own individual pot, and all kept at bay with their maintenance of trimmings. It looked like a factory farm of trees; like a place where trees go to have their souls removed… The only glimmer of hope were the succulent plants who were exhibiting their mastery of adaptation by growing out, around, and away from their designated areas with such prowess, as if to inspire the little bonsais to make a break for it! “Step outside your box, my friends! Be free!”, they seemed to encouragingly say. It was an interesting site, and awakened a realization in me that didn’t reach fruition until yesterday morning.
I was doing my gardening chores in my back yard: pulling weeds, mowing the lawn, cutting back hedges; all things we are “supposed to do” to make nature more manageable to live around, and it hit me…WE are the bonsais! Society is the bonsai factory farm, and our souls are all but completely removed at birth! We enter this world kicking and screaming, full of spirit and gusto, and immediately we are placed in our designated pots of race, gender, ethnicity, economic background, etc, just to keep us at bay. Our roots are restricted to only go as far as the pot that was chosen for us, and anytime our branches venture too far outside the “norm” of what society deems appropriate, well, you know… “CHOP! CHOP!” WE are the bonsais…WE are held captive by the labels and expectations that society places on us, and my friends, it is time…It is time to make like the succulent plant and break free from our confinement!
Let us realize that we are all from the same planet…We all have roots, and they want to grow and spread and breathe! Our branches want to stretch and thrive and embrace each other! So reach, my friends! Reach far outside whatever pot you were placed in, whether it was a black pot, a white pot, a rich pot, or a poor pot…A pretty pot or a modest pot…A pot with a picture of a cross, or a star, or a Buddha, or an Allah…BREAK THE POT!!! Shatter it into a million irrelevant pieces, and free yourself! Free yourself from this illusion of separateness! This illusion that your pot makes what’s inside it any different from what’s inside my pot! We are all just trees who simply hope for enough room to grow and be free. So grow! Be free! I see you! Not your pot, but YOU! And what is in you is also in me…And all that is within me is also in you…So let’s all GROW! Together! Let’s grow…And FREE THE BONSAIS!”
Hello friends! It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, as I’ve been quite busy with life happenings, but I wanted to take a brief moment to share something very special with you. Back in December, I had the great pleasure of taking part in something really beautiful with my mentor, Ayurvedic practitioner, and very dear friend Anay Amrita Abreu. This particular organization brings people together, records their stories, and archives them for future generations. Their mission “ is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world”. Pretty beautiful, isn’t it? Anyhow, Amrita interviewed me on how yoga and Ayurveda saved my life, and she was brilliant at the process and keeping my tangents to a minimum! Haha! If it interests you, have a listen, and please feel free to share with anyone you feel may be inspired. It’s about 40 minutes long. Namaste, loves. Om shantih.
Hello again! So, earlier this year my friend and I planned a trip to Orlando for a nerd convention called Walker Stalker Con. Yes, I’m a geek for The Walking Dead…I was hooked on the show before I was hooked on yoga, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I have never really been into zombie movies or shows, but this particular story line and the characters that have been created are truly exceptional. Needless to say, I was very excited to have the opportunity to meet some of the cast. I knew, however, that I did not want to waste this opportunity by simply gushing all over these individuals for photos and autographs, because they are in fact, just people, albeit, some pretty influential ones. So I decided that this would be an amazing opportunity to begin my mission of spreading awareness about the benefits of yoga for mental illness, as well as a great way to get the word out about the nonprofit I have become so fond of, called Connected Warriors. The following is the letter that I mailed and passed out to the cast and crew of the show. I hope you find it compelling enough to check out the Connected Warriors cause! Om shantih.
Salutations to you, Walking Dead cast and/or crew member,
My name is Ashley Lauren. I’m a huge fan of your show, as well as certified Sampoorna yoga instructor currently located in South Florida. I would like to start by saying that from the beginning, I have found the story and characters behind your show incredibly inspiring. I began watching shortly after my first cervical spine surgery in 2010, and I have always found its resounding, “Never give up” message particularly encouraging. In some way, your show helped me maintain hope through some very difficult times, and I am forever grateful to have discovered it. I’m writing to you today because I have a story to tell, and I’m hoping that maybe you just might find some inspiration in it as well.
For many years before and after my spinal surgeries, I felt like one of the walking dead. From a very young age a plethora of physical and emotional issues plagued my body and mind; and for well over 15 years I had been walking through a seemingly endless revolving door of doctors’ offices and pharmacies. I was a very active child, and due to a dangerous disregard for my own wellbeing, I injured myself quite a bit. On the emotional end of things, early on in life I was diagnosed with major depression and insomnia…then anxiety disorder…then bipolar disorder. Pain and psychiatric medications flooded my medicine cabinets, and it didn’t stop there. The utter lack of control I felt over my own body and mind led me into years of substance and alcohol abuse, as well as self-harm and dangerous risk taking behavior. After the injury that led to my spinal surgeries, I lost my job as an EMT, and subsequently lost my desired career as a surgeon due to peripheral nerve damage and chronic spinal pain. Things were not looking good for me or my future.
But about three years ago, something miraculous happened that turned my entire life around completely. My mother invited me to join her at a yoga class. As I said, I was always an active person; however, prior to my back injury, I enjoyed lifting weights and running in place while listening to angry music, and from middle school onward, that was my daily routine; I thought it helped keep my demons at bay, so to speak. Obviously this routine was no longer an option for my worn out physique, so I figured I would give yoga a try, and I can honestly say that for the first time in my entire life, I found peace within. Consciously connecting to my breath literally changed my world, and I finally had hope of one day having complete control over my mind and body. As I started to regain control over my physical and emotional states, managing my chronic pain without medication became possible. I began to respect myself and my body again, which led me to desire a healthier lifestyle. I began an Ayurvedic diet, cut out alcohol, and am now entirely prescription medication free for the first time in over 15 years; all thanks to yoga, meditation, and positive thinking.
Yoga saved my life, but my story doesn’t stop there. I wanted to share the extraordinary benefits of this practice with the world, so in 2014 I decided to acquire my teaching certification. In March of this year, I got my first studio job, and while posting flyers for my classes at my local grocery store, I ran into the person who, I would say, is actually the true inspiration for this letter. For the purposes of this letter, I will call him “Steve”. Steve is a marine veteran. He was in the service for about 30 years, and was discharged due to a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Like so many servicemen and woman, Steve was having trouble assimilating himself back into society after so many years in a structured military setting. Finding an identity is not easy when you have been told exactly who and what to be for 30 years. Steve was also struggling with haunting memories of his wartime experiences, and was having trouble concentrating and could barely sleep at all. Two of his brothers in arms had already taken their own lives due to their difficulties reintegrating into civilian life, and Steve had the desire to break that cycle.
I knew that if he was ready, through yoga, I could help this man and others like him; and so, immediately following our first conversation, I began researching PTSD conscious yoga, and learned of a chilling statistic; on average, about 22 veterans commit suicide every single day in the United States. That’s almost one suicide every hour. In my research, I was pleased to see that many organizations were making great strides in battling mental and physical illnesses in veterans through yoga, and so, thanks to Steve’s story, I was inspired to take teacher’s training workshops with two incredible causes: Yoga Warriors and Connected Warriors. While both organizations are remarkable with similar philosophies, Connected Warriors really stood out to me in particular.
Connected Warriors is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing wellness programs that enhance the lives of veterans, service members, and their families. They are community based, and are run strictly by volunteer yoga teachers who hold classes for these military families free of charge. That’s right! FREE! How beautiful is that?? Currently Connected Warriors offers classes in 14 states and holds about 175 classes each month with an attendance of over 1,200 individuals. Connected Warriors is offering hope to those men and woman who are feeling hopeless. For most, medications and traditional talk therapy are not enough to relieve the crippling symptoms of PTSD and other trauma related post-service issues. Yoga is a positive experience that directly contradicts the feelings of helplessness brought on by trauma through conscious connection of breath and movement. Through regular practice, these men and woman are able to heal themselves emotionally and physically. I recently had the opportunity to attend a class held at the VA in Miami, and was so moved to see the change in disposition of the men before and after class.
So, you’re probably wondering, why is this chick contacting us about all of this? That’s a good question. The truth is, we need your help to spread the word about how beneficial yoga is at fighting the debilitating effects of mental illnesses and to help the Connected Warriors mission spread even further. While yoga is growing in popularity in the US, not enough people are aware of the transformational benefits that can take place for people suffering from emotional trauma. Even those who are aware of the benefits may be hesitant to try yoga because they are under the impression that yoga is a religious practice. So how can you help? That’s another great question! The Walking Dead has become one of, if not, THE most popular shows on television. With your help, through social media, word of mouth, and maybe even a segment on The Talking Dead we could easily reach millions of people in a very short time. This could greatly benefit our country and even further, benefit mankind in general. I truly believe that every time a new person takes up yoga as a practice, it brings us one person closer to world peace. In exchange for your help, I will teach you and the entire cast and crew of The Walking Dead a free yoga lesson. What do you say? Are you ready to feel what it’s like to unite your mind, body and spirit through yoga? Lord knows Rick, Sasha, and Father Gabriel could use some yoga in their lives! Thank you for your time and consideration. When you have a chance, please check out the Connected Warriors website for more information.
Connected Warriors Inc.
900 Broken Sound Pkwy
Boca Raton, FL 33487
Well, the weather is changing…And though we don’t get to experience the colors changing in South Florida, transformation is apparent everywhere one looks: beautiful birds chirping, butterflies fluttering from flower to flower, and dragonflies hovering at every turn. The beauty that unfolds around this time of year is simply breathtaking, and for myself, the change is not purely an external experience. It’s been two weeks since the last day of my very first panchakarma, and when I say I’m a new person, it couldn’t be more true. Physically, I haven’t felt this healthy in my entire life. Emotionally, I’ve never felt so incredibly clear. And spiritually, I feel as though something has been awoken inside of me, and I’m so excited for what is in store.
Looking back, it’s amazing to think that it’s been almost a year since I took that first step on what seemed like an impossible journey: to free myself from the dependency of Western psychiatric medications. For those of you who are unaware, when I was 19 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Still even before that diagnosis, the various doctors I had visited threw around things like severe depression, anxiety, and insomnia. And for well over 15 years of my life I was on a mutlitude of tranquilizers, antidepressants, mood stabilizers…etc…etc…However, last year (upon deciding that I wanted to become a yoga instructor) I realized that if I truly wanted to not only be my authentic self and practice what I was preaching, that for me, the medications had to go…And thus set out on a mission to successfully wean myself off of the 5 medication cocktail the doctors said I would likely be on for the rest of my life…
In November of 2014, with no idea of how I would successfully accomplish this goal, I entered Yogi Hari’s Ashram to begin my 200 hour yoga teacher’s training (YTT). I didn’t know how the answers would manifest, but I had faith that the universe would show me my path to liberation. Week one of training: enter Anay Amrita Abreu…a woman who came to lecture on Ayurveda, the world’s most ancient science of healing. She began to speak about the elements, energy, food, and how it’s all connected. She spoke about how what goes into our bodies is either poison or medicine, and therefore, we must be mindful of everything because our body is either being nourished or polluted…The stars aligned, and I immediately realized that THIS was how I would be able to heal myself. Her words resonated with me, and felt more true and honest than anything I had learned in all my years of studying Western medicine. This was a way to HEAL oneself, and not just place a band-aide over the real problem; like we so often do in the West. I knew it would be a difficult path, but the way I saw it, it was my only choice.
Almost immediately following the completion of my 200hr YTT, I met with Amrita for a consultation. "There’s nothing wrong with you…“ she said, “You’re just sensitive…”. Those words, will stay with me for the rest of my life…Those simple words changed everything for me. For my whole life I was convinced that I was broken, and for the first time I had begun to feel that everyone (including myself) had been wrong for 30 years. Nothing’s wrong with me…I’m just sensitive. YES! In that unexpected moment, she saved my life, and I am eternally grateful.
So now, almost a year later, and truly EVERYTHING has changed. My diet is Ayurveda conscious: all natural, fresh, organic, and cooked everyday. I wake up at 4am to begin each beautiful day with a Sampoorna yoga practice, meditation, and self care. I take time for myself, and think positively about each experience that comes(even the difficult ones). I go to bed early, and don’t fill my mind with useless or negative information from the TV, radio, or internet. And most importantly, after slow (and often arduous) process, I can proudly say that I have been completely medication free for 4 months; the first time in over 15 years! I am happier, healthier, and more stable than ever in my life. It is amazing what yoga, a proper diet, and a positive mindset can do for a person.
In all honesty, I can say that I’ve been both reluctant and terrified to share this story with the world via social media; I’m still a little uneasy about how these sites are used. But as of late, I’ve been thinking that maybe if I choose to share my story and can inspire even just one other person to make a better and healthier life for themselves, then that would be pretty amazing. So, there you have it, a very tiny sample of my story about healing…If any of you are interested in learning more about Sampoorna yoga, ayurveda, or in choosing transformation over “trend”, check out http://omritayoga.com/ or http://www.yogihari.com or shoot me a message. Om shantih and be well…