Ally Mazerolle: Girlvana Yoga and Community

ally mazerolle

If we’ve learned anything in the past eight months, it has to be the power and presence that occurs when we gather as a community. Through the loss of physical communities and the ongoing creation of organizations online, how we relate to each other and communicate continues to shift and evolve, be it for better or worse

This week on the podcast, we interviewed yoga teacher, writer, and entrepreneur, Ally Mazerolle, founder of Girlvana Yoga and Ladyvana Retreats. Ally started teaching yoga well over a decade ago and founded Girlvana to bring yoga and mindfulness practice to teens. 

“Today, we’re working with Gen Z, and it’s this new, emerging generation that’s so cool, and also terrifying. This generation sees the world in a way we never did because of social media. Gen Z has such a pulse on all things political because of social media and the internet; it’s more native for them to be online.” – Ally Mazerolle. 

Girlvana, like so many other studios and community-focused businesses, shifted classes and training online to continue connecting young women from all over the world as we continue to social distance. 

“My superpower is a vulnerability in my ability to share how I feel. My former business partner used to call me very emotionally agile. I think this aspect of who I am helps create a safe and conscious space for teens to share how they feel and who they are. This is what community means to me, the ability to come together and learn from our experiences.” – Ally Mazerolle.

Read the highlights from this week’s episode; watch or listen to the full discussion with Clara and Ally. 

Introducing Ally Maz and Girlvana Yoga

AMI’m so excited to have this conversation with you, particularly Clara because the idea for Girlvana was brewing inside me, but it wasn’t fully realized until I did one of your Morning Yoga Intensives. Girlvana was created in 2010, so almost a decade ago. The intention was for young women to feel seen and heard, and connected through the avenues of yoga, meditation, and real conversation.

I wanted to create a space for mindfulness for teens, and it also pertains to gender and sexuality and identity and consent and periods and all of the things that young people have to deal with as they come of age. 

Girlvana started with me teaching yoga in high schools; I was just knocking on the doors of principals and school counselors and anyone I could think of. At this time, I was already leading yoga retreats, and I thought, how cool would it be for this retreat to be all teenage girls and have sort of like a summer camp meets yoga retreat experience? 

We’ve trained over a hundred teachers globally to teach Girlvana Yoga to teens; you can find Girlvana in Scotland, Switzerland, Canada, and the US. Girlvana is also a book that will be published by Penguin Random House next year.

Today, we’re working with Gen Z, and it’s this new, emerging generation that’s so cool and terrifying. This generation sees the world in a way we never did because of social media. Gen Z has such a pulse on all things political because of social media and the internet; it’s more native for them to be online. 

Girlvana just wrapped a very ambitious digital summit for teens. We’ve created online offerings through Zoom to stay connected while we social distance. We had yoga, meditation, and keynote speakers. The girls had breakout sessions and were able to speak and be involved in conversations around allyship, mental health, yoga, and breathwork practices. I underestimated how profound digital offerings can be and how deep and vulnerable young people are willing to go. 

 

What’s a belief that’s holding you back? 

AMI just started a new job, and I feel like my imposter syndrome is coming up a lot. Even though I’m 34 now, I still feel like I’m the youngest in the room. The belief that arises is that I don’t have enough experience to be teaching.

 

What book guides your philosophy of living? 

AMThe Woman Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I love that it’s based on fairytales, and I like how it’s soaked in the female psyche and the experience of women being wild. That book was revolutionary for me.

What’s the superpower that you bring to your communities? 

AMMy superpower is a vulnerability in my ability to share how I feel. My former business partner used to call me very emotionally agile.

My ability to open up and share is a doorway for young people to feel safe to share. When I am open and vulnerable, I create a space or a brave space for other people to be open and vulnerable. That has created a really strong sense of community for me.

CROI feel like we go deep into our dark caves, and we’re in our own caves, but together. There’s a quiet and space for introspection, but we’re all in it together.

When I’m teaching, I go deep down into myself and kind of sit in the mud, this very dark and heavy space. When I meet myself in the mud, people come with me and enter their own mud; the darkness and the heaviness we all carry.  

What have you learned through the community that you could not have done alone? 

CROThe biggest gift that I’ve received being in the community is how much deeper I’ve gotten to know myself in the community. By simply showing up and being together, whether it’s a yoga class or dinner with friends, I feel like I get to know myself so much more by being around other people.

Through this interaction with others, I feel way more inspired by what I see around me and the amazingness that is in all of us. 

AMRight now, being in quarantine and not being directly in the community in the same way, I miss feeling reflected in others. I enjoy it when someone shares something beautiful or their joy or sadness. It gives me something to relate to. That’s what community gives me, relatability. 

The only word I have for it is humanity. We’re all on our journeys. We’re all trying to figure it out. No one has the answers. Coming together as a community shows us how we’re all just figuring it out. I miss being with people in that way. 

What does it mean to hold space for others? 

AM—Holding space means staying in your body and breathing for yourself. 

I don’t need to jump out of my own experience to make anyone feel safe. It’s so interesting because when someone cries, it’s like, oh, don’t cry, or here’s a tissue, or you want to run over and give them a big hug.

Especially with young girls, this is how they want to show up and support each other. I stay in my own body to set boundaries and let this young person have their emotional experience without trying to coddle or stifle it. 

I have the mentality of; I’ll sit here as long as you need me to just be present for you to move through this.

CROAll of my teachers are very strong with boundaries in doing the work stepping back to allow others to have their own experience. I used to get a lot of slack from yoga studios because they wanted me to be around before and after class to be with students. When I taught at this time, I felt like I would give my soul to the class as a way to hold space, and by the time I got home, I would be exhausted. 

I always have to remember when I’m teaching classes or workshops, or when I’m on retreat, that I need to take a lot of time for myself too.

Holding space takes up a lot of energy. In my younger days of teaching, I was so depleted from the work of being together. When I teach, I feel my breath and open my own heart to what I’m directly experiencing, what I feel, and hear. The gift of this practice is that it brings up your own experiences and emotions. The lesson is to sit with how you feel and not try to change what’s happening around you or change what’s happening within.

I learned early on from my teachers that when somebody’s sharing, you don’t go and rub their back or do anything that takes them out of their experience. You sit and observe and just be with them. You become the space for them to unload something; we all carry a burden that becomes lighter if we share it. 

What are some of the communication strategies you use in workshops or retreats? 

AMSomething we use in Girlvana is clarity, transparency, and brevity. This way, the intention, and communication are super transparent. We let everyone know at the beginning of the workshop or retreat that these are the three agreements, so people can self-correct if they start rambling. It’s a great way to bring everyone together in the circle. 

CROI use the four agreements taken from the book by Don Miguel Ruiz, and I add a fifth agreement that I’ve found helps.

The agreements are:

  1. Be impeccable with your word, 
  2. Don’t take anything personally, 
  3. Don’t make assumptions, 
  4. Always do your best,
  5. Be mindful.

I add in the fifth rule because we’re in a group, and it’s essential to be aware of how much you contribute versus how much you’re not contributing. When we come together as a collective, we can learn so much from each other. If you’re the type of person who’s always engaging and speaking, it’s an opportunity to step back to observe and listen. If you’re the type of person who’s quiet, it’s an opportunity to speak and see what you can learn through bringing your voice and opinion to the group. 

I’ve been to training where it’s the same three people talking the whole time, in a group of like twenty people. There’s so much more knowledge in the room that we could be sharing instead of just listening to three perspectives.

New class 

Expand Meditation

A short meditation that asks you to connect to the wisdom and resilience of the heart space. This meditation taps into the expansiveness of the heart to bring more awareness to the breath, how you feel, and how you relate to the environments and individuals in your life. 

Irene Sanchez: Expressing Energy and Emotions

irene sanzhez

The subtle body, or energetic body, represents one of five body’s within each individual. Alignment within the five body’s creates harmony and unites the physical and energetic realms. The five bodies consist of the physical body, the prana (breath) body, the intuitive or wisdom body, the emotional or mental body, and the bliss body, which is also called the soul. The five bodies are known as koshas in Sanskrit—learn more about the koshas in this interview.

Yoga and other movement practices provide a means to engage the physical body. Breathwork, or pranayamas, is a way to ignite the pranic body. Healing modalities such as acupuncture, meditation, Chi Gong, and visualization provide a way to stimulate the intuition/wisdom body and the emotional/mind-body. The bliss body may be discovered through any of these techniques; tapping into the spiritual self or the soul depends on the practitioner and what brings you joy. 

In this week’s podcast episode, we interviewed Irene Sanchez of the AdiShakti Method. Irene is a TCM practitioner, Doula, and yogi who works with the energy flow to create a healing space for clients to discover a deeper connection to themselves and their bliss body. 

“Energy is everywhere; it’s all around us. In Chinese medicine, you’re working with meridians, which are energetic channels. The same can be said of Chi Gong, which is energy management. Meditation and yoga tap into different energies. All are ways of working with the energy we have and share with our environments.” – Irene Sanchez. 

Highlights from our discussion are noted below, or you can watch or listen to the full episode.

Your preferred treatment to receive? 

IS I love acupuncture for chronic pain, hormonal balancing, and managing stress. Acupuncture helps to boost my immune system. I love cranial sacral therapy. I love chiropractic sessions. Many people don’t like to be cracked, but I love being cracked because it creates a space of possibility for healing in the body. I love therapy. I love Watsu therapy, which is a form of massage in a body of water. 

The instrument that captures your soul?

IS I would say piano because it has a lyrical quality that brings me into this ethereal space, and I love living in the ether. I feel like I have a lot of earth energy, and I’m very grounded, but I love playing in the energy realm, which is the ether. 

I’m a psychonaut, exploring different states of consciousness to investigate the mind and the human experience. I use various tools to examine other states of consciousness; one of them is yoga. I also use meditation and Chi Gong. 

irene sanchez

What’s your relationship, or understanding, of energy?

CRO— Nine years ago, I taught a 200-hour teaching training that Irene attended, and on about day fifteen, the energy was really heavy. It felt like many people were going through a lot of their transformation and going deep into their journey. I chose to lead a Kundalini mantra for healing and asked everyone to come to sit in a circle. And then I say, if at any point you feel like you need some healing, you sit down in the center of the circle, and you receive the mantra from the group around you. A couple of people go into the center, and we start to sing this mantra. And as we’re singing the mantra, I’m starting to feel the energy, not only in the room but in the jungle around us. We were in a place on this beach in Ko Pen Yang Thailand, surrounded by the jungle. 

As we chant, I start to feel the jungle awakening, and as we’re chanting, I feel that we’re opening a portal of energy, and other energies start coming towards us. It was as if the jungle woke up energetically, and I could feel that there was all this outside energy trying to enter our circle. There were four of us in the circle who I could feel holding the energy down, almost like pillars representing the four directions. I felt that the four of us wrapped ourselves energetically around the circle so that these outside energies couldn’t come in. I remember feeling like I was being pushed; that’s how much energy was trying to enter.

When the chanting ended, it was so intense; many people cried, and we burned incense to clear the room and over each person to clear their energy fields. There are a lot of times when I don’t know. What’s going to happen, but I know that something needs to happen, that something needs to shift. I could feel that in the room that day when I chose the Kundalini mantra.

I have guides who work on different planes, teachers who work through me and tell me what to do. The guides don’t give me the why or how, or what’s going on; they’re just like, you need to do this. I trust that, and I trusted that what we did that day needed to happen for the energy to move. 

IS— Energy is everywhere; it’s all around us. In Chinese medicine, you’re working with meridians, which are energetic channels. The same can be said of Chi Gong, which is energy management. Meditation and yoga tap into different energies. All are ways of working with the energy we have and share with our environments. 

What I’ve found is that mainstream people are not very aware of yoga. They’re very aware of the physical world’s density, but they don’t have as much of an understanding of the subtle body, which is the energy we work with in acupuncture. We use a needle to move the energy around and direct the flow of energy. I love giving first-time clients or people who are unaware of the subtle realm the first glimpse into this dimension; that there’s more to the world than we can physically see.

Bliss Mantra & Meditation

A short mantra and meditation to experience the bliss body, this class invites you to experience joy as a felt sensation. As you take your seat, ask yourself, what does joy feel like in the body? How do I experience joy? You’ll join Clara to chant a mantra for bliss, Om Shri Anandaye Namaha. This mantra translates to the idea of recognizing and honoring the bliss we carry within. 

Om = primordial sound
Shri = blessings and salutations
Anandaye = bliss
Namaha = I bow to thee

How do the vayus work with energy?

CROThe values are how prana moves through the body. There are five directions of the vayus in terms of how energy moves.

Prana Vayu is the most vital direction of energy as prana represents the body’s life force. Prana refers to the inhalation, so its direction moves inward. We take in prana through our nose and mouth in the air we breathe, but prana is contained in all things. It’s in the water and food we consume, and prana is contained in how we see, hear, and feel the world around us. 

Samana Vayu is the assimilation of prana; its location is at the stomach and intestines as this vayus function is primarily digestion. It’s often associated with the solar plexus, Manipura chakra, and Agni—the digestive fire. 

Vyana Vayu moves energy outwards to the peripheries of the body; it moves in all directions to distribute the prana to all parts. It moves upwards and downwards, from side-to-side, and is centralized around the heart chakra to stimulate the lungs and respiration of breath. 

Apana Vayu moves downwards and is responsible for the exhalation and all down and outward movement of energy. Digestion, elimination, menstruation, ejaculation, and childbirth are all influenced by Apana.  

Udana Vayu moves upwards and is responsible for the inspiration; the inhale of the breath. Udana influences speech, song, and communication. 

ISThere are different levels of anatomy in the body; we have the physical body, and then we have the energy body. The energy body is more subtle, whereas the physical body is denser. The acupuncture meridians are connected to the physical body, while the chakras are connected to the subtle body. The energy moves differently through different systems and in different channels. 

We have the 12 main meridians with the acupuncture channels, and then we have the eight extra meridians. The 12 main meridians are related to our internal organs. The 12 standard meridians are divided into the Yin and the Yang groups. The Yin meridians are the lung, heart, pericardium, spleen, kidney, and liver. The Yang meridians are the large intestine, small intestine, triple burner, stomach, bladder, and gallbladder.

It’s cool because our bodies keep an internal clock where each organ and meridian has a two-hour time period where the energy is at its peak at that specific area. The energy, we call it qi in acupuncture, moves through the body in two-hour windows over the full 24-hour time period and shifts between the Yin and Yang energies. The organ functions best when the power is flowing and focuses on that point. In acupuncture, we tap into the energy flow and where the energy is focused to benefit the individual’s overall health.

How do you prepare to receive energy?

CROTo prepare, this means living my life with as much integrity as possible, because as we said, this energy shift can happen at any time. To the best of my ability, I take care of myself to get enough sleep, ensure I’m eating correctly, and stay hydrated. That’s what living with integrity looks like, on a fundamental level. 

When I’m healthy and feel good, it’s going to put me in a better state of mind to navigate anything that comes towards me or anything that shows up in my path. 

Other ways I take care of myself is to include some sort of daily mindful practice. Navel-gazing, meditation, yoga, playing with my little one; all are ways I take care of myself. 

ISI’m an introverted extrovert, meaning I can be very social, and I love connecting with people, but I can get zapped by all the energetic output. So I need to make space to retreat, to settle and ground in my own space. Or I go out into nature and spend time in the trees. 

Sitting and meditating, talking to plants, being in the stillness of nature, I am so blessed that I can live with this beautiful playground on the Squamish nations’ sacred ancestral land. Being in nature is one of the things that fill me up so that I can show up for people. 

What’s the AdiShakti Method?

ISThe AdiShakti Method integrates all the different modalities that I have studied for the past 20-years. It bridges Western Medicine with Eastern practices and traditional Chinese Medicine, with body-mind therapy. My focus of study has been primarily yoga and tantra. I merge a lot of tantric meditation with practices like yoga and Chi Gong. I also use a lot of herbal medicines, and I work a lot with plants. 

My goal is always to open the flow of energy for the person. We all create defense patterns to cope with our experience that may show up as blockages in the physical body. I believe that healing occurs on many levels, not only the physical body but also the emotional and spiritual body. I believe in integrating all the parts of the self, that this integration is necessary to heal. 

AdiShakti is a beautiful combination of all these different modalities. Depending on what the person arrives with, I have a toolkit of methods and practices to choose from based on my intuition, which will assist in the healing experience.  

Learn more about energy transformations and relaxing your body and mind through our vinyasa flow yoga, online yoga classes, or try out the 30 day yoga challenge and try something new.  Learn more about Clara’s 300 hour yoga teacher training OR 200 hour yoga teacher training courses.

I want people to remember their one true nature, to remember their divinity in this body, in this reality.

Alexis Anderson: The Beauty of Setting Boundaries

alexis anderson

Boundaries are a common theme in the world right now. There’s a global shift in how we introduce ourselves with personal pronouns, working from home,  socializing during the pandemic, and responses to cultural appropriation; each represents a way of setting boundaries to create experiences that make people feel safe. 

This week, we interviewed Alexis Anderson of Reiki with Lex. Topics we discussed were: the many ways we set boundaries, deal with energy vampires and create safe spaces for students and teachers of the craft. Alexis is a reiki master who teaches Holy Fire Reiki and hosts Holy Fire levels 1, 2, and the Master Level to aspiring teachers. 

“A boundary is knowing how to say no and owning it without guilt or shame. I became interested in setting boundaries because anytime I would say no, I would still be attached to the person and feel guilty; I would worry that the person would be mad at me. So when I think of boundaries, I think of being empowered to choose to say no without guilt.” – Alexis Anderson. 

Below are the highlights from our discussion. Please feel free to watch or listen to the full episode and join the #PracticewithClara Facebook Community discussion.

Meet Alexis Anderson

If you could be the sunrise or sunset, which would you choose and why? 

AASunrise, because I think the sunrise gives people hope and a sense of a new beginning. I would love to be that for people.

If you were to select a character to play your joy, who would you choose as an actor? 

AAJim Carey because of the wide range of emotions that he could portray. 

What’s one of your earliest childhood memories?

AAKindergarten, and It was like a bit of a traumatic experience. I was in French immersion, and I couldn’t pick up the language. I remember I couldn’t get the words, and the teacher shamed me, and I had to sit in the circle by myself.

The story that I started to tell myself was that I wasn’t smart, and it impacted how I moved through school. This shaped me because I’ve had to do much work around reversing the story I told myself about not being smart enough. 

alexis anderson
@reikiwithlex

What is Holy Fire Reiki?

AAHoly Fire Reiki came about in 2014. It’s a modern version of the traditional Usui Reiki training. William Lee Rand pioneered Holy Fire Reiki. In March, when we went into quarantine, we had an energetic upgrade that allows master teachers to attune people from afar, over the internet. I had my attunement in March and have been teaching online ever since. 

I have Master Training in both Usui and Holy Fire Reiki. I love teaching Holy Fire, and I love how the practice is continually evolving so that we’re aware and keep up with the energetic shifts in the world.  

All living things have life force energy; plants, animals, humans. Reiki energy is channeled through the practitioner to serve the highest good of the person they’re healing or themselves.

Reiki aims to balance energy. Anything that comes up in terms of blockages, traumas, negative thoughts, or physical ailments, sometimes that energy is stuck, and Reiki serves to flow through the energy centers to bring more balance and harmony.

Reiki creates more plow, so when people leave a session, they often feel lighter, relaxed, and less stressed in the physical and emotional body. A lot of things can come up in terms of emotions because when the Reiki flows through, it can start to bring up the intense emotions that have been stuck.

What’s your definition of boundaries, and how do you set boundaries with others?

AA—A person with who I’ve had to set really firm boundaries is an incessant talker. I’m sure we all know those people who just talk and talk, and you just can’t get a word in edgewise. The boundary I’ve had to set with this person is I have to set limits on how long the conversation lasts, and it’s usually a phone call. I time the calls, and I know when I start to lose my energy. This person is an energy vampire—they suck the energy out of me when we talk, so I time the length of the call. After the time is up, I get off the phone; I wrap up the call to preserve my energy. 

For a highly sensitive person, empaths, or people-pleasers, energy vampires are challenging. Setting the boundary of wrapping up the conversation is hard because I don’t want to upset anyone, and I fear disappointment.

CROThe first one that comes to mind is definitely around teaching yoga. When I was much younger and had just started teaching, these women in their late forties would come to class and disrespect me, and give me a hard time. I think it was because of my age, at least that was the energy that they would put towards me. These women would talk over me, or they would take over the room energetically. It took me months to stand up to them and be assertive.

When I teach, if you don’t like what I’m offering, or it’s not serving you, I don’t have a problem. You can leave, but this is my room, and I’m teaching. This attitude took a long time to cultivate because it brings up a lot of stuff around self-worth and what I have to offer. 

This experience was essentially a boot camp for boundaries because there was also such a strong sense of entitlement coming from these women. It’s hard because some students think since they’re paying clients, they can do and say whatever they want. 

What’s your process for teaching teachers of the craft?

AAI think it’s essential to have an abundance mindset; that there’s room for all of us to be successful and to thrive. 

Those are questions I love to ask students, where do you thrive? Where does your intuition take you? Who do you want to serve? In Master Reiki Training, I ask students to discover what they want their niche to be and where they feel the magic. 

CROOne of my favorite quotes from my father is that we’re all bozos on this bus. Some of us may have been on the bus longer than others, but we’re still all riding the bus towards death.

When I’m teaching teachers, I always approach it with the idea that we’re co-creating this training together, and it’s always different because it’s based on who shows up and what questions are asked.

One of the big things I like to do is sit in a circle because, in a circle, there’s no hierarchy. We’re all offering the center and feeding each other from the center; I’m just facilitating the experience. I guide a general direction based on whatever it is I’m teaching, but how we get there depends on who shows up and what questions are asked. 

New class

Chakra Meditation

A meditation class that brings awareness to each of the main energy points, known as the chakras, that travel along the spine. In this class, you’ll use the power of visualization and breath to bring awareness to the chakras and the body’s inner landscape. Visualization is a powerful practice that develops awareness of the subtle body; through visualization, we move away from the physical, gross realm that we see, into the subtler realm of breath and energy that we experience through felt sensation. 

What do you hope students leave training with, other than a certificate?

CROA deeper trusting of their knowledge. One of the biggest things that I hope we create together in any training is a deeper relationship to intuition or empowerment. 

I want students to leave with knowledge of moving from a place of their inner power. I hope that we learn how to trust and also trust our instincts. As yoga teachers, we teach the physical poses, but what we’re doing is holding space for people to experience themselves. 

AAThe most significant thing would be trusting their intuition. That’s the one that comes up with Reiki because when people enter level one, many students don’t know what to expect. They want to learn about energy and how to heal themselves but are unsure of how it will go or what’s going to come up.

The biggest thing in classes is to follow your own guidance and intuition, and not go by the book. I hold space to allow students to come up with their answers; this makes the experience rich, and people come away from the class feeling connected and trusting.

What do you do with energy blockages?

CROWhenever I feel stuck or blocked energy, I don’t do anything with it. I feel my feet, and I connect to earth energy. Whenever I feel the energy shift, and it usually does because I tend to poke a little when I teach yoga, things tend to come up for people in the room.

Whenever I feel an energetic shift that’s heavy or blocked, I don’t do anything to change it. What I do is I feel my feet on the ground and connect to earth energy because the earth can take it; she supports us. The earth will be able to transform it into something useful. 

AAOne thing I learned very early on is how I’m not here to fix people. I’m not here to necessarily take away their pain, though I may want to. When I’m in a session, I’ll be intuitively guided to an area that might feel out of balance, and I’ll channel Reiki to that area, but my job isn’t to heal people. My job is to hold space for healing to occur. 

In the Reiki session, the hands might be placed on the shoulders or the head, but that doesn’t mean that that’s where the energy is going. Energy always flows to the area that serves the highest good of that person. The energy has its own intelligence. 

My hands could be on somebody’s shoulders, but they may feel it at their feet the whole time because they were receiving and clearing energy through the feet. So I don’t get attached to where my hands are placed in the session. Sometimes I’ll spend the entire session just in the auric field and stand further back from the client. I find that sometimes it’s more powerful not to touch. I send energy in the person’s direction, and they can receive it if they want it, any way they like. 

What are some of the things you do to stay clear and grounded before you teach?

CROI get very clear of my intention, what I’m arriving to do in the space, and honesty with how I feel that day in my body and mind.
I find that when I’m clear in my intention, I have a better understanding of what’s mine and what’s not mine; this is a question I often ask in terms of energy. What’s mine, what’s yours, and what’s ours? What is the exchange that we’re part of? 

Whenever I step into space, regardless of whether or not I’m teaching, it’s helpful to understand what’s mine. If things arise, if it’s mine, I can take responsibility and take care of myself and what’s happening. If it isn’t mine, I leave it and simply send loving energy. I always ask, what am I here to do, how do I want to be with people, and how do I feel? 

Susanne Mueller: Rediscover the Wisdom of the Body

susanne mueller

The gift of mindfulness practices is that we start to develop an ear to hear the body’s subtle messages. The body never lies, so if you want the real information, take the elevator downstairs out of the mind to feel what’s happening in the body. – Clara Roberts-Oss.


There are so many ways to nourish the bodya warm bath, sunshine, cozy blanket, yoga class, body lotion, a hug from a friend, all unique experiences to tantalize the senses and make us feel good. The so-called happy hormonesserotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphinsare released when we indulge in pleasing ourselves through various activities and affect the vital processes of the body, including heart rate, digestion, and how we feel. 

Food is one way we feed ourselves; it’s the most basic and primal form of caring for our bodies and caring for others. We create familial bonds through food, establish culture and community, and sustain the local environment and agriculture. Eating is a quick and easy way to attain instant gratification and make ourselves feel good after a long and tiring day. 

“Food is such an easy way to feel comforted because it’s instant gratification. We need it, and once we’ve eaten, there’s an immediate physical change. What was so interesting for me to observe in my youth,  was the emotional void or emptiness that I was feeling, and how I would eat something to fill that emotional void.” – Clara Roberts-Oss.

On October 1st, we launched Feed Your Whole Self—a 30-day yoga challenge— to feature all the ways we feed our body, mind, and spirit. This event focuses on highlighting all the ways we create pleasure and harmony within the body through movement, diet, community, and holistic practices such as acupuncture, that treat the physical and energetic body. 

This week, we had the pleasure of interviewing fellow yoga teacher and Holistic Nutritionist, Susanne Mueller of Undrgrnd Yoga. An empath and one who’s sensitive to those around her, Susanne used food to cope with the anxiety she felt growing up. Food became a means to manage extreme emotions before Susanne discovered yoga.  

Susanne’s work with clients in addressing eating patterns, diet, and the emotional inconsistencies creating habits around food that don’t serve the body. “As I continued practicing yoga, I noticed that my eating patterns softened, I felt calmer and began to make choices that felt better both with food and with life.” – Susanne Mueller. 

Read the highlights from our discussion below, or watch/listen to the full episode.

Meet Sussanne Mueller

I ventured into holistic nutrition and then eating psychology to better understand how and why so many struggle like me with food, eating, and their body. I now use this knowledge and experience to support others in finding more peace on their journey. – Susanne Mueller.

What’s your favorite season to prepare meals?

SMI prefer fall because I feel like it’s cozier with the rain, especially here where we live in British Columbia. I like squash and warm foods. Coming into the fall is really like an invitation to step into the kitchen.

What are the self-care practices you indulge in your family? 

SMSomething I like to do with everyone before we eat is to talk about one thing that we’re grateful for that day. I feel like that’s a great bonding experience. We enjoy family reading time before bed, where we all read the same book together. Right now, we’re reading Amelia Bedelia. 

susanne mueller

What has yoga taught you about your body?

SMWhen I started doing yoga, I realized what was happening around my relationship to food wasn’t alright. I began to feel like I needed to control what I was eating because I knew it wasn’t good for me. I didn’t want to binge eat anymore. It just didn’t feel good.

When I started practicing yoga, I became more aware of my body, and I wanted to change, but then the next stressor would come, and something would show up that I wouldn’t know how to deal with. Food was my fallback when I didn’t know how to manage stress. 

As I kept practicing yoga and my practice became more consistent, I saw how much better I felt and how I felt more comfortable in my body. There was this direct experience between what I was doing and how I felt. I didn’t need food anymore to make me feel good, because yoga made me feel good. 

I started to realize how food is just one of the ways we feed ourselves. We may think that food is the problem, but it’s really that we’re lacking in taking care of ourselves in other ways, and we use food to fill that void. 

CROWhen I was an emotional eater, I noticed how there’ was a void in one part of my life. Instead of trying to work with the void, we try to fill it up in a different way, and the easiest way is through food.

Food is such an easy way to feel comforted because it’s instant gratification. We need it, and once we’ve eaten, there’s an immediate physical change. What was so interesting for me to observe was the emotional void or emptiness that I was feeling, and how I would eat something to fill that emotional void.

SMThat’s a pretty intelligent response. We’re feeling low, or we’re feeling something, and we seek something to make us feel better. Food is meant to nourish and nurture us. Right from the beginning of our lives, we cry as a baby, and we’re comforted with milk, so we’re designed to seek pleasure and avoid pain. What’s important to remember as adults is that what’s happening is OK and that there’s nothing wrong with you. There may be something there to look at and explore, but essentially we are safe, and there’s nothing wrong with us. 

How do you introduce a more mindful approach through the body to clients?

CROOne of the coolest things that I’ve learned through mindful practices and yoga is how the body innately wants to heal itself. That’s its job, not only to survive and stay alive but to run at its most efficient form. I feel like sometimes, our minds get in the way, which is why following the current diet trends and fitness fads may take us away from what’s good for us. 

Asking how you want to feel is a great question to always start. How do you want to feel right now, and how do you want to feel moving forward?

When we ask these questions, not only around food, it also asks us to consider every detail and pay attention to each experience’s sensation. This way, we can better decide how to move forward in the best direction for ourselves, which includes consideration for the body.

We’re so bombarded by the media with images of how things should look, and so we move forward with that consideration from the mind. When really, we should be asking how we want to feel. Food is just one aspect of a bigger picture. 

SMExactly, in a way, it’s such a small piece. Sometimes I laugh with clients because we’ll go through a whole session, and we didn’t even talk about food. We’re taught to believe that food and our body is the problem. The message becomes, my body is the enemy or food is the enemy. A lot of people walk around with this mentality. I teach clients how our bodies aren’t against us; they’re there for us; they want to do all they can for us. 

We’ve been taught to live in our heads, so I ask clients to get into the body or any subtle feedback they may be experiencing. At the moment, it may just be that how you’re sitting is uncomfortable; that’s body feedback. That’s your body telling you what it needs. I want to address how to listen to the body and subtle feedback and manage it in a way that isn’t popping a pill or numbing the sensation. 

CROThe other thing that I think is so interesting is that when we feel something very intense in our body, it’s your body sending a really loud, really obvious message. The messages start subtle, but if you don’t listen, it gets louder and louder and more intense.

The gift of mindfulness practices is that we start to develop an ear to hear the body’s subtle messages. The body never lies, so if you want the real information, take the elevator downstairs out of the mind to feel what’s happening in the body. 

New class

Shiva Mantra

Call upon the power of Shiva to transform and transcend in this mantra and meditation class. Shiva, also known as The Destroyer, Is the patron saint of yoga, meditation, and the arts; his whole mission is to transform reality and transcend consciousness. Sit in meditation and observe before joining Clara for Shiva’s mantra, Aum Namah Shivaya, which translates to the idea that we bow to Shiva and the eternal Self as we continue to shift and transcend our current consciousness. 

How do the koshas relate to the body?

CROThe koshas are from Vedantic philosophy. Kosha usually translates as the sheath or the layers of ourselves going from the grossest to the most subtle.

The first and grossest kosha is the Annamaya kosha, being the physical body. It deals with all the things that we take in, such as what we feel and eat. 

The second kosha is Pranamaya kosha, being the layer just below. Pranamaya kosha is your energetic body. We work with this kosha through the body’s energy lines; in yoga, we call the energy lines nadis, and in TCM and acupuncture, they’re called meridians. 

The third kosha is Manomaya kosha, which represents your emotional body. It represents the mind and emotions, and who we think we are. 

The fourth kosha is the Vijnanamaya kosha, which represents the intuitive or wisdom body. 

The fifth kosha is Ananadamaya kosha, the bliss body, or what I like to call the soul. 

The practice of Vedantic yoga would be to deal with all of the layers; all the various bodies that contribute to the individual. Generally, we’re more preoccupied with one of the layers, so for example, for those of us preoccupied with the physical body, we would be working with Annamaya kosha. The koshas can be a gateway into your practice to connect you with that specific body, so for meditation, it would be a practice for Manomaya kosha. 

What do you hope to teach your children about body awareness?

SM I hope to teach them that their body is amazing, that all parts of their body are amazing, and that their bodies are really cool and not something bad. 

CRO I like to think of their body as a celebration, to think of her body as a celebration and a way to feel and to experience joy. We do a lot of dancing as a family, and I hope that my daughter gets into it because I feel like it’s such a beautiful way to celebrate and to connect to freedom.

SMWe have to remember that our kids are listening to us, but way more than that, they’re watching. And what they see is what they’re going to take in and internalize. We can tell them whatever we want, but it only goes so far until they see us doing it. 

What is your experience of seeing versus being present in the body?

CRO I’ve never enjoyed looking in the mirror, and the reason is that I find it very distracting. I feel like it’s always taken me out of my experience. What I feel and what I see are never the same thing, and I used to find that very upsetting. 

I studied dance for a long time, but I didn’t dance to be a professional dancer. I dance because I love moving. I remember in school, when we were doing the choreography, how I felt, how free I felt. When I would look at the videos of myself dancing that we had to watch afterward, I would cry because of how I felt and what I saw were two different things. 

I eventually came not to care because I’m not trying to perfect my technique; I’m there to dance my heart out. To this day, I prefer yoga studios that don’t have mirrors in them because I don’t want to see what I look like. I want to feel it.

SMIf there were a mirror in the first yoga class that I did, I would have never gone back. I think it would have been way too confronting because, already, I felt so awkward. I think how many people likely don’t come back, just because they didn’t want to look at themselves in practice.

Yoga isn’t about how it looks, it helped me feel good, but you can’t see that from the outside. It’s like Clara said, yoga is all about the feeling that it brought for me. 

Learn more about Clara’s 300 hour yoga teacher training OR 200 hour yoga teacher training courses.