It's not surprising that I would make a career of teaching yoga to help people recover from adversity and move through to the other side.
Adversity is something I know well.
At age 6, revolutionaries in Iran threatened to burn the American elementary school my brother and I attended. Fleeing to Paris, we left everything behind: homes, cars and the majority of our belongings. Four schools and two countries later, we moved to New York, then to Los Angeles, where we settled and started from scratch.
Once in LA, my brother — my best friend — and I became distant, as both of us had gone into "survival mode." I was bullied in elementary school starting at age 7. Best girlfriends moved away following their parents' divorce. In high school, a car hit me while cycling through the city. And at 22, I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer.
I felt my life come to a screeching halt. Me, cancer? Apparently, playing sports around an oil rig at Beverly Hills High School exposed me to high levels of chemicals, which caused the disease. The process of treating my thyroid cancer took eight years of my twenties, until doctors finally declared that I was “cured.”
I won't lie. It sucked.
In the midst of that trauma, I turned to yoga and meditation as powerful complementary healing modalities.
Yoga made me strong.
My practice helped me connect to my spirit and made me feel good throughout my treatment and beyond. Over the past 20 years, I've trained in Los Angeles with Master Teachers from multiple yoga disciplines. My early teachers were Kundalini greats: Guru Singh, Guru Meher and Yogi Bhajan himself (the Master of Kundalini Yoga.) Later, I trained with Annie Carpenter (Smart Flow/Vinyasa), Lisa Walford (Iyengar), Paul Cabanis (Iyengar), and Saul David Raye.
My education supplied me with a powerful range of mind-body techniques to draw from. Kundalini yoga and meditation gave me soulful, subtle, energetic and transformational tools. Iyengar and vinyasa flow yoga gave me technical tools of precise alignment and intelligent sequencing.
I can now thank my adversity for inspiring me find Yoga and preparing me for my destiny to help others.
Teaching yoga for recovery.
Since 2001, I've been teaching at high-end residential recovery centers in Los Angeles. Teaching at these places is radically different from teaching traditional studio classes. In a single room, I can work with clients suffering from an array of issues: depression, anxiety, trauma, suicidal tendency, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, self injury, acute stress, obsessive-compulsive disorder, grief, addiction and substance abuse, and so on.
The tools and techniques I gathered from multiple yoga disciplines prepared me to design a highly effective and integrated system of mind-body-soul healing which help others move to the other side of adversity with ease.
Going beyond diagnosis to self-mastery.
My life challenges enable me to teach compassionately to those in recovery. When students share that they've experienced suffering, I understand. I've been there. Students identify with their diagnosis. I too forgot who I was when I became labeled as a “cancer patient.” My role, however, is not to facilitate a pity party.
My goal is to help clear the debris blocking each individual from knowing who they really are, beyond their issues or so-called “diagnosis.” I teach them that through the body, they can attain freedom and transcend the icky cellular memories of the past. I show students how to empty the noisy, critical mind, and disappear the victim conversations.
Through asana, vinyasa, pranayama, mindfulness techniques, guided visualization and meditation, my goal is to help each individual tap into her truest, purest essence.
The “essence” state of being feels as though you enter a beautiful vortex of deep inner calm, power, serenity and joy. It feels like coming home to yourself. No matter what your past is, you can tap into this place. No matter what your current life circumstance (pleasant or unpleasant) is — you can tap into this sacred space.
From this simple space, all creativity emerges. Who do you want to be in your life? What fulfills you? What kind of people do you want to draw to your life? How do you want to serve others and the world?
Through time, the benefits of this work shows up in every area of your life, and you start to live. Truly live. Eyes open. Wide awake. Open to possibility. Crystal clear about who you really are and what you're capable of. Stronger. Wiser.
In this way, adversity can be your greatest ally — a powerful opportunity to live the life you've always dreamed of, because now, you are the author of your destiny.