"It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are." - E.E. Cummings
I am a 200-hour registered yoga teacher (E-RYT), Master of Public Health, and Doctoral Candidate of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Science currently living in Honolulu, Hawaii on the beautiful island of Oahu. One of the first questions people ask me when we first meet is: so how did you get here? Well...
I grew up in Wellesley, MA, a small suburb of Boston, where my four brothers and parents raised me to be a strong but feminine woman. I was a two-sport NCAA athlete at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. My experience on the soccer and lacrosse fields taught me the disciplines of hard work, perseverance, and strength.
After earning a bachelor's degree in psychology from Skidmore, I was hired as a clinical research assistant at the most prestigious psychiatric hospital in the world, McLean Hospital in Boston. At McLean, I worked on several psychopharmacology research projects investigating various drugs and how they worked in the treatment of mood disorders. Many of the patients were overweight due to medication weight gain side effects, lack of motivation, and food cravings. They were caught in a vicious cycle, in which weight gain led to depression, and depression led to more drugs and overeating. During the weekly study interviews the subjects chronicled episodes of binge eating. They described the cognitive dissonance they experienced between their knowledge of how to be healthy versus the willpower required to incorporate exercise and eating in moderation into their daily lives. It became clear to me that one's mood was inextricably linked with the state of the physical body. I was both deeply moved by their personal stories and intrigued by the health related decisions that needed to be made and the reasons behind why those decisions were not followed through with action. As time passed, I found my own interests drifting away from wanting to help individuals with mood disorders and more focused on the physical body and the etiology of obesity and risk and resilience factors related to disease.
My shifting interests brought me to San Diego, where I worked with Dr. Igor Grant, a famous neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine, and Kerri Boutelle, a pioneering childhood obesity researcher. With this new position came a serious change of scenery; suddenly I was surrounded by the ocean, mountains, and sunny weather of beautiful Southern California. The experience of living there combined with my body/mind research precipitated a full on love affair with yoga, which I picked up after college to help with the transition from full-time athlete to full-time researcher. I became a 200-hr certified yoga instructor and continued my daily practice. I noticed all the shifts in my life. I was doing more and more of what I wanted to do. I volunteered every Saturday at the Dell Mar Farmers Market and ate farm-fresh fruits and veggies weekly. I hiked every weekend and brought all of my roommates along with me. I enjoyed a quality vegan dinner with my brother and sister-in-law every Sunday night. Time was so sweet and so precious, and somehow, I finally understood this idea.
San Diego wasn't the end game for me; I decided to go back to school, and I began looking into graduate public health and psychology programs all over the country related to my personal interests in obesity. I chose to study under a well-renowned childhood obesity researcher at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. I had never been to Hawaii, but within a few months I was flying out to the beautiful island of Oahu with no place to live and a few dollars in my pocket (frighteningly literal). I landed on a Friday night, found a place to live on Saturday, moved in on Sunday, and started my research position on Monday! Apparently the benefits of planning ahead were lost on me at this point in my life.
For the next year and a half, I was researching 20 hours per week, taking a full schedule of graduate-level courses at UH, and teaching nightly yoga classes. Occasionally, I would find time to explore this beautiful island that I found myself on. I was in constant awe of the magnificence of Oahu. Living in Hawaii took the beauty of Southern California to the next level; it's the closest I've felt to experiencing Heaven on Earth. Between moving forward with my own dreams of helping others and consuming my time with what made me smile, I started to shape my own view of public health. I hurried through the program in a year and a half and graduated as a Master of Public Health in 2013. I was hired to conduct full-time research at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center in Kakaako.
Full Time Yoga
At the same time, I was teaching roughly 10 yoga classes per week and found that, though the research I was doing was important, yoga allowed me to reach out and help a larger amount of people in a more intimate setting. My teaching reflected my passion and love of yoga and reaches tens of thousands of people. I could see the shifts first-hand that my students experience both on and off their mats, the same shifts that I moved through as I began my love affair with yoga. I decided to hold off on submitting PhD program applications as I had originally planned, and tried my hand at teaching yoga full-time.
The next couple years were spent as a full-time yoga teacher trying to broaden my audience and allow my students the best opportunity to live the life that everybody is capable of living. I think that everyone is capable of realizing their potential. Often the biggest hurdle for us is ourselves. Let's step out of our own way, connect within on a deeper level through yoga, and step into our potential. I want each of you to realize your potential and I will be there cheerleading you through the journey. I feel grateful every day to be here, living, breathing, and sharing what inspires me. It's an honor to share my yoga practice with everyone as well as my passion for living a healthy and vibrant life.
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