I Always Listen To The Signs


Signs and synchronicities are always around me—they’re an ever-present part of life—if I choose to tune in. The birth of my client’s baby is an example of how I let these signs guide me.

On March 28, 2018, something extraordinary happens. Ronika, my yoga therapy client, gives birth to her baby girl, Raina Ali Ruff. This day also happens to be my birthday.

Since almost the beginning of her pregnancy, I meet with Ronika every week for a private session of yoga therapy. The purpose of this work is to give Ronika emotional support.

Each of the private sessions with Ronika is powerful. Each help my client pick up a piece of herself she has left behind, and eventually helps her to be emotionally and physically prepared for the arrival of her third daughter.

During our last session before the upcoming birth, Ronika feels distressed. She is in the middle of a dilemma—she’s unsure how she feels about the thought of her partner/baby’s father’s presence in the labor room.

To help her connect with her deep feelings, I tell her the circumstances of my own birth. Something I rarely share–with anyone. That day, my mother is alone with the medical staff in the labor room of a Paris hospital. That day, my father chooses to stay in the province where he finishes building a school for another two days to get his much-needed pay check. It takes me five decades of feeling that “I am not worthy enough for my father to be here for my arrival”, to finally realize that his choice is driven by love—by the love he has for me—for his family.

Raina Ali Ruff

Speechless

Ronika is speechless. My story resonates with her. Deeply.

A week later, Raina’s father is in the labor room and welcomes his baby girl when she takes her first breath. His presence positively affects Ronika and the birth story that Raina will carry with her for her entire life.

I see Raina Ali’s birth date as a sign, a synchronicity that lets me know I am on the right path, teaching yoga therapy the way I teach it. It also validates the way I feel about the circumstances of my own arrival on Earth. Raina Ali’s birth is the best birthday present I have ever received.

The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung created the word “synchronicity”. He defined it as “A meaningful coincidence of two or more events, where something other than the probability of chance is involved.”

Today, Raina is four months old. Both of her parents, along with her teachers at daycare, all say how calm she is, in all circumstances.

There’s a thing that helps me receive the signs–listening. The ability to listen to what life brings my way. I nurture that ability when I practice the yoga I’ve learned for 14 years from my French yoga teacher, Aline Frati, until she passed away.

Practice something that helps you listen. And listen. Pay attention to the signs life sends your way. Consider them as information the universe sends you. And take them into consideration before your next step forward. Do that now.

My father and I in Spain.

Yoga Therapy Prescription—Learn What Brings You Joy and Do Lots of It!

If you want to live a long, healthy life, consider doing things that bring you joy. They are the same things that bring you closer to your true self. And what brings you to your true self is the path to your well being and health.

I spent this Memorial Day weekend doing something I love–contra dance! As a French native, I have a hard time explaining what contradance is. I had never experienced anything like contra before my friend Stephanie introduced me to it last autumn at LEAF Festival’s “contradance hall” in Asheville, NC. Mind you, many of my American friends didn’t know what contra was either. I’m told it’s a subculture.

Contra is an old style of American dance where you dance with a partner in two lines—partners face each other on each side—while a caller leads everybody in a series of moves. And then, there’s the music. Contra is danced to Celtic, Southern Appalachian, jazz and blues played by live bands. Thanks to the slaves who brought rhythm from Africa, contra is full of it. During the dancing the lines of people morph into patterns–from the sky, a contra dance looks like a kaleidoscope of humans.

In contradance, I swirl, swing, circle, trade places, make eye contact, and even flip sometimes. I’m in love with it. The other day, I was told that contra is powerful, that it’s love. That speaks to me. What I also know is that contra has made me re-connect with a passion of mine—dancing—that I had given up since I was a teenager. I would never have thought that dance would come back in my life, years later, especially not in this shape and form. Life always finds new ways to surprise me.

Giving the right food to my soul

What’s contra got to do with yoga therapy? Well, everything. You see, contra brings me joy. And when I feel joy, I know I’m giving the right food to my soul. And when I nourish my soul, I’m doing one of the most powerful things I can do to heal—on whatever level I need to heal.

Whether you’re on a healing journey or just in need of more aliveness, I recommend you look closely into what brings you long, lasting joy–into what feeds your soul. Nourishing your soul brings you closer to who you are deeply. The 17th century Dutch philosopher, Baruch Spinoza, who was the champion of joy and gave the emotion the most thought, came to the conclusion that each time you grow in the direction of your true self is when you experience joy.

Letting go of old beliefs

This movement towards your true self, towards joy, may mean letting go of old beliefs. That’s what it’s meant for me. I was brought up in a family where the value of “hard work” was first and foremost with little room left for playing and enjoying life. I’ve re-evaluated the place I’ve given to “hard work,” and re-orchestrated my life so that joy has gradually become the center. You gotta do what you gotta do.

I’ll also always remember a doctor and nutritionist I met in 2004 in Paris. I had just been diagnosed with my first breast cancer. He gave me tips on how to feed my body with healthy nutrition which I still use to this day. He also mentioned this guy who had been diagnosed with an incurable cancer and who had decided to go ahead and live his dream—spend the rest of his life on a sail boat, traveling around the world. The guy ended up being cured and living many more moons. My doctor finished our conversation saying, “if there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, do it. It can make a huge difference.”

I couldn’t help spending most of Leaf Festival, close to Asheville, NC, mid-May, in their contra dance hall. On the evening of Sat. May 12, we were up to 250 dancers to move non stop for hours. Photo: Patrick Olin.

Natural Born Healer

My first memories are images of comforting my mom and others. It’s kind of my destiny. No wonder I have come up with my own healing method, Yoga for Renewal.

I’m three, maybe four years old. I’m in our 400-square foot apartment, which is on the fourth floor of our building with no elevator, in the blue-collar neighborhood of Belleville, Paris. It’s the middle of the night. My dad is out of town, in another province, building a school or a hospital. Money is scarce so, at night, he sleeps in a sleeping bag on the working site. I’m standing in the middle of the flat. In front of me, I see my mom. She’s in the bathroom, standing, her head bent over the sink. The light is dim. My mom’s nose is bleeding. I see the blood dropping in the white sink, for hours. I’m scared. That red on the white sink… I don’t like it. I wait and look out for my mom, refusing to go to bed until I know she’s ok. Years later, she confirmed to me that the nosebleeds—which happened regularly, always at night and when my dad was away—did last for hours.

Panic mode

Another night. I’m around the same age, maybe younger. My dad’s away building another school in another province. I’m wrapped up in a blanket in my mom’s arms, while she, in panic mode, runs down the staircase of our apartment building. We end up in a taxi. The driver’s voice is soothing. He’s probably concerned. What are this young woman and her child doing outside, at this hour? Years later, my mom revealed to me that she had suicide impulses. She was attracted by the apartment’s windows and the height. To run away from these impulses, she grabbed me and ran down the stairs as fast as she could until the impulses and the panic faded away.

Years ago, my mom and I walked through Montmartre (Paris) where an artist created our faces' silhouette drawing.

I’m eight or nine. It’s the summer and we’re on vacation in Spain. Spain is such a joy, and my dad is with us! Nevertheless, my mom is starting to break down. She’s unable to stay standing for more than five minutes. Then she faints. No one knows why, including the Spanish doctor my parents go to consult out of despair. I walk holding my dad’s hand on the village’s port. I’m wondering what I could do to make him feel better.

Tell your story, breathe and feel your body--Deeply

For as long as I can remember, I helped heal. It’s my purpose—along with dancing. It took me a while to come to terms with it. First, my mom started her own healing path—a couple of years after the Spanish vacation. Then, she took my hand when I was a young adult, and showed me the way to heal myself from the pain and trauma that circulated from her blood to mine. I also had to set myself free from what I thought my dad wanted me to be—a “success” in the corporate world. Life has its way of pushing you onto the right path. Have you noticed that? In my case, the universe threw two cancers my way, ten years apart. They helped me find my purpose for sure.

I received the message so deeply that I’ve come up with my own healing modality--Yoga for Renewal. If you’re ready for something new on your healing journey, you can take my hand too, and join me in one of my small group classes or a private session. There’s space to tell your story, and there’s space to breathe and feel your body--deeply. “That’s exactly what you need to heal,” my mom says. She knows. She’s done the hard and brave work to heal her wounds and tame her demons. She’s my hero.

Are You Shedding The Skin Of Your Past? Yoga Therapy Can Help

Barcelone-1992

Talking about a previous skin... Summer 1992. In Barcelona during a "Thelma and Louise" road trip with my friend Emilia. We drove from Paris to Barcelona and then across to Nazaré, Portugal. It was a "free spirit" break in the middle of my (short) career at Disneyland Paris.

Every time we experience a big life change, we shed an emotional skin. Here's how yoga therapy can help in this challenging growth process.

Have you ever had the feeling of shedding your emotional skin?

Shedding skin is not a bad thing. It’s part of life. Expecting a baby, moving from one country to another, living after the loss of a spouse, recovering from a surgery--I see lots of skin shedding happening all around me.

I’m going through this growth process again myself, right now. Several events have caused my “old” skin to shed: the recent loss of my yoga teacher, Aline Frati; building the foundations of my own style of yoga therapy, Yoga for Renewal; a personal relationship that pushed me to establish clearer boundaries; and the awareness, finally, that I made the right life decisions in the past three years, despite being judged as “wrong” by significant people in my life.

Even though my “new skin” is not fully in place yet, I can feel that it’s getting closer. Several things are helping me in this growth process. Checking in with people in my life who have the ability to listen deeply is one of them. Sharing who I am and what I am experiencing with someone who listens from their heart is one of the most healing exercises I have ever encountered.

My yoga practice is a great friend too. These days, early every morning, I set aside time that I spend on my yoga mat in my home studio in Atlanta. The combination of the yogic breathing with simple movements does magic. It helps me go inwards and check in with myself. How do I feel in my skin? Am I feeling congruent right down to my cells? Am I true to myself? Am I at peace with myself? How can I breathe into that pain in my lower back? What is that pain saying that can serve me?

If you are shedding an older skin, as I am, I invite you to, first, recognize the process you are experiencing and to honor it. Shedding skin is a big deal.

Once you have actually acknowledged that you are shedding skin, you may want to go through the process on your own or you may choose to seek a little assistance. If assistance feels right for you, I invite you to consider joining me in the upcoming Yoga Therapy 6-Class Series I am about to teach. We’ll be meeting in Terminus Chiropractic in the heart of Cabbage town in Atlanta, every Tuesday evening from February 20 to March 27.

I have designed this Yoga Therapy 6-class series in a way that offers you the healing tools that have helped me the most and continue to do so. I start every class, which is 1hr 45mins long, by bringing the students into a circle and asking them a simple self-reflective question, for example, “What was the most challenging thing that has happened this week?”  Once everyone feels complete with the way they’ve answered—or not answered, I lead students in a deep, gentle yoga practice that will help you listen to your body, relax deeply, and “dissolve the patterns of fear and anxiety that get fixed in the body in the form of tension and pain,” as Aline Frati used to say.

I hope you will join me. I would be honored to accompany you in your next new skin.

A Last Au Revoir To My Yoga Teacher

Portrait-Aline

Once, I asked Aline Frati, my yoga teacher, "Do you consider you teach therapeutic yoga?" She answered, "No, I teach a yoga approach for everybody. I teach the yoga of non-duality in which we search for our true nature, beyond all conditionings."

Every breath and every pose I lead my yoga students into are inspired by my yoga teacher, Aline Frati. Aline left us on Jan. 2. Tribute.


My yoga teacher, Aline Frati, left us on January 2, in Paris where she lived.

I happened to be in Paris when Aline made her transition. I was going to fly back to Atlanta the day of her religious ceremony, when Delta unexpectedly cancelled my flight early that morning, allowing me to attend the ceremony, which was held at the Père Lachaise, the most visited cemetery in the world.

After the funeral, Barbara, another of Aline’s students, and I decided to walk through the cemetery to catch the train at the Père Lachaise metro station. On our way, we met a man--one of those “real”, direct-to-the-point, cheeky Parisians--who knew the place like the back of his hand. He guided us to see tombs of many famous people, including Jim Morrison, before disappearing like smoke. I don’t know about you but I believe in signs.

I wrote a few lines about Aline that I read to Aline’s family and friends. I know that Aline would have loved for me to share them with you on my blog, so I’ve included them, below. Namaste.

Discovering yoga with Aline deeply shook my life. She supported me all along my journey.

Aline taught the most therapeutic form of yoga I have ever come across--far from the “yoga-robics” that is often taught in France and the States, where I live.

Above everything, Aline wanted to help us develop our capacity to listen to our body--without judgment. About her yoga approach, she also said, “the purpose of this yoga is to dissolve the repetitive patterns of fear and anxiety which we experience, since childhood, that get fixed in the body in the form of tension and pain.”

Aline fully expressed her art during the yoga retreats she taught at the Abbey of Saint Antoine, a 11th century abbey in one of France’s most beautiful villages, niched in the pre-Alps. “It is the teacher’s quality of presence that helps a person harmonize, not the yoga technique,” she told me during one of those retreats.

Thank you, Aline, for what you have passed down to me. Thank you for being a precious friend, a guide, a light that led me to my deepest self. Just like I asked for your guidance when you were here with us, I will continue to ask you to guide me in yoga therapy and in building on the foundation of what you have taught me.

Your friend, Always,
Elisabeth

Every summer from 2005 to 2016, Aline taught a week yoga retreat at the 11th century Saint Antoine abbey in a village in the pre-Alps. Aline's teaching combined with the spirit of the ex-abbey run by a Christian community that hosts personal development workshops, revived my soul and deepened my understanding of this yoga practice every time I attended Aline's retreat.

Aline (center, sitting down) with us, her students, at the abbey during the 2008 summer yoga retreat.

 

Wrap up 2017 with my annual Year in Review

Laying down the foundations of a new alternative healing approach, that's what 2017 is about. What is yoga therapy? What does the ideal and most healing yoga therapy class looks like for me? Experimenting Yoga for Renewal. Transforming it. Testing it again. Re-changing it. 2017 has been an altogether exciting and grueling year full of questions--and sometimes answers. Here's 2017 in seven photos.

 

1-Jan-Feb

January-February

I lock myself in my home office, and collect yoga training and gestalt training material as well as my experience as being my own yoga therapy patient to design a 3-day workshop, "Thriving After Illness", the cornerstone of Yoga for Renewal's alternative healing approach. Its purpose is to help people find their inner fire after illness. In the middle of this, I take a break to participate to Atlanta's version of the Women's March on January 21, the day after Trump takes office.

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March-April

After a unsettling month of March during which I am naturalized as an American citizen, I teach "Thriving After Illness 3-day Workshop" for the first time ever at Vista Yoga, Atlanta, in April. While teaching the program, I have the confirmation it works. I feel relieved and more grounded.

3-May

May

I feed my blog with blog posts, teach individual sessions of yoga therapy, and realize that "Thriving After Illness 3-Day Workshop" can help everyone, not only people who are recovering from illness.
I bring the best French tradition ever, the "apero"--drinks and finger food before the real dinner--to friends in my all-in-one home/office/yoga studio duplex, in SW Atlanta. More grounding comes along.

4-June-July

June-July

It's time to say bye bye to the beautiful loft, in downtown Atlanta, where I've taught Yoga for Renewal's weekly class for the past months. I modify "Thriving After Illness 3-Day Workshop" so that it's adapted for anyone who needs a "decompression week-end", not just people who are recovering from illness. "Thriving After Illness 3-Day Workshop" becomes "Yoga for Renewal 3-Day Workshop".

5-August-Sept

August-September

Again, Vista Yoga hosts a Yoga for Renewal premiere. There, I teach a 4-class series over four weeks, a "sampler" of YFR 3-Day Workshop, in August for the first time ever. Ten students--the series is at full capacity--help me grow as much as I help them.
A new community. A family. That's what I (finally) find in the Deep South after ten years living in the States. It all starts with my friend Stacie inviting me to her wedding on August 21, the day of the total solar eclipse, in South Carolina, on the path of totality. Shifting experience.

6-Oct-Nov

October-November

I participate in a two-day training on healing circles in the tradition of Native Americans. We're a dozen of volunteers who have committed to be part of a Trauma Response Group in SW Atlanta. That style of healing circle is used in some of Texas' prisons to ease up conflicts. I realize how opening up can be challenging in the American culture--maybe more so that in the French culture. In November, I teach my 4-class series over fours weeks for the second time, at Candler Park Yoga, Atlanta.

7-Nov-Dec

December

Back to the roots. In France with my mom (center) and our cousins, Giovanni (left) and Rosine (right). All three of them emigrated from Italy to France between 1949 and 1964. Out of five surviving siblings, my maternal grandmother (Carmela Picano) and three of her siblings (Concetta, Crescenzo and Antonio Picano) left Italy.  Carmela, Crescenzo and Antonio emigrated in France while Concetta left for the U.S. My paternal great grandfather, Geraldo Tartaglia, was one of the first Italians to commercialize Italian fine foods to the French. He had a foot in both countries.

Time to Regroup After a Year of Testing My Yoga Therapy Method

Naturalization-5-March17-Cropped3

My naturalization ceremony on March 10, 2017, in Atlanta. Several people have asked me the same question lately, "What (the hell) makes you stay in the States, these days?" I always give the same answer, "I've met a community of great people, my people."

Yoga for Renewal works. That's the good news. Man, it's been a process. The next step is to make myself known. Right now, time to renew.

I’m a yoga pioneer, and I’m going through a rough time right now. I’ve spent this year building the foundations of my yoga therapy business, Yoga for Renewal, in Atlanta where I live. These days, it seems like every time I open a door, I find a stop sign on the other side--so I’m feeling stuck. And since YFR brings to life what I carry intimately in my soul and what I’m here for, this bothers me.

One of the things I’ve worked on this year is my elevator pitch. Here it is. “YFR is the unique yoga therapy approach that I’ve developed, situated at the intersection of yoga and therapy. It brings two healing modalities together--the unique yoga practice I’ve learned from my yoga teacher in France, Aline Frati, and a time where I invite participants to become aware of what is weighing on their heart and share—I call that time ‘the healing circle’.”

Not bad, right?

If the person I talk to looks interested, I keep going. “You want to know what you truly need in your life, right now? There’s a grief that’s weighing on your life and that you haven’t allowed yourself to go through. Whatever gets in the way of your joy will come up in a YFR class so you can contact it, name it, feel it in your body and transform it into free energy.”

The whole year, I’ve taken two steps forward and one step back.

I started 2017 designing YFR’s three-day workshop, which captures the essence of my approach. For three days, participants practice yoga, then share what is coming up for them in a healing circle, then return back to the yoga mat for more breathing and postures, then back to the healing circle, and so on.

I taught the workshop for the very first time in the spring. There were only three participants. Still, the group was enough to show me that my method worked. One participant became aware of how physically and emotionally strong she was despite a serious chronic condition; another recognized her need to grieve after the loss of a loved one; while the third left before the end of the three days, avoiding addressing her guilt.

Later in the year, I designed the Yoga for Renewal 4-Class Series--a condensed version of the workshop. My first series brought together a group of ten. Yeah! Each week for four weeks in a row, I taught a two-hour class where participants practiced yoga and came together in a healing circle.

During this series one of the participants became aware of how vital it is to express how she feels. Another spoke her truth to a loved one, something she had never done before. Another dropped out half way because of a sore throat, or maybe a trip out West, or maybe both.

I’ve also had to cancel a workshop and a series for lack of people registering. That sucked.

“Write an elevator pitch.” “Put less text on your flyers.” “Put more text on your flyers.” “You need to teach in hospitals!” “Have you talked with chiropractors?” “Do you think the French would be more receptive to what you do?” My friends’ suggestions and questions have uplifted, helped, confused or depressed me, depending on what they said and my mood in the moment.

There are a few things I know for sure. The body and soul are inseparable. When we contact and express our emotions, we move towards better physical, psychological and spiritual health. I’ve developed YFR based on those principles. Yoga for Renewal works—for those who are ready.

Last but not least, I’ve gone too far to give up!

Next week, I’ll fly home to Paris, taste my mom’s home-made pizza and get nurtured from her wisdom, walk on the city’s bridges, go salsa dance with my friends, make eye contact with cute guys in the streets, taste the world’s best wines, joke with my cousins, share my journey with my yoga teacher, and experience whatever the universe has in store for me. Au revoir. I’ll meet you on the other side for more Yoga for Renewal.

"Feeling and do some yoga", that's how a client describes Yoga for Renewal.

Yoga Teachers, Therapists—Help Your Clients with Yoga for Renewal

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Bringing a student to breathe, to connect with their true feelings, and to name and respect what has been hidden. That's what Yoga for Renewal is about.

Yoga for Renewal is at the intersection of yoga and therapy. So if you're a yoga teacher or a therapist, YFR can help you help your own clients. Here's how.

Yoga for Renewal is what I carry intimately in my soul and what I am here for.

I am hypersensitive, a lover of movement (mainly dance), and I have a passion for aiding in healing. After years of preparation, I’ve designed YFR, a new healing approach, that is made up of both a specific yoga practice and a time dedicated to self-awareness and sharing.

The yoga practice helps a person develop their ability to listen to emotions and feelings that have been buried alive, to listen to what their body says—openness, relaxation or, on the contrary, constriction, pain or even disease. The time for self-awareness is a place where clients are invited to become aware of what is lodged in and weighing on their heart, and to verbalize and respect what they are finding.

Yoga Teachers—Help Your Students Put Words on Their Symptoms

At the end of my five-month yoga teacher training in 2010, each of us 29 students had to teach a yoga sequence to the rest of the group. I teamed up with another student and taught the last thirty minutes of a gentle yoga class. We had all been through an intense training which had stirred our personal “stuff”. I could feel the exhaustion in the room. Half way through the part I was teaching, everybody was in child’s pose. Intuitively, I sat next to a student I felt close to, and rested my hand on top of her back. She burst into tears and sobbed. After class, she expressed that she felt overwhelmed with sadness over the loss of her brother who had passed away years before, and for which she had never grieved. The five-month training and the class had brought to the light the suppressed grieving.

If you are a yoga teacher, more likely than not, you have taught a class where one of your students has had an emotional breakthrough. Because of its nature, experiencing YFR can help you listen with greater presence to what your students have to say, and help them put words to their feelings and symptoms. It can help you go one step further, as a yoga teacher, by showing you the way to your clients’ symptoms, using the power of words.

Therapists—Help Your Clients Reach Feelings Buried Alive, with Body Work

The first time I ever attended a yoga class, I had years of therapy behind me. The work —whether in individual sessions or in group—had helped me break down the walls of the “prison” I lived in to comply with my parents’ needs. That day, I took my first class in Paris with Aline Frati who has been my yoga teacher ever since. Something unexpected showed up for me. For the very first time I felt connected to my body. I felt the hurt of satisfying others--of years of pushing myself in an exhausting career and of an abusive relationship--within my tissues. Connecting with my body and soul so deeply put me on a fast-track to healing.

If you are a therapist, experiencing YFR will help you to help your clients reach and go through physical resistances and muscular restrictions that will bring them to feelings that have long been buried alive. From that place, you will be able to help your clients respect what has been hidden within their tissues, and within their soul. YFR’s body approach will help you, as a therapist, help your clients reach their deepest authentic selves faster than with using verbalization alone.

Years of therapy, yoga, re-connecting with dancing and a love for healing--all led me to design Yoga for Renewal.

One of these days, I hope to meet you all on the mat.

 

My Big Move’s 11th Anniversary–in 11 Photos

Here's a photo gallery to celebrate when I first moved from France to the States in Atlanta, Georgia, eleven years ago, and my blog's first anniversary. It's been a ride.

2007

2007.
Atlanta is both enchanting and brutal. I have to re-learn everything, while exploring my new existence with my American husband. Every morning I roll out my yoga mat in our living room. The yoga I practice --and that I've learned from my French yoga teacher, Aline Frati-- helps me to dive deep inwards and navigate through the misunderstandings in my relationship, and the hazards of being a new immigrant. Still, I feel I don’t fit. Six months later, I push through the door of a therapist’s office.  He listens and says, “Be who you are”. I feel an instant relief in my chest, and keep going.

2008

2008.
At a wedding with a theme--The 40's. Feeling isolated in this transition year. John travels for his business a lot. Thank goodness, I pick up a writing gig. I spend most days in my home office. I visit my family of choice--Valerie and Dave in Orlando, FL and Jenny and Larry in Lansing, MI. My friend Carole from Paris comes to visit. I also manage to attend, for the fourth year in a row, Aline's annual week-long yoga retreat, in Southern France. There, I pause and feel. "Teach! You're ready!" claims my yoga teacher.

2009

2009.
The "American dream" collapses. John is out of work part of the year. I find a huge writing project--which helps! I spend days in my home office, writing. Feeling isolated and that I have lost track of myself. What about my dream of teaching yoga? I sign up for a yoga teacher training and spend the summer building my (arm) muscles to prepare. In America, I find yoga is about fitness and strength!

2010

2010.
I bump into a training in the practice of Gestalt therapy. We're four trainees and Leif Roland, gestalt practitioner and trainer. All of us are foreigners! Over six months, I learn to become aware of what I feel in the present moment, to respect that, and to be fully present for others. That's where I meet Julia De Leon, my soul sister, and Ciprian Stan, who tragically passes away in 2014 from ALS. I want to teach yoga in a "new" way. My intention is to teach the yoga practice I've learnt from Aline Frati, my French yoga teacher, and complement the practice with a time where students can share how they truly feel. I give the "protocol" a name--Yoga for Renewal.

2011

2011.
My dad comes to visit me, us. He's astonished by the cars, "they're all brand new!" and Savannah. He's also appalled by the "bad" wine that is served in restaurants. One day, while I drive him to the local fresh market, he says "you have to have killed mother and father to get used to here!" It's a French saying that we use when we refer to someone who is or has accomplished something particularly difficult. I stay silent and think, "yes, it's one way to say what I've experienced."

2012

2012.
While working as a freelance writer, I train as a certified yoga therapist. I teach my first-ever Yoga for Renewal group class series in Candler Park Yoga in Atlanta. I am testing, for the first time, the power of the combination of yoga and a healing circle where I encourage students to connect in deep and personal places, all for their personal development. The students' progression over the series tells me the "protocol" works. 

2013

2013.
My marriage is falling apart and neither of us are aware of it. John and I buy a house in the 'hood in Southwest Atlanta, 11 miles from Atlanta's Northern suburbia where we live--an ocean apart. It's a big, healthy house --4,000 square feet--which needs lots of interior renovation. The first time I step inside to visit it, the solid stone necklace I'm wearing breaks apart, for no reason. I see the stones roll everywhere on the floor... Looking back, it's a sign. The house feels too big. I still say "yes" to the purchase because of a big den that we can convert into a home yoga studio, and to save the marriage.

2014

2014.
My friend Randy, a talented astrologer and coach, tells me what he sees in my chart for the coming months. "You are going to go over a big bump. It will be at the scale of an atomic explosion. After this time, you will find your purpose, the real reason why you came here." Randy is right. Within four months, John and I separate, my dad is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer while I'm diagnosed with a second breast cancer. I move back to France to take care of myself and regroup with my family. Before leaving Atlanta, my friend Julia introduces me to her friends, a group of sensitive, like-minded people who love to connect, help make the world a better place and party.

2015

2015.
After my treatments, I return to Atlanta to divorce. Three months later, I'm back in Paris for my dad's funeral. That day, I look at the sunset from my parents' house, just outside of the city. I've looked at dozens of sunsets from their place but that evening is different. The sunset is the most beautiful and intense I've ever seen. Back to Atlanta, I infuse Yoga for Renewal with what I've learnt in the past year--a huge lot.

2016

2016.
A trip to Italy, the place of my family roots, changes something that is deeply buried in me, something transmitted from my lineage. While hiking in the mountains, I have the chills and feel I need to deposit, at this spot (photo), the pain my mom and my ancestors have endured on this land, and reclaim the pride of being of Italian descent. The same year, I decide to let go of my writing business to dedicate my time to Yoga for Renewal and build its foundation in Atlanta.

2017-Leaf

2017.
I find my voice with my blog and I walk Yoga for Renewal from the toddler's stage to the young child's stage. It's now clear--what makes me tick is to help people process feeling that have been buried alive through the yoga practice and the healing circle. I start establishing the brand and the protocol in Atlanta with a three-day workshop and a group class series at Vista Yoga. Another group class series is planned at Candler Park Yoga. This is also the year of connectedness, festivals, new friends, new community, dancing and music. The journey to be me continues.

Pinktober aka The Month of OVER Giving

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A couple of days ago, lying and finding balance and support on a branch of the huge old oak tree that lies on the ground in my backyard. On Sept. 4, the tree looked so strong it seemed it was going to be there for ever. Irma and its winds brought it right down later that day. If the oak tree had fallen the opposite direction, it would have crashed the place where my neighbor, Ronika, her family and I live. As she put it,"We're blessed!"

Here's the story of how, as a double cancer survivor, I found what breast cancer means to me as an illness. Maybe this story will make a difference in a life out there. Maybe yours.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month helps me recognize my humanity through my two biggest battles —a first bout with breast cancer in 2004 and a second one ten years later. I also reflect on my sister fighters, survivors and thrivors –whatever we feel we are--, and on my sisters on the other side.

Let me share a (real) story that will tell you what breast cancer means to me as an illness. Hopefully, it won’t have anything to do with your own self at all. Or maybe it will resonate for you, or for someone you know. If that’s the case, my hope is that it will make a difference in your life or someone else’s.

In March 2015 soon after my treatments, on the French West coast. I had just dropped the pink scarf I had worn for the past five months. My goddaughter, Clara, then six, convinced me with her question, "What's wrong with your hair, anyway?"

January 2015. I’m coming out of the woods after being diagnosed with breast cancer seven months before. I’ve found a refuge at my parents’ home, close to Paris, and I’ve finished the big chunk of my treatments –surgery and six rounds of chemo. My hair is (temporarily) gone, and the incision and infection following my surgery six months before, won’t heal. My father is fighting his own battle against lung cancer, and my marriage is on the edge of a cliff. Thank goodness, I manage to keep the infection localized, despite chemo, my tribe’s here, and my writing client has put me in charge of a fun, global video project.

Along with the medical treatment, I begin the process of spiritual treatment, with the first step being to finally recognize who I am, instead of looking for others to recognize me. What are my dreams, beliefs and values? What makes my soul unique? Do I love my husband? Do I want to go back to Atlanta?

I have the answers deep inside. I feel I still need confirmation. That’s when I call Caroline Quemerais, an astrologer and healer, for answers.

When I step into Caroline’s home office, in the ‘hood right outside of Paris, I feel uneasy. I contemplate getting up and leaving, but, within seconds, decide to stay. She looks at her screen, on which she reads my astrology chart.

“Your father was not present by your mother’s and by your side when you came to this world. His absence was powerful. It gave you the unconscious message that you were not good enough for him to be here. This has shaped your intimate relationships. Ever since, you’ve chosen men who are absent when you need them, and you’ve over compensated to be accepted and loved by the men of your life”. I freeze while Caroline talks. Her conclusion resonates even deeper in me, “that’s what breast cancer is about. It’s about a woman’s belief that, in order to be loved, she needs to give—a lot. It’s about giving so much, and feeling it’s never enough, that she grows a third breast—a tumor.”

The appointment lasts a long, intense hour where so much is said that I’ll end up with a bronchitis the next day. I’ve since realized that I prefer working with healers that leave certain things unsaid. That day, though, Caroline tells all.

She sheds the light on positive information, too. “It was difficult for your father to decide to be away when you were born. He had to work far away from home to take care of his family’s needs. That’s love too. You can see that now.”

While listening to Caroline, I remember what my father had confessed to me as soon as he was diagnosed, six months before, “When you were born, I was up North (of France), working on building a school and supervising a team of four workers. I could have dropped everything to be with your mother. Then, I would not have been paid and neither would have the other workers. We all needed the money--badly. So, I decided to stay another two days until we were going to be done, and then run to see you.”

March 2015, two weeks later, at my friend Carole's costumed birthday party, all dressed up in the 70's!

I hear Caroline saying these words over and over again, “Play the princess! Be a princess! Be loved for who you are, not for what you do!”

You, too, may want to say those words, to yourself or to a woman you think needs to hear them.

Happy Pinktober.