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5.8.23

wellness changemakers

Sarah Ezrin is a world-renowned yoga educator, mama, and the author of The Yoga of Parenting. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area,  Sarah’s work creates supportive, healing spaces where parents and wellness devotees can feel seen and heard. She has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes Magazine, Bustle, LA Weekly, and NBC News.

I have been in the health and wellness world since 2001. In those two decades, I have redefined what it means to be “healthy” many times. Ironically, it was often when I was most fixated on wellness that my life tended to be the least balanced. Since becoming a mother to my two sons, I have learned that wellness is not just about the state of my body. It is a commitment to prioritizing my mental well-being and personal needs, even when that might be uncomfortable, because if I’m  not taking care of myself, I can’t take care of anyone else.

In honor of this Mother’s Day, I partnered with The Chalkboard to interview eight changemakers in the wellness community to hear about the practices, language, books, and pieces of advice that have transformed their own motherhood journey.

8 Wellness Changemakers On How They Prioritize Well-Being While Parenting

Dr. Sará Yafah King, Neuroscientist, CEO + Founder of MindHeart Consulting  (Shown above) | Dr. Sará Yafah King educates the world that well-being and social justice are deeply intertwined. One of Dr. King’s missions is to elevate traditionally disenfranchised groups through the intersections of science and wellness. She heads a number of organizations, including the co-direction of Mobius, whose aim is to promote the development of liberatory technology.

The greatest piece of wellness advice she ever received came from her colleague and Mobius’ co-director, Davion “Zi” Ziere who once said the words, “By birth on Earth we are valid and worthy of love.” This sentiment helps remind her that just like our children, by simply existing, we are worthy of love.

“The world sends us messages that what we think and how we feel are not true. We’re made to feel as though we have to look or act a certain way, or achieve a certain kind of status in life in order to be worthy and valid human beings,” says Dr. King, “To truly believe that the only qualification we need to be deserving of the utmost love and respect, is the fact that we exist at all, produces a feeling of deep relaxation and warmth inside of my body, and a connectedness to my inherent value as a member of Earth family.”

Andrea Ferretti, Host of Yogaland podcast (Shown above) | Millions of people are familiar with Andrea Ferretti’s friendly and inviting style thanks to her podcast Yogaland.

Ferretti has learned that taking a similar approach to parenting her pre-teen daughter has been helpful for maintaining their relationship and her own well-being. “Everything in family life is easier and richer when you focus first on having a fun, loving, and deep relationship,” says Ferretti.

This does not mean there are no limits in their household, Ferretti explains. There is just a great deal of flexibility and respect between herself, her husband, yoga teacher Jason Crandell, and their ten year old. “We trust each other deeply and we say we’re sorry when we mess up. This requires slowing down and listening to each other. It requires mindfulness of our own agendas and feelings and egos,” says Ferretti, though she acknowledges that the official teen years will likely require an adjustment of styles once again. For now, she sees their home as a haven for the whole family and it is this approach that has helped her most on her wellness journey.

mother's day feature Tamika Caston-Miller, Ashé Yoga founder, Co-owner of The Ranch Houston  | Tamika Caston-Miller and her wife Lenie built their urban farm, The Ranch Houston, to give city-dwellers access to inclusive and nature-focused wellness. This volunteer-run farmstead is home to yoga offerings, art installations, a flower farm, and a community garden. They also host intimate special events, including their own daughter’s wedding.

Caston-Miller is a proud “Gigi” as her eldest grandchild calls her. Non-attachment, self-forgiveness, and equanimity in the face of foibles or failures are the practices that have most shaped her parenting and grandparenting, “I practice all those things with myself first, so I am better able to practice it with others. I’m especially getting the gift of those practices now with my grandbaby. Sometimes she will misbehave and get into trouble and it can look like an inconvenience for me, but if I am able to remember that she’s learning and this is just the way she’s experiencing the world, I’m able to approach those instances with more curiosity, compassion and love.”

Anusha Wijeyakumar, Author + activist | Anusha is an Adjunct Professor at San Diego State University, the author of Meditation with Intention: Quick and Easy Ways to Create Lasting Peace, the Wellness Consultant at Hoag Hospital, a keynote speaker and activist.

It has not always been easy for Anusha Wijeyakumar to juggle so many responsibilities and have so many people relying on her. She has many important jobs in addition to being a parent. As someone who cares deeply about her work and community, there have been many phases where she has been hard on herself and perfectionistic.

It has been focusing on the very meditation practices she shares with readers in her book that she is able to find more balance amidst life’s ups and downs. It also helps keep her accountable and practicing what she advocates. “My meditation and mindfulness practices have allowed me to open up to embodying more self-love and self-compassion and non-judgment towards myself and others. By doing this I have been able to change my internal negative narrative, understanding that this specific type of inner dialogue serves no place in my mind or life.”

changemaker moms on wellnessSusanna Barkataki, Founder of Ignite Institute for Yogic Leadership + Social Change | Susanna Barkataki is the author of Embrace Yoga’s Roots. She is also an Ayurvedic practitioner and Certified Yoga Therapist who teaches local organizations, and larger entities, such as the United Nations, that equity, inclusivity, and accessibility are crucial aspects of an authentic yoga practice.

Barkataki on parenting: “The greatest gifts of parenting are moments of presence and really being with and listening to my child.” She views parenting as a “worldly and spiritual practice” and explains, “I practice parenthood as a vessel for yoga and mindfulness. Parenting is not just one aspect of my practice, it is my spiritual practice.

Whitney Alese Roberts, Writer + podcast host | Whitney Alese Robert’s The Reclaimed blog and podcast, and her extraordinarily popular The Woke Mama page on TikTok, provide spaces for people to heal through community, awareness, and accountability. Wellness is not just an individual pursuit. It can be a collective movement to help one another, because when others rise, so can we.

Roberts has found a similar reciprocity in her home. “Being good to my daughter is being good to me,” she says, and the aspect of her wellness practice that has helped most with tuning into what her daughter needs at each moment is mindful prayer. Roberts explains, “I don’t pray to be the perfect mom, I don’t even pray to be a good mom. I pray that I am a good mom for her. And every day is different. I do my best to be good to her, and for her, on that day and in that moment. I don’t always get it right, but I try and try hard.”moms wellness tips

Susy Markoe Schieffelin, Sound healer + Kundalini yoga teacher | Susy Markoe Schieffelin has found the love and support of fellow mothers to be the most beneficial for her well-being during motherhood. “It takes a village, but where before I thought this only referred to having a lot of support around the home and people to help with childcare, I now understand that this includes emotional support for me, as I embrace my new identity as a mother.”

Like many of us, Schieffelin’s experience of matrescense has been a mixed bag of emotions. As much as there is joy and magic, she has also felt grief around the loss of her old self. It’s her relationships with other mothers that has shepherded this identity shift. She shares, “Having support from other mamas so I can feel safe processing one of the most transformative events of my life has made a world of difference and helped me be the best possible mom to my baby.”

Samara Zelniker, Life + executive coach | Samara Zelniker regularly guides businesses and their leaders through her mindfulness and emotional intelligence offerings, Mindfulness Matters. The techniques she teaches these entities to help them through that process are the same techniques she employs at home. After all, mothers are often like the CEOs of their families.

“It is my daily mindfulness practices that have allowed me to embrace that loss of my former self and to be the most present version of new self,” Zelniker says. “Practices such as daily yoga or Pilates, journaling three things I am grateful for every day, and getting out into nature as much as I can have helped the most.”

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