"What's most important is listening; That's why you have two ears and one mouth. You'd be listening twice as much as you'd talk."
Alisha Burrell unravels her transformative journey from anger to love. Discover low-impact workouts like Kemetic yoga, meditation, and nature connection. Explore yoga’s physical and mental benefits, its power to enhance mindfulness, and the science behind improved flexibility and mobility.
Alisha Burrell M.Ed. is a Kemetic yoga teacher and wellness entrepreneur, curriculum specialist, gardener, and author of the book, Worrier to Warrior. Alisha is the executive director of the organization, Roots to Wellness, that focuses on health empowerment and social-emotional learning.
In today’s episode with Alisha Burrell, she unravels her transformative journey from anger to love. Discover low impact workouts like comedic yoga, meditation, and nature connection. Explore yoga’s physical and mental benefits, its power to enhance mindfulness, and the science behind improved flexibility and mobility. It’s going to be a Zen one.
Alisha Burrell, M.Ed.., is a comedic yoga teacher and Wellness entrepreneur, curriculum specialist, gardener, and the author of the Book “Worrier 2 Warrior”. Alicia is the executive director of the organization Roots to Wellness that focuses on health, empowerment, and social emotional learning. Welcome, Alisha.
00:01:20 Alisha Burell
Thank you, Shireen. Glad to be here.
It is such a pleasure having you on. I’m really excited about this episode. First off, Alicia, I just want our listeners to connect with you a little and just learn a little bit about your journey. Let’s start off with what inspired you to start roots to Wellness. What was sort of the story behind it?
Yeah, just finding out the root cause of what’s going on with myself. As I was growing up, they say that childhood time is not just, you know, elementary. But it goes all the way up to 25 years old. So, during that time period of my life, I realized I was so angry and was holding in a lot of that anger within my body. And so once I started to go through different coaching and things like that, I start to find out the root cause of the anger and finding out the route to my family history and just things that are going on, you know, relationship, job switching, taking care of a family member as they’re healing through an illness, just different life situations and finding out the root cause of where that anger was coming from, that stress anxiety really helped to be able to unpack that in a healthy way through nature and yoga. And so, what I am aspiring to do is to reach out to as many people as possible on the benefits of connecting in nature and finding out the root of your family. Finding out the root cause of whatever it is that you’re facing and a lot of that can be brought out through Yoga as well. So really using that energy into movement to release it from our bodies.
That is interesting, sort of resetting that mind-body connection and really understanding how some of those experiences are really channeled and even held in our body. As a founder of Roots to Wellness, help us understand first, like, what does that connection even look like? How does that even form? Right? And then what are the various types of wellness activities that you provide? How many individuals really choose what is the right impact level sort of release that workout that yoga for them?
Well, sure. My background is education, and with that I can see how schools can sometimes get a little bit more involved in the academic part, but that social emotional learning is what we want to bring into that piece as well. So not only are we learning about academics and Science, Math, Reading. All the things that we learn in nature will also include that social, emotional side. Bring in the yoga, bring in the mental health piece, bring the mindfulness that helps you understand the why behind things. So, when you’re looking at the different types of activities that people would do when they work with roots to Wellness, it could be between gardening. It can be yoga; it can be something. Just some mindfulness practice. And I just worked with a group of students a couple weeks ago, and it was just a like 2-minute practice where they had to just practice listening and talking. So, if you and I, Shireen, we’re partnered up. You would talk to me about whatever you want to talk about for one whole minute, and the only job I had to do as your partner is to listen. And then we would switch off turns and say something about what we had shared with each other. And so really getting students the opportunity to see that, you know, sometimes you, you know, you have to be on and like, say, certain things and have that practice of communicating with others, but also what’s most important is listening. That’s why you have two ears and one mouth. You’d be listening twice as much as you talk. Just getting those types of practices in nature movement, but also the mindfulness pieces such as those are what we do with roots to Wellness.
Love that, and for this episode, we’re focused a lot on sort of the yoga piece of the conversation. Let’s start out with “What are some of the physical and mental benefits of a regular yoga practice?” We hear about it all the time outside of what we’re seeing on social media and all of that. Like, help us really get to what are some of those benefits, both in the short term and then over a period of time as well.
Yeah. So short term, what I always start my clients with is the breath work. That’s the first thing that we practice.
Because we breathe all the time. But how often are we really noticing and being mindful of the breathing? So really taking more awareness into the breath, the inhale and the exhalation, pausing in between the breaths really helps. Not just when you’re doing yoga, but also as you’re talking to someone when you come off of the mat. The stretching, all the body awareness, your improved circulation over a period of time starts to increase and gets better. Your flexibility and mobility while you’re practicing. So, when we’re on the mat, we’re staying mindful. We’re being gentle and kind. You’re building that strength on the mat, but when you’re off of the mat is where you really see the benefits and the practice is taking place.
It’s helpful to know and you know when we’re talking about practicing yoga and really even starting from a place where you may not know much about it, right? How would you even coach someone to begin those sort of small baby steps to work getting into the practice or even getting into the habit of practicing something like Yoga?
Yeah, I have people who are first time yogis quite often. And they’ll tell me, “Oh, I’m not flexible, Alisha.” “I don’t know how they get into yoga” or they say, “Oh, I’ve had these knee issues” or whatever it is that they have in their body. I say, “Can you breathe?” and they’re like, “Yeah, I can breathe.” Well, you can do yoga then, because that’s pretty much the main thing that you need to have in order to do yoga. It doesn’t matter your body type, your level of flexibility. However way that you decide to move for that day because we all go through periods of ups and downs with our body and knowing how to move with the breath. Being aware of our body and what our body needs at that moment is what yoga is all about. And so, there’s movements and practices to go through. Whatever your level may be for that day. And then the breath work is how you really get to move and transmute the energy in you and around you as you’re practicing.
How does practicing yoga enhance one’s ability to really stay present and mindful? So, there’s like physical ability, right? But then the connection back to the mental, how does, how does that really happen?
Yeah. So, there’s not a lot of activities where you can fall down or take a nap or cry or anything in it. But yoga you can. I’ve seen it all. That’s why I mentioned those things. You can cry on your mat and it’s perfectly normal and fine. If there’s a certain pigeon pose which you’re opening the hips and that’s where we carry the most stress. So, when you’re doing a lot of hip openers, a lot of people start to release that tension that they may have been feeling and it’s through tears and crying. Where we’re doing meditation or some type of mindfulness practice. I’ve had some people fall asleep. They’re like, “I was just so relaxed. I just fell asleep. I hope you’re not, you know, mad at me.” Like, I’m glad, you must have needed it because our bodies are so used to being on and moving and going and doing. When we are allowed to just be, that’s the yoga piece. If you happen to fall when you’re in a pose or you’re trying to hold a certain position and you fall out of it, that practice on the mat falling out of, you know, poses and different sequences that you’re doing when you are in real life. You happen to fall down or things may not go according to plan. You’re able to bounce back from that more effectively because of your practice with yoga. Because of the practices that you’re doing all the time, or however consistent that you’re doing it, the more you’re able to transform that into your everyday life and being more gentle, more aware and building that strength within yourself.
One of the other things you mentioned, Alisha, was about the flexibility piece and how someone may tell you that they’re not flexible enough or don’t have the flexibility to practice yoga. Really exploring the connection between yoga and then improved flexibility and mobility. What’s really the science behind it?
That, yeah. So the more that you’re moving Your body, you’re starting to improve the circulation and your flexibility as well as your mobility. So moving the arm joints, your leg muscles, things like that over the period of time, those combined effects with the sustained stretching along with the sustained stretching, along with the breath work. And doing those targeted poses, that’s how you increase your body awareness and then over a period of time, you do start to become more flexible. You do start to have more mobility in the regions that you may have been tight, you are learning to release it not just in a physical manner, but also the mentality behind, oh, I can’t do it now you’re. Oh, maybe I can’t Do it. What? Well, what is? What is the point of doing this now I can understand how to move into this pose. So really learning that wine, finding out that root cause of, you know, whatever it is that you are thinking about that’s blocking you because it all starts in the mind first, then the body starts to.
Oh, that’s powerful. My next question to you is really understanding some of the sort of the things that we hear quite a bit about at Yumlish and the work that we do is really understanding chronic pain and chronic pain conditions even. How can yoga really be a tool for managing and alleviating some chronic pain conditions? And again, help us understand that relationship for us and then some of the alleviation that can come about as a result.
Sure. So those chronic illnesses and pain that I’ve had a couple of the guests that I’ve had and clients reach out to me about like diabetes. So a lot of them have circulation issues in their body, also high blood pressure, things like that. Breath work is always like the key for regulating all that. Breath work, along with movement mindfulness, really helps with managing chronic pain. Regular practice can reduce the pain intensity and the frequency of that pain over a period of time. So, much more that you’re practicing, the more that yoga can be a tool for alleviating a lot of these chronic pains and conditions.
When you mentioned diabetes, in particular, that’s certainly one that we hear quite often about. There’s also the sort of the challenges that come about with complications related to diabetes. How have you worked with people who have had diabetes? You mentioned one example, but what are the different ways that you’ve worked with someone who has diabetes? And even to our listeners here today, if someone in the audience in our listenership does have diabetes, what are some breathing practices, some general tips that you can provide to us today? And I know this is a podcast, some may be watching, some may be listening in, but aren’t there any tips or things that you can provide to our listeners here today as they’re thinking through their diabetes or stress level levels associated with even managing diabetes? Are there any tips you can provide?
Sure. As far as yoga, if you are someone with diabetes, they are healing through that. Like I said before, a lot of the stress that people hold is in their hips, so doing a lot of hip openers really helps. As far as circulation through the body, you want to do movements that start with the arms, the wrists, making your way towards your heart center, doing a lot of heart openers. So like camel Pose, just holding your arms. I don’t know how people are actually looking, but just holding your arms like in a cactus and just moving with the breath as you do it. It really helps with that blood circulation. I’ve had some clients with diabetes also mention their kidneys being an issue. So a lot of lower back pain. So, we do have some practices for the lower back and yoga that really helps with that and even just a simple massage, just massaging your back over pier time, going from up to down in a circular motion. Again, helps with the blood circulation and the kidney areas in the back. We also, in Roots to Wellness, we talk a lot about gardening and making juices and things like that. That helps. So always eating those healthy produce. Some celery is a good one to help with lowering blood sugar and just regulating your whole system. So, I always recommend juicing celery, maybe mixing some green apples in there too. Help offset some of that taste of the strong celery, but those are usually some go-to’s for people healing through diabetes.
Thank you for sharing that and what we’ll try to do is in our show notes, we’ll also link up some of the poses that you mentioned so that folks can look at it. Yeah, absolutely. If they’re not able to see you, at least they can see some graphics or some images around that to do these poses. You also mentioned nutrition and what are some of the things that can be beneficial. Some of the things that folks can eat that can be beneficial to them especially again as they’re managing the diabetes is of course the nutrition component to it. But to really be able to get the most out of your yoga, can you speak a little bit too? You know, do you ask folks to eat a certain way, drink a certain. You know, juicing you mentioned, drinking certain things, hydration. What are all some of those things that we should keep in mind as we think about yoga and just being in the right mind space for that and how we can really get our bodies ready for that experience as well.
Yeah, I always recommend lots of plants and fruit. So, veggies and fruit are always the way to go. Am I having everyone be a vegan or vegetarian? No. And you choose what’s best for your body type, obviously. But no matter what your body type, blood type and all those things. They’re eating lots of vegetables and fruits are always going to be #1, there’s certain. Veggies and things that are really good for people with diabetes. I think that’s what our focus is right now and high blood sugar levels. So really being mindful of consuming a lot of fruits because that does turn into sugar. But natural sugar is always better than you know, having white sugar that’s been processed and things like that. But really sticking to those veggies. Or are going to be key for helping you maintain a healthy level for your blood sugar.
Next, I want to talk a little bit about yoga and mental health. Just in general, how can it really be used to support those dealing with anxiety? With depression? We’re coming out of, or we’ve come out of COVID, but there’s still a lot of things that we’re still mending that happened to us over the years. Can you explain to us this connection between yoga and mental health and how does it really help heal?
Speaking for myself when I was facing a lot of stress, anxiety like I mentioned, just dealing with a family member who’s healing from an illness, dealing with the breakup, job changing, you know, all the things that can really bring a lot of stress, anxiety. What was helpful for me was the practice of yoga. It doesn’t always have to be at a studio, even though you know people are more than welcome to practice with me any time in my studio. But a lot of it starts at home. So, your practice that you’re doing at home, it could look like 5 minutes just before you get your kids ready or before you get your morning routine down to get to work or whatever you have planned for the day. It could be two hours. You know, it really depends on your flexibility and the amount of time you have. There’s a quote that mentions that if you don’t have a lot of time to meditate, then do an hour, and if you do have a lot of time, you know, do 5 minutes. So basically make the time. And that means setting your alarm clock a little bit earlier because the benefits of your practice, your meditation, your yoga will outweigh the extra 5 or 10 minutes of sleep that you get. So really taking the time to start a practice, whatever it looks like to you is your practice and that is going to be the phenomenal part of your mental health. What also can boost your mental health is just being out in the sun, doing your practice or doing your meditation. It can even look like a walking meditation. Not everything has to be done on a mat per say. Maybe you stop at a tree and do some stretches there. So it is really your practice. Your practice doesn’t have to just be the stereotypical, you know, yoga poses online and things like that with this, you know, Matt and this serene background, it could, it could be in the middle of your room or whatever space that you have. But the main thing is that you’re coming consistently and you’re being authentic with your practice. You’re not trying to look like anyone else. You’re taking the time to do what your body needs.
I love that approach and it sort of takes away from sort of what we see, you know when it comes to yoga as like the serene environment, the yoga and this. All this flexibility is like, yeah. That’s never going to happen.
Yeah, it’s unrealistic to do that every day, yeah.
Exactly. It makes it so unreachable. But what you’re saying is start small. And I like the idea where you mentioned just being authentic with it, it seems like yoga has some structure to it, but there isn’t structure to the point of where there isn’t flexibility. So you can adapt as, sort of, to your timing, your sort of your schedule, even sort of what’s most important to you and where your flexibility is at, there’s a lot of like adaptation and room for flexibility, it seems. To our listeners here today, if someone says, OK, have not, I’ve not quite got the hang of it or maybe I’ve tried it before and I haven’t succeeded, or I really don’t know where to start. Where would you tell someone to go? How can they incorporate even if they just want to jump start a two-minute, 5-minute session for themselves tonight? Tomorrow morning? What advice or what guidance can you provide to them?
I would start off by having them go online and check out one of those guided meditations. Those guided meditations are really good just for the practice of being still. And when you have someone kind of guide you through the breath work, it helps your practice so that way you know kind of where to go on your own or if you do decide to join the studio and practice there with other people to formulate your own practice or get back into the practice. I know some people who’ve had practice. And they’ve kind of fallen off. And just wanting to get a refresher. Or be in community with other people so it is helpful to go to the studios, or at least try some type of guided practice online. I do have my own personal guided practices and things that I post on my socials so you are all free to join me there as well as a start for your practice or refresher.
Awesome, which takes me to my next question, Alisha, which we are toward the end of this episode. So how can our listeners just really connect with you? Learn more about your work. You mentioned even the Guided practice. Tell us a little bit About your socials again, how can we learn more?
Yeah. So if you go to rootstowellnessnow.com, that is the website from our organization. You can join the newsletter that’s there and we send out a newsletter. We’re not going to flood your inbox every day. It’s 1 newsletter for the month and basically talks about different events and ways that you can be in community with this practice of yoga and connecting to nature. As well as other tips and things that can help you in your journey. And my social media is on Instagram at Alisha B dot well and that’s Alisha, so you can follow me there. Alisha, be well on Facebook and Twitter and routes to Wellness. Now on as a Facebook group.
With that, Alisha, thank you so very much for your time to our listeners. Thank you for tuning in to another episode of our Yumlish podcast. I think this has been one of those episodes that we’ve been wanting to do for a while because we want to be able to talk about yoga and wellness. Really appreciate your time, Alisha, for joining us here today.
And to our listeners, you know what time it is, head over to our social media, Instagram, Facebook and find this podcast post and comment below to tell us, “What is your favorite low impact activity?” Yoga, Pilates, cycling, anything. Whatever you do, comment below and again find this podcast post on Facebook, on Instagram and tell us what is your favorite low impact activity. We’ll continue the conversation there. With that, Alisha, it’s been an absolute pleasure. I feel just as Zen just recording this episode.
Yes, it’s healing conversations, for sure.
It is. Indeed, indeed. Thank you again for your time.
Thank you, Shireen.