Finding Salvation in the Storm

The following is the story of my journey from a life plagued by burnout, addiction, depression and anxiety into a life of self-healing and finding salvation through yoga and a plant based diet.

I moved to Oakland to attend a graduate school program that would prepare me to be a public school teacher in urban communities. I was very intentional about the route I took into teaching. I choose a program that would provide me with a year of supervised student teaching and one that explicitly included courses on the profession of teaching and how issues of race and inequality impacted teaching and learning. I was a bright eyed young teacher and believed that with the proper training I would be prepared to work in some of the harshest conditions in the country. I wanted to teach because I wanted to create a narrative in my classroom that countered the narrative the larger society had about the students I worked with. I believed deeply in the importance of the work I was doing and I was committed to doing all I could to best serve my students. All the training in the world never be enough to prepare me for the conditions I would encounter as a teacher. Because I was young and didn’t yet know myself, I did not have the tools to deal with the emotional stress and trauma of the job.

In some respects, I had a lot of success as a teacher. I took on extra roles outside the classroom. I was creative with my curriculum, and I had strong relationships with my students. I was often described as passionate, dedicated and caring. Early in my career I had a colleague pull me aside to tell me that I needed to protect my passion because it would lead to my burn out. I remember feeling resentment at that statement as I felt like my passion set me apart from other more experienced teachers who appeared to me as more withdrawn from their work and therefore not as effective.

In my first year teaching one of my advisees was shot and killed. My room became the place where students came to mourn. I was tasked with holding space for her friends who were grieving her loss. The classroom does not exist in isolation from the community it serves. I became immersed in the constant trauma, violence and loss experienced by the students who graced my classroom. I continued to take on extra roles outside the classroom and seek ways to ease the pain of my students, all the while ignoring my own. I felt like the harder I worked the more I could do to help my students. I could not have been more wrong.

Numbing my emotions with work, alcohol and unhealthy relationships became my way of coping. I also developed an Adderall addiction, as I was fueled by the idea that the more productive I was the more valuable I was as a teacher. I was taking high doses of Adderall every day and using alcohol and marijuana to fall asleep at night. I was completely neglecting my physical, emotional and spiritual needs all under the façade that my work was more important than me.

I was on a one-way track to a breakdown, which thankfully came. I landed in a psychologist’s office reading me the results of my psychological evaluation. I was suffering from severe burnout, depression and anxiety as well as a substance abuse issue. The psychologist was ready to prescribe psych meds on the spot. At this point I had moved home and began practicing yoga twice a day. I had also begun to change my diet, and stopped taking Adderall all together. After my experience with Adderall the last thing I wanted was more pills. I told the doctor that I wanted to see if I could use yoga and diet to manage my mental and emotional health.

Two years later I am free of all substances and am more happy and connected to my passions and purpose than ever. I have been able to create a life for myself where my health and happiness are at the forefront. I traveled to Costa Rica to become a certified yoga instructor and currently teach regular yoga classes at a local studio here in Baltimore, Maryland. I am currently enrolled in a holistic health-coaching program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and am excited about expanding my capacity to support other peoples wellness journey through coaching. I have also been trained to teach yoga to people in recovery through Y12SR’s training. I have established a strong support group of people supporting me on this new journey. I am proud to say I am currently managing my addiction, depression and anxiety with yoga and a holistic lifestyle.

There was a moment of darkness when I could not imagine how I would ever move forward. My entire identity was wrapped up in my teaching career and my students. I had completely run myself into the ground. But I am here to tell you that there is another way to live, and that sometimes our biggest obstacles are actually here to direct us towards a life beyond our wildest imagination. You can find salvation in the storm. Yoga, a plant based diet and holistic self-care practices have saved me from a life of addiction, burn out, depression and anxiety. I am proud of my transformation.

At the end of each yoga class I teach, after savasana, I invite students to roll onto one side into a fetal position. I remind students that fetal position is a posture that symbolizes renewal and rebirth and is a reminder to us that every day, every practice, every breath is a chance to begin again. What will you do with yours?


Maya Semans is a former inner city high school English teacher turned yoga instructor and holistic health coach on a mission to share the power of yoga and wellness with women and communities impacted by burn out, addiction, and trauma. Located in Baltimore, Maryland.

Connect with Maya on IG: @ana_may_a


Maya participated in our Mentorship Program with Mary Tilson. Receive a consultation with Mary when you sign up for the Yoga Trade PLUS membership.


Yoga Trade PLUS

Access Your Highest Potential!

Inspired by World-Renowned Life Coach Trainer, Anna Suil

p1030097Anna Suil is a true master of how to live a vibrant, joyful and balanced life. I began training with her for purposes of personal-development, but have since found great value in integrating the tools of Life Coaching into my work as a Yoga Teacher and Retreat Leader.

I’ll be the first to admit, that the idea of a Life Coach is one I shied away from at first, and certainly never a title I sought for myself. It was the inspiring story of my teacher Suil that gave me an entirely new perspective.

As a young adult, Suil committed herself to the path of yoga & meditation, studying under an impressive list of spiritual teachers including Baba Ram Das, Goenka, and Buddhist masters in India, Nepal, Japan and Korea. She continued her formal education with a degree in Psychology, which enabled her to effectively spread the teachings of the East to a Western audience. Among the many hats she has worn in her lifetime, Suil is now a Life Coaching Trainer with an expertise in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a technique which trains the brain to rewire itself towards positive thought patterns and behaviors in order to maximize our human potential.

In the last year, Suil’s audience has made a drastic shift from the leading corporate CEOs in Asia to a community of health and wellness practitioners at Yandara Yoga Institute, a humble training center in the desert of Mexico. Needless to say, she means it when she says that Life Coaching is a valuable tool for everyone. As Suil makes the shift into retirement, her teachings are being carried forth across a wide spectrum for personal and professional development.

So what is Life Coaching all about?

Here are a few FAQs boiled down specifically for the Yoga Trade community!


Life Coaching is a tool to access your highest potential – those hidden jewels within each and every one of us just waiting to be uncovered!

Who needs a Life Coach?

Short answer: everyone. Because of its holistic approach to well-being, the tools can be applied uniquely to each individual encompassing work, leisure time, romantic relationships, family & friends, and so forth. Having someone shed light on areas that may have been hiding in the subconscious can lead to a better understanding of how to maximize fulfillment in every moment.

How does it work?

A coach supports a client in achieving their goals by first identifying what they are and then exploring options unique to their situation in order to set a clear path moving forward. Rather than offering direct advice, clients are challenged to find solutions within themselves, thus gaining the skills to be more efficient in reaching future goals.

Why does it work?

We are multi-dimensional beings, and as our lives become more and more fragmented between work, play and relationships, the perspective of a skilled coach helps keep clients on track and most importantly, stay accountable!

Where to begin?

Coaching can take place in person, online or even involve travel experiences and retreats which facilitate the process by taking clients outside of their normal surroundings to help spark creative solutions.


If you are interested in learning more, reach out to Mary Tilson at
Instagram: @marytilson


“I had never thought of consulting a life coach before but was presented the opportunity at a training program I was attending and feel very lucky to have had the chance. Mary helped me realize that there are tangible steps we can take in order to live the life we want. She helped coach me into identifying what these steps were for me in a way that made me feel very comfortable as I had a big part in identifying what I was comfortable with and what I thought was possible. I loved the fact that I left the meeting with an actual list of things to do daily to help me reach my goals. It wasn’t just talking fluff. It was actually creating a realistic plan to help me achieve what I want. Mary was professional, nonjudgmental and understanding. I would recommend her life coaching services with the highest praises.”

-Erika, Yoga Teacher, USA




Mary Tilson is a world traveling Yoga Teacher, Retreat Leader, and one of Anna Suil’s certified Life Coaches. She is currently the Yoga & Wellness Director of Nihiwatu, Travel+Leisure’s “No1 Hotel in the World” on Sumba Island, Indonesia.

You Are Ready Now

“If not now, when?”

This is a question that has stayed with me ever since my 200-hour teacher training back in 2013. When I was applying for the training I remember experiencing constant flashes of doubt and fear. I had only been practicing yoga for a few years and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to become a teacher. I mean, my handstand was almost nonexistent, and I have never in my life considered myself to be flexible, and standing in front of a classroom full of people expecting me to tell them what to do?? Yeah, right. Teacher? Me? No Way.


But my teacher, she told me something different. With a smile she asked me the question: “If not now, when?” I’m sure I had a look of confusion, and shock, painted across my face, but then she said the words, “Caitlin, you are ready now.”

It’s easy for us to come up with excuses for why we aren’t ready now… It’s even easier to sit back and wait until we think the timing is juuuust right… Basically, it’s easy to stay confined within the walls of our perfectly constructed comfort zone.

But easy is not what makes us grow.

The harsh reality is: we may never think we are ready. And if we stay trapped in that mindset, waiting until the perfectly ripe moment, life will surely pass us by. Fast. The chances will have expired and we will have to live with regret, thinking about all the things that could have been if we were just willing to go for it.


You are ready now. You are ready for whatever it is that you have been putting off: a new job, a yoga teacher training, traveling to a new country, meeting new people, or stepping into a whole new way of being. Drop the limiting beliefs and transform the feelings of self doubt into compassion, curiosity and motivation to experience something new.

Give it a go, and let yourself be open to what’s possible. Sure, new things can be scary, challenging, and even awkward, but it’s the scary, the challenges, the awkwardness that will eventually lead us to growth. Because when we allow ourselves to stay with those feelings and learn to not run away from them, they lose their ferocity and they become a little less intimidating.

And we realize that deep down inside, we knew we were ready all along.





Cait Lawson is a 26-year-old yogi, surfer and entrepreneur currently living in Rincon, Puerto Rico. Her goal as a yoga/SUP yoga/surf instructor is to empower others to drop their doubts, to discover their own strength, to let their true light shine.


From Here To There: A Willingness To Transform

My life in Costa Rica is magical and unique and one that even I could never could have imagined I’d be living. I receive a lot of questions about how I ended up where I am… How a life evolves isn’t always apparent; how do we go from point A to B? The truth is that transformation is within the grasp of most but we have to be willing to seize it, which actually often takes the form of letting something go.

I was living just outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan where I had finally gotten a decent job out of college. I wasn’t earning a lot of money but I also was no longer stuck in a call-center with a crazy boss breathing down my neck and timing my “allotted bathroom breaks”. (Yea, no thanks… Life is more than that!)

In my small town, Lowell, I had just finished up my teacher-training program with Prairie Yoga at Cascade Yoga Studio. I had a couple of yoga teaching jobs that I did some odd evenings, but for the most part I would come home from my day-job and hang out with my cat and live-in boyfriend. We’d go to breweries, see local shows, and hang out with our close group of friends.


It was pretty much a standard city life, full of work and activity. Yet I wasn’t truly happy. Buzzing around my head was a lifelong dream to travel. I had traveled a lot as a kid, so from an early age I was bitten by the travel bug and never able to shake it.

One day, I was invited by a distant friend of mine to join her in Lake Tahoe for Wanderlust Festival and I simply couldn’t resist the temptation to go. At the festival, I was talking to a fellow yogi and explaining my plight of living a corporate life while dreaming to be out in the world and traveling. I was told about the amazing company Yoga Trade that was just starting and a listing for a job in Costa Rica that they thought I would be perfect for. I had never met this person prior to this conversation, nor have I spoken to them since. I have no idea where they came from or how we even started talking, but they planted a seed that grew an opportunity for transformation.

I took a look at the website, found the link to apply for the job and jumped at the opportunity. In my mind, I was competing for a job with other yoga teachers who had way more experience than I, as well as more traveling experience, other yoga-related skills, and so on. I truly didn’t believe that I even had a chance.


I went back to my regular job, sun-kissed from Cali and loving life. I actually forgot about the application until about a month later when I received an email back saying that they wanted to have a Skype meeting with me as soon as I was available. You can probably imagine the look on my face when I read this… I was shocked, excited and scared all at once. I hadn’t told anybody about having applied, especially my boyfriend.

Naturally, I accepted their invitation for the Skpye meeting with excitement. The call lasted an hour, talking about the position, who I am, and who they were. It went well yet I still didn’t think I would actually be asked to come to Costa Rica to teach yoga. Yet three weeks later, I got a reply asking to have another Skpye meeting, this time with the owner of the lodge.

After another successful interview, the prospect of actually leaving began to consume me. I wanted so badly to leave and travel. I wanted to see things other than my computer screen and the latest thing on Reddit; I was ready to do anything else with my life. At the same time I was reticent, unwilling to get my hopes up. I still considered this a dream for the distant future, not one that loomed on the horizon.

I received a kind email from my first interviewer, gently telling me that I didn’t get the position. It had come down to me and one other candidate; while they opted for the former, they emphasized how much they had liked me. They invited me to come down to Costa Rica to stay there for a week for free and to discuss future opportunities to work with their lodge.

I was not shocked or let down; I was actually, surprisingly, relieved. I had somehow managed to get a free week-long vacation at an eco-lodge in Costa Rica and didn’t have to make any crazy decisions to leave my whole life behind.

I was smiling and happy with the outcome, satisfied with myself for taking a chance and accepting any outcome. I sent a “thank you” email to my interviewer and, just as I was shutting my laptop, a new message suddenly popped-up. Curiously, I opened it to find out that she actually did want to offer me the job. The first candidate had suddenly been unable to commit to the full-length of the placement — knowing that I was ready to give up everything — she offered it to me instead!

I was thrilled, terrified, and so completely excited that I couldn’t express my gratitude enough. Somehow the cosmos had shifted, revealing that I was meant to leave for a metamorphic journey, not later, but now. Just how life-changing it would prove to be I could never have fathomed. I only knew that I was ready and willing to leave my old life behind.

A few short weeks later, I was giving notice to my job, buying airplane tickets, changing in bonds to pay off my credit card debt. Beyond professional and financial matters, I had to inform my friends, family, and boyfriend about the journey I was about to embark on. I was saying goodbye and leaving the solid life I had built in exchange for one full of new adventure.


My friends were happy for me and celebrated my departure as opportunity. My family was excited, albeit a bit nervous, and happy to act as cat-sitters. And my boyfriend, well, he was anything but onboard with my decision.

Unwilling to travel with me, my boyfriend was afraid to break out of the mold, too fixated on the path of a 9-5 job, a mortgage and kids. My placement in Costa Rica was only six months but he was unwilling to do long-distance, saying, “You can’t really expect me to not have sex for half-a-year.” And with that I found myself finally able to let go of the last thing holding me back. I exhaled fully, cut our lease short, gave him the furniture and helped him move it into an apartment in the city. I took the cat, my yoga mat, and my smile, bid him farewell, never looked back again.

To choose my journey over my relationship was the sacrifice that I needed to make in order to allow myself to be truly happy. Perhaps not surprisingly, it also allowed me the space to meet the amazing and truly good-hearted man who has helped me stay in Costa Rica permanently. We now own an amazing ocean-front lodge, Casa Marea Alta, where I’m able to earn my living doing something I truly love. Even though it has been difficult, alien, tiring, and frustrating at times, it also has made me happier and helped me transform into a better person. I would gladly make the decision twice; it provided me a new purpose, a love, and a home.





Elizabeth Arnold is a 200 RYT, Tai Bodyworker, and Reiki Practitioner. She is currently the resident yoga teacher at Casa Marea Alta in Costa Rica. You can find out more about her and life in Costa Rica by visiting her website

Trust Your Process

After a pretty sleepy December we’ve finally started to see some solid surf strolling through this little corner of Rincon, Puerto Rico. Tres Palmas woke up, and from the 413 just above the cow fields people stopped their cars and whipped out their iPhones to take witness of the beautiful, blue mountains of water rolling across the sea (and I only say this because I did it, too). It was simply majestic and something that this surf town hasn’t seen in a little while.

Over the past year I’ve noticed an urge to get out into some bigger waves. As my surfing armbalanceworkshopis improving and my confidence getting stronger I’ve felt a desire to start pushing my limits, mindfully that is… but surfing bigger, heavier waves is something I thought I’d never want to do. And now it’s actually starting to feel more like a reality. It’s kind of a personal thing, I guess. Because surfing has been and always will be for fun. But I’m ready for it, I think, and sometimes it feels good to really see some growth and transformation, ya know?

Anyways, I got out there a couple of times. I managed to catch a few smaller waves, and I took a few on the head as well. I experienced fear, elation, frustration, and anxiety. I was humbled. And I didn’t even paddle out on the “big day,” because I was flat out scared shitless. And you know what I did? I beat myself up for it. Thoughts like, “You should have been out there. You’re such a wimp. You’re not good enough. You’ll never be good enough,” started pouring through my mind. I was super harsh towards myself. And I caught myself getting sucked into the vortex of negative energy and limiting beliefs.

I wasn’t practicing the one thing that I always preach – and that was compassion.

Just as I’ve learned compassion towards myself on my yoga mat, I must apply that same compassion towards myself in every other area of my life – surfing, work, teaching, relationships, – and just as I couldn’t expect myself to nail Crow Pose during my first-ever yoga class, I can’t expect myself to be an expert in bigger, heavier surf within just a few sessions.

Compassion reminds us that we must place our trust in the process and allow our journey to unfold exactly as it should. Not how we think it should. Because really, in yogaseq2 or surfing or life, what is the final destination? Well in life I guess it’s death, but there is really no prize for being the first one there. So as long as you’re kicking there is always an opportunity to expand – to go bigger or deeper or further. There is always room for growth.

But there’s no finish line. So why rush?

This awareness of a need to prove myself, or prove my self-worth, through big wave surfing, seems to shine a light on where I am trying to prove myself in other areas of my life. I want to be the best surfer that I can be. I want to be the best yogi I can be. I want to be the best yoga teacher. I want to be successful and well-liked and always going 110%, full-throttle every single day. But that’s not always the case, because life is life. It has its ups and downs, flat spells and mackin’ swells that come through and rattle you, shake you up a little bit… So whether it’s my surfing, my teaching, my personal yoga practice, or my relationships with others I’ve committed to returning to the practice of trusting MY process: slowing down, doing the work that I need to do, letting go of the rest, and just enjoying the journey that I’m on.

When we trust the process, our process, we know that we are on our right path. Enjoy the place you are at, because it’s exactly where you need to be. Trust that growth and transformation is happening, especially during the times that you don’t see it. Because it’s there. It’s happening. And when we let go of our story as to how the end result show be, that’s when we usually end up surprising ourselves. Trust YOUR Process!





Caitlin Lawson: Professional Surf Bum. Yogi. Teacher. Student. Ambassador of Love. Usually a little sunburnt, always salty, and currently living in Rincon, Puerto Rico. I love this island. The ocean keeps me grounded and I can never turn down a good adventure.



Transformation, Butterflies, and My Little Red Car

Lately I think very clearly in my car. I didn’t use to have one. Now it is my transporter, my little tortoise house, my red metallic companion. Filled with sand from the beach, three pair of shoes, a few yoga mats, a towel, a bikini, and an old ABBA tape that is my rescue in the tunnels where no radio reaches, it is somehow a “safezone” for me, where my thoughts can flow freely.

I am thinking about transformation. I am thinking about what it actually means to me. Ashley Ludman is one of my teachers who inspires me to get going, to dive deeper, to ask life for the changes I need. Since some time ago I really started to project new images. imageAnd I ask myself if it’s possible to be both the beamer and the screen. I used to feel myself as a “victim”, and things and steps only happening, without any reason, or without any active decision making from my part (read ‘heart’ instead of ‘part’). I saw myself inmersed in dreams for the future and nostalgic memories of the past. Yoga, therapy, a lot of reading, traveling, and life in itself, are slowly leading to a shift in my view point. And it seems I am slowly making it happen, letting it happen; to be an active participant in my own life. In Yoga there is a lot of talking about transformation. Does that mean that we all need a change? Isn’t it good like it is? Why do we always ask form more, for less, for different? I guess our spirit is in continuos search for a deeper meaning, some call it freedom, some our true nature, some the Divine. I think Divine is free and true, and Nature is what Is, and what we need to look after. Whearas the soul thinks it needs some sort of security and attachment, the spirit is longing for freedom, and that is our battlefield. We can chose to see it as a struggle, or as a dance between opposites.

It might seem silly, but my little red car, has lately given me some insights. It gives me freedom to move around this beautiful island where I live, and it gives me the security that only a metallic non-soul item can offer. I speak to myself as I drive, and it might be that the car doesn’t have a soul, but I do think there are spirits in there, who somehow come up with new ideas and viewpoints. I don’t feel alone, just a little confused. I still think about transformation, and I ask myself for acceptance of those things I cannot change in this very moment, and power to do change all that I wish. For a more fulfilled life, not only for me, but for what will come after me. I ask myself to open more, to more and more possibilities. I think that is what transformation means to me right now; to understand, accept and enhance all the colors of the butterfly. I used to stay as the silent caterpillar, but years ago I started to feel the urge to unfold. Maybe that is the innate urge for transformation that inhabits both butterflies and humans. It might be more confortable to never do that, but for many of us, it is unavoidable. I guess transformation is unavoidable. When our spirit asks for freedom, and the soul asks for security, the answer is Love. And this is my transformation, to open my wings, let my roots search in the deep mud, and my buds birst, accepting also the wrinkle and not so colorful parts. Maybe the beamer is the Divine source, and unfolding is to understand that we live through and in the Divine, and the Divine lives in us and loves us. The screen I think now, is more our scene, our battlefield, and we are what is happening, what is being projected.

I turn on the lights, the movie is on, there is no screen to roll up, but skin, soul, body and spirit to be touched.

And a red little car who takes me through this journey.


Mia is a dreamer, a traveller, a therapist and a yoga teacher (200 RYT), yoga therapy studies, Yoga Nidra, Reiki, massage. She loves writing and finds it a fundamental tool in the transicions in life. A healing tool, to write and to share with others.

Inner Beauty

This inspired reading is a repost from the Mindfulness Blog of Josh Blatter. He is currently traveling in India and so kind to share his stories. The original post can be found here:

Inner Peace and Liberation

Vipassana meditation is a technique in the Buddhist tradition of seeing things as they are. You start by scanning different areas of the body and reflecting on the sensations that arise. What often comes about through these techniques is an unveiling of stories that keep us bound to our suffering and if you don’t like the word suffering there are many alternatives that may resonate better; discomfort, lack of ease, frustration, stress, unambiguity, regret, etc. As we unravel the stories and strip away they exterior shell that conceals us, what remains is understanding. And from understanding comes the end of suffering. Understanding, or clear perception, can only come through such insight. But you do not need to sit for 10 days to have this same experience. Liberation is possible between the meditations.

As I was walking down the road today I was struck by a spark of understanding, much like in meditation, into what that moment of liberation from suffering feels like. When you look around an impoverished country it is quite easy to bare witness to how your senses become pulled in many directions. Being immersed so deeply in India and this culture makes you very sensitive. I don’t mean sensitive in the way in which it is often referenced, such as emotional fragility or a fluttering heart, but sensitive as in our sense capacity. Awareness becomes heightened – the light becomes more light and the dark becomes more dark. Everything is revealed. Sounds, tastes and smells are all so illumines and piercing that the sense of self actually begins to dissolve.

With the dissolution of the self comes dissolution of our ego. Our identity and the stories that hold us in a state of comfort, whether good or bad, no longer feed us. What we consider ‘normal’ is no longer painting our perception and a whole new set of colors are added to the palate. Experientially it feels as if you were looking through binoculars and what you believed to be the whole world was in actuality just a spec of dust. In that moment of realization your whole sense of who you are drops away. As I was walking I no longer saw poverty. I no longer saw trash and filth. Struggle and strife. What I saw was just the essence of life; breath and body. But there was something more which was set much deeper. I can’t josh2really put a word to what that subtleness was that I saw and I don’t want to use the word like spirit because it is not tangible. It saw as if there was a thin thread of silk that held everyone together. It didn’t discriminate on age, gender, social status, etc. It was all pervading and let me feel truly free.

Josh Blatter is a writer, entrepreneur, and a sought after yoga and meditation instructor residing in San Diego, California.  His classes are vibrant, thoughtful, creative, and heart-felt.  His spirit overflows with authentic and compassionate energy.  Connect with Josh here:

Josh Blatter Yoga

And be sure to check out his community project:

The 32 Metronome Project

“The 32 Metronome Project challenges us to DO something different. It is a calling to engage life more mindfully – to pay attention, to slow down, and to truly listen. It dares us to disrupt old patterns and demands us to defy the parameters of what we know. It is a shift into a new paradigm in which we smile more, give more and show more love and respect to ourselves and one another.”