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that statement as I felt like my passion set me apart from other more experienced teachers who appeared to me as more withdrawn from their work and therefore not as effective.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

Retreat Chef Spotlight: WildRaw

I was fortunate enough to meet Cat Cannizzaro in the magnificent Mentawai Islands during a ‘Yoga Trade’ experience in 2012. I was there on a work exchange to teach yoga and and help out around Togat Nusa Retreat for a month or so. Cat was the retreat chef and her partner Matt was surf guiding. Cat and Matt had been there for a while before I arrived, so they took me under their wing and showed me the ropes:) Dinner was one of my favorite times of the day, when we got to sit down together to share stories and enjoy Cat’s delicious and healthy meals. I was in awe of Cat’s knowledge and passion for cooking and wanted to soak up all her wisdom. There is a magic about travel experiences that seem to create life long friendships in short amounts of time. Although I was with Cat for only about a month on that island, I feel like the bond we have will last a lifetime. I still have yet to visit her and Matt in their hometown in Western Australia. Oh the beauties of travel! Thank you Cat for inspiring and believing in your path! Here we  catch up with Cat to learn more about her passion…

Tell us a little bit about your love of cooking and how you started WildRaw.

I started my love of cooking well before I was a teenager. My mum is a wonderful cook and she had to feed 6 kids and she also ran a small catering company. To earn some pocket money my sisters and I would go with mum to the functions and help prep food and do the dishes. I have two distinctive memories one is of my aching feet but the other was this canapé that my mum gave me to try. It was a vol au vent with a smoked oyster filling. I will never forget that moment, that taste and I still remember it today. Mum was pretty busy in the kitchen whether it be at home or work so I didn’t get that much time working with her but I got a lot of time watching and doing a little prep, even with my Italian aunties. My dad was a wonderful gardener and still is today at 80 years of age. We had mostly organic vegetables and fruit bought from orchards rather than supermarket food. My childhood set me up for what I do today, organic gardening and creating delicious recipes, and a lot of plant based recipes. I started working under a Michelin star chef who had crossed over to raw, he made me his apprentice and for three months he taught me as much as he knew before he returned to Europe and from there I began to spread my wings and create my own brand. It was a fun comment from a visiting massage therapist from another country who asked me if he could watch me make my signature raw chocolate tart. While he watched me working he said to me, ‘you are wild and you are raw.’ That is how I started WildRaw.

What do you enjoy the most about cooking for retreats? Do you have a personal yoga practice?

I just love creating amazing food with incredible amounts of flavour for guests at retreats. The food is one of the most important things on a retreat. If the food is bland or boring it makes people feel really dissatisfied and they will look for food in other places which might not be healthy. I get so much from designing dishes that delight and inspire people to eat well and keep that theme for themselves when they get home. I’m always happy to share techniques and recipes with them. One of the things I love about retreats is that you can roll out of bed and go straight into yoga practice and the guests love it when the head chef is rolling around the floor with them.

Do you have a tip that can help us all eat a bit more sustainable and mindful?

Grow as much as you can.  If you live in an apartment or somewhere that has no garden at all you can always grow some herbs in pots. Go to your local farmers market and cook with seasonal fruits and vegetables. By putting your money back into your community you will always have fresh vegetables that have not been sitting in a supermarket cool room or in storage for weeks. Think about the proteins you would like to eat. Go to your local butchers and ask where does the meat come from? Is it local? Are the animals treated well? You will get much better meat and keep your local butchers business thriving if you spend a few extra dollars rather than shopping in a supermarket.

What are some of your favorite foods and flavors to cook with right now?

Right now it’s winter in Australia and the Brassica family is thriving so we have cauliflowers, broccoli, brussels sprouts and kale coming out of the garden. Cauliflower fried rice is one of my favourite things to make during this season. I feel like I’m hovering over the garden waiting for them to be ready to pick. Our cabbages are just about ready so we will be making a lot of kimchi and sauerkraut in the next few weeks.

What or who inspires you?

Anything that comes out of the garden. I love it when I am overseas and I go to a market. One of the most fun markets one year was in Quebec and it was snowing outside. Inside I found fresh kipfler potatoes and cranberries. I had never seen cranberries fresh in my life so it was so exciting. The people selling the potatoes gave me a traditional recipe and I had purchased some truffle oil in Naples so from that I made this amazing creamy mashed potatoes with truffle oil to go with our dinner that night and then I made a fresh cranberry sorbet. I get inspired from beautiful, real ingredients. It’s as simple as that.
Born to cook, eat, write and travel, Cat Cannizzaro is Australia’s leading raw food gourmet chef. Her food, recipes, chocolates and food styling are sought out around the world. Cat focuses on simple and seasonal ingredients and inexpensive kitchen equipment. She is the creator of WildRaw: It’s about teaching and sharing the knowledge of how to become more self-reliant and how to implement those lifestyle changes, simply, efficiently and without breaking the bank. How to make raw, vegan, cooked vegan and cooked vegetarian delicious food. How to shop consciously and where to find those great food buys. Connect with Cat here:

Vegan Breakfast Cup

Creating beautiful healthy foods for you and your loved ones doesn’t have to be a difficult task!
I’m always on the lookout for new ideas and recipes that can be prepared in the matter of minutes, but will leave one satisfied for hours.

Smoothies are one of the most delicious, nutritious and quick meals that you can prepare at home, and even enjoy on the go. When you do have an extra minute or two, I highly recommend devoting the time to making your food look attractive and decorating your plate. It does make a great difference – it’s like eating a treat from a high-end restaurant in the comfort of your own home. Besides, you deserve it!

This delicious pink vegan breakfast cup was made in the matter of minutes, and it’s layered structure allows you to combine various foods that will fill you up and provide nutritional benefits. You can be as creative asOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA you like. Adding and substituting fruits, grains, superfoods to your liking.

Here is the recipe I used to make this layered cup:
Pink smoothie (recipe below)

Yogurt of your choice (I used Almond Dream vegan yogurt)
1 tbsp chia seeds
2-3 tbsp oats
Fruit for decorating

1 ripe banana
3-4 frozen green figs (from Trader Joe’s)
1/2 cup frozen raspberries
Water as needed

PREP: Throw all your ingredients in a high speed blender such as Vitamix, and voila – you’ve got your base. I use just enough water to blend, as I like my smoothies to have an almost ice-cream like consistency. Plus, the thicker it is, the easier the layering process.

In a see-through cup or glass, pour in your smoothie just about half way. Next, add a layer of oats (can use granola or muesli of your choice). Sprinkle the chia seeds. Next, add your yogurt – you can pour as much as you want, I used about 4-5 tbsp. Pour the remainder of your smoothie.

Finally, decorate your cup to your liking. I cut up banana slices, added frozen raspberries, and sprinkled a treeposetbsp of PB2 (powdered peanut butter – a must try!).

Now, dig in and savor every spoonful of your delicious and beautiful breakfast treat!

Matea Zajec, aka. Girlintheraw, is a healthy foods blogger, health coach and yoga instructor. She holds a BA in Eastern Religions, and holds classes and workshops on themes of yoga history and philosophy, as well as health and nutrition.

Sunday Pancakes

Sundays are all about eating and there is no better way to start (or end) a Sunday than with these pancakes. My two lovely friends and I, munched them non stop!!
Organic, gluten free, sugar free and super simple to make.
No wonder we had no guilty feelings after having eaten about 10 each.
All you will need for these amazing cuties is;

-3 Eggspancake2
-1 cup Coconut sugar -you can buy this in any organic/raw/vegan shop. Tastes like caramelized sugar but has a softer texture and is made purely out of coconut palm tree.
-1-1.1/2 cup Gluten free flour – The amount depends. You will want the dough to become really hard as we will liquidize it with the milk afterwards.
-Soy, Nut or Rice milk. Depending on your diet. All three taste amazing in the dough.
-*Optional Cinnamon, Nutmeg or Vanilla

All you do is mix the eggs with the sugar. Once mixed, add the flour and as I said before, make the mixture get really hard. Here you can add Vanilla, Nutmeg or Cinnamon spice into the dough.
Whilst mixing, add the milk. The consistency should not get liquid as water but not too solid as yogurt. Et voila, finito!

Instead of using butter in the pan, try to use coconut oil or sunflower oil. You will love this! They feel so light 474221_10151044158366414_257310983_o1in your stomach, personally I wouldn’t want to eat any other pancakes anymore . And on top of that, knowing they are h-e-a-l-t-h-y?!



Danae Borsani, a German/Italian Yogi, lives on Mallorca and is a passionate Blogger ( about what she does best; The art of Food, Fashion, Travel and Health. She inspires readers towards a healthy and fulfilled lifestyle.