A Holistic Approach to Wellness, Self-Love, and Personal Growth
I really respect women who are doing great things for the world. The ones making positive contributions, building strong, supportive communities for women, and respecting their own voices and truths while doing so.
Ashley Neese is one of these women.
Ashley is a wellness coach who offers holistic advice and support to those seeking a healthier, authentic, and more fulfilling life.
I came across Ashley's blog one day while browsing Pinterest and I was immediately drawn to her philosophies about food, health, authenticity, and self-love. And although I had never met her in person, I felt we were kindred souls and I reached out to her in an email to discuss a guest post. I am fortunate that she kindly agreed and working with her has been a great pleasure.
1. On your site, you talk about making drastic changes for the benefit of your overall health. Could you describe that process and what it looked like and felt like?
Making drastic changes has been such a journey and I've taken it step by step. The first huge change I made was nearly 13 years ago when I stopped drinking and using drugs. That was major. If I hadn't taken those incredibly damaging substances out of my life I would have not been able to make the changes in the following years that have made huge differences in life. A couple of years later I started practicing yoga and meditation. Next, I eliminated fast foods and commercially processed foods. I got super involved in therapy and started the practice of learning how to love myself.
Since I began eating more whole, local foods years ago my body has gone through a lot of changes as well. In Spring of 2011 I got a herniated disc in my lumbar spine from improper alignment in advanced yoga backbends and I was diagnosed with PCOS. I was devastated. I had major cystic acne all over my face and my period disappeared. The pain in my low back was so bad at times it was hard to walk. I couldn't believe it. At the time I was a year into a whole food vegan diet and 2 years off birth control. I did yoga daily and had a healthy food blog. I did not understand how my back could give out and hormones could be that out of whack. I got very depressed because my skin was terrible and I was in tremendous pain and had to stop yoga for many months.
Here I was at 31 feeling like my body was giving out on me. The PCOS symptoms were terrible and I started taking prescription drugs as a short term solution. I was embarrassed and ashamed. I had been going on and on about how bad western drugs are and felt awful that I chose to start taking them again. Six months later I moved to Los Angeles and sought out one of the best Naturopaths. With her help and the help of a physical therapist for my back, things slowly started to change.
I started taking herbs and natural supplements and eventually got my yoga practice back. I have been able to heal my body by giving it time to rest and correcting the nutritional issues I had. It has been a challenging journey but one I am deeply grateful for. Going through a range of life altering experiences over the last decade I have come to believe that we have the ability to change our minds, bodies, and spirits. Today I get to support many inspiring women on their paths to wellness and that makes me feel like it has all been worth it.
It is important that people know that we do have the power to be truly healthy and we can heal from all sorts of conditions. Sometimes medications are necessary on occasion and for some their entire lives. This is the world we live in and the main thing is that we have a holistic approach no matter what.
The truth is not all health looks like we think it should look. When I get stressed out at times I get pimples. It bums me out because I feel like I take such good care of myself I should never get pimples. The reality is that my body is healthy and expressing the stress instead of holding it in - this is health. A big part of my journey has been letting go of how I think health should look or how anything should look or be or feel - that is a great spiritual teaching. ;)
2. What advice do you have about making positive, healthy changes that last?
My best advice on making positive changes that last is to start small. This is what continues to work for me. If you want to change what you eat, start with one food. If you want to have a daily meditation practice, start with 5 minutes and build from there. This is advice I give everyone I know and believe it or not it is incredibly challenging for most people. We want instant gratification. We want to feel amazing but not put in all of the work that is required. We feel entitled to all sorts of stuff including feeling great all of the time. I understand all of this so well because I have had to work through a great deal to be where I am today. I have learned to to work towards what I want, one baby step at a time.
3. Who and what do you draw inspiration/encouragement from?
I am inspired by people that have overcome something and created a life for themselves that serves the community. I read so many books and am amazed at how much people have experienced and how much knowledge we have at our disposal. Of course I realize I grew up with a lot of privileges and I don't want to deny that or be ungrateful for it. I have worked hard and I have been given so much - I have a deep respect for all of it. More and more I look to myself for inspiration and encouragement. I spent much of my life looking outside of myself for attention, love, inspiration, support, and validation. I had to learn how to give those things to myself before I could honestly accept them from another person and give them back to the world.
4. What is your opinion and advice in regard to detoxifying the body/mind/spirit?
I strongly feel that we all need to detox at least once a year. Many traditional cultures have built-in fasts around special holidays or seasons and I am happy to follow their ancient wisdom. In today's life we are overloaded with toxins in the food we eat, the air we breathe, the amount of stress we deal with, and the growing use of internet and social media. Every year I do food cleanses, social media cleanses, a major house clean, and I try to go on one meditation retreat. Taking the time for myself in these ways is an important part of my life. I need time to reset and recharge on every level.
5. What is your definition of wellness? What does that look like and feel like?
Great question! My definition of wellness is having my heart, mind, and body in alignment. Everything is connected and in order to have wellness, all of those areas need to be healthy. Wellness feels like having enough energy to get through the day, being happy and able to handle whatever situations come my way with grace and humility. Wellness looks alive, glowing, and vibrant.
6. Describe what a typical day looks like for you.
My days are varied as I have a set schedule of teaching public yoga classes but my private clients are scheduled throughout the week. I'll share an example of what my Fridays tend to look like:
-wake up and drink 1-2 glasses of water
-20 minute meditation
-read or write
-take a yoga class
-read or write
-post to my blog
-Skype with 2 clients
-sequence my evening yoga class
-eat a light snack, fruit or green juice
-teach a yoga class
-eat dinner with Jason
-watch a little tv
-in bed by 9:30 pm
7. How do you stay balanced when life feels busy or hectic?
I stay balanced by making sure to eat well, rest, and stick with my yoga and meditation. In the past when life would get hectic, food and meditation were the first things to go. I'd work and work and work not eating for hours or when I did finally eat I'd eat while working - not very nourishing or relaxing. These days those are MUSTS when things get stressful. Even if I don't feel hungry I eat a big salad, even when I am sure I can't spare those 20 minutes of meditation because I'm on a deadline, I up my practice to 30 minutes. When I wanted to stay up all night and work I went to bed early and woke up early and when I didn't feel like exercising I took myself for a 15 minute walk around the neighborhood. A wise teacher once told me that when we think we don't have time for something (food, sleep, meditation, exercise) those are precisely the times we need to implement those practices even more.
More from Ashley
Yoga & Meditation
Ashley was kind enough to share basic meditation poses with readers of Ruby & Perry.
Click here for the Yummy Granola Bars recipe.
Wellness Wednesdays: See Part I of Creating Your Vision for 2014 here.
Working One-On-One with Clients
Learn more about Ashley's Wellness Coaching and the Sugar Cleanse here.
It is truly amazing who the Universe will bring to you and have you cross paths with. Ashley's words and work resonate deeply with me and I am fortunate to have worked with such a soul. I strongly encourage you to bookmark her page and follow her work. I also encourage you to leave her some love and some thanks for taking the time to work with me on this post. You can contact Ashley here: HI [AT] ASHLEYNEESE.COM
Ashley - Thank you for sharing your wisdom, your encouragement, and your honesty with Ruby & Perry!
Sincerely and many blessings,
Sites I Dig
The Road is Home
The Seed & Plate
Sharon Covert Photography
The Define School
The Noisy Plume
Sarah Gee Photography
Fox & Owl Studio
The Stork and The Beanstalk
Mellow Yellow Photography
A Simple Little Journal
What I've Been Reading
The Girls by Emma Cline
A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Never Broken by Jewel
Hold Still by Sally Mann