The Yogini Canary: True Tales from the Mines of LA Startups

Name: Ashley Nicolei Vanni
Location: Los Gatos, California, USA
Occupation: Program Coordinator for a Yoga & Ayurveda Health & Wellness Retreat Center

Photo by Flickr user jvverde.

My father always jokes with me that I am like the canary that miners bring on their shoulders into the mines to alert them of toxic gases (if there is toxicity the canary will start chirping or die and fall off the shoulder). Petite, friendly, and energetic, I can relate to the canary, the little messenger of life. My fate, not as tragic as some of my fellow canaries; my journey, quite similar.

I began my journey as a Brand Liaison & Senior Rep for VIP clients with a flash sales fashion-based startup in downtown Los Angeles. Newly out of college and emerging into the industry, I was bright-eyed and excited to have such an amazing opportunity at my young age. Eager to please and learn, I put 110% into my work. Of course, in the startup world, that means 60 hours or so a week. All was well until the company expanded and decided to move offices. My work hours increased and construction was being done in the work place. Little did I know my life was about to take a very dark turn, and change forever.

With high work hours and construction going on in the work place, during office hours, ceiling “dust” and paint chips would rain down on my head, shoulders, desk, and food. I would come into the office in the morning and have a thick coating of white paint dust on my black desk. I could rarely take dinner breaks, so I would usually wind up eating dinner at my desk, the dust from the ceiling all over my dinner. Sadly, at the time, I didn’t think anything of it because my co-workers were all dealing with similar circumstances.

A few months after being in the new office, I began having severe allergic reactions (anaphalactic shock) on a daily basis. Doctors originally thought it was a rapid onset allergy to tree nuts, however tests proved the theory incorrect and I became so sick that I was in and out of the hospital every few days for about six months.The scary part was that doctors were puzzled. All they could do was “make me comfortable” and hope that my body would fight for itself.

Once I left the office for good, the reactions became more sparse. I still cannot eat tree nuts (because they are believed to be a trigger of the attacks, however tests are inconclusive) as that allergy is thought to be a bi-product of heavy metal poisoning or paint VOC poisoning.This is something that I am currently still processing and healing from and most likely will be for a long time to come. On a daily basis, I have to make sure I don’t come in contact with tree nuts (all items processed with tree nuts: shampoo, lotions, conditioner, oils, medicines, vitamins, protein powder, the list goes on).

Although the crisis has been a lot to process and digest, it has proven to me that the body is an incredible machine and a bundle of kinetic energy that we must treat with kindness, forgiveness, love, and care – it is truly capable of achieving so much. And it does so much on its own, without us even having to think about it.

So then, how has yoga saved my life? In many ways: breathing – clearing the energies and the blood; stretching and postures – pushing the body to new limits and experiencing that self-esteem boost in “Yes, I can;” releasing tension, illness, and injury through deep and timely poses; philosophy – teaching me new reason; lifestyle, diet, and nutrition – restructuring my daily life. Yoga and this new lifestyle have opened up new channels, new networks, and new contacts that have guided me in my journey to healing, to becoming complete again. Yoga has enabled me to pick up the pieces and put them back together, not into a “new” me, but rather into an improved, an aware, and a realized me. No process has been more beautiful and I wouldn’t change my lessons for the world.

Connecting with the improved me, after much healing, I decided to pursue a new career in the practice of healing and leading others through their journey of healing. Whatever the cause of our pain, we are all designed to find the light at the end of the tunnel…some of us just need a little more direction. Currently, I am pursuing my dream of becoming a healer by working as a Program Coordinator for a Yoga & Ayurveda Health & Wellness Retreat Center and College of the Arts & Health Sciences. Located in the mountains, there is nothing more healing than yoga, diet, and mother nature.

My next adventure, I have a feeling, will trickle into Qigong (Chinese Medicine) and Dietetics. I truly believe, that at the end of the day, all medicines intertwine and a mix and balance of all (each in its rightful place, time, and amount) will contribute to the ultimate healing. I hope to one day run my own home practice.

So, my little yogis, if there is something that is getting you down, something that is blocking you from your ultimate health and wellness, from being your kindest and most open self… be like the canary. Chirp loudly and you will get through. There is light at the end of the tunnel and it is waiting for you with open arms.

Ashley can be found at the following links:
Twitter: LiveLoveManja

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