The WANT Women: Nicole Sciacca on Taking Big Risks, Prepping For Curveballs, and Laughing At Life

The WANT Women: Nicole Sciacca on Taking Big Risks, Prepping For Curveballs, and Laughing At Life

WANT Women

No matter what, the future is based in my reaction. - @nicolesciacca Click To Tweet

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last few years of building a career, birthing a business, quitting a job, moving across the country, and getting engaged (it’s been a busy few years.), it’s that no matter HOW far you think you’ve gotten, there is still so much more to learn. And moreover, you don’t have to go at it alone.

I recently started working with a coach to help gain clarity around a few big-time goals of mine (more on that in the future – both the coach part and the goals part). After unpacking stuff like my alternative definition of “accomplishments” and my love affair with structure, she asked me about role models. And after listing people like Jenny Lewis and Glennon Doyle Melton, I told her about one of my first friends to truly show me what I was capable of. That friend is today’s WANT Woman: Nicole Sciacca.

If you live in the Los Angeles area, you’ve probably at least heard of Nicole if not experienced her Force Of Nature-ness firsthand. Nicole Sciacca is a yoga teacher, professional dancer, actress, host, personal trainer, and (most importantly) a mother to her three year-old son Beau. She is currently the Chief Yoga Officer of Playlist Yoga in West Hollywood, where she spearheads their programming and works with teachers to turn each class into the kind of unique, music-driven experiences that have earned Playlist the nickname “The SoulCycle Of Yoga.”

This LIFE business is scary. And beautiful. And unnerving. So let's just laugh. - @nicolesciacca Click To Tweet

Backstory: Nicole moved to Los Angeles from Birmingham, Alabama over sixteen years ago. After suffering a horrible back injury in 2006 that changed the trajectory of her dance career, she needed to find an outlet for her energy and genetic disposition for sweat. What originally seemed like her biggest roadblock ultimately introduced her to her greatest passion. Nicole simultaneously began yoga while recovering…and knew she was onto something. Although she had swam and danced professionally her entire life, it was yoga that transformed her mind, body and spirit all at once.

Nicole has always believed in the power of “the journey, not the destination,” so when her Venice Beach studio Hustle and Flow was forced to close, she knew something big was bound to be on the horizon. Days later, she met Playlist owners Jorden Cohen and Rob Rubano. The timing could not have been more perfect – and Nicole found her new path as the face of Playlist.

women against negative talk playlist yoga nicole + i at the one year WANTiversary party in 2016

Our story? Well, I need to preface this by saying that I have spot-on friendtuition. I don’t know how, but I can so much as hear about someone from someone else and have a gut feeling that we’re going to be friends. I’ve learned this about myself in time, but when I met Nicole eight years ago in her spin class and had that friendtuition feeling right off the bat, I was so confused because I was also ridiculously intimidated by her.

It wasn’t that Nicole was actually intimidating or scary in the least. It was that I was in the midst of figuring myself out. I was just finding my voice as a writer and fitness instructor, was battling self-doubt when it came to calling myself a leader…and here was this woman who freaking OWNED THE ROOM the second she walked in.

I’d never seen anyone foster such a deep sense of community (“a following,” if you will) like Nicole did. She made people work hard without even realizing it was hard work. She made people laugh but never at the expense of anyone or anything else. She looked you in the eye and listened to what you had to say, even if she’d met you three seconds beforehand. And she didn’t apologize for being herself.

She was badass. She was soulful. She was exactly what I wanted to be like but didn’t know I could become.

Fast forward to the Now, and she’s one of those “lifer” friends of mine. We’ve seen each other through some high highs and low lows, and I can say on my end that I’m not only a better person to have had her cheering me on, but am a bolder person for bearing witness as her story unfolds and seeing her move forward fearlessly through it all. Injuries. Relationships. Speed bumps. Successes. She’s the definition of fearless: when the fear is less than the faith.

The more comfortable I am being uncomfortable, the better prepared I am for surprises. - @nicolesciacca Click To Tweet

I realized the other day that I hadn’t spotlighted a WANT Woman on the site since last year – crazy, right? Especially since one of the things I value most is connection. This means not only introducing you to WANT Women around the globe, but helping you connect with women who can ultimately help you find a deeper connection with YOURSELF. And so I thought, who better to get back into the flow of things than one of the WANTiest women I know. I love our WANT community so much, it was crazy to me I hadn’t introduced you to Nicole yet. So. Here. Done and done.

They (whoever “they” are) say that you need to see it to be it. And for me, Nicole was one of the first people to show me the kind of person I could become if I was brave enough to go there. Our story is never finished, our practice is never perfected, and if we just hold the mirror up and reflect our light onto one another, we’re able to surpass our wildest expectations.

WANT NICOLE.

Name: Nicole Sciacca


How you’d know me (occupation or role):
I have been teaching yoga, group fitness, and indoor cycling as well as private training for almost a decade in Los Angeles, California. I formally owned a cycling and yoga studio called Hustle & Flow Fitness on Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice. Currently I am the Chief Yoga Officer (CYO) at PLAYLIST. Yoga in West Hollywood.


What I love about myself (and why):
One of the things I love about myself is my sense of humor, because what are we doing, you guys? This LIFE business is crazy. And awesome. And scary. And beautiful. And unnerving. So please…let’s just laugh. Also, my resilience. I’m pretty sure that is a new found quality over the last 4-5 years but I can tell you I see the importance in resiliency now more than ever.


What is your definition of “positivity?”
 The energy that is extended when the deepest motivation is love, compassion, joy, and kindness. Or Katie Horwitch. I’m not saying that because this is your site. I honestly would define you as “positivity personified.” True story. (note from katie: omg.)

When did you start to love yourself – did you have a self-love “turning point?” Oddly I don’t remember this “turning point” but I do recall my mother and father really establishing my self worth and the value of my individuality at a very young age. They let me wear the same self chosen outfit 4 days in a row to kindergarten (thankfully my mom washed it every night!). There was a prominent shift when I began to dedicate my life to helping others through fitness and yoga but I was certainly raised with an awareness of “self love.”


How/where negative talk shows up in my life:
Paying off debt. Debt that I incurred from taking big risks. Strange thing is that I don’t necessarily regret those choices because the lessons are plentiful. Negativity shows up at least once a month when I feel bloated or hormonal. Sometimes as a mother I find my inner critic beating me up as I compare my parenting to other mamas.


When I talk negatively about myself, it’s usually…
If I feel a lack of energy or physically lethargic, I blame my diet and for not having the discipline to eat more carefully. If I get a piece of mail that worries me, I doubt my capabilities to run my business. If I’m struggling on my mat, I tell myself my priorities are out of whack… There is a great deal of personal critique on my end and that has been a voice that I’ve battled my entire life.

When others talk negatively about themselves… I have a completely different reaction. I listen and immediately drum up all the reasons they are shining, glorious, star fairies!!


It baffles me that women still…
make less than men dollar to dollar. Seems like we should just cut that shit out now.


I wish that more women…
would praise, support, nurture and enable one another. I surround myself with some incredibly strong and driven ladies which makes me proud to be a woman in this industry, at this point in history. We are a great force for good and the world NEEDS us. Our children need us.



I wish more women would praise, support, nurture, and enable one another. The world NEEDS us. - @nicolesciacca Click To Tweet

The coolest thing about women is… we can bring life into the world. Cliche? I don’t care. I have been blessed to do this and it is the coolest thing I’ve ever been privileged to experience. Also, we can multi-task like a BOSS.


My favorite way to shift a negative into a positive:
Pray or meditate or sweat. Nearly all my problems can shift when I do one (or all) of these 3 things. Also, I call my mom.


My top female role models:
This is a random list here…. I’d say Elizabeth Lesser. Her life’s work and exceptional use of language as seen in her books is just incredible. Johanna Gaines from the HGTV show Fixer Upper. I only know what I see and read but from the dynamic she shares with her husband, her 4 children, their farm, and businesses, I’m constantly inspired.


Favorite negativity-busting activity:
Spending quality time with my son. He fuels my heart in ways that I can barely explain. He reminds me of where I’ve been and that no matter what, the future is based in my reaction. I can shift energy by actively loving him.

Fave self-love ritual: beauty upkeep. Hair cut, a facial, a nice manicure and pedicure. IS THIS SHALLOW? My non-shallow answer is getting a good night’s sleep. Actual rest.


Favorite feel-good food(s):
My mom’s cooking. Specifically her homemade red velvet cake or her German sourkraut, potato, and pork recipe. It has a name but I don’t know it.


Favorite movie(s) to watch when I’m feeling down:
This is 40 or Deadpool. (sorry.) Strangely, I don’t really re-watch movies. THIS HAS BEEN A POINT OF CONTENTION BEFORE. I think it makes me an oddball…so I don’t have an answer. Outside of Love Actually and All About Eve. Those are my all-time Favs!!


Favorite empowering book(s):
Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser, You are a Badass by Jen Sincero, Welcome to your Crisis by Laura Day


My feel-good playlist:

Like That – Memphis Bleek
How Do You Want It – Tupac
Lemonade (the entire album) – Beyonce
Rock and Roll or Ramble On – Led Zeppelin
Stand Back – Fleetwood Mac
Sweater Weather – The Neighbourhood
River – Leon Bridges

Advice I would give my…

…4 year old self: It’s okay that you like micro machines and dirt. And maybe eat less Velveeta cheese.
…14 year-old self: You’re not too tall. You’re perfect. Don’t worry about boys and take more ballet classes.
…24 year old self: A partner should compliment your life, not fill the holes. GO TO YOGA RIGHT NOW.

A partner should compliment your life, not fill the holes. - @nicolesciacca Click To Tweet

5 Things, personal or professional, on my bucket list: A trip or yoga retreat to New Zealand or Iceland. Go on safari in South Africa. Maybe another child. Build a house. Ride in a hot air balloon.


When I truly love all of myself…
I feel enamored and in the presence of God.


Right now, I am most excited about…
my haircut and color this Wednesday. Also, the rest of 2017!! I have a couple big things in the works and am excited to get the ball rolling on my potential collaborations.


My body is:
a freaking temple. I am shocked that it puts up with me. haha. We stay healthy 98% of the year, we breakdance at weddings and we operate on less than the desired amount of sleep.


Three words to describe me:
goofy, hard-working, and compassionate


Current mantra:
The more comfortable I am BEING uncomfortable the better prepared I am for any and all surprises. Or: I am becoming my best self and living my most fulfilled life here and now.

I am becoming my best self + living my most fulfilled life here and now. - @nicolesciacca Click To Tweet


WANT YOURSELF:
Loved Nicole’s answers to this one, so now I want to hear from you in the comments…
What is YOUR definition of “positivity?”


WANT more Nicole?
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Photo credits: Caddie Hastings

WANT All-Stars: The 7 Most-Read Pieces Of WANT Wisdom

WANT All-Stars: The 7 Most-Read Pieces Of WANT Wisdom

Body Community Love Motivation + Inspiration Tips + Tools Work

There's so much I love about WANT. I love the community that surrounds it. I love how it's ever-changing. But most of all, I think, I love how every single essay, article, how-to, interview, tip, trick, podcast, even Instagram photo seems to inspire something beautiful in someone else. 

Each week, you tell me how WANT is helping you in your own life. Maybe you just moved back in with your parents and are feeling at a standstill. Maybe you're becoming a parent yourself, and realizing there is this entirely new world you've just entered into that apparently does NOT come with a manual (like, at all). Maybe you're ending a job, a relationship, a stage of life - or maybe a new one is just beginning. Whatever it is, what I love about you and the WANT community is the way you move forward fearlessly through whatever challenge life hands you. You don't rest on the status quo - heck, you don't rest on "DON'T"s themselves. You're proactive, not reactive, and are interested in true, lasting change when it comes to actualizing the you YOU know you're meant to be.

Over the last year and a half, we've been able to dive in and dig deep together, and your emails and comments inspire ME to, as Michelle Obama so eloquently stated yesterday, "Go high when they go low." Whether "they" means other people, life in general, or the voices inside of our head, I feel so blessed to be surrounded by WANT Women (and men!) who choose to go high.

So in honor of my favorite summer pasttime - summer reading! - I'm rounding up the 7 most read WANT posts of all-time. Grab a glass of iced tea, lay out a beach towel, and soak in these favorites:

WOMAN AGAINST NEGATIVE TALK: JESSAMYN STANLEY ON BEING WORTHY FROM TOP TO BOTTOM

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The biggest yoga myth that’s out there? That yoga is just for one body type. People like Jessamyn are the solution. • READ MORE 

MAKING FRIENDS AS AN ADULT: IT’S NOT ABOUT THE BESTIE

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In a world that’s put such importance on pairings, what does it really mean to have a "best" friend? And why are so many of us finding our playground surprisingly barren?  READ MORE 

AND I’M FEELING GOOD: SHIFTING A BAD BODY DAY (OR WEEK) WITHOUT KIDDING YOURSELF

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In a funk? Here's how to dig deep and make lasting change.  READ MORE 
 

THE 4-LETTER WORD THAT NO ONE’S CENSORING (BUT SHOULD BE)

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It’s a word that's violent and should be used sparingly. So why do we use it so much, especially about ourselves?  READ MORE 

THREE INCHES OF SIDEBOOB: ON THE PHANTOM GAZE, PREEMPTIVE BODY-SHAMING, AND “A LITTLE TOO MUCH”

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We’re taught to body shame ourselves before we even walk out the door, because if we notice it first, then maybe, just maybe, our own censorship will prevent the judgement of others. One of my most personal stories on WANT.  READ MORE 

A CRASH COURSE IN CASUAL NEGATIVITY: THE NOT-SO-SILENT CONFIDENCE KILLER

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If this is what our unconscious self talk sounds like, how can we ever expect to conquer the negative self-talk that’s conscious? • READ MORE ➪

GHOST WORRIES

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Unpacking the fear of what MIGHT happen.   READ MORE 


NOW YOU: What has been your favorite article on WANT? Is it one of the above - or maybe something else? How has WANT helped you in your own life? Tell us in the comments below.


Never miss a post. Ever. Sign up + join the WANT movement:


Started From The Launch Page Now We’re Here: The 5 Biggest Lessons I Learned In Year One.

Started From The Launch Page Now We’re Here: The 5 Biggest Lessons I Learned In Year One.

Community Tips + Tools Work

It’s 11pm on Friday night, and I’m terrified.

Tomorrow is the WANT anniversary party at Playlist Yoga. The perfect space, the perfect day, the perfect group of people. And even though I’ve co-hosted events and facilitated workshops and fun stuff like that in the past – this feels different.

It’s the first event that I’m going at solo.

playlist

One year ago, I made a decision that would – and I’m sure will continue to drastically – change my professional trajectory. I launched what I called my “purpose project,” because it felt like my purpose living out loud in the world.

When I started WANT, I had a gut inkling it was something the world needed at this exact moment in time. However, I still had that self-doubt taunting me every time I sat at my laptop or got asked “So, what do you do?” I hesitated to identify myself as a writer, I hesitated to identify myself as an activist, I hesitated to identify myself as someone who was able to spearhead true and lasting change.

Fast forward to one year later, and those voices still creep in. As I stood in front of a room packed with 30 women of all ages, passions, body types, and backgrounds, I found myself questioning my worthiness. Even after a year, the front-and-center role was not one I fully believed I was worthy of, even though in my heart I knew I was capable and more than comfortable. It was the negative self-talk loop of the past speaking: you can’t be capable and comfortable and worthy. You can’t take up energetic space and speak your heart. You’ve got to choose, Katie. You’re not worthy of it all.

women against negative talk

But looking out at everyone gathered in that West Hollywood yoga studio on a beautiful Saturday afternoon and taking a deep breath in…I remembered that although I was standing in front and leading the call, it wasn’t about me. It never would be. The last year had become way more than that.

This first year of Women Against Negative Talk has taught me more about myself, the world, and our relationships to each other than I could have ever fathomed. And as I’ve said time and again, it’s because of you.

Here are my top five takeaways from Year One, on and off-line:



1.) You don’t need to know what your goal is, but you do need to know how you want to feel along the way.
The one question I got over and over from family and friends was What’s the ultimate goal of WANT? In the end, what is it you’re working towards?” Completely valid question…except for most of the people asking were looking for a tangible thing to hold onto. I want to ultimately be an online coach. I want to ultimately have a web series. I want to ultimately XYZ. The question of the “ultimate goal” was more about a thing than an effect.

Thing is, in the first year of WANT, I didn’t want to define the endpoint before I knew what the journey even looked like. For me, knowing how I wanted WANT to affect others (and how I wanted to feel in the meantime) was the most important factor in its success. As long as I was on track with WANT’s mission and vision, I was open to whatever would come my way. How could I ever know what would be most effective in the long run if the short run hadn’t even begun yet? It’s one of the only times in my life I haven’t been tangible-goal oriented – and it’s one of the only times it still feels right. Strangely enough (or not?), things are happening I wouldn’t have even dreamed of one year ago. I’m rolling with it.

Just because you don’t know exactly what the end result will look like does not mean your idea is not valid. Quite the opposite, actually, Know how you want to feel, know how you want to affect others, then use that as your launching pad into the stratosphere.

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2.) Feel the fear but do it anyway. In the first year of any business, shit comes up. When it comes up – and it WILL come up (including the personal/professional dilemma of whether it’s brand-appropriate to say “shit” without strategically placed asterisks) – the only thing that trumps that unexpected moment is how you deal with it.

The most powerful tool we’ve got is to feel the fear and do it anyway. The urge to criticize and critique ourselves will threaten to get in our way – but moving forward fearlessly through that urge is what counts, and what makes WANT WANT.

My own moving-forward-fearlessly challenge started early on. I consulted with a few friends pre-launch, sharing the ideas I’d had swirling around in my head and heart for so long. I was afraid to let them down. Feel the fear but do it anyway. I smacked a “Coming Soon” page up on the internet and urged people to get in on the action. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to launch on time. Feel the fear but do it anyway. I launched and then had a mild panic attack when I realized I might have jumped the gun too soon and didn’t know how I could possibly fill weeks and months and years on end with content. Feel the fear and DO IT ANYWAY. Two months into launching WANT, I received an email from the team at The Girls Lounge asking me to meet with them; a month later I was at SXSW speaking on a panel with women I’ve admired for years. Feel that fear. Do it anyway.

What I’ve realized is that it never stops. You never stop feeling the fear, it just morphs to fit your level of experience. Every single week, I get that tight grip in my chest as I’m hovering my mouse over the “Schedule Campaign” button in my newsletter host on Monday evening. I’ve done this for over 52 weeks now, and for years before that in various jobs and roles. It never doesn’t feel scary. But you know what DOES feel scary? The notion that one day, I might lose it all. The idea that one day, I might forget how to be vulnerable – nay, honest – or worse, I might become apathetic about what I’m meant to give. And keeping that fact in mind – that I’ve been given this moment to help make a difference, to help fight for something – is my greatest ally when it comes to feeling that fear but doing it anyway.

Feel the fear but do it anyway. Click To Tweet

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3.) Stepping outside your box is an inside job. Years ago, I had an acting teacher pull me aside after class and tell me “You’re not an ingenue – you know that, right? You’re a leading lady. It might just take you a while to grow into it.”

If you’re familiar with stock characters, you already know that an ingenue is the endearingly innocent, wholesome, and oft naive character in plays, literature, movies and beyond.

Nothing wrong with that – it’s just never the role I identified with on a deep level.

It’s a role I wasn’t all that comfortable playing, yet because I looked and sounded the part, it was what I was told I should go after when auditioning. And if we’re being honest here, playing the ingenue – both onstage and off – was easy. Playing the ingenue was safe. I knew I could bet on success that way.

In reality, that was partially true: I could bet on success up to a certain point. Talking the talk? Sure. But walking the walk? My steps were shaky and zig-zagged.

I knew in my heart that I ached to own my space and own my strength, but each time I tried I ended up delegating myself to the “ingenue” box over and over. It wasn’t until there was deeper meaning behind owning my power that I actually stepped into it. When I pressed the “publish” button on WANT – heck, when I launched the “Coming Soon” page! – I knew that while it wasn’t about me anymore, I WAS the messenger. I needed to own that role, and it wasn’t about me anymore. Even though it was scary, I needed to be the Leading Lady in my own life, no apologies accepted.

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4.) Success is more than a numbers game. We all crave guarantees, clarity, and definition (a reason why extremes are so alluring). Staring at newsletter subscribers, Google Analytics, and Facebook insights can be a welcome validation or a panic-button push depending on the stats of the day.

In my past life (and up until October of last year), part of my job was to be increasingly aware of site and social analytics: how many people showed up to read what you have to say, what kind of “following” competitors had, how much engagement a post got when it went live, stuff like that. It also taught me to look beyond the numbers: where people were coming from, where they were going to, how they were interacting with one another.

When I launched WANT, it became uber-tempting to define its “success” numerically, because I knew what that game looked like. In order to do X, you must have Y amount of subscribers. If your post/podcast/email gets Z amount of views, that means that A-B-C.

But I started to realize that WANT’s success didn’t work like that. WANT was resonating on a deep level because of the two-way street that was happening: the WANT community was opening their hearts and engaging with not just me, but each other on a personal and vulnerable level. Because of this, podcast guests felt comfortable shining a light into their dark corners, weekly “posts” morphed into nuanced essays, and together we turned this platform into a movement on a roll.

Some days there are thousands of readers and listeners. Sometimes there are 30. But I’ve realized that while it might matter to people like sponsors or advertisers, they don’t matter to US. They don’t matter to ME. Success is not about calculations, it’s about connections.

Success is not about calculations, it's about connections. Click To Tweet

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5.) Commit to not only HOW you want to be better, but WHY. There will always be a way to be better at something. But the quest for “better” can eat us alive if that “better”-ness is empty. As an HSP, I get overwhelmed easily – everything from piled-up emails to angry crowds. I also need to watch where and to whom/what I give my energy, because I’m like an empath on ‘roids: I’ll give and give until my well is dry, and even then I’ll find some way to empathize and give even when I’m not asked to do so. And the combo of the two? It leaves me with lots of things I tell myself I can be better at.

What has helped me, especially in reflecting on this previous year, has been committing to a purpose rather than just an action. For example: I receive lots of emails from readers and listeners, sometimes just saying hi, and sometimes asking me very specific questions. The hyper-empath in me wants to answer them all. But not just answer them, give the most groundbreaking answer ever! in my response. What ends up happening? The emails pile up, I get overwhelmed, and inherently feel horrible for what I interpret as letting everyone down.

This year, I’m committing to responding in a timely fashion, but in a way that works for me (i.e. not allowing it to seep into my personal life or make me tied to my computer, because if I don’t have those boundaries I will lose a part of myself). I know that if I answered everyone’s questions in the emails themselves, I would never get anything else done.

So I’ve also committed to doing something different this year: videos. Yes, I want to be better at responding to emails, but the reason is because I want to be better at being of service. This means efficiency. This means accessibility. And since I’m not camera shy and I’m not afraid to just use what I’ve got (read: iPhone, MacBook, and ladyballs), for me, that means video. We’ll see how it goes. It might take off. It might be a trainwreck. I’m open. Stay tuned for that.

Bottom line? I know if it wasn’t for the service factor, I would probably fall back into old habits quickly. But because there is a WHY attached, I know I’m all the more likely to follow through.

nothing to see here, folks...
nothing to see here, folks…

As for the party – it was a huge success. We sweat, we laughed, we drank smoothies, we danced to dirty hip-hop in down dog. The weather could not have been more beautiful, and the group of women (and man!) could not have been more incredible.

As I walked out of the studio with my friend Meghan, she tried to read my face for signs. How do you feel? she asked.

“It was amazing,” I exhaled truthfully.

“It felt like we were in it together.”

On to Year Two.

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A HUGE thank-you to Playlist Yoga and Nicole Sciacca for hosting such a rockin’ party, Beaming for the beyond-delicious smoothies and treats, Caryl Kristensen for the photos, and Your Joyologist, Quest, Blooming Lotus, and Trust Salon for the best swag for bags in the world. And most importantly, to every single person who made not only Saturday, but this entire year, what it was. I’m eternally in gratitide and awe.


WANT Yourself:
What has been your favorite part of WANT’s first year? A post? A podcast? A feeling? What would you like to see more of? I’m all ears. Well, all ears and heart, but you know. Tell me in the comments…

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Mala Mala Beads, Y’all: Your Ultimate WANT Guide To Wearable Intentions

Mala Mala Beads, Y’all: Your Ultimate WANT Guide To Wearable Intentions

Community Tips + Tools

I know, I know – we talked earlier this month about rethinking resolutions, but even if you’re staying mindful, there’s something about the jolt of January excitement that can leave you a little burnt-out come mid-month.

I know that for me, coming down from the high that is the holiday season usually means turning inward, reflecting on the twelve months past, and gearing up for a whole new adventure. It can be a challenge to shift gears so suddenly, especially when the tree’s still up and there may or may not still be gingerbread men in the fridge calling my name (no comment). I love the holidays and hate for them to end… which is why it’s extra important for me to surround myself with things that remind me of who I am and where I’m going in order to prep for an intention-filled new year.

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Mala beads and Entrepreneur Barbie. Obviously the best birthday prezzies ever.

Blooming Lotus Jewelry is a brand that specializes in just that: mala beads that each carry a special meaning and intention. Think of a mala as a wearable resolution. Malas have been used for centuries to help their owners set intentions, meditate in the moment and get in touch with what they truly want to manifest in their lives.

I’ve been looking for a mala for what seems like eons, and the one I got from Blooming Lotus for my birthday could not have been more appropriate. I was four days away from leaving my job and going off on my own, just WANT and I, and I’d also just gotten some big news about the year ahead. Basically, my head was spinning and I wasn’t quite sure if it was excitement, birthday cake, or fear of the unknown. Just wearing my mala makes me feel more grounded in who I am, and gives me a visual reminder to keep my daily intentions in check – quite the feat for just a little string of beads.

Malas-985x500cred: Blooming Lotus

I recently sat down with Blooming Lotus’ lovely founder Jennifer Ciraulo on The Chalkboard to find out more about the malas I love so much – and how you can DIY your own for the brand new year. Because I’m a sucker for personalized gear, and it doesn’t get much more personal than this. A bubble of bright energy, I’m so lucky to have Jenn in my life and her malas to help remind me how much awesomeness women are putting out into the world right now – all of you included.

WOMEN AGAINST NEGATIVE TALK: What’s the significance of 108 beads?

JENNIFER CIRAULO: It is said that there are 108 reasons why 108 is a sacred number. A few:
-It is said that there are 108 energy lines that converge to form the heart chakra.
-It is said that there are 108 Indian Goddess names
-The diameter of the sun is 108 times the diameter of the earth
-There are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet…each having a masculine and feminine (Shiva and Shakti). 54 times 2 is 108.
-In astrology, silver is thought to represent the moon…the atomic weight of the silver is 108.

WANT: What is the Guru bead?

JC: The Guru bead represents your teacher(s) in life and also the teacher within yourself. During a Japa meditation cycle, this is where you pause, reflect and give thanks to your teachers and the teacher within you. If you choose to do another cycle of meditation, you reverse the direction and never cross over the Guru bead as that would be seen as stepping on your teacher.

WANT: How can I meditate with my mala?

JC: Mala beads can be used to help keep count of your mantras during what’s called a Japa meditation cycle. During Japa meditation, you recite your mantra on each bead, going around the entire mala to reach 108 repetitions of that mantra. Through Japa meditation, you will become more aware of your intentions.

Your mala is a physical reminder of your intention! You will be surprised how attached you will be to your mala and the energy it brings. Sometimes when life gets crazy, you need to bring it back to you! Wear your mala, meditate with your mala or place it in a special place as a reminder of your intentions, dreams and where you want to go. Wear your intention and let it support your soul. They are gentle reminders that will keep you feeling like you!

More from Jenn:

Before you choose a mala or make your own: Give thought to what meaning you want for your mala so you can choose the appropriate gemstone. Think about where you are in your life at this present moment and also where you want to be. What are you dreams? Choose gemstones that align with you! For example, are you looking for love or does your heart need healing, do you want to be able express yourself better or communicate your needs, do you need grounding, confidence, or creative energy, etc.?

Some ideas:
For Love: Choose rose quartz, green aventurine, rhodonite, or rhodochrosite
For Communication and speaking your truth: Choose amazonite or aquamarine
For Grounding: Choose onyx, black quartz, or hematite
For Fertility: Choose moonstone, rose quartz, carnelian, or lava stone
For Clarity: clear quartz, amethyst, or tiger’s eye

Want to make one? This version is a hand-knotted tassel mala but you can choose the 108 beads that fit your intention. There is a lot of labor that goes into a hand-knotted mala. Expect to spend 1 to 1.5 hours or more if this is your first time making a mala:
8a.-Completed-Mala-2

DIY WANT MALA:

You’ll need:
108 beads (recommended size: 6mm-8mm)
1 guru bead (this bead lies outside the circle of 108, above the tassel)
3 counter/marker beads (optional – these are not included in the 108; these beads are often slightly larger or different in surface texture or shape)
string/cord (recommended thickness: 0.7mm-1mm)
tassel
tiny spacer beads (optional)
Crazy Glue
glue for knot (fabric cement is recommended, to allow for flexibility)
scissors or cutters
options to cleanse your mala (sage, singing bowl, Tingsha bells, etc.)
a whole lot of love and intention

Directions:

1b.-Gather-supplies
2.-Add-your-Guru-bead

Step 1: Gather 110 inches of cord. Snip ends of cord on an angle as best you can. Use Crazy Glue to make both ends pointy and needle-like; gently rolling between your fingers, being very mindful not to glue your fingers together! Loop cord through tassel, making sure both sides of cord are equal in length. String both ends of the cord through the guru bead. Slide guru bead down toward tassel. Optional: Add a tiny spacer bead on each cord and slide to the top of Guru bead.

Please read through remaining steps before continuing so you know what’s to come. This will prevent any errors and avoid any unknotting and backtracking.

3a.-Add-beads-1
3b.-Add-beads-2
3c.-

Step 2: Adding beads & knotting: Note: each side will have 54 mala beads, plus the optional counter beads if you have chosen to add them. Make a knot on top of each bead, sliding the knot as close as possible to the bead. Add a bead. Knot tightly above the bead. Add a bead. Knot. Repeat. *If you have chosen to add counter beads (optional), please see step below. If you chose not to use counter beads, your final knot will be exactly between the 54 beads on each side of mala (at nape of the neck).

*Optional counter/marker beads: Shown in these photos are counter beads located at the 18th and 54th stations. There are other options, but for this mala, we will place counter beads at the 18th and 54th stations.

Step 3: One side of mala: add 18 beads and 18 knots. Add one counter bead and one knot. Then continue with 36 more beads and 36 knots, which will put you exactly at ½ of the mala. Add one counter bead and a knot (this is the counter bead that will be at the nape of the neck). You have completed ½ of the mala.

4a.-Knotting-1
4b.-Knotting-2
4c.-Knotting-3

Step 4: Other side of mala: add 18 beads and 18 knots. Add one counter bead and one knot. Then continue with 34 beads (note 34 beads… you’ll see why in a moment) and 34 knots. At this point you should have only two beads left. Last step is the final knot. (Insert 54 beads on each side, plus optional counter bead collage.)

6.-Final-knot-your-mala-glue-snip-excess

Step 5: Final knot: Add one bead on EACH cord end. Knot between these two beads. Repeat the knot one more time so it’s secure. Add a dab of fabric cement glue to the knot on all sides. Snip excess cord.

Step 6: Wrap your arms around your body and squeeze: Congratulations! You just finished your first mala and deserve a hug.

*For tips on how to cleanse your mala, head over to TCM for more
*This isn’t a sponsored post – but even if it was, I only shout out the things, people, brands, and ideas I truly love on a deep level.
 

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Updos And Down Dogs: On Meeting Yourself.

Updos And Down Dogs: On Meeting Yourself.

Body Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power

“I can’t do that kind of yoga. It’s too slow.

She stared at me with an ice sheet over her eyes, a look that darted back and forth and when it hit me it seared right through and past me. If you do yoga every day, or every week, how is this kind of glare even possible? I thought. I always think this, because honestly, I see it a lot.
___

I lay on my mat today with my hair pulled up in a tight bun, a hairdo I hadn’t visited in years. I used to pull it up with my bobby pins and my baby hands, freakishly long locks still wet from my quick hop into the shower after my early morning workout before 8am ballet class.

Those tight buns and suffocating leotards killed me. They hugged everything.

We were forced to scrutinizingly stare in the mirror at not only ourselves but others, we were forced to do the same poses over and over and over and over until the combo was second nature.

I could not do most of them.

My legs were too muscular, my arches too low, and my knees ever so slightly bow-legged which is apparently something that could have been fixed when I was a baby but thankfully my parents opted to keep me just the way I uniquely was (I love you, mom and dad!). My lower back hyperextended naturally, which no one told me and no one thought to work with me on, so I was just ordered to tuck my pelvis more and more and more and my insides cried as everything just felt completely stiff and I looked at myself in the mirror next to the flat-chested straight-waisted kid bodies and my overdeveloped womanly self felt even less like a dancer.

And then I got skinnier. And my hair pulled back tighter. And I at least had that, I thought, at least I look the part.

And I felt so alone.

dancing

Everyone was extreme and extroverted and childlike in the way an undergrad should be, honestly, and I was so sad I did not fit in. I kept doing the battement tendus to the front, side, and back, over and over and over again.

I became so used to a heavy bias towards routine, no balance. I fell in and out of love with my body by the day, I would eat the same things over and over and do the same workouts over and over and wear the same clothes over and over, and when I fell out of order I would fall into such deep depressions I would close myself off from any sort of interaction with the world and I would just snap.

Updos And Down Dogs: On Meeting Yourself. Click To Tweet
___

I know exactly when the turning point happened: it’s after I started doing yoga with mirrors in front of me. These mirrors, they weren’t like the ballet mirrors, forced upon me and picking apart my every move. These mirrors stood there with a smile, completely optionally allowing me to face myself and only myself with no outside dialogue to distinguish right from wrong.

I know exactly when the turning point happened: It’s when I started doing yoga that was different each time. It’s when the cueing that was funny and personal if flubbed, sequencing that fit the mood and themes of the day, classes in which I was guided on how to work with my body to find my individuality, not against my body to conform to a molded chorus line of asana.

I know exactly when the turning point happened: It’s when my eyes were opened to the fact that everyone’s hip joint moves differently, so not everything is one-alignment-fits all. It’s when teachers were allowed to ramble and quote and use phrasing unique to what resonated with their classes, use sanskrit if they liked (or not), use music if they liked (or not), sing if they liked (or not).

I know exactly when the turning point happened: It’s after I was given guidance in kind words, in helping hands, in hundreds and thousands of poses and variations and modifications so I could be okay with both my strengths AND my weaknesses. Because how do we HONESTLY know that feeling of true triumph we can count on if we just homogeneously flow through it all; if we don’t know what it is to have those poses that are unfamiliar or change shape (literally and figuratively) day by day?

I know exactly when the turning point happened: It’s after I realized that a lot of the trendy classes being offered were actually an exclusive “in-crowd” who constantly tried to top one another with their impressive balances and their superhuman-like physical practice, a crowd that talked at and not to you, a crowd that left anyone below them in the dust.

It’s after I realized that absolutely NO yoga class is “too slow” if you are not afraid to sit with yourself.

No yoga class is 'too slow' if you are not afraid to sit with yourself. Click To Tweet

I know exactly when the turning point happened: It’s after I quit going to places that forced the same sequences over and over and over again, the places I did the same set of poses over and over and over and over again in class. They argued it was a way to build confidence by developing expertise. I will always argue it was a way of developing and breeding addiction in addictive personalities.

And so of course I understood the ice-sheet eyes. Of course those who are used to the same set of fast-paced frenetic sameness or competition based cliques “don’t like” other kinds of yoga. It’s addiction and fear talking. You genuinely cannot hold onto grudges or contempt when you have chosen to meet yourself.

Even the people who have hurt me, cheated me, taken advantage of me, situations that continue to cause me more stress than I feel I can sometimes deal with…I hold no lasting grudges, because I know that the only one who can keep me in that sameness is myself. I cannot control my circumstances but I sure as hell can control my level of awareness and my actions. Some people and occurrences drive me insane, sure, but I choose to see those instances as small dust speck under the blanket of a good heart or necessary hurdle or underlying loneliness and desperation.

yoga

I’ll shoot you straight: If you are resentful and do nothing to change either your exterior or interior, you have not met yourself. If you go back to the same coping mechanisms over and over again with the same results over and over again, you have not met yourself. If you keep opening the same doors over and over and OVER again, there’s a whole untouched hallway ahead of you – and you have not met yourself.

I sat cross-legged at the end of class, my elbows grazing the curves in my torso and my thumbs finding their way to my heart through the sweat and muscle and DD-heaviness of what my sports bra was trying with all its might to hold in place. I felt my arms at my sides, three times the size of my once wispy limbs; my legs muscular and probably even less ballet-friendly than almost a decade prior. I hadn’t felt so hot about myself all week, but I had reminded myself that being highly sensitive and proprioceptive is a good thing; I had not freaked out because I knew this too would pass.

I had trusted myself to not know everything that was coming.

I had trusted myself to learn, to listen, to be affected, I had trusted myself to cry and release when needed. I sat with my legs crossed in my skin-clinging workout clothes, ones that show every curve and every protrusion and every little dimple, I sat there with my hair tied tightly in that little tiny updo, and I trusted with all my might then let it go.
____

And I sit here now typing with my leggings still on and that bun still sitting atop my head, because I haven’t pulled it out, because it was never too tight in the first place. I sit here knowing my body will go through so many incarnations and I’m going to treat it like it’s royalty no matter what. I sit here thinking about the new quotes that were read, the jokes that were made, the funny analogies and the personalities in the room that were all of different levels and at times all did slightly different things.

I smile because I have not only a yoga practice on the mat but off the mat as well (life, yo) that strives to be authentic, layer-peeling, free of addiction and crutches and sameness, and I feel as if I am gliding down the hallway, door by door.

And I realize I am free, I am whole, I am love.

And I am not afraid.

dancing

I am free, I am whole, I am love. And I am not afraid. Click To Tweet

cover photo by the beautiful caddie hastings

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The WANTcast, Episode 005: On Making Your Mark + Meaning In Darkness with Rachelle Tratt Of The Neshama Project

The WANTcast, Episode 005: On Making Your Mark + Meaning In Darkness with Rachelle Tratt Of The Neshama Project

the WANTcast

Lately, we’ve been talking about finding light in darkness (remember Desiderata?) making decisions based on gut feelings. And today, we’re riffing off of that theme, in a brand new way…

I’m not a “things” type of person, but the “things” I DO own, it’s because they make me feel a certain way, or carry a certain meaning or message. 

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably see a few things over and over: my stack of bracelets, and a tiny little “Hamsa” I wear around my neck.

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Today’s guest is Rachelle Tratt, LA yoga instructor and founder of the jewelry line The Neshama Project. The Neshama Project has developed almost a cult following here in LA, and it was born out of her desire to bring her passion for educating others about a culture she loved and wanting to make the world a healthier, brighter place.

As long as there's meaning behind what I do, I'll keep doing it. -@neshamaproject Click To Tweet

Rachelle inspires me because she’s not your typical yoga pro – or even your typical entrepreneur. She’s seen a LOT, which we’ll get into in this episode, and she always rode on the feeling that she was meant to do something important with her life, without even knowing exactly what that meant.

As you’ll hear, and as you probably already know about me, I’m not just interested in the light easy breezy moments or the dark rough spots, I’m most fascinated by the intersection of the two and how they can, as the tagline says, help you move forward fearlessly onto the path you’re meant to follow.

rachelle_tratt

In this episode, we talk about the fallacy of the necessity of the 5-year plan, turning ideas into action, being a people person and the necessary boundaries that come with that, cultivating your intuition, moving forward through what seem like the worst of challenges life can throw at you, and finding not only meaning but a lesson in every single moment, even if it’s not clear at first. And of course, before this episode, I internet-stalked her and read a sentence somewhere about a Hummus challenge she took. So obviously, I had to ask about that.

If you’ve ever experienced extreme lows, loss, have a sense of adventure but don’t know how to cultivate that, or are interested in building a community that speaks to who you are and who you want to be, this is the episode for you.

*WANT DISCOUNT* Rachelle is offering our WANT community 10% off all Neshama Project products! I wear my necklace and bracelet every day. Use the discount code WANT10 at checkout, and be sure to follow them on Instagram, etc for special holiday deals!

WANT Rachelle:

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Show Notes:
The Neshama Project
Instagram
Facebook
Twitter
The Yoga Collective
Innovation Africa
The Doreen Bracelet
Rusty’s Nut Butters + Treats

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 

*This episode contains sensitive topics – namely, suicide. If you feel like you might be triggered in any way, skip minutes 20-30ish, or just mentally prepare yourself. You know yourself best!

rachelle_tratt