Ayurvedic Health Practitioner and Integrative Counselor, Heart-Based Meditation Instructor,
Certified Level 1 STOTT Pilates instructor, 200hr Kripalu Yoga Teacher
I am here to help you find a holistic approach to health that makes sense for your unique needs. While we are all created equal, we are definitely all created differently, and my purpose is to help you figure out exactly what choices will give you your fullest potential of health and happiness.
My adopted mother suffered from Type 1 Diabetes, and when I say suffer- I mean she truly suffered. She detested the diagnosis, and chose to ignore it as much as she could, which you really can't do with Diabetes and have a healthy existence. But she sure tried. She didn't pay attention to what, or when, she ate. She didn't exercise and therefore grew obese. She hated that her body had, as she saw it, chosen to betray her. I watched her consistently make choices that pushed her closer to death, and further from living a full, happy, healthy, life. At 58, she was diagnosed with end stage renal failure. She passed away a year later after falling into a diabetic coma. At 25, I lost my mother, and I spent the following years trying to reconcile myself to the fact that she died decades earlier than she should have in large part due to the choices she herself made about her health. Little did I know how heavily my mother's choices would influence the path I myself would take.
I first fell in love with Pilates during my freshmen year at Tufts University in 2000, where I majored in Classics. In one of those serendipitous events, I was re-introduced to Pilates in 2006 at a time when I was ready for a significant life change. (The corporate world simply wasn't for me.) Encouraged by my instructor, I began training through STOTT Pilates in 2007 and have since completed my Level 1 certification and numerous workshops. I enjoyed helping people better their bodies so much I went on to become certified in SPINNING, Cardiolates, and TRX. I quit my "real" job, became the office manager for a small fitness studio, and devoted myself to teaching various forms of exercise. My quick and complete fall for the fitness world had everything to do with the thrill and joy of helping women commit to creating a healthier lifestyle for themselves- something my mother had never been able to do.
The longer I taught, the more dedicated I became to helping women find sustainable health. Watching my clients go from struggling to play with their grandkids to picking them up with ease- that was IT. That was the real win, the best possible outcome I could ask for as an instructor. And it was immensely fulfilling on a personal level because I knew I was helping these ladies making better choices for themselves, and as a result their children and children's children would get to spend more time with them. Doesn't take a psychologist to figure out the connections here, right? But it wasn't enough. I wanted to do more. I was only taking care of their physical well being- what about their mental? Emotional? Spiritual? Many of my clients would talk to me about the pain they were experiencing due to a challenging relationship, and while I could lend a sympathetic ear, I didn't know how to actually help. Others would ask me for advice regarding what they should eat and I was at a loss. I knew I wanted to help them- but how?
I looked into Nutrition programs. Physical therapy. Life coach. Naturopath. You name it, I investigated. I even contemplated going back to school to become a psychologist. But nothing quite fit the bill until October of 2014 when a dear friend insisted we go to the first annual NH Yoga Retreat and I was introduced to Ayurveda. Within moments of being told the basics of this ancient healing method, I knew it was exactly what I had been looking for. It just made sense- of course everything we do influences our existence...the key is understanding *how*, and this is what Ayurveda teaches us: *how* every choice we make directly influences our physical bodies, our emotions, our thoughts, in truth- our everything. Within a week of attending the workshop I enrolled with New World Ayurveda and began studying to become an Ayurvedic Health Practitioner. Here is the method for helping others discover how to listen to what their body is trying to say. Here are holistic, sustainable ways to reach optimal health. Here is a form of medicine that is not just reactive, but pro-active.
Never one to stay still for long, I continued my training in April/June of 2016, when I attended Kripalu for my 200 hour yoga teacher training. It was truly one of the most profound transformational periods of my life, both personally and professionally. Kripalu yoga emphasizes self-compassion and listening to that still voice within. As Don Miguel Ruiz says in The Four Agreements, the truth is that we can only do our best on any given day, and Kripalu yoga recognizes that your best on one day may not be the same as the next, or the day before. Kripalu is appropriate for anyone, but I think it truly shines in reconnecting people who have lost touch with their bodies. We take pause in class to simply Breathe. Relax. Feel. Witness. Allow. BRFWA, as they say. A simple technique that can do so much, and is a powerful reminder that we all need to slow down sometimes.
Not that I do much slowing down.... my training still didn't feel complete. The body is only one part of the triad... what about the mind and spirit? In May of 2017, I completed a 30 week program, also through New World Ayurveda, to become an Ayurvedic Spiritual Counselor. I took this program mainly so that I could teach Heart Based Meditation, as it is a practice that has completely transformed my life and I can think of nothing better than being able to teach it to others. To answer the obvious question - how did it transform my life? Peace. Confidence. Faith. It's hard to wrap it up into a short bio - the best I can do is to say that I used to struggle with everything. With accepting my past, controlling my present, and fearing what the future may bring. Meditation has helped me let go. Not that I don't still get stressed- I am human. But now there is a grace to it all- an acceptance I didn't think I was capable of. Through the Meditation training I realized that another aspect of my calling is to help people soothe their deep emotional wounds through chakra healing, enhancing intuition, and understanding the energetic flow of emotions. I can't help but wonder how different things would have been if my mother had been able to make peace with her diagnosis, and had moved towards changing her lifestyle to fit the undeniable needs of her body, as opposed to fighting it every step of the way.
It's been over a decade since I started down the path, so innocently, of simply teaching Pilates. If you had told me when I began that it would lead me to Ayurveda; to being a holistic healer- I'm not sure I would have believed you. It certainly isn't what I wrote down when they asked little kid me "What do you want to be when you grow up?". And I certainly never would have believed I would have a dedicated meditation practice! But, I also wouldn't have guessed a career could be so fulfilling. Every day, I watch my clients choose themselves. Choose health. Choose life. Every day, I get to help them make even more informed decisions about what is in their best interest. And I can't imagine anything better than consistently getting to hear things like "I've gone a whole two weeks sleeping through the night... two weeks!" or sentences that start with "You won't believe what I was able to do with my grandkids the other day...". This is what lights me up, and I am committed to learning everything I can to become an even better conduit for change. So, of course, I know I'm not done with my education. I will probably continue on with advanced Ayurveda instruction. Perhaps I will complete the 500 hr Yoga Teaching Training, or maybe learn a new movement modality like Qigong. I can't wait to find out what calls to me next! I also feel eternally grateful that I took that fateful step into that Pilates studio so long ago, for in learning how to heal others I've found healing myself, along with a peace and joy I never imagined possible.
When I'm not doing any of the above, you can most likely find me going on adventures with my son and husband, reading (everything from murder mysteries to young adult fiction to biographies- I'm a bibliophile through and through), snuggling with my two cats (someday there will be a dog, too), quilting, contradancing, or enjoying the outdoors. I look forward to growing a Heart Based Meditation community in the Upstate of SC, and continuing to help others find a sustainable path to the life they have always wanted.
Love and Light,
Michelle Burgess: Thank you for saying "You should teach this" all those years ago. Without you, I never would have been inspired to teach Pilates, and without that, I wouldn't be who I am today. Your advice, support, and encouragement gave me my foundation.
For those looking for an incredible fitness instructor in the Bedford area of NH... www.fitnessloftnh.com
Tyler Arsenault: For telling me I wasn't crazy.
Jilian Stogniew: You have given me so much, it's hard to know where to begin. Thank you for providing a home for my first studio. For giving me the means to fulfill my dreams. For taking me to that yoga retreat and unwittingly revealing to me the next phase of my journey. For being such a wonderful, generous, loving friend. You are one of my most treasured synchronicities- one of the most perfect examples of people entering my life at the right time to help me on my way. There are no words to express my eternal gratefulness.
For anyone who lives in NH and is looking for chiropractic care, I can not say enough good things about Awakening Chiropractic!
Karen Kenney: You made me realize that yoga is about so much more than stretching your body- it is about stretching your heart and soul to their fullest potential. Thank you for your unrelenting honesty and tough love that is, to me, your trademark. You are one of the most supremely spiritual, yet grounded, individuals I have ever met, and I hope one day to embody my path as authentically as you do yours.
For those looking to bring some Fearless Flow to their lives... www.karenkenney.com
Dr. Paul Dugliss: I hardly know where to start. Other than the small fact that you've taught me everything I know about what it means to be truly healthy, on a personal level you have have helped me down a path to the kind of wholeness I never hoped to experience.
"The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don't tell you what to see."
Thank you for being an incredible teacher, guide, and friend.
For those interested in becoming an Ayurvedic practitioner...www.newworldayurveda.com
My beloved friends and family: CRBC, Erin, Jeremy, my Kripalu tribe, the Awakening ladies, Justin, Linsay, and more... thank you for your support over the years. Words can't really express the importance of friendship-
"Friendship isn't about who you've known the longest. It's about who walked into your life, said "I'm here for you", and proved it."
And family? Who are we without those who created us? I feel especially valid in saying that, as I am an adoptee who has reunited with her biologicals. I am truly blessed to have two wonderful sets of people to call my own.
And last, but not least, my husband Chuck: Thank you for having faith in me. For supporting me in so many ways. For trusting in me. For being my rock. You are my true partner and I am grateful for you every single day.