Inspired by our common passion for optimal well-being and our personal experiences healing ourselves, we co-created Ola Loa Wellness.
Our mission is to combine traditional knowledge with independent scientific research to help return nourishing foods and holistic health wisdom both to communities of Hawaii and where our long distance clients reside.
Our services offer a highly effective private consultations, custom programs and classes that help people reclaim their emotional, mental, and physical health so that they can get the most out of life.
Whether you are dealing with a serious medical concern or need to bring greater vitality and balance into your home or workplace, we look forward to the possibility of sharing our love of nourishing foods, yoga and optimal lifestyle with you.
I completed a doctorate in Medical Anthropology from U.C. Berkeley where I participated in the joint program with U.C. San Francisco Medical School. I was particularly interested in how the industrialization (and commodification) of food, medicine, and lifestyle has affected our well-being and ways we can use illness as a wake up call to turn our lives around and become more alive.
For well over a decade, I have researched human health and wellness, incorporating wisdom from multiple human sciences. These range from conventional biomedicine and functional medicine to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, Yogic teachings and other forms of traditional medicine. I have explored how culture, human psychology and spirituality shape perception and behavior. I am fascinated by our inner potential to go beyond perceived (false) limits to evolve, transform and heal.
The world of academia offered me a solid foundation in research skills and critical thinking, especially regarding how scientific knowledge is generated and disseminated to the public (or not)…. and believed (or not). However, it has been outside the walls of academia that my passion for wellness and healing came alive.
For years, I had a travel bug that exposed me to lives and cultures spanning disparate socioeconomic levels and ethnic divides from around the globe. This served to show me both the diversity and commonality of the human condition, to exceed and expand my comfort zone, and to break up many concepts about how the world works. Along the way, I have played in kitchens, farms and fields on multiple continents, cultivating a love of culinary creativity that incorporates traditional health wisdom (gleaned from both everyday folks and healers).
Over the years, I have also developed my yoga practice. Yoga helped me recover from stubborn chronic pain resulting from multiple automobile accidents. It improved my strength, focus, flexibility, digestion, and emotional balance. In plain terms, yoga makes me strong, limber, peaceful, energetic, mentally clear and happy. It also helped me overcome my severe mental allergy to exercise and negative body concept. Did anyone out there hate PE as a child? I did. I like to call yoga the gateway drug to exercise. As an instructor, I take great pleasure in sharing the vast healing potential of yoga. To me, yoga refers to, not only the asana (physical pose) practice, but also the deeper path of yoga.
Meditation will only get this sentence in my bio, but it has been the most transformative presence in my life and that which has brought me the most love, clarity, peace and true joy. I am immensely grateful to have learned to see even the greatest struggles as beautiful gifts–as compost for my garden.
As I have alluded above, I have cultivated understandings of wellness through very personal experiences healing myself. I have successfully dealt with a number of chronic disorders and lost fifty pounds in the process. I integrated multiple healing modalities, yoga, and amazing food. Over years of trial and error–weeding and wading through loads and loads of contradictory and confusing points of view, I was able to establish a pleasurable and affordable everyday lifestyle to support optimal health. Although I believe each person must blaze their own healing trail, I love to be able to save clients the painstaking, expensive and time consuming burden of reinventing the wheel.
My own healing journey and, eventually, assisting others on their journeys has provided some of the richest insights and absolute necessity for discernment (between what actually works and trendy health hype).
In evaluating multiple world views, Skya and I feel it is essential to be aware of how political and economic interests have historically shaped and continue to propagate the validity we give to health claims. I am not talking about radical extremism, paranoia or conspiracy theory. I am simply talking about having a realistic sense of how human nature operates in the world and reconsidering certain taken for granted truths that may not be so true and may even be quite dangerous.
Examples include the ideas that sugar is a wise source of nutritional energy, that water fluoridation is a safe and effective solution to dental decay in children, and that dietary fat and cholesterol make you fat and cause heart disease.
Upon completion of my degree, I opted to combine my research and teaching background, yoga training, culinary creativity, and healing experiences to continue enabling others to heal themselves and feel their best. Upon moving to Hawaii, I had the good fortune of meeting up with my dear friend and kindred spirit, Skya (pronounced SKY-YA), to create Ola Loa Wellness. In addition to working with adults, I enjoy offering kid yoga and food classes to bring wellness education to the keiki of our community.
We are inspired by sharing concrete strategies that, when applied consistently over time, can turn lives around. It is possible to reclaim cultural wisdom and inner tranquility in a rapidly changing world so that we may, in turn, reclaim our vitality, sanity and inherent potential for joy.
When I was first diagnosed with an “incurable” autoimmune disease my whole world was turned upside down. I was a collegiate distance swimmer so you can imagine how shocked I was to receive a letter after donating blood that something was wrong with me. I didn’t even have any symptoms in my body, or so I thought.
Once my doctors figured out the inflammation in my liver was being caused by an incurable autoimmune disease, called primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), the only choices they gave me were to wait for the inevitable or use dangerous drugs to manage symptoms. They could not heal or cure my disease with modern medicine!
Being told I only had about 10 – 15 years to live didn’t exactly fit with my life plans of attending medical school and completing a residency in orthopedic surgery. At that point I realized that I was not in control of my life and I let go of what I thought my life’s purpose would be.
Around the same time I received my diagnosis I was studying with one of the country’s preeminent molecular biologists. I was learning how to understand disease mechanisms at the DNA, RNA and protein biosynthesis level of the cells. I was beginning to see how diet and lifestyle factors could actually influence which genes are expressed. This was radically different from the deterministic idea that the presence of a disease is governed by our genes, which continues to be espoused by the media. This gave me hope that my “incurable” disease may not actually be a result of my flawed genetics. It gave me permission to search outside the box for answers. Since I was not getting any answers from my doctors or the medical literature I decided to use my scientific knowledge to figure out what was going on inside of me.
I began to investigate the underlying causes of my disease, and I discovered the answers in the realms of diet and mind body healing practices, such as yoga. This was totally foreign territory for me, but it all made sense with my deep understanding of how our bodies work.
For the first time I could see how “we are what we eat” and we are no longer eating an evolutionarily appropriate or adapted diet. This basically means that our bodies do not know how to handle all the highly processed foods and chemicals in our modern diet.
As a competitive swimmer with an intense training schedule I took pride in having the worst diet of all. I thought it didn’t matter because I would just burn it off in the pool. My poor diet coupled with the stress from my rigorous academic schedule and swim training was literally flooding my body with insulin and stress hormones, which are known to cause chronic inflammation, the mechanism of all autoimmune disease. This lifestyle also began to take a toll on my digestion and elimination.
In the biology lab, under the guidance of my mentor and professor, I also began to look at the relationship between the bacteria living in our gut and the immune system. I learned that we need microbes from the soil to live in our gut for proper immune and digestive function. So I started eating real foods grown in healthy soil and stopped eating the refined sugars that feed all the bad microbes. I started shopping at farmers’ markets and health food stores and even began to make all of my own meals from basic, whole ingredients.
With my new understanding of the underlying causes of autoimmune disease I was able to implement a dietary overhaul that began to heal my body on many levels. I also fell in love with yoga because through its practice I was able to identify and let go of unhealthy mind body holding patterns. For the first time I was able to see ways that my mind was negatively affecting my health.
As my diet and lifestyle changed I could feel myself getting healthier and more vibrant! At this point I realized that I did originally have symptoms of my disease. It’s not normal to feel tired, achy and mentally scattered. Of course, I didn’t realize this until I started feeling good from my new way of living. At that point my old habits were no longer appealing. It has never felt like I am on a diet or that I am limited by how I choose to eat.
Meditation is ultimately what has transformed all of my hardships and struggles into the lessons that have taken me deeper into healing. Through this I can now see that true healing is not about finding perfection in the body. My healing journey continues to go deeper because meditation continues to take me deeper into freedom.
A few months after my radical diet and lifestyle changes I went back to my doctors and they could no longer find any trace of my autoimmune disease. I was cured! And it all made sense, intellectually and viscerally. At that point I devoted myself to sharing this amazing ability to heal ourselves with as many people as possible. To this day I continue to explore making delicious dishes with the healthiest foods on planet earth!
I love to share this amazing way of eating with my clients. I also enjoy helping people find their way back to healthy moving and postural patterns through yoga and Pilates. My own yoga and meditation practice continues to deepen in ways that I never thought was even possible. I’m not only grateful to have my life back, I’m grateful to be truly alive!