FROM ORTHODOXY TO UNCONVENTIONAL LIVING
How I went from an Orthodox upbringing in Jerusalem to empowering fighters, other athletes and performers across the world...
LET'S START AT THE VERY BEGINNING
I was born to an orthodox Jewish family in Jerusalem. For those of you who don’t know, Orthodox households are devoutly religious and traditional with women relegated to domestic duties in life. Even so, I always had a tomboy spirit.
While I was born with a pigeon toe, I never let that hold me back. The “tomboy” in me loved to run and explore. But, that resulted in my legs constantly getting in their own way. I would fall almost daily leaving me with big bloody wounds. There would be times the fall was so severe I’d get concussions. These injuries would often leave me throwing up and in bed and having lost a sense of time and place.
At 7 years old one of my wounds had become badly infected. Upon visiting the doctor, I was immediately hospitalized. Needles were flying around finding their way into my tiny veins. Anxious doctors and nurses were running back and forth attending to my wound while I was screaming in pain and agony. I spent the next four days at the hospital hooked to an IV and deeply traumatized. This injury was the beginning of intense trauma that was trapped in my body for the next decade. Fortunately, the doctors saved me from becoming disabled.
I did not receive any post-hospitalization treatments or physical therapy, which resulted in poor posture and misalignment throughout my body. I was in constant pain, my muscles were weak and my joints were extremely stiff.
MY JOURNEY TO NEW YORK CITY
A few weeks before my 21st birthday, I summoned the courage to venture to New York City. While this change of lifestyle was jarring for a young woman who had been raised in an Orthodox community, I never looked back. The first few years in NYC were immensely challenging. In the midst of learning basic survival skills, a new language, and social skills I was struggling with my decision to leave the orthodox community which had been my identity since I was born. My journey in becoming a professional performance coach for high-achieving athletes and performers began when I started studying the performing arts myself. In 2009 I enrolled as a full-time student at the performing arts institution of Uta Hagen in the West Village.
At this time I was still carrying around the physical trauma of my early childhood injuries and was living with limited mobility, chronic pain, and restricted breathing.
REALIZING THE POWER OF BREATH
I soon learned that performing is very much one's capacity to access the body and use the breath in the most efficient way to emote and tell a story. So when I was struggling with accessing my own body I began looking for alternative ways to improve the quality of my breathing and physicality. And that’s when I first began studying somatic therapy and other holistic modalities.
I am not overstating when I say the practice of holistic healing has quite literally saved my life.
I went from a 20-year-old girl who was in pain all the time and couldn’t even sit up straight, to becoming a strong business owner in my thirties and training with top MMA fighters in gyms across the world.
My initial exploration included yoga, Tai-Chi, the Alexander technique, and the Feldenkrais technique. Later on, I experimented with rolfing, Gyrotonic, source point therapy, and trigger point therapy. But I saw the most explosive growth once I was introduced to Fitzmaurice Voicework® in 2011. And in 2015, I started the two-year Fitzmaurice Voicework® certification course. For those who don’t know, Fitzmaurice Voicework describes itself as a practice that combines adaptations of classical voice training techniques with modifications of yoga, shiatsu, bioenergetics, energy work, and many other disciplines.
As I progressed through the two-year course the following changes began to happen in my body and mind:
The extreme stiffness I had experienced most of my life slowly lessened and I started gaining back range of motion in my joints
My posture and alignment improved significantly
I used breathwork to alleviate the pain and muscle spasms
I was in awe as I witnessed my own body opening up. I felt like a tightly packed bud opening up to a flower.
I discovered that much of the physical and mental discomfort I had experienced throughout my life was the result of my breath not moving freely because of the stagnant energy stored in my body. Through daily practice of breathwork, I watched my body transform.
I also learned how energy can become stagnant. Often it’s past trauma or injury that can linger for years and even decades. If not properly addressed these energy blockages can impact both our physical and mental health in a myriad of ways. Reintroducing movement and allowing the breath to travel through the affected area helps our bodies process old injuries, thus restoring health to the body as a whole, healing both the mental and physical realm.
Finally, I came to realize the power of our thoughts and habits, many of which were planted into our subconscious as children. How do we unlearn what we've learned? How do we create space for something new to be born?
YEARS OF PRACTICING AND LEARNING
In 2016, I moved to the West coast and became a certified Assistant Teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework®. As my body continued to open up I was able to use it as a tool to perform and explore theater. In Los Angeles, I continued my training at the Upright Citizens Brigade, Crash Acting, and The Clown School. I also trained privately with Saul Kotzubei, a renowned voice and public speaking coach who works with actors, business leaders, and executives.
Overall, Los Angeles provided me with a beautiful artistic community, a true sense of belonging, and a space to continue the healing art of breathing. As I continued to pursue alternative forms of healing, I kept hearing about ayahuasca retreats in South America, and in 2018 I traveled to Peru to see for myself. When people ask me about that trip, I often describe the experience like eating from the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden.
One of my most powerful epiphanies revealed to me during that retreat was the importance of taking care of our bodies and the amazing things we can do when in our best health and when we eradicate limiting beliefs, and fears, as well as addressing past injuries.
That epiphany inspired me to pursue Mixed Martial Arts when I returned to LA. I dove in head first, training six days a week at an MMA fight gym in West LA while also training privately with a former UFC fighter and other instructors. The mental and physical benefits of training in self-defense were profoundly empowering. Martial Arts opened up another range of beautiful life lessons.
One day I came across Joe Rogan’s podcast and his conversation with UFC fighters. One fighter was telling Joe about his experiences living and training in Thailand and I made up my mind right there and then to do the same. I wanted to embody the life of a fighter and felt that this was my next step.
So in January 2020 after months of hard work and preparation, I took off for Thailand. My destination was “Fighter’s Street,” in Phuket, an area that had become a mecca for fighters across the world to perfect their methods and training. After a 20-hour flight, the taxi ride from the airport to my gym felt like an eternity. I couldn’t wait to get to work.
I was so excited I showed up at the gym at 6:00 a.m., hours before anyone else arrived. When I checked in I signed up for a six-week intensive package including fitness, yoga, and martial arts classes. The gym also has a dedicated restaurant with set menus including exact portions and nutritional value for optimal training.
While I was immersed in my training, little did I know that a thing called the “coronavirus” was beginning to shut down the world. In Thailand, it seemed like the furthest concern for people living their day-to-day lives, but then one day the entire country shut down all at once. The airport closed, my flight to LA was canceled, and the country was on full lockdown. There I was stuck on the other side of the world.
I thought I had traveled to Thailand for a six-week fighting camp. I had no way of knowing it would turn into six months of survival during a global pandemic. At that moment, my survival instincts kicked in and I was in full fighter’s mode. Let me paint a clearer picture of what life was like in Thailand during the first few months of COVID. We couldn’t even move between zip codes. We were confined to our assigned neighborhood, where armed soldiers stood guard to prevent people from leaving their area. There was a curfew and wearing a mask was enforced by hefty fines. The military was on the streets watching our every move.
I watched a global tourist destination turn into a ghost town before my eyes. An economy that depended on travel came to a screaming halt overnight. But the Thai community was kind and welcoming. They gave the fighters, the expats, and the tourists who accidentally turned into expats a place to stay. Meanwhile, I was stuck in this foreign place. At times, I felt like I was never gonna get off of this island and that this would become my permanent home.
As the world continued to spin out of control, I decided to focus on the things I could control and the help I could provide. Dozens of fighters and athletes were stranded on the island as well. Here I was with years of training in breath and energy work, bodywork, and somatic therapies surrounded by fighters and athletes with injuries that needed to be worked on.
Every day I would work with several fighters and athletes and soon they also started to experience improved range of motion, mobility, and an overall opening of their bodies and breath. I would lead each fighter through a customized treatment plan, including specialized yoga, breathwork, and energy work. This allowed the athletes to release stagnant energy that had been stored in their bodies, caused by previous injuries, lack of flow, or restricted breath.
What started as an incredibly difficult situation actually led me to my calling.
In Thailand, I watched my skill set and training transform the lives and performance of the world’s top fighters and athletes. It was there I realized I wanted to bring this service back home to the United States and offer it to other top fighters, other athletes, and performers looking to unleash their potential and excel in their fields.
PURSUING MY CALLING IN LOS ANGELES
Finally on July 4th (yes, Independence Day…) I made it back to America. While my time in Thailand was often terrifying, I am forever grateful for it. It was here where my calling was revealed. To help others heal and excel in their bodies.
My personal journey has taken me from my home in Jerusalem to New York, LA, Peru, Cambodia, and Thailand. What started with a mission to heal myself led me to the training and education that now helps me heal and empower elite fighters, other athletes, and performers.