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Hidden Gems: Meet Lizzie Pereira

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lizzie Pereira.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
Wellness has been my instigator, inspiration and the space where I share my gifts to my community for the last seven years or so. It’s also been the realm where I’ve had the most wounding and where I’ve found the most wisdom. My journey started in college – I studied Journalism with an emphasis on the health beat. I was pulled to discover what it meant to feel truly whole and “well”. At the time, I was in the midst of an internal struggle and dealing with a pretty intense case of orthorexia. My attraction to wellness became obsessive and by the time I was a senior in college, I was working out nearly every day for over two hours and putting my body into total distress. I was so focused on my physical body, and frankly staying thin, that I was completely unaware of what was really going on internally.

I was also deeply struggling with my relationship to food. On the outside I seemed fine, but on the inside I was a wreck. By the time I was getting ready to graduate, I had torn the labrum in both my hips, which resulted in hip surgery when I was 23. It was devastating to be so young and in so much pain. I felt like I had failed my body. But ultimately, my pain became my medicine and the catalyst that brought me to where I am today. I discovered yoga (beyond just the physical practice), plant-based healing foods, meditation, mantra, holistic nutrition, therapy, and many other healing modalities along the way. And most importantly, through this process of self-discovery, I’ve created a much more loving relationship with myself, one that feels so much more integrated and balanced. Food had always been my first love and I had a knack for it pretty early on. I went plant-based in 2013 and began playing with ingredients and creating recipes while studying Holistic Nutrition Counseling. I sort of fell into being a chef about a year after college when I got asked to cater a 70-person women’s retreat with only about two weeks notice. Having hardly any experience to speak of, I jumped at the opportunity. It was incredible, my food was (remarkably) well-received, and it truly felt like I was living in my dharma. This ultimately led me to creating nourishing food for retreats large and small, workshops and all sorts of wellness events.

In turn, it also felt like I was healing my own relationship to food. I’ve since also led workshops on intuitive eating and now work privately with clients. A few years after recovering from hip surgery, I took my first yoga teacher training and studied Elemental Yoga in the jungles of Bali for a month. It changed me. I began teaching shortly thereafter and joined the management team at One Life Yoga in Pasadena, which has been my home studio ever since. I’ve also studied Elemental Yin yoga as well. Elemental Yoga is rooted in the wisdom of the Elements and works with how Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Space are within us and around us. It’s a holistic way of looking at the body and our yoga practice that draws from Eastern traditions like Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda. To me, the Elements really allow us to reconnect to the cycles and rhythms that are inherent within us. Fast forward to present day. I’m the Studio Manager and teacher at One Life Yoga in Pasadena. During the pandemic, we transformed one of our meditation rooms into a Wellness and Refill Marketplace, The Pantry. I teach a bi-weekly cooking club with CSA boxes, which we sell through the Pantry. I have a line of vegan desserts, Wholistic Confections. And I work privately with clients as a lifestyle coach… It’s a mouthful and I definitely wear many hats!! It’s been a whirlwind through the pandemic, especially being a small studio. But community is at the core of everything that we do and cultivating community is what keeps me moving forward.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Certainly, my experiences with my injuries mentioned above had led to some major bumps in the road. And it’s a chronic injury that I still deal with on a daily basis. Even after surgery, I’m still in pain. I also felt like because I had these injuries that somehow I wasn’t fit to be a teacher so I had a lot of self-doubts to push through. It’s been a process both physically and mentally. But Yoga is truly for everybody – that’s a big part of our ethos at OLY. I think it’s important that we create spaces where yoga and wellness feel genuinely accessible. Social media often has us believing that yoga is comprised of acrobatic postures that can only be done by super flexible, able-bodied people. And that’s so not the case. It’s also been tremendously challenging to run a small brick-and-mortar studio during the pandemic. We’ve pivoted endlessly to continue to provide for our community. But behind the scenes, it’s been really rough at times. We’ve turned to livestream classes where we’ve been at the mercy of a myriad of Internet issues. We built an outdoor studio that’s faced countless weather fiascos. And overall business has been hard. Thankfully we’ve pulled through to this point and are slowly building back up. But it’s been a roller coaster.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
One Life Yoga is so much more than a yoga studio. We’re a community center that is devoted to sharing the innumerable benefits of yoga with everyone. We take a non-dogmatic approach to yoga and seek to create a welcoming environment where everyone feels like they have a class that works for them. We host daily classes online and in-studio as well as workshops and soundbaths. Our former meditation room has been transformed into a wellness and refills marketplace, The Pantry. There you can find a refill station, sustainable and eco-friendly household items, yoga gear, healthy food, vegan desserts and more. We also are a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) drop-off spot and provide the Pasadena community with weekly boxes of organic, seasonal produce all picked by local farmers from County Line Harvest. Every other Sunday, I host a free CSA Cooking Class via zoom where we’ll make a vegan meal with the contents of the box. It’s a great way to harmonize with the seasons and support local agriculture. Beyond OLY and the Pantry, I also have my own private practice via Elemental Nourishment where I work with my clients to create their unique wellness roadmap that is sustainable and deeply nourishing. I offer private yoga sessions as well as mentorships that can include a variety of different practices and modalities.

In terms of your work and the industry, what are some of the changes you are expecting to see over the next five to ten years?
It’s certainly been interesting to witness the yoga industry change this past year with such an emphasis on online platforms. And I think that to some extent that’s here to say. But I also think that community spaces like OLY are still necessary to create more personable relationships and localized communities. I also think that it’s necessary for the wellness industry to flip the script so that the industry is more inclusive and accessible. Wellness can feel like it’s hyper-focused on the individual and how we can self-optimize. But in reality if wellness isn’t extended to the community, then it’s futile. And there’s a tremendous amount of work and unlearning that needs to be done here (for myself included!). As a white and seemingly able-bodied woman, I’ve certainly had to reckon with myself on this and I feel like it’s my responsibility to help change this narrative. Wellness should not be a privilege. It’s a birthright that extends to everyone regardless of your race, weight, or income bracket.

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Image Credits:

Lizzie Pereira Mykle Parker Adrienne Diaz

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