Thriving With: Ava Johanna of The Alchemized Life Podcast
We promised Thrive Haven would be the ultimate space to help you thrive in your careers while prioritizing your wellness. With this new mission, we really wanted to include the voices of women who are absolutely killing it in their careers. We all experience different things and learn new lessons every day, so we thought it was important to showcase all perspectives.
We’re beyond grateful to be kicking this off with Ava Johanna! We love listening to her podcast, The Alchemized Life, during our morning commute, but her work doesn’t stop there. Ava’s also an internationally recognized meditation and yoga teacher, breathwork facilitator, and transformational mentor on a mission to bridge the gap for anyone looking to change their lives for the better. As you know, we’ve struggled with our careers and burnout, and it’s so inspiring to see how Ava transformed her own life through healing and ancient wellness practices.
We’re so excited to share this special interview with you all! Take a look at what she has to say below:
Sabine & Carine: What set you on the career path you're on now? Did you always know that you wanted to go into the wellness industry?
Ava Johanna: Finding the wellness industry was definitely not on purpose, but I know for certain that everything leading up to it was there for a purpose! My career started in digital marketing and I wore just about every hat you can think of when it came to my job role. I managed social media, built websites, created various graphics for clients, managed major campaigns and wrote blog posts. Now I know that while it was excruciatingly boring and soul-sucking then, it was my "training" for building my own business.
After six years in digital marketing, I started suffering from debilitating migraines that came on from stress. At the time, I didn't know I was stressed out because it was an everyday thing. Chronic stress manifested as 24-72 hour migraines, acne, poor eyesight, and poor lifestyle choices to numb myself.
It was at the point when I received an amazing job promotion that I realized that there is no amount on a paycheck that will ever amount to fulfillment and happiness. Call it an intuitive hit, but I knew that I wasn't meant to be in digital marketing anymore. I didn't know what I was supposed to do, but I had to get out of the cycle I had gotten myself into.
I spent a full year saving up money so I could travel the world with my then-boyfriend (now husband!). During that time, I got into yoga as a way to release the stress my job brought me. I fell in love with the practice and figured teaching yoga would be a great way for me to make a little bit of money while I traveled. We ended up coming back to the states after three months, but within that three months I vowed I would never work at a desk again.
Since then, I have made it my mission to follow what inspires me and share it with as many people I can first through my blog and now through my podcast, The Alchemized Life. I always encourage my mentees to try the things that light them up and be curious because it was through curiosity that I found the wellness industry and all the healing modalities that have transformed my life.
S&C: We'd love to know more about your role as a breathwork facilitator. Many people don't truly understand the power their breathing holds. What do they need to know and where do they start?
AJ: Breathwork is such a powerful tool and it is incredibly subtle! You don't have to go to a fancy workshop in order to breathe "better" - in fact, you can change your breath right now by simply elongating your inhales and exhales to a count of 5 and noticing how it slightly shifts your physical body. When we intentionally slow down our breath, we are engaging our parasympathetic nervous system AKA rest + digest. Especially living in LA, most of us are in a state of fight or flight (sympathetic nervous system) so working with the breath allows us to shift from a state of stress to a state of ease.
There are dozens of different breathwork styles and if you've had an experience that didn't feel good, know that there are so many different ways to breath that are gentle and easy to incorporate into your daily life.
S&C: Your podcast, The Alchemized Life, explores a range of topics with so many leaders in the wellness industry. What inspired you to grow in that direction and start sharing these conversations with your audience?
AJ: The Alchemized Life is the greatest gift I have been given in my career. It began as an interview series on my blog a few years ago birthed from my desire to share the secrets of wellness leaders with the masses. My goal is to make wellness accessible, regardless of your status, location, race, or gender and to meet people where they are at. I wanted to create a piece of content that was easy for people to consume and loved that podcasting is media you can listen to in the car, while you're working or while you're on a walk. I think it's really important to make wellness easy for people just getting into it, so making the information itself easy to access was the obvious first step and natural progression from the original blog series.
S&C: You have a mentorship program dedicated to helping people live the life they truly desire. What advice would you give to people who feel lost and are searching for their true path?
AJ: The first thing they need to know is that we have all been there. Everyone has felt lost - Beyoncé, me, YOU - we've all had a moment in our lives where we've asked, "What is it that I'm here to do?" So know that it is a part of the human experience to crave something more.
Then, your first step is to be curious and start somewhere. Go to a local event that piques your interest. Try a new group fitness class. Apply for that job that looks really cool but is intimidating. Follow the things that are fun, notice when things don't feel good and TRUST that if it doesn't feel good then it isn't for you (relationships, work, etc.). When things do feel good and things are falling into place, rather than act like the other shoe is going to drop, practice gratitude and remember that when we are on our true path, the world will conspire to bring us more good and keep us in alignment.
S&C: What's your favorite form of self-care?
AJ: My favorite way to practice self-care is treating myself to a massage or facial.
S&C: Tell us about Your go-to affirmation.
AJ: My current go-to affirmation is,"I am safe." Like I mentioned earlier, a lot of the times we are in a state of fight or flight. We get stuck in traffic, we get a bad email from a coworker, XYZ doesn't go our way...and in those times our physical body responds through shallow breathing or a knot in your stomach. In those times, our mind is firing off neurons that are telling the body "DANGER, we've experienced something like this before! We are not safe!" - This was okay thousands of years ago when we were being chased by sabertooth tigers, but now it is entirely unnecessary and creates inflammation and stress in the body.
In these times, I place a palm on my heart and a palm on my belly. I close my eyes and I breathe slowly in and out while silently repeating to myself: "I am safe" until I feel my body is back in the present moment and remember that I truly am safe.
S&C: What helps you thrive in your career?
AJ: Community because without everyone around me supporting me, inspiring me and motivating me to create, I would not have anywhere near as much drive to do all that I do. And flexibility because it is so important to be gentle with ourselves and allow ourselves the space to have an off day rather than beating ourselves up for not being 100% on 100% of the time. Both of these contribute to my success and avoidance of burnout that I had experienced so many times in my corporate career.