Ten years ago, I had a whole different life. I was a Ph.D. candidate for mathematics at UCLA. I was doing exactly what I thought I’d be doing since I was a little girl. I loved mathematics. I still do. I wanted to write math textbooks that people would actually want to read and learn from. I was talking about infinite dimensions, manifolds, imaginary numbers, and ideas that used to blow my mind. I had completed all my course requirements, passed all my qualification exams, and just began working on my thesis, when I decided to stop and became a documentary filmmaker. It didn’t happen over night, of course. While I was in school, I had an internship at the International Documentary Association the year before. I also started working as an assistant producer for a production company, making commercials for products that I didn’t believe in. But I learned a lot of skills, which gave me the confident to leave that job so that I could tell inspiring stories I wanted to share with the world. After my world of structured classes and proving theorems was over, I found myself dancing from day to day where activities that were scheduled were the ones I made. Before then, the goals in my life seemed to have specific plan and instructions, and for the first time I got to experience delicious bittersweet taste of freedom and mystery.

About five years after that, I had found a completely new structure for my life. I had finished my MFA in creative writing and decided to spend a year finishing my novel. I was writing everyday and teaching yoga a few times a week. I loved my routine, my rituals; writing and yoga had fully embraced me as I had them. I became a regular at this restaurant that would let me write every morning until they closed after lunch. I had students whose lives had changed because of their practices. My life was calm and I was content. With no coincident, at the end of that year I was asked, What are you really going to do with your life? And I thought, I am doing it, what do you mean? But when I really listened to the question, I had a different answer. If I had no limitation and I could do anything, I would want to open a wellness center where I get to share all the holistic healings and teachings that had helped me to connect with my path. I would want to create a sacred space of community that share passion for holistic health and growth. And so I began the journey of creation, of responsibilities for not only myself but also others, of jumping over one hurdle after another, of extreme stress and joy, of connections and boundaries, and a year later RakSa was born.

I share these stories because as I look back, I didn’t realize the courage it took to make those leaps. It didn’t seem like a courageous act then because in my heart I had no other choice. Even though what I had was already wonderful and beautiful and plentiful, I seek something more. Some thing else was waiting for me and the only way to find it was to let go of what I was doing. When we are content, we don’t necessarily want or need to see what else is out there. We are comfortable and satisfied. But when your heart and path is of fulfillment, it takes courage to leave contentment to grow, to learn, to make mistakes, so that something else deeper inside and greater outside can be revealed.

At least a minute of everyday that I was part of RakSa, the wellness center, I was happy, proud, and loved what I was doing. And as hard as I fought myself to let it go, it was the only way I could have gotten here. There is a whole new chapter waiting to be lived that I hadn’t imagine. I may have dreamt it, manifested it, but I know there is a cocoon waiting to fly with never seen wings on this path of fulfillment.

Sometime I wish this wasn’t the path that I am committed to travel. It can be lonely, even heartbreaking, and always ask a lot of me when I don’t have much left to give. But often that’s when courage happens, to give up what you have that is so dear to you because you know the time has come for you to move on to a higher step, a deeper journey, with more fulfillment.

Then magic happens. . .

What’s your courage?

What’s your practice?

September 17, 2012

I love the word practice. It makes me feel like I am not trying to get somewhere or let go of something. It makes me feel present and that I am doing exactly what I am suppose to be doing. Yoga was my practice for many years but today it feels more like a ritual. Tomorrow may be different.

I have many on going practices. The practice of asking others for help and realizing I don’t have to do everything by myself. The practice of kindness, for mself and for others. The practice of patience. The practice of writing in the morning. The practice of an open, honest, and loving communication. The practice of drawing a healthy boundary. The practice of listening. The practice of dance.

Most, if not all of these practices are something I don’t imagine I will “get” or completely “master” before the end of my life. But it is important that they are part of my practices. The more I practice the more I feel at peace about them and with myself.  True, I have learned these skills over time, using them at times better than others, yet often I still have to remind myself to practice. Because that’s what they are, a practice, and not something to accomplish or perfect.

But today my practice is to write a short and concise blog. It is difficult for me to be less generous with my words as a writer, which I know can be excessive at time. As Marcus Cicero once said, “Please forgive me for writing such a long letter, I didn’t have time to write a short one.” So today, I am taking the time to write a short one, to be more impeccable with my word choices, to say less and listen more, to practice a challenge that is worth caring for. Because with attention and action, we may begin to have awareness that leads to knowledge and discoveries that we didn’t quite imagine. And that’s a surprise worth practicing for.

What’s your practice?

What is your courage?

September 10, 2012

Courage, it is such a big word. One dictionary definition of courage is “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery” Without fear? Really? How do you have courage without fear?

I asked this question because without fear there is nothing to overcome. It is part of our other emotions that may not quite require courage to meet them. People used to ask me, when I slept on a ledge off cliffs in Yosemite, or led up a route with holds as big as my fingernails to pull myself up, Aren’t you afraid? They’d say, You are so courageous. My dear climbing partner was always amazed at my ability to jump on a climb without much hesitation (after careful and thoughtful decision, of course). For him each step or move he made to lead up a climb, he was thinking Oh my gosh! I am going to die. Death was an ever-present concept when he was hanging off a piece of granite, carrying ten pounds worth of gear on his belt, and leading up the routes. His legs were shaking under the cargo pants and sometimes he couldn’t hide it. HE was brave and courageous.

I was purely in love with what I was doing. I hardly ever thought about falling hundreds of feet and smashing to the ground in pieces, or worse surviving the fall. An image that my partner said visited him more often than not.  I loved being on the rock. Everything else in the world disappeared when I was up there focusing on where and how to place my protection. I felt at peace and connected with the heartbeat of the mountains and the elements around me.

I have discovered three definitions of Courage over the years. But I’ll begin with this story that took place a few days ago, as the present is the only place where we can truly begin. After five months had passed since the closing of the beloved space that was RakSa, I finally moved my last box, turned over the keys to the next tenant, and said my final farewell. Throughout these five months, I cried a thousand tears, endured sleepless nights, watched my bank account balance move in such a drastic way every month. . .down, and spent much alone time. I contemplated, inquired, discussed, absorbed, dissected, and embodied what had happened to RakSa in the last three years. I thought when this day came I would literally be able to say good-bye to the elephants that had been on my shoulders and feel how many ever pounds an average elephant usually weight off my back. It was true, I had been feeling lighter and lighter as that day approached. But instead this was what happened.

Just before the movers arrived, I made my last walk through the space, a ritual I often did at least every other week when we were in operation. I would sage the space, talk to the elephants on the entrance wall, and sometimes even spend the night so I could leave my attention and intention for the space. I stood at the top of the stairs that overlooked the entrance and the first floor where our community most often gathered. As I walked down the steps, I brushed my right hand against the wall, gently caressing the wall as I went by. Maybe I was bracing myself. Half way down I pressed both of my hands and my ear on the wall. I could hear the vibrations and the echoes that lived there. It felt like her heartbeat. I could tell she was scared and excited at the same time. I could feel every inch of the three thousand nine hundred and nine square feet wishing me well and crying one last good bye at the same time. Images from the very first day I signed the lease, to faces that had blessed our space, to the only tequila shot we took on the last day, appeared like old movies. Voices I have never heard anywhere else echoed silence and moments that had permanently touched the space became invisible tattoos. I couldn’t stand there long as I didn’t want to start crying before the movers arrived. I was close to the end but I still had a few final things to finish.

The loading took less than 30 minutes, as I said I have been purging and preparing for this for five months. I looked at the elephants on the wall one last time, said “Buree” and locked the door behind me. After the movers left, I stood in the middle of a small room circled by boxes of old RakSa things; paperwork, catalogues, fans, bookshelves, toilet papers, and boxes marked with detailed items. All of them had contributed something significant to my life in the last three years. Now they seemed tired and ready to rest for a very long time. I came undone, collapsed on the floor. Knowing an uncertain new beginning lies ahead, there was just pure fear.

There was now nothing holding me back from launching the new RakSa. The website had been created. Introductory e-mail was ready to be sent out. The only thing left was to turn the page, the page to the next chapter of my life. But you see the new RakSa is now me. When you go to the website, my face is there. I can no longer hide behind 40 other practitioners, teachers, and staffs. Though my vision of creating a healing community and providing that to others hasn’t changed, I am stepping forward into a different dimension of RakSa. And the first step to take is mine and mine alone. When people reject RakSa, they will now be rejecting me. And when they embrace RakSa, they will also be embracing me. How do I face that? How do I find the Courage to have the willingness to be completely vulnerable and step into the unknown again? Yes I had started and closed a business before. I have had various jobs that shifted and changed. I have always admired my friends who are therapists, practitioners, teachers, the one-man show so to speak. How do they do it day after day? That, to me, is courage.

Although beginning my wellness coaching practice is not only the natural transformation of RakSa but also natural expansion of myself (I feel this in my bones), is the scariest thing ever.  I know that I am not going to be alone in this journey nor do I want to be. But I know the only way to step forward into the new RakSa is with transparent heart, authentic soul, while dancing in the present mystery of you and me. That to me is Courage.

So today I pose on my Facebook, RakSa’s Facebook that I am starting my new practice. I tell my friends, Guess what my new website is up! I tell new acquaintances when they ask me what I am doing that I am a wellness coach. I sent out thousand of introductory emails. And I write this story. As I stare at the “publish” button on WordPress, my heart raises, my hands shake, and I remember the rhythm of the heat beat that I heard a few days ago. I imagine being able to hear all the heart beats in the world, all part of the same orchestra, playing the ancient music of our being. This is exactly where I belong, scared and willing. I press the publish button.

What is your Courage?

Closing Email

March 30, 2012

Dearest RakSa Community,

As I sit to find the right words to share with you during this challenging and powerful time, it seems they are nowhere to be found. But I am going to try. Just over a week ago, I had to come to a very difficult decision of closing RakSa’s doors at the end of March. As we put every plan to continue to build an even more successful, enriched, and prosperous RakSa to offer our community, I received sudden financial news that put a pause to it all. It was an overnight shift that changed everything for me and our community.

I am so sorry to be sharing this news with you all. While I feel a deep sadness and loss, I am also filled with an endless amount of gratitude and love for our community. I am truly thankful for each of you for sharing this dream with us in the last two years, supporting me and RakSa, and being a part of this exceptional community.

We hope that RakSa has brought something special to each of you, as you have done for our community. We want to honor you and celebrate our journey together in the time that remains. We will continue to do our very best to hold this sacred space and offer all of RakSa in this last month. Now is the time that we need your support more than ever, as we can not gracefully close our doors without you. We may have began as individuals but we would love to end as a community.

So please join us! Bring all your friends and families to share this amazing month at RakSa. Come in for a class and have a nourishing organic juice after your healing session. Let’s celebrate and come together!

It is difficult to say good-bye, especially to a community that I’ve held so dear in my heart. However, I truly look forward to our next venture and new beginnings together. Over the last few years I have devoted myself to serve and offer the greatest resources of healing to our community, and in turn I have received the healing I didn’t even know I needed. There are no words to truly capture my appreciation and gratitude for all the support you have shared with me and our community. This is beyond ending…

With gratitude, love and light,

Apinya & All of Us at RakSa

Words from our Clients

March 19, 2012

 We are so grateful to our whole community for taking this journey with us. Via.

As we close our doors at the end of this month, we wanted to take the opportunity to share some words from our clients as the reflect on how RakSa how impacted their lives. Please check back as we will continue to update this post, and please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments!

I am very sad to hear the news, I love the studio and the teachers. Plus the schudule was great! It’s such an inviting place to practice, I wish you the best and hope to soon hear an email inviting everyone back! – Ariadna

I just wanted to write to say that I’m so sorry to hear about Raksa closing!  What an amazing place you created and what a haven it has been in the middle of such a crazed city.  I will definitely pop by this weekend and hopefully we can meet face to face!  Good luck and blessings on the next phase of your adventure!!  May it be filled with joy, abundance, creativity, and ease! -Anna

March Specials!

February 29, 2012

We have some amazing specials for the month of March! Please feel free to call us at (310) 559.7200 if you have any questions!

Wellness Special

Start your spring cleansing with our Pressed Juice Cleanse Packages: Purchase any of our juice cleanse packages and receive a Free breakfast on us.

Movement Special

$85 for a monthly unlimited movement classes.

Start your day off right with RakSa

First class of the week day is $10 & enjoy 10% discount off breakfast after class.

Free Consultation

Do you have questions about your wellness? Do you want to explore more possibilities in your life? Do you want to feel better and more alive? Are aches
and pains limiting your body, your mind, and your expression? Would you like to know how the RakSa community can support you? On the second Friday of the month, meet with our director of wellness, Lucien Demaris, and RakSa’s Founder, Apinya Pokachaiyapat, for a free 20 min consultation. This month’s offer falls on the 9th!

First Wednesday Acupuncture

30 for 30. The first Wednesday of each month, we’ll be offering a wonderful deal of a 30-minute acupuncture treatment for $30. This month’s
special offer falls on the 7th. Make your appointment now!

Ayurvedic Sunday

50 for 50. The last Sunday of each month, we’ll be offering a wonderful deal of a 50-minute Initial Consultation for $50. Discover what your unique Dosha is and learn how to make wise choices for optimal health. This month’s special falls on the 25th. Make your appointment now!

Practitioner Sheila Govindarajan shares her journey into her Ayurvedic practice

As a young child, I remember watching my grandmother place pods of cardamom and fragrant dried clove flowers in her purse before any outing. Curious, I asked her why she did this and she replied that these spices would help her if she were to ever experience any discomfort, be it for indigestion or her old teeth. This was my Ayurveda 101.

A native Los Angeleno, I was raised by two Western physicians in this diverse city. I was also blessed to be surrounded by my South Indian community, and its rich culture, customs, and my mother’s healing, vegetarian cooking. My path to ayurveda arose only after a harrowing experience with the Western medical system’s treatment of a loved one. I was left frustrated, discouraged and seeking alternative methods of healing. As I read about the wisdom of Ayurveda, a distant childhood memory resurfaced and I felt my calling: to learn and share this gift with others.

I completed my studies with the Kerala Ayurveda Academy here in Los Angeles and my Ayurvedic medical residency at Kerala Ayurveda Hospital in Southern India. Here, I witnessed the depth of Ayurveda’s healing capacity on patients with severe “dis-ease”. So simple in its treatment, this 6,000 year old holistic medicine system uses whole foods, organic herbs, and yoga of the mind and body to treat any imbalance the body may experience. Ayurveda heals not just by treating the physical body but by connecting it with the spirit and the mind.

My practice at RakSa constitutes Ayurvedic consultations to determine your Prakruti (constitution), Panchakarma therapies, as well as yoga and meditation therapies. My specific passion is the healing properties of essential oils and their balancing effect on your Prakruti. I create herbal medicated Abhyanga oils and custom blended aromatherapy oils. I invite this community to experience and share the healing wisdom of this ancient medical system.

In the last month, as tradition would have it, I as many of us do prepared myself for a new beginning. Not just any new beginning, but a new year. Even though each day and each moment is a new opportunity to start anew, the New Year is a time that we globally agree to mark a new time, in our case, 2012.

As I recapitulate the significant events of my 2011, they range from starting new relationships to ending old habits to visiting Santa Fe to having a cup of tea by the ocean. In the last year, I was given many chances for great exploration and curiosity, and just as many chances to be courageous. I was given even more chances to fail, to try, to celebrate, to reevaluate, and to love unconditionally. During the last few minutes of 2011, I was deep in gratitude for have taken all of those chances in the last year. But as the clock waited to turn 2012 at midnight, my heart was yearning for something else. There was something I had forgotten along the way.

So my intention for 2012 is kindness, not resolution. A resolution to be kind to myself doesn’t seem as kind as setting an intention and cultivating it. This attention to kindness has been called from within and I know it is the only way to begin if I too want to be kind to others.

When I look back a year earlier to my first blog entry it reads, 2011 – The Year of Mystery.  If 2011 was the year of mystery then 2012 is the year of kindness. And last night, a little over a week into it, I already began to question if this is what kindness feels like, when I opened a book to find:


By Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes any sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out in the day to mail letters and
 purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

What is your intention for 2012?

Happy New Year!

January 3, 2012

Happy New Year from all of us at RakSa! We hope you had a wonderful holiday, and we can’t wait to spend time with you in the new year. We have a new schedule of movement classes, and some amazing January specials. Check them out and join us!

If you weren’t able to join us at our last DIY, we hope that we’ll see you January 23rd for our Citrus-themed DIY! Here are some photos from our holiday DIY–leave us a comment if you were there!


To conclude Sharon’s first experience with Shamanic Healing, she interviewed Irma. Please join us in getting to know our practitioners through these interviews, and introduce yourselves in the comments!

Image via.

What do you do at Raksa?:   I am a Shamanic healing practitioner – its an ancient paradigm for healing on the blueprint level or energy body level. Shamans see everything coming from emotions. For example; trauma can leave an imprint in the body. It can over time crystallize and continue to attract the same things and experiences. Addictions can manifest and then over time it becomes physical. I like to explain things practically….the treatment is an opportunity to release emotional or soul trauma.

How would someone expect to feel during or after a shamanic healing session?:   Each session is unique…one can expect to release of heavy energy and emotions. Wanting to shift, heal or unstuck the patterns, memories and/or pain releasing them from their energy body. Most people feel relaxed sometimes calmer sometimes happy or energized. However addresses things from the past you might feel like you experienced an energetic enema! Like a detox, a feeling low energy can happen. Feeling tired or spaced out from the cleansing  of your chakras. Integration time after the session is important. Homework is given after the session to integrate the pieces and help the client become responsible for the healing. It’s a team session – working together to heal. I help you step up to your own healing, there as a guide to help move energy. Its up to the client to show up!

How long  have you been a Shamanic Healer ?:  I started  in 2006 and the training is a 2 year program and I continue to take advanced courses.

Why did you start  down the Shamanic Healing journey?:  As a young child I always had a spiritual slant but did not know how to articulate it. I always liked the idea of something outside of our world – my grandfather  who was a yogi, planted seeds….and it carried over to me. As I got older,  things in my life came together and I got depressed while in college. I thought it was my soul or something in me –  showing me a quest. The depression moved me to explore different modalities to heal.  I went to a healer and I remember thinking “ how can this session work?” ….I was skeptical. The healer gave me homework and did it….went through the motions and a month later I realized that my issues I brought to the session were no longer a problem in my life.  It worked to my surprise!  And I wanted to learn more. Shamanic Healing is hygiene for the soul…. A spirit tune up.

What attracted you to Raksa?:  The energy. The embracing of diversity –  of different healing modalities – you can explore healing and wellness from several gifted practitioners.  Raksa is a warm and welcoming community.

Where are you from?  I was born in Honduras and my roots are in Latin America. I did some traveling and been in Los Angeles for 5 years.

Favorite activities:   I enjoy being in nature, love the mountains, hiking, traveling, reading and learning. I really love reading and learning about the spirit, nutrition and healing. I also enjoy music, dancing, the arts and checking out creative events around LA.

Shamanic Healing

December 7, 2011

Today, Sharon shares her experience with shamanic healing. Check back tomorrow for a short interview with our own shamanic practitioner, Irma Sierra.

This week I experienced my first shamanic healing session. Irma, the shamanic practitioner at RakSa set a calm and open tone from the beginning.  I was not sure what to expect and just decided to embrace whatever happens. Irma had a beautiful collection of stones and other objects that each had a meaning or represented something for her. She asked me to pick a stone and the session began. Irma cleared the space with beautiful words and flower water – to my understanding calling on powerful animals, mother earth and father sky to create a sacred place for us.  Afterwards, as I held onto the stone that I choose, we started talking. I did a lot of talking!  Irma delicately guided me to express what I would like to work on, improve, let go of etc. To my surprise – emotions came to the surface almost immediately. As if my most inner self finally got the chance to speak. Challenges with relationships, expectations, and wanting to truly accept things “as they are” came to mind. Irma guided me to use the stone, my breath and awareness to let go of any painful energy. Irma said that everyone experiences the sessions differently, and for me its clear that my spirit, body & mind needed to express itself. Irma continued the session using different healing tools such as feathers, music and sage.

She also gave me some visualizations to explore and some homework to do – to help integrate the session, process and heal the topics that came to the surface. This shamanic healing was powerful and evidently I needed it more than I realized. It is  an experience I think everyone would benefit from and most importantly it reminded me to take time to nurture myself.  Its so easy for most of us to get caught up in our busy “western” lives and this Shamanic Session took me back to the roots – the basics of taking care of my body, mind and spirit.

This morning, Katherine relates her experience taking our own Tory Jeen Valach’s Interactive Tarot Workshop.

The sala was abuzz with excitement this past Saturday as Tory Jeen Valach led her third Interactive Tarot Workshop in the series of seven.

“Tarot is a beautiful, loving guide and healing tool which can assist each of us in tapping into our own inner wisdom and intuition.  We are each born with these inner abilities and using the Tarot is nothing to be afraid of, rather a gentle way to share your feelings and insight with others” she says. As we embarked on our journey to discuss and discover the 10 Minor Arcana Wand cards, I was eager to get started with my first Tarot experience.

I must admit, my previous knowledge of this practice was highly lacking and what I thought I knew came directly from movies and television. This was my opportunity to put those assumptions aside and have a fresh, new experience with an amazing teacher and other Tarot enthusiasts and students.

Tory began by passing out packets that she prepared for each of us, containing a color copy of each card we were to discuss, as well as the traditional meanings. Starting with the Ace of Wands, we took a minute or two to process and observe the card, taking note of what feelings were brought to light during our observation. After, we discussed our interpretations, bouncing thoughts off of each other, expanding on ideas and considering the card from many different, yet connected, viewpoints. We did the same for the remaining nine cards, each discussion becoming more passionate as we students began to feel more comfortable with each other and in trusting our intuition.

Following the analysis of the cards, we split into pairs and performed readings on each other. Tory made her way around the sala, jumping in and reading for each one of us. That was such an amazing bonus! It was very clear at this point how much we had learned; here we were, reading for others without notes or pamphlets. We simply felt the cards and spoke from the heart.

My first Tarot experience was enlightening, informative and transformational. This is a healing modality that I am eager to pursue and will definitely be attending Tory’s workshops in the future and am looking extremely forward to a private reading. Although the cards spoke to me in many different ways, they never failed to speak and that, to me, is the largest testament of their power and capacity.



Thanksgiving has come and gone, and on behalf of our whole Ambassador Team and RakSa family, we hope you had a wonderful, restful, delicious, and relaxing holiday.

Image via.

We had an Ambassador meeting on Wednesday morning. Some of us were about to head to the airport to go home, and some of us were already home and were waiting expectantly for the arrival of family members. The conversation turned to thoughts of gratitude and thankfulness. Sharon offered the quotation “a grateful heart is a joyful heart,” which I’ve now written on my white board over my desk to remind me of my blessings and how happy they’ve made me.

It’s is our hope that we can usher in a season in which we are continuously thankful for the blessings in our lives, and that this year’s Thanksgiving was merely the beginning. Each Ambassador shared what we are particularly grateful for–family, new acquaintances, old friends, health, passion, love, and the community around us.

Our Founder, Apinya, shared a beautiful poem that has stuck with me for the past week, and I hope will stay with you in the coming holiday season.

For Celebration
by John Donohue
Now is the time to free the heart,
Let all intentions and worries stop,
Free the joy inside the self,
Awaken to the wonder of your life.
Open your eyes and see the friends
Whose hearts recognize your face as kin,
Those whose kindness watchful and near,
Encourage you to live everything here.
See the gifts the years have given,
Things your effort could never earn,
The health to enjoy who you want to be
And the mind to mirror mystery.
As a last thought, I’d like to leave you with an excerpt from an email that our Ambassador and front desk girl, Katherine, sent me. She said “May we all be blessed with new friends, loves, and experiences from here forward,” and I couldn’t agree more.

Qi Gong at RakSa

November 23, 2011

Today, RakSa’s manager Maribel shares her first experience with Qi Gong, and teaches us about the practice.

As I began my first class, I felt silly and out of place, not knowing what to expect. I am an avid yoga student and fairly physically fit yet I felt intimidated. I arrived early, anxious to see what was in store. Immediately the teacher put me at ease. “Have you ever practiced Qigong or Tai Chi?” she asked. “No,” I replied, “but I do have a pretty strong yoga practice…” I hoped this would give me a little credit. “Perfect, there are several similarities. You’ll be great,” she answered.

As we began, I looked around to make sure I was breathing properly, to check my movements weren’t too fast. Was I cultivating enough qi? How do I know if I have enough or not? This was suppose to be a relaxing practice, making me feel more balanced and tranquil, not insecure. I decided to let go.

The next hour of class was pure bliss. My body was moving and I was in rhythm with my breath. I felt the awareness in my body, and imagined a ball of energy coursing through. The breath work that I enjoyed so much in my yoga practice translated seamlessly but challenged me as I coordinated my movements. Before I knew it class was over. I found myself wanting more. Had I circulated enough qi? Honestly, who knows. I do know I left feeling energized and balanced.

Fun Facts about Qi Gong:

  • Pronounced chee gong
  • Relieves physical affects of stress and depression through deep breathing
  • Improves balance and stability by strengthening ankles and knees
  • Promotes faster recovery from strokes and heart attacks
  • Improves conditions of Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, and Parkinson’s
  • Reduces bone loss
  • Improves lower body and leg strength
  • Helps with arthritis pain
  • Reduces blood pressure and improve blood circulation
  • Strengthen coordination, Mind and body integration through mental imagery
  • Accumulates energy by releasing endorphins rather than depleting it
  • Enhances mental capacity and concentration

Today, we hear from our Yoga Instructor and Raksa Ambassador, Sharon Beam. Sharon interviews another member of the RakSa family—esthetician Karen Junk.

Hello!  I had the good fortune to talk with Karen Junk, an extraordinary esthetician at Raksa this weekend.   She described creating a Satori Experience for her clients – a moment of absolute presence, a moment of no mind, an opportunity to allow yourself to let go, heal or have whatever it is you need in that moment of time.    That sounds wonderful to me!   And I was eager to hear more.   Karen explained that she is also trained in Chinese face reading.  What is that you ask?

Chinese face reading is based upon a branch of Chinese Medicine.  For thousands of years the Chinese have studied patterns in nature and what the Chinese soon realized was that these patterns not only exist in nature but can also be used to describe people – including who we are and why we feel, think, act, believe, and often even behave the way in which we often do.  It helps explain what makes us different from others yet understand what also makes us the same.  Everyone has ears, a forehead and a chin – but what does YOURS mean and how is it significant for YOU?  Everything on your face has meaning and it can be an indication of something emotional, an event at a certain age or even a health issue.

I inquired as to why she choose to become an esthetician and Karen explained that it had a lot to do with healing her own skin and what a reflection her own skin was of her health –if that were true for her, she knew it would be true for everybody.  Karen wants to be able to help as many people as she can achieve the skin and health they desire.  Karen realized early on that healthy skin begins within – on so many levels – nutrition plays a huge part in addition to excellent home care but also the importance of positive affirmations and healthy self talk for the soul.

Karen has a calm nature about her, knowledgeable and caring.  She expressed that there is no judgment in her treatment room and her goal at any given time during any given treatment is to hold space –Karen’s motto is “For You and Your Face, I will Hold Space”…


Read a brief interview with Karen after the jump!

What exactly do you do at Raksa? 

I am an esthetician – and give facials, chemical peals and facial waxing.


Why did you start this career as an esthetician?

I LOVE skin! And the body fascinates me.  The face contains so much information.


What makes your facial or treatment different or unique?

I truly care about individual as a whole.  I customize the experience and I hold a certification in nutrition.  I’m also trained in Chinese face reading.

What attracted you to work at Raksa?

Raksa is a nice place filled with interesting people – its like home.

Where are you from & how long  have you been in LA?

I am from the Midwest and I’m new to LA – have been here for almost a year.

What are your favorite activities?

Fitness Training and going to the gym!  I also enjoy reading and learning new things – my nose is often in a book!

What is your schedule at Raksa for those that want to book a treatment with you?

Evenings and weekends – come experience my facial!



Check back tomorrow for our manager Maribel’s first experience with Qi Gong!

Swim Smart with Feldenkrais®

November 17, 2011

Our wonderful front desk girl and RakSa Ambassador, Katherine, attended our Swim Smart with Feldenkrais workshop this weekend. She explains her experience and provides some helpful swimming tips that she learned at the workshop.

As a former swimmer looking to get back into the water, I was excited when I saw that RakSa was offering a workshop to teach methods of “swimming smart.” Stacy Barrows, the designer of the SMARTROLLER and a Physical Therapist, created this workshop as a way of integrating her swimming practice with her Feldenkrais Practitioner background. New studies in swimming have revealed major connections with the nervous system and Stacy believes that by using the Feldenkrais method and improving sensitivity to movement, we can all swim more easily, quickly and with less drag.

Instructor Stacy Barrows setting up for the workshop

The workshop began with a body scan in which we lied on the floor and slowly shifted focus between all body parts, noticing our contact with the mat, tension, and any other imbalances. It was clear that all participants were slightly uneven and possibly uncomfortable. Following the scan, we began our work on the roller with a few movement puzzles. We lied with our backs on the roller, opening our hips slightly and reaching towards the ceiling with our arms. We then lied on our sides with our head on the roller moving our shoulders forward and back and doing the same with our hips. After a few more of these slight movements and adjustments we returned to just the mat and performed another body scan.

It was in this moment that I noticed, immediately, a complete shift in my posture, contact with the floor and overall comfort. I have never experienced such a dramatic change in such a short time. This, Stacy said, is the result of the brain shifting mental states and relearning ways of moving.

Stacy used the term “parasitic work” to describe unnecessary movements. One of the goals in implementing the Feldenkrais method in your swim practice is to cut down, as much as possible, the amount of parasitic work we perform. This allows us to exert less energy that is ultimately wasted and guide our attention to the smaller adjustments we can make. Stacy’s son Daniel, a swim instructor and active Feldenkrais and Tai Chi student, followed our work on the SMARTROLLER with a discussion of swimming warm-ups and techniques we can begin to integrate into our swimming sessions.

His five tips, all for freestyle, were:

1)                          Catch-up stroke- Keep your guiding hand forward and extended until the other hand makes its full rotation and returns to the forward position. This allows you to maintain follow-through and focus on each arm’s individual stroke while increasing speed and reducing drag.

2)                          Slowly push down your body with the thumb side of your hand against your chest as you perform the first half of the stroke. This will provide momentum without strain or over-exertion.

3)                          As you make the second half of the stroke with your arm above the water, drag your fingers so as to maintain slight contact and then use this positioning to help you “spear” into the water. This will reduce drag and increase speed.

4)                          Allow your body to rotate from side-to-side as your switch arms. In doing so, your lower should also be slightly rotated and your kicks will act more like a fin as opposed to a static propeller.

5)                          Practice breathing on both sides to reduce kinks in one shoulder.

Every Fall, beginning three years ago, I engage in a Panchakarma, a deep Ayurvedic cleanse, which consisting of a 10 day pre-diet preparation followed by days of treatment, depending on what needs to be worked on or simply in my case the amount of time and resources available. Each time I never know how the process will affect me but I can always count on one thing, that it will be a journey, a journey of change, rebirth and rejuvenation.

This was how I first met Jennie, one of our talented and gifted Ayurvedic practitioners, who has also become a dear friend. As we began my third PK journey (I am proud to have experienced Panchakarma long enough to call it PK like Jennie does) this year in October, Jennie warned me that the number three is very significant. Each time we do a PK, a different layer gets taken off or addressed, and we go deeper each time. I’ve had people stop coming to see me after their third PK because it was just too much, Jennie said to me. This is my kind of journey, I thought! The one that really changes your life. I am in!

This year I had already come to Jennie with many changes in my life. RakSa was at a point of transformation and many changes were happening. We were now almost two years old and had begun to notice things that worked and those that didn’t. I had spent some time earlier this year reevaluating and reflecting on myself, the business, and my role as the founder. As much as I embraced all that RakSa already was, I knew that many things, including myself, had to change in order for her vision to be fully realized and to simply survive in this economy. There needed to be more accountability for myself and our community, and most importantly I could no longer continue to do this alone. I am not capable of it nor do I want to. If we are to be a true community, I must continue cultivating more of such. This requires a lot of trust on my part and letting go – not just any kind of letting go. I am not opposed to change or releasing, often I welcome them, as I know this is how we grow. But this was the kind of letting go that would shake your identity. The kind that breaks a core belief we may have held about ourselves that may not be who we truly are. I saw this clearly and it was becoming more and more evident by the minute. Everything in my life was pointing to this message, as if to say, you may have gotten it in your head but now it’s time you live it in your body. As if without this change I will not survive. I can no longer continue on like this.

Jennie suggested that with so much already going on in my life, my pre-diet of yellow mung bean, rice, steamed vegetables and cleansing spices should only last four days instead of ten. I compromised with seven. Already I should have seen that there was some internal battle going on. My first day of PK began with Jennie taking my pulse and discussing the place I was in. All my pulses were loud and clear. I was all Pitta – in Ayurvedic medicine, this is a combination of fire and water out of the five elements; space, air, water, fire, and earth. I was completely in my head.

Jennie and Sheila, our other beautiful Ayurvedic practitioner, began the session by massaging me from head to toes with warm oil made of all natural herbs chosen specifically for me. Ocean, Jennie’s 10 month-old son, also contributed in the selection. With four hands working simultaneously on me, many things were starting to move and stir within. It seemed at the time they were mostly in my mind and my thoughts. Jennie and Sheila later confirmed this and told me that so much heat and energy was coming out from head it was overwhelming. I then entered a steam box and sweat out even more toxins. This was much more emotional. With every drop sweat, I became lighter and began to find more peace. The treatment followed with a bastis, herbal enema, that I held in until later in the night, and Shirodhara. Ahh, Shirodhara, the magic medicine of that day, a treatment of warm oil that pours in a gentle rhythm across the forehead.

As the oil cooled and caressed my forehead, I began to see my grandmother blowing sweet air over a wound, which has left a scar on me since I was two years old. I had such a nice visit with her during the session and I felt completely held. She was the woman who raised me and taught me about my first Vipassa meditation. She was whom I slept with until I was nine. The memories of her brought everything in my head down to my heart. I left that day wordless filled with love and gratitude from all that was around me, people in my life, Jennie, Sheila, RakSa, the earth, the sky. I felt connected to something so deep again.

The interesting thing about seeing my grandmother help me to heal my wound from the accident I had when I was two is that I am not sure it actually happened. My memory of that day is that I was playing so hard and ran into the corner of my bed with my head. I had started to bleed. My sister was the one who found me gushing with blood and carried me from there into the car and then I was taken to the hospital for stitches. It was as if the Shirodhara had helped me to create a different memory, a more nurturing and healing memory, to remind me of what it feels like to be cared for, held, and loved. I needed to feel that and embodied that again. So often my roll as the youngest child was the peacemaker. The one that made our family laughed. The one that apologized simply because I had to show respect to the elders. The one that went between my father and the rest of our family. I took on everyone else’s emotional being and believed that it was my responsibility. That I must do this and if I didn’t, things wouldn’t be okay. I was proud of this role because I thought that was why my family loved me.

I love my family and I love caring for others but I don’t love the responsibility of everyone else’ emotional state or feel that I have the responsibility to make everything okay, just as I had no longer wanted to carry the responsibility of RakSa’s vision and success alone. I realized that when I had told myself that what was my role and hung on so tight all these years wasn’t necessary who I truly am. And shedding that identity had began because it no longer serves me. It probably never did. But finally I was willing and given the chance to see and meet myself again. Seeing myself so clearly and more honestly is heartbreaking and humbling in many ways. It’s like meeting someone you’ve waited for all your life but you were never really sure existed. It is both so familiar and so unknown all at the same.

One of my daily practice is to celebrate  our community. Today I want to particularly honor two special ladies – Maribel Lopez and Shari Kensley.

Maribel Lopez, or Mari as she likes to be called, came to us from New York City. Looking to make Los Angeles her new home she was skeptical at what she would find. But that didn’t stop her determination and her willingness to give RakSa her all. Today not only has she built a home in Los Angeles but she has become a crucial part of our RakSa family’s growth and success.

As a manager of RakSa’s staff, Mari has become my second pair of eyes. Today, she oversees the little small details with a large perspective, from a scruff mark on the bathroom door to how each staff is doing to RakSa’s daily and annual event.

The longer Mari is here, the more of herself she brings. At works she keeps a professional and healthy boundary, yet during our community gatherings one may often find her to be the first to share her tears. Trusting and sharing her vulnerability with us is yet another gift that makes Mari such an endearing member of our family.

As we honor Mari for all the work that she has done, does and will do with so much care and professionalism, I also want to honor her for allowing me to trust something so precious to me, RakSa, in her hands while I took my month off. Knowing that she is there daily, gives me a peace of mind that is priceless. We, RakSa and I, are truly grateful.

Shari Kensley was the first member of our RakSa family. We began our working relationship at my home where she spent most of her days in my office also known as the guest bedroom, getting to know me, my dog Mango, and RakSa even before construction began. She came to me with an eager enthusiasm to learn and a child-like perspective to the healing world. Today she is one of the people that our community looks to for advice from how to deal with clients to which practitioners should they visit for their health issues.

Began as my personal assistant now one of RakSa’s managers, she holds a unique space in RakSa’s and my heart. She knows where to take my dry cleaning, what kind of food my dog eats, and what it has taken to turn a dream into reality.

It has been a beautiful process to watch her grow like a flower that opens and continues to bloom.  She has never lacked in determination or intelligence but over the last two years, she has learned to shape them into a focus which has allowed her to open more of her heart and soul.

Often there are things that RakSa and I need that may seem extra and over the top that one may only feel comfortable asking a family member. That’s when I turn to Shari. She will stay long hours. She will pull up the slacks when everyone else is tired. This is a rare gifts to both RakSa and me. What holds for Shari in the future is endless and it has been such a privilege and honor for all of us to watch and be a part of her life.

If a definition of a writer is someone who writes, then I haven’t been a writer for over a month. That is true. The blog has been quiet for a while due to the preparation for my time off from work and yes, time for myself. If what we are doing in the present is what we are, then for the last month I’ve been Apinya’s lover.

I made a conscious choice to take off the month of June, to put myself as the first priority, something I seemed to have taken a pause from in the last few years. We make choices daily on how to take care of ourselves. That is true. From choosing to wake up in the morning, to how we’ll spend our days, what we’ll eat, who we’ll spend time with, how we love the people that we love. But consciously loving myself, posts a different set of questions beyond what do I want out of life or how would I like to spend the next few years. Beyond the questions of who do I want in my life and how do I choose to engage in those relationships in the most healthy and loving way.

It’s not comfortable putting myself first. At times it’s lonely and takes work, a practice.  But yes often times it’s fun and rewarding. I realize that the life that I live is due to my actions, the decisions that I make. The question is am I living the life of my dreams? And what does that extraordinary life that I wish for look like?

Sometimes we don’t get clear or right answers, because we haven’t asked the right questions. Debbie Ford, the author of The Right Questions poses ten “right questions” to help guide us to that big life we desire. When we honestly ask these questions, we begin to make new choices that will lead to new actions. I think unconsciously I’ve asked myself parts if not all of them from time to time. And they have led me to this crossroad in my life. The answers, when they arrive, reveal what I believe to be the roadmap to the next step of my journey.

Will this choice propel me toward an inspiring future or will it keep me stuck in the past?

Will this choice bring me long-term fulfillment or will it bring me short-term gratification?

Am I standing in my power or am I trying to please another?

Am I looking for what’s right or am I looking for what’s wrong?

Will this choice add to my life force or will it rob me of my energy?

Will I use this situation as a catalyst to grow and evolve or will I use it to beat myself up?

Does this choice empower me or does it disempower me?

Is this an act of self-love or is it an act of self-sabotage?

Is this an act of faith or is it an act of fear?

Am I choosing from my divinity or am I choosing from my humanity?

The answers arrive when we ask the questions. But they come in parts and when we are ready to make the decisions. Recently I began dancing again, a different kind of dancing than what I’ve done in the past. This organic form of dancing has helped me connect to myself more holistically. It brings me back to my body, to embrace the emotions that arise, and to connect with mother earth and spirit. I am tasting what it’s like to dance with my soul.

Everyday is a dance. Every action is a dance. Yoga is a dance. It’s a practice. Dancing with oneself and spirit is a practice. Just like taking time to consciously ask these questions and patiently allowing the answers to emerge is a practice. To fully be someone else’s lover, one’s own lover is a dance, a practice, without which we cannot live the grand life of the heart.

(Due to the freedom that I’ve embraced and was given to me in the last few days, I am going to share this blog without any filter. That means no spell check, no order of past, present or future tense, no perfect words. Thank you for reading this entry as is…)

I spent the last two days in Santa Fe with a dear friend.  She had asked me to come and be with her for her birthday. She was born on Mother’s day and her mother had just recently passed. So I scrambled around to find open days in my schedule in between events and meetings that had been scheduled months ahead. It was going to be just shy of 48 hours but I planned to be there for her completely, to honor her and her mother. But the trip turned out to be so much more.

As I landed in the one structure-building airport of Santa Fe, I felt I had returned to a land I once knew. The warm air and cool breeze welcomed me and whispered, Welcome home. I had to hold back my tears as I waited for my bag at the single convertible belt of baggage claim.

Our first visit was at the center of the plaza where a row of Native American Indians had come to sell their crafts. Each morning they would travel from various places, far places, and wait in line for a spot, which is given out thorough a lottery system that doesn’t guarantee a place for everyone who had shown up.  As we walked through the strip, a man asked me what tribe I was from. I smiled and said, I’m from the Thai tribe, and explained to him that I was not Native and was actually from Thailand. In my heart, I was honored to be recognized as such and felt that at a different time I may have been lucky enough to be a part of their heritage. I purchased a ring from one Native, which happened to have my initials craved inside because it was his initials as well. I felt it had been made for me.

We visited the Georgia O’Keeffe museum. She was an artist who had been dear to my heart since I was twelve and had seen my sister’s painting that attempted to duplicate her style. It became even clearer why her work touched me so deeply. The Blue Pelvis, the painting that tattooed in my mind.  O’Keefee once said, When I started painting the pelvis bones I was most interested in the holes in the bones – what I saw through them- particularly the blue from holding them up in the sun against the sky as one is apt to do when one seems to have more sky than earth in one’s world. . .they were most beautiful against the Blue – that Blue that will always be there as it is now after all man’s destruction is finished.

The next day, we visited el Santuario de Chimayó, a small adobe chapel built in 1816, tucked into the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. There are still imprints of the loving hands of the community that built it and believed that miracles had happened there. We arrived just as Mass had begun and various families, big families of various generations, had gathered there for a Mother’s day picnic. A familiar scene that I once had been a part of in a totally different part of the world.

On a small road from Chimayo towards Taos Pueblo, we stopped at an old Trading Post. There was a piece of necklace there that caught my eyes right away. Six strains of red Mediterranean coral, a type of jewel that is no longer available, joined together by a Santo Domingo artist. I tried it on and the weight of this sacred object rested on top of my heart like a gift from spirit. I could barely take it off to look around the rest of the store.  My friend and John, the owner of the store, shared the history of Santo Domingo tribe and the coral, as if we’ve all been sitting around a campfire and telling ancient stories. A few times John said to me even after I had purchased the necklace, It looks so beautiful on you. Something I had always wished my father would say to me when I was growing up. When we got into the car, my friend said to me, this is not just another piece of jewelry Apinya, this is your power.

As I get ready to return to Los Angeles today, I know I will return here to live. My dear friend had wanted to me here to share her precious stories and history, but what was shown was my own. I don’t have any Native American blood in my body and maybe I had never even been anywhere close to this land in this lifetime or the past, but something inside me had reconnected with something greater and purer than my own imagination.

So take a trip, go on your own journey where ever that may be, you never know what two days in a sacred land can bring up for you. There’s a part in all of us that waits to be awaken and it is necessary for our growth and the understanding of ourselves. Imagine what we would have missed if we didn’t make time for these moments. I know for me, if I hadn’t made this flight, a deep part of me that had been yearning for something, someone, someplace, would have continue to hold on to the mystery without this new discovered light. And though the longing and yearning may continue, what was once nameless and faceless now has a beat in my heart.