How did each of you transition from your corporate jobs into the wellness space?
Fern: I was working in a corporate job for about seven years, and I was experiencing painful digestive symptoms, chronic immune conditions, and just not feeling very good overall. I knew I needed to change my lifestyle and state of mind in order to get healthy. So I started practicing yoga, and I completely fell in love the feeling of relief and support provided by my yoga mat. From there, I was able to really see that there was something stuck in my body that I needed to give my attention to. The more I practiced and listened to the signs my body was telling me, the better I felt. I became curious in figuring out lifestyle balance, figuring out why I was stressed and why I was getting sick. I studied to become a certified yoga instructor and attended IIN (Institute for Integrative Nutrition). I realized how fulfilling it was to serve and help other people determine what’s going on in their own bodies and minds. I’m really excited to be on this path, discovering new things every day about my own body, and then in turn helping other people.
What would you love to achieve along this new path, career-wise?
Fern: Continue growing as a yoga teacher, traveling yogi and successful business owner with Sarah! Creating programs that attract and maintain a group of clients that benefit from holistic healing. My vision board definitely has teaching at Deepak Chopra‘s Homebase at ABC Carpet & Home on it… Also leading workshops with Sarah that are highly sought after, reaching people internationally and empowering a global movement for self-healing.
Did you figure out what was specifically going on that was compromising your health?
Fern: I had leaky gut syndrome, food allergies and sensitivities, adrenal fatigue and an autoimmune thyroid condition. The deterioration of my intestines was caused from misuse and poor digestion. I’m still learning every day a little bit more how to get myself 100% back to optimal health. There is no quick-fix to healing yourself. It’s a journey.
Was it diet changes that have helped you most?
Fern: Not only diet alone, but in synergy with lifestyle changes. Yoga, stress relief practices including meditation, pranayama, acupuncture and going on retreats helped with all my conditions. Retreats are a great ways to immerse yourself with other people that are going through similar things so you don’t feel alone. You are never alone!
Finding Sarah, of course, as well, was pivotal in my healing. Having a partner on your journey who has gone through similar things and can understand where you’re coming from is a complete game-changer. A “health partner” is always important for when you have a breakdown or you feel like you’re stuck. When you feel like you are not getting anywhere, having someone to really pick you up and be there with you, to listen and support you can be the ultimate source of strength. I also found affirmations to be extremely helpful. I used daily affirmations that I am healed, that I’m already where I need to be, and that the Universe has my back, really got my state of mind in control of my healing. This is the ultimate empowerment. When you are in a state of believing and knowing – faith – you are limitless.
Sarah, your dad cured himself from cancer, right?
Yes. I grew up in a very holistic environment. My parents raised us around Eastern philosophies. Back when I was child, my parents were teaching us about Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer and U.S. Anderson, and they created this whole library of knowledge around holistic healing. As kids we were allowed to ask any question and learn about anything we desired. So, when my father was diagnosed with cancer 12 years ago, he naturally decided to not do radiation or chemo therapy, but the alternative medicine route instead.
At that time I was angry, because I thought he was making the wrong decision, but watching him cure cancer, and cure a terminal cancer with alternative medicine made me really wake up. And I remember I made a promise to him that someday I will have my own practice and be able to tell his story to the world. Twelve years ago people weren’t as open to the idea of holistic healing. Now I have a platform and the ability to share his story with other people thanks to the internet and social media world.
Around that same time my father cured cancer, I decided to start modeling. Throughout my career as a model I traveled and lived all over the country. During this time, I personally hit rock bottom – physically, emotionally and spiritually. I really had to re-find myself and go through a process of really just getting back to my roots, getting back to what I was raised with. I think when I was modeling and doing real estate, I wouldn’t have had the ability to help and coach other people had I not gone through my own struggles. I was dealing with adrenal fatigue, thyroid conditions and I was developing signs of Lupus which runs in my family.
The doctors basically said that I was at very high risk. I wasn’t going to accept this sickness as outcome. I knew I was sick because of the way that I was living. I would basically be out all night, wake up at 7am, go to yoga, pound a cup of coffee, with side of wheatgrass and go to a photo shoot.
I was trying to balance a very unhealthy lifestyle and environment with holistic practices and supplements. One day, after hours in the doctor’s office I just quit and decided I needed a break.
So, I ended up backpacking for a year and a half around the world, and studying with lots of different healers, going back to school, working with anyone I could get my hands on that had cured themselves of my conditions. I opened up my own practice, and that’s when I met Fern, and we’ve decided to expand together and really grow our company and platform for teaching our generation about disease prevention and holistic healing.
Can you talk a bit about the lifestyle dysfunction you observed in the modeling world?
Today it’s interesting because several of my clients are from the fashion world and have eating disorders. It’s a sad space and I even knew while modeling the images that I was projecting to the world was creating a negative buzz around true health and wellness. But yet, there is just this fascination with beauty – there are thousands of people following fashion – it’s part of our society – it is part of the way we’re raised – it’s a part of our culture. So there is a very fine line.
I see that the conditions of several of my clients come from the media. These conditions come from, “when I was a kid I looked up to so and so. I looked up to this model. I looked up to this celebrity.” The fashion industry is gong to continue to book size zero models and they’re going to continue to put them on the runways.
So we as a society really need to wake up and say what is healthy and natural and there needs to be a large enough influx of health coaches stepping up to change the image of America to see a change. Luckily, this is happening!
How did you and Fern meet?
Sarah: I had been backpacking and temporarily living in LA. I had just launched my company and was flying through New York. We had seen each other on social media – Twitter. We connected and decided to meet up and literally met on a random park bench. We became instantaneous friends. I was like, “I am moving back to New York and starting a company with this girl. This is meant to be.” I ended up moving all my stuff back within a month.
What inspired you to create and run your own retreats rather than enjoying them as a consumer?
Sarah: My father (Wiliam Stewart) was a public speaker when I was a child, and he talked around the country about the mind-body connection. He would basically rally people together to discuss the body, discuss healings, discuss this idea of psychology and essentially taking control of your life. I would watch his courses as a kid, and just knew I wanted to do this someday. I never really knew how it would happen.
As for going on retreats with other companies, I used to go and would always feel like, “There are so many people here. I would love some private time with the coaches.” I always wanted more of an intimate space. So that is what I wanted to create.
Fern: I knew that I needed a partner in this even prior to meeting Sarah because it was very difficult to manage all of the components of a successful retreat. There are so many aspects of running a great retreat. It was really impossible to do everything myself. I knew that I needed someone who was like me – really dedicated, very good at manifesting and putting great energy behind the work. So, it was instant chemistry when I met her. It was like all right, we need to start a company and have a brand.
What is your grand vision for Bliss Out?
Our main vision for Bliss Out Wellness is to have events and workshops in New York City, LA and upstate New York… and then branch out internationally. We’re starting with Puerto Rico because it’s accessible and we love the location and people there. We have also started doing Bridal and bachelorette retreats now – so instead of going to Vegas, we’ll take you on a yoga and culinary retreat!
That is bad ass! How do you balance one another as friends and business partners?
Sarah: I come from a very business background. My parents had their own company, so I have more of a business perspective of things. I know how to manage taxes, e-mails and all the things that go into the back end of running a company. Fern, she’s the face of the company – she’s much more social. She’s very good with people. She is good at managing the expectations of people and really controlling the energy of other people that affect our company on a daily basis. I’m kind of on the back end and handling the logistics of money etc.
Fern: I’m always calm, and I’m a yogi, so I always can go into every situation and give a hug, and it’ll be OK. [laughing]
One of my favorite parts of our retreat was when you did the guided meditation at sunset. Can you take us through one here?
Fern: Well my favorite one is a mantra meditation. A mantra is a set of words or a phrase that you can repeat to yourself over and over silently. So if your mind wanders you can just bring it back to this meaningful phrase that works for you. So it can be something like “thank you, thank you”, or “let go”. So on every inhale you silently say “let”, and every exhale you silently say “go”. You can sit there in a comfortable seat, and you can close your eyes, and every time you take a deep breath in you say let and exhale you say go. And this stops the fluctuations of your mind, so when you’re having trouble with racing thoughts or mental turmoil or relationship trouble or whatever it is you silently are saying let go to yourself over and over, and eventually your mind starts to slow down, and the point to meditation isn’t to stop these thoughts, is to slow them down so you can make space.
What does meditation mean to you?
I think there’s this huge misconception with our generation that meditation is something that has to be religious or spiritual, and it’s really not. It’s about training your mind to be in the present moment. Because when you’re in the present moment you’re detached from past and future. And when you’re in the present moment, that’s when really the magic happens, and the things that you need in your life can manifest. We project what we want in the universe, but a lot of times when we have 5000 thoughts we are tyring to control the universe and our reality. It really doesn’t allow us to attract what we want and desire. So meditation is really about wherever you are. Whether you are at work, or on the subway, it’s about quieting your mind, taking five minutes and just being in that present moment with that breath, and holding that space and even visualizing what it is that you want, because in that space then you’ll allow the good things, the things that will really serve you and serve your purpose to manifest, manifest internally.
Can you recommend any resources for people looking for meditation techiniques?
Sarah: Start with Gabby Bernstein, she’s wonderful. Elena Brower. Their web sites have a lot of free guided meditations. Also, Break the Norms.
I think self-care rituals can also be a form of moving meditation…
Fern: Absolutely! One of the things that I found is doing the same thing every day at the same time. For me it’s when I wake up. I will immediately, get cucumber slices, put them on my eyes, lay down with dōTERRA peppermint essential oil and heating pad on my belly, put a lavender eye pillow over the cucumbers, and I’ll lay there for 10 minutes, and I just meditate, and breathe. It’s one of those things where you just make that a part of your routine and it’s not negotiable. So it becomes, like the meditation doesn’t become more of a chore, it just becomes more of a habit. I put or essential oils on throughout the day to stay grounded as well. So that’s one my self-care rituals that I have no matter where I am, I carry them around with me all day. I think it’s hysterical. [laughing]
Sarah: For me it’s either doing spin, boxing, taking an Exhale class, or working out in the gym for an hour – just something where I can zone out completely. And my zoning out is turning the music on, not having distractions, not using my phone while I’m working out, but just being in that moment. If you’re running at the gym while on your phone reading emails and Facebook, that’s not really a form of meditation. But running by yourself – in the zone – is a form because you’re really detached from the world. That’s something I have to do every single day.
For me, I find it in lifting weights because I literally feel I can hang my brain at the door and not think about anything.
Sarah: Exactly. Simply focusing without distraction.
Check out their upcoming Puerto Rico retreat at: blissoutretreats.com