After a 5 year battle with Parkinson’s disease, I am sad to say that my dad passed away last month on February 24th, 2015, he was 80 years old. He had struggled with losing his ability to walk and finally fell and broke his hip. He had to have a hip replacement surgery and unfortunately, developed a blood clot which led to a lethal heart attack. Thankfully, he passed in his sleep with no pain, this is what I had hoped would be the way he would pass, peacefully. Sadly, I didn’t make it to the hospital on time to be there when he left, but I am relieved that family was with him.
Nothing really prepares you for the loss of a parent, I stayed very strong for my family in the shock of his early demise, we always thought we would be prepared for something like this, and we were….for the logistics, but what about the emotional aftermath? I had many fleeting thoughts come to my mind, like, “He will never get to see any grandchildren” and “What if I ever decided to get married, who would walk me down the aisle?” All the “what if” questions in life, all thoughts that bring attachment of not accepting that he was gone…and that was the concrete realism…that he was really gone.
It was hard to see my dad’s mental and physical health deteriorate so quickly. Growing up dad was always a strong man to be feared, I never would of thought he would change so much in his older age. Along with that came a softer, more child-like presence, something I will always remember and treasure.
My father and I had a turbulent relationship all throughout my life, we never saw eye to eye and he had tendencies to be very controlling. As a yogi, I use my practice of compassion and forgiveness to make peace with our relationship, and thankfully, though his illness, we finally did. You see my dad almost died a few years prior, we were not on speaking terms for a long time, I was committed on fulfilling my dharma as a healer and my dad unfortunately, had other plans for me. Little did he know my training as a therapeutics yoga teacher would help rehab him to walk again and my acupuncture training helped make the rest of his life more comfortable.
It’s amazing how karma works out and allows us the opportunity to make right what was wrong. And now, I cherish the memories of sessions of chair yoga, the acupuncture and biomat treatments he finally allowed me to administer, and all the years of being by his side to finally get the time we never had when I was younger.
We practice our greek traditions on death and dying with a wake, a church memorial, followed by a burial. Funerals and burials are organized quickly, usually taking place within 24 to 48 hours, which reflects the Greek Orthodox acceptance of death. The service is called the Office of the Burial of the Dead. Conducted by a priest, the service includes ancient rituals and prayers.
(Greek church in Kos)
After the funeral, the priest and mourners gather at the cemetery, in which the casket is buried. An official mourning period of 40 days follows, which is Christ’s ascension to heaven. On the last Sunday of the 40-day mourning period, another memorial service is held at the cemetery, commemorating the soul's ascent into heaven. I am just so grateful I got to go to Greece before my dad’s passing to help reconnect our ancestry.
My studies of Buddhist insight into death and dying helped me to develop an awareness of my own mortality in a way that totally transformed my way of thinking on this subject. The reality of life is this, "We are alive, therefore we will die." This is the simplest, most obvious truth of our existence, and yet very few of us have really come to terms with it. I tried to be respectful of this awareness as people around me grieved in different ways. Buddhist principles states, when the body disintegrates at death the mind does not cease, our subtle mind may still remain in the body. Death occurs when the subtle consciousness finally leaves the body to go to the next life. I guess the most important lessons on death and dying is to cherish our loved ones all the time, as we will never know when they will be gone.
All of these practices and philosophies really did help me to accept and process this loss. It was such a beautiful Greek ceremony followed by continuing rituals. Even though I practiced other philosophical traditions in life, I still respected his last wish to have his funeral done in this way. It’s challenging to mourn for 40 days while in the United States, society usually doesn’t allow for this, I just remember him everyday as this time is sacred to me. Chanting “Om Mani Padme Hum” (which invokes the power and blessings of the embodiment of compassion) has also helped.
I have to say that Greek tradition has allowed me to go through the process of grieving in a healthy way. I sometimes wish I could just disappear for 40 days to mourn. Yes, I will always be very grateful for all the extra time I had….and I know that you are still here, Dad, watching over all of us, making sure we are guided and protected. I have spent the last 5 years being your guardian angel and now you will forever be mine….. Rest in Peace John Rhodis.
After a recent trip to Bodhi Fest, at the beautiful Ichimura Japanese Gardens in Miami, I felt compelled to blog about the message I received from this blessed event. The gardens were adorned with orchids and artwork in celebration of the 20 foot Jade buddah, tibetian monks, and paws for prayers. The monks blessed one and all, men, woman and children as well as all animals. I felt so disheartened that my Kayla was not with me to be part of this blessing, sadly, I wasn’t able to attend the event until the last day.
There was a talented artist who painted a portrait of the infamous Lolita, a beautiful Orca whale that has been living at the Miami Seaquarium for quite some time. She has been a product of a slavery to entertainment world, and now, many dedicated efforts are underway and gaining strength daily to achieve the goal of returning Lolita to her home and family.
I thought about all the animals who prey victim from this entertainment industry, from the elephants in Thailand, the traveling circus animals around the world, and everyday animal abuse. It breaks my heart that our society can be so cruel, but I don’t focus on this, I focus on the love that is needed to heal this planet. I pray for the freedom and kindness for all animals.
In Greek the word, “eleutheria” (ἐλευθερία) which means liberty, freedom from slavery is used when describing this kind of freedom. Athenian democracy was the paradigm of civic freedom, of democratic government through the direct participation of its citizens. We are all born free and should remain free.
The message was quite clear, the Tibetians left their country to be free, Tibetans will only be free from oppression when they are free to determine their own future. The same rings true for these animals, they deserve the same freedom as humans do.
After all, we are all one collective consciousness, sharing beliefs, ideas and moral attitudes which operate as a unifying force within society. Are we so different? Whats so different then the Chinese enslaving the Tibetans as Miami Seaquarium enslaving Lolita? When will we understand how connected we all are? Time to wake up society. Please send prayers and healings to all life forms living on this planet.
Please visit to see the full story on Lolita:
http://www.orcanetwork.org/Main/index.php?categories_file=Lolita and donate what you can to help free this beautiful creature that belongs in the sea. These individuals have a retirement plan to help reacclimatize her back into the wild. FREE LOLITA….FREE TIBET…..FREE OURSELVES.
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For this past 2015 NewYear, I was able to go back to my birthplace of New York. I was extremely blessed to see the city in all it’s glory, snow and all. Thank god for my dear friend and chauffeur Nathalie, and my sidekick Kayla, who is the most amazing traveling companion.
We had a blast and caused all kinds of mayhem in the streets of New York. I got to practice at the top yoga studios in NYC, including Rodney Yee’s new studio, Yoga Shanti. The studio was completely made of gold, as his studio should be for being one of the top yoga teachers of this era….A must see.
Plus my hotel was right next to Pure Yoga West, a monstrosity of a well oiled machine complete with a two story building, 7 rooms, showers and complete steam room. Needless to say, ain’t nothing like Florida! It was so nice to do yoga amongst giants.
One of the major reasons for going to NYC was for research purposes as well as having a bit of fun. I am a native New Yorker born in Queens from immigrated parents from Greece. They say you really can’t move forward until you go back to the beginning, and so, another journey completed.
I also got to go back to my most favorite place in the world, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I studied art history in college and have a deep love and affinity for all art, especially from master artists.
What a huge collection displayed for the holidays, simply breathtaking! I loved the Persia collection and all the artifacts, goes well with all the tribal bellydance style.I wanted to “borrow" all the jewelry and costuming.
Since we studied all Greek mythology at the last yoga retreat, I was truly inspired by Artemis on this trip. I felt like I never left Greece as there was a huge Greek and Roman display this year.
Artemis was the Hellenic goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth, virginity and protector of young girls, bringing and relieving disease in women. I feel very connected to this goddess right now as she is the goddess of action. It’s time that I get back into my dharma purpose as I have learned so much from this time of rest and recovery. I am so grateful for all the lessons, support and love from my family and friends.
I went to my childhood home in Long Island so I could find out if this was to be my new home. Needless to say, my ceremonial candle broke in my hands to show me that the chords had been cut and it was indeed time to move on.
Oh well, at least I know that New York will always be in my heart, just not the place I plant. I loved this tree as a kid! Onward towards my quest for my HOME…...
As a life long allergy sufferer, I’ve spent my entire life with a challenged immune system. My world became completely toxic, the food I was eating made me ill, the air I was breathing was contaminated, the mattress I slept on made me sick, there was no escape from the hundreds of chemicals that are on this planet, there was only one place left to go....into the water into the sea....where my body could heal and finally be free.
Since I have been in recovery for the last few years now, I have been working on strengthening my immune system. I knew my holistic medicine training would be what I needed to help me most. After all, this is why I got started into this practice in the first place.
Because the water element has been so important to me, I’ve decided to have fun with my healing, and so, a mermaid has been born. I have been very blessed to have lived by the ocean most my life and always used it as my medicine. I have noticed that every time I move away from her, my health would be compromised again. So yes, being a real mermaid is a childhood dream of mine, one that would be such a major part to my recovery.
I’ve actually found a professional mermaid performer, MeduSirena, and am officially a Aquaticat in training. You can see her website here: http://www.medusirena.com . I actually bought my first mermaid tail before I even meeting her (not advisable!) as this tail turned out to be very heavy (30lbs!). Plus, it took 3 people to get me in it when we were in Greece. Thank god for good friends who support your hair brained ideas!Ali Valdez, Bunz Valdez, and my official agent, Madeleine Erhardt.
Luckily, my swim teacher works with a lighter material, I now practice with a monofin. I love my practice monofin, it's much lighter than my tail, and I move fast like a dolphin...since I have less energy on land, the water element has been my cure. Yea, it was a challenge to travel to europe with such a heavy costume, not to mention expensive! But she was worth it.
Stay tuned for the video of one of my very first swims!…oh boy!
Greece is coming! I'm going back to my motherland country. This trip is so important to me as I am reconnecting to my ancestor’s roots. I am a full 100% Greek that is first generation born in the United States and yet I don’t feel a strong connection to my Greek family. My family ancestry lines go many generations back to many families of Greek descent.
I’ve studied all yoga hindu and buddhist philosophy and traditions and this is an area is where I feel the need to strengthen. It’s been 10 years since I’ve visited my homeland country, I am excited to see where the rest of the journey will lead. Come join us on the next adventure!
Greek Yoga Retreat - Sattva Yoga - October 7th to October 17th - with optional four night add on in Mykonos. We are combining archetypal explorations, myth and creativity along with support on any creative projects you might need. See Athens, Sounion, Delphi, the villages and beaches of Crete, Elounda spa and day trip to Santorini. See below for details!
Seattle…Here I Come!!! May 2014 TT Weekends @ Balance yoga - Woodenville:
Part of Sattva's 75 hour Yin/THA Advanced Teacher Training: Yin weekend - $395 Friday evening and all day Saturday and Sunday(At least two to three hours of yoga per day)
200 hour TT - Alignments, Pregnancy, Organs, Endocrine System, Prop and wall Adjustments.
Just a few spots left for the upcoming Spring 2014 Vinyasa TT 200 hours. Join us and our staff of senior yogis, anatomists, philosophers, doctors and acupuncturist.
Learn more about the static passive practice of popular Yin yoga and its more advanced THA system. Studies include full range Yin/THA movements, all about the connective and muscular systems, and full spectrum of yogic and TCM energy systems. 60 Hours + 15 hours practicum: Continued Education or 75 hours towards module III of the Five Hundred Hour Advanced Studies. Led by Ali Valdez (E-RYT500)
April 25, 26, 27 & May 9,10,11, 23, 24, 25.
Friday evenings 5:30-9:30pm; Saturday & Sundays 9:30am to 4:30pm. Manual, study guide and self testing included in program. $1,188 upon enrollment into the Sattva Yoga 500 Hour Sattva Yoga - Teacher Training
What can I say about Peru? Besides it being life changing and amazing all rolled into one. I came to Peru in physical pain from my ovaries, I left my pain deep in the mountains and asked PACHA MAMA to heal me....Not only did I climb Machu Picchu, also the even bigger brother wynapicchu, it took 2 hours and we had to use our bare hands to climb up the small stone stairs!!! But the view...AMAZING...and me…HEALED!
The shamen energy is so strong here in Peru, not only were they healers, but artists, story tellers, musicians and such. We were initiated into this healing art form. This goes back to my theory of artists and healers as being one. We are all one.
One of the the most important lessons I learned was to lean on my community for support as my most amazing yoga group pulled together and were able to take care of one another as we embarked on this adventure. We all bonded quite beautifully and I consider these yogis to be in a special place in my heart.
Am still buzzing from this one, and am looking forward to what the next adventure will be……
I will be teaching here at 305 Yoga in Miami for Yoga Doctors Professional Yoga Therapy training kickstarting in March 2013. Hurry to sign up and save!
Limited time offer through February 4! Save $900 each when you and a friend register for Yoga Doctors Yoga Therapy training! To Learn more visit http://www.305yoga.com/500-level-professional-yoga-therapy-training/ — at 305 YOGA.
Back to the West Coast to teach with the YOGA DOCTORS @ LMU in Los Angeles,California. The program curriculum was a beginning introductory to Pre-natal Yoga and Kids Yoga. Teachers learn the basics for adapting their classes to Pre-natal students as well as tips for teaching children yoga.
Extraordinary Vessels Clinical Training was developed and designed for all professionals currently practicing acupuncture. This intensive will allow trainees an accelerated and intensive course for the successful integration of this extraordinary vessel model into their professional practice.