Before we get into the nitty gritty of finding inner peace, I think I owe you a little information about me, and why you should trust me to be your guide.
To start off, I grew up right outside of Dallas, Texas. My father was a minister and my mother was a football lover and intermural flag football player.
As a child, I discovered the healing power of being part of a sports team. My family, with its many differences, could come together on any given Sunday and find common ground while gathered around the television. When the Cowboys would make a big play, my family—from my grandparents on down to my cousins—would jump up and down in excitement as if they were right there in the stadium. Seeing their joy is what made me want to become a football player.
I began in my backyard, visualizing myself making big plays and scoring touchdowns. I convinced myself that could do what the Cowboys were doing, if only I got the chance!
When I was 10 I asked my mother if I could play football. The answer? An emphatic NO. And she kept saying ‘no’ until I was 13 and finally big enough to play. By that point I had worn her down, and she begrudgingly agreed.
I wasn’t a star right off the bat. One day, a coach called me out in front of my teammates and said, “You look like Tarzan, but you play like Jane.” In that embarrassing moment, I realized that I really needed to put in the work. My internal fire was lit, and I dedicated myself to the game with a fierce, unstoppable force.
I went on to become an elite high school football player. I chose Texas A&M for college, where I saw tons of success and was even inducted into the Texas A&M Hall of Fame. Later, I was given the opportunity to play for the New Orleans Saints.
I played with the Saints, and then the Houston Texans, before joining the Jacksonville Jaguars as a starter. In total, I played football for seven years between 1997-2003. In my second game, against the Buffalo Bills, I made a routine tackle—the type of play I’d made hundreds of times in my career. But this time was different. Little did I know it then, but in that moment my football career had ended.
I suffered a spinal contusion that left me paralyzed from the neck down for a month. For six more months, I was severely constrained, but some of my movement came back. It was a turning point in my life—I could give up and give in to my injury, or I could become stronger. I chose the latter.
After months in and out of the hospital, I was introduced to the practice of conscious breathing as a way of healing my wounds. For the first time ever, I connected to my breath (it is the essence of life), linking my mind to my body.
I was able to attain functionality and walk again. Later, I discovered yoga as a way of deepening the connection between my mind, body, and spirit. As a result, I charted a new life path.
Today, I am a yoga teacher, an advocate of holistic health, and a mindfulness coach. I travel the world sharing my knowledge and practice. My journey has taken me from the White House and the United Nations to juvenile detention centers and rural towns in Honduras.
And now my path takes me to you.
Life is full of challenges—big and small—and stress plays a huge factor in how we handle and heal from those challenges.
If you have ever planted a garden, you know there is a huge gap between the planting of the seed and the harvest. Throughout the next eight weeks, we will be working on the space in the middle: This is where the transformation exists. We’ll begin by taking a step back to look at the benefits of an inner journey, then focus on the physical and contemplative practice of connecting with our minds, bodies, and spirits. We’ll also consider the role of our everyday behavior, such as eating, in support of our stress-management goals. Along the way, we’ll integrate practices for optimal healing and stress reduction.
To start, I’d like you to begin with a simple exercise:
- Think of something that you want to change or create in your life—and focus on this throughout the next few weeks. It could be that you want to make more time for yourself, or make your home a more peaceful place, or focus less on negativity, or be more present.
- Grab a journal and write down your goal.
- Also notice whether you are breathing shallow versus deeply. Notice if you feel agitated. Think about what triggers your stress and agitation. Where in your body do you feel strained, tired, or uncomfortable?
- Notice when you feel relaxed. Write down these observations.
Connecting intent with awareness is key to uncovering how, when, where, and why we are experiencing stress in our lives.
From there, we can chart a new trajectory of well-being together. I’m looking forward to serving as your guide to creating more balance, less tension, and greater strength!