Yogi Mermaid Zephyr Wildman
This month we talk to renowned Yogi Zephyr Wildman, she talks to us about her childhood in a hippy commune in Idaho, her journey into becoming a yoga teacher, her philosophy on life. Here she shares with us her advice for dealing with grief through personal experience, having suffered the loss of her first husband at a young age. She shares her wisdom around self care tips, the source of healing, gratitude and how we can centre in these uncertain times.
We met you at Wilderness festival a few years ago, you talked about being from Idaho and growing up in a hippy commune?
Yes, I did. A neighbourhood of like-minded neighbours with goats, chickens, fruit and vegetable gardens, this was in the late 70’s and they were holding onto an ideal, however times were changing and the 80’s were closing in. The trends were drawing to harder drugs, music and values were changing. So by the early 80’s the community started to dissolve. My parents separated and we entered normal neighbourhoods and systems that made me even more conscious of how different we were to the ‘norm’.
You are a senior yoga teacher and a light worker; can you tell us how you discovered yoga and how that journey started for you? Did you feel an instant connection with the practice?
I was introduced to Yoga very early in life by my mum and her friends. This was a practice that I rolled my eyes to and thought it was for ‘old’ people. I wanted to rock climb, cycle and play…not naval gaze. However, when I was 19 years old I was diagnosed with a talo-calconeal collation which pointed to early onset osteoporosis in my ankles, limiting my ability to walk, move and manage bone pain which is some of the worst pain a human can experience. I saw one of the top surgeons in London who works with the London Royal Ballet and he said he couldn’t guarantee that I would be without pain if he operated. With that news, I broke down, collapsed and sobbed. It was a dark prognosis but in this desperation I heard a voice say go back to Yoga. I listened and found myself in community classes attending Yoga rebuilding not only my body, but mind and soul which was affected by my situation. At that time I had no idea how much this would unlock a door into a deeper exploration of my past, my present and influence my future
Has your personal yoga practice and teaching changed over the years and if so how
I have really become aware of the reality that everything changes, the teachings of impermanence that everything arises and falls away, until the next wave washes over again and we get the opportunity to practice refining our techniques, tools and viewpoint in adding to our experienced wisdom. My physical practice has evolved over time from ailment, health, injury, health, birth, health, injury, ageing, health. I have modified my practice to a sustainable experience of asana, pranayama and meditation that works for me, not a school or a teacher anymore. I listen to my body and energy, however as I age I find myself having to accept more limitation and restrictions. This becomes practice and a teacher in itself and why I invest in more than just asana to support life as it moves forward.
What kind of body work do you do and how did this side of your career develop?
I grew up watching my mum open, teach and run a massage school. I was very involved with the students, partaking in classes and assisting my mum not only with her teaching, but with guiding the students when we would visit the medical department in my hometown’s University. I so enjoyed and felt very comfortable supporting my mum, showing her students the medical teaching cadavers and poking and prodding at different tendons, ligaments and muscle groups. I loved the exploration of how the human body looked from the inside. This curiosity drew me to take sports medicine in high school and seek further education in University in pre-medical studies.
I did leave University early to come to London, following love of another kind. However, my love and interest in the human body didn’t diminish. I studied Yoga and became certified. I started mixing my knowledge of body work with teaching Yoga and with private clients started to help manage physical, emotional and energetic pain for clients. Offering a mixture of asana, pranayama, massage and yoga philosophy to help support and process an individuals needs. The combination has been very successful for my clients and rewarding for myself to see the impact in my community.
You experienced the loss of your first husband who was a musician, how did you cope at the time? Is there any advice can you give to others dealing with loss?
I managed one day at a time, sometimes one minute at a time. I knew “this too shall pass” and that if I could be present for what was needing my attention at the moment, I could keep going. This was my routine for many years, however now it seems I cannot multitask any longer. My family laugh and make fun of me as I cannot do two things at a time. One thing, demanding all my focus and attention at a time, is my current method.
I was also very fortunate looking back as I created a wonderful life around me as I was facing some of life’s hards circumstances. Good friends to support me (not to save or fix things), support groups that served to process and inspire, a grief therapist who could hold space for my anger and sadness as well as Yoga/Mediation practices that held me.
Tara Brach’s books; True Refuge, and Radical Acceptance – ‘Awakening to the love that heals fear and shame’ and Megan Devine’s book; ‘It’s Okay that You’re not Okay’ were of a great support during this time too. I found myself connecting with other people’s stories and experiences and re-connecting with the idea of impermanence again.
Everyone grieves differently. Grief is a part of love. It hurts because we love. And just as we fall in love and want to share it with everyone, social media, weddings and parties… our grief too wants to be expressed. However, in today’s society we find it hard to know how to express grief, support those who are grieving and find tools to help us bear what is ours to carry as nothing will ever fix or solve our grief. Grief is a natural and healthy reaction to loss. When we experience loss, grief fills our life with darkness. This darkness never goes way, we just learn how to expand our life around the darkness.
What do you think most people need when they are feeling out of balance?
Self-care and connection. It is human nature to seek love, belonging, safety and connection. When those core desires are fulfilled we feel at harmony with life and in ourselves. Taking the firsts steps to immediate self-care like bathing, eating good food, being in nature, moments of silence and seeking cuddles and connection with a beloved one (pets can be included too). It is also invaluable to have someone to speak to, to reason out those overwhelming feeling and causing the unmanageability in one’s life. A friend, partner or a professional. It helps to see things in a less triggering place and feel heard, seen and validated. Self-care is critical and connection on all levels; physically, energetically and mental/emotionally.
What are you most grateful for in your life?
That I have the ability to look back on my life and see my hardship and challenge as an opportunity for growth and learning. As I reflect upon my past it informs my present adding a richness to whatever I maybe managing in my life. Reminds me of the lesson, “you cannot see the light, but for the dark”.
I am truly blessed to have a loving, supportive husband who is my biggest cheerleader to help keep moving forward with my career. He is the the anchor in our family that we are all tethered to, as the stormy seas of life batter us. Whatever the storm we can rely on him to keep us safe and secure until we are back to calm waters. It is a blessing to find such a friend, lover and fellow seeker.
What appealed to you about moving to London in the first place and how do you feel in London now?
The appeal to move to London was to follow love. I met my late husband in the States. He was a musician on tour. Very cliché, however I came to explore a blossoming relationship. I wanted to stay, so we married. I had just turned 20 years old and was in love. London was so overwhelming as I grew up in Boise, Idaho and only had ever really visited small cities. I found it hard to connect to at first, however quickly found my feet and started a life here. Currently, my husband and children and I are now looking to return to nature, to the wild and a rhythm that is more like I grew up with. I’ve been here for 22 years and it is time. There is a calling and I am excited to see where life takes us. I hope near the ocean or mountains or both. Just something majestic to inspire.
Are you happiest in town or country?
I do thrive in a good community of people, I suppose that could be in the city or in the country, however I really enjoy nature and the quietude of the countryside. I feel it is where I function better within myself. The time I have been in London, I haven’t taken advantage of what it has to offer. I stick to my community as work is a big part of my life, fulfilling some of my social engagements and play. I see that my husband and I are finding more time to escape London and explore new areas of the UK now that the children are getting older. The UK has so many beautiful natural environments to explore and we seem to be getting into a mentality of keeping our travels and adventures a bit more local.
If you could change anything in the world what would be the very first thing?
Humans changing their way of life to slow down climate change. We feel strongly that this needs to be the top priority of all who live on this planet. How we eat, shop, travel and share this planet must be on the conscience of all of us humans. The alternative is that the conscience we have been gifted is wilfully being wasted and our extinction will be imminent, I’d like to think we are better than that and can rise to the challenge.
Seaweed is a superpower ingredient in our skincare collection, are you a fan of seaweed for health and beauty purposes?
Yes, very much so! The science behind seaweed and how it helps with reducing carbon emissions, cleaning the water by absorbing nitrogen run-off, and creating bio-diversity in the ocean are all such positive things, I’m a big fan of seaweed. It is a wonderfully under-used resource for many applications, skin care is just one of many.
Seaweed is a sustainable resource; how do you think we can utilise this plant for the good of our planet?
My husband is a bit of a closeted seaweed fanatic, so he has actually educated me on many of the benefits. The simple fact that it takes zero inputs, meaning no fresh water, no soil and no fertiliser to grow and at the same time absorbs carbon and helps promote healthy oceans was what captured my attention. Certain species that are edible are high in protein and can be used for animal feed and even food for humans! As we discover that the earth’s carrying capacity has been passed or we are on the precipice, protein for human consumption will be a huge challenge for the future. Seaweed looks like it could be a solution. With valued added products like cosmetics and ingredients in pharmaceuticals and even biodegradable plastics pushing demand for seaweed, scale of cultivation will increase and create more benefits for our planet.
The energy of everything feels so uncertain at the moment, do you feel that too? and do you have an exercise or ritual to share with us for instant grounding and reassurance
Yes, I do feel there is so much uncertainty in life today. It isn’t good to expose ourselves this long to so much negativity and fear. The best technique I have been using recently is a practice I received from one of my teachers, Tara Brach. It is the practice of R.A.I.N. This is a practice to learn how to self-regulate when strong thoughts, emotions, sensations and events are present. To apply this, it is recommended to create time and space to pause and breathe, look in. R is to recognise and acknowledge what is present. The thoughts that might be ruminating, emotions that might be expressing and sensations that might be felt. This allows one to start to wake up to what need attention, what is asking for some understanding, to listen to. A is to allow whatever is to be. Give it some more breathing room. Whether negative or positive, unpleasant or pleasant to be just as it is. I is to then investigate further. What is it saying, asking for, how is it manifesting in you, where? Taking a deep dive into the roots of what is present to explore a deeper unmet need that is calling out. And touching that vulnerability or pain we open to the opportunity to nurture. N is to nurture with non-judgemental awareness. To befriend the shadow side of humanity within us and relearn to love, accept and care for all parts of ourselves.
So if you want to practice this, it is best to make time to sit and breathe. First work with starting to name the feelings, hear the thoughts and words. Say I see you. Create some breathing room and welcome the inflow to fill you with more loving awareness as you explore the sensations that are tethered to what is being shown. Ask yourself what does my heart long for? What is this pain asking me to accept? How can I take care of myself? Then start nurturing what is exposed with kind words and feel the meaning of the words like ‘I care’ ‘I am not leaving’ ‘you matter to me’ ‘I hear you’ ‘this belongs’ ‘you are enough’ ‘I love you’. Find your own way in self-soothing as you rest in the vast loving awareness, healing in the light of presence and learning to trust and let go into the embrace of it. Moment by moment, breath by breath.
How do you personally find positivity during challenging times?
Laughter. I seek the funny things in my life that bring me joy. Memes are a guilty pleasure and sharing them to laugh with others brings me joy.
Are you reading anything at the moment?
Glennon Doyle “Untammed” amazing book. Just finished and it is one of those books that is like breathing fresh air, freeing oneself from the limiting belief systems of our conditioned cultural training. It is a force, but a force of good.
How do you relax and practice self care?
Regular Yoga Nidras (yoga naps), homemade food from my husband, walks and bike rides in nature and best of all, salt water baths with Susie Mermaid bath oils have been delightful!
What is your life mantra?
I am open and willing, please guide me.
What is the most powerful source for healing in your opinion?
Being moved with more meaning and purpose by listening to others share stories of loss, love, fears and peace.
What advice do you give your children?
This too shall pass, be patient and show up each day to share your unique gifts…and do your chores.
How would a perfect non workday look like for you?
To be with my beloved husband and share time in nature, to eat good food, to snuggle, to nap and to laugh.