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Awareness Magazine
5753-G Santa Ana Canyon Rd. #582
Anaheim, CA 92807
(714) 283-3385
(800) 758-3223
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My “Inward Journey” Vacation

By Ann Nelson


After weeks of contemplation regarding where to go for a well-deserved vacation, I decided to stay home and spend the travel money I’d saved on an “inward journey”. The inspiration for this idea came after reading Warrior Pose. In his book, Brad Willis, aka Bhava Ram, talks about witnessing the world’s worst atrocities as a twenty-year, award-winning war correspondent for NBC News.

After experiencing a terrible accident, followed by chronic pain, drug dependency, advanced-stage cancer the loss of his job, Bhava Ram’s book focuses on turning his life around through the practice of yoga and meditation. Reading this book was a stark reminder of the profound effects a regular yoga and meditation practice can have in your life. It proved to be a wake-up call for me. I could no longer deny that I’d been slacking off on this critical ingredient in my life and knew I needed to get started again.

I made the decision to stay in town and hire a yoga and meditation coach. After months of putting off my yoga and meditation practice, I knew I needed to be accountable to someone. The “I’ll start tomorrow” plan wasn’t working. After a few hours of phone calls, I found the perfect person who actually made house calls.

Choosing Shauna MacKay to energize and renew my yoga and breathing practice was an easy decision. Prior to studying Yoga Therapy for Cancer at Duke Integrative Medicine, Shauna spent ten years as a Health and Fitness Consultant. Her advanced courses include work in Deep Relaxation, Meditation and Healthy Back. In addition to making house calls, Shauna teaches group classes throughout Southern California.

When I made a decision to hire a coach, I was well aware that procrastination was out of the question. Shauna helped me to stay on track as she guided me through easy, practical breathing and stretching practices in a patient and gentle manner. I learned to exhale when pulling towards my body in a yoga pose and inhale when I was expanding in a posture. Shauna suggested I place a pillow underneath my back for an intense stretch before getting out of bed in the morning. Her simple tips made a huge difference!  

After completing four private sessions at home and practicing yoga and meditation for a month on my own, I decided to enhance my “inward journey” by registering for a Brain Cleanse Program at The Alchemy Arts Center in Santa Barbara. The concept of the program is simple.

Most of us, including me, are stressed out. We are well aware of the negative effects stress plays in our everyday lives, but what I didn’t know is that stress impacts every organ in our body. The program at the center is specifically created to gently cleanse and nourish the organs with yoga exercises and an organic diet.

Founder Emma Narachi, a cranial sacral practitioner and reiki master, was inspired to develop an optimum health destination after a visit to an award-winning wellness sanctuary and holistic spa in Thailand. She returned to Santa Barbara and set out to create a healing center with real substance, one that would have a lasting impact on the visitors.

When I walked into The Alchemy, I immediately knew I had chosen the right place for my “inward journey”. I wasn’t looking for a spa with expansive grounds and lots of pampering. My needs were simple. I was seeking guidance and support from a professional staff, along with healthy food.


Executive Chef, Erik Stenberg deserves a thousand gold stars for his healthy, organic kitchen creations. Erik, a graduate from Johnson and Wales University’s culinary arts program, believes that if we live a balanced life and listen to our cravings, we’ll feed ourselves exactly what we need.


The brain cleanse curriculum ranges from 3 to 7 days. The schedule begins with a free consultation with wellness director, Eric Baumgartner. Eric is well indoctrinated in the practice of medicine. His father and grandfather were both traditional medical doctors and Eric seriously considered heading in the same direction.


After spending a few years in pre-med school, he had a gut-level feeling that he needed to explore various options. After traveling to India, Indonesia and other countries, Eric could not ignore his true calling -—  Chinese Medicine. Eric presently holds a Master’s degree in Traditional Oriental Medicine and practices Acupuncture, Herbalism and Nutrition. He is well versed in the treatment of fatigue, weight-loss and hormone imbalances.

Signature treatments offered at The Alchemy are designed to move blocked-energy and restore feelings of well being and balance. I chose to experience treatments that were new to me: The Chromalift is a holistic face lift created from a perfect blend of Swiss skin-care technology with the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine and power of light therapy.

Craniosacral Therapy assists to reintegrate parts of the body-mind that have been disconnected with a gentle hands-on procedure. There really are no words to describe how I felt after these treatments. I’ve visited dozens of spas. This is simply the best!

The daily yoga classes taught by Siddhi were powerful and unique. I’ve never experienced such intense purging exercises in yoga and certainly was not anticipating a homework assignment. But, I had to remember, this was the first time I had signed up for a “Brain Cleanse Program”. Our homework was to be discussed in the next class: write our fears in one column and write what would happen to our fears if they would be transformed into courage in the other column. Siddhi’s understanding and nurturing style was perfect for teaching this program. Though her home is in Santa Barbara, she teaches yoga all over the world.

Since I wanted my visit to Santa Barbara to be simple and uncomplicated, I left my car at home. When the train arrived, I walked to The Santa Barbara Hotel, a short distance away. This classy, historic hotel, with the old-fashioned “do-it-yourself” elevator was located in the middle of the restaurant and shopping district, and a one- and-one-half block walk to The Alchemy.

This simple vacation has reminded me of the importance of tuning into silence for few moments each day. After hiring a good coach and spending a few days at The Alchemy, I feel rejuvenated and lighter. I highly recommend treating yourself to an “inward journey”. It is the perfect gift to give to yourself! 



Shauna MacKay Yoga: or call: (858) 699-9118

Alchemy Arts Center:  or call: (805) 899-8811

Hotel Santa Barbara:  or call: (805) 957-9300


Ann Nelson is a freelance writer residing in San Diego.