Ep.198 Breathwork for Empaths with Ava Johanna

Listen Here:

In this episode, we discuss:

  • How to use breathwork to biohack your nervous system
  • Embracing the intersection between science, mysticism + spirituality
  • Understanding the complex power of your intuition
  • How to better understand and listen to the divine downloads you are receiving

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Episode Transcript:

Following your intuition is brave, it’s courageous. It does sometimes mean that you’re going to make a decision that is going to ruffle some feathers, or be questioned, or look wacky or different. And that can be uncomfortable.

This is a Soulfire production.

Welcome back to another episode of The Uncensored Empath Podcast. I have the deep pleasure of having Ava Johanna on the show today, and she is the founder and visionary behind The Academy of Breath, an international breathwork and meditation school focused on making these ancient embodiment practices household tools across the globe. Ava’s mission is to bridge the gap between modern neuroscience and mysticism so that breathwork and meditation are accessible to everyone from high-level executives to stay-at-home parents. She teaches us how conscious breathing can change our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. In my conversation with Ava, we talk about breathwork and how this can help us to biohack our nervous system, especially as empaths and highly sensitive individuals. We also talk about intuition and our relationship to the divine downloads we receive from our intuition and what to do with them. It is always a pleasure to have someone on the show who can nerd out on the science as much as they can dive deep into the mysticism and the spirituality, so I know you guys are going to love Ava. Let’s get this conversation started.

Sarah: Welcome to the show, Ava. I am super excited to have you here.

Ava: Thank you so much for having me. I already like…I can feel it. It’s going to be a good conversation.

Sarah: We both brought some excitement and some good frequency to this call so I’m excited to see where it goes. And I am a nerd and I read this book called ‘Breath‘ earlier this year.

Ava: So good.

Sarah: Okay, you’ve heard of it. Awesome. So regardless of whether anyone’s heard of it, I read that book and was just nerding out so hardcore because I realized more so than I did initially, how much our breath affects our health, our wellbeing, our sleep, so many different aspects of our life. And I’d love to hear from your perspective, just why you are so passionate about the breath and the ways that it has impacted your life.

Ava: Mm, yes. Such a beautiful place to start. And everyone listening needs to read that book if you have any inclination at all to learn about breathwork. It is so fascinating. He’s such a good storyteller. I recommend that book to every single person. I love it so much. So for me, my love story really started in the spiritual realm. I had gone through a yoga teacher training and had done breathwork and meditation within the teacher training and had these really profound experiences that honestly, I didn’t even have the words for, it just was this supernatural experience that felt like coming home to myself and was in many ways the very first time I had ever felt good in my body, and I just wanted more. And I was excited and I was lit up and I felt passionate. And for me, I am someone who dives as deep as you possibly can into the depths of the things that interest me. So that happened with breathwork and it happened with meditation and within a few months of me first taking my first breathwork class, I enrolled in a breathwork teacher training, I enrolled in a meditation training.

I’m very much the type of person who likes to bridge the gap between the spiritual and the more modern science in the Western world. And so, I was having all these really profound, spiritual experiences, and I wanted to know exactly what was happening so that I had the right language to be able to really talk to people about it and to be a little bit of an evangelist as far as getting more people to breathe with me or to meditate with me. I think one of the things about this space, it’s been growing so much over the past few years, but one of the things about this space is that so many people approach it with very esoteric language and I have the vision and the dream and the mission of getting breathwork and meditation into every single household on this planet. And so, for me, my MO has always been how can I make this something that becomes accessible to everyone from the stay-at-home mom to the corporate executive to the Yogi that’s practicing Vinyasa seven times a week?

And yes, it was just such a profound spiritual experience that really supported me in understanding who I was, not only as Ava in this human form but on a soul level. And I just knew that after I had that experience, that it was something that I was meant to share with others.

Sarah: We sound very similar. I love bridging the science with the spirituality and allowing that to make even more sense in my being and the way I experience things on this planet. And I love that your mission is to bring breathwork and meditation to even more people, population, just the world. It’s so cool. And obviously, we all breathe. Obviously, we’re doing it right now. And I think that that’s where there can be a little bit of a disconnect when people hear the word or words, breathwork because they may think, well, what does that actually look like? What does that actually feel like in your body and how is it different from me maybe just taking a deep breath [sound of inhaling then exhaling breath] right here, right now? And so, I’d love for you to speak to, obviously, there are many styles of breathwork, but what are some of your favorites, or what are the ones that you really anchor into your practice the most?

How to use breathwork to biohack your nervous system

Ava: Mm, yes. Yes, it’s really important for everyone to know that there are so many different styles of breathwork. And to answer the question of what does it feel like in my body really depends on what breathwork style you’re doing. And I was having a conversation with a girlfriend the other day about breathwork and she was like, yes, it really is medicine. And I think that we forget that when we’re using the breath in these practices, we are using it as a tool to shift our nervous system in some way or form, whether that be to create a hyperarousal where we’re increasing energy throughout our body or a more relaxation response where we’re allowing the body to actually come back into homeostasis. And so, it really depends on what breathwork practice you’re doing. And my favorite thing about breathwork is that on a day-to-day basis, I can look at all of these different practices that I have and ask myself, what do I need today? This has been something that has helped me to connect to my body to develop a deeper sense of self-trust, to follow my intuition, and to really listen to what my body is speaking to me on a day-to-day basis versus just having the same mundane routine every single day.

So most of the time I am doing practices that are clearing energy, moving energy, and really bringing me back into a more relaxed and calm space. We live in such a busy, busy world, and I’m someone that does deal with anxiety and high stress. Most people on this planet, especially in the Western world, are dealing with anxiety and high stress, even if you wouldn’t necessarily label it as that. It’s just the world that we live in today. And breath has really helped me to take all of those stressors and learn how to not just be a passenger of my stress, but really be a pilot and master the stress so that I can go about my day performing all of the different things that I need to do and not be put into levels of burnout and exhaustion. So something that’s incredibly simple for anybody to do is just a equal ratio of breath or box breath. It’s something that’s practiced by Navy SEALs.

There’s tons and tons of research around even a five-minute practice helping you to move out of a sympathetic aroused state into a parasympathetic response, which is essentially rest and digest. It’s the place where your digestion turns on, you sleep better, happy hormones are released. All of these amazing functions are happening in the parasympathetic state, which we can talk more about if you want. But this practice of equal ratio breath is really a way in which you can hack your nervous system to get into that parasympathetic response. And the breath itself is very simple; in and out of the nose, you’ll inhale for a count of five, hold your breath at the top for a count of five, exhale for a count of five, hold at the bottom for a count of five, and do it for about five minutes, about 20 rounds of breath altogether. Super simple.

It’s a great practice to do if you’re feeling, again, stress in the moment or anxiety in the moment. It’s a great practice to do if you struggle to quiet your mind before meditating, it’s a great practice to do if you have trouble sleeping. And that’s usually my go-to on a day-to-day basis that I can do at any point, whether I’m driving or in the grocery store. So that’s one of my favorite practices that I tell everybody they need to do because anyone can do it and it makes such a big difference. And then for more of an advanced practice, one of my all-time, diehard, legacy breathwork practices is Kapalbhati, which is translated from Sanskrit. All of the practices that I teach are Pranayama so they all come from India. This practice translated from Sanskrit is breath of fire or skull-cleansing breath and this breathwork practice is really used as a purification technique.

So on a day-to-day basis, I can do this breathwork practice and clear out any energy that’s been held in my body, even if I don’t necessarily know what I’m holding onto but it just feels like you wake up and you’re like, oh, I kind of feel tired, or sticky, or I’m remembering that conversation that I had from the other day. I’ll do Kapalbhati for a couple of rounds and just help to move that energy up and out of my body. And that practice is a little bit more advanced, but it is a really powerful practice to just what I always say is clear out the cobwebs on a day-to-day basis so that you’re starting from a really clean and clear place and can intentionally choose the energy that you create from.

Embracing the intersection between science, mysticism + spirituality

Sarah: I love that. Most of the listeners are highly sensitive, empath, intuitive beings, and there are some styles of breath who, like you were just speaking to the nervous system, bring us into a more parasympathetic state, that rest-digest peace, and other styles of breath that actually intentionally bring us up into the more arousal, the sympathetic stress state. The breath I practice most often is a three-part conscious connected breath that has really gained in popularity and has been really insightful for me as far as intuitive downloads coming through and all the things. And I’d love for you to speak to the intentionality around why do we sometimes want to actually go up into a more aroused state in the breath and what’s the purpose of that? Especially because I think that empaths and highly sensitives…P.S., I’d also love to know if there’s one specific style that you would especially recommend to empaths, but I think it can feel as sort of this big leap into discomfort, but it’s a temporary discomfort, right? And I’d just love for you to speak to the benefits of that because I think oftentimes people resist doing it at all because they’re like, ooh, it might be a little uncomfortable.

Ava: Mm-hmm, yes. I think that this is such a good conversation to have that. I have an advanced practitioner training inside of The Academy of Breath and we’re currently in it, and we were talking about why would you bring yourself into a stress response, right? Especially for somebody that deals with stress, or deals with anxiety, or is highly sensitive. Why would we go there? And the thing about intentionally bringing ourselves there is that we learn how to neutralize that environment and we also learn how to be in the sensation of that environment without it having to be assigned to any experience, any person, any circumstance. And so, this kind of comes back to that idea of becoming the pilot of your stress instead of the passenger.

So when we are working with the nervous system, we have a zone of tolerance essentially. There’s a zone of tolerance that we have and within that zone of tolerance is where we want to hang out because that’s how we’re able to show up to life’s daily demands, to not get burnt out, to not have our nervous system shut down. But when we have certain experiences happen throughout the day, I always love that analogy of the spoons with autoimmune diseases or disorders. But I think about that with stress and anxiety and being highly sensitive as well as like we only have so many spoons and we give them out to all the different circumstances that we have throughout our day.

So thinking about it from that perspective of this zone of tolerance that we are able to kind of stretch and expand, what the breath does is help us to expand our zone of tolerance so that when we are, let’s say, as someone who’s highly sensitive, going out to an event, or going out to a concert, or you own your own business and you are connecting with a client and really taking on their energy, whatever it might be, when we use the breath outside of those situations to expand our zone of tolerance so we’re actually bringing ourselves into that heightened state more often and hanging out there for a bit so it starts to neutralize and normalize, then our zone of tolerance stays expanded in those actual moments where we are met with the demand that usually would have taken some sort of energy away from us or would have triggered us or would have exhausted us.

And so, this is a way, if you think about it, it’s like the nervous system is this nice rubber band. And when we are going through life and have these experiences, we want our rubber band to stretch as much as possible. And there’s always going to be a time when it kind of waves back in and comes back to its happy medium, but the more that we have practices like breathwork or meditation or tapping or whatever it might be in different embodiment practices that help us create safety in the body, then what happens is that zone of tolerance just grows bigger over time so we can tolerate more. So it really is this stress and energy and anxiety mastery that is so fascinating because it really is a way in which we’re able to change our nervous system and the way that our nervous system perceives threats and stress and safety.

Sarah: That’s so helpful. And I want to loop back to then is there a practice that you feel would be especially juicy and supportive to the empaths of the world, whether its nervous system support, or maybe connecting to intuition, or even just oftentimes we need a lot of extra cleansing?

Ava: Yes. I would say Kapalbhati, honestly, because that practice is going to help clear out any energy. So it’s a Shatkarma, which translated from Sanskrit is a yogic purification technique. So doing this practice every single day, again, it’s clearing out the slate for you so that you’re creating and approaching each day without anyone else’s energy but just your own energy. And this practice, if you’re on your first or second day of your cycle, you don’t want to do this practice. If you are pregnant, you don’t want to do this practice. And so, it is, I would say, more of an advanced technique, but essentially what you’re doing is forcefully exhaling out of your nose and as you’re exhaling out of your nose, your belly pulls in towards your spine.

If you’ve ever done a Bikram Yoga class, they usually do breath of fire at the end, or if you’ve ever taken a Kundalini class. I do all of my practices in and out of the nose and that’s how I teach my clients and my students inside of The Academy of Breath. Because there’s tons and tons of research as to why we want to breathe in and out of our nose and not the mouth, which that could probably be a whole other episode. But the practice itself is going to sound like this [sound of exhaling 7 times out of the nose]. And every time I’m exhaling, my belly button is pulling in towards the spine.

So again, if you’re on your first or second day of your cycle and you usually get cramps, it’s not going to feel good. Or if you’ve got a baby in the oven, a little bun in the oven, then you’re not going to want to be making that pumping motion. But that would definitely be the practice that I would suggest to any highly sensitive people or empaths. And then if you are pregnant or on your first day of your cycle, a practice like equal ratio breathing is going to be really powerful or even alternate nostril breathing where you’re breathing in through the left nostril, out through the right nostril, in through the left, out through the right. That’s going to work with the right hemisphere of your brain, which is the creative, intuitive part of your brain, and also it activates your parasympathetic response.

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Understanding the complex power of your intuition

Sarah: So I was scrolling your Instagram earlier and you had this really beautiful post about how sometimes listening or following our intuition is not this easy, beautiful experience. And I feel like that is a conversation we need to have and need to sort of bring to the surface, and I’d love your insight on that.

Ava: This whole year has been in devotion to listening to my intuition and it has been messy. It has not been an easy year at all, but it has continued to lead me towards feeling more and more at center and home within myself. And I think that in a lot of spiritual spaces and wellness spaces, there’s this idea that when you start following your intuition, everything feels like it’s flowing and the universe just shows up with butterflies and all these synchronicities and serendipitous moments, which…yes… And also part of following the intuition is this process of breaking free from a lot of the different structures and containers and the stories and ways in which we’ve lived our life that may not have been through our own sovereignty, but just through the agreements that we’ve seen modeled for us in society overall. And sometimes following your intuition is going against the grain of what society tells you because what you feel inside of you is so much more inherently true than what you’re seeing outside of yourself.

And so, following your intuition is brave, it’s courageous. It does sometimes mean that you’re going to make a decision that is going to ruffle some feathers, or be questioned, or look wacky or different. And that can be uncomfortable because we, as humans, are tribal by nature. There are parts of our brain that are wired to survive and feel safe based off of how accepted we are. And so, sometimes following our intuition is going against all of those things that have quote-unquote, created safety for us. And it can be painful to have to have those deaths and those realizations while following your intuition, but I personally believe that it’s worth it because the journey and the path of being devoted to the messages that you receive inside of you are going to create a framework where you do not have to receive or need or lean on validation from the outside world in order to feel good and whole and perfect and beautiful.

Sarah: Yes, yes. Amen. Yes. I just feel that so deeply and I teach or I mentor empath leaders. My belief is that the empaths and the intuitives of the world, because we feel so deeply and we’re such open channels to so many things, we often receive insight and guidance, creativity and inspiration that is going to look different, that’s going to look different than what other people are doing. And so, that intuition that’s coming through for you in your unique channel is likely, like you said, going to ruffle feathers or be different than what you see everyone else doing on social media. And so, I feel like we’re in this sort of unique position where it’s the empath who feels all the things and gets all the creative ideas that are a little outside the box and then coinciding with still being an empath and scrolling through social media and being the sponge who absorbs what everyone else is doing and feeling like, well, maybe I was supposed to do it that way.

And I think that the embodied, this new age feminine leader is really the one that you were just speaking about when we lean into our intuition and let it be messy sometimes, let it ruffle feathers, and let it stand out. Let people go, ooh, that’s spicy, that’s different. So I’d also love your insight on how we start to clear some of the static, the noise, the sponginess that can happen when we’re scrolling through social media and connect to the unique intelligence that is our intuition, our creativity, our ideas. And whether we do that while also using breath or maybe another way, I’d just love to hear from you.

Ava: Mm, yes. Well, can I swear on this or no?

Sarah: Oh yes. Uncensored Empath.

Ava:  Okay. Yes. Oh yes, that’s true. How do we do that? We get the fuck off of Instagram. I mean, honestly, I’m a Projector as well so I am taking in all that energy all the time and the challenge that we have as leaders and as human beings right now operating in this very, very digital ages to be able to balance showing up, creating, leading, being of service, but not having to get sucked into these spaces. And so, for me, I prioritize my creativity and connecting above all before consuming. So what that looks like is meditating and breathing and journaling and getting out in nature and allowing myself to creatively express before I open anyone’s stories, before I scroll, before I do anything else. And so, if you follow me, usually I’m posting at seven in the morning because I’m like, ah, all right, I’ve already gotten my inspiration out, I’ve already written for a little bit. I don’t give a shit about the algorithm at all. So I’m just like I’ll post at 7:00 a.m. because that’s when I’m still in my own state before I spend any time connecting with any friends or whatever it might be online.

And I think that what has been the most helpful for me is just prioritizing my own inspiration before being in any spaces of influence. I think that it’s not perfect, right? It’s easy for me to say get off of Instagram, but I know reality is I’m still going to go on Instagram, everyone’s still going to go on Instagram or wherever you like going, whether it’s podcasts or IG or…I don’t think anyone goes on Facebook very much anymore. So it’s setting up personal boundaries for yourself to make sure that your creativity, your service, dropping into your heart space, allowing yourself to express comes above everything else as it relates to being connected digitally.

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How to better understand and listen to the divine downloads you are receiving

Sarah: What is your relationship to your intuition and how it’s guided your life and how it’s also helped you navigate these different, maybe even just seasons of our life or identities that we’ve worn?

Ava: I remember when I first started learning about what intuition was, I wanted so badly to be intuitive that a lot of what I was focusing on was consuming; consuming different intuitives or coaches or podcasts or books that was going to teach me how to be intuitive. And none of it really helped. Some of it kind of changed the way that I thought, but nothing actually created as big of an impact on being able to hear my intuition like breathwork and meditation did because I was finally doing the practice that allowed me to cancel out the outside world and be able to create an intimacy with my inner world. And the way that I see it is that that voice inside of us, whether you call it intuition or higher self, is connecting us to this divine intelligence that is what I believe to be God. And the more that we communicate with, and listen, and sit in dialogue with that voice, and really honor what it says and how it shows up, the stronger that it gets.

As simple as that sounds, it’s in the same way that we would nurture a relationship with another human. The more that we nurture the relationship with the intuition, the more that we create this sense of security with it, where we trust it more, we have confidence in it, we know the moment that it’s speaking to us. That it’s not fear, it’s not ego, but it is in fact, this loving voice and this loving intelligence guiding us. Again, it doesn’t mean that it’s always easy to follow that voice. There’ve been many times, even in this past year, where my intuition has spoken very loud and clear to me and I’ve been like, nah, that seems a little too hard. I’m going to go with the easy route. I’m pretty comfortable doing what I’m doing right now. And in those moments it’s like, okay, well that’s free will, that’s your choice. And every time that I ignore my intuition, I’m always guided back to that one place that I was meant to turn left where I turned right. Did I answer your question?

Sarah: Yes, absolutely. It’s something that I feel like we always have this choice of divine will, free will to either listen to those messages that are coming through or on the flip side, deny or ignore or numb out. I think for a lot of the deep feelers of the world, sometimes that becomes the coping mechanism of feeling so much is we just start to numb out and push away. And breath and meditation, I think, really invite us back into presence, into feeling, but in a deeply held and supportive way. How has breath helped you overcome some of those moments in your life where maybe it would’ve been easier to numb out?

Ava: Yes, that’s such a great question. You know, I have been actually having this conversation quite a bit lately because I’ve been reflecting a lot. I’ve kind of gone through a little bit of a ‘dark night of the soul’ over this past year, which I’m so grateful for coming out on the other side.

Sarah: Now you can say that, right? It’s like okay.

Ava: Yes. Like oh, it was wonderful. But I was kind of reflecting on the last time that I was really here in this space and how the impulse was to drink, the impulse was to go meet somebody and numb out through sex, or with friends, or with drugs. And numbing out was the easier choice. And for me, I’m so grateful that I have practices like breathwork and meditation, because while it allows you to feel everything that comes up, there’s times…even the other day I was sitting and I did some Kapalbhati and then I just started wailing. I just felt like my heart cracking open and I was like holy shit, this is a move. Even though these practices do bring presence for you to feel deeply, what I’ve found is that it also creates enough spaciousness where you’re able to separate yourself from the feeling or the belief or the thought enough to recognize that it’s not you, you know?

And I think with practice and consistency, it gets easier and easier and easier to have that not necessarily dissociation, but that observer’s effect of oh, okay, well, if I’m right here witnessing this feeling or this thought, then I can’t be it. Then it’s just something that’s fleeting and passing. And I think that that really helps to not bypass any of the emotions or the feelings because you’re still there sitting with it and feeling it and showing yourself that you’re worthy of being sat with as well, that you don’t need to be emotionally unavailable to yourself, but you can really show up for yourself and hold that space, but at the same time, recognizing that it’s impermanent.

Sarah: Ahh. That experience of impermanence, I feel like once we see the evidence of it, it becomes easier to then trust that impermanence that is there. And again, I feel like the breath and the meditation invite us into our body, back home to ourselves in a way that some other modalities don’t touch. So you also mentioned that you have an upcoming experience where you’re going to be looking at these different identities that we’ve put on or we’ve tried on for size and you also mentioned your ‘dark night of the soul’, which you’re not alone in. And I think so many of us have also experienced one or maybe multiple ‘dark nights of the soul’ and I feel like that is especially a season, a phase of life where a lot of these old identities can come up and you can really hold up the mirror to yourself and go, who am I? And is that really me or is this really me? And a lot of questioning can be on the table. So I’d love to hear more about your journey through different identities and also how you’ve been able to reconcile some of that, and then what you have coming up on the table.

Ava: Mm. Such a beautiful question, yes. Whenever I ask myself who am I, it has to be a little comical because I always think about that scene from Zoolander where Ben Stiller looks into the puddle after being with his family in the mines and he’s like, who am I? So I always bring myself back to that. I’m like, okay, we’re just being silly in these struggles.

Sarah: We can’t take ourselves too seriously, yes.

Ava: Yes, exactly, exactly. But yes, I think that, especially for people that are empaths or highly sensitive, it can be really easy to also be very cerebral and get up in our heads and spiral when we’re already facing struggles or going through some sort of suffering around our own identities or how our world looks. And I think the thing that has really helped me to stay rooted throughout all of it is recognizing that every single iteration of my own identity and my human experience is always positioning me for what’s coming up next. And that through these processes, often there are going to be parts of my identity that bubble up to the surface that are old, that can’t join me on the path that I’m walking any longer because they’re not meant to, whether it be that they served a certain purpose for a certain period of time or it’s something that I actually can’t carry with me any longer like a doubt or a fear or a story.

And so, what I find is in that ‘dark night of the soul’ is that all that stuff comes up to the surface, not because it’s coming up to knock you down, not because it’s coming up to pull you back into an old way of living, but actually coming up so that you have this opportunity to disrupt the pattern, to disrupt the identity, to disrupt the story. And so, my whole summer really has been in a lot of isolation and introspection to hold space for those pieces to come up and to not have to rush through but actually start to learn how to be comfortable in chaos. I remember maybe I shouldn’t have even said this prior at the beginning of the year. Gosh, our words are so powerful. We are literally casting spells with our words. I’ve been really focusing on that lately.

But at the beginning of the year, I said, show me how I can be a vessel for ease and grace through seasons of chaos so I can teach others how to do the same. Oh, I have chills just thinking about that. I forgot that I said that. But me sharing that, positioned me to learn how to do that through seasons of chaos, through seasons of darkness, through seasons where I don’t know where I’m going next because ultimately, change and chaotic times and struggling and suffering, that’s all part of the human experience. It’s all inevitable. And so much of what makes it harder is that we get surprised that we’re going through those spaces. And so, I think that navigating it is learning how to not force ourselves to have to be on the other side to experience happiness, or to experience calmness, or to experience love, or peace, or joy.

And so, I think that if anyone is navigating your ‘dark night of the soul’ right now, or picking up these identities and wondering which to take with you and which to let go of and really not sure where you’re stepping forward, understand that (1) there’s no rush in having to make a decision, and that the times in which we are constantly moving and constantly evolving are kind of the only constant in our life. And so, how can you learn to experience the joy and the pleasure and the love that you’re placing in the destination right here and right now?

Sarah: Like you said, change is inevitable. And it can be so much more painful to try and latch onto this old identity, this old version of yourself in fear of who you are to become, or the actual journey of change into somebody different. Because we can get really comfortable with how people see us, what people think of us, the way we present ourselves to the world. And so, there’s definitely some ego death in that ‘dark night of the soul’ that can feel, I think, all-consuming for a time, but it’s change is inevitable. It’s not going to be forever as you go through the actual evolution into that next. And then it’s going to happen again and we’re going to evolve into the next. And with my own process and my own ‘dark nights of the soul’ and own just identity shifting and changing and evolution, I’ve tried to be really intentional, at least in the last six or seven years of my life as I become more self-aware, of what aspects of those identities or which archetypal energies I am actually bringing with me and which ones get to die, which ones get to dissolve, which ones probably did serve me, or protect me, or keep me safe at some point in my life.

They had purpose, they taught me something, and I have the free will, divine will to let them stay there as I evolve into the next version of me. Do you feel like there’s any sort of, whether it’s an archetype or name that you’ve given to any of these identities that has been especially like a big teacher for you or the one that you’re just in relationship with right now?

Ava: You know; I don’t know if I’ve ever thought about that. I think that the woman that I am always striving to allow into my day and into my experience is what I would call my radiant and luminous self and she shows up so much in my business and in my career. And recently, I have been working with her showing up in all aspects of my life, especially as I reimagine what it means to be a leader and how I desire to lead in my life and in my business. So she’s who I work with the most. And I am a Scorpio so I definitely have a lot of that phoenix rebirth and death energy and archetypal energy to me and lots of Kali, goddess of destruction vibes. And so, I welcome it all.

I think that’s what’s so beautiful about being a soul in a human body is that we literally get to play however we desire to play. You have the ability to recreate yourself at any given point. I woke up this morning and I was like, ooh, there is a different energy here today than there was yesterday. And I just think that it’s so powerful that we can really, again, I love just the idea of breaking free. It’s like breaking free of who we were, who others thought that we were, who we thought we had to be, and choose every single day, every single moment how do I want to create life and expression from this moment that’s going to serve me and is going to be the highest good of the people around me and just as an expression of love, right?

Sarah: There’s such a energy of intentionality into what you just described and I just think that’s so beautiful. And I just want to say you are a radiant, luminous woman. And I also want to thank you for spending time here today and sharing your heart with us. Where can people get to know you better or connect with you?

Ava: Yes, thank you so much for having me. This is so fun. My Instagram is @avajohanna; a-v-a-j-o-h-a-n-n-a. My website is avajohanna.com, or if you’re interested in learning more about breathwork and meditation, I run The Academy of Breath, which is a certification program teaching both breathwork and meditation. And I’ve been throwing around this term ‘breaking free’ quite a bit. I actually have a month-long, what I’m calling a ceremony of the soul that is going to be an experience where we’re going to be coming together as a community to not only connect with each other but to learn how to deepen our devotion to self-expression and really unraveling the identities that we have potentially stacked up over time to mask our truest, most divine self. So I’m really, really excited for that. It’s starting November 21st and it just really feels like the most intentional offering that I can take from my own experiences this year of what I’ve learned navigating all of these different pieces around death and rebirth and identity and leadership and devotion in life.

Sarah: Mm, I love how you call it a ceremony of the soul. And I feel like it is so true that our personal journey then is like the teacher that happens right before the offering, the container we invite people into. You’re like oh, okay.

Ava: Oh yes. You got to be careful about what you’re going to teach.

Sarah: Well, like you said, your intention for the beginning of this year and then that’s the ride that you went on and now you get to hold others as they experience that as well. So, so freaking beautiful. Thank you so much again for being on today.

Ava: Yes, I’m so happy that I got to join you.

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November 11, 2021


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