yoga

The Reverent Student: Meet Malia Hill

“As you get older, the questions come down to about two or three. How long? And what do I do with the time I've got left?” - David Bowie.

When 2019 started, I moved in with my boyfriend and had to start all over in a new town. I wanted to check out a nearby yoga studio, Just Be Yoga, after hearing about how wonderful of a space and community it harbored. As I walked into class, I felt this nostalgic sense of comfort and peace from the teacher that I hadn’t felt in nearly 4 years, when I attended my regular yoga studio back in Baltimore. I didn’t feel like the “new” person in town or in the yoga studio, but I already felt like I was a part of a welcoming and grounded community of like-minded warriors.

The moment you walk into Malia’s class and are in her presence, there is an unexplainable sense of light, healing, strength, and empowerment. I didn’t even have to speak a word to Malia to feel so comfortable and taken care of in her class. From the way she lead the flow, to the vulnerability she exhibited in sharing her intention to the class, to the tenderness she exhibits when she adjusts you, Malia exudes out her compassion, empathy, groundedness, and realness when you are around her. As my previous interviewee, Maris Degener, mentioned, Malia inspires us all to talk about the shit that no one wants to talk about, and she helps us find the inner strength to be vulnerable and share our struggles with one another as part of a larger community. She helps us love all the different parts of ourselves, flaws and all, and helps us feel comfortable being in our own skin.

I had the wonderful opportunity to meet up with Malia, and what we thought would end up being a short 30-minute get together ended up being hours of talking about our similar past experiences working in the pharmaceutical industry, our journey into developing our yoga practices, Ayurveda, functional medicine, our healing journeys of overcoming trauma, and our total (and unapologetic) fandom over science fiction and fantasy movies/books. I could feel her empathy surrounding me in a warm and welcoming hug, and creating a safe space for us to simply be two humans connecting to one another and sharing what makes us both human: our struggles, our joys, and everything in between.

I love how Malia encompasses someone that is real, relatable, grounded, incredibly humble, and beautiful inside and out. I am so honored to know you, Malia, and to feature you on my blog. I am excited for you all to get just a glimpse of the amazing human being she is.

Malia, you are a role model and inspiration to us all. Thank you for being such a shining light in the world!

Malia

How did you get to where you are today?

 I just feel lucky to have woken up this morning. I don’t think I’m in any particular “place.”

What inspires you?

People. Love - despite all of the constant challenge & change - love is persistent and everywhere. The ocean. Outer space. My teachers, which is pretty much everyone I meet and every book I read. Especially my daughter. 

What are you passionate about?

Death. No one has escaped it yet and it’s a constant reminder to love as much as possible in the short time that we are here.

What is/are something(s) you would tell your younger self? 

So many things, the same things I tell myself today:

  • Slow down.

  • Stay in school as long as you can.

  • Stop abusing yourself.

  •  You are still worthy when you aren’t achieving.

  • There is so much freedom in your insignificance.

  • Breathe before you speak because words are very significant. They have the power to both positively or negatively change someone’s day and possibly future generations.

  • Wait to respond so you have time to choose your response. If you react you will have to apologize later, and apologies don’t take away the harm that was caused (thank you Viktor Frankl, Marshall B. Rosenburg, and Lama Brandy).

  • See God, Buddha, Shiva, nature, the Divine in everyone, especially yourself, and most importantly those you disagree with (thank you Baba Ram Dass, Richard Rohr, and Brian Baker).

  • You don’t have to repeat the patterns that were programmed into you (thank you Patanjali & Alan Watts).

  • You will never be able to make all the people happy all of the time, it’s not your job to do so, you don’t have the ability to do so, and you will hurt yourself & others if you try to do so. 

  • Most things you think are true right now are really just temporary preferences. If you decide they are the truth you might close yourself off from learning more (thank you Judith Lassiter & Patanjali).

  • Don’t waste time running towards the things you think you like and running away from things you think you don’t like. If you do, you will miss the present moment and most of your life (thank you Patanjali, Pema Chodron, and Michael Singer).

What is the best advice you’ve received?

Time is the most precious commodity-you can’t buy it back, you can’t make more of it. (Thanks Mom and Phil).

What is the best advice/pieces of advice you have for others who are on their healing journey?

It comes from Carl Gustav Jung, not me - “There is no coming to consciousness without pain”.

In my opinion there is no magic fix. It’s on ongoing lifelong process. I liken it to a marriage with ups and downs, breakthroughs and setbacks, passion and complacency. If I attach an end goal like happiness, enlightenment, or perfection, I will always be disappointed because in my experience that isn’t the nature of things. If someone promises that they have the answer to everything I excuse myself from the situation. I try to seek out teachers and mentors who have lived through very difficult things, who don’t shame, blame, or condescend, and whom can connect interdisciplinary dots to learn from. 

What is/are the biggest life lesson(s) you’ve learned?

I think I answered that up top, but here is another thing:

One has to have awareness on something to place it in a special, cared for, loving way. We have to have pay attention to one another to truly care for each other. I do think It’s important to give yourself your own attention and if that attention becomes judgmental and critical - the best way out of that is to put your loving awareness on someone who needs it the most and help them.

What do you do to balance your life when it feels unbalanced?

I take time to move energy - I get on my mat more and take more classes from the amazing teachers here. Or I get on my skateboard or rollerskates. I get outside. I go for a hike with my friend Nicole.  If I notice there is no time to get bored-the birthplace of creativity-I change my schedule if & when financial commitments actually allow for that.


Malia practices yoga and teaches in the East Bay. You can find her at Just Be Yoga Walnut Creek and Danville, Equinox San Ramon, Yoga Barn of Pleasanton, Mike’s Paddle in Alameda, and occasionally The Bay Club in Pleasanton.


The Story of My Journey

I started my spiritual journey at age 16, when I went to the nearest bookstore and found myself wanting to purchase a beginner’s yoga DVD along with another DVD on how to meditate. I remember waking up early in the morning before high school to practice yoga in my bedroom, and subsequently learning how to meditate at night when others in the house were asleep. I was desperate for any solution to my perpetually unsettling emotions and my fear of the world around me, which unbeknownst to me was my emotional response to childhood trauma I had repressed at the time. I thought to myself, “What was wrong with me? Why can’t I just be a normal teenager?” I felt like a misfit from a young age, always being drawn to all things spiritual, psychological, and mystical instead of what I thought kids my age were supposed to be into. Rules, rules, rules. I didn’t know at the time that I was starting a powerful healing journey that would continue well into adulthood, ultimately leading me to pursue my passion and find my purpose: to help others begin and continue their own personal healing journeys. My journey hasn’t been a straight line and has been windy with plenty of ups and downs, but I am grateful for everything and everyone that has brought me to where I am today.

To this day, Friday, August 31, 2012, is the day that changed my whole life and was the first of many Friday evenings where I attended my favorite hot vinyasa class with my spiritual guru of a teacher, Allison. Allison expanded my world in so many ways by introducing ancient yogic philosophies in her classes: chakras and the subtle energetics, Ashtanga, Sanskrit chanting, various styles of meditation, ecstatic dance, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and so much more. I was a graduate student in biology at the time, and was going down a career path that I wasn’t sure, deep down, was truly right for me. Going to Allison’s class every Friday night was what got me through some of the hardest times I’ve experienced in life: battling to survive against my deteriorating mental health, feeling a lack of direction, dealing with imposter syndrome, and constantly questioning if I was truly on the right path for me or if I was on the path that I thought others would want for me to be on. Once again, like my 16-year old self, I was struggling with setting rules and expectations for myself. The amazing mind-body healing and empowerment I experienced in Allison’s classes led me to gain trust in listening to my inner voice, practice self-love and self-compassion, and start following my own true path. I formed a consistent yoga and meditation practice for 3 years before I enrolled in and completed Charm City Yoga’s 200-hour teacher training program in 2015.

Practicing yoga and meditation has helped me heal through difficult times by strengthening my intuition and mind-body connection, building trust towards hearing my inner voice, and helping me feel empowered and comfortable in my own body. I want to help others heal in whatever way they need through their personal yoga and meditation practice, whether that’s to heal from trauma, to develop inner and outer strength, to decrease stress, depression, or anxiety, or to help them reconnect with their spirituality. I will forever be a yoga student and have learned that yoga is a never-ending journey of learning about all the layers of yourself, a journey that continues once you leave your yoga mat. Yoga helps you feel compassion towards the various sensations you feel in your body that make you human. Becoming more aware of your mind-body connection helps you learn to let go of the tension you unconsciously hold in your day-to-day life, and refrain from judging the thoughts that enter your mind—all aspects I emphasize for my students to notice in their own minds and bodies when I teach yoga classes.

In 2018, in addition to deepening my yoga practice as a yoga teacher, I started learning more about Ayurveda, the ancient sister science to yoga, as I noticed my body struggling to function properly and energy levels declining rapidly. I didn’t have energy to do the things I loved to normally do, including enjoying my own yoga and meditation practice. I started noticing the link between my levels of stress and the physical symptoms that were manifesting in my body, and found that no amount of Western medicine was helping me feel better. Little did I know that these physical symptoms were actually masking core emotional work that needed to be done: healing from resurfacing trauma, becoming aware of and making changes regarding my unhappiness with my career direction in life, and the drowning out of my inner voice by rules I was setting on myself for how I should be living my life. I was desperate for a solution to start feeling like myself again, and started researching Ayurveda as a holistic healing modality since I knew that it was an ancient form of medicine that has been around for over 5000 years. After incorporating specific Ayurvedic diet, emotional, and lifestyle changes that were tailored towards my imbalanced dosha, I found my mind and body restoring balance and found that I was starting to become myself again—physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.

As a second-generation Indian-American born to parents that immigrated from India, I reflected back on how Ayurveda had a very early presence in my life. I didn’t know it at the time, but my parents were living an Ayurvedic lifestyle and had incorporated it into my own upbringing. When I had a headache, instead of handing me a Tylenol or Advil, my mom would rub eucalyptus oil on my forehead and suggest I inhale it to make my pain go away, which miraculously worked. I also felt that it calmed me down and helped me become grounded. When I had a stomachache, my mom would make tea for me consisting of specific herbs to help soothe my stomach pain, which also miraculously worked. My dad would use a tongue scraper every morning to remove his Ama, while my mom insisted sesame oil was the solution to everything. I used to think these habits of theirs were silly—you could just take a pill to solve everything, right? Little did I know that my parents were slowly teaching me about a very powerful and natural healing modality that doesn’t just mask our issues, but gets to the underlying core behind why disease may be occurring in the first place.

Disease is more than just the manifestation of symptoms we experience on a physical level. The origin of the word disease stems from the Old French word of desaise, which means lack of ease. Our lack of ease that we feel when physical symptoms occur may actually be stemming from an imbalance in other areas of our lives, including the spiritual, mental, and emotional aspects. Until we get to the root of what is causing our disease in the first place, like stress in many cases, the disease will continue to manifest physically (or emotionally if you’re in tune with those symptoms). Unresolved trauma, chronic stress, not speaking up for yourself, and not living your life in alignment with what brings you joy can all manifest into muscle aches, stomach issues, headaches, and other physical symptoms. Can you remember times in your life when you were under a lot of stress and kept going to the doctor for various ailments you experienced, only for him or her to tell you that nothing was wrong and your tests were normal? Chronic stress can wreak more havoc on our minds and bodies than we think, proof that emotional and mental turmoil can manifest into physical symptoms we experience.

Ayurveda helps us to prevent and get to the root of existing disease in a way that helps us make lasting changes to our well-being by peeling away our layers and healing ourselves from the inside out. I’m excited to teach you more about the powerful healing medicine of Ayurveda as I embark on my current journey of training to become an Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor at the Kerala Ayurveda Institute in Milpitas, CA. ***I am in no way making any disclaimer that Western medicine should not be used. It definitely has its place and purpose in healing us, and as a trained research scientist, I absolutely support medical advancements and treatments!***

I am so excited to start this healing journey with you! Namaste and be well.