Nikki Stern: TGBTS Featured Teacher

Dear Friend,

Today I am sharing this month’s Featured Teacher, Nikki Stern. She is a holistic health coach who works to help people see how the food they eat contributes to their mood. On a personal note, working with Nikki helped me see how my daughter’s two year old temper tantrums usually tasted a lot like potato chips. Now they are what they are. In other words, her work is life-changing.

I would love to hear about who inspires your life and practice. Please send me a message.

With lots of self-kindness and love,




Don’t you just love them?

I know I do.

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my series of teacher interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!


Have you met Nikki yet? We met a gazillion years ago practicing next to each other at It’s All Yoga, reconnected after she returned to Sacramento after a brief stint in the Pacific Northwest and now she helps women all over connect how they eat with how they feel – in other words, she’s changing lives every day!

Here’s my interview.

When did you start practicing?

Hmmm, probably back in 2006

Why did you start?

Because I wanted a ‘yoga body’ What is that? I was in my early 20s and I believed that in order to be accepted I needed to look a very specific, skinny way.  A way that a girl with hips really can’t look.

Where did you practice?

Studios. Briefly at Healthy Habits and then I moved to It’s All Yoga – that’s when it “clicked” and I was hooked.

How has your practice evolved over time?

So much.  I’m no longer searching for a body type.  I let go of lots of comparisons, judgments and expectations!  They creep back in but I’m better at recognizing them. I still show up, learn and let go every time I get on the mat.

How long have you been a ‘food and mood’ teacher?

I’ve been teaching women how to connect with their bodies and discover how food and mood are connected for a little over a year now as a Holistic Health + Lifestyle Coach.

food mood

Why did you start blogging?

I decided to blog to weed through the massive amounts of often conflicting information about diets and what it means to be healthy.  I wanted people to understand that educating themselves about their bodies and how food affects them is important but that it is a small piece of the puzzle.  How we live our lives and whether we act with love or punishment – through careers, in relationships, in how we connect to the world and to ourselves – is where ultimate health is achieved.

What are your classes like?

I have just launched a group cleanse, MindBodyBliss (click here to see if you need this cleanse)and it’s all about cleansing what is not serving us and taking a few weeks to be with ourselves and discover balance and clarity.  Cleaning up our diet makes room for more nourishing foods, positive thoughts and allows old emotions to dislodge and take a hike.

This came from my own experience with cleansing, which was always more about food and losing weight and less about building up the good things in my life and addressing the emotions that came up when I wasn’t dousing them with sugar.  I wanted something more loving, less punishing for myself and my clients.  I hope some of our perceptions of ourselves and our bodies will shift during our 2 weeks and we can create a ripple effect of understanding true health and happiness, which has nothing to do with numbers.

Do you have a home yoga practice? What is it like? How often? Where?

My home practice is very loose.  I’ve accepted it for where it’s at instead of getting too judg-y with myself.  Honestly, a lot of it lives around a kid’s yoga book.  In the morning and evening my 3 year old flips through it and chooses 3 poses and we do them together.  It was mostly his idea and building it into our routine has helped tremendously with 3 1/2 year old drama (tantrums).

How’d you start and how do you keep at it?

I started long before I even did yoga, really.  I’ve always felt compelled to get down on the floor in the evenings while watching TV and stretch.  I used to be a personal trainer so I was tight and sore all of the time and it felt so great to stretch at the end of the day.  Now I’m not into that (less punishment, remember!) but still love to get down and mess around.  By doing that most of the time and not having too many expectations or parameters around it I feel more inclined to keep it up.

What’s your favorite pose? Why?

All of the pigeons.  Half, full, left, right.  My first experiences were all about escaping, but there was also something l loved about it.  I get such a deep release and feel so much tension leave my body when I hold those deep hip openers for a longtime.  I’m not a hoarder, I like letting things go.

What’s your least favorite pose?

Camel.  I took a yoga class in college and I would get nauseous and almost pass out every time we did camel pose.  For years I didn’t do it and thought there was some strange issue with camels and me.  Knowing more now, it probably had more to do with the vulnerability of it, of opening my heart and throat – or I’m just not cool with camels.  I can do it without all the drama now, but I’m traumatized and would rather not.

Do you have a meditation practice?

Yes!  I used to be a crisis meditator.  I only did it when things were really about to tank, a last ditch effort to keep my feet on the ground.  I constantly said, “I should do this more.”   Finally I did.  It was this year.  I’ve been at it for about 4 months straight.  I sometimes do it multiple times a day and that feels amazing.  I finally got past the “am I doing it right” obsession and eased into it, whatever it looks like.  I’m still struggling with how to get it done in the morning because my son will only leave me alone for about 5 minutes.  I might have to wake up earlier – if you have tips send them my way, please!

What is your blog about? When did you start? Why did you start? What is your purpose?

My blog is about connecting food and mood.  It’s about listening to your body, learning about the body, about how we treat it, what we feed it, what we say to it.  I started it when I started my coaching practice because I had information and experiences to share.  I lived a good part of my life feeling not enough (sound familiar?), hating my body, abusing my body and saw everything around me suffering.  All of my relationships, school, jobs, direction, it was crappy.  My purpose is to show women that there is another way.  We can simply shift our perspective, see who we are and not apologize, love our bodies and enjoy love, success and community.

What is your favorite post? Why?

Well, it’s probably the one I wrote VERY last minute about my husband and why I don’t want to forget how important the little things are.  Appreciation is one thing, vocalizing it can be another and when we do it can transform relationships and connections.

What other blogs do your read? Why?

TGBTS because it’s wise and funny and I am so inspired by your vulnerability and also that you tell people to lay the f*** down.  I love a good sailor mouth.

Honestly, my business is still a baby so I’m bummed to say I don’t read more blogs because there are some awesome ones.

Who and what inspires you?

Women inspire me.  Those that came before us and those among us.  There is so much wisdom, courage, compassion, fire, devotion, unity, resiliency.  I could go on, but my point is that I don’t think I’ve met a woman that doesn’t inspire me with what she is doing whether it’s staying at home to raise babies or build a business or volunteer her time to something she loves or going to school or starting a blog.  We are so hungry for purpose and wired for connection, I’m inspired when I see all of the ways we go after it.  Getting shit done.  I think we’re ready for a female president, don’t you?

Are you interested in the MindBodyBliss cleanse and want to learn more? Click here to see Nikki’s video about how the body already does a lot of the detox work.

Sarah Von Bargen of Yes and Yes: TGBTS Featured Teacher


Don’t you just love them?

I know I do.

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my series of interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!


Have you met Sarah? She’s the writer of one of my favorite blogs Yes and Yes as well as her small business blog

tgbts featured teacher sarah von bargen of yes and yes

1. You used to teach English – tell me about your experience. What brought you to teaching and what made you want to change professions?

My first experience was teaching English in Brazil through my university’s ELTAP program. I loved it, but when I got back to America I accepted a job as an event planner at a Super Fancy event planning firm. I burned out, had a quarter life crisis, moved to Taiwan to teach ESL, and then spent the next six years teaching ESL and earning my MA in Applied Linguistics.

Why did I change careers from teaching to blogging? There were a lot of reasons. The non-profit where I taught ran classes 50 weeks a year, so I never got a real break. My salary was less-than-inspiring. Also, I’ve always been the personality type to show up early, stay late, and give 120%. When you’re a teacher, you’re never, ever financially rewarded for hard work or creative ideas (though obviously, none of us get into teaching for the money) and I wanted to make more money if I was working harder and helping my students get better test scores than others.

2. How did you make the move from world-traveling ESL teacher to small business internet awesomer?

Slowly but surely! I blogged and freelanced for 2.5 years before I quit my teaching job. I should also point out that I’ve been getting paid to write since I was 20 and I have a background in marketing/pr/advertising so I came to blogging (and teaching) with that skill set. I didn’t have to learn those things from scratch :)

3. What kinds of stuff do you teach now? Who is your ideal client and what is your ideal work?

I teach small businesses and entrepreneurs how to make a name for themselves on the internet. Whether that’s through blogging, social media, creating e-books, or pitching bloggers who will then promote their products, I teach all things internet-related.

My ideal client is a small, lifestyle business that has built social responsibility into their business model. I particularly love helping my clients create blogging editorial plans, brainstorming clever promotion ideas, and nailing down their social media.

4. What are your Top 5 self-care must do’s?

Self Care Must Do #1. Step away from your screen!

After 7 pm, close your laptop, stop answering emails, and get off of social media. Go live your life, forpetessake!

Self Care Must Do #2. Know your limits

I have a suuuuuper active social life, but I top out after about four hours of conversation/mingling/partying. If I stay much longer than that I can feel the light inside me turn off. So I take myself home! Know when you’re ready to stop – whether it’s eating, drinking, socializing, exercising, know when you’re done.

Self Care Must Do #3. Edit your friends

Take note of how you feel after you hang out with someone. If they’re constantly complaining and waxing negative, maybe you should limit your time together.

Self Care Must Do #4. Stop feeling guilty about your ‘guilty pleasures’

I don’t believe in guilty pleasures – I just like what I like. And if my self-care is eating popcorn for dinner while watching MTV’s True Life, I’m not going to apologize for that.

Self Care Must Do #5. If you want something in your life, make it part of your life

If you want a more active social life, plan a party. If you need more alone time, turn down some of those invitations. If you need more energy, go to bed earlier, eat more vegetables, get more exercise. You’re the only one who can take care of you!

5. How do you manage working from home without driving yourself bonkers?

Honestly, it’s not a problem! Even though I’m super friendly and outgoing, I’m actually an introvert. Also: my apartment is gorgeous. And as previously mentioned, I have a really, really active social life, so I have lunch or dinner with someone or go out almost every day – sometimes twice a day!

6. Do you have a yoga practice? Are you still transitioning from work to home with legs-up-the-wall? What about meditation/quiet contemplation?

I don’t really. When I remember, I transition with legs-up-the-wall. My most yogi-esque activity is probably going for long walks in the morning through quiet neighborhoods and writing in my gratitude journal before I go to sleep. I’m not really sure if my personality lends itself to yoga – I’m more of a hip hop dance class type of person ;)

7. You write a lot. How do you produce so much engaging content? What’s your writing secret? I’d love to shadow you for a week to see your processes, so any and all tips/tricks for editorial calendar, idea generating and/or actually writing excellent content will be greatly appreciated.

Oh thanks so much! I’m not really sure that I have any secrets! I’ve been writing for a long time (and writing with deadlines) so it comes relatively easily to me. I rarely do more than one draft and a proof read, so I’m sure that makes me a faster writer than some.

Most of my ideas come from conversations with friends or reading other stuff or my everyday life. I have a lot of notes in my phone and drafted posts on my dashboard of posts I’d like to write. Also, if you look at Yes and Yes, you’ll see that I do True Story and Real Life Style Icon interviews, Mini Travel Guides, and I have two contributors who help with food-related posts. On my small business blog, I host guest posts once a month. So all of that is content I don’t write myself. I’m not an expert at everything but I wanted my blog to cover lots of topics, so I brought in some help ;)

8. How do you manage stress of running a successful small business, wildly popular blog and active social/travel life?

This is a deeply unhelpful answer, but I’m not a particularly stressed out person. I love 95% of the work I do, so it simply doesn’t stress me out. When I do get stressed out, I have a 4-part foolproof (for me) plan:

1. Work out for an hour
2. Take a shower or go swimming
3. Take a nap
4. Drink some coffee

Everything seems brighter when you’re clean, rested, and caffeinated!

9. How do you handle self-doubt?

While I have demons just like anyone else (I self-medicate through cleaning, dancing, and eating cheese) self-doubt isn’t really something I struggle with. When I’m worried about something, I usually make a list of the things I’m worried about and write down all the possible ways I can deal with it. Maybe those aren’t things I actually want to do (‘move back in my with family’ ‘get a roommate’ ‘incur $15,000 credit card debt’) but they are things I could do if need be. Just seeing all those options makes me feel better.

10. How do you maintain your optimistic Yes and Yes outlook on life?

I pretty firmly believe that nothing has any meaning other than the one that you assign to it. So when I lose a big client, I choose to believe that loss is making space for an even bigger, better project. When I break up with someone, I choose to believe that relationship served a purpose and I’ll meet someone who’s a better fit for me. I make a very active effort to find the silver lining in just about everything.

Do you have any questions or comments for Sarah?

Are you a rock star teacher (or know one)? Would you like to be a TGBTS Featured Teacher? Send me a message or leave me comment here.

Yoga Goes to University – An Interview with Ryan Fong


Don’t you just love them?   

I know I do.   

There are those that inspire me and those that make me laugh. Some help me solve problems in my classroom and others that help me solve problems in my life.   

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite teachers here.   

Teachers in studios, classrooms and in the world at large. These are the folks you will see featured in my new series of interviews here at Teacher Goes Back to School.   

I hope you enjoy these teachers as much as I do!   

Ryan Fong is October’s Featured Teacher. I met Ryan at the studio and we went on a yoga retreat together this summer.

What and where do you teach?

I teach English literature and composition at UC Davis. 

This quarter, though, I’m a teaching assistant for a Women and Gender Studies course, which is a bit of a change.  It’s the introductory level course, so it’s a big 200 person lecture, but I have two 25-student discussion sections were we get to work through the history of feminism and think about the role of gender in our daily lives, especially as it intersects with other facets of our identity.

What is your teaching history?

I still feel relatively new to teaching, even though I’ve been doing it for quite a while now.  My first “official” teaching happened when I was a TA as an undergrad, where I assisted in both English and Sociology classes. 

As a graduate student at UC Davis, they start us out at TAs for literature classes for majors and then let us teach our own courses for the remainder of our time there.  That’s where I’ve taught both Introduction to Literature and freshman writing.

What brought you to teaching?

One of my big mentors growing up was my aunt, who was a high school English teacher and is now the Executive Director of the California Writing Project.  She was the one who would always buy me books for Christmas and birthdays growing up, and she really instilled a love of language and learning in me. 

My family is generally filled with teachers, so when I decided a long time ago in about 7th or 8th grade that I wanted to be a teacher, I got a lot of support.  My parents are both pretty avid readers, and would read to me when I was a kid. 

When I went to college, I decided I wanted to be an English professor, because I loved the freedom and intellectual rigor of the university classroom.  I went to a small liberal arts school where teacher-student interaction was and is really prized, and I decided that creating the kind of rich classroom environments I found there was what I wanted to do. 

Now that I am reaching the end of my graduate student career, I’m facing the realization that being a professor will ultimately not be up to me, based on how the economy is looking and the realities of an incredibly competitive academic job market.  Nevertheless, I know in one way or another, teaching (in the largest sense) is my calling.

Tell us about your blog

I actually have two blogs. 

The first—Two Of Us Riding Somewhere – – is a blog that I started recently to record my 30th birthday roadtrip to the Pacific Northwest with my partner.  It’s been so much fun, and I think it will be a regularly maintained blog that will record our experiences traveling, eating, and seeing natural and urban wonders!

My second blog Deep Homework.  

This is a much more personal blog that is focused on issues of spiritual growth and my quest for balance and well-being.

About a year ago now, I had a tarot reading with my uncle’s partner, Greg — a reading that was prompted by the changing of the seasons and the shift from fall into winter.  It was a cold day out in San Francisco, and I was feeling like I was on the cusp of a big change.  At the same time, I felt like I was incredibly stuck. 

What came out in the reading was that I could either slip into the quietude of sameness and continue to be stuck in my old patterns or I could embrace the process of engaging in what Greg called “deep homework.” 

The result of that homework, the reading portended, was nothing short of a radical rebirth and transformation.  I started the blog as one part of my effort to do that “deep homework.”  

Being a classic extrovert, I need to write and talk to actually know what I’m thinking and to give the endless circles of conversation in my head some direction and shape.  The blog has thus become a place to really work through my stuff in writing, while also exploring my new discoveries in yoga, meditation and Eastern spirituality.  

What other blogs do your read? Why?

I read your blog {awww…} and Michelle’s blog with regularity and occasionally I drift on to other people’s blogs from the studio.  {see the TGBTS Yoga Story links} Since my blog is so yoga based, I like reading other blogs that are using the sphere to explore those particular issues.

As a foodie, I’ll also come in and out of browsing food blogs like Bakerella, Pioneer Woman Cooks and Prudence Pennywise.  My two favorite local food blogs are Sac Food In the Hood and one by my cousin-in-law, Out of the Kitchen.

Who and what inspires you?

I have many people who inspire me. 

  • My partner, Eric, inspires me to see myself in the way that he sees me—with unconditional love and compassion. 
  • My uncle is an inspiration for a life lived well and very mindfully.  He’s a friend, mentor, and model in addition to being my blood relative. 
  • I’m inspired, as I think many of us at IAY are, by the way the community there supports us in experiencing the challenges and joys of really embracing it *all* as yoga. 
  • But mostly, I’m inspired by the universe’s generosity in giving us this present moment to do and be right.  Not right as in correct, but as in right here, right now and just right. 

Please leave any questions or comment love below:     

If you want to learn more about Ryan Deep Homework and Two of Us Riding Somewhere.

Stay tuned for Part 2 – Ryan is  a Yogi!


September 2010: Michelle Marlahan– Proprietress/Fairy Queen of It’s All Yoga in Sacramento, California.