Today on the blog, we are excited to feature Liz Andolong: a transformational teacher, reiki healer and vision coach. During weekly Aromatherapy Flow and Yin classes here at Yoga Garden SF, she invites you to slow down, listen inwardly, and trust your own wisdom. Below, Liz shares her story on how she found yoga, how it has helped her, and how it has changed the course of her life. She has risen above the ashes and inspires us to believe in ourselves and what is to come. Her vulnerability and ability to connect authentically inspires her students to show up and practice with her again and again.
What were you like as a kiddo?
My mom tells me that I was always so friendly, so much so that I’d walk away with strangers. It makes me laugh because I still feel so connected to others to this day; there’s always something to learn about someone else, and always something you can connect over. Another one of my favorite stories that she shares is when I was younger, learning to walk, she took me to Spreckles Lake and let me roam. What a mistake! I took off, tearing towards the ducks and the lakes. At the last minute, my dad was able to scoop me up right before diving in head-first. So representative of how I live my life: passionately and running in head-first.
How did you get started teaching yoga in San Francisco?
I know it sounds cliche, but I really was unsure about teaching yoga. (I think it wasn’t until the last couple years where I began feeling fully comfortable teaching, actually.) I came into my teacher training after getting fired from one of my corporate jobs, actually. Yep, fired. I was so burned out from corporate life. For years, I’d been hopping around to different industries, taking different roles, but still felt drained and most of all, sick.
I had taken a few weeks off to go travel to the Philippines – a true “Eat, Pray, Love” trip for me that is another delicious story. When I returned, I realized that I only wanted to spend my time doing things I genuinely loved to do. The only thing I could sincerely imagining doing for 8+ hours a day was yoga. The decision was hard – I didn’t have much money saved up to attend the 200hr YTT, but I was determined to make it work. That was back in 2014, which seems like yesterday and ages ago, all at the same time.
How would you start to describe Aromatherapy Yoga?
Aromatherapy Yoga is a slower-paced flow class where essential oils are incorporated to help deepen one’s experience. We begin the class with pranayama (or breathwork practice), to slow down and notice what’s going on. Breathwork on its own is an incredible practice, and is transformative in conjunction with essential oils. Both modalities help entrain the body and nervous system to a more restful and rejuvenating state. I usually offer four or five different scents throughout each class.
“I love going to Liz’s aromatherapy flow classes because she creates such a safe, nurturing, peaceful space. You can tell immediately that she really cares about her students and loves what she does. I appreciate the slower pace of her aromatherapy flow class as it gives me the chance to really focus on my breath and turn inward to notice where I’m at. She also creates a great sense of community among her students, encouraging us to introduce ourselves to our neighbor, and inviting us to join her for after-class brunches. I always leave feeling so grounded and calm.”
– Becky M., Yoga Garden Member
What are the benefits of essential oils?
I draw a lot of guidance and information from colleagues, friends, my own experiences, and readings. There are many ways to incorporate essential oils and so the spectrum of benefits is vast. You can apply them topically, ingest or diffuse them, or mix them into cleaning solutions or baths. One of the easiest ways to benefit from essential oils is to smell them directly.
I came into essential oils as a healing modality, as I suffer from chronic headaches/migraines and a sensitive tummy; a direct response to my body carrying tension. I turned to alternative medicine, specifically Saje Wellness’s Peppermint Halo. Whenever I felt a headache coming on, I would simply roll the essential oil on my temple and the headache/nausea would subside. Since then, I became ecstatic in seeing how I could utilize these plants and flowers to aid in further healing.
What is your favorite oil to offer?
There is an incredible set of roll-ons that I shared in class the last few months, introduced to me by Danielle Ciullo from Soul Essentially Oils. They are called Align, Arise, and Anchor. Danielle is a complete magician with how she blends essential oils. Each one is something special and works with with multiple layers of fragrance: a base note, a heart note, and a top note.
I am also obsessed with the Bear and Eagle roll-ons from Rootfoot. My students loved them so much that they were the first two essential oil blends that I needed to replace for class.
What wisdom do you most want to transmit to your students?
Listen inwardly. The wisdom you seek already lies within you. Still your ego, make space in your body and be bold to listen to the truth that lies within. Answering the call never gets easier, but building that relationship with the higher self and learning to trust is the greatest gift you can give yourself.
What challenge(s) has yoga helped you overcome?
When I came to yoga, I was really suffering from intense stomach troubles, anxiety, sleeplessness, depression. I felt lost and unsure of what my purpose was. Yoga taught me the power in slowing down, the power in making space in my mind. I still find myself resisting meditation (the classic sense of seated meditation), as I’m a recovering Type A perfectionist and I worry about the thoughts that run involuntarily in my mind. But my yoga practice began as a physical practice: allowing my mind to release it’s grip, allowing me to feel into my body, and letting me drop in. I never found a peace like that before in my mind. It was like remembering who I was, all over again, in every breath and every class. Yoga also gave me an outlet for my emotions. My first few classes, I bawled during savasana. The release was so necessary and safe. It was so impactful and is so impactful in my life, it’s my goal to share this sense of peace that can be drawn from within to those who take my class.
Who is your hero/heroine?
I know this sounds cheesy, but I come from a long line of incredible, matriarchs. They are strong, fierce, and vibrant women who have shaped me and taught me to be who I am. Gifted in having two powerful grandmothers (one was called “Tiger” because she was an inimitable journalist who was daring enough to face off a cop and win), that trickled down to my mother and my aunt – who’s like a second mother. From them, I wouldn’t be who I was. I’m thankful to stand upon their shoulders and create this life I lead. Coming from the Philippines as a young woman was a tough journey for all of the women in my family: they had to literally build their lives from the ground up. Learning to prove their worth in a society that taught them their accent and heritage were shameful, having to come to the US without any credentials, they worked long days and hungry nights, with the faith they’d eventually make it. When I came to yoga, I first felt shameful because it wasn’t a line of work that has a clear career trajectory. It’s been a delight for them to see me living in my element; this work gives me so much life.
What still excites you and keeps you inspired to teach and share this practice with students?
Those tiny moments of transformation and alchemy that I get to share with my students. I am inspired when a student sticks an inversion for the first time, when they discover their body in alignment, or when they experience a sense of release and peace in a restorative posture or in savasana. When it all clicks for my students, that’s why I keep coming back. All I’m here to do is hold space for you to be seen, to feel safe, for you to explore. I love seeing them dare to uncover and look past what is.
What is your spirit animal?
It’s a phoenix. So much of my story has been arising from the ashes, the cyclical nature of beginnings and ends. The idea that in destruction, one can find rebirth and a new journey. It reminds me often to trust in what comes, to not resist – despite my ego’s urgings. Also, I’ve been seeing spiders and hummingbirds around everywhere as of late (with so much frequency!!), so perhaps there’s a message in there too?
What shifts once you first unroll and step on your mat?
It’s the shift from living an externally-based presence to an internally-aware presence. I wish I could say that my mind settles, my body softens, and my spirit flies, but there are days where my mind is hard to wrangle, where my body feels tweaked and resistant, and I just can’t seem to settle. So, I just work to shift from living outwards to moving closer towards an awareness that begins from the inside out. I start with my breath, I start with closing my eyes, and simply feel inwards.
If you didn’t teach yoga, what else would you do?
There was a point in time where I was really interested in performing arts. If yoga wasn’t what I was doing currently, I’d probably still be pursuing a career in performing (acting, modeling, singing, dancing) or screenwriting. I used to pen one-act plays, perform in musicals and also used to dance on hip hop teams lifetimes ago. That marriage of creative expression and utilizing my body as an instrument to express would still hold true as it is today.
What’s your finest advice for a new teacher?
Keep. Teaching. Teach so you can “fail” and make mistakes. Teach so you can learn about yourself. Teach so you can get more experience. Teach, teach, teach. There’s so much work in simply teaching. Teach to your dogs, parents, loved ones, best friends. Also, practice. Practice for yourself. Remind yourself why you want to share this gift. What does it mean to you? Why do you want to share it? Everything will come in time. Trust (:
What do you have in the pipeline? Are you working on any exciting projects?
I am working on some exciting projects! I’ve been working with The Assembly (a ladies’ clubhouse on 14th Street which is a beautiful community of lady bosses) with my monthly Meditative Hikes + Guided Journaling to Corona Heights, as well as fleshing out some reiki popups to provide relaxation and rest for the women there. I’ve been looking for a space to teach restorative/yin yoga + reiki, which would be incredible. I’ve also been looking into potentially start formulating my first retreat and workshops. I’ve been slowly building content for my blog/site The Irreverent Yogi too! So many things wish I had more hours haha!
Where can we connect with you off the mat? (Social Media, Website, location, etc)
You can find me most easily on Instagram on @landielong or @theirreverentyogi. For more information on me or to contact me, you can also find me at www.lizandolong.com. Other than being at the lovely Yoga Garden, I’m also at The Assembly (www.theassembly.com) so stay tuned for me on the schedule there!