Erin's Guide to Self-Retreating in Canggu, Bali

Wim Hof Breathwork at Udara with Rich

Wim Hof Breathwork at Udara with Rich

I’m a traveler, teacher, student and co-founder of The Mind Body Project. I am passionate about emotional well-being and mental health. I have been traveling for work and exploration in Asia for over ten years.  I teach and consult in the realms of education, tech and wellness. I like to attend amazing workshops and conferences, eat nutrient-packed and flavorful foods and work in cafes with a steady hum but not much interruption. I like being active and leaning into my edges, but am not a thrill seeker.  My favorite kind of eating experience is as a long group table where I can casually meet people and also easily walk away.  

In terms of travel, I’m the type of person who loves to explore new places with a small amount of structure and a lot of room to wander.  My preferred modes of transportation are bike and scooter. I keep my laptop nearby and am often creating content for programs I want to teach. In Asia I generally book my flight and the first and last night’s accommodation, and figure out the rest based on local recommendations.  I don’t have a check-list more than two items long for any given trip.  Traveling this way has allowed me to experience epic days and lifelong friendships; it can also can get really lonely, and I definitely work to create more structure and community within the flexibility. 

This fall I’ll be facilitating in China and taking a self-guided retreat in Bali.  I often get asked what I do on these kind of trips, so I decided to write up this guide to self-retreating.

Each day looks a little something like this:

Morning: Yoga Class, Free Dive Practice/Swimming or Personal Workout


Afternoon: Co-work at a cafe or meet with a friend or business contact


Evening: Visit the Ocean, Journal, or Music 


Where do I suggest in Bali?  Well…I’ve spent time in various areas, and Canggu really meets my needs.  I’m not a late night person, I don’t drink or surf, and while all of that is abundantly available in Canggu, I also find that the cafes, co-working and overall vibe suits me better than Ubud. It is getting a little crowded these days and I like to escape to Amed for free-dive trips. 


Yoga in Canggu: 

Samadi Bali

Love their cafe and daily yoga classes in a garden-like setting. 


The Practice

Amazing bamboo hut venue. Best for special workshops.


Udara Bali

Incredible bamboo hut venue with ocean views, just outside a motor-bike ride away from Canggu.  Teachers are more traditional Balinese and the estatic dance community on Sundays is welcoming and alive!


LifesCrate Smoothie

LifesCrate Smoothie

Amazing (Vegan-Friendly) Canggu Eats:

Smoothies: LifesCrate

AddressJalan Canggu Padang Linjong, Canggu, Kuta Utara, Canggu, Kec. Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80351, Indonesia

Salads: Betel Nut Cafe

AddressPantai Batu Bolong Street No.60, Canggu, North Kuta, Badung Regency, Bali 80351, Indonesia

Food and Potions: Cafe Vida

AddressPantai Batu Bolong Street No.38A, Canggu, North Kuta, Badung Regency, Bali 80351, Indonesia

Quiet Working by a Pool: Pomelo Cafe

AddressJl. Pantai Berawa No.77, Tibubeneng, Kec. Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia

Ristaffel: Ulekan Bali

AddressJl. Tegal Sari Jl. Pantai Berawa No.34, Tibubeneng, Kec. Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia

Vibe: Peloton Cafe 

AddressJl. Pantai Berawa No.46, Tibubeneng, Kec. Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia

Everything: The Shady Shack

AddressJl. Tanah Barak No.57, Canggu, Kec. Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80351, Indonesia

Wim Hof Breathwork and Cold Exposure Training: Rich at Re-Align 

Life changing workshops with Rich!  He’s not a super spiritual dude but rather a real person that offers well constructed and potentially life-shifting programs. @richrealign


Free Diving: Liquid Life Indo

Coach Shane Tierney helped take me from nervous in the pool to diving in Amed. His experience helps calm and support you at any level comfort beneath the water.


Co-Working: Dojo Bali

Social hub near the beach filled with freelancers, free-thinkers and global nomads.



I find that you really can’t go wrong in Bali.  If it’s online and has a good rating, it’s usually awesome.  I have literally never stayed at a bad place, but I do balance cost and rating from, here’s 10% off your first stay:

Wind Down Sunset Spot: La Brisa

Low key people and music, lots of bean bags on the deck. 

AddressJl. Pantai Batu Mejan, Canggu, Kec. Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia

Need a suggestion for a daily online program to provide a bit of structure on your next adventure?  Check out QSATA’s 28-Day Online Communication program.

Founder, MCK, is the most solid listener I know.   Having access to his undivided attention and the daily structure of this program is exactly the combination of check-ins and self-led reflection that I like on retreat.  His program reminded me why I’m attracted to the magic of communication.

Join us Sept 20-30 in Canggu:

Anyone who fits The Mind Body Project vibe of growth mindset, kindness and a passion for science-backed health and wellness tools is welcome to join us.  Email for villa booking details. 

La Brisa at Sunset

La Brisa at Sunset

Mindfulness and Trauma-Informed Facilitation training in China

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The Mind Body Project has been running mindfulness programs in the US and China since 2015. Recently, we have been asked to help others learn to teach these programs, and we think that’s a great idea. We can’t wait to get a group of like-minded people together to explore science-backed solutions for personal growth and applied practice. Here’s a bit more about our 30-hr Mindfulness Facilitator training in Beijing, China.

Who? This program will be led by Erin Lee Henshaw, American mindfulness facilitator, who has studied internationally with Mindful Schools, Rishikesh Yog Peeth, LifeForce Yoga for Anxiety and Depression, and Zap Chen with Janet Evergreen. Erin has worked for the Mind and Life Institute, taught mindfulness programs for the Contemplative Sciences Center at the University of Virginia and received multiple grants to teach and study in the US. Most recently, she facilitated programs with the International WELL Building Institute and has been continuing her cold exposure and breathwork training.

Erin will be assisted by Ric Rodriguez, an experienced growth facilitator with a background in Thai Yoga Massage, natural products and healing.

Where? Crossboundaries Beijing architecture studio in the heart of Sanlitun, around the corner from The Bookworm.

What? 3 0-hr Mindfulness Facilitator Training including:

-Introduction to MBSR theory and evolution
-Introduction to Basic Neuroscience
-Introduction to Growth Mindset and Mindful teaching theory -Daily Deep Relaxation through Yoga, Breathwork and more
-Daily Reflection on personal growth and application of new skills -Daily vegan/gluten free lunch, snacks and tea

Weekend 1 Skills:

  1. Sitting and Self-Reflection (Journaling)

  2. Body Scans

  3. Emotional Labeling

  4. Gratitude

  5. Breathwork

Weekend 2 Skills:

  1. Mindful Movement

  2. Intentional Thinking

  3. Visualization

  4. Mindful Eating

  5. Mindful Communication

    Sample Day:
    1-hr Morning movement, breathwork and self-reflection practice

    Intro to Science and Practice for Skill 1 followed by Pair Practice Intro to Science and Practice Skill 2 followed by Pair Practice LUNCH
    Intro and Practice for Skill 3 followed by group demo
    Intro and Practice for Skill 4 followed by group demo or discussion Deep Relaxation

When? 2 Consecutive Weekends: August, 2019 (Beijing)

Friday, August 16 from 7-9pm (Welcome and Relaxation) Saturday, August 17 from 10am-5pm
Sunday, August 18 from 10am-5pm

Saturday, Aug 24 from 10am-6pm
Sunday Aug 25 from 10am-4pm (Group practice and celebration)

*Shanghai and Kunming TBD

Why?O Over the past 50 years Western culture has increasingly dictated that we work in chairs, prioritize information flowing into our frontal lobes and see our emotional responses as a hindrance to “achievement.” We have grown accustomed to learning from experts instead of a more experiential teaching model. Fortunately, the neuroscience-backed field of mindfulness reminds us of what we are missing: authentic teachers, emotional intelligence and whole-body learning. As part of this program with The Mind Body Project we will explore how to integrate traditional standards of achievement with whole-person facilitation and learning.

Upon completion of 30 classroom hours, each participant will leave with the skills and confidence to authentically lead introductory (Level 1) mindfulness programs or integrate these teachings with facilitation/leadership practices in their current field.

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What? 30-hr Trauma-Informed Facilitator Training including:
-Introduction to Trauma and PTSD Theory
-Introduction to Basic Neuroscience of Trauma
-Creation of a therapeutic container for a broad application of group experiences -Practical experience leading trauma-informed tools and exercises
-Practical experience soothing a triggered participant
-Daily Deep Relaxation through Yoga, Breathwork and more -Daily reflection on personal growth and application of skills -Daily vegan/gluten free lunch, snacks and tea

Weekend 1 Tools:

  1. Trauma-Informed Language

  2. Therapeutic Container Creation

  3. Resourcing the Room

  4. 5-Senses Meditation

  5. Extended Exhalations and Anchor Points

  6. Yoga Nidra

Weekend 2 Tools:

  1. Body Scans: Progressive Tightening and Relaxing

  2. Tapping and Humming

  3. Language: Noticing Self-Talk and Setting Intentions

  4. Safe Place Visualization

  5. Soothing a Triggered Response

    Sample Day:
    1-hr Morning movement, breathwork and self-reflection practice

    Intro to Science and Practice for Skill 1 followed by Pair Practice Intro to Science and Practice Skill 2 followed by Pair Practice LUNCH
    Intro and Practice for Skill 3 followed by group demo
    Intro and Practice for Skill 4 followed by group demo or discussion Deep Relaxation

When? 2 Consecutive Weekends in October, 2019 (Beijing)

Friday, Oct 18 from 7-9pm
Saturday, Oct 19 from 10am-5pm (Welcome and Relaxation)
Sunday, Oct 20 from 10am-5pm

Saturday, Oct 26 from 10am-6pm
Sunday, Oct 27 from 10am-4pm (Group celebration to follow!)

Shanghai: Nov 1-3, 9-10

Why? Due to the increased prevalence and awareness of trauma in everyday life, it is best practice for all facilitators to develop a basic understanding of trauma care and socio-emotional regulation. As leaders, we are often unaware of the past traumas that participants bring to our programs. For programs with mandatory participation (such as school or work experiences) participants will mental health challenges may be exposed to situations that trigger fear and panic, and can re-traumatize the participant, unless the facilitator is trained to handle trauma and emotion. For example, water programs, intense exercise or self-reflection practices may bring up deep wounds or insecurities.

It's important that we create a safe container so that all participants may feel safe to grow on programs. As a result of trauma-informed facilitation, participants with trauma will heal and grow in the face of challenge, and students without trauma will thrive because of the care these practices provide. This program empowers facilitators to feel calm and comfortable to assist participants if they are pushed beyond their personal limits, and to become comfortable leading basic mindfulness practices as part of their programs.

Upon completion of 30 classroom hours, each participant will leave with the skills and confidence to authentically lead introductory (Level 1) trauma-informed facilitation programs or integrate these teachings with facilitation/leadership practices in their current field.

How? Participants from all backgrounds are welcome to join. In the past we have hosted teachers, facilitators, corporate professionals, parents, etc. In order to apply for the training you must have at least the following:

  1. Two years of personal mindfulness or self-reflective practice

  2. Two years of teaching or leadership experience (alternative or non-traditional is great)

  3. Read the book: The Body Keeps the Score OR Waking the Tiger

  4. *A note on nutrition: while we don’t mandate a certain diet to participate in this program,

    we know that gut health is mental health. We recommend that participants are in control or in the process of learning about their nutrition before attending this program. We do not offer sugar, caffeine or animal products, but support you meeting those needs.

Register: ( or WeChatErin(ErinLee002)to confirm your pre-requisites and receive your intake form.

Virginia Summer 2019 Workshops



Trauma Release Yoga with Erin Henshaw

Tuesdays, July 2, 9, 16 from 6–7:30 pm | $25/drop-in or $60/series


Description: Trauma Release Yoga Class

The psoas is known as our “fight or flight” muscle because of the stress and tension it endures in times of trauma. Chronic tightening of the psoas can result in repressed emotions and physical pain beginning in the low back and migrating up and down the body. In this trauma- informed yoga class we will strengthen and fatigue the psoas in preparation for the natural release of deep shaking.

This class is appropriate for all ages and levels as long as there is a high level of maturity. We will also offer the opportunity to check-in about the experience at the end of class. 

Bio: Erin co-founded The Mind Body Project in Beijing in 2015, to bring balanced wellness to expats.  Erin believes in experiential learning, and has studied and taught mindfulness programs for schools, companies and communities in Africa, Indonesia, China and with the Contemplative Sciences Center at the University of Virginia.  With a background in Hatha Yoga, LifeForce Yoga, Mindful Schools and Free Diving, she specializes in trauma-informed facilitator trainings, breathwork and applied mindfulness for the entrepreneurial mindset. Programs with Erin involve a strong foundation in brain science, a container of kindness and a dash of extreme optimism for discovering our human potential.  Erin will be in Virginia this summer before returning to China in the fall.  To learn more, visit


Intro to Breathwork

Sunday, July 14 from 2–5 pm | $45

Intro to breathwork will introduce you to the basics of the brain, including the difference between our fight or flight and rest and digest responses. We will explore a variety of breathing techniques such as box breathing, alternative nostril and bee's breath, so that you may pick a technique that feels good to you.

About Erin Henshaw 

Erin co-founded The Mind Body Project in Beijing in 2015, to bring balanced wellness to expats. Erin believes in experiential learning, and has studied and taught mindfulness programs for schools, companies and communities in Africa, Indonesia, China and with the Contemplative Sciences Center at the University of Virginia. With a background in Hatha Yoga, LifeForce Yoga, Mindful Schools and Free Diving, she specializes in trauma-informed facilitator trainings, breathwork and applied mindfulness for the entrepreneurial mindset. Programs with Erin involve a strong foundation in brain science, a container of kindness and a dash of extreme optimism for discovering our human potential. Erin will be in Virginia this summer before returning to China in the fall. To learn more, visit



Thai Message and Deep Relaxation


Friday July, 26th from 6–9 pm | $60 includes hot tea and all props 
Instructors: Erin Lee Henshaw and Erica 'Ric' Rodriguez 

Description: Join us for our most popular program that offers a bit of everything, Thai yoga massage and deep relaxation.  Ric combines her skills in Thai yoga and facilitation with Erin's background in meditation and yogic relaxation to create this experiential workshop. We will look into the healing and joyful art of touch and the nourishing benefits of deep relaxation.  You will first be introduced to the the theory and practice of thai massage through partner activities, and then experience the calming and integrating practices of yin yoga and yoga nidra.  We'll end the program with a sharing circle and community vibes. 

20 max participants (minimum 10) 


Venue Info:



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Insomnia with Lisa Smalls

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Mindfulness: The Natural Sleep Aid Millennials Don't Want to Miss

Guest Author: Lisa Smalls

Nights of staring at the ceiling fan, constantly checking the time, and dreading the sound of my alarm going off are all to familiar to me. For two years after graduating college, I battled insomnia. If you’ve ever experienced insomnia or another sleep disorder, you understand the frustration and anxiety I had with sleep. The consequences of my sleep deprivation infiltrated every aspect of my life—my productivity, mood, immunity— everything. The worst part? I realized how much I took quality sleep for granted before struggling with a sleep disorder. Isn’t it amazing how we don’t understand the value of sleep until it’s gone?

When it comes to sleep, Americans often miss the mark. The CDC estimates that 35 percent of Americans don’t get the recommended seven-plus hours of sleep each night and nearly 40 percent suffer from some kind of acute or chronic sleeping disorder. 

Tackling sleep is one of the most important things a person can do to manage their overall health. Unfortunately, for many suffering from disorders such as insomnia, restless leg syndrome, anxiety and depression sleep can be difficult. 

However, one way to overcome sleep deprivation as well as promote a positive and healthy lifestyle is through mindfulness. 

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness, as is demonstrated in practices such as yoga and meditation, and is defined as the state of being conscious or aware. Awareness will give you the ability to manage your feelings, thoughts, and sensations while dismissing the uncontrollable aspects of your life.

When a person experiences anxiety—the leading contributor to insomnia—they are often focused on the past which cannot be changed, or the future which is highly unpredictable. By practicing mindfulness, a person focuses on the now—on what they can control. 

How does Mindfulness help you sleep?

There are several ways to practice mindfulness from yoga to mindful meditation. According to a study conducted by JAMA Internal Medicine, even 20 minutes of meditation a day promotes a relaxation response in the body which improves one’s ability to fall and stay asleep more easily.

As mentioned earlier, mindfulness brings your thoughts into the now and allows your mind to delineate from the stressors which cause anxiety that leads to insomnia. Through mindfulness, a person has the ability to focus, relax, and maintain a calm state of mind. This, in turn, will allow for your mind to relax enough to fall asleep. 

Other Natural Remedies for Sleep

Sleep may come easy to some, but to others it is a complicated matter resulting in days, weeks, and even years of poor sleep habits. However, along with mindfulness there are a number of other natural remedies to sleep that improve the quality and quantity of shut eye you receive.

Lavender Essential Oil

Essential oils, particularly lavender, prepare your mind and body for sleep through relaxation and calming properties. In fact, research shows the regular application of lavender allows for a more rapid onset of sleep, as well as, a longer duration of sleep. 

Chamomile Tea

Hot herbal teas, specifically chamomile, are a comforting drink with soothing heat which provide a great way to wind down after a long day and lead you into a comfortable night of sleep. Chamomile, an ancient herb used for its medicinal properties, has been proven to act as a sedative when in extract form to calm nerves and reduce anxiety, as well as, a treatment for insomnia.

Warm bath

Much like a soothing hot tea, a warm bath provides your body comfort by providing a calming effect. Baths can help you both feel refreshed as well as provide a slow-drawn countdown to your body’s natural sleep rhythms, alerting the rest of your body that it is time for sleep. The reason a warm bath helps induce sleep is due to the rapid drop in body temperature it causes once you get out of the tub, according to researchers.

Sleep is necessary for your body to be able to repair and relax your body as well as allows you to process thoughts, memories, and creativity. Unfortunately, many people suffer from anxiety and depression which can lead to insomnia. The calming effects of mindfulness will not only help you sleep and provide personal awareness but will also provide an optimistic and relaxing focus on your life. 

Looking for more info on the importance of sleep? Check out this TED Talk by brain scientist, Matt Walker.

Interested in connecting with Lisa for freelance writing? Email her at

The Iron Mindset in Durban

Join us Sunday, Feb 24th at The Iron Movement strength and natural movement gym in Mayville!

Join us Sunday, Feb 24th at The Iron Movement strength and natural movement gym in Mayville!

Health and fitness are a combination of breath, movement and mindset. Movement is often our entry point, but complimentary breathwork and mindset practices are what really bring it all together. Join us on Sunday Feb 24 to explore how science-backed Mindfulness tools help us get the most out of whatever practices bring us into the present moment without judgment. Co-Founder Erin Henshaw will be leading this program before her Spring trip to China.

In this experiential workshop we will learn:
-Why Mindfulness isn't yoga
-Basic Brain Science
-Applying Mindset to Movement

And practice:
-Centering Techniques
-Breathing Techniques
-Communication Techniques

WHY? Learn to understand yourself better so that you can become a better athlete, relieve stress and anxiety, communicate more effectively and enhance performance in all aspects of life.

This workshop is suitable for all levels and non-athletes are encouraged to attend. Please wear comfortable clothing and bring a notebook, water bottle and growth mindset.

WHEN: Sunday, Feb 24 from 10am-1pm
WHERE: The Iron Movement, Berea (2 Saxon Ave)

COST: 250 non-members/100 TIM members. Advance payment requested.
RSVP Required: Please contact Rhain at 083-472-7761 (What's App or Cell) #jointhemvmt

Mindful Africa and Beyond

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Timeless practices such as yoga, meditation and cultivating gratitude help us develop skills like self-awareness, non-judgment and contentment. The specific term "Mindfulness" has been scientifically validated and popularized by researchers and practitioners in the United States. The founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Jon Kabat Zinn, is largely credited with making the practice more mainstream, as his clinical work to alleviate suffering for patients with chronic pain paved the way for secular, science-backed, attention-based practices to be adopted first by hospitals, and later by schools and companies. (Want to know more?  Check out research by Mindful Schools.Although the concept of Mindfulness is becoming widely known, it is difficult to find institutions who are interested in investing the time and money required to make long-term investments in rewiring the brain for less stress and more contentment. 

The Mind Body Project is proud of the opportunities we have received to teach in a variety of fields and incubate our programs at the University of Virginia. We facilitate workshops and retreats for expats and schools in Beijing, and bring science-backed breath and movement programs to companies and organizations in Virginia and Washington, DC.  We have prepared training curriculum to bring additional facilitators on board, but haven’t yet found enough business opportunities to expand our team.  One reason for our business development challenges is that you can't throw a sage stick without hitting a yoga teacher in Charlottesville. I kid, because this is a great problem to have.  The community where we are incubating our programs and business savvy is incredibly supportive when it comes to healing and thriving resources, and this pushes us to find more needy markets.

We have found much greater receptivity to our programs abroad, and are ready to meet the challenge.  BRICS countries are often hard pressed for access to teachers who understand stress relief from a psycho-somatic perspective, and how to integrate socio-emotional learning into the school and business environment. This summer, Erin has been invited to explore the health needs of various South African non-profits with VCU Professor of South African History, Dingani Mthethwa.  In addition to teaching history, Dingani has been an influential force in bringing mindfulness programs to the Albemarle County public schools in Charlottesville, VA.  Erin and Dingani have co-taught a few self-care programs for teachers, and have decided to team up to better understand the needs of various populations in Durban this July. 

Durban is an up and coming hub for entrepreneurship and innovation, and we hope to build off our previous Cape Town programs to enhance the reach of mindfulness and health education in South Africa. We will be liaising with organizations such as the Ghandi Museum, Sinomlando, the Albert Luthuli Museum and Plan A Women’s Incubator. In addition, Erin has been working to combine Professor Saras Sarasvathy’s research-backed entrepreneurial Effectuation framework with mind body practices, which she will be introducing to Beijing expat circles and experiential education programs this fall. (Linking back up with The Hutong, and more friends!) 

We continue to learn how the fundamentally basic tools of breath, movement and mindset can radically transform individuals and the institutions where we live and work.  This new adventure will certainly have us practicing humility, as we explore the nuances of culture as it applies to the field of mindfulness. If you have contacts, funding sources or ideas to share, please get in touch.  

Thank you for being part of the journey…

Warning: Brain Re-Wiring in Process

Slow and Steady Spring Updates


Anyone who has run a small business knows how difficult it can be to set aside time to review, reflect, and plan for the future. I find it additionally challenging to wrangle my wild brain into written communication, but I've taken some time off from full time projects this Spring to send some updates. Relationship-building and community are my priorities in life, and I love sharing with you like-minded folks! 
Much love,
Erin and TMBP Crew

Wrapping up 2017

-Thanks to ALL of you who bought t-shirts to support our 'REAL REBELS Practice Kindness' Campaign.  Check out our instagram to see shirts worn from London and Italy to Beijing!  

-In addition to our Bali retreat last summer, we ran our first Cape Town programs with Aveleigh Gateman, founder of Nametag.

-In Beijing, Natalie is still knocking Live with Less events out of the park, and Uchechi has kindly taken over leading yoga!  

-In late 2017 we applied for funding with the Berkley Center for Greater Good to launch our Parents Investing in Compassionate Children (PICK) program, but the competition was steep and our incredible Virginia-based team was not selected for the award.  Major thanks to all of those who supported us during that process. 




What's on for 2018?

-Co-founders, Erin and Brittany, reunited in the magical land of Bali in April for the Bali Spirit Fest, where Brittany rocked children's programs and we caught up with fellow entrepreneurial pals like Nuts & Bolts PPT Speed Training, Rani Maree Rapid Transformational Therapy and Secret Sunrise Bali. Both she-bosses are pursuing additional education and embodied projects.

-We are finishing up our 10-month Teacher Self-Care program at The Langley School and will now be offering the curriculum as a 10-WEEK program.

-Erin continues to teach and write curriculum for the University of Virginia's Contemplative Sciences Center and Career Services Center, including programs to engage fraternities in Mindful Communication and frameworks for the Alternative Career Search.

-Co-Founder, Alyssa Farrelly is brushing up her business skills with a forthcoming MBA program, and we hope to see her on this side of the world a bit more! 


Get Involved.

-Practice YOGA with ErIn!  Proceeds benefit programs like our Mindful Minis after school program at Clark Elementary in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

-Read our BLOG.

-Invite us to your school or company to offer a Lunch n Learn, Workshop, Retreat or 8-Week Mindfulness Program. What's our process?  CLICK HERE

-JOIN US for Tea on Sundays, Restorative Yoga, Art + Mindfulness and Meditation programs at The Yellow Door in Charlottesville. 


Mindful Coffee with Wellnessprenuer


“I work with people who share my perspective, or are complimentary to it. — Erin


I like my coffee___________________.

I like my coffee to be tea.  ;) 

What do you have for breakfast on the good days? 

Depends on the time of year.  When it's cold, I have eggs/omelettes and fully loaded nut milks with collagen, spices, and oils/ghee.  When it's warmer out, I go for juices and smoothies. 

What is the best piece of advise you were given when you started your practice ?

To make space for it every day, to make it my priority, and all other aspects of life would fall into place.  I have found this to be true, and also to represent the idea of putting my self-care first, before the wants of others. 

 What is your secret to peace of mind and clarity when it comes to work? 

Work with people who share my perspective, or are complimentary to it.  The friction only grows, so I don't jump into situations where I "hope it will work out," I wait for flow and ease of communication, and presence.  I also take lots of breaks and incorporate fun into the day via movement, tea, healthy food, and meditation. I do the heavy lifting in the mornings (writing, thinking, planning), and try to schedule meetings and more social things in the afternoons, when I could use the energetic support. 

What is your favorite tool/ app/software/tip/blog to help you manage or grow your business?

I really like analytics, so I appreciate Google, Facebook, MailChimp and Squarespace analytics...I love looking for themes for how to enhance engagement.  

I believe that__________________.

Reminds me of a country song that has been on the radio a lot here in Virginia (I love country music)... god is great, beer is good and people are crazy.  We could unpack that, I don't even drink beer...but I like the sentiment. 

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Do you have a favorite quote?

Favorite, no...quotes strike me at different times in my life, but here are a few that have resonated for a while:

-Never give up, always let go.-Roshan Guru (my yoga teacher)

-Take your broken heart, make it into art. -Carrie Fischer

-The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you, don't go back to sleep. -Rumi


Hi, my name is Erin Henshaw and I help people who suffer from anxiety, depression, loneliness and disconnection with breath, movement, and mindset programs, so they can feel like themselves. 


I’m based in the Washington DC/Charlottesville, Virginia area of the United States. (The Mind Body Project started in Beijing, China.) 

You are most likely going to find me at, @themindbodycrew, or personally @mightyelh.


Wellnesspreneur is a digital platform dedicated to helping health and wellness entrepreneurs grow their business with more confidence and clarity. Each month, Mindful Coffee features an inspiring wellnesspreneur from somewhere around the globe, a brief Q&A on mindset and happiness while running their practice. 

Finding Our Feet: Mindful Walking, Running and Hiking for Personal Transformation


I’ve grown accustomed to ignoring sensations in my feet.  I played lots of sports growing up, and foot pain was always part of the equation.  My (half-hearted) attempts at physical therapy didn’t provide much relief, and I opted to mostly ignore my body and smash my sore feet into soccer cleats, high tops and running shoes.

Freshman year of high school, I went to a dance and woke up the next morning hardly able to hobble out of bed due to pain around my big toes.  I distinctly remember putting on basketball shoes and doing my best to make it up and down the court, but I couldn’t.  I learned from a podiatrist that I had bunions (not a growth, but a outward rotation of the ball of the foot that turns the big toe inward towards the smaller toes) and he assured me that because of my age, removing the bunions via surgery would be the most quick and effective way to fix the problem. Although surgery changed the location of the pain, it never went away, and I spent ten more years pushing through foot pain.

This disregard for listening to the messages of my body finally changed when I began to practice yoga.  After ten years of trying to pretend my feet weren’t connected to the rest of my body, I began to accept and allow the pain and listen to the sensations.  Traditional Chinese Medicine even taught me that the feet are a map for the entire body, which really struck a chord. As I invited curiosity and awareness into my movement routine, I noticed that my feet began to relax, release and eventually re-program themselves towards lightness and pleasant sensation. I also learned that ignoring my feet for so many years was like ignoring my super power to feel grounded and connected to myself and the world. 

My relationship with my feet is certainly one of the reasons that Mindful Walking practices didn’t initially feature in my personal mindfulness routine, and I still have the habit of excluding mindful walking from my practice. There are, however, various occasions over the years where I have been drawn towards teaching or participating in walking meditation, and the power of the experience has been truly touching. I have found that mindful walking appeals to all ages and activity levels, and appreciate being reminded that sometimes the simplest practices are the most transformational.


During one meditation program at The Yellow Door, an experienced through-hiker named Greg came to practice. He had recently crushed the Pacific Crest Trail, and was looking for his next challenge.  Our meditation teacher, Dana Wheeles, introduced various playful meditation techniques, including mindful walking.  In her class, Dana instructed us to feel each part of the sole of the foot as it hit the ground and to let the energy of the room guide our paths; standing, moving and feeling into the entire sensation of the body.  

After the session, Greg approached me and said the practice blew his mind.  Although he had walked thousands of miles with those same feet, he had just experienced them in a completely new way, full of awareness, presence and sensation.  I’ll always remember him leaving the studio with a big grin on his face and the look like, “hey feet, nice to meet you!” 


My step-mom, Ruth, is an avid walker.  She usually walks her dogs or my dad, and uses this time to clear her mind.  On her last walk, I suggested she try Mindful Walking and the mantra, “I am here.”  Her response was magical.  

Upon return from the walk, she explained that despite the pulling from the dog, she was able to concentrate on mindful walking for fifteen minutes.  After that time, she found a clearing in the path that opened to a patch of sun.  Unlike any other time she can remember, she said it was if her eyes automatically half closed and uplifted towards the light.  For a few minutes, she lingered in a state of warm connectedness, as if the entire world around her melted into an ambiguous hazy bliss. 

Then, the dog pulled and she continued back home. 


My friend Jen is a super runner.  She bikes and scales mountains all over the world like a billy goat.  She also, admittedly, likes to complain about body pain and ultra-endurance mishaps; an endearing form of self-deprecation for a woman who embodies resilience. During one intense race in the Hong Kong Mountains, Jen wasn’t able to poke fun at her body, because the conditions were so intensely brutal that it was all she could do to finish.  As if naturally, she created a “One foot in front of the other” mantra in her mind, and focused solely on the movement of her feet for the duration of the challenge. 

To her surprise, the pain and anguish during one of the hardest races in her life melted away.  Without the luxury of negative self-talk, she immersed herself fully in the image of strength, the only mindset that would allow her to finish.  Although the race was physically one of the toughest of her life, it was a mental breakthrough. 

For myself, one of my most transformational long-distance runs came when I approached it in a mindful way.  During one half-marathon, I was working on decreasing stride length by increasing cadence, and did so by quickly repeating the mantra, “down, down” in my head during practice.  I didn’t know the exact beats per minute, but every time I said down, my right foot needed to hit the ground.  I did this for over thirteen miles, and seldom did another thought enter my head.  

Not only did I end the race with a mental clarity and physical lightness that I have seldom experienced, by my final kick literally felt like gliding through the air.  For the last mile, I didn’t feel my legs, only the “Down, down” of each foot, as if my body gave in to a higher energy and propelled me to the finish. To be honest, I don’t practice this technique much anymore, but I think I have internalized short, quick, steps as part of my mindful long-distance running technique. 

Mindful Walking can be a moving meditation all of us, and it’s hard precisely because it’s so easy. 

Instructions for Mindful Walking:

  1. Set an intention for your feet.  We like: I am, here.  Each time the right foot hits the ground, say to yourself: I am.  When the left foot hits the ground: here.  
  2. When your mind wanders, bring it back to your intention.
  3. Take small steps.
  4. To begin, it may be helpful to set a timed goal for yourself.  Start with something that seems easily achievable. Here’s a 10-minute Walking Meditation and infographic from
  5. After you finish, give yourself a few minutes of stillness in the body to absorb the experience.
  6. Another option: If repeating an intention doesn’t feel right, your anchor can be noticing the sensation of your feet hitting the ground. 

A word on the science:

Mindful Walking is one of the skills taught in a traditional 8-Week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. Research has shown that MBSR programs enhance physical and psychological well-being in individuals experiencing physical and mental illness and amongst healthy but stressed individuals. Click HERE for more evidence.

Mindful Walking is a type of moving meditation where an intention or “anchor” is used to bring the wandering mind back to the present moment. Choosing an anchor helps calm the mind, and bring the nervous system into balance.  Scientific American explains that, during mindfulness meditation, the grey matter in the amygdala (our brain’s ‘fight or flight' response center) actually shrinks, while the prefrontal cortex (higher brain function, like concentration and decision-making) actually thickens. Additionally, the relationship between these areas of the brain change so that primal responses to stress are gradually replaced with more thoughtful spaces between stimulus and response. Click HERE for an Elephant Journal article about other possible anchors. 

About the author:



Erin Lee Henshaw is the Co-Founder and Mindful Facilitator of The Mind Body Project, mindfulness for institutions.  Her company runs mindfulness programs for schools, companies and communities in the US and China to enhance focus, resilience and science-backed happiness.  Erin specializes in teaching trauma-informed Hatha yoga, elementary mindfulness and breath work and is developing curriculum for Teacher Self-Care and Mindful Parenting.  She is a tea and bike lover, entrepreneur and avid believer in experiential education. 


Altered Traits; Letting go with Meditation


By Erin Henshaw

Last month in San Francisco, I had the incredible opportunity to see some of people and places that have most influenced my mindfulness journey.  I had tea over-looking oceanside cliffs at Land’s End with fellow tea-venturer, Jody Beavers, of Tap Twice Tea.  I met a few of the amazing people behind Google’s Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, and I got to see Dacher Keltner open a talk at the Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley for Richie Davidson’s newest book, Altered Traits

Altered Traits discusses updated research on the science of meditation, and illuminates the path towards helping individuals change personality traits.  I’d like to review Richie’s presentation in regards to the experience of letting go because I found it inspirational and perspective-shifting. Richie opened his presentation with the quote,

“After becomes the new default.”

This is the prescription for altering traits.  Basically, this means that whatever previously happened in our lives becomes our subconscious baseline for comparison, and sticks. It is important to understand this subconscious mechanism of the brain because although altering personality is quite difficult, understanding the process of creating traits creates a path towards developing long-lasting change. 

So, how can we make sure we aren’t hard-wired to continue in the present as we have in the past?

Keep intentionally letting go. 

Richie explained that neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to change neural pathways throughout our lifetime) happens wittingly or unwittingly, so we might as well be intentional about letting go of rumination and expectations.  We can elect to show up to the only thing we can affect: the present moment. By focusing on an anchor in the present moment, meditation helps us practice the process of continually letting go. 

He elaborated that the best meditation is the one that you do every day!  It takes about 1500-2000 hours of meditation (roughly five years of daily practice) to see evidence of generalizability.  Or more simply, nearly all people who meditate for over five years will begin to see similar benefits, such as enhanced receptivity, emotional regulation and ability to stay in the present moment. 

I deeply resonated with the closing message that personal mental hygiene is now an urgent social and public health need.  Well-being is a skill that has not been traditionally taught in Western society, and that needs to change.  

We put ourselves on the cushion to change our lives.” -Richard Davidson

Other tidbits of note:
-Many brains progress faster or slower than our nominal age, and that meditators brains function like younger brains.  The practice also slows down the aging process.  Meditators also have open sensory channels for pain, and thus recover more rapidly.  

-Meditation does not always lower the heart rate, it has been shown to raise during compassion practices. (Additionally, the insula, a key communicator between body and brain, activates during these practices.)

-Pro-social tendencies are a fundamental feature of the mind, and are enhanced with meditation. See: Social Baseline Theory.

Fellow Squirrel Erin Henshaw: Why I believe in The Mind Body Project

My On-Paper Story:
My name is Erin Lee Henshaw and I grew up in Vienna, Virginia.  From a young age I was a creator, running my first business in 3rd grade out of my parent’s basement. I excelled in sports and in the classroom.  I went to the University of Virginia (UVA), where I studied Spanish and Sociology and worked at the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer immediately after college.  After nearly three years of working in DC, I moved to Beijing, where I became a freelance start-up consultant and created my own company, The Mind Body Project (TMBP), to bring balanced health programs to expats. After five years in China, I returned home to the US, was introduced to the concept of mindfulness, and began incubating TMBP at the UVA iLab to adapt our China programs to the US market. I run a wellness studio in Belmont called The Yellow Door and work as a freelance consultant for marketing and corporate training programs.

My REAL story:
My real story is that my name is Erin Lee Henshaw and from a young age I liked to push myself mentally and physically.  I liked to please adults, and I liked to feel like a leader. When I wasn’t good at something, I pushed tirelessly to become perfect at it, or walked away. My first brush with severe anxiety came when I arrived at UVA and noticed that I had to pee all the time.  I got checked out at the doctor, and nothing seemed to be wrong.  I went to counseling, and they told me to take fish oil and read a book called “Feeling Good.”  I did.  I found it dry, and I didn’t do the exercises.  I gained 20 pounds, and began to drink a lot of beer to numb how uncomfortable I felt around so many new people.

By my third year I wasn’t sleeping, so I went on sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medication. I had my first panic attack on the airplane on my way to study abroad in Spain, but it took me seven more years to learn about panic disorders, attachment disorders and trauma.

My first weeks at the Avon Walk, I would walk home after a 10-hour day and think about how my parents both had the same jobs since college and say to myself, “This cannot be the rest of my life.” Sitting in an office felt like prison. I had always loved languages and was intrigued by US-China relations, so I decided that I would move to China, teach English, and figure out how to change jobs when I got there.  I had the most intense nightmares of my life when I arrived in Tangshan, China, but went off my medications cold turkey, and decided that if I survived moving to a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language, I could basically do anything, and maybe my fear would go away.

It didn’t.  By the end of my time in China I was working 7 days a week at a start-up, having nightly panic attacks and flashbacks to my childhood.  Something had to give.  I quit my job, took a mental health holiday in Australia and wrote in my journal, “I give up.”  It was the most relief I had ever felt.  Knowing what I know now, I would have written,  “I’m letting go,” but at the time I didn’t realize the difference.

There are a textbook amount of factors that led me to nightly panic attacks in China, but I will say this; throughout my years in therapy, reaching out to friends and my own reading, no one told me about basic brain science, and how I could develop control over my emotions with breath, movement and intention.  My “Feeling Good,” Cognitive Behavioral Therapy book told me how to change my thoughts, but what I really needed was a mind body tool that integrated what I was thinking AND feeling in my body.

I found that tool in yoga and neuroscience.  When I went to Hatha yoga in Beijing and Australia, I started to pay attention to my thoughts and feelings, and even though they were mostly out of control, sometimes, in final relaxation, I was able to find relief.

· When I learned about Dan Siegal’s hand as a brain model and how our thoughts can be hijacked by our memories and emotions, I got it.  We can use breath and movement to keep our frontal lobes “online”, and access our higher wisdom.

· Reading that Buddhist monk Matthieu Richard’s brain had be scientifically proven to be “happy and healthy,” I believed that if my brain could be broken, it could also be healed.  

Einstein was right, “You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it…” but he didn’t mention just how much sleep, time, discomfort, practice, patience and community it takes to re-wire our brains!

I started The Mind Body Project so that humans in a high pressure world of expectations, with real families and real life challenges know that there is relief, and it comes in the form of accessing the wisdom of our bodies. If we are compassionately guided through learning how to listen, we can heal. In fact, we can use these tools to move from not only surviving but, to thriving.

A short while ago, I received an email from UVA Career Services Center entitled, “Yoga + Strategic Planning.”  It was from a woman named Jenn Harvey, who wanted TMBP to run a mindfulness program for her team at UVA.  After struggling to find my place in Charlottesville, it was a true blessing to been seen by Jenn and her team.  A few weeks after, I received another email from Becky at Mindful Mornings, and (pushing through fear and trepidation), I decided it was time to tell my story.

It’s an honor to be surrounded by women, companies, and people who allow me to share mindfulness tools that have lead me to believe that “I don’t have ducks; they aren’t in a row. I have squirrels at a rave; and I’m ok with that on most days.”




LIVE mindful movements video

with Co-Founder, Erin Henshaw

Sarah Kenny at The Yellow Door

The world can be a small, magical and circular place. Co-founder, Erin Henshaw, met Sarah Kenny when she was six years old attending craft classes at Michael's Arts and Crafts in Vienna, VA. Fifteen years later, they were reunited at the University of Virginia over yoga and mental health awareness. Sarah has spent time with The Mind Body Project at The Yellow Door, taking a pro-active approach to her own self care. Who knows, maybe she'll introduce crafting for stress relief in her next big role as Student Council President.

Here is Sarah's piece for a UVA blog on mental health,

If you’re reading this, be gentle with yourself…

After a panic attack earlier this school year, I took a session at a mindfulness yoga studio to develop some coping mechanisms to deal with my anxiety. The instructor asked me to come up with a mantra that I could leverage in moments of stress to bring me back to a state of calm and control. I settled on a quote from my favorite poem, Desiderata, by Max Ehrmann. The line I selected is bolded in the stanza below:

Beyond a wholesome discipline,

Be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,

No less than the trees and the stars;

You have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,

no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

This verse alleviates the stresses of my day-to-day reality by refocusing the scope of my concerns, reminding me of the incomprehensibly grand, global reality in which each of us exists. In the time that countless worries come and go, trees remain rooted in the earth, and stars rise on the horizon each evening. Moreover, this verse paints the universe as a friendly spirit that nurtures each vulnerable, valuable creature with equal concern and benevolence.  

Amidst the seemingly constant commotion of life at UVA; amidst the competition and the tendency to fall into comparisons, do take the time and the space to be gentle with yourself.  If not you, then who?

-Sarah K., University of Virginia

Week 3: Logan's Final Reflection; Tea Time!


The body is a dynamic machine, in constant motion. Sometimes imperceptible and sometimes large, every muscle twitch and breath generates heat and releases energy. To replenish this lost energy, we take in food and drink and rebuild ourselves throughout the day. Sometimes, however, we aren’t too cognizant of what we put into our bodies. In an age of instant gratification and persistent interaction, it is easy to slip into a routine of negligence wherein we fail to offer ourselves the nutrients we truly need to repair.

This is especially apparent in my dealings with coffee, that sweet blend of energy in a cup. It’s quick and cheap, easy to procure and easy to down. Most importantly, it works in waking me up and priming me for the day; for a time, at least. After its stimulant effects have worn off, I am immediately overcome by a sluggishness and lethargy even greater than before I drank the coffee. At this point, that old adage made sense to me: you are what you eat. Or drink.

The first day I got up at six in the morning to do yoga, I thought I was going to fall asleep on the way to the studio. I was never up that early, and if I was I certainly had coffee with me. But that morning, I was introduced to tea. An herbal tonic, more precisely, but the point is that it was not coffee, and that was what I needed.

The morning was already warm, and the thought of hot tea was not exactly appealing. But it was an experience, and I wasn’t one to shy away from it. From the first sip, I felt open and in-tune with my body. It was warm, sure, but so was my body. Instead of going for a glass of ice water, I listened to my body and followed its instructions. Besides being perfectly blended, the tonic didn’t leave me with all the nasty side effects of coffee; I was awake and open, and stayed that way.

Today, I believe tea before yoga is a necessity. Tea time is a social experience, an intimate connection with strangers, friends, community members. It’s a chance to open up and both teach and learn.  It’s refreshing, but more importantly it is priming. It prepares you to move and stretch, releasing excess heat and energy on the mat. It puts you in a mindset of connection with your body; instead of drinking coffee to force yourself into whiplash of alertness, drinking tea respects your state of being and encourages you to transcend to wherever it is you want to be, just as does yoga.

My run-in with tea was more than just a change in beverage preferences. It taught me to focus on the messages my body was sending me, and to respect them. Beyond gastronomy, this has helped me to interact more completely and openly with others and to slow down, to breathe.

Downward dog, drinking tea, listening to others—it’s all yoga.

Click HERE to attend our next Japanese Tea Ceremony, June 11 at The Yellow Door.

Lee Kussman on C'Ville Yoga Brunch

"Here's my yoga is amazing and everyone should do it story..." -Lee Kussman

I'm what most people call "accident-prone." I've always been considered kind of a klutz and it's not uncommon for me to have some sort of random injury. This never gave me too much trouble until August 2014 when I had a bad horseback riding fall and dislocated my SI joint (basically where your pelvis rests on your spine for those of us less than proficient in human anatomy).

After that trauma, I spent literally years in constant pain, feeling more and more completely hopeless to ever be able to live a pain-free existence and desperately searching to find some way to improve my condition. I tried physical therapy, multiple doctors and x-rays, home remedies, and even considered surgery (and at my lowest points, complete amputation. You can live without a pelvis and lower back, right?) Nothing seemed to help me enough to feeling close to normal functioning. I had thought about trying yoga and had heard of some of the physical benefits, but I had taken a few classes before that were WAY out of my comfort zone. I am possibly the least flexible person you'll ever meet, so that really scared me away.

That is, until I met Erin through a mutual friend and learned more about The Yellow Door/Mind Body Project. She told me that the work she and her colleagues do is catered to helping people feeling more connected and at ease in their bodies through mindfulness and "go at your own pace" yoga. I immediately knew I wanted to try it and decided to go to one of The Mind Body Project's Yoga Brunches with The Juice Laundry (Second Sundays at The Yellow Door in Charlottesville, VA. Coming soon to Richmond + DC.) Everyone was incredibly kind and receptive to my individual physical needs and experience, and the beginner yoga class that Shawn taught was amazing on a physical, spiritual, emotional, and even molecular level. But the best part? Almost immediately after the class I noticed that my SI pain and discomfort felt more alleviated than it had since before my accident. Just one session with The Mind Body Project turned me from someone crying in pain and unable to fall asleep due to a chronic injury into a happy, healthy, fully functional human being. And still, a month after the class, I am virtually pain free. I literally can't say enough good things about my experience and I can't wait to see what more The Mind Body Project will do in my life!

Week 2: A Mantra for Logan

In yoga, a mantra is something that you repeat to yourself as you center yourself and focus on your breath. It’s a message of love or hope; it keeps you grounded with the world around you while allowing you to focus within yourself. Breathing in, you connect with your inner self; breathing out, you connect with the world around you. For example, on breathing in you may think I am strong, and on breathing out you may think I am grateful. This reminds you that you are a singular being, but that you are also intimately connected with the universe outside.

This seems like a novel activity that only has its place on the yoga mat. But in reality, we use mantras every day. Those constant thoughts that permeate our daily existence and dictate our action, those are all mantras. They can be healing and bright. They can ground us and keep us humble. Sometimes, however, they’re not always as positive as we might like.

Last week, I shared that I have long suffered from persistent anxiety and self-doubt. It therefore takes no stretch of the imagination to believe that my daily mantra was far from uplifting. In fact, I was beating myself up daily for every little mistake I made, internally repeating to myself I am not loved, I could not be loved. For years, this daily mantra of self-hate weighed upon me, trapping me within myself. I felt withdrawn and isolated, alone with a self that made me uncomfortable.

But, just as Erin says, we practice on the mat what we hope to do in real life. On the mat, we reflect within ourselves and learn to find our center, keeping our breath calm and conscience grounded before moving. Breath before motion. While we do this, we repeat to ourselves a mantra, but one of self-love and positivity, one that rebuilds us and leaves us feeling replenished, wholesome. The mantras of yoga connect us with one another, not make us feel alone or withdrawn.

Taking that time to reflect on the mat has given me the opportunity to face what I’ve always feared most—myself. And just as Erin says, I use that opportunity to practice my mantra on the mat as well as in real life. I’ve turned towards opening myself up to other people, sharing with them who I am and allowing them to share with me who they are. Slowly, I’ve begun to feel myself become lighter. After only a week of yoga with the Mind Body Project, I’ve become more conscious, more present. Most importantly, I’ve become more open.

Through the healing that yoga has offered me, I’ve begun to chant a new mantra in my head, not only in the studio but whenever I find myself tensing up or closing off. When I breathe in, I say to myself I am loved. And then I breathe out.

I love.

Evolution testimonial: Intern Logan Brich

The Mind Body Project Crew was fortunate enough to spend this summer in the iLab with Logan Brich.  Immediately apparent to us was Logan's work ethic, passion and interest in self-reflection and growth. After the incubator, we asked him to join our team for assistance with the website and promotion, and were touched by his weekly reflections on breathing, moving and evolving with us.  Here's the first edition:


Week 1 – The Beginning

Allow me to preface this by stating first and foremost that I am not a yogi, or at least I don’t see myself as one. It’s not so much that I choose not to be, but rather that I never saw the possibility of myself becoming one. In fact, I quite admire the lifestyle of grounded-ness and light, the openness to what was and what is and what will be. Bending and twisting into impossible shapes, the meditative Sanskrit mantras echoing brass singing-bowl tones, feeling the energy flow through my body and core–it all intrigues me. But that connectedness and love has always seemed beyond me, unattainable.

No longer. This is my transformation and my journey towards a better mind and body, and I’m thankful to you for joining me. 

A bit about me, my name is Logan Brich and I am a rising second year at the University of Virginia (go Hoos!) studying Human Biology. I’m currently working for a biotechnology startup in Charlottesville, and through this enterprise I have access to the UVA Darden Business School Innovation Lab. This is where I met The Mind-Body Project team, and from the moment we interacted I felt the genuineness and love that each of the members had to offer. That’s what got me interested in joining them on my journey. 

For most of my life, I have struggled both physically and mentally. Old neck and back injuries from football continue to present as issues, making it difficult to relax and even sit for a prolonged period in certain positions. Because of this, I can feel my shoulders slouching forward, my back arching, and my chest closing, even when I am simply sitting still. When I stretch, my bones creak and joints crack, nerve pains shoot through my legs and back; at only nineteen years of age, I feel old. These impairments aren’t just a result of my physical injuries, however, but also my mental injuries. 

Anxiety, stress, depression, and insecurity have plagued me for as long as I can remember. Persistent feelings of self-doubt have crippled my ability to interact with other people and share myself with the people I love. I’m a self-professed work-a-holic who often dedicates most of his energy to the task at hand, often at the expense of myself and others. As a result, I have pushed away people who have been close to me, and I have isolated myself when that was the exact opposite of what I needed. This, combined with those past physical insults, has caused me to become closed-off, afraid, and incomplete. 

Needless to say, attending a group yoga class for the first time was the antithesis of my being, everything that scared me. Stretching meant nerve pain, sitting still meant the eventual discomforting degradation of my posture, silent meditation meant that I had to be alone with myself. 

But the acceptance I felt from the moment I entered through the bright yellow door of the Mind-Body Project space assured me that I was safe. The open windows, casting light and breeze into the space reminded me to breathe, relax, and feel. Tea sessions before and after the movement portion allowed me to connect with community members, people with whom I would never have interacted or cared to interact before. The team and other yogis were inviting and warm, even loving, and I knew that I had begun a journey towards healing. 

Though I have only attended a few sessions of yoga at the Mind-Body Project studio, I can say that I was hooked from the beginning, and that I will continue to attend sessions for as long as I am in Charlottesville. In a way, I’ve found a home, a safe place of warmth and community, somewhere I can share with others the essence of my being. It’s because of this love and light that I’ve been able to begin this journey towards a better mind and better body, and I am truly honored to have you join me in this transformation. 




Staff Spotlight: Studio Manager, Emily Balcke

Throughout the course of my life I have been unbelievably lucky to surround myself with a family who supports me and friends who believe in me. I have worked hard to achieve that which I’ve accomplished, but I recognize the fact that this support and belief is part of what has allowed me to succeed. With a team behind me, I have been able to go out, explore the world, and enter new, different, yet equally beautiful communities. While I have nothing but great things to say about the family I was born into, I am just as proud of the family I have made for myself. I want every person to feel that they are part of a loving, supportive community, and I think that The Yellow Door is striving toward being that community.

            Upon entering, the space immediately feels warm. While it is clean and the center of the studio is necessarily empty, the light coloring on the walls and the corner filled with books and tea help give the space a homey feel. The people I have encountered in the space are just as welcoming. Everyone is there because they want to be there. No one I’ve seen come into the studio does so out of obligation or for the sole purpose of making money. Each person is a building block in the community that the space has created.

            I’ve always been a bit intimidated by yoga because I am not a very flexible person. While traveling, I started participating in group yoga sessions with friends and companions in non-judgmental environments, and found that the benefits of combined mind and body exercise could be felt by even the most inflexible among us. Upon returning to Charlottesville, I wanted to find a way to both replicate the open environments I found traveling and build upon my yoga practice. I have now taken both Healing Yoga and Beginner Yoga at The Yellow Door, and feel that I have met both of my objectives. The teachers at The Yellow Door and the clients that attend the classes have always made me feel comfortable moving in a way that works for me and making mistakes as I learn new movements. Each class I have felt challenged, but not uncomfortable. I have learned new poses and techniques, but never felt that I was going against my body. I have exited all classes feeling stronger and more relaxed than when I entered them.

            Most recently, I attended part 1 of a 3 part Introduction to Meditation series. My meditation background is in the Vipassana meditation technique Anapanasati, so I was excited to learn alternate forms that could expand upon my own practice. I found the class incredibly interesting and calming. Each technique I tried, the instructor explained the science behind what we were doing and explained that if it didn’t work for us that was ok. Participants in the class felt comfortable sharing their personal experiences with the group, making the class into a safe space to test my individual limits and speak about my experiences. I learned techniques that I have since been able to apply to my daily life, helping my focus and my sleep.

            The Yellow Door has a great variety of classes and each class I’ve taken has had a positive effect of my day, but what truly sets The Yellow Door apart from other healing studios I’ve been to is the familiar feeling of community it has given me. I came back to Charlottesville after 6.5 years away, not sure exactly what I wanted to do or what was here for me anymore, and The Yellow Door has provided a space for me to meet new people who have similar interests and views of the world. I have a chance to be part of a new family and help support others in their journeys to better understand themselves.

Founders Spotlight: The Mind Body Project

Written By: Dana Wheeles for Medium

On a hot August day, I sat down at a shaded picnic table outside of the Innovation Lab (i.Lab) at the Darden School of Business (University of Virginia) with co-founders of The Mind Body Project, Erin Lee Henshaw and Brittany Dunn. Every now and then, people dressed in suits and business attire strolled by, heading to and from the air-conditioned building, but when I met Erin, Brittany, and their team-mate, Sarah Crane, they were in full workout gear: colorful tanks and shirts, yoga pants, and shoes made for running. Curious, I asked them, “do you ever feel compelled to dress up for work here at the i.Lab?” Without missing a beat, Erin replied, “We are dressed for work — this is what we do.” After a pause, she added, “I don’t think I’ve ever worn a suit.”

Five minutes in, I was already a fan of these rebel entrepreneurs.

The Mind Body Project is one of roughly two dozen companies awarded space and support at Darden’s prestigious start-up incubator. Their mission: to deliver stress reduction programs to help companies tackle their biggest challenges. From high-intensity workouts, to yoga and mindfulness, they work with organizations and individuals to infuse a bit of calm, clarity, and happiness into daily life.

The company was founded by Erin Lee Henshaw, Alyssa Farrelly, and Brittany Dunn in Beijing in 2014. As members of the ex-patriate community there, the group saw a lack of options for both mind and body fitness. There were running groups, fitness, and body-oriented opportunities, but in general, there seemed to be a need for more holistic approaches to wellness. The Mind Body Project was born as a series of retreats designed for people to learn more about healthy habits to add to their lives — not to be fitness mavens, but to more fully enjoy their bodies in all the ways that might appeal to them. Exercise, healthy eating, meditation, tea, and other sensual delights are all integral parts of the The Mind Body Project experience.

Entrepreneurship as Ex-pats

As we talked about the group’s experiences as founders, first in Beijing, and then in the United States, I was fascinated to learn about their experiences in each culture. My first assumption was that it would be much harder to start a new company abroad, in a country and environment markedly different from that of your birth. Erin convinced me it was quite the contrary — she explained that being an ex-pat in a foreign country can actually level the playing field. Being away from your home country can prime you to connect and seek common ground more readily. And when the usual social divisions don’t matter as much anymore, people’s first instinct is to help, and to give what they can.

Now that they have brought the company to the United States, co-founder Alyssa Farrelly manages the team in Beijing, while Erin oversees their studio in Charlottesville, VA. Brittany Dunn travels in between the two offices, bringing her insight, and her high-octane workouts to both communities.

Adapting to the United States

When the team set up shop in Virginia and started participating in the incubator at Darden, they realized they needed to pivot from the retreat model that had been so successful in Beijing because the market was already saturated. In doing so, they found real value in focusing on bringing mindfulness to all kinds of institutions: to schools, to workplaces, even to prisons. They also set up a studio in Charlottesville, so that a regular schedule of classes could be taught on a weekly basis for individuals. The space is meant to be a mind body lab, where teachers can get feedback from students about what works and what can be improved, and students can develop a self-practice that can be advocated more outside of the studio, like in offices and schools.

Changing the structure of the business activity, however, didn’t faze Erin or the team. Their emphasis was on staying true to the goals of the project — that is, bring mindfulness and holistic wellness to people and institutions — and if the mode needed to adapt to new methods, then so be it. Indeed, yoga and meditation are excellent tools for finding ways to be comfortable with ambiguity, which is precisely the lesson every start-up must learn.

Effort vs Work

I couldn’t help but ask the team about burnout, which seems endemic to start-up culture. How does a wellness-focused start-up deal with the usual pressures of entrepreneurship? Brittany shared that for her, the goal is to sustain energy, which doesn’t always fit office schedules or corporate timelines. Erin commented that, even though she works long days, she feels as though she has more energy than she did before embarking on this project. “I am invested in practicing mindfulness and yoga and taking care of my body as needed,” she explained. And the great news is that the core of her business — her mindfulness practice — is the very thing that can help boost her focus and concentration.

All of the team members made an important distinction between effort and work. Each of them is passionate about the company, and they all put a lot of effort into the business each day, but it doesn’t feel draining to them. Collaborating as a team allows them to communicate their needs when necessary, and adapt to the strengths of each. Instead of pushing themselves to work hard, they follow the pull of the mission.

Tips on mindful entrepreneurship

As we wrapped up our conversation on that hot summer afternoon, I asked Erin Lee Henshaw to share with me her strategies for getting through stressful times — especially since we can’t all get to a yoga studio every day. She sent me her schedule, and the thoughts below, for all of you out there seeking peace in your hectic schedules.

1. Get up early, between 6–7am.
2. Start with a mug of warm water.
3. Ideally, take a 60–90 minute yoga class. Alternatively, meditating or doing breathwork for 20 minutes.
4. Eat breakfast.
5. Start emails early, when my brain is most sharp and my body most calm.
Throughout the day:
Mindfulness has helped me develop a calm curiosity about life. In the past, I used to think of each challenge as a struggle keeping me from my final goal. But, once I began to accept flowing in the present moment as the goal, I began to look for the lessons in every situation; either externally, what is this challenge teaching me? Or internally, how can I control my reactions and behave in a way that I am most proud in this situation?
For example, two days ago I lost my credit card and locked my keys in my car after a fun but very busy weekend. That immediately said to me, slow down and get back to your priorities (so you don’t have to spend all this time and money making up for rushed mistakes!)
I’m truly a baby yogi and meditator, so I can only imagine the power of a sustained practice.