First introduced to a national audience by Oprah Winfrey, Iyanla Vanzant’s mission is to help women realize they are not victims, that they have the power to create a better life for themselves. Born into poverty, motherless at three, abused at nine and a single mom by age 16, Vanzant committed herself to changing her destiny. Now she’s a spiritual guru whose words of wisdom empower countless women to push past the pain of whatever is holding them back from love and a more fulfilling life.
Below, Iyanla shares her insight into confronting life’s challenges and reveals her daily strategies to stay “unstuck” from pain and anger.
On the relationship between physical and emotional pain:
“Millions of women … live through emotional pain at the physical level. Because so very often what happens in our mind and our hearts manifests in our body as illness.”
“So often, we don't take time to pause and [consider]: Okay, what am I thinking? What am I speaking? What am I not speaking? What am I doing? And that energy builds up inside of us, and we act it out in a myriad of ways, whether it's overeating, over-spending, over-drinking. … I want to give people the opportunity to empower themselves by making another choice, because if staying at your mother-in-law's house gives you indigestion, don't stay there. Go stay somewhere else! If your job gives you stress, did you update your resume? We are so powerful. … If we could take the physical power that we are and unite it with the spiritual and emotional power that we are, our lives would just be so incredibly different.”
On the root of pain:
“There are three primary reasons that cause people emotional pain. One is the fear of not being loved, or losing love. [The second is] the fear of not being seen, heard and valued. [Third is] the fear of speaking our authentic voice. When we think we're going to lose love or we're going to not receive love, it creates an energy within us that then begins to depress the mind, the spirit and the body.”
On dealing with grief:
“[After losing my daughter to cancer] I lost my mind. I was crazy … and I gave myself permission to be crazy. Very often women think that they have to take care of everybody else other than themselves. … Somebody fed me, somebody washed my clothes, somebody took care of me. … Part of being healthy is being able and willing to ask for help and allow people to support you.”
On getting unstuck from your issues:
“Feel, deal, heal! … We've got to be willing to feel our feelings. Don't be afraid of them. Feel the anger so that it doesn't become an ulcer. Feel the shame so it doesn't become a drinking problem. Feel the guilt. … Give yourself permission to be present with the emotion of feeling the energy in your body.
“Then deal with it. Do something about what you're feeling. My drug of choice was guilt. … And one of my teachers said to me, “When you have a toxic emotion, drop your hands to your side and invite it to come forward.
“Drop your hands. ... Take a breath and think about something that really brings you sadness and invite the negative emotion forward. … Go ahead and be pissed off. Just allow it to come forward and breathe through it. … If you invite it forward, and you allow yourself to be present to it, it'll pass.
“Heal the thoughts that keep the feeling present, because nothing goes on in the body that doesn't first happen in the mind. … If you can change the mind, you can change your life.”
A huge part of Iyanla’s philosophy is expressing your feelings. Give yourself the power and permission to acknowledge the pain, heartbreak and anger you feel; this is a critical part of healing and unlocking inner strength. Try the following techniques to express your pain:
- Take a 21-day challenge to journal each day. As you write down your feelings, you’ll allow yourself to be present in your pain.
- Take a weekend with a good friend, family member or by yourself to get away. Instead of being afraid of your pain, give yourself permission to feel and deal with it. Then create the way you want to heal it.
- Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT is a form of psychological “acupuncture” that combines positive affirmation with tapping of the body to help release negative emotions. Learn more about Emotional Freedom Technique.
3 Daily Habits to Stay Unstuck
Iyanla lives by these rules each day to stay happy, healthy and empowered.
Start Your Day Green
Wheatgrass is a nutrient-rich, full of iron, calcium and vitamins A, C and E. Iyanla jumpstarts her day with a 2-ounce shot of wheatgrass immediately after waking up. This routine has helped her avoid the blood sugar crash that comes with skipping breakfast and alleviated her dependence on caffeine. Dr. Oz starts his day with his Green Drink. Get the recipe.
Soak Away Your Stress
Baths are free stress relievers; let your worries dissipate into the tub. Women rarely take 20 minutes to themselves all day; use your bath time to reinforce your goals and the vision of what you want in your life.
To further unwind, infuse your bathwater with some Epsom salt. Filled with magnesium and sulfate, this secret ingredient will help to relax your muscles and blood vessels. You can also add essential oils, which have unique healing properties. Iyanla uses lavender oil for its calming effects – it can lower your heart rate and blood pressure. This Oz-approved remedy also aids with sleep. Alternatively, try chamomile oil, which helps to ease anxiety.
Five for Five
This practice is Iyanla’s way of making exercise enjoyable. The habit involves five exercises and five repetitions, every single day. Do five jumping jacks, five sit-ups, five push-ups, five deep knee bends and five lunges. With this daily routine, you can exercise while you’re watching TV!