Jessica Fowler, MNSc, APRN, PMHNP-BC, TIYT was recently named as a 2018 American Psychiatric Nurses Association Board of Directors Scholar. Jessica is one of 15 graduate students across the country to receive this honor. She was chosen due to her dedication to psychiatric nursing, service in the community, patient centered practice, and leadership in the field. This award includes a scholarship to the APNA National Conference in October, a year of free membership to APNA, and mentoring by APNA leaders throughout the year. Jessica is grateful for the opportunity to be surrounded by psychiatric nurse leaders and scholars and is excited to allow the benefits of this opportunity to enhance her practice here in NWA! Congratulations, Jessica! This was well deserved!
Since I was a kid, I remember being inundated with “Before and After” pictures as a way to sell a product. It was always a grainy, frowny before photo followed by perfectly-posed and focused after photos of elated subjects pasted on the screen of a late night infomercial or in between soap opera scenes. The current trend, of the same aim, can be seen on social media as extreme metamorphosis photo collages. This tactic is meant to convince the consumer that it is as easy as going from A to B. I am guessing that this advertising approach must get results as evidenced by its longevity and consistent use. Even when the advertiser admits, “Results may vary” or “Results not typical,” consumers gaze in awe and daydream about themselves 6 to 8 weeks from now mimicking the model’s apparent transition. The story is simple. The results are measurable in pounds, inches, and pants size.
My question is, how can we create this same awe and interest with practices that result in long term improved overall quality of life? What does "before yoga therapy" and "after yoga therapy" look like? If you look at a picture of me before starting yoga therapy and afterwards, you cannot see all of the baggage I have lost (see thumbnail picture with blog). It’s not visible: anger, sadness, grief, grudges, unhealthy habits, constant worry, and self-created strife. No one can see this change from the outside in a quick snap shot. Those who are close to me know and I know that my relationships are healthier, my reactions to stress are intentional and healthy, and my ability to experience joy in everyday life is beyond measure. I have a self-care routine that creates self-healing when times get tough and resilience in the face of crisis and unexpected change. From a long term perspective, I know that my practice is resulting in gene expression to promote longevity and boosting my immune system to protect against acute and chronic illness. I know that by reducing my stress and practicing holistic wellness, I am reducing my risk for chronic and acute physical, emotional, and mental distress and living my best possible life. But in a world that equates physical appearance with happiness and relies on a single second captured in a photo to tell an internal, lifelong story, how can I convey all of that?
The truth is, I will never be able to take a single photo of all of the “before or after yoga therapy” results. As many of us keep the pains and trials of emotional distress and dis-ease on the inside, it is not likely that anyone could ever photograph an accurate image of the complex, debilitating, physical-health-degrading nature of chronic stress. In fact, most people would agree that they work constantly to keep it hidden; so, no before pictures can truly tell that story. Likewise, I cannot tangibly capture the after picture of wholeness, peace, self-regulation, health, or well-being. At the end of the day, my goal and my mission is to model and educate about the benefits of healthy and holistic remedies to stress. This is not a marketing campaign. This is the manifestation of my vision to bring long term health and healing and vitality to individuals. With healthy people, comes healthy families, healthy communities, and a healthy world; a story worthy of several photo albums, a digital photo frame, and 4 DVD set series narrated by Sir David Attenborough. I'm here! It's possible! Let's start writing your story!
So, today was our official ribbon cutting and first meet and greet! What an amazing turn out and show of support from the Chamber of Commerce and businesses in our community. I was completely blown away by friends and family who rearranged their days to be here with me: my mom drove 3 hours to get here, stayed for the ceremony, then drove home; my best friend and her sister came up from Ft. Smith; my NWA friends and my husband took late or long lunches to be a part of the celebration. My aunt from Missouri sent me a breathtaking lily. I'm going to take great care of it, Aunt Nancy!
This is the celebration! These days are easy days! I know what I am going to do, I've gathered my friends and allies, and I've answered the call (shout out to Chrispy Bhagat Singh from Rockstar Yoga in Austin for bringing the Hero's Journey to the Awaken Yoga Festival in Fayetteville last weekend. Impeccable timing!) What led up to this day was work: the negotiating, the research, the education, the training...that rewarding and fruitful, tireless and diligent work. What's coming next is THE work: learning, connecting, building, and growing, and most of all serving...that fearless and generous, committed and energetic work.
And what exactly does that have to do with a ribbon cutting? It's just to acknowledge that not every day is a ribbon cutting. This day was easy: Texts, phone calls, hand shakes, CAKE!, special deliveries, cheers, and photographs. Tomorrow is the beginning of THE work. I don't get to have a party every day. Let's be honest - some days feel down right lonely; but, I do get to wake up every morning and feel the joy of answering the call, reaching out to friends and allies, and delivering this practice from my heart to anyone who is ready to answer their own call and cross over their own threshold into the life they desire and deserve.
My ribbon cutting speech transcript:
May 11, 2017
What does vitality mean to you? Power, sparkle, punch, zest, spirit, fire, vigor, passion, get-up-and-go, bloom, drive, endurance, spunk, strength, guts. When we find Vitality, we find abundance of strength in body, mind, and spirit. We are not just alive, but we are living fully and abundantly with joy and ease.
My name is Jessica Fowler, and I am a board certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner and trauma informed yoga therapist, and I am bringing this new venture to Northwest Arkansas to expand holistic treatment options for mental wellness and stress reduction.
My background includes over a decade of experience as a registered nurse; thousands of clinical hours as a nurse practitioner; a TIYT certification; and, I am currently pursuing my Doctorate in Nursing Practice at UAMS with a research focus in yoga and mental health. This year, I was named as a “Top 40 under 40 Nurses in Arkansas” recipient for my work with yoga and mental health.
This idea was born in 2014 when I started working as a newly licensed nurse practitioner. Working in community mental health, my patients frequently reported having tried multiple medications and years of talk therapy but they wanted more. They were looking to me for a holistic approach; something more than they had been given before. I thought back to the paragraph I read in one of my advanced psychiatric nursing text books that said yoga has a healing impact on the body and has the ability to rewire the nervous system and create a state of wellness. This was the spark that led to my personal yoga practice and snow balled into acquiring a teacher certification, advanced yoga therapy training, and doctorate level study. In short, I tried it, I researched it, I won an award for it, and now here I am to deliver it to the Northwest Arkansas Community.
This work is so meaningful to me because 2 years ago, I would not have been able to stand in front on anyone and talk about my business or my story. The work that I have personally put into my own practice has led me to overcome a debilitating social anxiety, so I am so proud to stand here today and share Vitality Yoga with you.
To be clear, I am about quality and expert services delivered with compassion and founded in integrity. I am dedicated to the health and well-being of my community. When you walk through these doors feeling stressed out, overwhelmed, at your wit’s end; whether you’ve been trying multiple treatments and providers for years or this is your first time to seek relief, be assured the reason I get out of bed every morning is to put myself out of business by guiding you back to wellness, so you no longer need me. How do you move from autopilot to intentional living? From aimless flailing to easeful productivity? How do you gain the ability to discern what is important and what is a crisis? Vitality Yoga is your bridge. My job is to teach you how to limit the impact of stress and anxiety on your body by empowering you to gain control over your own nervous system and move from a state of reaction to right action.
Vitality Yoga is nurse practitioner owned and dedicated to the art, practice, and science of yoga and holistic wellness for Every. Body. Let me serve you to FIND YOUR VITALITY, NWA
It is with a huge smile on my face and a heart filled with joy that I type this introduction post. I am honored to introduce Trauma Informed Yoga services to Northwest Arkansas. Vitality Yoga is partnering with i’mindful Studio to offer research based, expertly delivered yoga services that provide tools for coping with stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, and general dis-ease. So what does this mean and how can it help you?
First, let me introduce myself. My name is Jessica Fowler. I have been a Registered nurse since 2004 and a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner since 2014. Spending most of my career working in the mental health field, I observed that many people suffering from both long term chronic mental illness and short term reactions to major stressors or life events want something more than medication and need something in addition to talk therapy. In my own life, I discovered yoga in 2014 and quickly fell into a daily practice. Through my yoga practice, I was able to achieve a better overall quality of life, improvement in relationships with others, and improved functioning in my day to day activities. It is my goal to help you discover the same (Please read more about my credentials and experience on the About Page).
Like many people in the world today, I have many roles: I am a wife, mother, professional, yoga teacher, student (currently working on my doctorate in nursing), household co-manager, and the list goes on. I want to be the best I can be in all of these roles, but sometimes, I find myself overwhelmed, exhausted, unable to focus, irritable, and in a word: STRESSED. How am I really supposed to work for 8 hours, pay my bills, eat 3 healthy meals, spend quality time with the husband and kids, take care of 2 successful businesses, do my homework, and exercise ALL IN THE SAME DAY? Throw in some unexpected twists and turns or even major upheavals from time to time, and I am set up for an all-out melt down; however, with my yoga practice and skills and techniques learned through trauma informed yoga, I remain grounded, collected, and in a state of ease. It all gets done, and I am able approach the chaos with a sense of trust and order. Why? Because instead of reverting to the old habits such as avoidance, anger, eating for comfort, blaming others, and feeling guilty, I have replaced those reactions with healthy, intentional, right actions. My hope is to help you find the same sense of ease in your life. The above is an example of my experience with trauma informed yoga. Everyone has a different story. I would love to hear yours and talk about how trauma informed yoga can work for you. Please feel free to contact me through the Contact Page or visit our Services page to book a class. You will receive an intake packet to complete before your first visit so your service will be totally customized to your goals and needs. I look forward to meeting you!
Lastly, I am forever grateful to Jay and i’mindful for the opportunity to teach in such a beautiful space and bring this service to NWA. Thank you to my ever supportive husband, Kevin and my children, Mykenzie and Jaice, who are often times left fending for themselves while mom is tending to business or school. I’m also sending some love to my amazing colleagues including Crystal Beshears (Powered by Heart), Caschelle Smith (LifeCo), and the awesome ladies at Agape Yoga, Maggie Good and Morgan Brown, and my best friend on this planet Jo Johnson: thank you all for guidance, support, and the always welcome, “You got this!”