My Story

Nothing shall be overcome. That which is not needed falls away. […] The reason that it is unwise to overcome is that overcoming is an unbalanced action creating difficulties in balancing. […] Overcoming […] creates the further environment for holding on to that which apparently has been overcome. […] It is […] a shortcut to simply […] overcome any desire. It must instead be understood and accepted.

The RA Material, Book 1

Jenn Avery, Ph.D

In addition to my commitment to physical and spiritual body arts, I am a mother, witch, professor of literatures and gender studies, and writer. I believe that running away from what scares me is only feeding my fear, so I try to sit down into difficult feelings every day.

Presence is the attribute that I cultivate most in my life because I believe that this has the most potential for joy. Professionally, my life has been very diverse, as I have many passions, skills, and knowledge sets. Check out my academic website here!

Follow your passion — that is the best advice that I ever received and it has helped me form, transform, and form again.

My Story

Trigger Warning: Stillbirth

As a personal trainer I work with the body’s trauma to help clients be brave in their bodies

Jenn Avery

I discovered a passion for exercise when I was in high school. Always the kid who sat out during gym because I was not athletic due to severe asthma through my childhood, I decided one day that I was just going to start running. I woke up at 5am and began by running up the street and back. I felt so much burning in my lungs, and would need to take my inhaler or hook up to my nebulizer afterwards. After a few months of running, I was able get my asthma under control so I could join my first school gym class — EVER! — when I was a sophomore. I went on to join cheer and track and field, doing the high hurdles.

I started to see those high hurdles as a metaphor for a human life.

In 1998 I began training and fell in love with weightlifting and step aerobics.

But I truly came to know the importance of the body when I experienced a full-term stillbirth when I was 21 years old. Up until that point, I had no limits to my body or my sense of self. However, carrying my first daughter inside of me while she was dead for four days changed my relationship with my body. Suddenly, I was incredibly terrified of my body. It, I saw, could fail me in some most devastating ways. I was forced to confront death. Over again. Constantly.

A few months after that experience I passed out after working out one day. A few days later, I passed out in the shower after working out. That began what has now been 22 years of extreme episodes of panic after fitness that involve blacking out after aura, aphasia, vomiting, numbness in my limbs and half of my face, losing control of my body, and migraine.

These, I came to know, are my panic attacks.

After these attacks began they started to increase until they reached their pinnacle between the years of 2006-2011. During these years I trained as a body builder and taught fitness classes while finishing my Ph.D. I sought out medical testing to determine if I had a heart problem or a neurological disorder.

When I learned that I was physically healthy I turned my attention to my inner life. I started doing yoga for wellness rather than for only fitness and this began my true yoga journey in 2010. I learned how to go within and see what was there, to hold myself accountable for my feelings, to use breath to navigate pain and fear, and to stand in my darkness.

This, I believe, was really when my wellness journey began. I had to deal with overtraining syndrome and adrenal fatigue that required extreme modification of my program.

Through the years, I have learned methods to manage my panic disorder. It is related to my body and the fear that I have of it. It is triggered by fitness, when I can feel my heart, my body. It is a fear that I have to confront each time that I move my body and while the fear does not really lessen, I have developed tools that I can use when I feel myself start to shrink inside. Many of these tools are about confronting death — right here, right now. I work on feeling the sensations of my body rather than running from them. It is always scary. But I have learned to be a warrior.

And I have learned that even the most muscly person can be weak. Being strong is about more than muscle. I am on a journey for true strength, and I want to support such a journey in my clients.

Funny that my panic is related to my passion. One thing I have never given up on is my passion for movement. I never stopped engaging in what I love; I just had to learn ways to honor myself while adapting new approaches to fitness. This has made me the dynamic, intuitive personal trainer that I am today.

Fear is there. I am not sure that it will ever go away. I tell my daughter, “In order to be a brave person, one needs to have fear. A person without fear can never be brave. Be brave and stand in your fear every day. Look at it. And know that it cannot control you unless you allow it to control you.”

In my practice I come from this stance on bravery. Each person comes with her/his/their own life journey, but I know that it is full of trauma and struggle and fear. The body absorbs these. As a personal trainer I work with the body’s trauma to help clients be brave in their bodies.