Check out our interview with Koa Fit trainer, Annette Bray. Scroll down to learn more about her background, her love for the outdoors, and how all of us can heal our trauma and move forward freely.
Tell us about yourself personally.
I grew up in the city of West Los Angeles with 5 siblings who I am still in close relationships with. Even though I spent my childhood in a big city environment, I took any opportunity I could to exercise my body in nature. I wove my way through the city on bike to get to the ocean or would find any greenway I could to walk or jog on. Every trip to the Sierras was an incredibly cherished event; whether it was to ski, hike or bike. I have always felt the pull of nature and how healing it is to physically engage in it.
As an adult, I have continued to pursue outdoor activities that put me right where I want to be. I have rock climbed, back-country skied, mountain biked, hiked and backpacked for 20 years. I moved to Colorado in 1997 to be close to my most cherished form of nature…the mountains. In my mid-30’s I experienced a set back with an illness that lasted over 2 years. My love and commitment to remain active and connected to nature has driven my constant growth personally and professionally. And has helped me regain my strength. I have, myself, experienced the need to tend to physical, emotional and mental health and how profoundly each one of these impacts a person’s happiness and fulfillment.
I deeply love my relationships with my friends, family and all those I engage with through my profession. And I can’t leave out my sweet little Aussie dog! I believe that connection to our community of people as well as our natural world is fundamentally at the root of our ability to thrive. And I believe that these bodies were meant to move. I can’t think of a better way to live than for us to engage in this process of movement together!
How did you start training?
I began my career in movement with a Bachelor’s of Science in Kinesiology. After 2 years of college I was seriously concerned that I would end up with a desk job and hadn’t decided firmly on my major. I loved moving my body and was curious about the nuts and bolts of how it worked. The study of exercise science popped out at me and from day 1 as a Kinesiology major, I was hooked! I worked in clinical rehab as well as corporate health which is where I started training clients. The more I continued to explore the science of human motion, the more I got excited about how it could change people’s lives.
As I worked with clients, I realized my interest was in the goal of helping people improve alignment and relieve the pain associated with poor structure. I followed the works of many talented physical therapists and researched the challenges associated with misaligned posture. After some struggle with my own health, I began to discover how profoundly physical movement could enhance an individual’s emotional state and vice-a-versa. At this time I studied yoga to become a teacher. I began to develop the philosophy (which I believe to this day) that musculoskeletal pain is associated with the body’s inability to mobilize joints and therefore whole body patterns. And the way we experience our world is reflected in the manifestation of our physical form.
What’s unique about your style of training?
I believe strongly in the ability to make changes when we are aware of our physical and emotional states of being. Along with the exercise tools, I guide people in the process of discovering how they hold themselves. In addition, I help them understand how their emotional responses effect tension and the ability to use their intrinsic strength. I provide them with the knowledge of how to realign their form and help them “feel” this so that their practiced repetition will create change beyond the workout.
I am a nurturer at heart. From this place, I exercise a ton of patience with my clients while continuing to hold them responsible for their own goals and commitments. I also have an intuitive knack for seeing what a person is capable of. With thoughtfulness I encourage my clients to pursue I higher bar for themselves to experience the personal meaning that comes from this endeavor.
How have you helped the people you have worked with?
I have seen dozens of people who believe their pain is something they have to live with because of the aging process. They have no idea that the way their body is positioned is largely responsible for the discomfort. Through this process of self-discovery, they see that the circumstances that have shifted them out of alignment can be “unwound” with specific guidance on their own physical and emotional patterns.
The result is, they see that intentional and consistent steps brings about positive change, even in the face of setbacks. They feel better physically and are empowered to realize that they can effect change within themselves. I have helped these individuals regain pain-free movement that reconnects them with the activities they love.
What’s your favorite part about training?
I love when my clients have these big moments of realization about why they feel the way they do and how subtle shifts can make them feel profoundly better. I believe that we are meant to function from the inside out in both physical and emotional capacities. When I teach someone how to create strength in this way, I do so by teaching them to truly engage with their felt sense. It’s fascinating to me that being present to feel one’s own body can make such a difference in effectively changing a pattern.
I am the professional who understands form and function, but a client doesn’t need that knowledge to make things work better. They only need the guidance to the improved way of feeling and engaging muscles. From here, their increasing awareness helps them practice the new way of being. I love that this simplicity in feeling can be paramount in getting stronger and more confident!
What are you working towards or want to accomplish next in your career?
I have been working on developing a concept which combines yoga and the science of biomechanics to create a system of movement for trauma resolution. This system is called MoYo Movement. It stands for Mobility Yoga and means heart in Swahili. I would love nothing more than to help the nature lover who has experienced trauma reconnect with their body and the outdoors. Those who have missed out on movement because of physical pain have an opportunity to release the compensating patterns and find true strength. I believe I am on my way to addressing the physical with the emotional by acknowledging that we each experience some degree of trauma in our lives that has dictated how we feel ourselves…or not.