Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Lauren Leiva.
Dr. Leiva, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
My love for fitness started as soon as I could balance. My father’s roots were very strong in the athletic world. He was born in Romania and moved to Israel, where he was a soldier in the Israeli Army. In addition, he was a gymnast, a soccer player, a boxer, and a swimmer! So, it became natural for him to constantly challenge and encourage me with calisthenics and ingrained the same devotion in being active. I found my passion in the ice-skating world at the age of three. I was competing until the age of 13 when family, life, and other factors impaired my ability to participate. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s and rheumatoid arthritis. The world that I knew was swept up from under me. Moving my body was always my outlet, so this was discouraging, to say the least.
When my physical practice was on hold, my mental practice took the driver’s seat. I became very spiritual through my mother’s influence. I grew up in a spiritual Temple, and I have always enjoyed drumming circles, Reiki, singing bowls, and meditation. Going back and forth between my mental and physical practice, I eventually found that special balance that can never be taken away from me.
I met my husband right before starting out at USF honors college with a double major in Biomedical Physical and Biomedical Sciences at Nova Southeastern University. During my education, I became pregnant and my Crohn’s flared up. On top of this, my mother experienced a stroke, lung cancer, CHF, pneumonia, hip surgeries, and more!!!! Needless to say, I had to take a medical leave to attend to my health and family. I was on bed rest for almost four years. My son also required therapy almost 6 hours per week as an outpatient and every couple of hours with his home program. I saw how physical therapy changed him, mind and body. Not just muscles but the nerves and his entire being. Proprioception, balance, strength, milestones and more!?!? I wanted to impact people’s lives without prescription and surgery. I fell in love and became a believer in physical therapy. It was during this time that I decided to become a yoga instructor, personal trainer, and nutritionist. I saw how short life is and wanted to help people immediately. So, I found the best certifications from the National Academy of Sports Medicine and YogaFit.
My second pregnancy was a true miracle but left me with another medical leave and hospitalized for nine months. You can learn more about this and my healing process on my 10 News in Tampa Bay interview. After this, I had enough. I told myself that the time is now and this was the last hospitalization. Ultimately, it was the encouragement from mom, dad, and mentors to take this newfound passion and change my major to Physical Therapy and complete my doctorate. It took a lot of hard work, but I’m so incredibly proud that I did.
Although some people may perceive my illness as a disability, I don’t feel that way. I always feel blessed to have the history I had, or I would not be where I am today. Although I was knocked down, I stood up and faced the fork in the road. I now take more time than ever to stop and smell the roses. Grateful for every moment and sacrifices made for my children and family. I am meant to be where I am. Here, helping others… possibly you. I do what I love. I practice what I preach. I am a friend. A motivator. A wife. A mother. A human being. I opened my center in Wesley Chapel in a dedication to my mother as she passed away almost two years ago, and she always wanted me to have my own place of healing. I know she is above watching proudly.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I opened my business as a mobile training facility and shifted into physical therapy. Based out of country clubs and home care, I always wanted my own center. When my mother passed suddenly, through my grief, I was able to shift my mindset into opening my center in her honor. It is a place of healing for both my clients and myself everyday when I walk in and few Her spirit smiling with happiness that I’m doing what I love and an entrepreneur just like her.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
What sets me apart from others is that I have an empathetic state of being, and through a yogic lifestyle, I communicate verbally and nonverbally, always giving my patients what they need even if they may not want to vocalize it. Through my spiritual practice in meditation, yoga, trauma-sensitive therapy, and so much more, I have learned ways to not only recognize the moment when my own energy gets shifted, whether it’s due to an injury or compensation in my body that will lead to pain or an emotional ignition that leads to depression or anxiety. Learning how to bring that awareness inward and catch those very moments when something is off is a gift. You prevent injury before it starts, learn how to use tour breathe to truly heal.
Your body, as well as, for me, become a healer yourself. I think we all have it in us- it just takes the passion and will. When I am with my patients, I feel their energy, their pain and their triumphs. This is what makes my center unique because every single person gets a unique approach because we all have different histories, backgrounds and therefore function levels and injuries.
Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
Every trainer needs a trainer. I have said this to my clients that are trainers, and I have been told this. I am all about lifelong learning and finding a mentor, a good mentor is one of the biggest gifts life can give you. I have been blessed to find numerous mentors along the way. And you don’t have to have just one, and you don’t have to take every single piece of advice. You take what you want and leave the rest behind based on what pertains to your life and business. I have found mentors in teachers, yoga retreats, and then those I have specifically sought after, like Garrett from Neufit. I learned about the technology from his facility, and I wanted to know more. I enrolled in his class and did whatever he basically said to dive deeper into becoming a better practitioner because I respected his knowledge and background. There is no one right way. But I can say there are bad mentors, so trust your gut. Don’t ever allow any boss, teacher or “mentor” guide you down an uncomfortable path because we all truly know when something is not right. Finding our true path and success is weeding through the sh*t. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. It’s blood, sweat, and tears with lots of support.
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