By Alexa Wolkoff
My name is Alexa Wolkoff, and I own and teach at a local yoga studio where we practice “dying” at the end of each class by lying in Savasana “corpse pose.” I observe bodies loosen and tensions leave as students surrender and allow their bodies to release and their minds to free- I always feel the energy shift in the room. There is a Sanskrit term for “fear of death” –Abhinivesha, and it is a Klesha, or an obstacle that we need to overcome, as part of the yogic path. The idea of non-permanence is also woven into the fabric of the ancient practice of yoga.
I’ve been drawn to working with death and the dying for many years. As a practicing Psychotherapist, I’ve worked with many clients whose parents were aging and dying, as well as clients who’ve had chronic illnesses themselves- all were dealing with deep-rooted fears around death. I knew there needed to be a better way to approach death and the dying process to make it less scary, and easier to access the feelings and words for. I felt that people also needed to know that they had choices in how they wanted to die- so many felt that they would die in a hospital, in pain. The first step for me was actually using the word “dying,” and I could see how liberating that was- by just changing the language alone. Another step was to find a program to train as a Death Doula and learn more about how I could use the skills I already have to help ease suffering during the end of life, for both the dying and their families.
I’m a native New Yorker, now raising my son in Westchester, New York. I searched for many months to find a training program near me that resonated with my own spirituality. The program that I kept coming back to was the Conscious Dying Institute based in Boulder. I found their closest training to me in Ashville, NC and attended Phase 1 this winter. I don’t know how else to describe that weekend other than incredibly grounding and life-affirming. I know it may be challenging to see how a program about death could feel so life-giving, but for me it did. I met such beautiful, like-minded people, and having Tarron Estes as a teacher and a guide really solidified my way of viewing death, as a sacred phase of life that can we can enter with grace and dignity.
At the airport on my way home from Ashville I emailed Tarron and told her I wanted to find a way to bring the program to New York. I felt we needed this type of program here. My desire is to create a community around my own home that is committed to helping the dying die with integrity, support and peace.
I found the beautiful Stony Point Center about an hour north of New York City and knew it would be the perfect place to bring this training. It is not only breathtaking, but also serene and contemplative. With onsite lodging and farm to table, chef prepared meals, it is the perfect retreat to host the transformational work to be done with the Sacred Passage End of Life Doula program. Stony Point with its 32 acres in the Hudson River Valley offers the tranquility of the outdoors and the perfect space to reflect on all that you will be learning and processing. It is truly a life-changing experience that I am so honored to be able to share it with others around me. I look forward to finishing the Best Three Month practicum that I am currently working on now and share Phase 1 again, and Phase 2 of this very special program in New York. I hope you’ll join us on this journey beginning August 3rd 2018!
Alexa sees each individual as a whole- as a person with many assets, facets and resources- rather than simply focusing the difficulties that they see as preventing them from living fully. From a strengths perspective, she guides clients to find what makes them feel vital, balanced and fulfilled. Her interests and training lie in supporting individuals, families and couples through challenging life transitions and times of crisis, as well as end of life planning and care.
Alexa received both her masters and undergraduate degrees at New York University. Before pursuing her MSW and LCSW- she worked as a professional actress and taught undergraduate acting at NYU. Method acting sparked her interest in exploring the depths of the mind, and what lays beneath it- driving particular behaviors- on both a subconscious and unconscious level. Her interest in going beyond the “thinking mind" lead her to study and train for clinical work not only in mental and behavioral health but also study the more esoteric side of wellness work- yoga, meditation, hypnotherapy and Reiki. Her approach balances all of these philosophies.
With graduate and post-graduate training in family systems therapy, Alexa has learned to see things from a multi-generational perspective, believing that the major struggles with transition throughout the lifecycle are deeply affected by family history. She has been helping individuals, couples and families work through even the most challenging of life transitions for almost 20 years. She works from a strengths and systems perspective, rather than one of pathology.
Alexa’s background in mind/body and spiritual health lends itself to all of her work with clients. She believes that painful emotions and trauma are stored in the body, and need to be addressed through the whole person, not just the intellect. Through psychotherapy, stress reduction techniques, spiritual reflection and an understanding of how our bodies process trauma, anger, sadness, grief and joy- she allows her clients a safe and supportive space to explore, as well as learn how to work with the body’s own natural relaxation and healing responses.
Alexa is the founder and director of Yoga Sol , a unique inclusive yoga studio for all ages, abilities and levels of practice.