How CannaBama is Changing Lives

From Pills to Plants

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by Bexley McLennan

Jennifer Boozer is constantly asking herself, “How can CBD help this situation?” As the owner of CannaBama, it’s evident that she is on a mission to introduce everyone to the powers of this medicinal plant, whether they’re suffering from pain, insomnia, disease, addiction or they’re perfectly healthy. “It changed my whole life,” she says. “One capsule full of raw hemp oil paste changed my life.”

Before she heard of CBD, Boozer had a near death experience with the birth of her second son, Elijah, who lived for only five days. Her body was permanently damaged, requiring several surgeries over a 14-year span. The physical complications coupled with the grief and anger were crippling, and Boozer began self-medicating with pain pills. “Pills took the pain away, but emotionally I was a zombie and 10 years later I had no connection to my friends and family,” she recalls.

When Boozer got clean, the recovery process took several years. “I had suffered from chronic pain and migraines since I was 15 and I had insomnia since Elijah died, but I couldn’t take any medication at that point because I was in recovery,” she says.

Eventually a friend told her about cannabidiol (CBD), which is derived from hemp. It’s non-psychoactive and promotes self-healing within the body. “It seemed an awful lot like weed, which I didn’t think was an option for someone in recovery, and it was expensive because it was hard to find at the time,” Boozer says. “So I initially wrote it off thinking it sounds nice to try, but here are all these reasons I’m not going to. I was ignorant just like everybody else.”

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After hearing accounts of how CBD resolved autoimmune issues and triggered immense physical improvements in others, Boozer was ready to give it a try for herself. She had just had her third surgery since Elijah’s birth and while she was able to take pain medication without relapse, she struggled with the lingering pain and onset of withdrawal symptoms when she finished her prescription. “I was in misery at that point,” she recalls.

Within 40 minutes of taking her first dose of CBD, Boozer wanted to know why no one knew about this miraculous medicine. “Eighty percent of the pain was gone and my withdrawal symptoms stopped—all of it, and never came back.” She also slept for the first time in 14 years. After a month her hair was thicker, her nails were stronger and she stopped taking migraine medicine. She says, “I had two to five migraines a week since I was 15 and now I don’t even think about them. That alone was life-changing.”

At that point CBD was mostly available through multilevel marketing companies and Boozer wanted to get involved. When she saw that the industry was up against a stigma, lack of education and misinformation, she started envisioning a retail space. “I had this burning passion in me to help people understand. You couldn’t just pitch CBD to people online. I wanted a place that you could go if you have two questions or 200 questions and the person standing in front of you has all the answers you need,” she says.

Jennifer Boozer, Owner

Jennifer Boozer, Owner

CannaBama is that place. Starting out with just 200 square feet of retail space in the corner of former partner Pam Davis’ salon in Satsuma, Alabama, CannaBama quickly evolved into a busy business in downtown Mobile that now sees more than 300 people a day. In their beautifully refurbished building, they stock over 100 CBD products—both full spectrum and isolate (THC-free)—including oral supplements, topical products, pure CBD vape options, edibles, water, lotions, bath bombs and pet products.

Education has always been paramount to CannaBama’s mission and Boozer has been leading free classes since she started the business. She also hosts Sweet Home CannaBama, a weekly radio show on FM Talk 106.5.

“It’s so much more than explaining what it is; you need to explain what it does and you have to know how it works. And you can know everything there is to know about it but if you don’t know how to use it, you’re not going to have a good experience,” says Boozer, who notes that ineffective dosage is often the reason someone doesn’t initially get good results.

She knows that the price of CBD can be daunting so she prices her inventory below the industry average. She also donates products to a women’s addiction recovery program and others in need. “I don’t need the money more than they need the products,” says Boozer. “What are we doing it for if we can’t give it away to the people who need it most?”

Despite the rapid growth her business has experienced, she still has moments where she wonders whether Alabama is ready for her vision. 2019 has been one of the greatest years of her life, but it’s also been one of the hardest. Luckily her optimism prevails. “We haven’t even scratched the surface,” she says. “Now I’m really about to spread my wings.”

For more information, visit CannaBamaCBD.com.

Local Yoga Teachers Offer Unique Classes

BEYOND TRADITION

by Meredith Montgomery

The local yoga scene is thriving, with studios offering full schedules of wide-ranging classes all along the Gulf Coast. As teachers think outside of the box more and more, specialty classes are popping up in unconventional locations with fascinating features that cater to the unique interests of their diverse students.

For the Love of Animals

Dana and Chris Garrett, owners of Synergy Yoga & Pilates in Mobile, have brought their love for cats to the studio with Yoga for Cats, a quarterly class that brings friendly, adoptable cats and kittens to play during event. Once they learned of Project Purr Animal Rescue’s work, the studio owners wanted to help raise funds and awareness for all the felines that need loving homes. “We see many events on social media and the news supporting rescued and abandoned dogs, but very few for cats,” notes Chris. “We know the fun energy kittens can bring, and we figured if goat yoga can become popular, why not yoga with the cats?”

Alpaca Yoga

Alpaca Yoga

Yes, goat yoga is a national trend, but in Silverhill, Alabama, Humming Star Alpaca Farm hosts Alpaca Yoga. “The alpacas pair well with yoga as they foster a calm, peaceful atmosphere,” says farm owner Cheryl Bowen. “The alpacas meander around, stopping at each yogi’s mat for a bit of grain. The teacher Joy Larsen integrates the yoga practice with alpaca interaction in an amazing way.” Yoga with the alpacas is offered monthly and like Yoga for Cats, is accessible to people with all levels of yoga experience.

A Brain Boost

Kelly Laurendine, owner of Alabama Healing Arts, has researched diet and yoga for stress and anxiety for years, but recently her emphasis shifted to brain health. “I lost my father to Alzheimer’s and now my mom’s memory is in decline, so memory loss is of great concern,” she says. 

After doing extensive research on the benefits of exercise, yoga, meditation and breath practices for the brain, she created Brain Boost Yoga. This weekly class, offered on Thursday mornings, teaches 30 minutes of mindful movement and yoga, followed by a 20-minute meditation practice. “This class stimulates the brain, both rounding out the week and prepping you for the weekend,” says Laurendine, who believes that yoga can provide an amazing preventative healthcare plan.

Worship in the Studio

Pneuma is a Greek word meaning “breath of God” and, appropriately, Pneuma Yoga Studio in Daphne offers Outstretched, a donation-based community class which features yoga and devotion. “Come as you are, give what you can and be blessed by this gift of worship and yoga,” owner Kara Palmer says of the class, which is offered every Wednesday morning. Outstretched is also the name of the studio’s nonprofit, which was founded by Susan Bordenkircher, who wrote the book Yoga for Christians and produced yoga DVDs called Outstretched in Worship.

Inspired by the live worship music yoga classes at her teacher training, Palmer also offers Acoustic Gentle Yoga once a month. This candlelight class is taught to live Christian music played by Angel Thrash of 3 Circle Church. Palmer says, “This is an intimate worship experience, so come to your yoga mat ready to connect your mind, body and spirit to God.”

Live Music, Bars and Yogis

Flora-Bama Flow

Flora-Bama Flow

Orange Beach Yoga owner Jamie Robertson also enjoys having live music at her yoga classes. “So many talented musicians have moved to the area and I love to share their talent with our yoga students,” says Robertson, who invites a range of artists to accompany her classes about once a month. Most of the musicians she works with are upbeat, playing southern rock, light country and beach music. “I don’t want to stress the musicians by telling them what to play. I just ask that they start slow, peak and then end slow, and we teach a general vinyasa flow class.”

Flora-Bama Flow is another unique class offered by Orange Beach Yoga. Every Friday morning yogis practice at the Flora-Bama Ole River Grill under the large covered porch with a waterfront view. “Because we attract a lot of tourists, this is an extremely diverse class—it’s exciting to see such a wide range of fitness levels. There may be a first time yoga student right next to someone in a headstand.  I love seeing the diversity and people that are comfortable doing just what their body needs that day,” says Robertson. Attendees arrive by both land and water (sometimes on a jet ski or in a boat) and after class the bar opens for mimosas and bloody marys.

Yoga on Tap

Yoga on Tap

Yoga in bars is not a new concept for the area—Soul Shine’s Yoga on Tap at Fairhope Brewing Company is another popular class. The monthly $5 community class is taught by a rotation of teachers and followed by beer specials. “We started the events to make yoga more accessible in price and location around Fairhope. By extending the yoga community outside of the studio, more people can experience the energy you get from practicing with a large group while meeting new friends with similar interests,” says Soul Shine owner Emily Sommerville.

Some Like it Hot

Original Hot Yoga

Original Hot Yoga

If you attend Sterling Hot Yoga and Wellness’ Original Hot Yoga classes in Mobile, you’ll be practicing in a room regulated to 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity. “Our heating system was specially designed to do this because it’s very important to have proper ventilation and controls to achieve this environment,” says owner David Roberts. The heat allows muscles to stretch more deeply and more safely while the sweating helps cleanse and detox the body. Unlike most yoga classes, Original Hot Yoga (also called 26 and 2 or Bikram Hot Yoga) guides students through the same series of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises in each class. The comprehensive series helps restore and maintain natural range of motion, improves flexibility, reduces stress and sheds pounds.

Soul Shine Yoga in Fairhope uses infrared radiant heat to maintain a temperature of 90 degrees in its heated room. Hot Restore: Hips & Hamstrings focuses on poses that will deeply open the hips, hamstrings, quads, low back and side body—perfect for runners, cyclists and golfers and those wanting to acclimate to a hot class at a slower pace. “Our students love this class,” says Sommerville. “It’s perfect for recovery, whether a student is recovering from an illness, injury or an intense workout. The evening classes offer the extra bonus of promoting a deep night's sleep.” 

As the yoga world embraces these innovative approaches to an ancient tradition, it’s giving experienced yogis an opportunity to spice up their regular routines while also attracting an even broader audience. Yoga is for everybody, now more than ever.

Mobile Restaurant Goes Plastic-Free

OK Bicycle Shop, in downtown Mobile, is the first restaurant in Alabama to officially join the Plastic Free Gulf Coast initiative that started in Mississippi last year. A launch party during happy hour on July 18 will celebrate their commitment to being plastic-free with drink specials, music and giveaways.

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With funding from the 2018 NOAA Marine Debris Prevention grant, Plastic Free Gulf Coast is focused on reducing single-use plastics, Styrofoam and plastic-lined food and beverage containers within the five Gulf states through outreach, education and improving consumer access to alternatives. “Our economy, human health, recreation and ecology all depend on healthy and plastic free water,” says Plastic Free Gulf Coast organizer Elizabeth Englebretson. “Every step that we take, even if it seems small, has a direct and immediate impact on the pandemic of microplastics and plastic pollution.”

Consumer action is vital and Englebretson’s main focus is to consult with restaurants, businesses and organizations to determine a model for implementing alternatives to plastics that are cost effective and sustainable. OK Bicycle Shop has committed to doing away with single-use petroleum-based plastics and Styrofoam by switching to paper straws, plant-based plastic to-go containers and reusable sushi mats instead of plastic wrap.

Other downtown restaurants are joining the movement by adopting “straws on request” policies, switching to plant-based straws and/or moving away from Styrofoam. Mobile Baykeeper has been instrumental in connecting these businesses to the collaborative, multi-state movement and in the creation of a soon-to-be-released interactive map of all Plastic Free Gulf Coast restaurants.

Location: 661 Dauphin St., Mobile, AL. For more information, email PlasticFreeGC@gmail.com and find Plastic Free Gulf Coast on Facebook.

Chloe Duren: Leading Peaceful Activism

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Following the announcement of a national student-led march for tighter gun control earlier this year, Murphy High School student Chloe Duren, 16, organized Mobile’s March for Our Lives event. In addition to reserving Public Safety Memorial Park, creating publicity, enlisting speakers and carrying out other logistical tasks, she gave one of the most moving speeches of the day.

“I’ve practiced lockdowns and active shooter drills for as long as I can remember,” she said to the crowd of 500. “The first thing I think when I walk into a room is ‘Where am I going to hide?’” Duren called for attendees to register to vote and to vote out politicians who stand in the way of gun control.

With permission of school administration, Duren also organized a walk-out in solidarity with the Parkland students, which culminated in the reading of the names of the students killed in the school shooting. A few months later, she assisted Ellen Sims, pastor of Open Table Community of Faith, in a prayer vigil for local immigrants and community members concerned about families being separated at the Mexican border. The gathering offered an opportunity for prayer, sharing of stories and the spreading of awareness in support of immigrant children and parents. Most recently, Duren was helping a local animal shelter place dogs in homes in advance of Tropical Storm Gordon.

“This young woman is poised, bright, passionate and delightful,” says Sims, who has known her since she was 7. “I’ve been privileged to watch her grow up and live out a commitment to social justice and peace.”

Healthy Living Trailblazer Returns to Mobile

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Virginia’s Health Food Store in Mobile, Alabama is excited to welcome retired nutritionist Betylou Pierce to their staff. Pierce opened the Mobile health food store Naturally Yours in 1990 and for more than 10 years she used the store to help people live healthier lives, often hosting courses on how the body works and heals. She also owned the restaurant Eats of Eden, where they introduced many locals to vegetarian and vegan cuisine and juicing.

Pierce just recently moved back to the area after living in Mississippi for 12 years and she says, “I love educating people about healthy living; it’s my life and I want to share it with everybody.” At Virginia’s, Pierce will work a couple days a week and be available by appointment to help guide customers on a path of wellness.

“I’m thrilled and honored to be working at Virginia’s,” she says. “I’m seeing some familiar faces and having a good time. It’s good to be home.”

Location: 3055 A Dauphin St., Mobile, AL. For more information, call 251-479-3952 or visit Va-FairhopeHealthFoods.com. 

Enroll Your Healing Hands in Massage Therapy School

Alabama Healing Arts (AHA), Mobile’s newest, locally-owned vocational college, is accepting applications for spring enrollment of massage therapy school. AHA educators have over 25 years of teaching experience to assist students in becoming professional licensed massage therapists (LMTs).

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“Therapeutic massage is a beautiful healing practice. It makes a perfect adjunct therapy to many healthcare professions. This fulfilling career allows for great flexibility, versatility and creativity. LMTs are becoming more and more in demand each year,” says owner Kelly Laurendine.

Evening massage classes are scheduled to begin in April, and daytime classes in October. The 650-hour curriculum meets state requirements for preparing students to become licensed therapists. This interactive massage program emphasizes hands-on technique demonstration and practice, includes specialty techniques, fundamental sciences, student clinic and outreach practicum. AHA currently has a 100 percent pass rate for students taking the licensure exam.

AHA also offers 200-, 300- and 500-hour yoga teacher training, and three levels of reiki certification which may be purchased individually, and for continuing education.

For more information or to request an application, call 251-753-1937, email AlabamaHealingArts@gmail.com or visit AlabamaHealingArts.com.

A Purr-fect Yoga Class for Cat Lovers

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In conjunction with Project Purr Animal Rescue, Synergy Yoga & Pilates, in Mobile, is hosting Yoga With the Cats from 9 to 10:15 a.m., on November 11. In this fun yoga class, students meet friendly Project Purr cats and kittens during their yoga practice and a portion of the proceeds benefits the rescue group.

“This class offers an opportunity to experience the energy that only a friendly furry feline can provide, support a worthy cause and leave class with a smile on your face,” says teacher Chris Garrett, who owns Synergy with his wife Dana.

Synergy Yoga & Pilates has been serving the community as Mobile’s first fully dedicated yoga and Pilates studio since 2005. The studio offers multiple yoga formats (Ashtanga, hatha, restorative and gentle), both equipment- and mat-based Pilates, plus MELT Method self-care for active living. All are taught in both private and small group settings.

Dana says, “Our only goal for our students is to walk out of our studio after a session feeling better than when they walked in.”

Cost: $12 drop-in rate; $8 for full-time students and seniors. Location: 3152 Old Shell Rd., Ste. 2, Mobile, AL. For more information, call 251-473-1104 or visit
Synergyoga.net.