Karen Builder aka Sweet Cheeks doing Dancer Yoga Pose outside on a deck in front of a blue sky

Featured Author:   

Karen Ashley Buldier

Instagram: __sweetcheeks

Not just another Yoga Instagram account

When I think of body positive yoga influencers on Instagram, I think of Karen, also known as @__sweetcheeks (note: two __’s, not one _ ).  She’s probably best known for her cute yoga videos and beautiful curves. But you’ll also notice her workout clothing game is on lock, she represents NYC, and she’s always getting into yoga shenanigans.  Which, I personally love all those things so of course I gravitated towards her account.  

I stalked her for about 3-4 months, liking random posts, jocking her yoga style, wondering how she’s so disciplined every day to practice and film it, post it, and still have a life?  Then, I commented on something random yoga-spirational thing she posted. And she commented back, followed my paged, and started randomly interacting with me. I was like, wait.. She’s another real person… Who’s really into fitness.  I think she may possibly be on her own wellness grind.

Karen practicing a yoga headstand.
Karen shares her yoga inspiration daily on Instagram

So I asked her what’s up? She sent me a giggle chat, which was adorable!  And now we’re IG yoga-friend besties and I am so glad she agreed to share her wellness recipe with you.  We all have our own unique wellness grind, and @__sweetcheeks is on a grind and you should become a fan too. 

So here’s Karen to tell you what’s good in NYC.

Sweet Cheek’s 8 Steps to Falling in Love with who You’re Becoming

Karen Sweet Cheeks when she first began practicing yoga doing an downward dog.
Daily yoga practice – Karen when she first started practicing yoga.

Hello there! Hmm Karen here, also known as @__sweetcheeks on Instagram haha. This is my first time writing a blog so bare with me 😓

Fun Fact: I lose my train of thought often so there’s that 🙃

Any who! Thank you for clicking and reading! I was honestly surprised when Wendie asked me to participate and share my “wellness journey” because…

My initial thought: My what? Did she say wellness? 🤔 What does she even mean by wellness? ? I’m not doing well enough for me to share anything?

*takes a breath to clear mind—in return brain removes all self-doubt*
me to me: ohhh, she wants to know how you got to where you are now silly, duh!

Wellness- It’s a Mindset. PERIOD.

Karen doing Yoga in Bali

~No OnE iS gOiNg To Do AnYtHiNg FoR yOu BuT yOuRsElF~

(that includes loving yourself)

It did not happen overnight. I did not drink a special tea or wear a waist-trainer. I simply made a decision. In the flip of a switch I decided it was time I started to LEGIT love myself.

I was at the lowest moment in my life. Lying naked on the bottom pit of my rock bottom, cold and alone. Or so, that’s how I felt. I had strayed so far from myself that I couldn’t recognize me & it did not matter that I was surrounded by people that love me, I still felt painfully alone. Fortunately, with that pain came the reality that the only person that could do anything about the way I was feeling was inevitably me.

Once the lights were switched on, there was no turning them back off but of course life does happen and the power goes out on occasion. That is part of the journey, retraining my brain to think/respond, instinctively positively as opposed to the usual default negative thoughts.

How My Wellness Journey Began

It’s an ongoing practice. My wellness journey began with me practicing self-love. I did not just wake up feeling like hot shit one day. I had to tell myself I am brilliant and gorgeous, every day, even when I did not believe it. haha kidding but not really, lmao.

Sweet cheeks Karen yoga beginner photo balance pose.
Karen when she first began practicing yoga balance poses.

It was not easy peeling back layers to find different versions of me, reflecting on the decisions that younger Karen made, but it was very rewarding to my understanding of self. I discovered that I did not know who I was then, that I was merely a lost wanderer and I sorta still am exploring. Except I’m not navigating blind this time around.

I have my sights set on the person I want be and the life that I want to lead.

Karen Buldier

 A friend told me “the journey to self love is a journey that isn’t easy, it’s a battle. You will have your high moments that include you willing to see the beauty that you do hold but then you will have your lows where you will want to crawl/hide away from the world”  

I didn’t realize the magnitude of my journey until Wendie asked me to share mine. I didn’t know how much I actually had to say until I started jotting a million and one things down on paper! Or maybe I’m just hella excited to have the opportunity to put all my thoughts down and pray it helps somebody (preferably the somebody who gave a fuck and is reading this right now 😉 haha!)

How I Found What Wellness Stuff Works for Me

Karen with the New York lights behind her.
Karen with the New York lights behind her.

The little lifestyle adjustments that I made and eventually shared on my Instagram became a compilation of things that ended up working for me. With that being said, the things that work for me may not necessarily work for you. We are all uniquely different, therefore, we will all bloom 🌿 different as well.

Fall in love with who you are becoming & never compare yourself!

Karen Buldier

Through my journey/practice I’ve begun to understand how to communicate with my body. Which is odd to say cuz I’ve only ever lived in it my whole life… and I’m just now beginning to understand how it functions best.

Karen practicing back bends.

Think of a caterpillar’s thoughts when it wakes up one day as a majestic butterfly, content with crawling around life but discovering that it could eventually fly with a little time and patience. Like magic.

Taking Control of My Life and Body

After countless fad diets and tons of self-loathing, I had finally decided to take control of my life and care for the body I was living in. I was super uncomfortable in my own skin but complaining about it certainly wasn’t going to change anything so I switched my attention to finding a solution to my problems.

You give life to what you give energy to right? Right.

So I started by saying no, no to the people I used to say yes to and no, to the things that did not serve me or make me happy. I’ve learned so much about myself and those around me since I internalized my energy and focused solely on my personal development.

It’s a path with many tracks, each leading to different destinations like a tree with many branches.

That’s what my wellness journey is. A compilation of small changes in my lifestyle.

Karen Buldier

Sweet Cheek’s Wellness Recipe

1. Practicing Self Love

I remember feeling unloved and like I mentioned before, I felt painfully alone. There were times I would hug myself (sounds odd but it really helped) don’t judge 🖐🏽 I was starving for hugs. A dear friend with a beautiful soul (I call her one of my spirit guides) suggested I check Louise Hay’s guided meditation videos on YouTube.

2. Healing with Affirmations

I began by listening to these affirmations on my commute to work and that was the catalyst to my transformation. I slowly started believing the things I was saying out loud and telling myself. Like magic!

Except it was actually  M I N D   O V E R   M A T T E R.

So now I talk kindly to myself, look myself in the mirror (completely naked and vulnerable) tell myself I am smart, strong, kind and sexy and a bunch of other things that I didn’t believe at first. More importantly I look myself in the eye and say “I love you” without crying.

Another form of self-love is self-care, I will pamper the shit out of myself if need be. By that I mean smearing on a face mask, giving myself a mani/pedi at home, making myself a full course meal or even reading a book on the porch. Whatever my little heart desires. I learned to love my alone time instead of dreading it, learning how to sit in silence and at peace with myself made all the difference.

3. Engaging in Daily Movement

[January 2018] Winter in New York is brutal so you tend to stay indoors, to make matters worse, I was a functioning depressed person. I would get shit done but the second I was clocked out and in the solitude of my car, my smile would disappear and the only thing that made me smile on the inside was my bed, which at the time was my sanctuary.

That was until the night I got up from bed, raised to volume to the already playing music and started dancing (I had smoked some weed to fill the void and was feeling pretty damn loose). My body felt extremely sore for no reason (there was a reason, I was a bed potato haha) the dancing felt more like stretching (which felt good and familiar) and so I continued this dance/stretch combination thing I was doing because it was fun and because it felt incredibly good. The next day, I woke up feeling amazing because I had slept like a baby but also because it was the first time in a long time that I did not wake up automatically sad and I was actually looking forward to something that day, dancing and doing yoga again.

Fast forward >> Today, I practice yoga daily, even if it’s just 5 minutes. Daily movement and exercise improve mental health, it’s just another form of therapy for me besides botany!

4. Eating a Low Carb/Fiber Rich Diet

I started with the ketogenic diet (July 5th 2018) which basically told me I couldn’t eat all the sugary shit that I loved. Thankfully, I have a different relationship with food now and I indulge in my favorite treats on occasion.

I’ve learned the importance of quality/quantity, portion control, reading nutrition labels, calorie-awareness (not obsessive with it but just CONSCIOUS of what I put in my body)

What you put in comes out.

Karen Buldier

Whole foods are feel-good foods & I aim to feel good all the time! I TRY to stay away from the processed stuff but it is a work in progress. This is years of living and eating a certain way to then suddenly realizing that what works for others doesn’t necessarily work for me and it was time I take control of what happens with/in my body. So I started taking the bricks apart and I built my own path.

My goal is to have non-processed foods but I’m still working on finding the things that I like and that are equally good for me haha. Trial and error?

(I have an ice cream addiction & so I get Halo Top to keep me in check but also because they are just delicious).

5. H2O- Drinking All the Water

My skin was going through some really hard times but I later realized that since I cut sugar out of my diet things slowly started changing in my body. My skin was living proof of the chaos that was internally happening and I kept trying to fix the problem from the outside. Since cutting processed sugar from diet, my skin has cleared up SUBSTANTIALLY but I can’t give all the credit to the lack of sugar in my diet.

I started drinking half my body weight in ounces of water with the intention to lose weight, so I averaged out to a gallon of water a day—It took time to work my way up to a gallon of water at first but eventually it became easier. I don’t drink a gallon everyday now because sometimes my body simply doesn’t need it.

Water IS that important!

Karen Buldier

However, I don’t go anywhere without my ½ gallon reusable water bottle. We are made up of about 60% water and our brain, organs, muscles, joints, and skin thrive off of it. Now, every day is different and so my body’s needs change daily as well. Often times thirst is confused with hunger and so that is where Intermittent Fasting comes in.

6. Practicing Intermittent Fasting

Back in September of 2018, I started fasting intermittently (16:8) which basically means I would only eat during an 8 hr window in the day. After months of eating sustainable food and well into Ketosis, my body just naturally became less hungry during the morning and so I started having my breakfast later on in the day.

Eventually, I skipped breakfast altogether and just had lunch and dinner. Lunch would generally keep me full for about 4-6 hours (fat takes a while to breakdown) & by the time I had finished eating dinner I was ready to start the clock on the IF app (Zero) which helped me track my progress. With the app I was able to track the hours I had fasted for which would usually be anywhere from 16-18 hours.

There were plenty of times where I couldn’t wait for the 16 hours to be up so I just would try again the next day. Some days will be harder than others but again, it’s a practice. If you practice something every day for seven days straight, then you just lived a whole week doing exactly that, preferably a practice that benefits your personal development. Daily.

Today, I can distinguish the difference between thirst and actual hunger & so I no longer use the app, I just listen to my bodies needs and fulfill them, as needed. The food that I once used to overeat and pack my intestines with is now sustainable, macro-dense food that my digestive system has no problem breaking down.

I swear there’s some weird magic to Intermittent Fasting.

Karen Buldier

There’s a difference in the weight of my energy if that makes any sense. My mind has never been clearer, my energy level is at 100, there’s a lightness in my body that I’m suddenly completely aware of. I’ve connected my mind to my body through the discipline Intermittent Fasting teaches. Now I currently fast anywhere from 2-4x a week & it’s really just me living life and being productive instead of involving food in everything I do. I’d rather be productive with my time instead of waiting around for my body to feel hungry. You’d be surprised how much you could do with your time when you aren’t on a feeding schedule.

7. Supporting My Mental Health

Since I scroll feed my brain on IG I decided it was time I filter out the crap; same as I did with the food I ingest. I started by following people that shared kind words, accounts that posted things that made me feel good and taught me new things.

I unfollowed the Kardashians and all the other pop culture celebrities (I’ll admit I miss their outfit inspo) but since then I’ve stopped comparing myself and wishing for things that did not serve me. I exchanged the radio chatter for songs that matched the vibration I want my brain to be in. I switched the negativity of the news with positive affirmations on YouTube.

The energy I used to exhaust in people/drinking/partying I now internalize and use to better myself. I no longer drink to get drunk. My days of being hungover and hating myself AND life are over, I refuse to waste another waking moment hating myself for the self-sabotage.

I only ever want to love myself more!

Karen Buldier

8. Protecting My Energy

To protect my energy, I refrain from doing things I simply do not want to do. I’ve learned to say NO, to both people and things. No to those that don’t value me and no to things that no longer serve me.

For example, I was always a people pleaser and would gladly give my time to those I felt needed it. Eventually, I learned that not everyone deserves my energy and that my energy is sacred and do I dare say addictive? Haha!

Point is, I know my energy is good and it makes those around me feel good but at the end of the day, I had done spent all my good energy on everyone but myself. What is it that the flight attendants say? Put the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting someone else. It is exhausting putting on a brave face everyday and so I’ve redirected how I spend my energy. Results will follow where you focus your energy.

Where I Am in My Journey Today…

I’m still in the process of learning how to communicate with my body but that will always be a part of my journey. What works for me may not work for you but that’s because I do what’s best for Karen. What’s best for Karen won’t necessarily be what’s best for you because you are not me and I am not you. You have to make that connection within yourself. It’s a journey, your body has always been your home, you just need to find your way back to it.

You’re probably thinking… uhh what is this bitch talking about? Of course I know my body!

& I’m sure you’re physically aware of your body but there’s more to your body than muscles and bones. We’ve got nerves, organs and emotions and that runs far deeper than we can understand. That’s the beauty of all of this!

Everyday is different. We may know what the day may be like but the events and people you’ll experience wont be the same. I apply the same concept to my body, everyday I wake up feeling generally the same but every day is a new day, every day is a fresh start. If you mess up today, it is ok, there is no need to beat yourself up about it.

Tomorrow will come and you could try again then. I aim to do the very best that I can everyday. However, I am human and I do let the external affect me internally. I’ve learned that life is a lot like a practice. Show up, do the best that you can, rinse and repeat daily and you’ll be living life at full volume.

Being the best version of yourself. DAILY. Karen Buldier

I’d definitely like to thank Wendie for giving me the opportunity to share my wellness journey with you & I hope to have inspired, motivated and/or scratch the curiosity of you all!

Follow __Sweetcheeks for yoga inspiration

Thank you Karen for your contribution to the Wellness Grind community and for all the awesome yoga adventures you share on your Instagram!

Featured Blogger Bio: 

Karen taking a seated selfie
Karen relaxing and taking a selfie.

Karen is a fun-loving self-taught yogi 🧘🏽‍♀️ . Her roots are Dominican and she was born, raised, and still resides in Brooklyn, NY. Karen works in the medical field, has a passion for plants, traveling, and yoga adventures. Karen always eats healthy, reads inspirational books, and shares her world on Instagram.

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