ABOUT THE AUTHORS
comes from a corporate background in communications, occupational health and
safety and educational/technical writing. She has been teaching yoga in
last two books ‘Yoga Builds Bones’ and ‘Yoga Burns Fat’ were published
by Fairwinds Press in the
has been practicing yoga for the last 8 years in both Hong Kong and
She is currently studying a course in natural nutrition. She continues to research the contribution of yoga to health and wellbeing.
there are many ‘how to’ yoga books currently on the bookshelves, this is the
first book written about how yoga is changing people’s lives off the yoga mat.
It illustrates how people use yoga in their everyday lives to manage such things
as chronic disease, addictions, injuries, mood disorders and a personal crisis.
yoga seems to come into people’s lives when they need it most, as these
stories illustrate. There is a yogic saying which says: When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
of the people in the following stories was ready to learn about yoga. Each
person found the teacher they needed to inspire their return to health and
wholeness. One woman found that the practice of yoga ‘helped me to remember
who I really am’.
Yoga off the Mat
follows the lives of people in crisis:
Rebecca, a 23-year-old gymnast with a world famous
circus act, fell during a performance and tore her abdominal wall. She suffered
depression, mood disorders and became an alcoholic at 23 years of age;
Sarah, a 45-year-old food writer, suffered from chronic
adult onset asthma, which ceased to respond to more frequent and larger doses of
Karen, a 33-year-old school teacher, was a heroin and
alcohol addict until she lost custody of her child;
Susan, a 45-year-old-housewife, lost her husband to a
Penny, a 38-year-old Business Manager, was given both
wrong and confusing answers in her health quest;
Eleanor should never have survived a broken back in a
car accident and a burst duodenum – but she did;
Kerry’s marriage was new and on a roll – so why
were panic attacks threatening her happiness?
story illustrates how yoga came into people’s lives when they needed it most,
and in a way, that complemented their choice of other therapies.
case study, whilst offering insights into how yoga works therapeutically, will
make the practice of yoga come alive as you follow each person’s road to
the end of each story, there is a comprehensive overview of the
disease/condition and the usual treatments offered. The comprehensive overview
of the disease/condition includes:
A definition of the condition/disease;
Current conventional treatments.
is followed by an overview of the yogic approach to the particular
condition/disease, which acknowledges that each individual requires a holistic
approach to health, and that each case is different.
An explanation on how yoga works to treat the
An up-to-date list of websites, books and other
resources for those seeking further resources.
book makes no claims about one approach being better than another. It merely
illustrates how yoga can successfully complement any therapy of your choice.
book is not prescriptive; it does not recommend certain postures and techniques
for certain conditions/ diseases or health problems. This is a book of people
telling their own stories as their life crisis unfolded, and how yoga played a
part in helping them to regain complete health.
you gain hope and inspiration from these compelling true life stories on
everyday people managing their lives the yoga way.
love and light
International Yoga Teacher
of: Yoga Builds Bones & Yoga
by Fairwinds Press
Researcher, currently studying nutrition
The information in this book is for educational and illustrative purposes only.
All names have been changed to protect confidentiality. This book is not
intended to replace the advice of a physician or medical practitioner. Please
see your healthcare provider before beginning any new health program.
that whilst the internet provides a great deal of resources for those seeking
information, much of this information has not been validated. Care must be taken
before embarking on any suggested health regimes.
November 17th 2006
(part sample of chapter)
first met Rebecca when she rollerbladed into the cafe for our interview, dressed
in a dark padded top and pants, her unruly hair dampened from a searing
43-degree Celsius heat outside. On seeing my surprise, she mentioned that she
also rollerbladed through the back streets of
was only 19 years of age when she fell during a circus act, tearing multiple
layers of her abdominal wall, resulting in a long spell of immobilisation for
four months. But those four months were the start of a downward spiral into
severe manic/depressive episodes and alcoholism.
my parents worked so I was staying at home a lot and became very depressed.
Because it’s like – it was a serious injury – not that I would be
paralysed or anything or never heal – but I was really young. I was only 19
years of age, and really impatient, and I had a really big ego.
as soon as I could walk again after months of swimming, light exercise and
physiotherapy, I was smoking joints. I was going out and just getting wasted.’
didn’t know what else to do. All her life she had been so disciplined and so
into her gymnastics and dance. She couldn’t really relate to normal people her
age because normal people her age just went to school – they didn’t go to
gymnastics at 5.00am every morning.
would end up in bars with people who were really miserable, who just didn’t
quite fit into life. And that’s who I looked for and it went on for a few
years until I was 21 years old.’
was then that Rebecca found herself in her first rehabilitation clinic. She knew
there was definitely something wrong with her, and that she could not live
properly. She was living a really hazardous and risky way of life. It was after
a heavy drinking/drug binge and a near-death experience that she was forced to
call her mum.
said “Mum, I am going to die, and I need help”. Within two days I was
checked into a hospital and a rehab centre. I stayed there for six weeks and
came out thinking, Great, I know what my problem is – I am an alcoholic. I
just won’t drink and I will be fine. And that lasted for about four months.
And then I got into that crowd again.’
the four months of sobriety, Rebecca had started doing trapeze again but then
she broke her ankle. She wasn’t drinking, so she would take a tablet every now
and again for the pain.
I really did not give my body a chance to fully heal. I had not come to terms
mentally with being injured again and it was like a ball of blackness inside. It
was staying stuck and I was just angry. I think it’s difficult for your body
to heal and release things when you are that angry. You know, you can feel that
you are OK, but every once in a while that anger, that emotion, that is still
stuck in that area of your body, will release.’
Rebecca, the trigger that released that anger inside her was sexually based,
which she really didn’t know how to deal with. Her parents were not very close
and she grew up in boarding school. She didn’t see how men and women were
supposed to relate, other than in the circus, and for her, circus people were
had never seen or could relate to normal girl/boy relationships. I had never had
that. Like my first crush at 16 was on a 35-year-old circus trainer from
to deal with the anger of the injury and in her relationship, Rebecca went back
to drinking and continued to just destroy her life. Her parents disowned her and
she sank deeper into the deep black hole of depression. She said it was as
though her ego had decided that it didn’t need anybody anyway, and that she
was going to do whatever she wanted to.
enrolled at university to get a degree in musical theatre and started singing
and dancing, which she loved. To finance her studies, she worked as a stripper
at night. For two and a half years Rebecca was out there on her own; at night
she was drinking until the early hours of the morning and financing her program
and her lifestyle by working as a stripper.
this stage Rebecca knew that her parents still totally cared about her, but they
also realised that if she was truly an alcoholic, she would have to make it on
her own. She would have to go out there without their encouragement and support,
and they just had to let her hit the wall by herself. Her mum told Rebecca that
if she wanted to choose this lifestyle, that she couldn’t have Rebecca in her
life. Her mum later told Rebecca that it was the hardest thing she ever had to
that stage in the theatre program, Rebecca had become very streetwise and
manipulative in finding excuses for not handing in assignments. She laughs as
she relates using the excuse that her granny had died or that her dog had eaten
her assignment. ‘But I had become so accustomed to hanging out with people who
were like me; they had no concern for anybody else and were completely
self-absorbed and manipulative.
used to drink all night and show up for ballet at 8.00 o’clock in the morning.
And I did that for two and a half years of my degree. But six months prior to
graduating I was thrown out of the degree program.’
musical theatre program was private and costing Rebecca US$6000 every 3 months,
so being thrown out of the program was disastrous. Here she was, living in a
beautiful apartment in the city and thinking she was pretty cool.
as she says ‘I was just a mess, you know, inside. Nobody was my friend, and I
couldn’t open up to anyone. I had this front that I would show everyone how
special and talented I was. Nobody really knew who I was – I didn’t even
know who I was. It was all about making money and proving to my mum that I could
finish the school, I didn’t need anyone and that I really wasn’t an
it was being kicked out of school that made Rebecca realise that she had no idea
who she was. She was hurt by it, mostly her ego, for as she says: ‘I was in
denial that I couldn’t manage. I was intelligent, and came from a good family,
I was relatively good looking. It was like – I can’t finish this program
like everybody else – and it became clear to me that I couldn’t kid myself
any more. I had once been this acrobat and now I couldn’t even finish this
stupid course – like, what’s wrong with me?’
pleaded to be allowed to finish the program, but the board told her no and that
she was out of there. When she asked them about all the money she had spent –
they just said ‘too bad’.
I thought, oh my God. And I realised for the last two and a half years of my
life I had been dancing naked, I had been wasted, I had been thrown out of my
program, and then I thought about the big picture as an alcoholic.’
realised that as an alcoholic, everything always fell apart, because she
couldn’t manage. She would get these grandiose ideas and try to follow through
with them, but nothing worked.
a self-centred place – a place of fear that I am so scared to fail; I am so
scared that people are going to really get to know me and see who I am. Places
of utter terror, you know, I am just like a little kid – I just want to
at that stage, she totally gave up and got on her knees and prayed, something
she had never done before. She wanted to die, because she had been through rehab
before and she thought maybe it wouldn’t work for her, maybe she wouldn’t
stay sober, maybe her life was doomed.
I thought, maybe I am just going to be some drinker on the side of the road with
the brown paper bag’,’
didn’t have much hope and was saddened because here she was at 24 years of
age, and she didn’t really understand what was happening to her. There were a
lot of things in her family, things she didn’t know until later, such as that
mental illness runs in her family. There were also a lot of things she didn’t
know about herself.
I was really scared, and I called my mum again and said, I give up again, can
you please scrape me up off the floor?’ She laughed. ‘Because I didn’t
know what to do.’
went back into a different rehab this time and stayed there for eight months, 45
days in one intensive, and then she went to live in a halfway house with eight
women in the middle of nowhere on a farm.
found it so difficult because as she says: ‘I had never been friends with
women. I had never really known women and I had never been sober around women or
had a woman friend. You know, I am 24 years old and I have no idea how to relate
to another woman and I was terrified. I went to this program run by nuns and we
had to do chores every day and attend daily classes. That’s when I started
was diagnosed as manic-depressive and one of the counsellors said that yoga
would help her. It would stop her racing mind from going so fast that she
couldn’t keep up with it. She said that yoga would help to calm her down.
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