Yoga off the Mat is the first book of its kind to detail case study by case study how yoga can work to complement other treatments/therapies in a health crisis. It explains how people took yoga off the mat, and out of the studio into their everyday lives, to deal with chronic addictions, disease, injuries, mood disorders and emotional trauma. It illustrates the power of yoga to manage various side effects of treatments and to promote an environment where healing can occur.  

Already yoga is moving out of yoga studios and into schools, prisons, corporate offices and hospitals world wide. Research is increasing into yoga with over 670 citations of recent psychological studies alone that involve yoga. Many of these studies inquired into the benefit of yoga for drug recovery, insomnia and depression, which may in the future lead to a greater acceptance of yoga as a field of study.   

More than ever before, yoga is being seen as a healthy adjunct to complement other therapies of choice in dealing with health crisis. This is seen in the increasing number of articles in yoga magazines written by health specialists such as physiotherapists, psychologists and medical practitioners who practice yoga. Many doctors now recommend yoga to their patients and some health insurers recognize yoga as a part of preventative health.

In Store Price: $AU23.95 
Online Price:   $AU22.95

ISBN: 978-1-921240-37-9
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 159
Genre: Non Fiction 


Author: Jan Maddern and Siobhan Mitchell 
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2007
Language: English



Jan Maddern  

Jan comes from a corporate background in communications, occupational health and safety and educational/technical writing. She has been teaching yoga in Dubai for the last 16 years and running workshops on women’s health issues. She has regularly contributed yoga articles to women’s magazines and newspapers in the region.  

Her last two books ‘Yoga Builds Bones’ and ‘Yoga Burns Fat’ were published by Fairwinds Press in the USA in 2002. In 2004/5 she completed Diplomas in yoga teaching and yoga therapy with the Phoenix Rising Yoga School in Massachusetts USA. She is currently completing her 4th yoga book on yoga techniques for writers and has been a member of the Dubai Writers’ group for the last 16 years.    

Siobhan Mitchell  

Siobhan has been practicing yoga for the last 8 years in both Hong Kong and Dubai . She has taught in Dubai for the last 3 years. Whilst working at a Holistic centre dedicated to women’s wellbeing, she has contributed yoga and health articles to magazines.  

She is currently studying a course in natural nutrition. She continues to research the contribution of yoga to health and wellbeing.


Whilst 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.  

Often 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.  

Each 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 medication;

·              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 Russian prostitute;

·              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?


Each 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.  

Each 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 recovery.  

At 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;

·              The symptoms;

·              Causes/triggers;

·              Associated conditions;

·              Current conventional treatments.


It 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.

It includes:


·              An explanation on how yoga works to treat the condition/disease;

·              An up-to-date list of websites, books and other resources for those seeking further resources.


This book makes no claims about one approach being better than another. It merely illustrates how yoga can successfully complement any therapy of your choice.


This 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.


May you gain hope and inspiration from these compelling true life stories on everyday people managing their lives the yoga way.


In love and light


Jan Maddern          

Gita International Yoga Teacher

Esoteric Counsellor

Phoenix Rising Yoga Teacher/Therapist

Author of: Yoga Builds Bones & Yoga Burns Fat

Published by Fairwinds Press USA in 2002


Siobhan Mitchell    

Holistic Centre Manager                             

Yoga Teacher

Health Researcher, currently studying nutrition  


NOTE: 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.  

Note 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



CHAPTER 1 (part sample of chapter)




I 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 Dubai in the early hours of the morning. She admitted to being a thrill seeker, which was not surprising, as Rebecca was a gymnast for a world-famous circus.


Rebecca 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.


‘Both 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.


‘So 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.’

Rebecca 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.


‘I 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.’


It 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.


‘I 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.’


Throughout 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.


‘But 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.’


For 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 different.


‘I 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 Hungary , and I didn’t understand this. And because I had such an ego problem and I was very insecure, that was just a recipe for disaster.’


Unable 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.


She 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.


At 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 do.


At 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.


‘I 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.’


The 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.


‘But’ 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 alcoholic’.


But 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?’


She 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’.


‘And 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.’


Rebecca 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.


‘It’s 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 pretend.’


So 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.


‘And I thought, maybe I am just going to be some drinker on the side of the road with the brown paper bag’,’

Rebecca 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.


‘And 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.’


Rebecca 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.


She 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 yoga.’


Rebecca 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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