To celebrate National Yoga Month in September, Sonima launched an Instagram campaign called #YogaHeals, where we shared the profiles men and women who have experienced the true healing benefits of yoga. These individuals turned to their practice in their darkest hour and, as a result, saw a drastic and positive change their lives. While it can’t cure all, yoga can offer solace on the often long road to recovery as you’ll learn from reading these sevenei incredible personal stories below.
The success of this campaign has inspired us to continue to share #YogaHeals stories on social media indefinitely. Please direct message us on Instagram or Facebook about your own story to help us celebrate your resilience and the gift of yoga. The hope is that we will inspire others to roll out their mat, especially during a hard time, and discover just how inclusive, therapeutic, and wonderful this practice really is.
“A requirement or desire of a basic healthy human life is a future. A diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), for most of us, will put that future in doubt. It did for me. At 41 that was my future. By 58, I was overweight, weak, and pre-diabetic. I decided to try Ashtanga.
I was fortunate because this—my first exposure to yoga—was introduced to me by knowledgeable, amazing, and caring teachers. I later discovered that it was a Beginner Mysore class. As I progressed through the asanas, I gained strength and flexibility, lost 32 pounds, and lowered my blood sugar. As I progressed through the practice (I’m now 63), I gained a future. Through the practice, I experience successes, failures, and incredible peace…all of which I look forward to each day.”
David lives in Victoria, BC. He began his practice with Jeff Lichty and Harmony Slater and continues his daily practice with Rachel Reid at Mysore Victoria.
Photography courtesy of David Knee.
“I was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1993 at age 11. My medical treatment consisted of a year of chemotherapy and a rotationplasty, a salvage procedure that involves removing the knee joint and replacing it with the ankle joint. I am fortunate in that the treatment was curative.
I started practicing yoga in 2007. Like many, I was seeking something. In my case, I was hoping to find relief from years of chronic hip pain that stemmed from the imbalance inherent to having 1.5 legs. It took more than a year of consistent practice, but now the chronic pain is a distant memory.
I have found more through my yoga practice than I ever thought I would. The discipline to get up at 5:15 a.m. (most days of the week), rich friendships with teachers and yoga students, who I’ve met at various workshops and classes over the years, a perspective on my mind when, on occasion, it rattles in its cage. I found a tool for learning to remain present, and a deeper acceptance of my body—something that I struggled to embrace in its altered form for many years.”
Kate started practicing in 2007 with Harmony Slater and Jeff Lichty. She has traveled around the world to practice with many other authorized and certified teachers since this humble beginning. Currently, Kate resides in Wellington, NZ and continues her practice under the guidance of Stewart Cameron Harris.
Photography courtesy of Kate Sawford.
“I had a dream of being a professional ballerina for as long as I could remember. Unfortunately, this ambition came surrounded by a culture of anorexia and bulimia nervosa, and body dysmorphic disorder. After 15 years of training as a ballet dancer, I felt I had no choice but to remove myself from this environment to stay alive. I was left a little more than a shadow of myself, and hated almost everything about my body. After two years of a focusing on my mental health and recovery, I began to yearn to feel in my body again.
Fortuitously, I was introduced to Ashtanga Yoga. From my first class, I knew this would become a path of healing for me. I felt alive and vibrant. I noticed a new kind of craving to nurture myself, fill my body with healthy food, and feed my mind with more positive self-talk. Regular practice gave me an increased awareness and the ability notice immediately when I was falling into negative or destructive patterns. For the first time, I felt self-love and worthy of joy. The Ashtanga Yoga practice has been my daily companion for the past two decades. There are still days when I am exorcising old demons out on the mat, but I trust that this method will continue to safely carry me across the often stormy tides into calmer waters.”
Harmony is a Certified Ashtanga Yoga teacher. She spent the past 15 years making annual trips to practice and study in Mysore, India, with the Jois Family. She resides in Canada with her eight-year old son, and continues to travel and teach in several Yoga Schools all over the world.
Photography courtesy of Harmony Slater.
“After two miscarriages and almost losing my first son at birth, and then again two months later, due to some breathing problems that he had developed, I took to running as an escape and a way to let my emotions go. A couple years later, I was, again, fraught with another high-risk pregnancy, and advised to stop all activities and take it easy. After my second was born, I was looking forward to getting back to running, but only two months after delivery, I returned home from a run to discover a lump in my neck. I was diagnosed with Thyroid cancer.
After having two surgeries to remove the entire thyroid due to the cancer spreading, I underwent radiation treatment. This was the most challenging time because I had to be separated from my family due to the high amounts of internal radiation that I had been administered.
I began practicing yoga to help me navigate through this illness and heal during my recovery. I found it extremely beneficial for coping with the emotional roller-coaster I was on. In truth, it seems yoga found me, and for that, I have an abundance of gratitude. It has empowered me to explore the inner workings of my body and mind, both ‘on’ and ‘off’ the mat. Through the practice of Ashtanga Yoga, I have learned to trust the system, and have found comfort in this deep and rich tradition.”
Jan Goranson has made five trips to Mysore, India and was Authorized to teach by Sharath Jois in 2017. She currently lives and teaches a Morning Mysore Program in Calgary, Canada.
Photography courtesy of Jan Goranson (asana assist by Harmony Slater).
Related: The Essence of Yoga as Therapy
Samantha Fiona Lucas
“I stumbled upon Mysore-style Ashtanga yoga 11 years ago while going through a divorce and suffering from a deep depression. Though I had been practicing yoga already for a decade, this practice [in particular] resonated with me deeply. I soon made my first pilgrimage to Mysore to practice with Sri K. Pattabbi Jois and now Paramaguru Sharath Jois. Immediately, my depression started to lift and my thoughts about dying subsided. I kept practicing.
Fast forward to June 2016, I was in a motorcycle accident and lost my right leg below the knee. In the hospital, I didn’t know if I would ever do another downward facing dog again. However, day two after the accident, I started to go through primary series in bed. I did what I could, breathing and moving what I could. I found I was able do so much more then my brain thought. If I didn’t do my practice, then I was a complete mess, emotionally and physically. The pain was too much to bear without practice. I continued to do what I could do. There were some very dark times. The depression crept in because a life-altering trauma takes time to process. I’m still processing, three years later, but the security of the practice gets me through. I am so lucky to have it as such a shining light that picks me up over and over again. I keep practicing!”
Samantha is a KPJAYI authorized teacher who practices in NYC at Brooklyn Yoga Club with Eddie Stern. She teaches at her home studio in upstate New York and Sharon, CT at The Studio and is starting to give motivational talks across the U.S.
Photography courtesy of Samantha Fiona Lucas.
“During one of the most productive periods of my life, I woke up nearly every day with suicidal ideation. From the outside, it looked like I had it all sorted out and that I was living the dream. I had written and published two books, traveled the world, ran a yoga center, went to the beach often, bought a house, shared a life with a wonderful man, and, in many ways, all the boxes of a happy life were checked. But, inside I was not well.
Everywhere I looked, I only saw pain, whether I looked at my life, my actions, my past or my future. Truthfully, I can see now that I was not happy with the person that I was and I wanted to make up for it by living as fully and completely as I possibly could. It was like I wanted my life’s work to make up for the darkness that I felt inside. Or, at the very least, when I was running as fast as I possibly could, I was busy enough to not have a spare moment to dive down into my own inner turmoil. Being perpetually busy was a kind of drug that I used to escape the deep sadness that was in my heart.
From the time I was nine years old, I’ve struggled with periods of depression and I have used so many means to escape, avoid, deny or, generally, run from my pain until I was finally ready to face it, forgive it and make friends with it. One thing that has brought me great solace is to craft my life around a sense of purpose. In order to avoid the temptation of nihilism and despair, I search for meaning in the big and small aspects of my life. Whether it is the decision to treat every single being with respect and kindness or to act with integrity and justice, the decision to carve out patches of intention in what can sometimes feel like a random and senseless world is extremely useful for me. It’s like applied mindfulness in action and it’s something I’ve learned through my yoga and meditation practice. Training the mind in meditation is an important step in the self-care needed to heal from depression.”
Kino is a Miami-native who is happiest on the beach with a fresh coconut. She is a poet at heart who always stops to smell the flowers. She is the founder of Omstars, the world’s first yoga TV network. Kino’s message of spiritual strength reaches people all over the world. She is an international yoga teacher, inspirational speaker, author of four books, producer of six Ashtanga Yoga DVDs, writer, vlogger, world traveler and co-founder of Miami Life Center.
Photography courtesy of Kino MacGregor.
Almost 20 years ago, Sonia Jones fell in love with yoga. Before she was introduced to the practice, she had four children, and like any loving mother, she made taking care of them her top priority, so much so that she stopped taking care of herself. Sonia would tell everyone she was fine, while on the inside, her mind, body and spirit were in pain.
Especially her body.
Sonia pushed through it all, but as she learned from her good friend, Pete Egoscue, the Father of Modern Postural Therapy, pain is a message from your body that you must heed. She didn’t. She ignored a certain back pain for so long that she had to have emergency surgery and was at risk of being paralyzed from the waist down. It was only then, after surgery, when she was literally unable to move, that she realized she had to make a major life change. Egoscue recommended yoga. Initially, Sonia resisted, but, eventually, she gave herself fully to the practice of Ashtanga. It changed her life.
That is why it has become her mission to share the gift of yoga as it was given to her. She started by bringing yoga into schools to improve kids’ health and wellness. But there were more people she wanted to reach. The idea for Sonima.com was born. Through Sonima, Sonia shares yoga in a way that can fit into your own busy life, so you can build a practice at your own pace and truly commit to it. Sonia knows, firsthand, that yoga has the power to heal in more ways than you could ever imagine.”
Sonia is the founder of Sonima Wellness. A dedicated Ashtanga Yoga practitioner, she has seen the positive effects of eating right, moving the body with intention and regularity, and finding stillness in the hustle of life’s daily craze. She aspires to help others find the practices that will enable them make manifest their best selves in everything that they do, and with everyone that they love.
Photography by Hailey Wist.
Related: Healing Back Pain with Yoga