Peace

Name: Debbie Verdicchio
Location: Dover, NH, USA
Occupation: Child Care Resource and Referral Outreach Specialist

Sexual violence happens to people of any age, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, religion and ability. One in three women is sexually assaulted in their lifetimeit’s an alarming statistic. At the age of 42 I became a part of that statistic. I never thought in a million years that I would be a survivor of a drug-facilitated, felonious sexual assault. I had no idea how much my life was going to change that humid June morning as I sat alone in an emergency room waiting to be examined. This violent crime was going to challenge my strength as a daughter, niece, aunt, friend and a women. With the support of family and friends I reported the assault a few days later.

As the summer went on, I suppressed any memory of what had happened, lived my life and tried to move on. My family was amazed by how well I was handling this and they waited for the ball to drop. By the end of the summer the man who sexually assaulted me was arrested and charged with aggravated felonious sexual assault. The story hit the media and more women came forward with similar encounters with the same man. This nightmare that I tried so hard to forget was now real and my life began to spiral out of control; I was on the edge of a nervous breakdown and my family encouraged me to seek help and counseling. Unfortunately, this man never stood trial for the crimes he committed against me and other women. He eventually pleaded to a lesser degree of simple assault and walked. As a result, I plunged into a dark tunnel of depression and anxiety.

That traumatic event that shook my core years ago started a negative trickle effect in my life. I battled demons for years. I was on and off of antidepressants and saw different therapists for interventions, all which helped only minimally. I wasn’t at a good point in my life. I was unhappy with my personal and professional life. I had a 20-year career as an Early Childhood Educator, but my career had hit a road block and I felt overworked, underappreciated and treated unprofessionally. I didn’t feel challenged in my job and I knew I needed a change. Something had to give. I spent countless nights laying in bed crying and worrying about what direction my life was headed. I had no idea where to begin to find the peace, happiness and balance that I was so desperately seeking.

Debbie Verdicchio yogaIt wasn’t until the fall of 2013 that things began to change. A co-worker of mine was doing this challenge called Bikram’s Biggest Loser 3.0 and she convinced me to join her at the studio in Portsmouth to take a class. Before that point I had never heard of Bikram Yoga, the 26 postures, nor the heat. I took the class and thought to myself, “What the hell am I doing?” During my first class I thought I was going to die. I couldn’t breathe and I lay on the floor the entire class, wiping the sweat off my head. But after class I felt amazing and slept like a baby that night. I went back a few times after and then stoppedI didn’t return for a long time. Actually, it was almost a year until I returned to the hot room.

With the encouragement of two co-workers who had done the Biggest Loser challenge before me, I decided to try this challenge myself. I’m not going to lie, the first few classes sucked! I thought to myself, “What the fuck did I get myself into?” I definitely struggled the first couple weeks of practice; I struggled with my body and the way I looked. After a month of practicing I noticed the health benefits of practicing Bikram Yoga. I noticed changes in my body, I was gaining more flexibility and strength and my clothes fit better. Physically I felt better. I didn’t feel as tired and the plantar fasciitis that was giving me pain in my right foot was resolved within two weeks of practicing. A visit to my doctor showed that my cholesterol and blood pressure were down and I had lost weight.

Being a full-figured women, I’ve struggled with my weight and body image for most of my adult life. But for the first time in my life I have learned to love myself, curves, rolls and all. I found a community where I am accepted for who I am and no one is looking at me or judging me because of my size. The more I practiced, the less I struggled with my body and the way I looked. I remember taking a class with Jaylon, the owner of Bikram Yoga in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and he said something that stuck with me and I will never forget, “There is no judgment in here today.” I began to realize that I wasn’t alone in my struggle and that others were battling the same uphill battle as me. This was very comforting to me.

As I approach a milestone birthday, I am at a point in my life where I am supposed to be. Everything began to fall into place. I love my job as a Child Care Resource and Referral Outreach Specialist and it’s very empowering to help others. I’m probably the happiest that I’ve been in a long time and I credit this feeling to practicing yoga. I feel strong, I feel supported and I feel peace.

Debbie Verdicchio HeadshotDebbie Verdicchio is a Child Care Resource and Referral Outreach Specialist with Childcare Aware of New Hampshire, a Child Care Resource and Referral Program through Southern New Hampshire Services.  She is an advocate to help stop sexual and domestic violence in her community. She resides in Dover, New Hampshire with her dog, Max. Find Debbie on Facebook here and on Twitter @debbiev315.

 

 

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I Can Take a Compliment

Name: Helen Vostrovsky Holmes
Location: Madbury, NH, USA
Occupation: Mother, swim coach, elementary school aide

Helen Vostrovsky Holmes yoga pic

A woman gave me a compliment today. What I can tell you about this woman is that she is striking, tall, carries herself with intelligence and seems to take herself seriously. We’ve spoken once or twice before and both times I felt compelled to keep it calm and sound thoughtful. I don’t know her name but she is that kind of a woman.

The compliment was given after a particularly good yoga class. Hot yoga. Bikram Yoga. She told me this was the second day in a row that she practiced behind me and she thought my practice was really beautiful and graceful. She emphasized that she thought all my poses were consistently solid and again, beautiful. I know that she knows yoga well enough to give the compliment and also knows that my practice is not perfect. She knows that is not the point. So do I.

I responded with a “Thank You.” Several of them. I made no self-deprecating jokes whatsoever and allowed only one quip about making sure to practice in front of her always. Just the day before, in the first class this woman was behind me, our teacher had told an anecdote about a famous female comedian making the point that as soon as women start to do well at something they tend to self-deprecate. Good point.

I am not a person who has ever been comfortable with my physical presence and since I was about 13 it was clear to me that I missed out on true happiness because my hair is too thin, my thighs too fat, I can only be less than a size 12 when I practice anorexia, and I have a weak chin. I squirm when being checked out by men or women, my husband even, and I absolutely do not enjoy looking at myself. Not in photos. Not in mirrors and definitely not in giant, wall-sized mirrors while standing next to people in tiny clothing that often covers even tinier bendy butts. Or so you would think.

I started practicing Bikram Yoga about three years ago after being inspired by my husband to give it a try. From the very first class – in my awful aqua-colored tankini top and getting dizzy and nauseous through every standing pose – I was transfixed by myself in the mirror. I was shaky, uncoordinated, and out of shape. But in that mirror, I was goddamn BEYONCE wearing that awful aqua-colored tankini top.

Over time I have built up my strength, flexibility and skill through yoga. I think I can hold my own. One thing I have never had to do, though, is improve upon liking what I see in the big mirror. That started on the very first day.  I have no idea if the striking, intelligent woman was being genuine or if she just might be the “pay it forward” type making a point to compliment someone every day. What I took away from that interaction with this woman is that I have been keeping a secret for quite a while. My secret is that I am beautiful – and I believe her.

Helen Vostrovsky Holmes bio photo


Helen Vostrovsky Holmes is a mother of three and devoted to the practice of Bikram Yoga. Please find more from her on her blog www.thoughtsleakingout.blogspot.com and like her Facebook page: Thought Leaker.

 

 

 

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Yoga’s Dharma is to Heal

Name: Elizabeth McGlinchey
Location: Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Occupation: Graduate Student

Photo by Flickr User st_gleam.

Photo by Flickr User st_gleam.

When I was a teenager, a drunk driver drove into me as I crossed the street, leaving me severely injured. Weeks passed, jam-­packed with surgery, radiology tests, laboratory tests, and diagnoses. I changed into someone with whom I could no longer identify.

Once my health became stable, I was admitted to a rehabilitation hospital, and was soon able to move around independently… in a wheel chair. I remember the first time I stood up and the excruciating pain that surged through my body. Reminiscent pain still comes and goes in my legs, but it is something I have tolerated well in the years since and it has never stopped me from wanting to become stronger and athletic. Twelve years later I am still healing physically and emotionally. Continue reading

Yoga – The Greatest Gift

Name: Julie Peoples-Clark
Location: Burlington, Vermont, USA
Occupation: Mother, Dancer, Yoga & Dance Teacher

Ella and Julie 2Ten years ago, I gave birth to my daughter Ella. My husband and I were very excited to be having a baby. I had a wonderful full-term pregnancy. I ate right, exercised every day, didn’t drink alcohol, and stayed away from anyone who was smoking. My due date came and went and I was two weeks overdue when I finally went into labor. My labor was very hard and long, Ella went into distress and was not breathing when she was born. She was taken away from me and the next time I saw her she was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Continue reading

Yoga Saved Me. More Than Once.

Name: Rebecca Butler
Occupation: Yoga Teacher, Writer & Mother
Location: Fort Worth, Texas, USA

Rebecca Butler crow poseI started practicing yoga right after graduating from college. I was in Austin working at an advertising agency next door to the global headquarters of Whole Foods, where they were offering classes upstairs. I had no idea what to expect. I figured it would be granola and easy. I was shocked when I broke a sweat.

A few years later, I was a runner. My knees were killing me though, so a friend, who
was very fit, suggested that I join her at Bikram yoga. I went. I loved it. The end. I hung up my running shoes and never looked back. Within a yearʼs time, I was modeling for Lake Austin Spa, busting out dancerʼs pose at the waterʼs edge during sunrise.

Iʼd always had really bad female problems – debilitating cramps, extreme moodiness
during PMS, and an irregular cycle. I started noticing that after every class, I would be
miserable with cramps. So I went to the doctor. They did a sonogram and discovered I
had uterine fibroids. The doctor removed them. It was a surprisingly complicated
surgery. During this time, my marriage was suffering. My husband was a little bit older
and he wanted to have children. I was on the fence about children, but we had tried a
couple of times to no avail. After surgery, because of the extent of dissection required to
remove the fibroids, the doctor said, “Letʼs not discuss fertility until you are ready to
really give it a go.”

Photo by Flickr userJLM Photography.

Photo by Flickr user
JLM Photography.

And then, 9/11. Ok, up until this point, I had been partying – i.e. cocaine, marijuana, and booze galore, mixed with live music. And this had been going on for quite some time since, um, basically high school. See, I grew up in a household with a paranoid
schizophrenic sibling hell bent on killing me and not a single parent, or adult for that matter, who wanted to help me as that meant admitting that something was wrong with our seemingly perfect family. So my solution was: act perfect, be perfect, look perfect, make perfect grades, make boys happy, girls mad, and ‘who cares what you want cause youʼre their only hope.’

Drugs made all of this not feel so horrible. So did yoga. But in different ways, although I wasnʼt yet conscious of the difference. However, I did make this comparison often to my friends. Iʼd be standing in line at some concert, chewing my lips off on x, and my friends would ask me why I liked yoga so much. Iʼd say, “Cause itʼs the closest feeling there is to this right here (meaning the drug high) and smile a 1,000 megawatt smile.”

As 9/11 approached, I began an affair with my and my husbandʼs mutual best friend.
This was not something I was proud of, but it was part of my spree of self-destruction
that was necessary for evolution. The result of said affair: getting divorced, fired, and
pregnant.

In early 2002, I was in a new apartment, working at a new job, and starting to build a
new life – one that had depth and meaning. I realized that my pregnancy was a swift kick in the rear, from the Universe, to get it together. I became instantly sober. Up until this point, I had been living my life to make others happy. Becoming pregnant was my chance to do something to make me happy. Once I became pregnant, I realized how much I actually wanted this baby and I realized how much I had been partying to numb the pain of not being able to do something perfectly for once.

During my pregnancy, I practiced prenatal yoga the entire time. I was single, working in corporate America, and pregnant. I was working alongside beautiful married women. We would enter a conference room together. They would be barraged with questions about their pregnancy; I would be ignored. This blew my mind and severely hurt my pride.

Yoga to the rescue!

On my mat, I could shed my tears. On my mat, I could connect to my baby and feel the
serene happiness that I knew was in store for us, even if my father had begrudgingly
asked me, “Who do you think you are? Madonna?!“ upon realizing that I was
proceeding with my pregnancy, even single. On my mat, I was free of fear, free of
sorrow, and full of love.

For six more years, I toiled away in my career. For six more years, I paid the bills and
hired a sitter several times a week so that I could go to yoga. For six more years, I dreamed of quitting my job and becoming a yoga teacher. Then one summer, I went raw. My raw diet combined with my yoga practice yielded some revelations… Namely:

1. What I wanted in life did matter. And what I wanted was to be closer to my family so that I could both give help to my beautiful mother, who was suffering from ALS
(unbeknownst to us), and receive help from my family, as single motherʼs often
need. What I didn’t yet realize was that I also wanted to be closer to the Divine, and
this was the first step.

2. I wanted to teach yoga instead of selling my soul to line someone else’s
pockets; I wanted to stop pimping myself out in an effort to control the power of
the outside world. Little did I know, I was being called to wake up; I was being
called by my soul to create a life of passion and dedicate myself to a vocation
rather than a career.

3. I actually could make this change. It was not as impossible as I’d led myself to
believe. All of those fears that I had allowed to trap me were exactly that – fears. I
vowed to myself that I did not want to live a life based on fear, but rather, one of
love.

And that is where yoga has led me- to a life of love. Iʼm now remarried with a ten-year old boy and a one-year old baby girl. I teach yoga for a living and I write with passion daily.

Rebecca Butler bioRebecca Butler lives in Fort Worth, TX. Here, she fancies herself in a community that is
at the genesis of change. By day, she is a self-proclaimed-intensity-junkie yoga teacher,
serving as the lead teacher at a local donation-based studio known as Karmany Yoga, a
mother, and a wife… By night {when the house sleeps}, she is a writer, a dreamer, and a
poet. Her most meaningful moments are sometimes spent pushing a stroller, listening to
her latest muse {from Dr. Wayne W. Dyer to Caroline Myss}, and picking up poop from a
90-lb silver lab puppy named Gunner. Her mother passed from ALS (Lou Gehrigʼs disease) in early 2012. Through this journey, Rebecca learned more about life, love, and laughter than any book could have possibly taught her. It is in her memory that Rebecca chooses to live each day in Joy… Joy for life – the ups and downs, breaks and bruises, and the glory. Oh, the glory. You can find out more about her teaching & writing at www.rebeccabutleryoga.com.

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Mind Over Back Pain

Name: Sara Curry
Location: Portsmouth, New Hampshire, USA
Occupation: Yoga Teacher & Studio Owner

Image by Flickr user neckandback.

In 2001, after a history of throwing my back out, I was diagnosed with 2 herniated discs. I had endured long periods where I couldn’t move or perform the tasks of daily life for a few days or even weeks. But in 2001, it became worse than ever. The pain was constant and I couldn’t find relief with any activity. Moving hurt, but so did resting. I couldn’t lie on the table long enough to get a massage. I thought chiropractic care would help, but after some sessions, I was in too much pain to even get into my car. My husband had to tie my shoes for me, he had to bring in the groceries and change the cat litter, shovel the walk, weed the garden, and anything else that required lifting, carrying or bending.

I had just started practicing yoga at Bikram Yoga Burlington, Vermont, when the pain became really acute. I called the studio and asked what I should do. My teacher, Aimee, told me I could take a couple of days off if I really felt I needed it, but to get back in the studio before a week had gone by. I visited a spine doctor that week and got my diagnosis. “Cortizone shots, pain killers and surgery,” he explained, were my only options for pain management. Notice that I didn’t say “rehabilitation.” He had nothing to offer long term; no way to heal or rehabilitate the area. Instead he offered a way to just cut out the bulge and take drugs so that I couldn’t feel it.

I knew there had to be another option, a better option. The yoga had been making me feel great in so many other ways, that I decided to trust the process. I listened to my teachers. I practiced almost every day for over a year. In my poses, I worked on creating traction for my spine to take the pressure off the compromised discs. I limited or skipped forward bends all together. I worked to deepen my backbends in order to improve my spinal alignment and to develop soft tissue strength to support the weakness in my inter-vertebral discs.

I shed a lot of tears on my mat in that hot room. Tears from the pain. Tears because I felt sorry for myself. Tears because it was hard and sometimes I felt hopeless. When you are in the depths of that kind of pain, it is hard to see that there might be a relief someday. When everything hurts, from brushing your teeth to sleeping, it is hard to imagine that your life won’t always be focused on your pain, even in your sleep.

There were many days that I pulled into the parking lot, drove around the back of the building and right out the other entrance. Sometimes I did that circle three or four times before I would park my car and drag my aching back through the doors of my yoga studio. Many of my classes were very painful, but I always felt worse if I didn’t go to class.

My biggest breakthrough came when I took a class with Rajashree Choudhury in Los Angeles at Bikram Yoga International Headquarters. I wanted to speak with her before class to give her a disclaimer about my back and to ask her for any help or modifications. There was a long line of students waiting to speak with her, so I never got my chance. Before she started the class she told us that many students had asked her about modifications for back pain, “Just do your yoga,” she told us.

And I did. Within 11 days, I was pain-free and terrified. I was terrified that it wouldn’t stick, that the pain would come back, or that I would do something to hurt myself again.

I still face that fear some days.Thankfully the days are now few and far between, but it does come up from time to time. Each time it does, I get better at dealing with it. I tell myself that moving my body is not going to damage it. I remind myself that I have learned to heal myself with yoga before and that I have the tools to do it again.

Owner and Director of Bikram Yoga Portsmouth, Sara Curry is a 500-hour Certified Bikram Yoga Instructor. Sara found her way to Bikram Yoga after years of rugby, weightlifting and running left her with two herniated discs and debilitating back pain. Faced with a choice from her doctors between surgery and a lifetime of cortisone shots, Sara chose Bikram Yoga instead. With just the 26 postures, she was able to return to a pain-free life. She has been inspired by her own recovery to share this healing series with others. Sara has given birth to two children naturally, with no back pain during either pregnancy. She has returned to snowboarding and hiking and can carry her 5-year old up Mount Agamenticus, on her shoulders, without any pain. And all of this knowing there was a time when she couldn’t roll over in bed at night without searing pain. In the words of Bikram Choudhury, it truly is, “Never to late. Never too bad. Never too old. Never too sick to start all over from scratch.”

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The Yoga of Weight Loss

Name: Jean Merlen
Location: Dunkerque, France
Occupation: Pharmacist

First, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jean, I am a French pharmacist, and living in a country with a very rich food culture, I have struggled with weight issues for years. So, when an old friend of mine introduced me to Bikram Yoga, I could not imagine how much my body would be transformed in only six months.

My first introduction to yoga, prior to my Bikram practice, was with a really inspiring Anusara Yoga teacher in my hometown. That first yoga experience was very surprising to me, as I felt so good after classes, something I had never felt after any other sport classes.

Later, when my friend invited me to join her for a Bikram Yoga class, I asked around to find out more about the practice. Few people had heard of it, and among those who had, I heard some negative impressions about the heat, the franchise concept, etc. But despite any negative feedback I received, I decided to trust my friend and give it a try. She thought I’d leave the hot room (aka “the torture chamber”) after a couple of postures, but I stayed! And even better, I made it to the end of class and then enjoyed savasana… What a shock!

At the end of class, my friend came over and gave me a hug. I then went into the shower…and I cried, a lot. They were tears of joy I guess. As I sometimes say, my body realized way before my mind how much this yoga was exactly what I needed at this time.

Before the experience, I was 308 pounds. My friend and I took classes four days in a row, and as a beginner, I was quite proud! But once I returned back home, I waited a couple of weeks to repeat the experience, mainly because of lack of time (there is no Bikram studio less than 1 hour from my home). But once I did it again, the benefits were so great, that I tried to make the journey to the hot room at least once or twice a week. Six months later, I had lost about fifty pounds. And I’ve done this with only Bikram Yoga and by eating healthier food. I did not do this with any fad diet, medicine nor with surgery.

Hatha Yoga, Anusara Yoga, and most of all Bikram Yoga really allowed me to understand the true meaning of “union” (after all, that’s what “Yoga” means right?). The yoga really helped my body and mind to reunite. It helped me to simply remember that I was strong. With six month of regular (but not intense) practice, I’ve lost weight, I have gained much more balance and flexibility, and my mind is much clearer than it was.

Bikram Yoga is just yoga, no more no less. Maybe it’s not everybody’s yoga, but it’s exactly the yoga I needed. In order to avoid dehydration from all of the intense heat and sweating, I learned to drink more water than I ever had before. And all of that sweating helps to rid my body of unhealthy and unwanted toxins.

I wanted to share my personal experience, especially for people who might have weight issues, because it is clear to me that yoga helps you to drink more water, to eat better (I now crave fruits and veggies instead of sweets and fat!), and to get back into balance and comfort in your own body. Weight issues create discomfort, then you get used to dealing with frustration, and the judgment of others makes you judge yourself in the worst possible way. Bikram Yoga has helped me to get rid my life of all of this negativity and to regain my confidence.

I have so much gratitude for the dear friend who introduced me to this real life treasure of Bikram Yoga. Please friends, always remember you ARE strong, much stronger than you think. You deserve the best for your health, and even if you have no other issues than a couple of extra pounds, I encourage you to give it a try. And keep in mind Patanjali’s lessons: loving kindness, compassion and joy! Have compassion for yourself and be patient with your transformation. Don’t let frustration get the better of you, as frustration is a block to transformation! And most importantly, love yourself and remember that we all have beauty and strength inside… sometimes we just forget it.

Edited by Jeannie Page.

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