Updated: Feb 8
From skeptical hesitation to joining the international community of Yoga Therapists
When I first started practicing yoga I was skeptical about how much it could really help me reduce pain, strengthen my body, and improve functionality. At that point I had spent 3 years in surgeries and therapies, and was taking so many different medications. My symptoms were mostly “managed,” but I was not functional. I was numb and in a haze all the time. I was getting by, but not truly living. And my doctors had nothing else to offer me. “We’re shifting from trying to fix things to pain management” they told me.
The cocktail of medications that I was on created an environment in my body that made bringing life into this world too dangerous for both myself and a baby. It wasn’t until I had no choice but to terminate an unplanned pregnancy that I found the motivation to really try something else. I knew there had to be another option out there. I was too young to be on these medications for the rest of my life. God created me with this perfectly imperfect body… there had to be a way to thrive.
"You can try yoga ... I've heard it's helped people."
“You can try yoga…I’ve heard it’s helped people” was what my doctor told me when I pushed him to offer me an alternative solution to medications for my pain management. But he couldn’t direct me to someone who knew how to work with someone suffering from ongoing pain and living with physical and emotional pain, uncertainty, and trauma. “Just go to a class at the local studio!”
Instinctively, it didn’t seem safe for me to join a regular yoga class. The doctors hadn’t been able to identify why things were different in my body, but it was already obvious that I was a zebra, and not a horse.
Getting on the mat...
I wanted to work with someone who would really see me, understand the unique combination of challenges I was dealing with, and help guide me in making sure I practiced safely, avoiding anything that would worsen my condition.
Back then the IAYT database of Yoga Therapists didn’t exist, so doctors had no way of knowing which yoga instructors were qualified to guide someone with complex medical conditions.
Luckily, I found a class called “slow flow” at the local studio, which seemed a lot safer for me than all the power, vinyasa, and hot yoga classes being offered. JoAnne, a nurse practitioner, taught the class, and she was kind, attentive, patient, supportive, and so much more.
"I have no idea what just happened, but I know this is good for me."
There were only a handful of students, and I was at least 20 years younger than everyone in the class. It seemed like they could all move with more strength and ease than I could, and it took a lot of effort and willpower to stay focused on myself without comparing, criticizing, or judging.
I made sure to meet with JoAnne privately, so she could be aware of my specific health situation, and would be able to help me modify the practice accordingly. I felt seen and safe in her class, and that made all the difference.
I spent most of my first few classes in supported child’s pose trying to focus on continuing to breathe. I was blown away by how much effort that demanded of me, and also how much better I felt mentally, emotionally, and even physically when I succeeded. I walked away from my first class thinking “I have no idea what just happened, but I know this is good for me. I want and need more.”
"If you show up to class, and all you do is breathe with awareness, you are practicing yoga."
JoAnne was so encouraging to me. “If you show up to class, and all you do is breathe with awareness, you are practicing yoga.”
Slowly, slowly, as I kept showing up on my mat over and over again, I noticed significant shifts. I was able to remain focused for longer. I wasn't trying to escape the experience of my body as much. I could find my breath even when I was experiencing pain. My muscles were supporting me instead of relying on bones and joints. As I strengthened physically, mentally, and emotionally, I was able to begin the process of gradually reducing my medications.
I knew that I needed to immerse myself in yoga practice if I wanted to cleanse my body of medications, and after over a year of daily practice with my teacher Esther Alfasi in Israel, I signed up for her teacher training program.
We can only teach what we know...
I didn’t allow myself to even imagine teaching regular classes, but I knew that if I wanted to really internalize everything I was learning, I needed to understand it on the level of being able to give it over to someone else. We can only teach what we know.
I maintained my personal practice, and started teaching some close friends who were completely understanding if I had to cancel last minute due to a pain flare up. I learned how to be able to teach without doing the movements, because unless I was totally focused and present, those movements often caused me increased pain.
As I continued with my own healing journey, I discovered that I was able to teach even when I wasn’t feeling great because flare ups were more short lived. I had accessible tools to help bring me back to my window of presence and functionality. With time the experience of teaching and helping others helped me stay more regulated
I had previously studied as a Judaic Studies teacher, but had already accepted that I wouldn't be a typical teacher in the school system. It became abundantly clear to me that teaching yoga is what I wanted to be doing with my life, and the integration of these two ancient wisdoms felt so obvious and clear to me.
I have gained my life back and in this process learned that I want to pass on the gifts that have been foundational in my healing journey to you.
I have taught classes in living rooms and basements.
Yoga studios and gyms.
Classrooms and conference rooms.
Public parks and private gardens.
Eventually I was blessed to teach in my own home studio.
I have taught in wood cabins with gorgeous views and windowless rooms with industrial lighting.
I have taught classes for small children and for those more advanced in their years.
I have taught people who are sporty and fit, and those trying to find the motivation to finally get moving.
I have worked with people looking to 'perfect' more advanced poses, and those trying to figure out how to get started.
Teaching groups both large and small has an exciting energy which I truly enjoy, but my passion has always been to work one-on-one with those who don't yet feel comfortable, safe, or confident to join a group class. I see my previous self in them, and feel so grateful that I can help them at this chapter in their life.
By meeting you where you are, I learn about you, as well as myself, and together we are able to navigate forward on your journey.
The more I taught, the more I felt drawn to learn more. Deepening and expanding my understanding of how the body functions and how we use yoga to help support us. How to honor the various challenges and struggles we bring with us, and how we can thrive instead of just survive.
As soon as I heard that my teacher Rachel Krentzman was joining forces with Michal Yarkoni to teach a 3 year Wisdom Body Yoga Therapy program that was recognized by the International Association of Yoga Therapist, I knew I needed to sign up. I was blessed to meet incredible practitioners and therapists-in-training and privileged to study and train with Rachel and Michal, as well as many other remarkable teachers.
Their in-depth, well rounded program further developed and advanced my skills and capabilities, and prepared me to meet standards that can give professionals in the medical system trust to work with yoga therapists like me.
Unlike what was (not) available when I was looking to start my healing journey with yoga, as an IAYT certified Yoga Therapist, doctors can now confidently refer their patients to work with me or other IAYT certified therapists.
Be in touch...
It is an honor and a pleasure to apply all that I have learned on my own journey to help others, and continue learning from everyone I meet.
If you think I can help support you in your own process of improving your health and wellbeing, please be in touch!
To learn more about Yoga Therapy…
Check out my blog post on the difference between yoga and Yoga Therapy
Local information and resources for Yoga Therapy in Israel
And IAYT’s resource website: https://yogatherapy.health/