Ten Inspiring Teachers of Yoga Who Have Beaten the Odds

Life is full of challenges: some that can be worked through and some that can only be managed. These ten inspiring yoga teachers have overcome adversity: each one has been helped by their yoga practice both on and off the mat, and each story is inspiring and encouraging in its own way.

Please find out how these yoga teachers overcame the odds and became the amazing yoga teachers that they are today.

Dusty Warawa

Dusty’s dreams of becoming an athlete were crushed after a serious snowboarding accident. He was told that he could never run again. Dusty’s body slowly recovered, but the mental effects of this life-changing experience continued to affect him. He felt incomplete and bored.

Dusty began to regain physical strength when he started to practice Yoga regularly. However, it was the mental benefits that Yoga brought him that changed his life. He believes that Yoga gives him the ability to control his thoughts and energy, as well as a greater appreciation of life. In order to spread this healing to the community, he now runs Karma Yoga and Fitness in Kelowna.

Dan Nevins

Dan Nevins was injured by an IED while serving in Iraq. He suffered traumatic brain injuries and had to have both legs amputated.

Dan was determined to stay mentally and physically fit. He tried Yoga but found it difficult with his prosthetic legs. Dan’s brave decision to practice Yoga without his prosthetics transformed everything. He found the connection with the earth he had been missing and the mental strength he needed to cope with the deeper wounds of war.

Dan is a passionate advocate of the life-altering effects of Yoga. He teaches Yoga for warriors, teaches yoga workshops and teacher training, and shares his story in public speeches.

Danielle Orner

Danielle Orner, diagnosed with bone cancer when she was 15, had her leg amputated at 16 and is still fighting the disease at 23. Danielle Orner decided to do it herself after her doctors failed to provide any help. She went into anaphylactic shock following the treatment and was unable to get out of that state.

She made two important life changes: she took up Yoga, and she adopted a plant-based diet. At 26, she was cancer-free for over two years. Danielle’s yoga practice evolved from accepting the poses that she couldn’t do to overcoming her limitations and taking a course in teacher training.

Amy Weintraub

Amy Weintraub, a former fiction writer and now yoga instructor, seemed to be fighting depression for the rest of her life. Her psychiatrist said she would need to take medication forever, and she felt that her depression defined her.

Her world changed dramatically when she started to practice asanas, pranayamas, and meditation. She no longer needed medication and was able to live a more fulfilling life. Amy was able to stop taking her medication with the help of a psychotherapist.

Amy’s experience with Yoga for Depression led her to create LifeForce Yoga Practitioner training, a course for teachers focusing on students with mental issues.

Marty Klein

Marty Klein, a Brooklyn native, was blinded by an eye disease in his 20s. After three operations, he became unable to see. Marty Klein’s struggle with an eye disease in his 20s led to him becoming blind after three surgeries. Through his work at Woodstock’s crisis intervention center, Marty found a connection with people and the community. He then went on to launch a number of initiatives to help people with disabilities.

Marty is also working on a program to introduce blind people to Yoga. Through this, she hopes to share the benefits of Yoga with a community that is often overlooked.

Aruni Nan Futuronsky

Aruni is a senior faculty at Kripalu Centre for Yoga and Health. She has been there since the 1990s. Aruni worked as a yoga instructor in New Jersey for many years. It was a great job, but she struggled with negative relationships with food, alcohol, and drugs.

She contacted Alcoholics Anonymous after a particularly bad evening and followed their 12-step Program. Aruni discovered that Yoga was a great complement to the 12-step Program. Her teachings of the 12 Step Principles combined with the Living Yoga principles are directly related to her own experiences of this powerful combination.

Tommy Rosen

Tommy Rosen went to rehab to overcome his drug addiction. However, his addictive tendencies remained. He began to gamble. This addiction had not only a negative financial impact but also an adverse physical effect.

Tommy was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease after a three-day stint in a casino that included high levels of adrenaline, sugar, and caffeine. He could not move without pain for several months. The incident led him to start a Kundalini meditation practice.

Through this, he found relief from his addiction behavior and was eventually inspired to launch Recovery 2.0, a program for addiction recovery based on his own experience. He also believes that the 12 Steps and Yoga are a powerful combination.

Kia Miller

Kia Mill’s story shows that models may not have everything they appear to.

She struggled for eight years with bulimia. She kept it hidden from her family and friends and felt a deep disconnect from herself. Kia’s Hatha Yoga practice gave her the courage to seek help. But it was her Kundalini meditation that helped her reconnect with her true self.

She has now embarked on a mission of sharing the practice with others and encouraging them to live their lives to the fullest creative and joyful potential.

Garth McLean

Garth’s active lifestyle was turned on its head when he was first diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. This chronic disease can affect brain function, motor control, and vision. Iyengar Yoga was recommended to him by a close friend, and he began practicing it shortly after his diagnosis.

Garth attributes his MS remission to Yoga and medical steroids. While the physical benefits of Iyengar helped him stay active, he credits the mental and emotional strength he gained from Iyengar whenever symptoms returned. His MS is now in remission for over ten years.

He teaches Iyengar in LA every week to help other people manage both MS and the challenges of life.

Lee Anne “LA” Finfinger

LA Finger believes that it is part of her self-care duty as a teacher to continue using medication to treat her anxiety and mood disorders.

She warns that meditation may be effective for some but could also put others in danger.

LA’s voice, grounded in reality and experience, reminds community members to be honest and open with themselves and one another.

Have you used Yoga to help manage an illness or overcome an adversity in your life? Share your stories!

Disclaimer: Although Yoga can be a great help to people with physical or mental illness, you must consult a doctor before changing your medication. Please make sure your yoga instructor is aware of all physical limitations so they can adjust you accordingly.

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