Yoga Changed My Life & It Can Change Yours Too

About four years ago, when I was 22 years old, I was diagnosed with epilepsy. When the doctors told me of all the things I could no longer do, of all the things I’d have trouble with in the future, and the very real risk of Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP), I felt broken. As I began taking medication in hopes of controlling my seizures, I started experiencing side effects that further interrupted my ability to complete normal daily tasks. I felt like a prisoner. Everywhere I looked, I was reminded that I was sick. I started to believe there was no way out and that I would never get better. I felt as though epilepsy had not only taken control of my body, but it had taken control of my entire life.

11071684_735073349945270_6255481979544981169_nAs conventional medicine only seemed to exacerbate my overall condition and put further strain on my family, we began searching for alternative forms of treatment in hopes of turning things around. When my mom came across an article that explained how both yoga and meditation are effective therapies for seizure disorders, I figured I’d give it a try.

In my very first class, I watched as the guy in front of me proceeded to get into a headstand, or as I called it, “sit on his head.” I was amazed. For th11100230_735085419944063_9110207024116922311_ne first time in what seemed like forever, instead of saying, “I can’t do that,” I found myself saying, “I can’t WAIT to do that.” Yoga quickly became a place where I could explore—where I could discover things that I was capable of doing. As I continued to show up to class and my teachers pushed me to try, I started to feel powerful. When I was on my mat, I wasn’t sick and there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do. Slowly, my diagnosis stopped taking precedence. My energy went into my practice and I began to heal from the inside out. Yoga was the vehicle that allowed me to see myself beyond my diagnosis. As soon as I stopped letting my diagnosis define me, I was not only able to imagine a life for myself outside of my epilepsy, but I found the strength and courage to make it happen.

Currently, I am wrapping up my first year of graduate school in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at Canisius College. Due to my grades and service work, I was recently inducted in to Alpha Sigma Nu, a National Jesuit Honor Society. I am working at the college as an ESL tutor, Advisor and Peer Mentor for both at-risk and international students. I am also in the process of launching Project1 in 26, a not-for-profit program meant to bring epilepsy awareness and education to schools. I have been seizure free for over two years.

Yoga brought me back to life and allowed me to dream again. One of my dreams is to share with others all that yoga has given me. I hope to one day incorporate counseling services with yoga to promote healing and empowerment for survivors of trauma, domestic violence and abuse, as well as those experiencing grief and loss.

11050801_735085899944015_3931736966002410025_nYou don’t have to be flexible, skinny or in perfect health to do yoga. You just have to show up and try. When you let go of expectations and all of the ways you tell yourself you can’t, or that you’re not good enough, you open yourself up to the possibility of achieving what you thought was impossible, both on and off the mat.

IMG_1772Article written by Alyssa Scarano. Alyssa is one of our YIS teachers working the Summer Saturdays project.

Reflection: Yoga at the Resurrection Church

I remember the class when Catherine mentioned an upcoming volunteer project that she was very excited about. My ears perked up. I was already interested even though I didn’t know what it was. You see, my boys are growing up and don’t need me as much (sad face). The last time I had volunteered was for an adaptive ski school program for children with special needs. It was a great experience during our long winters. But now, yoga has taken over my life and I was ready to spread the love.

image1Fast forward to my first YIS meeting. I reluctantly went. What did I possibly have to offer with my two years of practicing yoga and no formal training or certification? At the beginning of the meeting, we went around the room introducing ourselves and sharing our experiences. Ugh, I was dreading my turn. I shared that I was an elementary teacher of 25 years. But I kept hearing, “I did level one, I teach yoga, I’m going for level 2,etc.” I came home that night and told my family that I was “just a teacher” and I didn’t even know where I fit in this whole YIS experience. My husband reassured me that my teaching experience with kids has huge and he was so proud of my efforts.

So the first day of my volunteering, there was a travel ban due to snowy weather. I felt guilty for not going. The following week, I was ready and eager.11050801_735085899944015_3931736966002410025_n

We practiced yoga, worked on partner activities and before I knew it, class was over. But I wanted more! I was lucky enough to car pool with a fabulous new YIS friend, Alyssa. We babbled on and on about how fabulous the whole morning was. We were already planning the next Saturday together!  I was also fortunate to attend the Easter Egg Hunt at MLK Park. I hitched a ride with Catherine and her girls. We jammed to Wham and rapped our way to the Park.

It was a fabulous time letting the children “show off” their yoga moves while the Easter Bunny and Mayor Brown shook hands with all ages.

As you can see, you don’t have to be a yoga teacher to love volunteering at the Resurrection Church or for YIS. Just be ready to spread the love of yoga. Hope to see you there!11002582_738709506248321_2366283849508467148_n

Article written by Sheri M. Curry

Project Update: Easter Egg Hunt and YIS Demo

10422177_738704546248817_3417935340716509864_nBuffalo City Council member Demone Smith hosted the annual Masten Easter Egg Hunt at MLK Park on Saturday April 4th.  The event drew thrones of eager children and parents as well as special appearances by Buffalo’s Mayor, The Honorable Byron Brown; Buffalo City Court Judge, The Honorable 1508533_738708686248403_2628921827585962780_n
JaHarr Pridgen; and Erie County Family Court Judge, The Honorable Deanne Tripi.  Among these honored guests, our very own Catherine Cook-Cottone was asked to put on a yoga demonstration for the crowd.

Yogi’s In Service showed up BIG for the event with at least a dozen members assisting and demonstrating for the crowd.  Making the demonstration interactive and fun, Catherine awarded prizes to participants who could hold “tree” or “warrior 3” or “crow” the longest.  In addition to sharing their love of yoga, many Yogis in Service joined in the dance contests and showcased their love of dance! Our own yogi, Eric, was honored with a prize for his “current” dancing skills during the Mayor’s dance contest while Mary G. Carney got honorable mention for her “old school” style.

11133854_738702412915697_9027307369555350842_nThe YIS demonstration was quite popular, and many attendees asked about where to find Yogi’s in Service again.  We happily replied “Resurrection Church on Doat & Genessee every Saturday at 10am! And coming soon to the Delevan Grider Community Center!”  We can’t wait to return next year with some new dance moves and more yoga for fun.

Article written by Mary Carney