Category Archives: Yoga Saved Me

Yoga Transformed Me After Childhood Abuse

How yoga helped me heal from neglect and violence.

Kimberly Regan

I grew up in poverty in a drug-addicted and violent family. Without necessities like proper food or shelter, and subjected to regular abuse, I ran away at the age of 13. Within two years, I was on the road with a 19-year-old man. Being so young, I was attracted to his antisocial, rebellious past rather than recognizing these behaviors as red flags. Eventually, we called my mother and she threatened him with jail time for statutory rape and crossing state lines with a minor—unless he married me. She was, as she put it, “tired of dealing with me.” I was forced to wed him.

One day, he returned from work with a vengeance. Storming through the door, he grabbed his gun and summoned me. I didn’t know if he was planning to hurt me or someone else. I tried to make up excuses: I don’t feel that well; I’m tired; can we go after dinner? But he ordered me to get my things from upstairs. My hands quivered and my knees buckled as I closed and locked the bedroom door, knowing it would only buy me minutes.

See also Yoga Transformed Me After Trauma and Sexual Assault

Clutching the scissors that I’d come to hide beneath my mattress, I waited for him, my mind racing to think of an escape plan. Within seconds, he was pounding on the door. “I’m going to kill you if you don’t open this door!” he threatened. When the yelling stopped, I grabbed the bedroom phone and called the police. Then I hid behind the bed. It was the first time I’d ever asked for help.

The police arrived just in time. They ordered him to leave the property, suggesting a 24-hour cooling-off …

Yoga Transformed Me After Chronic Illness

Kelli Hansel Haywood didn’t know she was struggling with multiple autoimmune disorders. Here, how her yogic journey helped her heal and inspired her community in Appalachia.

Standing on the cold concrete floors of an old department store turned library, tucked into the timeless emerald hills of my hometown of Whitesburg, Kentucky, I look out over a yoga class of 10 or so students. With a population of less than 2,500, Whitesburg is in the far southeastern part of the state—in the coalfields of the central Appalachian Mountains.

The faces of my yoga students are familiar. Some are former co-workers; one was my fourth-grade teacher. Most have never done yoga before, and they are trusting me to guide them. And I’m not your typical teacher. Throughout my life, I’ve battled a long list of issues—depression, anxiety, and chronic illnesses, including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, dysautonomia, and polyarthritis. Symptoms such as constant fatigue, brain fog, and migraines have, at times, created such a disconnect that I’ve often felt like an alien in my own body. Yet, here I am.

See also Yoga Transformed Me After Depression.

A Journey to the Whole

When I discovered yoga in 1999, I was a coal miner’s daughter putting myself through college. There weren’t any studios around. Instead, I practiced through videos, occasional workshops in nearby cities, and online classes in the tiny living room of my trailer. My first Sun Salutation was with Jane Fonda, who had released Yoga Exercise Workout on VHS in the early ’90s. I had no idea that would be the beginning of a lifesaving spiritual practice. And I never envisioned sharing it with people in my hometown.

It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my second daughter, in 2007, that I tried a live yoga class at a nearby studio. And …