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#MadeForYoga - Winners Announced

Over the last 6 weeks, we’ve been reading your transformational stories– how you first came to yoga and what changed when you did. Thousands of you have shared your #MadeForYoga moments – your testament to showing up to the practice and allowing yoga to transform your life, on and off the mat.

We also teamed up with a few of our friends who inspire us to hear their #MadeForYoga stories:

Jessamyn Stanley

Yulady & Gerald Saluti

Keith Mitchell

Dice Iida-Klein

Claire Fountain

Morgan DeYoung

Alan Finger

Ashley Turner

Irene Pappas

Kristin McGee

In honor of our new Made For Yoga apparel collection, we have chosen a few yogis who participated to win a suite of gear including our new apparel that is as Made for Yoga as you are: Thank you to the stories featured below from Katarina Vidal Cueva, Natalie Winsell, Sam Gach, Michaela Codding, Heidi Zoltak, Nadia, Matt Owen, Britt Dienes, Katy Osborn, and Camille Bethune Brown.


 

Katarina Vidal CuevaKatarina Vidal Cueva
@katarinadoesyoga

I looked up at my toes, so frustrated with myself. My mind was running with the thought, “this is not exercise. Yoga is so lame.” This was my first time doing yoga, or restorative yoga, in this case. In 2013, I was admitted into residential treatment for an eating disorder known as anorexia nervosa. I lived in a home with eleven other women. My days consisted of eating six meals, group therapy sessions, a lot of sitting around, and restorative yoga.However many times I told myself I hated yoga, I secretly began to like it. It was the only time I could calm my mind. It was the one moment I could shut off my thoughts, and drift off for sixty-minutes. My restorative practice continued throughout my time in treatment in 2013-2015.

My eating disorder impaired me from being able to practice daily. It wasn’t until the end of summer 2015 that I was able to pick a more consistent practice. Yoga went from being something I dreaded, to becoming one of my biggest passions. It has brought my body and my mind more healing than I ever believed was possible. It’s helped me ease my anxious mind, & work through quieting the inner demons that inhibited me from living a happy, healthy life. 
Yoga has been a huge contribution to my recovery. I’m still in the recovery process, but it has been a huge inspiration to letting go of the coping mechanism I’ve used for 6 years. It’s allowed me to move my body, and open up my heart, when my body was extremely undernourished. Yoga has instilled in me the idea that in order for my body to move freely, I need to nourish & care for it. Yoga has been my ray of stability in the midst of a cloud of chaos. My yoga practice has helped me connect my mind and my body as one, but most importantly, it’s brought me the gift of presence. If it weren’t for yoga and my recovery, I wouldn’t be in the place I am today.


 

natalie WinsellNatalie Winsell
@nataliebrynyoga

I spent many years in the modeling industry, which did a number on not only my body internally but also my vision of what my body needed to, and did, look like. For years I looked at everything in an unhealthy, controlling, obsessive way: food, my weight, exercise. I had eating disorders and workout disorders and was desperately unhappy and insecure. 5 years ago I was injured while self-training for a half marathon and, I believe, that injury saved me because it brought me to yoga.

When I started yoga I was having anxiety attacks every single night, like clockwork. They were debilitating and scary and persistent and I thought that was something that I was going to live with for the rest of my life. But through daily practice, light meditation and learning to cherish my body - changing the foods and energy, relationships and thoughts that I allowed to sit in it - my attacks are gone. It wasn't over night, and it took a lot of big changes, but it came down to tuning into the fact that my body was signaling that it didn't with the way I was living, and then taking the initiative to make the changes I need to. This meant leaving relationship, a lifestyle, a town, friends, and a studio that I loved. It was so scary, but the best thing I've ever done for myself.

Additionally, I've learned to let go of ideas of how my body is "supposed" to look and now focus on how well I treat my body. How lucky I am to have a body that is still so healthy after all that it has been through: that is strong enough to move me through asanas, that is capable of breathing and beating and flowing blood and oxygen freely through it.  How lucky I am to just be.  I've learned to let go of relationships and people and behaviors that don't serve me, and to replace them with positive ones. That by getting rid of negative and toxicity around me, I in turn can reduce negative and toxicity inside of me.

And now (on top of all of that!) I've been gifted with the ability to teach and to watch my students transform on their mat. I get to serve them and help them and watch them become more aware. I get to offer a safe haven for movement and breath practice and expression. I get to allow THEM to just breathe and be and let go.

Grateful is not big enough.


 

samgachyogaSam Gach
@samgachyoga

I first tried yoga for no real reason other than that I thought it sounded fun. It sounded like it'd be a nice, peaceful, and enjoyable way to move my body and relax.

It was a good workout and you felt good after. But what got me hooked is the stuff I had no idea about.

Yes, yoga can be nice. But it's not always nice. It can feel peaceful, but sometimes it feels the complete opposite. It can definitely be enjoyable, but it also quite often feels like the last thing on Earth I feel like doing.
Yoga made me face my inner demons head on. I was angry, I was frustrated, I was afraid. I didn't like myself. I didn't know myself.

But yoga taught me that while change and growth are good, I really don't need to change anything because I already have everything I need.
Yoga showed me that under all the layers of shit that life has put on me over the years, I am my true, unique, perfect self. It forced me to face myself every day until I had peeled back all the layers of shit.

Yoga hasn't changed me. Yes, it may often feel like it has — for example, I am much more conscious of how I treat my body and what I put in it. I am much more aware of who I surround myself with. I now trust that I can handle anything as long as I remember to breathe.

But no, yoga has not changed me. It's helped me find me.

I am still peeling back those layers every day. I don't know if I'll ever get to the last one. But yoga is not about getting to a destination. Yoga is a practice. And the beautiful thing is that it never ends.

I am made for yoga. You are made for yoga. We are all #MadeForYoga.


 

Michaela CoddingMichaela Codding

I started practicing yoga to de-stress while raising my two kids who at that time were 11 and 9.

I was craving some me-time and noticed immediately how much easier it was to breathe through difficult mom moments. My kids would notice, because rather than blowing up I would stay calm. The ability to take a deep breath got me through some of the challenges of teenage-hood.

I loved the way my body felt when I practiced. I had been a runner and everything was tight. My low back was constantly out of whack because my hamstrings and hip flexors were so tight. Yoga helped me build strength and flexibility and relieved my back pain.

About a year after I started practicing I attended my first teacher training and immediately knew that I wanted to open my own studio to share this amazing practice with as many people as possible and did so 3 years later.

My practice has taught me love and compassion for myself as well as the people around me. It has helped me to develop patience and to find balance through rocky times.

A year ago I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and even though my physical practice is nothing like it used to be, after surgery, chemo and radiation, the practice of breath, focus and equanimity is always available to me.


 

Britt DienesBritt Dienes
@brittdienes

I found yoga as a pre-teen figure skater, and it remained a subtly shimmering undertone in my life until I walked in my teacher’s studio in my late twenties, in deep physical pain but totally unaware of the emotional burden I was carrying. In yoga teacher training I found a safe and sacred space to heal my injuries while learning to heal the physical and emotional pain of others. Yoga led me to India, and India triggered in me a fascination for alternate forms of medicine, ultimately leading me to study acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. My original degrees were in Literature and I was a writing teacher: after re-finding yoga I’m now an acupuncturist and herbalist, working with my hands and voice every day to bring relief to others. Yoga changed my career path and my life, cultivating in me a hunger to know and to study the human body and the healing arts in as many traditions as possible. Yoga re-made me, and I am forever grateful.


Heidi ZoltakHeidi Zoltak
@heidiyogi

It all started 8 years ago. I attended yoga classes after work at a rec center for exercise twice a week. I liked it but didn't think much beyond that. Then in 2012, my life changed in an instant. I was in a horrid rope swing accident that left me bedbound and then homebound for 6 months and completely debilitated as my leg was crushed. I was alone a lot, as my husband and children eventually went back to school and work. Life went on. As I worked through my recovery, therapies, countless surgeries and infections, I started a daily home practice. It began with lots of yin and meditation and eventually led into a modified asana practice. Though I couldn't walk without assistance, I could go to my mat... it was there for me unconditionally in a new world of conditions. I moved, I felt, I healed from the inside out. I began to find peace in that my life was different. I learned how to surrender and I became completely liberated and empowered by the new circumstances. I looked at life with new eyes and a full heart. I learned how to process my frustrations and embrace myself with love. I stopped blaming myself and I made a decision to take my life back. 6 months ago, I amputated my leg. I traded in agony for life. I sacrificed a small piece of my physical self that no longer served me... I let go. Yoga saved me; I am whole again. I was #MadeforYoga


 

HealthAndStrength808Nadia
@healthandstrength808

I came to yoga during my first pregnancy in 1996. From the very first breath, yoga has been a journey of strength and self-healing. Through five pregnancies, home-birthing, and 18 years of homeschooling children. Yoga is my medicine. Yoga is a crucial tool for Mothers. It has helped me to continually cultivate the patience it takes to raise the future generation and to be a catalyst for change, both on and off the mat. Yoga is a lifelong discipline that has taught me, I am limitless and that all is achievable. It has helped me transform my body time and time again. Being pregnant five times, I have gone through many shapes and sizes. The asanas have helped me strengthen, tone, and heal my body. A potent physical discipline that continues to evolve with each breath. Inhaling, exhaling, opening, releasing...moving through the postures...moving through the emotions...yoga is healing on so many levels. Spiritually awakening, emotionally balancing, mentally strengthening, and physically purifying...yoga is a blessing.


 

MattOwenMatt Owen
@mattowen1977

Overweight, out of shape,eating fast food 3x a day, severe sleep apnea, I was on the verge of death. I discovered DDPYOGA and it changed everything. My @mandukayoga black mat pro was the final piece of the puzzle. In 2014 I also became an instructor. I've never gotten off the mat with any regrets. Turns out I was made for yoga!!


 

Camille

Camille Bethune-Brown
@camiyogaom

Throughout my childhood I was always drawn to holistic lifestyle but didn’t truly understand how beautiful it was. It wasn’t until after I was diagnosed with spina bifida, tethered cord syndrome, and scoliosis that I decided to make conscious holistic changes. After the discovery I went to physical therapy frequently, only to have the pain come back shortly after her sessions. I was told that I may always the back pains and will have to visit a physical therapist for the rest of her life as well as be forced to wear an uncomfortable back brace for years to come. I experienced yoga years before and loved how I felt, relaxed and recharged but after the discovery of scoliosis I understood its power. I began practicing yoga every day and found that the back and neck spasms completely went away. I would say that the authentic purpose of my yoga is simply to become more authentic – to expand into possibility and break down the boundaries that enclose me within what is known and what is safe. My practice allows me to evolve into not only who I feel I am meant to be as an individual, but who I feel I am meant to be as part of the human collective. As I work through my practice daily, I am uniquely reminded of how connected we all are.


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Katy Osborn
@travellingyogigirl

My yoga journey has been a slow but steady one. I couldn't tell you what my first class was, but it was a YouTube video and I only tried it because I heard this yoga thing was supposed to be good for you. 
Then came college. I probably only did 4 classes of yoga total that first year, but I did go to my first live yoga class. It was the first time that I felt like a gym was a good place to be. I was never athletic, always saw myself as an artistic person. I didn't enjoy gym class, but I DID enjoy theater, choir, art class and photography class. I still love these things and I find myself gravitating back to them from time to time.

My friends said 'yoga seems like something you WOULD do.' It's funny how sometimes people on the outside looking in can see things you can't. But they could, and I'm glad they did.

2 years later, I became a yoga instructor at my university for one precious year before I graduated. I learned a lot, and looking back, it was so much fun, such a confidence builder, and honestly, kept me from getting overwhelmed and depressed during my senior year. 
Now, I'm working full time at a yoga studio and life is good. My personal yoga practice has improved (I'm the student again!) and this will be the year I get a national yoga certification.

The best part about my yoga journey? It's not over, and it never will be.

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