Yoga on the Road to Recovery

Blog 1 pic.jpgYoga on the Road to Recovery - Nicole - Sattva Yoga Bali.jpg

I am constantly told how lucky I am to be “living the dream” in Bali as a full-time yoga teacher at one of the most incredible resorts on the island. Inevitably the next question that follows is, “how did you end up here?”

There are so many different narratives that I could expound upon to answer this question but for me I think it comes down to living out my dharma; or what is more commonly referred to as “living one’s purpose.” I recently read a quote by Pastor Rick Warren who says that, “If you want to find your purpose in life, find your wound.” This deeply connected with me and speaks to the truth of my own path and life experience. Inherent in the depth of our wounds lay dormant our greatest teachers, wisdom and eventually gifts to be offered in service to humanity.

I carry the wounds of surviving a complex and at times traumatic childhood, growing up with a parent who battled with alcoholism. I can proudly say that this parent is now sober and on his own path of recovery, but in his drinking days, my father was a verbally abusive, angry alcoholic whom I was petrified to be around, and I walked on eggshells in his presence. I believe this primal wound festered into physical and mental disease that I have had to navigate my way through, and from which my journey to recovery began.


In 2002, my fascination with Shamanism led me to Peru where I was first introduced to plant medicine. Looking back, I can see that this was a catalyst to my awakening and yet also pulled the string that unraveled my purpose. When I left South America, I was 23 years old and my health began to decline rapidly. My digestive system was in havoc, I developed ulcers in my colon, I battled intense fatigue, brain fog, physical pain, and insomnia. It has been said that pain demands to be heard, and for me, the pain that I was experiencing forced me to stop in my tracks and investigate what felt at the time like my own demise. These were the darkest years of my life, but I can see now that they provided the fertile soil for the seeds of light to blossom. Although I had no way of knowing at the time, this period of my life was my rite of passage as a wounded healer.

In hindsight, I think my suppressed emotional trauma began to bubble up to the surface manifesting itself in the physical and mental body as depression. The physical ailments of depression hit me hard as I had always been a very active person, consistently “busy,” on the go, finding it difficult to sit still. I can now see that I used physical activity and exercise as a distraction to avoid stillness and looking beneath the surface of who I thought I was.

Desperate to get back to being “me” I spent years trying to understand and listen to my symptoms. I read everything I could on health and natural healing. I tried every type of healing modality, diet, fast, cleanse, and therapy that I thought would help me. Through this healing journey I discovered Ayurveda and yoga.

Initially I was drawn to the meditative aspect of yoga, where I began to find solace from my spiritual desolation. Meditation soon guided me to the deeper teachings of both yoga and Ayurveda and it is here that I truly found my path and with gratitude, my dharma.

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According to Ayurveda, the root cause of disease is the separation of self from the whole. My passion for teaching yoga and Ayurveda lays in the transformational capacity the fusion of these sister sciences has on consciousness. There is currently a trend to portray yoga as a fashionable form of exercise, which I believe to be a massive injustice to the heart of the practice. I used to struggle a lot with this because my body doesn’t look or act like the flexi-yoga bodies I was seeing on Instagram or Facebook, and this filled me with self-doubt about my dharma and purpose. I’m not an ex-dancer or gymnast, with a bendy, elastic body, and I have to modify most if not all of the postures to really be comfortable in my body. There have been MANY times I have thought about quitting because of self-doubt creeping in. Yet once again, it has been these challenges that have in fact become my greatest gifts. Having a body that isn’t very flexible, with a host of ailments means that I have learnt to adapt my practice, and because of this I have become a better teacher and stayed true to the heart of the practice. I don’t say this to boast, but as a humble acknowledgment that when we choose to walk down our spiritual path, it is filled with obstacles that are there to make us stronger, wiser, patient and most of all compassionate.

I believe my story and journey of self-discovery and recovery has given me the tools to better understand others, and to be of better service to those around me. I am so grateful for all of it. There is no greater feeling than being of service, and I sincerely believe that we are all on this earth to awaken who we really are and bring forth our unique gifts to the world. I love teaching beginners and showing them that yoga is something that can be embraced by any body and every body.

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One of the most important lessons I have learned through this journey is the importance of acceptance. When we fully embrace our uniqueness then life can move through us as intended. This means accepting our shadow sides and our light. Often the things we perceive as our imperfections are actually our greatest assets, intelligently designed to wake us up to our divinity and be of service to the whole. This to me is full recovery, the purpose of yoga and what I am most passionate about teaching.