We thought that it was important for you to get to know our winner a bit better. I had the incredible pleasure of meeting with her and hearing her inspiring story.
Back at the beginning of 2020, when COVID reached the US, Deanna had a very regular, daily exercise routine. As the lockdowns began to land all over the nation and the businesses began to shut down, including the gyms and yoga studios where Deanna spent her mornings, she began searching for something to replace those activities with. Being the frugal person she is, she decided that she would participate in any free, online fitness sessions that she could find. After months of various fitness challenges and trainings, Yogi Flight School’s free arm balance and inversion training appeared for Deanna in November 2020 and she joined.
The training occurred over the course of a week, in 3 separate sessions through Zoom. Because Deanna has lymphedema nerve damage in her left leg that causes numbness and swelling, making some activities especially challenging, she was afraid of being called out during the training session for her body not doing things the way they were being taught. She joined the training sessions with her camera set to “off” - and rather than practicing, she took detailed notes on everything she saw.
She convinced herself that she was able to do all of the poses that were taught in the training, based only on watching others do so and the notes she’d taken - never actually trying them.
When enrollment for YFS opened at the end of that training week, Deanna struggled with the decision to join. Her rule had been that she would do anything if it was free, and she was now being asked to make a financial investment in herself. She waited until the very last minute before the doors closed but ultimately chose to join Yogi Flight School officially.
She dedicated herself to practicing for 1 hour each day, and learned that she was able to talk her body into the shapes and movements that were required to get into the poses, but wasn’t sure that she could do...and soon, she was flying!
Having always been “somebody’s something,” she now took the time to reflect on who she wanted to be and thought that the experience of a yoga teacher training would be a good start.
Deanna had planned on attending two different yoga teacher trainings (YTT) in 2021 that had been canceled due to covid. She desperately wanted to do her YTT with Nathania and felt in her heart that Nathania was supposed to be her teacher, but Nathania was not offering a YTT at the time.
At the end of May, when Deanna finished training her replacements a week earlier than anticipated in preparation for retirement, she sat to eat her lunch, thinking of what to do with the time she’d now gained and what would come next for her.
She peeked at her phone and found an email from Nathania (sent only minutes before) announcing that enrollment for Yogi Flight School’s first yoga teacher training was open. Deanna enrolled immediately, and was in somewhat disbelief that the stars had aligned to give her this opportunity to train with Nathania.
Deanna decided to enter the contest, with no expectations of the outcome and considered making a video to submit for the contest as a win in itself. She had no idea how to edit a video, and so she ran around recording the video over, and over, and over again until she was able to get through her 3-minute script without any major falters. (You can check out her video here.)
To fully understand what the case study contest truly meant for Deanna, you must know what she had been faced with during this time. Within the 2 months that the case study contest was opened, and the voting officially closed, Deanna’s mother had 2 strokes, and her young, active daughter, living in NYC was diagnosed with cancer. It was a difficult time for her, filled with many personal challenges, and sending her regularly traveling across the US to be with her family members in need.
At the time that the top 5 finalists were announced, she’d been at a chemo session with her daughter. It was a little bit of light during an otherwise dark time.
Just a couple of short weeks later, while moving her youngest daughter into a new apartment, Deanna happened to stop for a drink of water and quickly checked her phone. She had a notification that Nathania was live in the FB group, and Deanna was able to log on at the precise moment that Nathania announced her winning the contest. Deanna was shocked and experienced a great flood of emotions.
It had been enough for her to simply enter the contest, and to be declared the Grand Prize Winner in the midst of an extremely trying time was more than she’d imagined.
Deanna was also beyond generous with her cash prize and donated a portion of it in order to sponsor someone’s Yogi Flight School course who may not have had an opportunity to join otherwise.
She’s not self-conscious to post her less-than-perfect attempts at poses, or her outright face-plants, because she knows that she will get just as much loving attention for those as she would for the perfect posture.
The YFS members have become her friends from across the world.
I felt that I could do her story no justice by paraphrasing her words to fit into a narrative, and I’ve decided that her own words honor her story best.
“The Universe” (my God) has always put people/things/situations in my life that end up making perfect sense down the road. When we got the call that Allison was in the hospital, with a massive tumor in her chest and a significant pulmonary embolism, and they didn’t know what the hell was going on, Allison didn’t want me to tell anyone other than family because she was already being bombarded with texts (so many!!!) from her friends and co-workers who wanted to know why she’d fallen off the face of the earth. She knew that once our extended circle of friends heard that she was in the hospital the deluge of texts and phone calls would be unmanageable. I sat next to her hospital bed completely numb with terror and passed my time on Facebook watching my YFS friends faceplant, nail poses and transitions, and post pictures of them doing ninja poses in the most beautiful and serene places in the world. It brought me so much comfort, I can’t even explain it. People often have a “spot” where they practice their yoga in their home and seeing Paul with his steady calm demeanor in his yoga room with his dog poster in the background, Cecelia kicking up against the glass door and that contagious laugh of hers, Tina in her dining room doing handstands with a massive smile, Trina in her gym, Martin on his houseboat, Derya in her special spot, Steward and his couch, Abigail in her yoga studio, Lily in her family room… (I wish I had the space here to list everyone by name but it would be literally hundreds of people)...and of course, Nathania and her cats. I can’t explain how those posts kept me from completely losing my mind. Looking into their homes made me feel AT home. At one point a doctor came in and said, “I see you’re wearing a cross necklace so forgive me if I’m making an assumption here but, PRAY it’s lymphoma.” Pray it’s lymphoma. What? How fucked up is your world when you’re PRAYING your daughter has lymphoma? So my YFS peeps saved me from mentally going under. And by about the second or third day in the hospital, I just decided to post on the YFS page what was going on. And I was absolutely FLOODED with love. My YFS family supported me in a way that I could never have imagined. I know that YFS was never intended to be a support group, but during some of the worst days of my life, my YFS family was there to keep me afloat. And they continue to send love and support and texts and cards and flowers and gifts from all over the world! Asher brought us a home cooked meal Allison’s first day out of the hospital. He MADE US FOOD and hand delivered it from his home to Allison’s new apartment! When we went to the oncologist’s office to meet the chemo team, she sat in the waiting room eating a homemade “Asher” scone and I noticed she had a few tears on her cheeks. I put my arm around her and said, “It’s going to be ok, we’ll get through this.” or something of that nature, and she said, “I’m ok. I’m crying because I can’t believe your friend, that you’ve never met, made us scones.” That still blows my mind. The generosity and kindness of people who have never “met” me is almost unfathomable.
On top of that, one of my mottos has been “GSD” (get shit done) and I’m really good at it. However, I was mentally a basket case, couldn’t sleep, was living on bananas, Starbucks, and egg bites in a city I am completely unfamiliar with, and my daughter had to be moved out of one apartment and into another while she was in the hospital. So, while I’m an expert at GSD, this was like climbing Mount Everest. Barefoot. While blindfolded. I’m sure I “could” have managed to get it all done somehow “pre-YFS” but I was tapping into my YFS training the entire time I was getting my daughter moved. Physically, I was strong enough to carry an air conditioning unit up two flights of stairs (the guy said it was “less than 80 pounds” which is my marker because I know I can carry my 80 pound dog around - but it was pretty damn close to 80 pounds), and make several trips on foot every day from one apartment to the other schlepping Ikea bags full of stuff. But where I really noticed my YFS training coming into play was MENTALLY. I had Nathania’s voice in my head, particularly my favorite “Fight for it!” on autoplay when I was at my breaking point. And the phrase, “You get to choose” has been a constant. I don’t even recall instances where Nathania has said that but it’s her voice, in my head, reminding me that I get to choose (how to respond, what to do next, what I’m thinking, what my attitude is, whether I’m going to let this bring me down or fire me up…) And, I’ll be honest, there were times when my brain said, “You can drop down and do a freaking scorpion pincha if you wanted to, you can definitely _______________.” (Move this couch, unscrew that pipe, lift this box… fill in the blank.) That’s 100% YFS talking.