Badass Women: Stephanie of The Bionic Yogi
I want you to meet somebody amazing.
A few months ago I started teaching alongside Stephanie Druet, also known as The Bionic Yogi. I immediately realized that, when it came to yoga, this girl was not fucking around. Stephanie completely schooled me in her knowledge of yoga, her dedication to her practice (her back-bends are next level), and her ability to somehow function on very little sleep while still managing to be absolutely delightful.
Sound pretty rad? That's only the beginning.
What makes you tick?
Ever since I was a little girl I loved to cook and bake. From a young age I would sit at home and watch Master Chefs of the World and just soak in all of the techniques. Once when I was about two years old my mom found me in the kitchen with a giant chef's knife. I had pushed a bar stool across the kitchen, climbed it and was pretending to cook. I also always loved animals and enjoyed eating fruits and veggies the most so I guess that it's a pretty natural progression that I've been vegetarian for a long time and am now vegan. I spend most of my time and money creating delicious vegan food. I love when people who eat my food are convinced that there's no way it's vegan because it's "so good". Like only animal products can taste good?!
When I'm not cooking (or eating) vegan food I'm either at home with my wonderful critters (one handsome lab and two kitties) and my very supportive boyfriend or I'm at the yoga studio either teaching or practicing. I also love to hike and spend time outside as much as possible.
How do you find balance?
This is a great question. I'm still trying to figure that out! I've worked in restaurants for most of my adult life and have felt out of balance for a very long time. I'm currently making the transition from restaurant worker to full time yoga teacher and behind the scenes yoga studio person (for lack of better words). My yoga practice helps me find balance but I feel I loose a lot of that balance every time I work a crazy restaurant shift. I'm very much looking forward to finally having a routine and a (hopefully) more balanced way of life.
What's your personal Donuts + Down Dog?
I love any plant based food that's tasty and interesting. I really enjoy playing with new flavor combos and textures. I also really love baking and eating said baked goods. Yoga is most certainly my favorite way to move my bod but I also love to hike, swim and play volleyball when time (and my body) allows.
What's the biggest obstacle you've ever overcome?
On Christmas of 2013 I was in a really bad car accident. It was noon and we were on our way to visit family when we hit black ice and started to fishtail. We spun across all 4 lanes of I-5 South and hit the median head on. I remember so vividly facing traffic as cars sped head on towards us but somehow not one of them hit us. We are very lucky to be alive. My boyfriend Mike and the dogs (our dog Crash and my sister's dog Lily) all came out with a couple of bumps and bruises but in relatively good shape. I wasn't quite as lucky. I suffered from a collapsed lung, two broken vertebrae (one burst and one simply fractured) and a shattered ankle. I remember laying on the ice cold pavement of Interstate 5 in complete shock just apologizing profusely to all of the amazing people who stopped to help me. I felt so bad that I had ruined their Christmas (even though it was a freak accident and I wasn't even the one driving).
I spent 12 days in the hospital, five of those with a tube sticking out of my side ribs to drain the fluid that was building up in my right lung. In my time at Harborview I had a spinal fusion where they actually rebuilt the vertebra that burst and fused it the to surrounding vertebrae and two separate ankle surgeries to keep me from losing my foot (had I been in another state with a lesser orthopedic hospital I might have lost it). Those were the most trying days of my life thus far.
As soon as I left the hospital I quit taking all pharmaceutical drugs. Even my pain killers. I used only medical marijuana and natural herbs and spices to help with the painful healing process. My yoga practice really came in handy here. I spent a lot of time meditating and doing breathing exercises to get my focus away from the pain and to keep me calm.
The following two months I had what they call an ex-fix (large pins screwed into my leg to hold my ankle in place while it healed). I also had a full upper body brace for five months following the accident. These months then became the most trying times in my life. See, when tragedy strikes people are there for you at first but then they continue on with their lives and you stay suspended in the tragedy; living every day in your own worst nightmare. Your friends stop visiting and soon after they stop calling. They go on hikes and to parties while you struggle to stay alive. They continue moving forward and you stay right where you are watching others do the things you used to take for granted. This is the part about recovery that most people don't talk about because it's so painful and so scary to be alone like this dealing with your emotions and physical pain. If it weren't for Mike, my sister Christina and my best friend Abi I don't know where I would be today. They helped me stay sane.
My doctors told me I would probably never walk without a limp again, and that I certainly wouldn't ever run again. They said that I would probably walk with a cane by the time I was in my 50's and I'd have arthritis and pain for the rest of my life. I couldn't accept this as a reality. I wasn't ready to throw in the towel and be miserable for the rest of my life. So, I fought. I did my physical therapy exercises as prescribed, I practiced yoga as soon as I was given the okay (even though it was very gentle and very modified) and I did what I could to keep myself positive; to keep myself moving forward.
One year into my recovery I was walking, mostly, without a limp. I was doing far better than my doctors said I would be doing after two years of recovery. I contributed a lot of this to my yoga practice. That winter Mike and I packed our things up and went to Arizona for a 200 hour vinyasa teacher training. In this strange turn of events I found my calling. I had healed and still continue to heal in ways nobody ever thought possible because of my yoga practice. I had been so tragically distressed for so long because "my life would never be the same after the accident" but then I realized what a blessing it really was.
Because of this traumatic event I have a different view on life. As a yoga teacher I am able to share that view with others. I suffered greatly so that, hopefully, I can help others suffer a little less through their own tragedies.
What advice would you give yourself 5 years ago? Why?
If I could give my past self any advice it would be to learn to love myself and to let go of the past. In my late teens early 20's I had a few painful (both emotionally and physically) things happen to me and I blamed myself for them. I was perpetually stuck in the "what if's"; wishing I'd made different choices than I had. I even blamed myself for being sexually assaulted, as if it were my fault for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and putting trust in the wrong person. I dwelled for so long on the past and how I should have known better. It ate me up inside. I spent a lot of time hating myself for letting those things happen. The car accident was the catalyst to being able to heal and move forward from the pains of my past.
What's your biggest source of inspiration?
I would have to say my biggest source of inspiration is my amazing boyfriend. Mike has been such a solid presence in my life over the last 4+ years. After the car accident he worked full time, took care of me (cooked for me, changed my bandages, helped me bathe, etc) and took care of our dog and the household chores. He's always there for me when I need him and never ceases to amaze me. On top of all of this he always keeps a positive attitude. Even when I have a rough day (feeling down on myself for having metal in my spine or whatever it may be) he finds a way to make me laugh. He's always so positive and sweet.
What are you most excited about for 2017 and beyond?
I'm excited to be full time in yoga studios. For the first time in my life I feel like I'm exactly where I should be. For the years to come I hope to make my way into yoga therapy so that I can work one on one with people who have been through both physical and emotional traumas. I want to empower people to help themselves heal from what ever they are going through. I know that I am moving in the right direction and see how my experiences have already helped others begin to heal in their own lives.
What are some of your favorite things?
I'm like weirdly addicted to thrift shopping for vintage Pyrex right now. I mean if I'm going to cook killer vegan food why not have it be in a cute vintage casserole dish?!
My Jade yoga mat is probably my favorite inanimate object right now. It's where I go to heal and grow. I find the most peace on that mat. Also, it's super grippy and super wonderful!
I'm currently reading about 5 or so books on Buddhism, yoga and yoga philosophy- The Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Therapy and Integrative Medicine, The Four Noble Truths, Ayurveda: A Holistic Approach to Health, and The Buddha in Your Mirror. I have about a dozen others that are in the rotation but these are the most current. I pretty much have reading ADD because I want to learn all of the things and never have enough time.
I love supporting local businesses, especially those that are working towards a common goal of mine. My favorite place to get specialty vegan items is Vegan Haven in the University District. The owner is so sweet and so are all of the volunteers who work there. Also, all of their proceeds go to Pigs Peace Sanctuary which is so great. I'm all about love and compassion for every living being no matter who they are.
I'm totally obsessed with my dog Crash. He's a six and a half year old fox red lab. He's absolutely beautiful inside and out, my best pal and an amazing service animal. I like to call him an ambassador of good will.
I really enjoy listening to clasical music and jazz. Sometimes I feel so old when I says things like this, what can I do? I just love music with emotion and depth.
PS! I may be compensated if you make any purchases from this post.