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How Yoga Saved My Life

Updated: May 10, 2022

Posting in honour of international yoga day which was on June 21 and Sheena's Place - how these two relate to one another I'll explain in my story which follows.

Yoga saved my life. Period.

The way this happened is interlaced with its own stories and complexities. The bottom line is that through certain interweaving circumstances, I came to know yoga, meditation and CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) more deeply, through a centre known as Sheena's Place located in downtown Toronto, Canada.

I grew up in Toronto, my beloved hometown city. I went to highschool a little north of there, in Richmond Hill, and then returned to the city when pursuing my studies at the University of Toronto, completing my bachelor's studies in Anthropology and Archaeology. It was during that time, especially during my first year of university, that extreme anxiety kicked in, as well as an overwhelming depression that could only be explained as a black cloud that loomed over my head. I sought out therapy, traditional talk therapy, spoke to my family physician, to my parents and friends, but never seemed to find the right techniques to help me escape this prison of my negative and whirling thoughts. Also during this time (because those of you who have been through mental illness know that it can manifest itself in many different ways simultaneously) I also struggled with an eating disorder for a few years from my late teens to my early twenties. At first, it seemed quite normal to want to suppress my appetite and look like the 'skinny girls'. However, my metabolism and body shape weren't meant to look a certain way, and so my body never really reacted the way I wanted it to. The struggle perpetuated itself, like a forever spinning wheel going downhill, picking up drastic speed along the way.

Then, something magical happened. I think I recall finding a flyer for Sheena's Place at the University, and so I walked down the street after one of my classes to find what looked like a narrow house, on what was then a quiet downtown street. It looked so cozy, inviting and homey. The sign on the door was quiet inconspicuous, understated, silently calling me in. I walked in and remember taking a breath as I approached the front desk, feeling calm and feeling very very welcomed. They must have handed me a program, this was so many years ago now - a lifetime ago- which I do remember studying over and over while lying on my bed, feeling positively overwhelmed at the existence of these programs, while choosing which ones would fit my needs.

I began with a CBT program, a program dedicated to training the brain and our thoughts - cognitive behavioural therapy. I also chose group therapy, and remember trying to fit in as many programs as I could squeeze in to my heavy university class schedule. I finally felt like I found a gentle path that would shape the person I have become today.

One of the free programs was yoga at a popular downtown studio. Free yoga! I couldn't believe it. As a university student, funds were tight, and taking yoga as a therapeutic outlet was exactly what I needed. Helen Goldstein, the studio owner, offered free classes to Sheena's Place members. Little did Helen know that this simple gesture of hers would then guide the path to which my life would take many years later. Those classes made me feel weightless - literally and figuratively. I learned to love my body and what it could do - how it could feel - and how it could help me to feel whole as a human being and especially as a woman. I learned yoga the way it was meant to be done -therapeutically - gently - honouring the body and what it needs in order to function properly.

I think I went to Sheena's Place for a little over a year. When I entered, I was overexercising 3 hours a day to manage my weight, limiting my eating and eliminating entire food groups - to get my body to react the way I wanted it to. It did for the most part - I was the thinnest I ever was before, but my thoughts were unhealthy and so was my relationship with my body, my vessel. I left Sheena's Place a WHOLE being - someone able to reshape her thinking into the way she wanted to feel and be. My journey would still have many ups and downs. It turns out the process never truly ends, it simply changes, softens, but never ends. That is the real learning - to be learning forever. I sought out therapy in other ways, from other places and people - but Sheena's Place will always hold the most special place in my heart for what it offered me in the most selfless of ways - free. It saved my life for free - and so I owe them more than ever could be calculated in dollars.

Having the experience of yoga that I did because of this relationship between Sheena's Place and Helen Golstein's studio, I learned that yoga would be my major healing tool and that I would use it for the rest of my life - becoming a yoga teacher and even opening my own studio, sharing all that I learned with thousands of others. Hoping that my story and experience could help and heal as many lives as possible. Now, I serve in another way - online. I serve my clients with live sessions over Zoom, I meditate over Facebook, write blog posts to heal and inspire and after years of thinking of this I have finally decided to offer a line of products - 100% of the profits going to Sheena's Place. This line of products is called 'Beautiful', and it will beautify your day, as you remember how worthy, loved and beautiful you are - just the way you are right now.

As for Helen Goldstein, I later went on to meet Helen when she came to my studio through a mutual friend of ours. I had the honour of sharing my story with her and letting her know how deeply her simple gesture had affected my life forever. Don't you love it when life gives you those full circle moments?

Now, it's time to give back to the place that helped me find my way and my health - through the 'Beautiful' Collection. Simply go to the shop on my website, choose a Beautiful product, and 100% of the profits will go directly to Sheena's Place so that they can continue to offer free programs to people suffering from an eating disorder.

Did you know that eating disorders are the leading cause of death of all mental illness?

We need your help. We need Sheena's Place.

Thanks for reading my story. Pass it on to someone that can benefit from this, that can heal and move on in their own journey with mental health, self-esteem and a healthy relationship with food and their body.

Love always and in service,

Donna 'Pranalakshmi' Poulidis

PS: Until June 30th, ALL donations through purchase for Sheena's place will be matched (doubled).

For more about this special place visit:

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