Lauren VanDeinse’s blind trust in a piece of fabric has changed her entire life, now she works to share this experience with others through teaching AntiGravity Yoga.
VanDeinse, 26, from Babylon, New York is a full-time yoga instructor at three different yoga studios on Long Island.
She first started yoga as a teenager when she attended a class with her mother. When she entered college, VanDeinse continued to do yoga occasionally, but her practice came to an end when she severely injured her knee in 2009 while working as a horse trainer.
An accident while riding an inexperienced horse left Lauren severely injured. She dislocated her tibia and severed her ACL, MCL and lateral meniscus and she had no choice, but to have surgery to replace her torn ligaments with cadaver ligaments.
“I gave up yoga, I gave up doing everything that was physical,” VanDeinse said.
After college, VanDeinse became dependent on drugs to get through her days working at a restaurant.
“Lauren’s struggle with drugs was a dark time,” Tina Morace, 26, one of Lauren’s closest friends, said. “Not only for her, but for her friends and family and everyone who knew and loved her.”
Her boyfriend at the time was very into yoga and wanted VanDeinse to take a class with him. She told him it was not possible, that her orthopedic said her knee would never full recover.
She then learned about AntiGravity Yoga, which is a fusion of dance, yoga and aerial arts such as circus arts.
The instructors at Emerge Yoga and Wellness in Bellmore, New York informed her that this type of yoga is good for injuries.
According to VanDeinse, AntiGravity Yoga has healing properties and it puts less strain on the body’s joints since you are suspended from the air on a piece of fabric hanging from the ceiling.
“It liberates you to move your yoga practice off of your mat and into the air,” VanDeinse said.
VanDeinse tried AntiGravity Yoga in the Spring of 2012, despite the chances of further damaging the ligaments her knee.
“It actually healed my knee and now I have regained full range of motion and then some,” VanDeinse said.
Not only did it help her knee, but VanDeinse found a reason to get clean.
“Coming to yoga gave me the reason to want to get clean because I couldn’t perform at my best when I was like, all drugged up,” VanDeinse said. “So this was the reason I got clean.”
VanDeinse was not able to seek medical attention or attend rehab while going through the withdrawal process because she did not have health insurance.
“Watching Lauren go through the recovery process was a crazy sea of mixed emotions,” Morace said. “Naturally you never want to see someone you love so much go through any pain, mental and physical alike, so that was difficult to watch.”
VanDeinse feels that re-entering yoga was one of the best things that could have happened.
“Yoga has benefitted Lauren tremendously,” Morace said. “It truly saved her life. It has helped her become a stronger person physically and mentally.”
VanDeinse exceled in classes so much that the next step for her was to become an instructor.
She went to a four-day workshop, and spent a month with the creator of Forrest Yoga all in preparation for becoming an instructor.
“Lauren’s dedication to the practice and to her students’ individual experiences during class set her apart as a teacher and distinguishes her classes from others,” Eugene S. Feis, a fellow yoga instructor, said.
VanDeinse felt she benefited from yoga and wanted to share the practice with others.
“Yoga taught me that it was okay to just breathe through things and like learn how to cope with struggle whether it be a difficult pose or difficult sequence or a difficult thing in my life,” VanDeinse said. “Yoga taught me how to support my body through those times of struggle.”
Since studying to be a music teacher in college, VanDeinse has always wanted to pursue her passion for teaching. She worked toward this goal and she is currently teaching 15 yoga classes a week.
“Lauren’s anti-gravity and mat classes are always very deep practices,” Feis said. “She is always attentive to those students who have injuries and provides a space for healing.”
As an instructor, VanDeinse has watched many of her clients blossom.
“Her teachings, classes and modifications have enhanced my flexibility, lessened back pain I’ve had for years, enhanced my lung capacity, strengthened muscles I didn’t even know I had and helped to make me feel more comfortable, proud and happy in my own skin,” Stacey Ebert, one of VanDeinse’s students, said.
Ebert explained that she suffers from allergies and asthma, and VanDeinse always went out of her way to make sure Ebert was comfortable. For example, she made sure no one wore perfume to class and that the temperature in the room was always breathable.
“She tailors her instruction to the needs of students in each individual class and really gets to know her students, their fears, strengths and ailments,” Ebert said. “She takes the time to provide individual instruction, manipulations or modifications to anyone who might need them.”
VanDeinse’s favorite pose is called “eggbeaters,” in which you grab opposite ankles and then pull on both, which opens your body into a big twist.
“This is my favorite because it is such an incredible stretch for the entire body as well as a twist that you have leverage to deepen with each breath,” VanDeinse said.
After seven years of doing drugs on and off, VanDeinse is clean and proud of the success yoga has brought her.
“When I’m moving in the hammock it’s like the entire rest of the world just dissolves. It’s just me, and my body and my breath and that’s all that matters,” VanDeinse said. “Yoga was my rehab.”