Life was progressing pretty normally for Ellen Fein. She was married to a loving husband, had a wonderful daughter, and a great career as a behavioral health care professional. Then in 1997 everything changed. After a brief 8-month illness her 49 year old husband, Michael, died of bone-marrow cancer. Ellen had been practicing yoga on and off, for several decades, and she continued to practice it all through her husband’s illness, death, and after that. She says that yoga felt like an anchor for her during those very difficult years.
Three years later even as she was learning to adjust to life without her husband and caring for her young daughter on her own, she too was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. What followed was two months of intensive chemotherapy followed by a seemingly long period of medical challenges and uncertainty. Once again yoga helped her get through these very difficult times. She also added a meditation practice to help calm and center herself down. Eventually a match was found for a stem cell transplant and she was asked to fly to Seattle from Vermont. But she was not hopeful, and when she left Vermont she was sure that she would never ever fly back home again.
At the transplant center in Seattle they offered a yoga class and she was glad to join. However this was Viniyoga and completely different form of yoga from what she was doing. After the treatment she felt horrible and drugged, but for an hour of this class she could shake herself free from these feelings and feel whole again. It was only yoga that bought her to this state, and nothing else, not even powerful drugs, could do this for her.
She promised herself then that if she lived through this, then she would find out more about this yoga and use it to help others. Miraculously her treatment was successful and in spite of a very rough period of post-treatment recovery she was able to make it back home to Vermont. Since Viniyoga resonated so deeply with her, she sought out Gary Kraftsow, founder of American Viniyoga Institute who was himself recovering from a treatment of brain tumor. She was introduced to Yoga Therapy for the first time when she flew to California for one week of few hours daily session of Yoga Therapy with Gary Kraftsow. Each day she got a yoga practice to do at home that was drawn out for her. The next day the practice would be reviewed again and suitable changes made. Finally at the end of five days she had a practice that she carried back with her to Vermont. She now calls these Yoga Therapy sessions the most important thing she had done for herself. She believes it has powerfully helped her recovery and healing.
As she got through her own health challenges Ellen began to help other cancer patients through cancer coaching sessions. She decided to add Yoga Therapy to what she was offering as she felt that it would greatly assist them as it had done for her. She began learning under the guidance of Gary Kraftsow and eventually became a Yoga Therapist.
Ellen says that Yoga Therapy has given her a personalized practice geared toward her very own needs: structural, physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. She notices this immediately when she falls off her practice and sees the difference it makes in her life. She believes that Yoga has also helped her find her place in the greater scheme of things so that she is not viewing the world just from the perspective of her own troubles and her story but from a much broader perspective.