Today I’m so excited to share the story of an amazing woman I had the opportunity to get to know. She’s no stranger to the impact of stress, or to the importance of jumping into new experiences and embracing fear.
Donielle Morris leads yoga practices for people facing a wide variety of challenges, from stress to chronic illness to cancer. This endeavor is something near and dear to her heart, as dealing with health issues and mental hurdles is a huge part of Donielle’s story.
Prior to finding yoga, Donielle was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. This meant an emergency surgery, and going in and out of hospitals for years. About five years after her diagnosis, Donielle began taking biologic medication to block the inflammation. A few months after starting the biologics, Donielle experienced severe arthritis that made it so she couldn’t walk after 4 p.m.
While struggling with her own health, Donielle saw her father pass away from a heart attack and her mother diagnosed with stage 3 cervical cancer, just one month apart from each other.
In the midst of dealing with these health issues Donielle and her mom decided, on a whim, to do a two-week hot yoga class. At the time, Donielle saw it more for “vanity reasons” then anything else. Yet, after her first class, her perspective shifted.
“I noticed my very first class that it was the very first time in my life that I have ever been present. I knew in the back of my mind that I was going to teach yoga someday,” said Donielle. “I just knew my very first class that this was going to be my path.”
Donielle continued to dive into her practice, despite physical and financial challenges.
“It was extremely hard for me because if you’ve had so much inflammation in your joints for so long… It was just really hard on my body.”
Donielle’s Crohn’s went into remission about a year after she started practicing yoga, and she knew she had to continue learning more about the healing power of yoga. In order to pursue her dream, Donielle got a job doing social media for a friend who owned a yoga studio, giving her access to free yoga classes.
“I did hot yoga for two weeks solid, and then couldn’t afford it,” said Donielle. “I was on disability, had no money, nothing.”
Even after moving, Donielle continued to work with social media for yoga studios to get free classes. This eventually turned into a job, and she also started taking training classes to teach yoga.
Around April that year, Donielle faced a turning point in her mindset about her health.
Her boss told her, “I’m going to give you permission to not be sick anymore.” At first, she was extremely offended by this statement. She found herself thinking, “I had been through hell.”
Yet, as she thought about it, the statement had more meaning.
“Then, I thought, ‘she’s absolutely right. I do have a choice in this.”
Donielle got off all medication within that same month, and soon the experience launched her on a new journey asking, “what would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
“I was terrified of a lot of things,” said Donielle. “Getting off my medication, yoga…”
Then, about for years after her very first yoga class, yoga for cancer and chronic illness training at the Integral Yoga Institute of NYC came up.
“I had no money to do this, no way to get there, or anything like that. I decided to take a leap of faith,” said Donielle.
A lack of money caused Donielle to turn to fundraising, and the entire amount needed was raised within two weeks. The ability to start this training was especially important because it was right around the time her cousin passed away, so it was particularly meaningful.
In January of this year Donielle began working with cancer patients, and later offered classes to those with chronic illness and stress problems. Along with working with these illnesses, Donielle has also tackled the issue of fear.
“People have all of these thoughts about what they can and can’t do. That becomes the story, saying I can’t do that. But your body is constantly changing, moment to moment,” said Donielle. “I’m asking them to approach everything as if it’s the first time they’ve ever tried it, and always with an attitude of curiosity and not fear.”
Donielle continues to teach yoga, and is constantly exploring new ways to achieve mental and physical peace. If you want to learn more, visit http://www.becomingyogini.com/home.html.
Additionally, I’m going to adopt “Fearless Fridays” from Donielle! Every Friday I’ll try to share a quote or story that epitomizes being fearless, or inspires others to overcome their fears.
Petite Power meditation: “The two things that cause people to have major transformations are getting in touch with your breath and learning how to let go and relax.” – Donielle