Today we’d like to introduce you to Courtney Yezzi.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Courtney. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I can tell you that my yoga practice has saved my life many times. The yoga practice is very sacred and imperative for a human being to cultivate. Learning the art of teaching is an honor and my life’s work. I don’t know if it is my yoga practice or my teaching of the practice that has been more of a savior in this life. I am lucky to have both of those aspects of yoga in my daily life. I have been teaching full time for 13 years in San Diego and have been through many transformations throughout the years. I began with hatha practice and so fortunate to immediately fall into the hands of advanced Anusara and Iyengar teachers. I was young and wanted to see what vinyasa classes were all about, so I took a training with Shiva Rea and practiced regularly with a few local Ashtanga teachers.
Through the years the demise of Anusara yoga sadly came and Anusara teachers vanished like great ghosts. It was a very sad time for us all, to be let down by those whom we consider the great leaders and teachers of our time. I decided to became an Olympic Weightlifter and dedicated five good years to that sport, placing at local competitions throughout Southern California. What a fun time my life! My body was very big and strong, and that made some of the more advanced poses easier, but my refinement and subtle practice had diminished.
I was lucky to have been practicing Iyengar yoga through my weightlifting career or my body would not have made it through the next challenge. I was getting very sick and I ramped up my holistic health care to see what was happening to my body. I was in so much pain on my right side. I am a very positive person with an extremely high tolerance to pain so the doctors would say how strong and healthy I was and then give me pain killers for torn muscles in my back. I had my IUD taken out, I was asked time and time again about STD’s; I have none.
I had my first experience with UTI and blood in my urine, still was just sent home with antibiotics. Went to the emergency room and got an MRI, was sent home with pain killers and not educated on my MRI results. If I would not have had the presence of my weekly yoga students in my life I am certain I would have given up. This went on for seven months, I began to think I was crazy and then one day while teaching a yoga class I went into septic shock and experienced kidney failure. I was so lucky because by that time I had begun to warn my coworkers and yoga students I was very sick and no one was helping me to find the answers, that if anything should happen, these are were my symptoms. So thirty minutes into class when I called upon a student to help me and asked another student to take over the class, we knew it was serious. My boyfriend was at the studio to rush me to the ER within 10 minutes and that night I had emergency surgery.
Later the surgeon said that I was so sick that she didn’t know how I was still sitting in front of her and the sepsis I had would have killed a large horse. I knew instantly I was alive because, during my sickest times, I would practice asana and meditate on my body, I saw the scariest things inside of me. I also stuck with weightlifting as long as I could until I couldn’t stand to pick up the weight. I know it is because I didn’t stop doing the things I loved with the communities I had built that I stayed alive through what should have killed me. The muscles I had built absorbed the sepsis for me and my yoga practice kept my organs strong and flexible so they were far less likely to get sick. This story goes on and on with amazing feats of strength and magical instances but to wrap it up, I was born with a birth defect in my kidney that I had no idea about until that day.
I went back to teaching a week after my first surgery and taught with a stint and a kidney drainage tube and bag coming out of my back. I tucked the drainage bag in a purse and wore it around my side while I taught. People couldn’t believe I was teaching with a tube stuck in my kidney coming out of my back and a purse full of urine by my side. I couldn’t imagine not teaching. I know that even though the recovery was more than a year-long, teaching was what healed me. The ability to help others heal and be healed together is some of the most powerful works on earth. I learned how to receive help and absorb love through the process. I can’t express my gratitude for our practice, it fills me with tears now just to think about it.
The moral of the story is to believe in the power of your yoga practice. Practice with good intentions and work hard. Have faith that your practice will carry you through this life and never be shy to share it with others.
It has been three years since then and I have taught at all of the Festival of Yoga and Healthy Living (which started as the International Day of Yoga festivals), taught many workshops, am starting my second year of my Iyengar Yoga Teacher Training with Carolyn Belko. I started SoulPrint Yoga as a way to give an accurate name to how I offer myself as a teacher. Our soul leaves an imprint on this earth through every animal and human we come into contact with. We have a conscience choice each moment as to what imprint our soul will leave on this planet. Having a yoga practice can help to bring forward our purest self and give us the clarity to who we are and what we stand for. I am a huge animal ambassador and each workshop I teach I offer a percentage to an animal rescue of my choice. Proceeds from my next workshop at Yoga Del Mar at the beginning of 2020 will be donated to K991 ResQ. Check out the workshops page at www.soulprintyoga.com.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Smooth road. Smooth road? It’s been bumpy and smooth! The struggles I think are not struggles, just swings and misses. Like for instance, in the beginning of this journey, I devoted myself to a meditation group for a year and became a vegetarian. Throughout the year I had what I would call strong realizations about giving my devotion, time and meditative energy to a non-living human teacher. I learned that the Atman inside of me is the teacher and that for me, no outside human is going to bring me to the supreme state of being. As I read the Ramayana and the Bhagavad-Gita I realized that the Gods, Goddesses and Great Lords can live inside of us and give us guidance along the way toward our own Ishvara, or Godhead.
My advice on that would be, to not give your energy away without knowing exactly who or what you are giving it to! Absorb your energy and use it to help the world.
Also, know the reasons you choose what you eat and when you eat it. Eat for healing and eat for life. Eat what your body instinctively knows it needs. How do you know? LISTEN.
Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
SoulPrint Yoga is a way for my to connect with others and for others to reach out to me. I am studying to be a Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher and that is the method of teaching I know to be the most correct on earth. Please enjoy some time to look up the works of Mr. BKS Iyengar and let your mind be blown at the accomplishments of this man and his service to the world’s education and understanding of yoga.
I am known for my humor and my ability to relate to others very easily. I have had many many life experiences that have gifted me with various abilities to relate. Some would call those bumps in the road, I call them gifts to help me understand humans. I am most proud of my work with animals at animal shelters, on the streets and in my home (all adopted, two adult cats, three rats, and one hamster). I volunteer at Wee Companions and the work I do with them helps to heal parts of my soul that humans have destroyed with their neglect and misunderstanding of the animal kingdom. I believe and SoulPrint Yoga stands for the fact that we were sent here or created specifically for this planet to be caretakers of the huge library of species and ecosystems of earth. It pains me to see what has happened between humans and earth, how we let ourselves become such strangers to it. I teach to this and the rehabilitation of ourselves to our natural environment because I know that is a huge part of our wholeness.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
The proudest moment of my career happened a month after my major kidney surgery in 2016. I was already scheduled to teach on the main stage at the first International Day of Yoga Festival and the studio that I was teaching for questioned if would be ready for this amount of activity. I insisted that if I didn’t teach what would I be demonstrating about our yoga practice? What faith in our practice would I be offering if I backed out. I asked my boyfriend (now husband) to be my model on the stage while I taught and thankfully, he accepted.
When the day came I spoke about Swami Vivekananda and his 1893 speech to the Parliament of the World’s Religions on the philosophy of yoga. I could feel the presence of every great yoga master before me holding me and giving me the strength to teach and not to be overwhelmed by great emotions. I am forever indebted to our great teachers and their constant energy that is so ready to be tapped into through our faith in them.
- Website: soulprintyoga.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @soulprintyoga