cope with chronic condition

After completing both my 200-hour and 300-hour yoga teacher training programs, I hired YTT graduate Andrea as an Uplifted Mentor to share her remarkable journey to becoming a yoga teacher – while in rehab following multiple surgeries. This is her story.


“You have spine defects that will require major, life-altering spinal surgery in your future.”

If you’ve ever heard something along these lines from your own doctor, you know the shock. Surgery is an invasive procedure that comes with its own risks and benefits – but it’s not the only way to care for the body you’ve been born with.

You may be looking for any option besides surgery. What about… Yoga teacher training?

This may be the absolute last thing you’re thinking about, but it absolutely shouldn’t be! You might intuit that yoga can help you avoid surgery, recover from injury, and help you along in your healing journey. And you know what? You’re right. Yoga can do all of that – and more.

If this is you, read on:

After a devastating diagnosis from a premier spine surgeon and his statement above, I knew I had come to a crossroads in my life. I had an important decision to make. I could allow my spine and other orthopedic problems to control the rest of my life. Or I could take control of my health and well-being and choose to be in charge of my own future.

Signing up for Uplifted YTT was the pivot point in my life! It was an investment in ME, in my health, wellness, and happiness.

Although looking back, my choice was a no-brainer – it wasn’t easy at the time. Investing in a positive change – and self-care, in my case with the prospect of expensive surgery on the horizon – can be very scary!! I still remember how nervous I felt when I hit that “Register Now” button.

This article is all about what I wish I knew back then – and the reason I’m sharing with you now. Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) is about so much more than just learning yoga poses and how to teach them to others. Uplifted YTT was my catalyst for a huge personal transformation – from the victim mindset that I had lived in for decades, to a completely new mindset defined by confidence and peace in myself and my body. Since then, helping others to achieve this same positive shift has become a passion of mine.

Can I Take a YTT If I Have An Injury? Is It Worth The Investment?

Absolutely YES! 

I did part of my Uplifted 200 hour YTT during rehab after knee surgery and Uplifted 300 hour YTT with my shoulder in a sling after major shoulder rotator cuff surgery. Neither of these things held me back during the training, and in fact, helped me to learn even MORE about myself at the time. This was a blessing in disguise because it helped me think outside the box and get creative in making adjustments while I was learning – it was a beautiful experience!

What I learned in YTT helped me to avoid the dreaded spinal surgery and feel healthier, stronger, and more confident now than I did years ago. My personal yoga practice has been a wonderful partner to my physical therapy program, both blend together to empower me and give me the confidence to move forward in my life in a positive way.

To Teach or Not to Teach (It Doesn’t Really Matter)

When I registered for YTT, did I plan on teaching yoga? No. I signed up to deepen my own personal knowledge of yoga and as a tool to manage my chronic pain and injuries.

Everyone has a unique path in yoga, whether in our personal practice or in yoga teacher training.  Sometimes that path is very clear from the beginning, sometimes the path takes an unexpected turn – That is what happened to me, and I’m so glad it did!  Yoga knew exactly what I needed, even when I didn’t realize it myself. 

Even though I didn’t originally intend to teach yoga when I signed up for YTT, I was asked to teach at two local YMCAs that I am a member of. Now I also have an income teaching at the YMCA as well as private yoga lessons, and I have a beautiful tribe of yoga students and fellow yoga teachers who bring a sense of fulfillment to my life.

7 Ways Yoga Teacher Training Can Improve Your Life with a Chronic Condition

1. You’ll Learn How Your Body and Mind Work In A Supportive Community Setting

YTT is not just for people who want to teach yoga. In most programs, 60% of people enroll to deepen their own personal yoga practice. You won’t be alone. Some people who graduate from YTT choose to teach yoga, others don’t. Either way, YTT is for learning about how our bodies and minds work, and learning yoga tools that can be used 24/7 throughout your life – regardless if you teach yoga or not.

It’s important to pick a high quality YTT program, one that emphasizes the mind-body-spirit connection and allows for a wide diversity of body types and pose alternatives for everyone.

uplifted 200 hour yoga teacher training

I suggest online YTT rather than in-person. This means more diversity and it is easier to fit into a busy daily life. It also means a truly global community coming together. Uplifted 200 Hour YTT uses an inclusive approach and personalized pose review (more on that below) that I absolutely loved.

Uplifted training provides accountability with a peer group and the formation of lifetime friends, fellow YTT graduates, yoga teachers, and support. I am still in regular contact with many of my fellow YTT alumni from around the world. We continue to support each other, learn from each other, cheer each other on, and even substitute teach via Zoom for each other across the country, or across the globe. 

2. As A Teacher-In-Training, YOU Will Take Control of Your Healing 

YTT is about teaching YOURSELF first. It’s life school to understand your body/brain and how they are connected. This is vitally important if you’re injured and want to take charge of your health and author your healing instead of just being the victim of a medical diagnosis.

In Uplifted training, Brett encourages everyone to trust their own direct experience… to step into a role as healer and leader, for yourself first – and, if you choose to teach yoga, for others as well.

3. Practice-Based Learning Will Give You Tools from Day #1 to Manage Acute Stress

 yoga anatomy breathwork

Understanding how our bodies work through the anatomy modules in Uplifted YTT with anatomy expert and author Kristin Leal is so enlightening! We learn about the mind-body connection, and how yoga tools work to regulate our nervous system. We learn about all the major joints and all parts of the spine. Our muscles, bones, nerves, heart, lungs, and brain are all connected.

I have spine defects, and have also had 16 orthopedic surgeries to both feet, both knees, and both shoulders. With Uplifted yoga teacher training, I FINALLY felt that I had the knowledge to understand how my body works and what I can do to help it heal safely – and come out stronger.

Learning yogic breathwork has been so important to me, another thing that is tied directly into the nervous system. It’s applicable to all areas of daily life, not just time on a yoga mat. 

I’ve used yoga-based breathwork that I learned in YTT while lying in an MRI scanner to calm myself to the point of actually falling asleep during the MRI. True story! I also used a cooling yogic breathing technique during a 13-hour flight to regulate menopausal hot flashes, when dashing through the airplane aisleway while taking off layers of clothes was not an option.

4. You’ll Learn to Apply New Techniques to Old Injuries with Myofascial Release

One unique aspect of Uplifted YTT is its focus on fascia. It includes a fascinating interview with Tom Myers, author of the book Anatomy Trains. Going deep with fascia made me learn that an injury may have a different root cause than what we initially think it is.

We learn about the fascial system and how everything in the body is connected. Knee or foot problems can cause low back pain, hip issues can cause shoulder or neck pain, etc.. In Uplifted YTT, we learn that through the fascia system, all parts of our musculoskeletal system and internal organs are connected throughout the body. We become body detectives, both for ourselves but also in helping students if we decide to teach yoga.

Through exploring more about the fascia system after my YTT course, I finally made the connection that my chronic shoulder blade tension and tightness that I lived with for years was actually tied to scar tissue from a Cesarean section 20+ years prior!

Our modern medical system is amazing, but the deeper I went with yoga, the clearer it became to me that most medical practitioners are not trained to think in a connected, holistic approach. That’s up to you.

5. You’ll Learn That Yoga Really Is For Everyone

Yoga is not about contorting yourself into a pretzel, touching your palms to the floor in a forward fold, or standing on your head. It is definitely not about always attaining the most complex version of a pose possible.

Yoga is learning about how our bodies and minds work, and that no matter what you can or can’t do physically – YOGA IS FOR EVERYONE. Yoga is not one-size-fits-all. The beauty of Uplifted YTT is that the training takes into account all varieties of shapes, sizes, backgrounds, abilities, and limitations.

We learn about injury management in yoga, which poses are safe for many injuries, and which are not. Pose alternatives, options, and use of yoga props to make adjustments are included for all poses. 

Let me tell you what that means in my practice: one of my shoulders does not like to be fully overhead in any poses like extended Mountain, Chair pose, or Warrior I. I prefer keeping my hands with palms together at heart center or outstretched to the sides in a cactus or goal-post shape, which is much more comfortable for my shoulder. 

I’m overly-flexible in my hamstrings, so with standing forward folds I bring my hands to a yoga block instead of all the way to the floor. The yoga block acts as my “brake” so that I don’t over-stretch my hamstrings. 

Because of my low back issues, any back bends are excruciating. I now know that to safely come into Cobra pose, I need to first anchor the front of my hips to the floor and engage my leg muscles before lifting my heart up and off the mat. Some days, simply lying on my belly in Crocodile pose without even lifting my head is my alternative to Cobra pose. 

I used to feel “less than” if I couldn’t fully do a yoga pose. Now I listen to what my body is telling me, I honor it, and I do what is best for me – not what I think looks good. 

6. The Personalized Pose Feedback Will Show You All Of the Possibilities (And More)

The personalized pose review that is part of Uplifted YTT was a game changer for me… Seeing photos and expert feedback on a wide range of body shapes and sizes, and how other students used pose options, greatly helped me to understand my own body and ways I could make adjustments as needed for myself. All of this, including use of yoga props, is taught in a very empowering and inclusive way. I now have the tools I need to nourish my body and give it what it needs. 

YTT taught me which poses are safe for my particular injuries and conditions. Just as importantly, I learned which poses to say “no” to and how to use alternatives to those poses that are safe for me. What I learned in YTT has EMPOWERED ME to be in charge of my body, instead of letting my physical limitations have control over me.

how to be a yoga therapist

I used to think that “yoga” was pushing myself as far into a pose as possible. I now honor my body, I say “no” to a pose if needed. One of the main concepts of Uplifted YTT is about safety and alignment, and that we all have very unique and diverse bodies. Pose options are always available. It’s about what a pose feels like and the intention of the pose, not about comparing yourself to others. 

Uplifted YTT gives every student the power of choice for our own bodies.

7. Investing in Yourself Will Boost Your Long-Term Self Confidence

Most people invest more in clothes in a year than in YTT. Consider a high-quality YTT program as an investment in YOU, in self-care, in being the best version of yourself that you can possibly be, injuries or not.

I consider my investment in myself through YTT as the single most influencing factor in my current health and happiness. If it weren’t for YTT, I can’t begin to imagine the state I would be in, both physically and mentally.

Just as important as learning about my physical body and yoga poses, the mindset shift that I have undergone has had a huge influence on my relationship with myself (positive self-talk and feeling confident and empowered!) as well as with my family, friends, and spouse.

I am now in the driver’s seat of my own life, instead of how I used to feel like I was blindfolded with my hands tied in the back seat while chronic pain and injury were in control of my life.

Another beautiful part of investing in Uplifted YTT is that it includes lifetime access to the pre-recorded video portion as well as all of the recorded live calls throughout the training. I still review videos and the manual and continue to use and learn from the information in the material years after training. The 600-page Uplifted YTT manual is a huge source of information and ideas. I still return to the manual and review my notes years later.

uplifted yoga manual

8. Both Practice and Teaching Can Help You Beat the Blues

Yoga knowledge and practice also help me manage Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) by having a consistent daily yoga practice and having the tools that yoga provides at all times. Keeping active, both physically and mentally, during winter season is imperative for those with SAD. When I struggle in wintertime, I look forward to teaching several yoga classes a week, which helps me engage with others and feel positive about myself. I know that I will always be in a better mood after time on my yoga mat and with meditation. It’s about self-care, and yoga has become a key factor in my physical and emotional well-being.

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    Was my investment in YTT worth it? 


    Yoga allows me to do the things I love to do: Hiking, backpacking, exploring wilderness areas and slot canyons, kayaking, biking, and snow-shoeing. Yoga has taught me how to safely move and use my body while doing these things, which then translates into a positive mindset. I love teaching yoga so that I can share what I’ve learned with others. I can be an example that having physical and/or orthopedic problems doesn’t mean living with limitations.

    Yoga has taught me to look at what I CAN do, not at what I can’t do. It is responsible for shifting me from the victim mindset of “Why me?” and “This isn’t fair, I hate this!” to “I am a strong, capable, empowered person.” That is worth more than I can put a dollar amount on. 

    andrea taking charge

    Are you ready to begin your healing journey?  You’re worth it !!

    Curious about what exactly makes Uplifted YTT different than all of the other yoga teacher trainings out there? Soo many good things!

    About The Author | Andrea

    Andrea, E-RYT and RYT-500, teaches open and private classes featuring Yoga For Real People and shares her wisdom virtually as an Uplifted Yoga Mentor. She is a graduate of Uplifted 200-hour and 300-hour YTTs, and Kundalini University YTT. She has completed certifications in Accessible Yoga, Chair Yoga, Yin Yoga, and TRX Yoga. She is also a certified Kripalu Mindful Outdoor Guide.

    An incurable traveler, hiker, adventurer, backpacker, and kayaker, Andrea is on a quest to share the things that fill her heart up with the world, and to help others with physical and chronic conditions reach their full potential through yoga. You can follow her hiking travels on Blues Boots.

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    Experience 3 Training Videos from Inside My 200-Hour Online YTT


      Experience 3 Training Videos from Inside My 200-Hour Online YTT