My Belly Story
My name is Maud, I was born in the Netherlands and after my gap-year in Australia I moved to London, some 20 years ago. My gap-year firmly implanted passion for travel and after a few years of exploring various wonderful places, I fell ill whilst travelling through South-America in 2002. After 3 months of travelling through the most amazing countries, I visited a health-spa in Ecuador and stepped into a Jacuzzi. The next morning I woke up vomiting with terrible stomach cramps. This bug/virus/illness stayed with me for the remaining weeks of my trip before it slowly started to subside. Six months after returning home, during which time the mystery illness frequently returned, I had lost so much weight that I finally had to see a doctor. I was immediately admitted to hospital and after a few days of tests I was diagnosed with pan-ulcerative colitis (UC), an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) of the large intestine. The medical world still doesn’t fully understand the exact cause and nature of IBD; they know it can be genetic, triggered by stress and external factors and that it is a chronic auto-immune illness for which there currently is no medical cure. Recently I learned that my grandmother passed away from toxic megacolon -which is now associated with UC- so it might indeed have been hereditary and I am carying a gene which predisposes me for IBD and which was then triggered by the severe infection I picked up in Ecuador.
Years of flare-ups and large amounts of medication followed (steroids, immunosuppressants, infusions and much more) during which time the illness progressively worsened; the periods of recovery became shorter and the flare-ups returned stronger. It had a dramatic impact on my life and after seven years I made the dramatic decision of opting for colectomy surgery, during which my entire large intestine would be removed and a pouch created - it meant I would have a temporary ileostomy bag (a stoma). It was a very difficult period and it took well over a year to recover. During this time I had my first experience of yoga and had private lessons from Marie-Laure Desiré at my local studio (the PYC Fulham) which helped my recovery where specialists and medicine had failed. Unfortunately the illness returned; first via pouchitis and fistulas and then, after I was hospitalised with a pyoderma gangrenosum, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease (IBD in the small intestine).
My Yoga Story
Early 2015, I took up yoga again and started practising at the studio a minimum of 3 times a week. The yoga (ujjayi) breathing made me feel strong and I physically felt more flexible, muscular and balanced, but more importantly it started to have a calming effect on my mind. It was such a contrast from having felt so weak and vulnerable.
Unfortunately in September 2015, I had further surgery due to obstructions in my intestines and I had another temporary stoma; I was in and out of hospital for three months. Mid-January 2016, exactly six weeks after my last surgery, I was allowed to try yoga again. I remember the class clearly, it was a 'flow and restore' class with Vicky Fox and I was careful, tuned into what my body needed and to what it wasn't ready for. It was wonderful; my body could finally stretch and relax and breathe again and it was emotional, but felt amazing. It was remarkable: my recovery from surgery this time was dramatically quicker and I attribute it to the power of yoga. I knew then that I wanted to learn more and if I could, share this with others so I signed up for the Power Yoga teacher training (200 hours with Erin Prichard at the PYC Fulham), which I completed at the end of May 2016.
Thanks to the encouragement of my wonderful teacher Mona Godfrey (who continues to teach and inspire me and has helped me with the website and took the amazing pictures of me doing yoga), some two months later I found the confidence to start teaching yoga at my office, where I now teach 2 classes a week. It's incredibly rewarding to teach people especially those new to yoga. Instead of charging a fee, I am raising money for Crohn's & Colitis UK (click here for my justGiving page).
I furthered my training by completing a 50 hour Yin course with Sarah Lo in February 2017 which led me to enrol a Thai Yoga Massage (TYM) practitioner course with Kira Balaskas - I qualified in April 2018 and have completed the advanced course - both courses have taught me a lot about different bodies and different movements. Then in November 2017 I started teaching the Flow & Restore class at the Power Yoga Company which fills me with a lot of gratitude. I have now received my 300 hour advanced teacher of integrated yoga therapy at (the magical) Kripalu in Massachusetts, USA . I cherish the beautiful momentum of it all and I am extremely grateful.
Yoga For Everyone
I would love to make yoga more accessible, not only to people with IBD or other illnesses, but to everyone who feels a little intimidated by it all.
Our bodies need the mindful stretching and when we get older we will benefit from the extra muscle tone.
Surrounded by modern technology our minds need more calm to compensate for all the multi tasking we do (and social media we use) every day.
But most importantly: the breath. Cultivating a conscious deep inhale with a smooth and complete exhale and taking regular of these conscious breaths each day will truly impact your sense of calm and general wellbeing. It almost sounds too easy to make a difference, but it does; you just need the discipline to practice it often.
On these pages I will be sharing information on yoga postures, sequences, breathing techniques, philosophy and anything else I've learnt along the way.
Looking to the future, wouldn't it be wonderful if I could do more with yoga and TYM, perhaps full-time? Together with my friend Jacqueline we have been day-dreaming about what might be possible one day.... click here for her (Dutch) page.