A Woman’s Courage – Bringing Yoga to Men

Some people have the amazing strength and courage to turn tragedy into something good for others. This young woman turned her near life-ending tragedy and serious back injury into a journey help men relieve back pain naturally, and to help our Marines wounded in the wars and aid their families.

Loredana “Laurie” Meilbeck, a Registered Yoga Instructor, had her world changed forever in the form of an over-sized SUV crushing her tiny Ford Escort at 65 miles an hour, and breaking her back. Common and unfortunate enough perhaps, but it is the human spirit growing beyond this tragedy which makes for a story.

Refusing to allow her spirit nor her body to become dominated by this tragedy, she used Yoga to maintain the positive spirit required to persevere through a grueling rehabilitation process, to rise above an otherwise crippled life, find beauty again, and bring health to others with her experience and strength.

Laurie’s life prior to the accident had been that of an outdoor Southern California girl; weekends at the ocean swimming and tanning, in the mountains hiking and skiing, with an abundance of outdoor life, free and mobile. She was an accomplished figure skater, a model, and a student of biology and natural sciences. The mother of two very active kids, she was the ‘Uber-mom’ involved in everything from girl scouts to BMX racing.

After sustaining the numerous life-threatening injuries to her skull, back bone, internal organs and limbs, she had to literally learn to read, talk and walk all over again. During days spent studying flashcards in English and Italian (her native language), to hours of physical therapy, enduring several reconstructive surgeries and a myriad of medications, Laurie often heard from doctors of the limitations that her life would have. “May never walk again”, “would live with brain damage”, “only have a limited capacity to work”, etc. As these dark prospects troubled her, she quietly began recalling her yoga training, and was aided in the simplest poses by a friend visiting. She began to cling to the belief that yoga practice would pull her from the dismal future others envisioned for her. Working slowly, she was able to increase her capability to accomplish more physically while clearing her mind and intensifying her positive focus with meditations and breathing.

After 3 months, she was released from the hospital. Still suffering many challenges such as severe headaches and back pain, it was difficult living on her own and had much help from family. She continued her Yoga practice daily with a friends help. She felt that the pain medications doctors had prescribed clouded her ability to think and masked her emotions. In disgust one day, she gathered up her pain medications and flushed them all down the commode.

As the years went on Laurie kept Yoga as her daily practice, continued raising her children, and eventually went back to work. With diligence and hard work, her life began to take on a resemblance of her better days. Feeding on her love for Yoga Laurie eventually decided to make Yoga her profession.

Upon becoming registered Yoga Instructor, Laurie taught at several local Yoga studios and gyms, while continuing with additional training, and opened her small private Yoga studio.

One of the opportunities she had was to teach regular classes at Marine Corps Base-Camp Pendleton. In attendance at these classes were mostly Marine wives who coaxed their Marine husbands to join them at a Yoga class, and another class was for the Wounded Warriors, those returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The participants included young, muscular Marines who had been in the Iraq war or were fierce athletes.

While many seemed reluctant or skeptical at first, Laurie experienced watching the transition as the Yoga class became more important and valuable to the men who attended.

Laurie noticed a marked improvement in the men who participated in her classes, if she could get them to attend. Many began returning, first at the door for class and eager to begin, talking about which poses they liked, the disappearance of stiffness and pain, improvement of their golf game, etc. As a patient yet challenging instructor, Laurie was respected. The outspoken satisfaction and enjoyment verbalized by these men was enough for Laurie to realize what was needed: a Yoga class just for men.

Laurie realized that if Yoga classes could be so well-received by men that she could carry the message to even greater numbers, and help men and women to enjoy Yoga together.

During this process, Laurie had a revelation: that her tragic experience could actually become one of the greatest defining moments of her life, and that yoga was the key. As a “Marine Mom” herself, she knew the sacrifices that the young men and women made for our country. As a back injury patient, she knew the challenges of recovery. She knew the social obstacles for men to enjoy Yoga, and as a compassionate soul, she knew that to truly enjoy life she needed to give to others. She vowed to turn her challenges into a platform for greatness in her life.

With unbridled enthusiasm, Laurie embarked on a mission to create a yoga class which could attain all of these goals. A yoga class with which men could identify, by coupling one of the primary ailments that men experience-back pain- with one of the primary physical benefits of Yoga. In turn, it would help proliferate yoga, and those in need would receive help.

Laurie set out to establish a tone and style that would be appealing to men. This included the setting in the room, a basic pose routine focusing on stretching and relaxing, less focus on meditation, yet a maintained focus on breathing and physical movement and with a contemporary music selection. In the many months spent researching and designing the Yoga class, Laurie created a class that covers the entire spectrum of requirements for posture, stretching, strength building and spine-aligning poses.

Devoted solely to men and targeted specifically to men’s back problems, Loredana created the class specifically for men to get involved in yoga to help relieve back pain and back problems. She introduced the class to her local Adult Education program, and created it on video for men to use at home. Making a debut at Saddleback Valley USD Adult Ed in February, the class was filled to capacity with 20 men from various walks of life who attended for a multitude of reasons: older men who had lost flexibility, golfers and personal trainers looking for more flexibility, and those with back injuries or surgery pending. The feedback was impressive, the satisfaction with the class very high. Several men returned the following semester, along with several newcomers. Laurie began teaching the class in her private studio, and endeavors to take the class into ever widening circles of people at every opportunity. As many men are reluctant to begin yoga at a public studio, they practice yoga for back pain relief by following her class on video at home.

Remaining true to her spirit of gratitude and service, Laurie donates a significant portion of her proceeds to the wounded Marines. She became a benefactor for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund (IMSFF), an organization who’s function is to provide financial assistance to injured Marines, Sailors, and service members and their families during their difficult road to recovery. She continues to work to support the Fund in various ways.

Laurie enjoys a very healthy lifestyle, and teaches Yoga at her private studio in California. Laurie’s courage, determination and Yogi spirit are admired by her students, and she is pleased to offer her message of hope, strength and health.

Laurie works with her husband Phillip to bring the benefits and awareness of yoga to more men.

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