I never heard the word yoga growing up in the tiny village of Ridgefield Park, New Jersey. No one had. After graduating Summa cum laude with a fine art degree from Pratt Institute, I taught art at a private alternative high school and signed up for the after-school yoga class for students. I noticed that each time I practiced, I felt better. Within 5 weeks I had 5 teachers, and a daily practice that continues unabated.
Over time, two childhood and spinal injuries, debilitating allergies, endless worry and striving through tight finances and the stresses of life, an immensely challenging marriage and tough divorce, and years of professional landscaping and heavy stonework came to a head. I was in a New York beat-the-clock rhythm, and it was part of what was beating me up. It was the only rhythm I’d ever learned. Work hard – go fast, and then work harder, and go faster. To where, I had no idea.
One day my back ‘went out’ ~ excruciatingly out, and then my joints began to hurt. The pain and stress went on unabated for over two decades. In one dramatic event when my back went out, I was temporarily paralyzed below the waist. I was terrified. The pain moved around, but rarely left. I had no choice, and resolved myself to a life of pain. Sometimes all I could do was crawl, which put me on the level of my two beautiful toddlers. Every move I made had to be made consciously, lest my back go out and leave me immobilized and unable to care for them. I started to wake up.
With the help of full-standing X-rays and a skillful, scary spinal evaluation by a revered elder chiropractor, I was shown that my head was 2” to the left of my tail bone, my spinal curves were gone leaving a vulnerable military hyper-elongated spine, and I had 9 seriously impacted flattened discs. I got an MRI, and it didn’t look good. I call what I had regenerative disc ease – you can figure out what the doctors called it. After crying for three days, I began to study. I began to slow down.
A life of pain. How could I live with this? I realized that what I was doing was not working, and that I had to change. I had to learn to take care of my body in the kind and loving way I took care of Leianna and Noa. I studied anatomy and physiology. I studied yoga. I worked with countless Big Island therapists and healers, yoga and spiritual teachers who came to Hawai’i from around the world. I did endless reading in neuroscience and meditation. I meditated. I had to learn to stop the worry, the rev, and the rush and create a new life…a different me.
Ultimately this conviction and my daily flowing yoga practice lead to more kindness, mindfulness, and flowing graceful, movement. My daily practice actually provided a support system for me to live without so much pain.
Through study, practice, and the gradual development of a deep breathing slow flow yoga of kindness and self-care, my body began to heal. I was able to work more than full time sole supporting two children, who I bathed in love and attention.
Fortunately, this has been a lasting and expansive healing, which has now helped me help well over 10,000 students through the development and teaching of THE FULL BODY ELIXIR on the beach on the Big Island, where I have lived since 1980.
For my healing, I have endless gratitude, appreciation, and an unquenchable desire to help others. The last three decades of my practice has come from within my body, guidance, research, an exceptional spiritual teacher who integrated psychological and spiritual healing, yoga, qigong, meditation and studies of the mind, brain, nutrition, and the way things manifest through our thinking. This continues to bring forth more vitality, greater health, happiness, ease, and more evolution than I thought could happen in a lifetime.
As I teach that which has transformed me through this moving meditation, I am grateful to say that I have become skillful in sharing the words of wisdom that helped me the most on this remarkable journey– words I know can be heard, sink in, and cause a very real shift in the operating system or the students when repeated over and over and over.
My greatest joy and deepest satisfaction is that THE FULL BODY ELIXIR has helped so many people out of physical and emotional pain and stress, freeing them to enjoy life and keep opening to reach their highest potential. It is deeply fulfilling to know that my past struggles and pain have provided the wisdom practice that help others.
Calley’s main realization?
WHATEVER WE PRACTICE, WE BECOME. That’s the truth.
By Calley O’Neill
Originator, THE FULL BODY ELIXIR