Student Highlight: Andrea Van Sambeek

Author: myaizzolena / Date: 30-06-2015 / Tag: Andrea Van Sambeek, Full Circle Yoga, MS, Yoga /

Speaking with Andrea about her on and off 10 year yoga practice was filled with laughs and smiles bursting from our heart seams. Her story was both beautifully spoken and incredibly inspiring. Andrea playfully referred to herself as a “shiny thing, mostly” and I couldn’t agree more. She is a lovely authentic human being with and equally lovely authentic practice. She told me that one reason she choose Full Circle Yoga was because of, “the sense of play and levity inserted in many of the classes.” Her contagious laugh during a class at FCY really reminds you that opening your heart and centering your soul does not have to be done only with rigor, instead it encourages a light hearted genuine approach to the journey of the self. What better way to practice yoga then with a smile and enormous love for life. Andrea embodies this on a level that many people may not ever understand fully. And let me tell you it is so delightfully inspiring.

Andreas deep admiration for living life fully is apparent not only her dedicated yoga practice, but also her life off the mat. She was initially introduced to yoga as therapy after being diagnosed with MS.  “Every day is different for everybody, but everyday can be really different for me systematically.”  At this point in our conversation after having known Andrea through the Full Circle Community for about a year this information was a huge surprise. You could never guess by her fierce yoga practice and zeal for life that she has been diagnosed with MS. “Yoga is therapy on many different levels; spiritually and physically”, she continued. ”There was a long time my body was not my friend and so I developed a disconnect, but yoga was helpful to getting that balance all back into one shiny thing. I’m fortunate my symptoms are not very impactful on my existence. Some days are certainly better than others, every time a balance pose works out I’m super excited!” My admiration continued to grow immensely as she spoke about her life. Her strength and ability to greet life with a smile even through her own adversities drew my heart in a little deeper with each word. “Your perspective gets skewed when something like that gets tossed at you, I was 22 when I got diagnosed. Now I am really appreciative, everything is cast in a different light. I have a certain quantity of energy and so I invest time in things more wisely.”  Andrea reminded me that this is a part of her biological makeup, but she is not defined by it. She is completely right! She was chosen for the student highlight before I even knew of her diagnosis. However, she did mention that it helps “demystify” the disease. “The only reason I bring it up to folks is to take the fear out of it.It doesn’t have to be awful, and giving premise that I’ve been living with it for a long time and am doing well to it that way is beneficial.” Andrea very lovingly explained that life is a gift and she obviously lives every day with heart and soul.

It is no surprise that Andrea also gives with her heart and soul. When she spoke about her work being a Special Education Paraeducator working with middle school kids with classic autism her eyes lit up with passion. “What I do is super cool; my favorite stuff is teaching the kids, who can’t verbally communicate, how to get their wants and needs across in different ways. It’s really amazing to see what it does for them when they’re finally able to connect with other people. It’s really important because their whole life is about struggling to communicate, so being able to help them bridge that gap and watch their typical (non –disabled) peers interact with them in positive ways is fantastic. Talk about taking the label and fear off people with disabilities is just great.” Of course, with such a rewarding job and life there will also be exhaustion. There will always a yin to the yang. That is why she goes to yoga as much as she can to maintain that balance as it “grants her tools to deal with the stress of life.”

Andrea found her yoga home in FCY right away. “Full Circle was the place I was supposed to be, folks are serious about what they are doing but not to serious. Laughter is part of what we do and I needed a place to feel comfortable.” She talked a lot about how important centering and grounding is to her, yoga and connection to breath helps provide this. “When I get tied up in the crazy minutia of life that makes me crazy, stressed and anxious what makes me a human being. I can set all that down for the hour of the class and then I end up not picking nearly as much of it up as I leave then I brought in. It’s liberating that way. It helps separate you from your anxiety.” 

I am so honored to be part of a community with such fun loving inspirational people like Andrea. My unconditional gratitude for her reflects the gratitude she has for Full Circle Yoga. Andrea said it best, “There is lots of variety, but everyone has the same thread that yoga is great and aren’t we fortunate to have all this and each other all in our lives. The level of appreciation is just excellent. I’m always encouraged to be me and that makes me feel safe.  Authenticity is challenging and it’s so vital. Give yourself permission to be who you are at that moment and it might not always be that super shiny, but thats ok."