The family room of yoga teacher Sheryl Fiore"s Carmel home is adorned with preschool toys and pictures of Himalayan masters. The only background sounds are recorded chants coming from a small boombox on the floor. The phrase "What does not kill us only makes us stronger" fits the life of this Indiana native.
Fiore grew up in the small town of Frankfort, Ind., where she took her love of cheerleading all the way to Indiana University. She eventually found herself out in California, teaching aerobics and climbing the corporate ladder on her way to financial success. Believing all this was a part of happiness, Fiore"s goals were established and working according to plan. Then, two weeks after her 28th birthday, Fiore"s life changed forever. Arriving on a pier, she managed to flag down a whale watching boat as it was pulling away. Within minutes of leaving the harbor, the boat was hit by a tidal wave. Fiore was thrown violently across the deck. Hanging upside down off the side of the boat with only her left knee and right ankle holding her above the sea, she managed to save a small boy"s life by pulling him out of the water. Fiore suffered severe head and neck injuries from the accident and had to contend with episodes of blindness and paralysis. She spent the next two years in front of medical specialists with no hope of full recovery to a normal life. "I was conscious enough to know that I was in big trouble," Fiore recalls. "The morning of the accident, I was training for a marathon, running 13 miles and working on a million dollar deal and then this." As if her condition was not bad enough during those first two years, Fiore was electrocuted during a thunderstorm. "I was sitting on the floor, leaning against a wooden staircase. The only thing we could deduce was that it must have had metal grounding underneath the structure." Due to the strike, she endured 21 days without sleep followed by two years of only four to six hours of sleep per week. Needless to say, this was a woman destroyed by bad luck and unending pain. Her senses were so wrecked that, at times, she had to stay in the basement with sunglasses and earplugs just to find relief. Countless medical doctors offered little hope for Fiore"s recovery. They were convinced she would never walk or talk properly again. "I was the type of person that always jumped over the mud puddles in life," she remembers. "That was just my nature. And then, suddenly, I found that I literally had to walk right through them and that realization just killed me." On the way home from one appointment, with her sister driving, Fiore"s car was involved in a head-on collision, leaving her with more injuries to suffer through. "It was a very dark day when I suddenly realized that I was going to have to heal myself," Fiore recalls. With bills piling up and no help from the medical community, she finally convinced herself to attempt driving to a brain injury clinic in Colorado. "My condition was so bad," Fiore says, "I would literally go blind while I was driving and just hope that I had pulled over to the side of the road as I waited for my sight to return." While in Colorado, Fiore had a life-changing visit with a shaman by the name of Ken Cohen. After the first session of therapeutic touch, Fiore slept eight full hours for the first time in two years. At the advice of Cohen, Fiore returned to Indianapolis and studied yoga. On a return visit to the world of Western medicine, Fiore found that her condition was not moving forward, but backwards. A friend recommended that she join the residential program at the Himalayan Institute in Pennsylvania where she studied with the legendary Swami Rama. It would be an understatement to say that yoga has changed Fiore"s life. She has dedicated her existence to the principles and gifts that it offers. Srivatsa Ramaswami, author of Yoga For the Three Stages of Life, says of Fiore, "[She] has a deep understanding of and considerable expertise in yoga therapeutics. Her exposition of yoga postures and the myriad vinyasas are at once exquisite." Fiore is married and has two children. While teaching fulfills her immensely, she wants to go further. Next January, Fiore will be opening YogAcademy, a division of the already existing Yoga Sadhana, here in Indianapolis. The purpose of this school is to instruct the instructors. "I really want to challenge the teachers out there to go deeper," Fiore says. Phil Nuernberger, author of Freedom From Stress, says, "Her teacher training program reflects her extensive knowledge as well as her continuing connections to the major teachers in the Himalayan tradition. Those who attend will receive the finest training in the comprehensive inner science of yoga available." The YogAcademy program will have one weekend per month modules consisting of studies such as anatomy/physiology of the physical body, meditation and teaching intensives. Fiore has already signed a lineup of impressive guest speakers. With the intense weekend study, this program will offer 1,200 credit hours over the 11 month period - one of the highest comprehensive yoga studies offered in the United States. "The mission of this school is to allow these teachers-in-training to increase their own consciousness and awareness in order to improve the health and well-being of not only themselves," Fiore says, "but all those that they come in contact with." Fiore adds, "I would love to see more people embrace the gifts of this practice - everyone needs stress relief and a better quality of life and yoga can help them achieve this. Pain of the mind and body is often a habit that can be altered with conscious living." When asked what sets her approach to teaching apart from other programs, Fiore says, "There is nothing unique about studying under the great masters, many have had that opportunity and it has strengthened their abilities. But, with all the talk of "healing," how many people have actually had to bring themselves out of life-altering physical pain and suffering?" Fiore smiles and shrugs. "I guess that"s what makes me different from all the rest. I didn"t want to study yoga, it was a vehicle to save my life Ö and it did." Those interested in more information about classes at Yoga Sadhana and/or enrolling in next January"s YogAcademy can call 848-YOGA (9642) or visit the Web site at www.yogacademy.com or e-mail Sheryl Fiore at firstname.lastname@example.org. The teacher training program start date is Jan. 10, 2003, and limited enrollment is already in progress.