Meet Jennifer Lizzie MacDonald

Meet Jennifer Lizzie MacDonald

1- In less than a minute, tell us who you are and why we keep hearing good things about you.

I have a strong drive to never give up, yet I’m very sensitive. I’m constantly adapting and pushing myself to try new things regardless of succeeding or not. New challenges have allowed me to explore my own inner strength that has led to greater compassion for self and others. You probably hear good things as others living with a similar disability as I do will say, “I tried to do something because I saw Lizzie try”. I believe in the power of community and sharing what I have learned and listening to others.

2- What inspired you, if any, to join the Warrior Flow 200-Hour Yoga Training? 

I decided to join Warrior Flow 200hr training after listening to a couple interviews Adrian had done with Rodrigo of Allihopayoga and Renee LeVerrier. Seeing two experienced yoga teachers living with a disability on camera and hearing their stories, I realized I could be a yoga teacher too.

After reading about the diverse faculty of Warrior Flow and offerings, I immediately inquired.

During one of our live trainings, I broke down and asked if I could please practice yoga with my crutches. I apologized for having to be accommodated but was exhausted from trying to practice yoga without them. I remember Adrian looking back at me virtually saying, “Lizzie don’t ever apologize again for practicing yoga with what works for you”. It’s paraphrased, but I remember in that moment feeling like I finally “fit in” with being a yoga practitioner and facilitator.

It’s why I continue to work with Warrior Flow. The commitment to inclusion is an action for Warrior Flow versus a statement.

3- In simple words, what does yoga mean to you?

Yoga means staying limber in my mind and body.

4- What is the main difference between between the yoga you knew and the yoga you encounter during your training?

I have been fortunate to have been working with a yoga therapist for over 3 years who has adapted the practice specifically for my needs. It has been a personal practice I have done mostly alone.

During my training, I met many people aspiring to or already adapting classes for groups! It was exciting to be in community with others, several of whom I stay in contact with after completing the 200 hour. The idea of group classes being created where I could go and feel comfortable is exciting and new.

5- In your opinion, why is this a key moment in time to learn yoga? 

Everyone I know, at least in the US, is moving very fast. With too many commitments and obligations, yoga gives one an opportunity to slow down and focus on only yourself, even if it’s only a few minutes a day or an hour a week. I have told friends that are in a frenzy or managing anxiety, “Breathe”. It’s said with love, but I wonder what would shift if we all took a moment to breathe and move our bodies?

6- Who would you be without yoga? 

I would be in a lot of pain, exhausted, nearly homebound, and depressed. Yoga laid a foundation several years ago to begin moving gently with chronic pain and disability that has blossomed into hiking with forearm crutches and swimming with my Masters Swim Team. Learning how to breathe and meditate give me tools to manage the stress of pain, whether physical or emotional.

7- Who were your role models? And what pushed you to learn and become who you are today?

I have had many role models from friends to coworkers to seeing strangers being randomly kind to one another. One of my biggest role models is Sarah Doherty. She was a woman amputee who is the cofounder of SideStix ventures that are the forearm crutches I use. She was an amputee who became an alpinist. Her motto was “defy convention”, which she did setting records like becoming the first amuputee to summit Mount McKinley without a prosthetic limb. Our conversation during a zoom interview when we were still in COVID lockdowns, lifted me up and strengthened my resolve to continue my own outdoor pursuits and reminded me of the healing power of nature.

8- What were the pivotal roadblocks and challenges you encountered along the way that helped you define your path?

Having a diagnosis of complex PTSD early on was a huge challenge and roadblock as no one knew how to effectively treat it 20+ years ago. Having numerous health challenges over the years has been tough. Going instantly paralyzed in 2016 sank me to the lowest of lows that I never thought I would recover from physically or emotionally. From that dark pit, I slowly crawled out, recognizing I needed to grow a genuine support system, live my life differently,  learn to ask for and accept help, and get into my body. I have written and spoken about how I have healed/am healing as we all deserve joy and peace regardless of disability or health status.

9- What can we all do right now to make this world a better place?

For me, making the world a better place is in my individual interactions. It’s small things like holding the door for the next person, mailing a card to someone who has helped me thanking them for being in my life, acting from a place of compassion as I have no idea what someone is going through if they seem angry or unjust.

My hope is these small acts radiate so others are spreading them too. I engage in a daily loving kindness practice sending my well wishes on the wind.