A story of health, healing and loveFeb 01, 2015 04:35PM ● By Beth Davis
Bethlehem natives Chris and Stephanie MoDavis, owners of YogaMos, in Hellertown, know a thing or two about overcoming challenges and they use what they’ve learned to help others through the practice of yoga.
Stephanie MoDavis started practicing yoga when she was 18 years old as a requirement for a dance company. Young and naïve, she says she thought she was in good shape. However, after practicing Ashtanga yoga six times per week, she soon realized she was mistaken. After three months, she knew yoga would always be a part of her life, however, she didn’t realize at the time just how beneficial it would be for her.
“About a year after I began yoga, I left the dance company, but kept up with yoga as a practice,” she explains. Around the same time, her parents and sister were in a head-on collision, leaving them pretty banged up and giving MoDavis the desire to learn more about holistic health. While attending college to be a nurse, she graduated from massage therapy school so that she could help her family in their recovery.
“I just wanted to do anything I could to help my family,” she says. “From there, it grew to wanting to help anybody. My goal was to have a career in wellness.”
When she was 21 years old, Stephanie met Chris. It was love at first sight—she knew he was the one. They had a great first year. Both led healthy, active lifestyles and together they would hike, bike and practice yoga. However, all of that was about to change. Only one year into their relationship, Stephanie started noticing that “something was not quite right.” She was experiencing joint pain and fatigue, in addition to not feeling well. Over the next year, it only got worse. Doctor visits seemed futile, as no one seemed to have the answers. As time went on, the pain grew deeper and she became weaker. Eventually, she was so ill and had such a high fever that she ended up in the hospital. It was here that she received her diagnosis: Systemic Lupus Erythmatosis (SLE), an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. It can affect the skin, joints, kidneys, brain and other organs. The next few years were long and difficult. The SLE started progressing and affected her heart, lungs, skin, brain and kidneys. She would spend a month at a time in the hospital and was so weak she was in a wheelchair for about a year.
Through it all, though, she says Chris never left her side. “He was more supportive than ever,” she says. Stephanie, too, never gave up hope. “Throughout my journey, I had a feeling this was happening to me for a reason. I thought about how I could turn this around and inspire other people.” She also continued on her yoga journey. Although she couldn’t physically practice, she would visualize it in her head and simply surrender. Yoga served as a constant reminder that helped them both remain calm, humorous and strong in the face of adversity.
In 2004, the same year she and Chris married, doctors said her kidneys were failing. She was 24 years old. It was life changing hearing those words. She started dialysis a few months later and after two years of treatments, she was eligible for a kidney transplant. Naturally, Chris wanted to be the one to help his wife, but he was not the same blood type. Thankfully, they found out about a program at Johns Hopkins Hospital, in Baltimore, that allowed people to “swap” for those who have someone who will donate but aren’t a match. In other words, Chris could donate his kidney in order for Stephanie to receive a kidney that matched her blood type. Within six months, they found a match. Oddly enough, it turned out to be another couple, with each husband matching the other’s wife—the first set of couples to undergo this lifesaving surgery at Johns Hopkins.
After the surgery, Stephanie expected everything to be okay, and it was—for the most part. Her lupus was in remission. However, the couple was left with a lot of medical bills, forcing them to completely rebuild their lives.
Fortunately, Stephanie was able to get back into her yoga practice. It wasn’t long before she realized she wanted to become an instructor and help people through yoga. She began teacher training and studied with Seane Corn, Matthew Sanford, Brandi Woodard and others. A year later, Chris decided that he, too, wanted to become a teacher so that together, they could open a studio and share their love and passion for helping others.
A year and a half ago, they opened YogaMos, located in a big, beautiful Victorian home in Hellertown. The building, constructed in the early 1900s, features an apartment above the studio (where the couple lives) hardwood floors, stained glass, a fireplace and enough room for 15 to 20 yoga participants.
Sixteen classes are held at the studio each week, in addition to one-on-one spiritual health coaching/ counseling. Classes are based in the Vinyasa Flow style with bits of Ashtanga. One class, yin (chakra) yoga is becoming particularly popular. Here, the majority of the postures are done on the floor and held for as long as 3 to 10 minutes. By holding poses for a longer period of time, practitioners are able to access deeper tissues within the body, such as the connective tissue and fascia that surround the muscles and joints. Stephanie says the class is a perfect complement to the more physical (yang) classes that focus on alignment, flexibility and strength in the muscles.
“We like to teach yoga the way it should be taught,” she explains. “We feel guided to do this and like to share how yoga has helped us. We want people to feel better and get well, not just look better. We don’t want anybody to leave here thinking they can’t practice yoga.”
YogaMos is located at 410 Main St., in Hellertown. For more information, call 484-895-8429 or visit MyYogaMos.com.