Sara Avant Stover is a yogini, inspirational speaker, teacher, mentor, and author of the best-selling book The Way of the Happy Woman: Living the Best Year of Your Life.
Sara graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude from Columbia University’s all-women’s school, Barnard College. After a cancer scare in her early twenties, Sara moved to Thailand, where she embarked on a decade-long healing and spiritual odyssey throughout Asia. She became a certified yoga instructor, and went on to teach thousands of women in over a dozen countries, from United Arab Emirates to China and from Greece to Sweden.
Sara is a student of Sofia Diaz, Sarah Powers, and others. She has been practicing yoga, Buddhist meditation, and women’s work for fifteen years. She taught the first 200-hour yoga teacher training in Thailand and is the creator of the world’s first Women’s Yoga Teacher Training. A pioneer in merging modern women’s spirituality and lifestyle, she now teaches at centers such as Kripalu and Shambhala Mountain Center. Sara’s writing has been published in Yoga Journal, the Huffington Post, and Yogi Times. She has also been featured in Newsweek, Natural Health, and on ABC, NBC, and CBS.
My Personal Story
Have you ever hit such a low that you knew you needed to change,
in a big way?
I did in 1999, one month before my graduation from New York City’s Barnard College. I had gone to the gynecologist as part of a litany of physical exams I needed to confirm my acceptance to the Peace Corps. There I learned that I had the early stages of cervical cancer. I couldn’t believe it. I practiced yoga, ran, and ate a vegan diet. I thought I was living a healthy life.
Just a few months away from flying off to West Africa, I couldn’t fathom walking away from my dream. I asked my doctor what I could do and he answered, “nothing.” I just had to wait and come back every three months for check ups.
I was angry, furious, really. Of course there was something that I could do! I just didn’t know what….
A few weeks later, out of the blue, I received a job offer to teach English literature, writing, and dance at an international school in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I learned I could get my required checkups there; and a couple of months later, I packed my bags and headed east.
I lived in northern Thailand for the next several years. It didn’t take long for my type A personality to slow to match Thailand’s slower rhythms. My new life showed me just how much I had been filling up my days with so many “to-dos” that I was, most of the time, literally forgetting to breathe.
Somehow I had lost sight of–or had simply never learned to notice–what really mattered, what I truly longed for in this life.
In Chiang Mai I surrendered to the healing wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Reiki, Yoga, Ayurveda (the traditional medical system of India), Buddhist Insight Meditation, detoxification programs, and simply slowing down. After a few months, my condition showed significant improvement and, one year later, I had fully recovered.
How I Reclaimed My Womanhood
In the years since then, I have not only healed my cervical cancer, but I have also addressed my irregular menstruation, eating disorders, insomnia, anxiety, and ovarian cysts.
I have devoted my life to studying and teaching the healing practices I’ve learned to women all over the world.
It’s not easy being a woman in the world today. We all suffer from one or more of these things, I know. And the sad thing is that we’re never really taught how to take care of our bodies and to blossom into and embrace our femininity.
Although I grew up in a house of all women, attended an Ivy League all-women’s college, got straight A’s, and always scored the cutest beaus, I felt completely lost. I didn’t know what it meant to be a woman, much less how to be one. Despite all of my outer achievements, I realized I didn’t know who I was or if I would ever by happy.
I realized that I had to forge my own path and seek out role models.
In the years since then, I have accumulated a team of teachers and mentors who model self-acceptance, spiritual depth, worldly accomplishment, balanced family and social lives, creativity, intelligence, and, most importantly, unconditional happiness.
I realized that as women we really can have it all, but that “all” doesn’t come from striving and accumulating, it comes from softening and listening.
Through the years, yoga and meditation have been the backbone of my life. They have taught me how to live a meaningful life, guided from within.
I took my first yoga class when I was 18 and living in Vail, Colorado for the summer. While I had been steeped in prayer and dance from a very early age, something new awakened in me during that class and I knew then and there that I would become a yoga teacher.
After much dedicated practice, four years later I did just that. Since then, I have taught over 3,000 students in over a dozen countries and have gone on to become a Yoga Alliance accredited teacher trainer (E-RYT 500).
I have completed trainings with some of the greatest yoga teachers of our time: Richard Freeman, John Friend, Gurmukh Khaur Khalsa, Shiva Rea, Gary Kraftsow, Sarah Powers, and many more. Other strong inspirations on my path have been my countless hours on my meditation cushion, both on retreat and at home; master yogini, Sofia Diaz, and her ecstatic revelation of the divine dance between masculine and feminine; and Sri Swamini Mayatitananda Saraswati’s lucid and grounded teachings on Ayurveda.
Also a freelance writer, I publish my work in The Huffington Post, Yoga Journal, Yogi Times, Yogi Times Business, Fit Yoga, Natural Solutions, and Pilates Style.
Living An Authentic Life
In May of 2008 I traded the mountains of northern Thailand for those of Boulder, Colorado. While I’ve left the paradise where I found my path to healing, I have learned that these are not just practices, they are a way of life.
In fact, I feel happier and more whole now than ever before. This only happened when I was willing to face the darkest parts of myself and follow my heart. It’s not always easy, and it continues to be a journey of feeling and participating in life, as honestly as I can, as the unique woman that I am.
I know that regardless of where you are in the world, what your current dress size is, what your spouse says to you, or how much money you make, you can find your way home, too. Maybe you already have.