About Sheila Magalhaes

Sheila’s first Kripalu certification was completed in 1993, and she also completed her 500 hour Advanced Professional Kripalu Certification and received her advanced level certification from Beryl Bender Birch in the practice of Classical Ashtanga Yoga from The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute. She has been a faculty member and hosted Beryl’s 200 and advanced 300 hour yoga teacher training programs at her hometown studio, Heartsong Yoga Center. She has been teaching for over 30 years, in the studio, local schools, community and corporate settings. Sheila feels lucky to have found the benefits of yoga and meditation back in the early 90’s when she was a new mom, and feels that these practices were incredibly helpful in navigating what felt like a “stressful demanding complicated life” at the time. She is thrilled to see these ancient eastern complimentary health care practices become more mainstream, and is passionate about teaching others to go out into the world and help people find peace in the busyness of their 21st century lifestyles, cultivating radiant health and well being in body, mind and spirit. With the mantra “More Yoga More Love” Heartsong has graduated nearly 100 students who are teaching all over Western MA; to all ages, in underserved populations, those with disabilities, and all who are curious to learn.

My first yoga class was with a well-respected, but stern Iyengar teacher in a drafty YMCA basketball court. I didn’t connect with the practice and “dropped out” immediately. Years later, after experiencing two high-risk pregnancies and as a new mom coming up against the all-too-common challenges of life, love, and finances, I found myself seeing a therapist who encouraged me to try Kripalu yoga, known as the yoga of compassion.

I fell in love with the practice. In my first Savasana when the teacher said “You’re perfect, just the way you are” I instantly felt spacious and free. I was hooked. Soothing repetitive movements and breathing brought me into a healthy relationship with my body as I learned to release anxiety and depression and self-regulate my nervous system.

I enrolled in yoga teacher training while finishing a degree in business. I opened Heartsong Yoga to share the practices that brought me peace and ease during the difficult years of early motherhood. Soon after I met Beryl Bender, the co-founder of The Give Back Yoga Foundation and the founder of the Hard and Soft Yoga Institute. Her commitment to service and spiritual activism inspired me to study with her. A GBYF training called Mindful Yoga Therapy introduced me to trauma sensitivity and allowed me to see my father, a veteran from the Vietnam War era, with a new understanding. Yoga helped me cultivate compassion and forgiveness and clarity for myself and our family patterns and dysfunction, and helped me to heal my relationship with my father.

A kind, loving, and hardworking father of 5, Dad had a stoic silence fueled by Budweiser beer. After experiencing his first stroke, we learned that he was an alcoholic. This news came as a surprise to the family, and our world turned upside down. We didn’t understand (unlike how addiction is understood today,) there was only secrecy and shame. Several strokes debilitated him further and he passed away shortly after his 64th birthday.

I dove into a yogic lifestyle, determined not to be like my dad, juicing, leaning into a plant-based diet, staying physical, and continuing my education in yoga therapy. After caring for my family, my students, and managing Heartsong, a glass of red wine had become a welcome relief to mentally “finish the day”. Weekends were for relaxing, which included more alcohol. But there was a tiny voice inside my head that began to question my drinking, which had ramped up slowly with my tolerance growing over time.

During the pandemic, we closed the physical studio and pivoted to Zoom. While keeping Heartsong Yoga alive, I couldn’t sleep, gained weight and my blood pressure skyrocketed. I was grouchy, itchy and anxious. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. Every Google search and podcast stated alcohol exacerbated the issues I was dealing with. By then I could easily drink a bottle of wine every night, and waking up ashamed, I’d think “I’m a Yogi, I know better, what’s wrong with me?”

My health was suffering. I desperately wanted “off” the CPAP, and I learned I was going to be a grandmother. In January 2023 I realized that I would soon be the same age as my dad when he died. I knew it was time to make a change. I committed to, and completed a 90-day “stop drinking” program, choosing an alcohol-free lifestyle, and re-directed the trajectory of my life in the most positive way possible.

I attended Give Back Yoga University’s”Yoga and Recovery Symposium” with experts sharing up-to-date research, best practices, and innovative interventions for prevention and recovery from addiction and eating disorders. The theme was “Creating Cultures of Prevention” and finding actionable insights and resources to help people and communities heal. 8 months alcohol-free, I wasn’t ready to tell my story, and didn’t know how I might “serve” but the seeds were planted. I’m happy to say, I’ve been joyfully sober for nearly 16 months, loud, proud, and ready to offer support to others. I know I have something important to share; my experience, Heartsong’s beautiful space, and the compassionate, inclusive, safe, healing practice of yoga.

I designed “Freedom Yoga” as an all-level flow class, remembering the feeling of being spacious and free when I fell in love with yoga. Somewhere along the way, in a workshop or podcast, I heard about “The Phoenix: A Sober Community” a non-profit that, like Give Back Yoga, harnesses the transformational power of connection. Their mission, “fueling a movement that builds on the power of community and belonging to change how society approaches addiction and recovery” resonated deeply with me. I applied to be a volunteer with their organization, the first in our area.

Freedom Yoga is now a free monthly class on Heartsong’s schedule, connected with The Phoenix, for anyone in recovery, loved ones, allies, or the sober curious. I was granted yoga mats from the Give Back Yoga mat program, one less barrier for students to access class. I’ve learned that recovery is not just possible, it’s probable, with support, community, and love. My dream is to host more recovery yoga classes at Heartsong, with other volunteers joining us to expand this movement. “We are all rising from something, and together, we are stronger”. I thank my father daily, with gratitude for all he taught me, and, I reversed my sleep apnea! Cheers!

Give Back Yoga is honored to have been a part of Sheila’s journey to offer access to Yoga for All…here, specifically, for those recovering from addiction. Please consider donating today to our Spring Yoga for All campaign so we can continue and expand our efforts to make yoga accessible to those in need.

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