We've had the honor to interview the incredibly inspiring yogi Danielle Orner. Danielle practices yoga for her health and sanity in sunny Southern California. Diagnosed with bone cancer at age 15, she spent a decade undergoing surgeries, scans, and treatments. Changing her lifestyle revitalized both her body and spirit.
A writer, actress, and teacher, Danielle seeks to explore the difficult questions about identity, sexuality, and recovery. Her first feature screenplay, Exposure, placed as a semi-finalist in the Francis Ford Coppola American Zoetrope Screenplay Contest.
Name: Danielle Orner
Occupation: Writer, Actress, Teacher
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Favorite yoga style: Vinyasa
Favorite yoga pose: I love inversions because I can feel how strong my body has become as I watch my feet float off the mat.
Yoga is... a conversation between body and spirit.
What Do You Love Most About Yoga?
Yoga teaches peace even during moments of exertion. You may be shaking and dripping with sweat but the breath still flows. As a writer and actress, I deal with a lot of rejection, uncertainty, and self-doubt. Yoga taught me to find a place of calm even as I continued to work and dream.
How Has Yoga Changed Your Life, Personality and Physique?
Before I started practicing, I was ashamed of my body. I wore pants to cover my prosthetic leg and tried desperately to pass for "normal." I also had four recurrences of cancer in my lungs, so I saw my body as the enemy. I spent the time between scans fearing that my whole life would be derailed again. I felt detached from my body because I felt I had no say in my health.
Yoga broke down my self-imposed limits. Flowing through the poses gave me strength and grace. I also began to listen to what I needed in order to heal. I regained a sense of celebration, joy, and possibility. I stopped denying who I was and began to see my experiences as a gift.
What Everyday Thing Did You Get Better At Because Of Yoga?
Physically, my doctors are surprised the cancer hasn't returned. I was supposed to need treatments on and off for the rest of my life. Now, I have been cancer-free since 2008. They also can't believe that I don't have back pain from being an amputee for twelve years. Emotionally, I have been able to make major life changes because I now spend time in contemplation asking what I really need and what I can let go of because it no longer serves me.
How Do You Keep Your Yoga Practice Interesting and Challenging?
I never say "I can't." When I watch advanced yogis practice, I stop myself from thinking "oh, I'll never be able to do that." I once believed that I'd never be able to practice yoga and I was so wrong. Now, I work little by little to build up to more challenging poses.
I've also been offered a scholarship to begin teacher training in the Spring. Yoga started as just something I did to get back in shape and now it has become a calling. I am also planning body image workshops as well as a second mini-documentary.
What Book, Website or Person Inspires You?
Kris Carr's books first inspired me to change my diet and lifestyle as a way to heal my body. I am so grateful to her for presenting a plant-based diet and a yoga practice in a sassy, accessible way.
What Do You Listen To While You Do Yoga?
If I am feeling frustrated and powerless, I practice a power flow to Florence and the Machine.
What's The Best Advice You've Ever Received?
You must ground down into the earth to be able to reach up to the sky. One of my yoga teachers speaks often about the dichotomy of the poses. We can hold two oppositions at once. We can be in the present moment while working toward change.
Is There Anything Else You'd Like To Share With Our Readers?
Yoga is for everyone. I've heard all the excuses in the book. The key is that everyone's practice should be personal. Don't worry about what the person on the mat next to you looks like. You're on your own journey, in this body, in this moment.