SURVIVAL | Yoga teacher’s journey to help others

Sacred place: Fotini Deme said yoga has served as more than an outlet for battling personal issues. She's also used as a way to help others. Picture: Chris Lane
Sacred place: Fotini Deme said yoga has served as more than an outlet for battling personal issues. She's also used as a way to help others. Picture: Chris Lane

In her spare time Fotini Deme aims to help others by teaching yoga – something she said helped her to find inner peace and stability after experiencing a rough childhood and a difficult divorce.

On September 2 she joined the Yoga 4 Dignity cause and hosted a class at Georges Fair at Moorebank to raise funds and awareness to help the 48,000 homeless women in Australia who don’t have access to basic sanitary essentials.

Friends and students | "“My students are my greatest teachers because I learn from them as much as they are learn from me," Fotini says. Picture: Chris Lane

Friends and students | "“My students are my greatest teachers because I learn from them as much as they are learn from me," Fotini says. Picture: Chris Lane

Nationwide, the day brought thousands of women together to “share the dignity while at the same time opening our hearts and touching our toes”.

Fotini said although there was only a small turn-out on the day, she was still able to raise over $80 and donate female sanitary pads.

Every donation counted towards the total $55,000 raised across Australia.

Fortini plans to register for next year’s Yoga 4 Dignity and in the meantime she’ll teach yoga classes and will help the community with other causes, such as teaching refugees.

But Yoga 4 Dignity is the cause closest to her heart.

Family fun: Fotini with her son, 9. Picture: Chris Lane

Family fun: Fotini with her son, 9. Picture: Chris Lane

“I could’ve become homeless myself at one stage. I was a stay-at-home mother with three children and when I got divorced I had nowhere to go,” she said.

“I’m estranged from my family so I couldn’t turn to them or get any help. I grew up being abused verbally, emotionally and physically.

“I got involved in this cause because homelessness is a big issue. It’s about showing compassion for other people and sometimes seeing what life is like through their eyes. Every Christmas I go out and make sandwiches and offer them to the homeless.”

The Moorebank resident has now been a yoga instructor for six years and has her own business, Santosa Yoga.

She said it’s been a long journey.

“My family is my three kids and my dog. I’ve come a long way in my life by doing yoga and meditation. When I first separated I was 39 and while I was a qualified childcare worker, my husband and I decided it was best that I didn’t work and that I focus on the family.

“So unfortunately, I was financially dependent on him and when we divorced he wasn’t going to support me. When I moved out I had nothing and there wasn’t much money left in our shared bank account. I could’ve fought for my rights but I didn’t so it wouldn’t get messy for the children.

“In the end he agreed to help me pay bond moneyfor the apartment and the first two weeks of rent. Then I was on my own and living off Centrelink.”

Fortini said she and her ex-husband have now worked out custody arrangements.

“Looking back, I was so emotional and it was hard for me because I didn’t have anyone to talk to except my yoga mentor. But I’m stable now and stronger than what I was through yoga and meeting new people who’ve come into my life and who’ve been there for me. People who stick around during tough times – they’re your true friends.”

She said despite having parents who were not there for her, she began to believe in herself.

"I am grateful to all who have inspire me and given me strength and courage. I am grateful for my students and teachers, present and past," Fotini says. Picture: Chris Lane

"I am grateful to all who have inspire me and given me strength and courage. I am grateful for my students and teachers, present and past," Fotini says. Picture: Chris Lane

“Now I believe in myself and what I am capable of – I want to spread that. There are people out there who don’t have anyone there for them, such as the homeless. That’s why I do Yoga 4 Dignity.”

She said the great thing about yoga is it’s about reflecting and learning.

Yogis stick together: "People who stick around during tough times, they’re your true friends," Fotini says. Picture: Chris Lane

Yogis stick together: "People who stick around during tough times, they’re your true friends," Fotini says. Picture: Chris Lane

“My students are my greatest teachers because I learn from them as much as they learn from me.

“I’ve moved a lot of negativity from my life. Yoga has really helped me to cope with a lot of issues. It’s helped bring me back to the moment and get to know myself. I feel inspired to help people because of my background.”