Samantha Dubinsky began practicing yoga at the age of 14, inspired while vacationing on Hornby Island and watching a couple dressed in white clothing practicing on the beach. Soon after she bought white clothing herself and received a yoga mat for her birthday.
Stemming from a love of nature, hiking, kayaking, tennis and being a former half marathon racer, yoga seemed to mold it all together. Her childhood included issues with test anxiety and stuttering throughout school, so the practice of yoga seemed that much more attractive as a way to cope.
Since the age of 3, Sam was a passionate singer and was quite involved with competition and singing events which she thanks her former coach for the wonderful experiences and relationship. Additionally, professional theatre and film and television auditions formed much of Samantha’s childhood routine until the age of 16.
It was then that she took an interest in competitive racing, generally being fairly athletic throughout school.
Quickly though the infatuation with extreme training and exercise took over her life without any knowledge of proper nutrition and overall balance between the two. This resulted in severe weight loss and an unhealthy obsession with exercise in what is called Orthorexia.
Looking back, she admits she was in deep denial that she had a problem and was overwhelmed by the thought of healing.
It was then that she turned to internationally recognized teacher and studio owner Kavita Maharaj of RED DOOR YOGA in her hometown Nanaimo BC for one-on-one power yoga. Kavita was her first teacher and helped Sam see how yoga can be of great value to one’s life but in the state Samantha was in, learning about yoga was of utmost importance for her health.
Thankful for such a strong family support network, Dubinsky their love and support in helping turn her life around. This support network also included multiple therapists whom she felt strongly connected to.
By 2009 she felt her strongest as tennis, running, hiking allowed her to focus and left her love of acting and singing in the dust. To this day she holds the record for women 19 years and under for the Victoria BC Half Marathon in October 2009.
Soon after this half marathon, Dubinsky’s health quickly deteriorated again as she felt as though she missed the boat in life and deep depression set in affecting her own self-worth. By November of that year, she was receiving daily calls from her doctor ensuring that she was drinking enough fluids to stay awake. Sam knows how scared her family was during this horrific time, yet she understands now, how helpless they must have felt dealing with their daughter.
Sam made weekly visits to the Nanaimo hospital where she had stayed for a couple weeks the first time she suffered from Orthorexia back in 2007, but the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital didn’t have anyone on staff who specialized in treating eating disorders.
Forward to the following year, she put her small time of teaching yoga on hold once she was eventually admitted to St Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver by February 2010 during the Olympics.
Samantha was on the medical ward after she cleared emergency after her heart rate had plummeted to a deadly 15 beats/minute and a weight drop of 74 lbs. She was coined the “worst case in Canadian history” according to one of the emergency nurses.
After 2 weeks in the medical ward being revitalized with a feeding tube, she was sent to 4 Northwest, the eating disorders program unit until April 7th.
“The worst month of my life saved me,” she admits looking back but to this day, it’s still quite surreal that Dubinsky battled anorexia that severely at all.
The process of stabilizing the body to a safe point where she was discharged felt never ending. The last week she was in hospital, Sam recalls how driven she was to get better on her own and without a doubt, it was the refeeding that helped her gain mental stability to find a positive mindset.
She went back to training with her dad at the gym, and the following Fall of 2011 she flew to Costa Rica to pursue another 200hr month intensive yoga teacher training.
“It isn’t negative, it’s brutally raw and real when I say that my eating disorder screwed me over, but it’s constantly being aware of my thinking habits, and what suits me positively in all forms, how I choose wisely whether it be food or exercise that will give me that optimal life. Simply seeking balance is a constant practice,” she says.
It was during that major downward spiral in 2009 that she stopped eating meat and became what is a common orthorexic behavior – infatuation over health: studying, living a vegan/gluten free/raw diet.
Currently she is a pescatarian, eating grains, vegetables, and fish – particularly salmon, halibut and mahi mahi, thanks to her father Byan Dubinsky who fishes.
Samantha has shared her story in schools, and as had the honour of teaching yoga for those in alcohol and drug rehab, old folks homes and elementary and high schools. This is her way of giving back and to share the healing power of yoga practice.
Dubinsky, still living in Nanaimo, met her boyfriend John from Edmonton, online in August of 2016.
In a cute but bittersweet nutshell moving to Edmonton was never a thought that had crossed her mind. Yet, to establish the relationship she went for it and became an official Edmonton resident in October of that year.
Landing full time work with Goodlife Fitness, Sam’s passion for teaching grew immensely. Moving provinces was certainly a struggle.
“I didn’t move across the world but moving away from my love of the mountains and ocean was a big deal for me and felt totally out of my element”.
Since being here, her fitness has intensified yet her struggle with food has mellowed.
“The food issues won’t go away,” she says. “I catch myself stressing over what to eat and can go quite some time without food in my system, but the path I’m on currently shows me that I’m doing just fine. I need to remind myself how hard I train my body and that it needs to be refueled”.
Samantha will never forget something a past psychiatrist Dr Laird Birmingham said to her. “You train like a Ferrari, and Ferrari’s need optimal fuel”.
“He was the guy. He listened and truly respected me. Yet after a few visits, I told him that ultimately, I’m the one that has to turn my illness around. I can listen to you for hours every week but it’s up to me to put in the work if I want to get better”.
Sam cannot imagine life without yoga.
It was her first teacher, Kavita, who helped open her eyes to the healing yoga can offer. And thanks to the support from her Mother and Stepfather Peter Wolski, Sam attended numerous workshops in Vancouver at her favouite studio YYOGA. It was there that she confirmed, that yoga was her calling.
She still enjoys mad tennis games with family, long walks with her boyfriend and long road cycling in the summer.
“What is something I can say to those battling an eating disorder and depression? Recognize the problem and seek help to turn it around. Speak up! A cry for help is not a failure or something to be embarrassed of like I thought it was. IT’S OK TO ASK FOR HELP! We can bottle stuff in, and nothing gets resolved and we slowly disintegrate, but I firmly believe the yoga mat also saved me.”