Melbourne yoga teacher Sammy Veall is just 24, but she is incredibly inspiring and has had an unbelievable life journey so far. After featuring as a Bond’s girl in the Australian label’s commercials, a serious accident left her with third degree burns. It was while recovering that Sammy discovered her true calling in life – yoga.
Now, Sammy is the proud business owner of two yoga studios that specialise in hip hop yoga – a technique Sammy proudly introduced into Australia. She is the Ambassador for Diabetes Australia and joins The Carousel team as our resident Yoga Teacher. Prepare to be inspired by Sammy’s amazing journey …
Sammy was just 21 when she landed the prestigious gig as a Bonds model, appearing in their TV commercial. But then, Sammy had a terrible accident and suffered third degree burns to 35% of her body. After spending more than a month in hospital, Sammy courageously decided to travel to LA to heal, both emotionally and physically, and give one last shot at her acting career. Instead, she fell in love…. with yoga. And found much more along the way.
The Carousel is proud to announce that Sammy Veall is now our resident Yoga Teacher, bringing fun, technique and a host of healthy mind, body and soul benefits to www.thecarousel.com fans every week. Here’s her incredible journey…
IN THE BEGINNING…
New York, New York: Dreams of an acting career…
“I was chasing an acting career for a good five years after I left high school. My first break was for a Bonds commercial – we shot it in an old Ford car driving back and forth over the Westgate Bridge! I remember laughing and talking to the other girls in the car, pulling off my bra and ‘accidently’ throwing it out the car window (it was tied to a fishing wire, so I would reel it in after each take – we did about 15 takes!). The commercial aired on TV and in theatres, but I wasn’t actually here to see it. I had decided to pursue my dream of being an acting student living in New York, so moved there to attend the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, where I had the amazing opportunity to learn everything from ballet to accents, theatre, TV and script writing.
“I was three months into my acting course when I began to get homesick so I returned home for a little two week visit. During this time I attended a friend’s 21st birthday party in Deniliquin. A lot of the accident is a blur, but it was about 3am and the party was winding down. I walked up to a group of my friends sitting around a burnt down fire, and remember a few boys saying, ‘Get petrol. Get petrol!’ Suddenly a flash of orange light splashed up into my face and I quickly spun away from the fire. I knew something was wrong because everyone was yelling at me. I scrunched up my face and tried to gasp for air. It all happened so quickly I felt like I was actually watching myself from above and my basic instinct to survive had taken control of my body.
I could hear my friend Miranda yelling at me, ‘Drop down Sammy, drop down. Your legs are on fire.’ I looked down and dropped to the ground immediately and started kicking my legs furiously. Straight after, I remember running around the side of the house and hiding from everyone. I was embarrassed and confused and although I wasn’t entirely sure the extent to which I was injured I knew it was bad and I didn’t want to face it. I can still remember the smell of petrol and burnt skin. My skin felt so tight, I felt like my whole body had been really badly sun burnt and every muscle in my body was tense. Later, I was flown to the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, where I spent a month lying in a hospital bed. I had four skin graph operations and taught myself to walk again. I now have third degree burns to 35% of my body.”
Photographer: Deanna Gerlach
Losing the Bonds Girl role
“After hospital, I went home to recover. It was here, lying in my bed with my face and hair still burnt, that my boyfriend at the time told me the news about the Bonds campaign. He said he had spoken to my agent the day before the accident, and she revealed that I had been selected as a contracted Bonds girl and that this was going to be the start of my acting career. I knew they would never want me after the accident and I never heard about it again. I used to think about this nearly every day and get upset, but not anymore.”
From Melbourne to L.A: Discovering life’s true calling
“I travelled to L.A to escape the Australian summer, and to give acting one last shot – even though I felt all my confidence had been diminished. It was there that a friend suggested I visit the Maha Yoga Studio in Brentwood and do a ‘hip hop yoga’ class, where Steve Ross taught yoga to the stars. I was warned in advance it was ‘full of fake tits and women just lying on their backs listening to music, not even doing any of the poses!’
After my first class, I FELL IN LOVE! It was so me, and just the thing I needed to get over the accident. I thought, this is too good not to introduce myself! So after the class, I introduced myself to Steve, who is now a good friend of mine. I said, ‘Hi, I’m Sammy. I want to be a yoga teacher!’ Suddenly, I knew that was it! It made me feel happy. It made me feel accepted and it made me feel safe – something I hadn’t felt in years. And coincidentally, they had just started their annual yoga teacher training the day before, so I signed up immediately.
I trained every day, practicing and completing a 200 hour teacher training in Hip Hop Yoga. The teacher training finished at Maha the same day my three month visa ended. So from there, I flew to another teacher training in Bali, to learn more extensively about Vinyasa.”
“I’m trained and qualified in Hatha and Vinyasa. I have extensive training in Vinyasa – 400 hours (200 hours with music and 200hrs without music).”
Yoga’s great attraction:
“I was drawn to the freedom of yoga. I am all about having a good time and not taking life too seriously, but at the same time I am very sensitive. So if I am around people that aren’t very accepting, I am easily affected by it, although it’s something that I have grown out of over the years. Yoga, on the other hand, is a celebration of happiness! This is something that really resonates with me. When I was 18 I got a tattoo on my right arm that says ‘to be happy’- this slogan now hangs as a neon sign on the wall of my Melbourne studio.”
Yoga for Emotional healing:
“Yoga allows you to feel a sense of release through the poses, and the music elevates this by bringing out other emotions. It’s like dancing! My mind is a lot clearer since yoga entered my life, and I don’t worry about too much anymore. I just take every day as it comes and remind myself that everything passes, and that I’m going to be ok.”
Yoga for Physical healing:
“For me, yoga physically helped because it stretched out all my skin – I was limping because the back of my knee was burnt and had a skin graph on it. In hospital, I had to teach myself to walk again, so yoga was great for me to really get my balance back. My body is now in the best shape it’s ever been. I feel very strong, fit and healthy, and subsequently from this have taken on a very healthy eating approach because my body feels too good to put anything bad in it!”
The birth of Hip Hop Yoga:
“I found music and yoga in LA, and then I made up the name Hip Hop yoga. The hip hop yoga classes we hold at 213 are recommended for yogis that have practiced yoga before, as the class is quite hard. But beginners love it too, as the music makes it fun! The class is 1 hour – it starts with a warm-up, then moves through standing sequence, balancing sequence, arm balances, abs, back bends then pigeon and savasana. We play hip hop music for the first 40 minutes, then listen to relaxing soulful music before playing an instrumental song for savasana.”
Yoga studio 213 Melbourne: The Birth of her business:
“I was in Bali, on my second training, and I had two hours free time. During that time I would sit in my room and write out my business plan. I didn’t know how to write one so I found a template on the internet and starting filling it out with dreams and exactly what I would wanted in a yoga studio, taking lots of inspiration from Steve’s studio in LA. I was originally going to open my first studio in Bali, but I soon realised that I needed to do it at home. I knew Melbourne – I knew the people, my whole family lived there and all my friends and they were the ones that were showing up at 6:15am in the morning when I first opened! So if I didn’t have that support, it would have been a lot harder.”
Photographer: Deanna Gerlach
Yoga studio 213 Bondi – The second awakening:
“It was really the success of the Melbourne studio that inspired me to open in Bondi. I was receiving a lot of great feedback emails and calls from students thanking me for bringing happiness into their life with the studio. The exact same thing that I had experienced in L.A! I thought, ‘I really need to start spreading this across Australia!’ My sister and Dad were also very keen on me opening in Sydney and because they both recently moved there, they helped me out a lot. I flew to Sydney to look at places and found one straight away, so I took that as a ‘sign’ and opened nine months after the opening of my Melbourne studio.”
Cotton on Body Ambassador:
“It’s funny how my role as Cotton on Body Ambassador came about. This may sound strange but lately I have been thinking, ‘I would like to do that’ and then it’s happened a few weeks or months later! For example, I was driving and I looked up at a billboard which had a picture of Lara Bingle modelling on it and I thought, ‘that would be nice if I could do something like that.’ A few weeks later a friend emailed me asking if I’d like to be a Cotton on Body Ambassador. A week later, I was flown to Sydney to shoot their Active Wear campaign and I was featured in their stores in Australia, South Africa and America. It was pretty amazing and surreal! That campaign has now finished though.”
Big dreams, bright future:
“I am also the Ambassador for Diabetes Australia, and am currently collaborating with a surf clothing label called TCSS to design a yoga range, due for release in November. I’d also love to be an Ambassador for a big health range – like Dove ‘Real Beauty’. And I would like to create my own yoga festival that’s all about happiness and music!”
Daily mantra: “Be happy!”
Advice: “Yoga is what you make it!”
Fave pose: “I like being upside down, so I love going into tripod headstands and handstands. It reminds me of being a kid. My mother says I was born running and haven’t stopped since!”
Stress Beating Yoga Pose:
“Any pose in a YIN class. It’s the only time I completely shut off and hear myself breathe. Pigeon pose held for 5 minutes on each side or happy baby are great. Also, savasana – lay on your back with one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest while listening to yourself breathe.”
“It’s really important to stop the mind for at least five minutes per day. It’s a good way of releasing stored emotions and thoughts that can get ‘stuck’, and keep resurfacing when triggered or you’re stressed.”
Visit Sammy’s website at www.yoga213.com.au or follow her on Instagram at yoga213