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Woman finds peace in yoga

Cindy Baldwin practices yoga to help heal from losing her husband to suicide in 2006
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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When Cindy Baldwin lost her husband to suicide, she experienced the toughest period of her life and was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Yet, through her continued practice of yoga, she found an exercise that nurtured both her body and soul. Ten years ago, Baldwin started taking a yoga class twice weekly at a church in downtown Sacramento. In October 2006, her husband took his life, and an exercise that began as a way to strengthen her muscles soon turned integral in healing her grief. “When you do yoga, the most important thing is listening,” Baldwin said. “You have to listen to the instructor and at no point can your mind be distracted. It helps teach you to quiet your mind.” Baldwin, 48, who lives in Rocklin with her current husband, Bryan, and their blended family, now teaches yoga twice a week at Lord’s Gym in Roseville. About 30 people typically attend her class — which started about six months ago — with Bryan front and center. “He’s never missed a class,” Baldwin said. “That’s really special.” She decided to become a certified yoga instructor after her friend Melanie Reagan earned a first-degree black belt at 42 years old. The thought of standing in front of a room full of people intimidated Baldwin, but she went for it and led a small group in yoga. This class has increased to about 50 people, which she teaches during lunch breaks from her job with the California Department of Veteran Affairs. On a recent morning, Baldwin wore big earrings and dressed in clothes from Argentina, where her 20-year-old daughter Melissa — who she calls her best friend — studies. Her 26-year-old son Willy works as an executive chef in Tahoe. She has a dog named Paco, who she nicknamed her “little sunshine.” “The (dog) is treated very well to say the least,” Bryan said. “Paco saved her through a dark time. He is truly a blessing in her life. He is always by her side and she holds him like a pillow at night.” Through the years, Baldwin has faced her share of dark times. Raised in Citrus Heights, Baldwin said she had amazing parents and a good life. But Baldwin’s first husband abused her, she said, and she left after two years. She soon married her second husband, who had four children. She said he was a “suit guy” who earned a six-figure income. During the last two years of their 10-year marriage, their relationship began to change. “He had depression issues,” Baldwin said. “It was a rocky marriage.” He threatened to kill himself, once leading to an eight-hour standoff with law enforcement. His therapist warned Baldwin that he would attempt suicide again, so when he begged his wife to take him back, she said no. He sent her a bouquet of red roses and a teddy bear. She told her husband over the phone that the gifts didn’t fix everything. “And when I hung up the phone, he killed himself,” Baldwin said. His son found him. Following the death, Baldwin attended custody hearings so she’d be allowed to see her stepdaughter, a request ultimately denied. “Rather than be defeated about losing the child I had raised for 10 years, I decided I would help other children,” Baldwin said. She became a court appointed special advocate, or CASA, for abused or neglected children. She advocated for a brother and sister whose mom was a methamphetamine user (the mom eventually got clean). At Thanksgiving dinner in 2007, Baldwin met Bryan, who she describes as “a long-haired hippie.” He has two daughters and a son. Altogether, she said she’s helped raise 12 children in her life. “She has definitely rounded many rough edges on me and allowed me to become a better person every day of my life,” Bryan said. “I love her even more for that.” Sometimes, Baldwin suffers bad days, but they’re far less nowadays. She made a promise to herself to help raise awareness about the signs of suicide and to respond if someone she knows shows these signs. “If I have a friend who is suicidal, I’m knocking on their door,” Baldwin said. “If I can keep one person from suffering what I suffered, I will do it. Taking your own life is not something a rational mind can process. It’s horrible.” Yoga keeps her centered, she said, and if she gets down, she thinks about all the great aspects of her life, not the negative ones. “We get to do this (life) one time,” Baldwin said. “How do we want to do this? To know me is to know I’m this positive person. I’ve dealt with a lot. My glass is always half full, not half empty.” Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com.