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Yoga helps Maricopa woman overcome past, lose 200 pounds in the process

MARICOPA — Those entering Freedom Fitness Yoga at the Blue Barn in Maricopa’s Heritage District are greeted by a T-shirt that reads, “Drop and give me Zen.”

Owner Bobbi Asher grew up on the Olympic Peninsula outside Seattle and moved to Maricopa several years ago. Asher had been a medical patient in the Seattle area but had not received care that would help her remove excess weight that threatened her health.

“The medical community is trained to think of weight as strictly calories in and exercise out,” said Asher, who finally learned she suffered from a thyroid condition known as Hashimoto’s syndrome, the most common cause of hypothyroidism in developed countries.

Bariatric surgery seemed the likely choice for Asher, who is genetically predisposed to be very heavy and whose family members all have weight issues. Asher weighed 200 pounds in her 20s, 300 in her 30s and so on until she was over 400 pounds and doctors told her nothing more could be done.

The vicious cycle of food addiction had set in — the more you eat the less you can move and the less you move, the more your body craves food calories to provide energy.

“Weight in our culture is shamed,” said Asher, who feels the medical community both blamed her for her medical condition and abandoned her at the same time.

Bariatric surgery limits food intake to about 10% for life, and Asher knew she could not stick to this and life-threatening complications could arise.

As Asher talks about the high-fructose corn syrup in many of our packaged store-bought foods and the rise of the “low fat” food item craze — two things she credits with rising obesity in our culture — she sounds like biochemistry and nutrition professors who recently gave lectures at Mesa Community and Paradise Valley Community colleges on the subject. For Asher, the knowledge came through a hard-fought personal battle.

Asher’s saving graces were multiple — she remained active in her children’s lives as their T-ball coach and cheer coach and she turned to what was available to her in Maricopa as a fitness outlet — Copper Sky Recreation Complex.

“I spent three to five hours a day there. I made friends and it kept me out of the kitchen,” said Asher.

At Copper Sky, she was introduced by a friend to yoga for the first time.

To do even one yoga class, Asher had to overcome mental and emotional barriers. “I grew up thinking yoga is not for me, that’s for hippies and with my body, I can’t do that,” Asher said.

Asher’s friend persisted and though Asher did receive some gym-like criticism of her form and ability to participate in the yoga class, she also persisted.

“I fell in love with it,” she said. She signed up for a month-long Yoga Teacher Training Workshop in Bali where she received her teacher training certification, returned home to Maricopa and opened Freedom Fitness and Yoga at the Blue Barn.

“Coming to my mat let me heal from the inside out and not quit. I was able to look at earlier trauma issues,” Asher said.

National survey results suggest that more than a third of girls in the United States experience some form of physical or sexual child abuse by the time they turn 18 and published studies indicate that child abuse is related to adult obesity with potentially serious consequences for long-term health.

Early life abuse and neglect is highly correlated with an increase in the development of behavioral addictions such as compulsive eating.

A large, longitudinal study published by the National Institutes of Health using nurses as subjects over many years concluded that a history of child abuse (defined here as physical and/or sexual abuse) is strongly associated with food addiction.

Child abuse is associated with substantial increases in obesity-related disease risk in adulthood, including hypertension, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular events.

The mechanisms linking abuse to weight gain suggest stress deregulates eating and promotes a preference for high fat and high sugar foods (comfort food), thereby disrupting natural body weight. Studies further suggest that stress-related overeating has important similarities to drug addiction. Even brain imaging studies show visible neurological overlaps between uncontrolled eating and drug use.

“Yoga makes you look at things you’d rather not see, sometimes,” said Asher. “It brings new awareness of what you’ve avoided and new healing. That’s why some people may find yoga uncomfortable.”

Asher has lost over 200 pounds with yoga, body movement and food changes. She truly did find freedom in fitness.

Visit to find yoga class schedules and discount offers, invitations to an upcoming pool party, women’s retreat, cancer survivors course, Reiki sessions, drumming circle class, mala bead making class and more.

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Police officer returns to Maricopa amid outpouring of support
 Grace Harrah  / 

MARICOPA — When Officer Craig Curry, a Maricopa K9 officer of 12 years, experienced injuries that required urgent care, the community was the first to support his family in hopes of his safe and quick recovery.

Curry returned to Maricopa on July 22, welcomed by his girlfriend, the Maricopa Police Department and his dog, Ike.

Curry was initially taken to a hospital after a dog bite that required surgery. After his return, he felt unwell during the recovery, which led to him being unresponsive. After being back at the hospital, he experienced an onset of kidney failure, heart failure and other organ issues that still have doctors searching for answers.

Miller Dao, a former Maricopa police officer who has worked with Curry, was one of the many to raise funds while Curry was at the hospital. Elliot Sneezy, president of the City of Maricopa Police Association, reached out to Dao with the unfortunate news, asking him to have a fundraiser for Curry and his family.

Dao set up the fundraiser through his food truck, SV Gourmet Kitchen, which he owns and runs, to raise money for the fundraiser, donating 100% of the proceeds to Curry’s family, who visited from out of town.

Dao said that Curry was in good spirits.

Dao and Curry worked together on road patrol for about four years before Curry moved on to the K-9 unit.

“He’s a very funny guy,” Dao said. “Very outgoing, always has crazy energy. He is a good street cop.”

Sneezy set up the K9 Officer Craig Curry Donation Fund through Wells Fargo, just days after Curry was transported to the hospital for the second time.

Contributions from Dao, Sneezy and the community raised nearly $4,000 for Curry and his family.

“There were an overwhelming response from so many people who offered assistance or donations in support of Officer Curry,” Sneezy said. “A couple fundraisers could not be completed due to Officer Curry’s amazing recovery, but we will continue with them to respect the donations we received.”

According to Sneezy, COMPA will be selling raffle tickets for a signed Chandler Jones Arizona Cardinals jersey with a certificate of authentication next week. The jersey was donated by the Cardinals and their Vice President of Security, Shawn Kinsey.

“As law enforcement family, it doesn’t matter if you leave the police department or what-not. You still have a bond where you build a relationship that you depend your life on,” Dao said. “You’re brotherhood.”

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MPD to review policies after narcotics left behind at Butterfield Elementary
 Grace Harrah  / 

MARICOPA — While schools are expected to be a safe environment that parents and guardians trust, a recent incident at Butterfield Elementary School left the parents worried for their children’s safety.

An email was sent out to the parents on Thursday afternoon, notifying that Maricopa Police Department conducted a search for lost narcotics that had been left unsupervised at the school after a narcotics training exercise earlier in the month. This occurred four days after the school was in session, leaving parents confused as to why MPD did not decide to search earlier.

“This morning, district officials were informed that the Maricopa Police Department conducted a narcotics training exercise on July 3 at Butterfield Elementary School. We learned that narcotics used in the training exercise may have been left on the campus,” said the email from Superintendent Tracey Lopeman.

The students and staff were to be in place for 20 minutes while the search was conducted Thursday morning. MPD brought the narcotics unit back on campus to search for the unaccounted-for package, according to Lopeman. It was determined that a teacher had discarded the package into the trash on July 15, and it was never exposed to the students.

“We will review our current policies that are already in place to account for this incident and make sure we are within the normal practices of our jurisdiction and agencies when it comes to K9 training,” said Ricardo Alvarado, public information officer for MPD. “This may include having a supervisor on scene to audit training materials before the K9s leave a training site.”

When asked how MPD will take safety precautions in the future, Alvarado said an internal investigation has been opened to ensure this will never happen again.

Lopeman assured the parents that MUSD partners with MPD to keep the students safe.

According to Alvarado, MPD will suspend any K9 training being conducted at places where the public may have access.

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Defense: Doctor says Maricopa YouTube mom not competent
 bwright  / 

FLORENCE — The saga of a Maricopa mom accused of abusing her children while running a popular YouTube channel has taken another turn, with her competency to stand trial now in question.

At a status hearing Wednesday in Pinal County Superior Court, Josh Wallace, an attorney representing Machelle Hobson, told Superior Court Judge Delia Neal that a doctor had issued findings in a Rule 11 psychological evaluation.

“The conclusion is that Ms. Hobson is not competent,” Wallace said. “There is a recommendation that there is no point in engaging in (competency) restoration services right now.”

Wallace said the doctor wants to revisit the issue in “two to three months.”

A second doctor was scheduled to perform a Rule 11 evaluation on Hobson on Wednesday.

Hobson was not present in the courtroom. According to court records, she is experiencing several health problems that have required medical care.

Prosecutor Kristen Sharifi said she would like a few weeks to present the findings of the second doctor at the next hearing. Neal scheduled another status review for Aug. 28.

Hobson’s story immediately became national news when she was arrested in March due to the combination of graphic details of child abuse combined with a YouTube channel called Fantastic Adventures that had more than 800,000 subscribers and more than 200 million views.

The allegations against Hobson include that she used pepper spray on the children, starved them, locked them in closets, hit and spit at them and pinched a child’s genitals hard enough to draw blood.

As long as the Rule 11 proceedings are ongoing, the case is essentially on hold until the competency issue is decided.

Hobson is charged with 30 counts of abuse, ranging from Class 2 to Class 6 felonies, with some designated by the state as dangerous crimes against children.

The 47-year-old Hobson allegedly pulled her children out of school to perform full-time in adventure videos on her YouTube channel. When they did not perform to her standards, she would punish the five juvenile victims through various forms of abuse.

The YouTube channel was reportedly lucrative, with the videos generating an estimated $142,000 a month, according to website Social Blade.