Yoga, Stroke, and a Kick Ass Spirit

My mother in law, Donna has been a student of yoga for about 5 years, and my student for 3.  She is friendly, supportive, never misses a week, never takes herself too seriously, and always tries just a little harder than anyone else would (even when I advise against it).  She is always sure to let me know that yoga helps her sleep better, and helps with the leg pain caused by her muscular disorder.  Forever thrifty, yoga gift certificates are on the top of her wish list every Christmas & Birthday.  She's really pretty dedicated and amazing. 

Our family was thrown into a whirlwind when our healthy 60 something Mom (I'm not going to reveal her exact age, but she's really young), had a stroke.  She didn't qualify for the TPA (clot disolver), so we watched the stroke take hold over a few days.  That's about all of the sad stuff I'm going to write, because this is about the spirit of a yogi overcoming adversity.

She even questioned the neurologist in the emergency room with "when can I start doing yoga again"?  He encouraged her to do anything that she could, and that staying active is helpful.  When she went for her MRI, she told me that her pranayama (yoga breathing) helped her make it through the hour long, loud and difficult test.  She never really stopped "doing yoga" because yoga is much more than a practice that you do on a mat for an hour.  

Over the next several days, she worked her butt off, and went from being unable to move her left arm or leg more than 1/2 inch, to walking on her own.  The physical and speech therapists were very encouraging, and told her that it was the fastest recovery they had ever seen.  She credited yoga, but I credit her spirit.  

Donna is a kick ass yogi, even when she was unable to move or stand on her own.  Yoga is about so much more than physical poses.  She tapped into the perfect balance of strength, willpower, determination, and ease.  Every time a therapist added a yoga pose into ther therapy sessions, she was excited.  Even when we tried to tell her to take it easy, or not take the stairs, she never listened (although she found interesting ways to accomplish the task).  

So how did Donna use her yogic spirit to overcome her stroke?

  1. She focused on her breath.
  2. She overcame the mental chatter and remained focused.
  3. She enjoyed the elements of her practice that were available.
  4. She challenged herself every day.   
  5. She found community wherever she was (therapists, nurses, & everyone was a friend).

I'm happy to report that her speech has made a full recover, and she is able to walk without her cane.  Her next goals include driving, being a passenger on her husband's motorcycle, and returning to a group yoga class.  I know she'll do all of this and a whole lot more.  If Donna could use her kick ass yogic spirit to overcome a stroke, just think of what you can accomplish.  Happy Mother's Day, Donna.  We love you.