Leslie just got great news. Her daughter called after her 12-week prenatal appointment. Everything looked great. Leslie was so relieved and excited. She was going to be a grandmother and couldn’t wait to start spreading the news. Leslie is a yoga instructor, specializing in prenatal yoga, and a doula, so keeping this quiet until her daughter gave her the go-ahead was no easy task. Finally! She could share her secret.
It was a good day. Bringing her happy mood with her as she entered barre class, she started telling some of her friends about her grandchild on its way. Leslie was on cloud nine as class began, gliding through the movements. But then she started to feel weird. A wave of energy rushed across her chest. “Um, that didn’t feel right,” she thought and continued on. Then it happened again. “Definitely, not right.” Leslie had to stop and sit down, and at that point realized that the entire left side of her body felt numb.
The owner of the fitness studio is a nurse and recognized what was happening. She called the ambulance, and three friends sat with Leslie until help arrived.
Physical posture is only one aspect of yoga
After getting the CT scans at the hospital, Leslie started to realize how bad her situation was. Her left side was severely affected. “Ok,” Leslie thought to herself, “your physical is affected. What can you do?” She told herself, “reach into your toolbox.” As a yoga instructor for 19 years, she knew that yoga has eight limbs, and the physical is just one of them. So she decided to draw on the others. She found out that she had high blood pressure. To bring that down, she focused on breathing. Drawing on breathing techniques from her yoga experience, she was able to lower her blood pressure. She also used meditation and listened to music to help heal her brain.
At the start of rehab, she couldn’t move much. Her therapy was quite passive with her laying on her back trying to roll a wooden skateboard with her affected leg. But by week three, she was walking a bit and could even walk upstairs with her “happy side” leading and downstairs with her “learning side” leading. Leslie’s yoga background has helped her see that neither side of her body is good or bad and that is why she calls them her “happy side” and her “learning side”. This reminds her that healing is a process.
A lot has happened in a year
Leslie is approaching the one year mark after her stroke. And what does life look for her now? Therapy continues. Two times a week, she goes to a Feldenkrais class, which is similar to yoga but with smaller movements. Because she is able to complete an entire class without any modifications, she feels that this has helped her a lot. She walks every day, does mirror therapy for her hand, participates in a yoga class three times a week, and swears by her PEMF (pulsed electromagnetic field) mat. She has to wear an AFO (ankle-foot orthosis) which she is determined to get rid of. So she works with a personal trainer at a gym to get the right focus.
Four months ago, she started to teach yoga classes again. She’s also teaching yoga instructors and training people how to do EFT (emotional freedom technique), which is a type of acupressure. For the first time since her stroke, she has assisted a birth as a doula, and two weeks ago, she passed her driving test. Congratulations, Leslie! She attributes her improvement to the combination of traditional medicine and non-traditional therapy.
And if that’s not enough, she is in the process of writing two books. “Yogini Had a Stroke” has been emotional for her to write as it recounts her stroke experience. With every word, she relives the events of the last year. And the second book is a workbook to reach women who are overworked and overstressed.
Although Leslie is still healing, her doctor encourages her that she will make a full recovery if she keeps up the work. And Leslie is confident about that too. She feels lucky because she knows what she needs to do to get better. And she has the motivation to do so. Now she is even planning to help others by offering a yoga class, designed for stroke patients, in the rehab center.
When we asked her what would her message to other stroke survivors be, she said, “Work on your recovery every day. Try not to feel sorry for yourself because you are worthy. Celebrate every milestone!” And this is exactly how Leslie lives, taking each step of her process one at a time.