Who would have thought a few months ago, that now, half way through August of my 3rd year in a wheelchair, I’d be doing yoga? Certainly this beats physio (sorry cuz Jenn, but it gets really dull). Why would you want to wiggle you toes and lift your arms in an uninspired and strictly medical activity, when you could be relaxing and working those tired muscles in yoga? Yes, exactly what I realized.
I saw a very nice physiotherapist from QA (Queen Alexandra Foundation), offered to us through my SIDES schooling. Positive and helpful experience. But I was so bored by the exercises, which were maddeningly dull for a girl who loved to run in the forest and play beach volley ball. Also, for some reason, it was difficult for the physioterrorist ( teeheehee) to grasp that trying to help me by touching me only made things worse. The result was painful lessons.
My legs have been steadily getting stronger since the Liberation therapy. It’s amazing the renewed confidence one can have in walking, when you can feel your legs. It is scary to try to walk when you have no idea what the lower half of your body is doing. I’m less shaky when I try to stand, and can walk about the same distance, but with renewed confidence. High heels here I come.
So Mum and I were discussing what I could do to further strengthen my legs, and in a stroke of inspiration I thought of ‘chair yoga’. As soon as I said it, two thoughts were running through my head. “What am I getting myself into?” right after “Saying this aloud probably means I can do the yoga”. I loved doing yoga before I was ill. Stretching your limbs in ways you never expected, or don’t usually do, leaves you with a feeling of overall relaxation and strength.
I started searching to see if anyone taught chair yoga in Victoria. We are the city of the ‘newly weds, the nearly dead’s and the flower beds’. I found a few people who used to or do teach chair yoga (at seniors homes), but it didn’t work out. I thought I would have to ask someone in the conventional mat yoga sector to teach me, when I happened to discover Michelle. She taught a teachers chair yoga class several years ago. I figured I was pushing my luck to expect her to be willing to teach a near novice student years after the fact but went ahead and emailed anyways. Boy am I glad I did. The stars really aligned on this mission.
I had my first lesson this afternoon. I was a little apprehensive, wondering if she would be able to help me while understanding all of my complications (pain and memory being the most important ones). Unfortunately – or, oddly enough, fortunately- Michelle too has suffered several of the health problems I have (including insomnia). She was introduced to meditation at 8 to combat her own insomnia, which worked wonders for her, leading her to become a teacher of the traditional 8 limbs of yoga. That was over 27 years ago. We connected right off, and shortly after meeting, I knew that Michelle could really help me, and I trusted her to work with me. Her caring, warm spirit instill in me the confidence to push myself, to try to let my body heal through yoga.
The exercises we did for 30 minutes weren’t strenuous, if anything, it felt wonderful to use the muscles I had neglected, due in part to fear of pain and partly to weakness and lack of control. Breathing (pranayama) is essential in yoga, and I am very excited about this, because my lungs are so weak. After the various movements practiced together (in office chairs), we did a 10 minute guided meditation, called a yoga ‘nidra’ (nidra meaning sleep). Wikipedia describes it as the “conscious awareness of the deep sleep state“. I gathered that the purpose was to empty all thoughts, and to fully relax the body. For someone who is always fidgety, it was such a relief to just sit still, empty my mind of all thoughts, and just be. Bliss.
Michelle, and two other of her colleges from her studio, are going to come to my house 3 times a week to practice chair yoga with me!!! I am so excited. I literally am counting the days until Monday, when we meet again. Michelle has some online videos of various yoga poses, some seated, that I can practice at home in the meantime. They are all being so generous with their time and energy. It is amazing the kindness of people that I have only just met/haven’t even met yet! I was just blown away. I am so grateful for this opportunity to heal with yoga :), and especially to be working with such incredible people!