During my seven month inpatient rehab, I was required to have a combined total of PT, OT, and RT (recreational therapy) every day (had to justify my stay for the almighty insurance company). Part of that therapy was chair yoga. To say that I wasn’t engaged would be a gross understatement. Even in my wheelchair, there was a great deal of the practice that I physically couldn’t do at the time, especially anything dealing with core and lower extremities. I went through the motions and put in the time, but I didn’t get any true benefit from it, and it left a sour taste in my mouth. Yoga just wasn’t for me.
Fast forward to March of 2020 when the world as we knew it changed. At that point I had become an LBKA, was on my second pin-lock, and had graduated from a walker to cuff crutches. As I didn’t want to lose the momentum of my recovery, I, as many of us did, turned to online and virtual means of working out. Spaulding Rehab in Boston also pivoted to Zoom and decided to waive all activity fees. I took full advantage. At the same time, ATF (Adaptive Training Foundation) began to offer their virtual classes to alumni. Melissa DeChellis, founder of Adaptively Abled and an ATF alum, asked ATF if I could take the virtual classes, and on her recommendation, ATF allowed me to participate. This was my second encounter with yoga, and it was a totally different experience. Of course, I was in a better place physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Second, I was at home and not in an institutional environment. Third, I had, by then, realized that physical activity had to become an integral part of my everyday routine if I wanted to continue to do all the sports that were important to me. Skiing, swimming, biking, and hiking were (and still are) at the top of that list.
Both Spaulding and ATF offered yoga classes. I took both and slowly gained an appreciation for the practice and its benefits. Due to the excessive amount of scar tissue in my body, I found that practicing yoga was a great way to keep that tissue from tightening up and further restricting my range of motion. I also found the breathing element helpful.The mindfulness piece of yoga was as beneficial as the breathing. Both helped me improve my ability to fall asleep at night.
Finding the right yogi is important. Go to five different yoga studios and you will find five different philosophies about how to practice – none of them better or worse than the others. You just need to find the one that fits your own personal needs. As an amputee you need to find one who understands your physicality and who is able to modify poses that give you the benefit of that pose without causing pain. The stretching is a huge benefit as an addition to a cardio or other strenuous workout. Your body will thank you!
I have found my yoga “home” at Spaulding with a weekly practice called “Movement and Meditation,” run by yogi Lloyd Hawthorn. Our class has grown into a tight knit community which supports each other, energizes each other, and which continues to improve our collective practice under Lloyd’s tutelage. He has become a master at modifying yoga for folks who have the ability to use a mat, those who stand, and those who sit. His private practice thrives, and you can check him out at www.LloydHawthorn.com. I highly recommend him. That being said, you need to find your own “cup of tea.” Lloyd aligns with many of my values; therefore, after taking classes with other yogis, his practice is the best fit for me..
I highly advocate adding yoga to whatever routine you have. The great thing about yoga is that your body dictates your level of ability; there is no “right” or “wrong” way to do yoga – your own way is just fine. Many studios allow you to try a class or two before signing on in order to see if it’s the right fit. If not, find another – you will find “The One” eventually. The benefits are tremendous, and your body will thank you!
And remember: You don’t know how much strength you have until you are called upon to use it.
P.S. Hope you were part of the 507 folks who contacted a local entity about an amputee issue that is near and dear to your heart (see 04/15/22 post).