Why Stroke Yoga?

Categories: Featured, My Thoughts, Stroke Yoga | Tags:
Rachel on dock in Virabhadrasana (Warrior II)

MyYogaWill was born out of my journey using yoga as a tool for regaining strength while restoring health after a stroke I had 10 years ago, literally making this project 10 years in the making.

However, I cannot discount those numerous amazing therapists – PTs and OTs – I had the privilege of working with along the way, and the incredible education they provided me. As well as the countless yoga teachers I have learned from in studio or workshops, that have made me feel welcome and capable. Thank you for being patient and kind with me.

But, it was a PT – a physical therapist, in a hospital outpatient setting – that first introduced me to ‘belly breathing,’ or at least the idea of it.

There was no explanation, rather just hovering over me and telling me to breathe into my belly and how I was what they called a ‘reverse breather’. I couldn’t understand it then, but I do now.

That’s the part of this journey.

It’s taken me full circle – and it started with those medical clinicians who, whether they knew it then or not, were showing me the foundational elements of yoga that became so critical to me in my journey.

Whether you are a stroke survivor or just wanting to find a new level of peace and strength within yourself, know that I stumbled out of my first yoga class in love, but everyone’s journey is different. It took me years to develop my own personal practice, and years more to become a teacher. And I took the teacher training, never intending to teach, only wanting to deepen my own practice, regain physical strength and balance. The thought of exposing myself in front of people in a class was terrifying, I was not comfortable. This is a continued part of my personal yoga practice-I call cultivating self-love and building self-confidence.

Teaching and learning yoga has without a doubt been the biggest learning experience for me in my life in so many ways. It is an ongoing journey.

I believe fully that yoga is a practice that brings us into ourselves, allowing us to come back into ourselves after an injury or trauma that has us figuratively and literally disconnected us from ourselves.

I had felt discouraged and frustrated in many ways being so young when I had my stroke. I felt so out of place as the youngest among many groups, being young and active still with young children but surrounded by older groups of folks. It was very early on I had this desire to create a network of young active stroke survivors. After years of traditional western therapy and medicinal treatments I came to yoga as strictly a physical “exercise.”I was in such a hurry to get back to who I was before my stroke, or so I thought.

What I found out along the way was that yoga would not only be a way to help strengthen my body and increase flexibility, but also ease the constant anxiety/depression, low self-esteem, shame and embarrassment I felt. I realized I could be an upgraded version of myself post stroke. My stroke didn’t have to define or limit me.

After much consideration, I have decided to share my journey and try to reach out to as many stroke survivors who may already use yoga in their own journey or those that might like to learn.

I hope to give those that already practice a way to deepen their own practice because I know I’m not the only stroke survivors doing yoga. I hope this can create a community.

Stroke Survivors are some of the strongest, most determined group of people I have ever known. I fear that the medical community has somewhat written them off as being disabled or “plateaued,” putting limits on therapies and denying many forms of various therapies as immeasurable or not valuable.

There are 7.2 million stroke survivors in the U.S., according to the American Stroke Association, and stroke remains one of the leading causes of disability in the U.S. 

Teaching yoga these few short years has been such an incredible experience. It has and continues to teach me more than I could have ever expected. I am honored and grateful for being able to share and continue to share my practice with you. “The divine light that lives inside of me honors the divine light that lives inside of you”.

 ~Namaste

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Group in Virabhadrasana (Warrior II)

Yoga WILL help me connect with my body.

Yoga WILL guide the journey within.

Yoga WILL show me my own strength.

Yoga WILL help me know myself.

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