After my stroke in 2005 (and lots and lots and lots of doctor's appointments that didn't include a lot of answers for my residual pain), I was finally prescribed yoga by a physician. She created a plan for me for recovery. She sent me to a knowledgeable local instructor and said "go for it!"
I showed up to my private lesson the first time wearing sandals I refused to take off. I informed my instructor she couldn't make me take off my shoes because my feet hurt when I was barefoot. I wore shoes on my sticky mat (not really the point). I told her I was going to try to follow the plan before me but I wasn't so sure it would work. I was skeptical and I was afraid. I did not trust my body. After all, it had failed me a lot in those years. I wasn't fully invested in this yoga plan. I didn't have a clue this prescription would change my life.
Fast forward almost two years and here is part of a testimony I wrote for my first instructor:
Yoga has literally changed my life! At the age of 31, I had a stroke that took me and my family by surprise and left me struggling to control the left side of my body. I had followed a diet and exercise program for several years prior to the unexplainable stroke and was in decent shape. After just a few weeks in the hospital and rehabilitation, I was released and sent home with a wonderful physical and occupational therapist. My doctors said I was very fortunate to recover the use of my left side so quickly. And, although I made great progress both physically and mentally, a year after the stroke, I still struggled with residual pain. After working with a variety of medical professionals, it was suggested I give yoga a try. At first, I was very hesitant and quite nervous about my body being able keep up. But, after just a month of classes, I noticed a drastic decrease in my pain. Today, (two years after my stroke) I can't go a week without yoga class or I notice signs of stiffness and the start of my pain returning in my leg and hip...
Yes, my yoga journey began slow and unsteady. The original goal was to literally get on my feet again. It worked. After practicing for two years, I craved my "weekly" class. Today, I crave my daily yoga fix. Here is part of what I have learned, our bodies have an amazing power to heal. BUT, we have to give them the space (physically and mentally) for the process to work. The physical and mental aspects of a regular yoga and Christian meditation practice changed my life. They were the first baby steps I took toward authentic healing and wholeness on this journey.
Today, I'm a barefoot yogi. I'm not nearly as far along in my practice as I hope to someday be. No, I have not mastered the headstands and intimidating balancing poses. Heck, some days I can barely touch my toes. But, I no longer (at least most of the time) tell myself new things are impossible. The difference is, I have taken off my sandals. I'm letting go of the fear. I am letting go of the "I CAN'T" mentality I once brought to my mat. This yogi is practicing barefoot and enjoying the journey as it unfolds.
Yoga really can be for every BODY.
Healing really is available for EVERY body.
Even if you refuse to take off your shoes to start.
Just never refuse to open your heart and mind (on or off the mat).
Whitney R. Simpson
• author • yoga & meditation teacher • spiritual director • creating soul care resources for exploring the gift of God's peace with breath, body & spirit •
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Whitney R. Simpson,
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