Three women explain how it changed their lives for the better
Natasha Richardson reveals how yoga aided her recovery from a serious injury:
Nine years ago I was hit by a van while riding my bike. It was a clear, sunny summer’s morning and I was gliding down a hill when the vehicle pulled out in front of me. I was knocked unconscious and slid across the road, breaking my leg. I then spent days in hospital, in shock and being given drugs I didn’t really want. Unfortunately I also had some very bad experiences with night staff and was left quite traumatised by my stay.
After undergoing surgery to have my bone pinned back into place, I was allowed home, and along with the help of a herbal prescription, my leg was healed within six weeks. This was not the end of it, however – the pins and the wasting of my leg muscles led to more than a year of pain and physical recuperation. I worked with an NHS physiotherapist for a few months but eventually they said there was nothing else they could do, even though I was still suffering and my movement was restricted.
At this point I decided to turn to my yoga teacher, Lisa Kaley- Isley, who also has a PhD in psychology. Through one to one sessions she helped me to rebuild my physical strength, and thanks to the mindfulness we practised, I realised that the pins in my leg were responsible for some of my discomfort and needed to be removed. This would mean another trip to hospital, however, which I really wasn’t keen on.
Lisa enabled me to build my emotional resilience and using meditation techniques she taught me, I was able to have the pins removed without taking any painkillers or relaxants on either side of surgery. I was under a general anaesthetic for the actual procedure but dealt with the aftermath by myself. It was an incredible experience after which the pain in my leg stopped and my physical strength got better and better. I have come to feel grateful for the accident because with Lisa’s help, I am now more aligned with my body and can appreciate all that it has to offer me.
Lucy Jackson tells us how yoga helped her to manage her mental health problems:
My students often tell me that I bring love and life to my teaching, and I strongly believe that this is because I’ve coped with mental illness and found yoga in my darkest hour.
Depression, anxiety and self-harming hit me when I was 13 years old, and by the time I was 18 my sense of self-worth was so low that I found myself in an emotionally abusive relationship. He took his own problems out on me and a combination of my poor mental health, his controlling behaviour and substance abuse left me in a pretty bad place for five years.
Fast forward to the age of 27 and I’m four years clear of my last bout of depression, I haven’t selfharmed in a long time and my anxiety is under control (the only thing that gets me now is the damned London Underground!). I am now really happy, working as a full-time yoga teacher and in a very healthy and loving relationship – my life could not be more different to what it was three years ago.
I credit this turnaround solely to the healing power of yoga. I dabbled with it when I was at university but it was when I moved to London in 2012 that I truly began to understand the transformative effects of regular practice. I attended three classes a week and the teacher or style didn’t matter, as I just enjoyed spending time with myself and it enabled me to realise that I wasn’t the awful person my ex partner was trying to convince me I was. My mind had been twisted but through moving, breathing and sweating I was finally finding myself. Yoga showed me that I could love and be loved and that I was in control of my life choices.
I found the courage to leave my relationship and in January 2015 I spent seven weeks in India completing my teacher training where I fell even deeper in love with yoga and life itself. For the first time I was in a good place, and that’s where I’ve stayed ever since.
Sandra Wagner explains how she avoided surgery and overcame the risk of being paralysed:
In February last year I began suffering from a severe disc prolapse in my lower back. The doctors told me that there was less than a 10 percent chance of it healing without surgery and said that I could end up paralysed if I didn’t go under the knife. Prior to this prognosis I had planned to do a yoga teacher training course at Sangye Yoga School, and I wasn’t ready to give up this dream for an operation that would take me at least nine months to recover from with no yoga allowed during that time.
I decided to give my body the chance to heal itself through yoga and meditation. This helped me to manage the pain and gain inner strength, and, slowly but surely, my body began to recover to the point that the doctors said I no longer needed surgery. The teacher training was just the beginning of the healing process. I wasn’t in a good way when I started and wasn’t able to practise as intensely or as often as I would have liked, but I listened to my body which needed to absorb different skills from other people.
By constantly checking in with and feeling what my body is able to do, I’ve developed a completely different physical and mental understanding of it. It has made me aware of my movement patterns and now I can tell exactly when I need to rest. Through yogic meditation, I was able to shift negative thoughts and the fear of losing the ability to walk. I have learnt not to get stuck or lost in the past or future but to work with what is happening in the present moment.
Meditation challenged me to face my problems, to sit with and breathe through them, and let go. In each moment we have the chance to make peace with ourselves. When I look back and focus on what this injury has taught me and the insight I’ve been given, I feel privileged to have experienced what I’ve gone through. Step by step and breath by breath, mindfulness has become my best friend.
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