Below is the inspiring story of Bikram Yoga SLC student Abbie who suffered a stroke last January and has learned to walk and balance again with a strong Bikram yoga practice. We are so happy you are back Abbie and thank you for being an inspiration to us all!
I started practicing Bikram yoga in 2003 and instantly became a fan. At the time I was out of shape and struggling with depression. With regular practice, I quickly became light, lean and limber. Within a year I was completely off antidepressants. These benefits made a significant improvement in my quality of life and sealed my future as a permanent practitioner.
I continued to reap the rewards of regular practice until January 2012, when I suffered an acute stroke due to an injury to my right vertebral artery. My body was impacted through loss of vision, balance and the inability to walk. I went from being able to hold toe stand for 30 seconds to not being able to stand on one leg for 3 seconds. I was devastated about the breakdown in my body and craved that space of moving meditation I experienced in Bikram class.
Having a strong foundation of yoga practice prior to the stroke empowered me to look beyond the disappointment and get laser focused on healing. I had my yoga mat brought to the hospital and practiced floor postures while undergoing therapy to learn to walk and balance again. I posted this affirmation where I could see it all day long: “I am absolutely capable of healing. My body and brain know perfectly how to heal.” After two and a half weeks I returned home and continued practicing yoga as often as I could. I started practicing yoga with Bikram’s CD, and used my bedroom walls to keep me supported in standing postures. My physical therapist was amazed at how quickly my body was relearning proper movement and balance.
By March I was walking relatively well and decided it was time to progress my healing and return to Bikram class. I was nervous that first class back - worried about the risk of falling and the impact the heat would have on my dizzy vision. I received an abundance of encouragement from Greg, Becky and numerous teachers that countered any feelings of anxiety. To participate in the standing series I had to use the bar and back wall, yet I was still filled with love and light when I left class that day. I returned to class again and again, and each time experienced remarkable improvement.
It has been two months since I returned to my Bikram practice, and I no longer need to use the bar or back wall for any posture. My balance is significantly improved. My vision is no longer constantly spinning. And my walk is almost what it was before the stroke. I can even wear high heels again! My neurologist is delighted at how quickly I am recovering, and most people can no longer tell I have any physical deficiencies. I am eternally grateful to the role Bikram Yoga has played in my healing.
I have learned many important lessons in Bikram Yoga about mental determination, my body’s limitless capacity to heal, and the abundance of love in the universe. This is not the kind of yoga that you only practice in class, and then return back to your normal life. This is the yoga that becomes your way of life.