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Hey fam! YBC®’s Editorial Director, Ashley, recently completed a continuing education course in adaptive yoga for amputees. She’ll be sharing more about what she learned in a workshop at Namaslay® Studios and at our Tennessee YTT in August. Ask her any questions in the comments! xo- Candace
The day before the first Namaslay® YTT in Thailand began, I sat in my Chiang Mai AirBnB, catching up with friends and loved ones before I stepped out into the wi-fi-less wilderness to head to the venue. I received a message about a friend from my home town; Jojo was in a tragic motorcycle accident and lost his leg below the knee.
Of course, no one deserves limb loss or tragedy, but to watch it befall a young and healthy friend can shake a person. Jojo is a first class human. He is open and welcoming to everyone. He’s honest, kind and one of the most positive and encouraging people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. No matter the problem, the attitude, or situation, I’ve never seen Jojo show up with anything less than optimism and empathy. I think we sometimes assume an understanding of the order of the universe, and when an unexpected event throws our perceived balance of justice off, we question our beliefs.
Before leaving my room, I checked in with Jojo; true to form he was grateful for his life and no less optimistic about the future. He resolved to be his best and chase the life he’d always dreamed of and is doing just that.
I was nervous about the training. My practice wasn’t as advanced as what I’d seen from some of the other trainees on Instagram, and I’d been traveling alone for a while. The transition to close quarters with others was making me anxious, but this brief conversation with Jojo really put things in perspective for me. It reminded me my practice is about connection - finding the courage to slow down, pay attention, be honest with myself, and love myself enough to accept whatever truths I might find. It’s a gift I want everyone to experience, so my wheels began turning about how to share yoga with Jojo and other amputees.
The Namaslay® YTT curriculum is well rounded, and I left feeling prepared to lead strong and safe yoga practices, with enough modifications and adjustments in my toolkit to make them accessible for almost anyone. But - my teachers had never practiced with amputees, and I wanted to learn more. Once home, I found Yoga for Amputees® and its founder, Marsha Therese Danzig.
Marsha’s story in inspiring, and I was lucky enough to have her as my teacher in one on one classes as she introduced me to the practice and methodology of Y4A®. I ordered her book, Yoga for Amputees, and was blown away by the incredible value of our guided learning sessions. From anatomy, to meditation, pain management and asana, we covered so much, but I remain a student always. There’s a lot more to learn. Here are my biggest takeaways from my time with Marsha:
We are all whole.
In our PTSD modules with Jen Mehall, I realized the healing power of an informed meditation and trauma sensitive yoga class and thought it would be such a gift to offer veterans, or anyone who’d experienced loss, a safe space. But fear told me - I’m not an amputee, who am I to speak to an experience I’ve never had? Though I come from a military family, I’ve never served or been in combat. Impostor syndrome hit hard.
But I have experienced loss. I have experienced physical trauma. I do know what it’s like to feel unfamiliar, disconnected, even disgusted by my body. I know what it means to be so afraid to feel that I disassociate entirely.
I also know I found my way through those experiences and discovered peace and acceptance on the other end. I know my practice helped me gain clarity in my identity, and I know whatever shape I am in is right. I am whole. I am unbroken. And so are you.
Move from your center.
The big question most yoga teachers have when they consider adaptive yoga for amputees is: How do you cue? There’s a lot there, but the main tenant to remember is to move from the core - the center. Throw in a little yogic philosophy - check in, strengthen the center/the desire/the will and the why - before moving outwardly. Initiate movement from the core, the unshakable part of you, and imagine that strength moving outward through the rest of your body, the rest of your life.
Your practice is incomparable and all your own.
As you might imagine, in a mixed class of amputees, everyone’s practice looks different. Modifications aren’t the same for an arm amputee as they are for a leg amputee. A downward dog may be practiced from the floor, on a chair or against a wall. For me, it’s easy to compare my shape to the person on the mat next to me, but as soon as my attention leaves my practice, I’m no longer doing yoga. This course was a great reminder that the intention behind the pose, the sensation, and listening to my body, is the focus. Your yoga practice is yours. Don’t draw comparisons on your mat…or off.
We need each other.
The veteran and amputee communities become like family to their members. The shared experience and growth create strong bonds, and they encourage one another to learn and try new things. This is especially important when we lose trust, when reality shifts dramatically from what we’ve experienced to a world we don’t recognize, and it makes a huge difference to know you’re seen and understood.
In my yoga practice, my props support me. They hold me up and make me feel safe, so I can find something new. In a yoga class, we can do the same for each other. We can focus on our own journeys and still encourage others on their paths, letting them know it’s ok to step into the unknown. We need each other. Support your people, and see how they grow.
If you have any questions or want to know more about my experience, hit me up in the comments! If you’d like to learn more about Y4A: Yoga for Amputees®, contact Marsha and learn from the source. She’s brilliant, an excellent teacher, and a kind soul. Peace and love to you!