Fitness Magazine

Friday Q&A: Yoga Teacher/Stroke Survivor

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
Q: I am a yoga instructor and a stroke survivor as well. I know, I know, a yoga instructor AND a stroke survivor. Fancy that! I have a compromised left shoulder and it's getting much worse. Have had it for 6 years. This is the problem: my right side of my body is also compromised but in a different way. It's just less. Little shoulders and most of all hands. It's just less. Imagine what my yoga classes are like, little demonstration. My questions. How long would a person be totally on foot before I would have to do little thing alone? How long would I teach yoga class? When is too much complications you say above is more serious? Anything else you can think of. Also, the article Yoga and Shoulder Joint Replacements was truly wonderful.
A: I am not exactly sure I understand your question but my initial response is you should teach as long as you have students who will come. But maybe your question is more about mobility and how long will you be able to walk "on your feet" and if you can't walk, can you still teach? Again, as long as you have eyes and a heart and can use your language to convey intention, then you can teach, as long as you have the endurance. With all chronic disabilities, and especially strokes, fatigue is a big factor. Sometimes the struggle to do all the little things of life are overwhelming and then there is no more energy left for other things. If your situation is such that fatigue is a factor, can you have an assistant that you train to do the physical adjustments for your  students and perhaps the physical demonstration? Your expertise is why people come. I personally don't feel that a teacher has to demonstrate. My teacher, Donald Moyer, doesn't demonstrate much, and if he needs something modeled he chooses a student that he can use to convey the concept he is teaching for that class.
I think chronic illness makes you more adaptable because you can't do things the old way, and have to create new ways. So it might be an interesting teaching tool for you to teach your students what your body feels like to teach compassion. Acceptance is a big deal with acute illness as well as with chronic illness. Learning to accept changing body images as not “limitations” but variations is a powerful lesson.
Also, the complications referred to in the post Yoga and Shoulder Joint Replacements were for the post-operative period. In a shoulder joint replacement, they are reattaching tendons and repositioning muscles to do other jobs.This is why I said that trying to work too vigorously too quickly following the post-operative protocol can lead to serious complications in the success of the surgery. But you are alluding to pain from a stroke, as well as increasing dysfunction on the other side. This is very common because when one arm can't do, the other arm does more and overuse develops. Being referred for a total shoulder replacement is not common as there aren't a lot of docs who do them and do them well. Dysfunction from a stroke with loss of motion is not the same thing. I recommend that if you have access to health care, you see a physical therapist or occupational therapist who specializes in the upper extremity (this includes the shoulder, elbow and hand) to get a holistic view of your  movement and movement patterns. From there you can be more specific in your questions of your physical mobility and continuation of teaching yoga.
I hope this helps. Please let me know what happens!
—Shari

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