In December 2013, around 6:30 in the evening, my mom was standing in her bedroom looking a two pieces of art hanging on the wall above her bed when both of her ankles pronated, collapsed and she fell to the floor. Unable to get up or move her feet she crawled to the phone next to her bed and called my sister. “Can you come over?”
“Why? What’s wrong?”
“I think I’ve broken both of my ankles”
My sister and her husband went to my mom’s house to find her laying on the floor, unable to get up. The ambulance came and took her to the hospital where they found out that both of her ankles had just snapped due to osteoporosis. She had a severe lung and upper chest infection that was borderline pneumonia which had to be cleared up before they could operate on her ankles. It was ten days before she was healthy enough to go into surgery.
They put one ankle back together with screws and the other one with pins. This was just the beginning of a very long, difficult recovery that was to keep her off her feet and in a hospital bed for almost two months. I flew to Texas to be with her in the hospital and to help however I could. I was shocked to see how dire the situation really was when I got there. I knew that the starting point for her recovery was so far removed from where she needed to be that getting healthy was going to take a lot of time and work. Plus, being trapped in a bed, unable to stand or use her legs which were already not very strong, her muscles were going to start to atrophy very quickly. I was a little nervous to say the least.
My mom is 78 years old and has lived alone until now but her life will probably never get her independence back 100% to where it was before. She has been relatively healthy most of her life but as she approached middle age and after a few minor health issues she became very sedentary and stopped moving her body at all. She wouldn’t go for a walk or do any kind of “exercise” of any kind. She slowly became fearful that if she moved at all or did anything to keep her muscles and joints healthy that she would actually hurt or injure herself. Her point of view became very fear based which ultimately led her to the place where she is now with hardly any physical strength and almost no flexibility.
After the hospital stay she ended up in a rehab facility where they really pushed her. She was in physical therapy for about 3 hours a day and they had her up walking in no time. Her fear-based point of view was still standing strong and she was resistant but they really pushed her. Luckily she’s a bit of a fighter so she didn’t back down from the challenge. She called one day and said, “I walked 800 feet today! That’s 2.5 football fields, you know.” I was amazed that she could accomplish what seemed an impossible feat. At that point I realized what determination could do and that the body can heal.
I can’t help thinking about how my mom’s situation would be different if she had done yoga to keep her body active. Would her ankles have collapsed like that if she’d done yoga? I don’t know. Would she have had some physical strength and flexibility to fall back on after such a terrible accident if she’d done yoga? Yes, definitely. I can’t change the past and what happened is done. What I can do is help her as best I can to recover and start to build some strength, some flexibility and, most of all, confidence that she has the ability to make her body healthy again.
Yoga practicioners know about the amazing benefits of the practice for the mind, body and spirit. The asana, we all know, keeps our muscles strong and our joints healthy. It can be challenging at times but it can really keep the physical body on track to longevity. I see Sri Dharma at his age – he’s just 3 years younger than my mom – with his body still healthy, moving and grooving in his yoga practice. We see octo and nonagenarians like Bette Calman at 84 in Titibasana and Bakasana, Toa Prochon-Lynch at age 94 doing full Mayruasana and, of course, BKS Iyengar at age 95 all still practicing daily with healthy bodies and clear minds. They all not only do the asana but keep a healthy, simple and clean diet and maintain balance in their lives. This is the best evidence that doing yoga keeps a body healthy.
Going through the 500hr TT and being dedicated to the practice for the rest of my life. I know I will still be doing my asana, pranayama, meditation – all of it just like Sri Dharma when I’m 75 or 78. It is so important to just keep using what we’ve been given even if we think we can’t, we surely can. Sri Dharma teaches this with the amazing example that he sets. Just try and keep trying – you’ll live a long, healthy and very happy life! Yoga – it does a body great!!