3 Lessons from a Stroke Surviving Yogi

Beth Martin
3 Lessons from a Stroke Surviving Yogi

Imagine being a yogi in your 60’s, able to keep up with a challenging yoga class and enjoying the challenge. Then a stroke hits and challenges the very practice that you adore.


This was reality for my mother-in-law, Donna. She has been one of my most dedicated students and a strict vegan for several years. All at once, even speaking and moving her left side a quarter of an inch became a struggle.


This is not a sad story. On the contrary, Donna has been positive and inspirational, breaking all expectations of her therapists along the way. Here are a few ideals of a stroke surviving yogi that can help us in our journey.


1. Return to the basics.

When all else failed her, Donna still had her breath. She proudly told her family that her yogic breath helped her endure the long MRI that was necessary for her diagnosis. Donna celebrated every success, and always reported back when a therapist incorporated a yoga pose into her treatment.

While you may not be dealing with a stroke, we all meet physical and emotional challenges. When things seem overwhelming, the best practice can be to return to the basics by finding your breath. Maybe it is all you can do to make it to the mat. That’s OK, just breathe and move, and see where your practice takes you. Withdraw from all judgment, and get in the moment. You’ll be happy that you did.

2. Don’t take 'no' for an answer.

When Donna encountered a challenge, she met it with fierce determination. A steep staircase stood between her and a Mother’s Day photography session. Her husband kindly suggested that they skip the session (only a day out of the stroke rehab center). She may have been surrounded by three strong men, but you’d better believe that she got up that staircase on her own two feet.

Sometimes we all let that pesky little voice inside our heads tell us that we can’t do something. Finding that determined inner drive will propel you to success that you may not have thought was possible. That pose that you thought wasn’t an option or the meditation practice when you didn’t think you had the patience to sit. Everything is waiting for you. Don’t take no for an answer.

3. Celebrate each success.

A few months after her stroke, I was honored to accompany Donna to her first post stroke Hatha yoga class. Everything was different, and oddly challenging for her, yet she never complained. She was so happy that she was able to participate in the entire class. She had a new appreciation for everything.

Each pose was new, each time her walking became more stable, and even her first ride as a motorcycle passenger. Everything was the cause for celebration.

Sometimes we have the tendency to concentrate on the things that need improvement. Instead, why not find each small success that deserves celebration? Every day there are things to celebrate; we just have to take the time to really see them.

Donna continues to make great strides in her recovery. There is not a doubt in my mind that she will accomplish anything that she sets as a goal. She has found her yoga. She now lives with a balance of strength and ease.

By learning to return to the basics, avoid taking no for an answer, and celebrating success, you too can find the balance of strength and ease in practice and life. It is the best gift you can give to yourself.

What are your favorite ways to meet challenges on and off the mat?