If you’ve ever been too hung up on getting a certain pose or you’ve ever caught your egomonkeymind giving your body a hard time, read on and maybe be inspired by these amputee yogis, to have gratitude for who you are, what you have and for your yoga practice.
We’ve posted about yoga in the military before, in pre- and post-deployment, yoga helping therapeutically for injuries sustained, those visible and those that go unseen to the eye. We came across this article about amputee vets who participate in Adaptive Yoga held at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and had to share. (That headstand is pretty impressive, no?)
The yoga is taught by instructor Daniel Hickman who tailors the classes specifically to the needs of each individual student, no easy task.
“I’ve taught several combat veteran amputees who are below-knee amputations or above-knee amputations, so there’s a lot of stuff we can do on the arms. But then, every once in a while, someone will walk in and they don’t have a hand. So there might be people without feet and an individual without a hand,” Hickman says.
Hickman who’s been teaching yoga classes at Walter Reed for the past 6 years knows modifying and checking in with the students every day to see how they’re doing is important, as well as keeping the yoga open and social.
For the vets, it’s less about getting the poses and more about feeling. Marine Staff Sgt. James Sides, 30, had his right hand and wrist amputated after he was injured by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan’s Helmand province in July 2012. He also lost partial vision in his left eye from the explosion. Even though his hand is missing he can still feel it, often referred to as a “phantom limb.”
“I started noticing after about the third or fourth session, my phantom limb pain would go away. Or it would ease up just from doing yoga, from just not thinking about anything,” he says.
There are others who have lost limbs, have metal pins or wheelchairs.
To his right, Marine Cpl. Nathan Jakubison reaches his hands toward his left foot, making sure to avoid the metal pins sticking out of his shin. To his left, Marine Sgt. Mike Nicholson, 23, has no legs to stretch over, but rather focuses on extending his spine.
A reminder that your yoga, your body, is yours.
“People ask me, ‘How do I even teach someone who has been blown up by a bomb or shot by a rocket and are missing parts of their body?’ And I say, ‘It’s no different from anyone else, you have to start where they are,’” he says.
The stories like this one from WTOP.com won’t change your perspective on war, but they are certainly a great refresher in compassion and a sobering shot of reality. Thank you, yoga.