By Katherine Flanders

My brain was too big for my skull.

Sometimes, it feels like life throws more at you than you could possibly handle. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with a Chiari Malformation: a structural defect(s) at the base of the skull, which can affect different areas of the brain, including the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance. Basically, my brain was too big for my skull, and my body compensated by elongating it into my spinal column.

In January of 2019, it came to a point where I had to get brain surgery, as well as a cervical laminectomy (removal of bones from the spinal cord) to fix this defect. I was terrified of what this was going to do to my body and my health.

Post-Surgery Challenges

The first few months after surgery were one of the most difficult periods of my life. Prior to the surgery, I had been an active person; I had used physical activity to manage stress and anxiety. Following surgery, I struggled with my balance and vision. It was difficult to keep food down and to keep my strength up.

At my worst, I barely had enough strength and balance to get from the couch to the kitchen. My loss of strength was profound, and I was only able to walk with assistance. The inability to be physically active took a toll on my emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing.

A Tailored Movement Practice

Gradually, I reached a point where some of the restrictions were lifted. Yoga was the one movement practice that could be tailored to my recovery and post-surgery reality. Little by little, I was able to gain back my strength, and my balance improved immensely. Not only did I see improvements physically, but I began to feel better emotionally and mentally too.

My family and doctors also noticed a difference; I was recovering more quickly than the majority of people who undergo this surgery. I truly believe that yoga was to thank for this.

Yoga created my new reality.

Yoga is a very adaptable practice, which can be altered to fit the needs of every individual. or those who practice yoga, it can be life-changing. I believe that this practice should be accessible to everyone, as I have experienced firsthand how yoga can change a life.

“You either get bitter or get better. It’s that simple. You either take what has been dealt to you and allow it to make you a better person, or you allow it to tear you down. The choice does not belong to fate, it belongs to you.” – Josh Shipp

Six months ago, I would have never thought that I would be able to hold myself strongly and confidently in a pose like dancer’s pose — but today, this is my reality.

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