This humbling article made me rethink my approach to yoga. You see, I’m really good at finding excuses (of course I don’t call them excuses, I call them reasons – after all, I’m just being reasonable here, right?). I can’t practise because of hay fever. My wrist is painful. My right knee is acting up.
But are these really reasons? Or strategies our ingenious mind comes up with to tell us we really can’t roll out the mat now and we should instead take the easter chocolate rabbit out of the cupboard and rip the nice, shiny wrapper off its ears? The overwhelming sensation of melting chocolate now becomes almost palatable, no? But hang on – how about a box of tissues next to the mat, or doing side plank on your forearm, or focusing on upper body work to give the knee a break?
These are embarrassing thoughts. These are the kind of thoughts you’d find rummaging in my head. And they’re embarrassing because all these are such minor things compared to Jim Tucker’s yoga story. Jim had a regular practice for years.
“I had a pretty intense practice […] I just remember it being the best time of my life.”
Until life happened. In November 2010 he woke up after intestinal surgery and the doctors told him his limbs weren’t getting any blood. They wanted to amputate all four. His arms and legs were purple and numb.
“My first thought was, ‘Amputate them now because it’s spreading.'”
Yoga seemed a thing of the past for him, nothing more than a nice memory of down dogs and arm balances. Until Jim found another approach to yoga: He started practising with Kate Dessommes who offers free “Yoga for Amputees” classes. Shortly after, Jim was back at the yoga studio – regularly. At the beginning of each class Jim would strip off his arms and legs and then work through a range of chest stretches and spine lengthening movements, the locust posture and – because all the nerve endings still exist – he can for example activate the muscles that would stretch his fingers.
“To be able to come to a yoga class is enough excitement to get by not being able to do anything.”
So next time I feel I can’t do my practice because of an aching joint or a painful wrist, I’ll think of Jim – and find ways to modify postures. They always say “Yoga is working with the mind, through the body.” I feel Jim might just be one of the most advanced practitioners out there.