Different people have different approaches on how to cope with life events, such as limb loss. For some, physical recovery can take a while, but for others, like Melissa Latimer, it can be as quick as six months. She was 15 years old when she received the news that she had synovial sarcoma (SS), a rare and fatal type of cancer. Two days after the news, she underwent amputation surgery which removed her right leg below the knee.
Latimer recovered physically quickly. Six months post-surgery, she was back to playing basketball with her high school team. However, her mental and emotional recovery took longer. In an interview for Refinery29.com, Latimer shared that she, as well as the people around her, didn’t know how to respond to an amputee.
“I let the stigmas of society affect me,” she said.
In 2016, 33-year-old Latimer discovered yoga, and it has changed how she viewed her body. “[I] have learned so much about working with my prosthesis, rather than just living with it. But emotionally and mentally, it has had an even greater impact,” Latimer shared.
A Way Back to Wholeness
According to Marsha Therese Danzig, M. Ed, the practice offers a whole host of benefits that leads amputees “back...to their essential wholeness.” Danzig founded Yoga for Amputees, an online resource for yoga classes and mentorship for amputees who are seeking to find wholeness after limb loss.
With yoga, many amputees experience the physical benefits, including stability, stamina, balance, and increased strength. More importantly, amputees who practice yoga report an improvement in their mental and emotional states.
Yoga promotes meditation, breathing, and relaxation, all of which work together to create a “medicine for the soul for amputees’ grief over limb loss, identity changes, pain, and mental fatigue, and drastic changes in lifestyle,” Danzig said.
Danzig’s findings are based on her 20 years of teaching yoga. She’s a below-the-knee (BK) amputee.
Sharing the Benefits of Yoga
In the past 2 years, media outlets have released articles about Kelsey Koch, who quit her job to open a yoga studio for amputees. After Koch completed a 200-hour course to become a qualified yoga teacher, she launched her studio—Serenity Yoga in Grand Blanc, Michigan—in March 2017. The studio was the answer to her dream of helping other amputees discover how yoga could benefit them. Currently, the studio offers weekly classes to other amputees.
According to Koch, many of the people who attend her classes are recent amputees who are trying to make sense of their new identity, their new lives. While Koch lost her leg at only 9 months old, and she first learned to walk with a prosthesis, she does her best to provide support to amputees who seek mental and emotional refuge in her yoga studio.
“I want every individual, able or disabled, to know that they can do whatever they set their mind to. [I hope] that my journey could give another amputee strength and motivation to be whoever they want to be,” said Latimer.
What about you? Have you tried yoga post-amputation? What was your experience like? Share it with us in the comments section below.