Healing through yoga

Sandra Foster is a big believer in the recuperative powers of yoga, and it’s the result of first-hand experience. Last spring, the 48 year-old financial writer-consultant and mother of four spent eight “very scary” hours on an operating table. An infection in her frontal sinuses had caused a one-inch hole over her eye, and she was given a one in 20 chance of brain death during the surgery to repair it. “Fortunately, it went well,” says Foster, in classic understatement. “But I came out of it weak as a kitten. By the time they moved me from intensive care to my hospital bed, I didn’t even have the strength to push the electronic button to adjust my bed.”

Five weeks later, Foster suffered a major setback in her recovery when a massive infection shifted the bones that had been set during surgery. She returned to the hospital and was put on intravenous antibiotics. “At that point, I really wanted to contribute to my own recovery,” says Foster. “Sitting in a bed just wasn’t doing it. I asked myself, ‘How do I get on with my life from here?'”

Yoga proved to be the answer. Foster had a long-standing membership at a gym that offered yoga classes. She’d tried a few classeover the years but found she didn’t have the patience for yoga at that stage in her life. “I just didn’t get it,” she laughs. “It was too slow. I’d think, ‘What do you mean, I have to lie on the floor for 15 minutes? I have stuff to do.'” Rollerblading, weight training and high-energy aerobic activities were more her style.

But Foster was frustrated by how long it was taking her to heal, both physically and emotionally, and was willing to give yoga another try. “I figured it was something I could do at my own pace,” she says. The first time out, she was only able to do 10 minutes of an hour-long class. “Fortunately, there’s a lot of acceptance to yoga. You do what you can, try not to worry about it, don’t push yourself and your strength will build,” she says.

Foster now practises yoga at least three times a week — often with her husband — and has also become a certified instructor. Foster plans on teaching eventually, when she’s not quite as busy speaking and consulting. “At this point, I travel a lot and we have what my husband calls ‘Sandra’s yoga adventures,'” she laughs. “Wherever we go, we check out a new yoga studio.” While Kripalu, which she describes as a “compassionate type of yoga,” is her main discipline, she experiments with many styles. “Finding the right type of yoga depends on what you do in life,” she explains. “Some people have very hectic lives and they need a calming yoga, but they’re more attracted to the physical type, like Ashtanga, because they have to work some stuff out of their system before they can actually calm down and relax.”

One of the great things about yoga, says Foster, is that it doesn’t matter what your physical abilities are; you just start from there. “Yoga is a lifetime journey toward health and wellness.”

More information on yoga:

The om and ahh of yoga

To find listings and links to yoga studios in Canada, visit www.yogadirectory.com or www.canadianwellness.com. If possible, take at least two or three sessions with a qualified instructor to learn proper techniques before exploring yoga on your own. And here are some good books and videos to help get you started at home.

· The New Yoga for People Over 50 , Suza Francina (Health Communications Inc., 1997)
· Yoga Over 50, Mary Stewart (Fireside, 1994)
· Yoga for Dummies, Georg Feuerstein and Larry Payne (Wiley Publishing Inc., 1999)
· The Easy Yoga Workbook, Tara Fraser (Duncan Baird Publishers, 2003)

Videos to check out include:

· ”Yoga Journal’s Yoga for Beginners,” $14.99
· ”A.M. and P.M. Yoga for Beginners with Rodney Lee and Patricia Walden,” $17.99
· ”New Yoga Video for Breast Cancer Survivors,” $22.49 (plus shipping and handling), 1-866-300-0433
· ”Back Care Yoga for Beginners with Rodney Yee,” $15
· ”Healing Yoga for Common Conditions,” $20