Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

August 16, 2011

“Normal” People Do Yoga

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 3:13 am

When talking about successful recovery after TBI, one of my favorite things to say is:   if you don’t want to live a life that is totally consumed with brain injury, then you have to live a life that is not totally consumed with brain injury.

So, wanting to take my own advice, I try to focus on things in everyday life that are “normal.”  Stuff that everyone battles and conquers, enjoys and delights in, suffers and survives.  Car repairs, falling in love, fixing leaking pipes, getting ready for college football season, wishing corn- on- the- cob season would last longer, cleaning the garage, telling myself that cornbread really is a vegetable, etc. 

Today it was yoga.  Normal, wonderful, healing, helping yoga.  Yoga is my friend.

Now…Fifteen years ago I was younger, obviously.  I was more fit, more lean, more flexible, stronger. 

Today I feel like a Budha statue.

I knew yoga would help me to increase my flexibility.   I have to lose weight as well so I found online this fabulous ten minute workout called, “Weight Loss Yoga For Beginners.”

This!!!!! THIS, I tell myself, is my answer.  My normal.  My path back to being slim and fit and strong once more.   Everyone’s doing yoga, right?  It’s a typical, normal thing that healthy, normal people do.   No brain injury stuff to deal with.   I am tough, I tell myself.  I used to play quarterback in an all-boys football league.   How hard could this be?  It’s like poetry and ballet.  Pretty and happy like peeps at Easter.

Look out, size ten jeans, here I come!!!!!  Weight loss yoga for beginners…

My famous final words were, “What could possibly go wrong?”

Well, for starters, I don’t have a mat.  No big deal.  I’ll do it on the oriental rug.  Note to self:  buy kneepads for yoga. 

I’m a good fifteen feet from my computer monitor and can barely see what she’s doing but I’m feeling confident that I can simply make up what I can’t decipher.  How hard can this be?  It’s only ten minutes.

The woman has a low, easy, comforting voice.  She is lovely.  Like spring, she is.  The epitome of health and fitness.  Free, easy movements.  Flowing, glowing.  She is my hero, I decide.  This goddess of ideal health.  She is speaking and I find myself purring rather unexpectedly.  I may even have been giggling.

And then Holy Sh*t!! OMG!! WTF!!!  Did you see THAT!!!!!

She bent her body as if there were hinges, HINGES!!! at her waist.  I’m not lying.  Like a flippin’ piece of paper, she just folded straight down and I’m thinking WHOA!!!!   Nobody can fold down like that.   That is unflippinreal.

From across the room I yell, “Hey, Gumby woman!!!  You look like a sheet hanging out on the line.  No flippin’ way I’m folding down like that.”

She then moves onto other positions.  We do things on our knees that apparently shatter my kneecaps  into several large, jagged pieces.   I curse the lack of kneepads.

We allow energy to shoot out of our heels.  She has her face to the ceiling while mine is barely looking above the floor.  We put the pressure of tractors onto our shoulders, separating them cleanly at the socket.  Note to self:  look for brother’s high school football shoulder pads in garage.

I am now sweating profusely.  My arms are shaking.  I’m out of breath. 

Geez, how long is this workout….

I crane my head over my warrior pose arms, now “pushing the air down”  like she directs and realize….OK, it’s been almost two minutes now.

Crazy Gumby woman now wants me to do something called a Downward Dog.  Now I have owned dogs.  I know dogs.  I love dogs.  THAT does not look like any of my dogs.  My understanding of a downward dog is one of my German Shepherds laying down and rolling over, showing me a belly to scratch while chewing on a Beggin’ Strip.

No, this Downward Dog is something altogether different.  Like inhuman different.  There is no laying down.  My belly isn’t scratched.  No bacon anywhere in sight.   This crazy Gumby foldy woman is now walking her feet up towards her hands.  Walking them right up to her hands until she is closing like a CD case and it finally hits me.  She’s no Gumby.   Oh no no no no no…No normal person can do that with her body.  Foldy hinge woman.   No.  Nobody human does that. 

I know now.  It becomes clear to me.  This is bigger.  Far bigger.

This woman is Satan.

Now, admittedly, I was shaken.   The Bible said the Devil will come as a normal, likeable person whom crowds will flock willing to.

At this point I have to admit that I didn’t expect Satan to come as a yoga instructor.   My bad.

I am standing there in my Warrior Two Pose wondering what does one do when one’s yoga instructor is Satan?   Does she know I know?   Obviously she can see me here through the screen.   Do I make a run for it?  Can I even run, now that my legs have been reduced to mere pudding logs?  Was that her plan all along? 

I find myself wondering, is it wrong, somehow, to keep on with the session when you realize your instructor is Satan?  I’m up to six minutes now.  I hate to quit when I’m so close.

I remember how many times friends had told me, “Yoga is hell.”  DumDum, me.   They were warning me.  I had no idea….

Satan now tells me to cross my left elbow over to the outside of my right knee.  She does it with no effort.  I’m assuming she could have reached that left elbow around  and around her right ankle if she had felt like showing off.   I was half expecting her to tell me to twirl my flippin’ head around in circles until I spit out green stuff. 

She’s telling me in her soft, easy, I’m- hypnotizing- you- to- come- join -me -in- Hell kind of way,  to just breathe.  Deep breaths.   In and out.  Easy.  Soft.  Even.  Nice easy breaths. 

I’m panting and close to hyperventilating.  I’m starting to see white and I’m wondering if I should run to the white light.  Maybe this is how it works.   I can’t know for sure.   I collapse against the wall, resting my jagged knee puzzles.

Now she wants me to stand with my legs bent and make a triangle with my arm straight up and my other hand touching the floor.  She says, “As if you are leaning against a wall…”

I yell out, “Hey crazy foldy Satan bitch, I’m already leaning against the wall….”

She does not send lightning.  I find myself vaguely grateful.

We move onto pushups and I realize that, even with a brain injury, I have crystal-clear memories of doing pushups.   Somewhere in a happy place with toe socks and Shaun Cassidy posters and rock candy…

That was such a happy time.

Before Satan.

I assume by now that my elbows have sustained, at least, hairline fractures.

Eight hours or three days passed and I am face down on the Oriental rug, sweating profusely, breathing heavy, knee puzzles screaming, hips dislocated, thighs burning,  toes cramping, shoulders (see hips)…

I hear Satan say, “OK. Great job.  You’re done.” 

By the time I lift my head, the screen is blank.  She has disappeared.   Just like that. 

Well, of course she has, I say to myself.  It’s not like she would use a door.

I roll over and look down at my body.  Fearing she has somehow tattooed 666 on my arms or legs or forehead, all that is on my arms and legs and forehead are the indentations of the Oriental rug and some cat fur.

I have made it, I sigh.   I have a passing thought that one more day being “normal” might just be the death of me.   I say a prayer, just in case. 

And then I go hit the shower.





  1. OMGoodness!!!! I am going to read this every day! The giggle workout is enough for me!
    I have an old friend from Atlanta (her dog Peaches was my dog Rocky’s one true love) who is a yoga instructor. She would explain the ‘butt move’ as though she was “popping PEZ from her toots” I LOVE that woman! hahha I think I have to send this on to her… with an explaniation that I don’t think she is Satan.

    Comment by Barb G — August 16, 2011 @ 10:56 am | Reply

  2. Why do you wanna do this to yourself? If you accept yourself, you can live with yourself….lol Media be damned!

    Comment by Mike Altman — August 16, 2011 @ 12:43 pm | Reply

  3. Hey Kara…If it were just one ten minute session and done then maybe I would follow your lead and give it a go in my quest for supple slinkiness…. but I know they mean ten minutes every single day…forever and ever…and even if I did it every single day I would still not be able to bend in half and ever recover from the experience….death by Yoga simply does not appeal

    Death by laughter on the other hand….LOL

    Thank you so much for the laughs…

    Comment by Christa — August 16, 2011 @ 5:30 pm | Reply

  4. “Hey crazy foldy Satan bitch, I’m already leaning against the wall….”

    This is exactly how I felt when I took a yoga class a few months ago. It was for super-duper weakling beginners, and my lack of strength, mixed with post-concussive, chronic vertigo, was enough to make me try and impale her with her incense sticks via telekinesis and sheer willpower.

    It didn’t work, and I survived the entire class, which, by the way, was set up for my friend’s wedding, as a way for all of the bridal party girls to “relax” before the big day…I might have been the only one more stressed afterwards, but I’m still glad I went. Maybe, in time, I can actually do it proficiently and enjoy it. Maybe.

    Comment by Vanessa — August 17, 2011 @ 3:37 pm | Reply

    • Hey Vanessa: I think they got it wrong…the Bridesmaids are supposed to chillax with pretty umbrella drinks sitting poolside. 🙂

      Comment by karaswanson — August 17, 2011 @ 4:26 pm | Reply

  5. Hello Kara,

    I just wanted to comment and see if you would be interested in talking to me about your TBI. I am a 21 year old male who has just graduated college. I suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury in July of 2007, and this has been the hardest struggle but most rewarding thing I have ever gone through. If you would like to email me I would appreciate someone to talk to about it whom has been through it all themselves.

    My email is, ecrauch@comcast.net, and my name is Elliott Rauch. Thank you so much, and keep living!

    Comment by Ellitt Rauch — August 18, 2011 @ 1:25 pm | Reply

    • Hi Elliott! Please check your personal email for a note from me there. :))

      Comment by karaswanson — August 18, 2011 @ 1:35 pm | Reply

  6. I love it, Kara. I love it!
    I might have to write a “Yoga with Brain Injury” film script to go along with my “Cooking with Brain Injury” film, which I am aware I have not mailed to you though you gave me a mailing address 6 months ago. Um. I have been very busy doing important things like er, yoga. Actually, I have, but not the whole time this whole six months.

    Might I suggest some commiseration with a book called “Poser: My life in twenty-three yoga poses”? It’s an amazing book, and unlike you, the author threw out her back before starting yoga. I hope that this near-death experience doesn’t turn you off from yoga, just from flirting with Satan online. Yoga’s been my saving grace since my injury, and I hope you keep laughing with yoga!

    Comment by Cheryl — August 29, 2011 @ 10:11 pm | Reply

  7. Very funny. My thoughts exactly.

    Comment by Diane — August 31, 2011 @ 10:27 pm | Reply

  8. That is a good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere.
    Short but very precise info… Thank you for sharing this one.
    A must read article!

    Comment by Replica Watches Swiss Movement — July 10, 2013 @ 9:12 am | Reply

    • thanks. 🙂

      Comment by karaswanson — July 10, 2013 @ 10:42 pm | Reply

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