By Student, Kim Edgren
Back in grade school, pre-Rastelli procedure, I had a gym teacher say to me as I stood on the sidelines, “You look healthy enough to play!” The purple lips and purple fingernails along with my health record should've told her otherwise but yet, to her, I looked healthy enough to participate in her class.
The comment has stuck with me, and to this day I still struggle with looking like I should be able to be athletic and push myself more. And even in full congestive heart failure, I struggled with accepting the “I can’t” and still went with the “I’ll try.”
I’ve posted before about yoga and with the urging of my 14-year-old daughter wanting to take more classes, I've decided it is time to try and get back into it. Yoga and I have a love-hate relationship—I love doing it but it doesn't really seem to love me back! It could be that the down dogs and inverted poses are just not at peace with my low blood pressure and heart function or it could be that the studio we go to does heated classes and it's always a toasty 90-98 degrees in the room!
In any event, I often make it through class and then feel completely wiped out for days after. But, l am trying and in the last couple weeks we have been doing a class or two a week.
Last week Livi wanted to try aerial yoga! I said “sure, what the heck” to her; to myself I said, “I am going to kill myself!” That night, there we were… looking at these beautiful silks that hang down from the ceiling like a U shape, soft music playing and our mats nicely aligned under our silks.
At this point in the class the instructor asks if anyone has any medical issues… I did not fess up to being a cardiac patient, that old comment with me still. I wanted to try this without being “that” student. Sometimes, I just want to be normal when it comes to the physical stuff.
For those unfamiliar with aerial yoga it is yoga done in the air on the silks mentioned above. Poses are done both with feet on the ground and completely balanced on the silks. As we got started I was petrified of being on the silk without my feet on the floor, convinced I would be landing on the ground. I was also nervous because many poses are head down and I know that can be tricky for me.
Things were going fairly well when we arrived at the pose where you actually hang with the silk under the front of your hips, your head down and your feet off the floor; I was actually shaking with fear! I managed to balance on my hips, feet off the floor, but could not take my fingertips off the earth—all I could picture was flipping right off or having some cardiac event and then flipping right off!
With the instructor’s guidance, I managed to do the pose, one hand on heart, one hand on belly and hanging there. I tried to relax and breathe, trying hard to get my fears in check and enjoy the pose. Finally, I realized, what is the worst that could happen? I put my hands down, or fall! A Zen moment!
My heart is good right now, and although there is no crystal ball to know when it may not be, living in the present is all I can do. I can do what I can do, be it hanging with fingers on the earth or pushing a little more. I have been through much worse than falling off a silk onto a yoga mat! I enjoyed the rest of the class and managed a few other interesting poses! I did fess up to the instructor and she explained some modifications that may be helpful. And, of course, said, “You don’t look like you’ve had five heart surgeries!” Can’t wait for the next class!
Note: Always make sure to check with your ACHD cardiologist before beginning any exercise routine.