Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Words to Say It

A little more than a year after stroke, my therapies were winding down. I needed to try something new, maybe a class. Several family members and friends suggested seated Tai Chi or yoga classes. I tried to be enthusiastic.

People assumed that I would be more comfortable in a chair. It was hard for me to move, right? But when I finally went to the gentle, i.e. seated, yoga class, I knew it was the wrong thing. I stopped going.

At that point in my recovery, there were still so many thoughts that I couldn’t articulate because of my aphasia. But there were other thoughts I couldn’t say because my vocabulary, even pre-stroke, didn’t include many neurological terms. I was lucky that I had heard the word aphasia before the stroke, thanks to writer Oliver Sacks. But the word proprioception--and the concept--were still new to me. After the stroke, it took me a long time to figure out that the general feeling of loss on my right side was different than say, the numbness I had felt from local anesthesia at the dentist’s office. In fact, I’m still mulling over the difference between lack of sensation and lack of proprioception.

So I couldn't explain that it felt precarious to do exercises in a chair, especially the flimsy chairs at the yoga class. Not because of balance issues, really, but because I didn’t know where the right side of the chair--or my body--was.

About a year ago, I found a great yoga teacher. She comes to my house about once a month. Most of the standing poses are beyond me, although sometimes my teacher cajoles me into trying a standing pose with the kitchen table to stabilize me. But usually, we work on the living room floor. When I need to stand up, I do have enough strength to haul myself up with mostly with my left leg, or  using the couch as a prop.

But I like being on the floor. There aren't any edges.