Guest Blog written by Sara Barnes

I haven’t been to Sarah’s yoga class for well over two years and during this time I’ve had an operation on my spine, to partially remove a prolapsed disc that was compressing my sciatic nerve and causing partial paralysis of my right leg.  Then, at the beginning of this year, I elected to have a bi-lateral high tibia osteotomy in order to correct osteoarthritis in both my inner knee joints. I sound like a wreck and I’m only 55!

Exactly! The consultant thought I was an ideal candidate to have both osteotomies done at same time, figuring that I’d be so desperate to return to the active life style I’d enjoyed before that this would motivate me through the long and difficult recovery! This meant I was left incapacitated for eight weeks, wheelchair-bound and confined to just one floor of my home!

But, nearly seven months on, and after more than two years of inactivity and chronic pain, I stepped back onto my yoga mat, attending a Sculpt and Flow run by Sarah Kekus, aka. The Health Architect.  I trusted Sarah, partly because she is an active climber, skier and outdoor enthusiast so she understands the passion people feel for their sport – and also because she’s a dead nice person.  Straight talking, tough but fair – and never encourages you to push further than she knows you can or is safe for you to do. This trust took away a lot of the fear I felt about getting down onto my mat, putting all my weight onto one leg, balancing, positioning my feet, hands and limbs or twisting into graceful poses. Even after months of intensive physio, turbo training, Watt biking, wild swimming and rowing machining I can’t walk very far without pain, so I was nervous about making a fool of myself or damaging myself – in equal measure!

You can forget the worry of making a fool of yourself when you go to one of Sarah’s classes; she is totally non-judgmental and so are the other people in her classes. Everyone is there for one reason – to do yoga.  Highlights from my first class back have to be the inspiring thoughts from Sarah, offered at the start of the class.  She re-focused our attention on the theme of this year – how to live more consciously – this term encouraging us to become more conscious of critical voices, whether it be your own inner critic or the voices of others. She also suggested we bring analysis to criticisms or negativity rather than simply accepting; So…. why can’t I stand on one leg? What is stopping me using my road bike again? Who says I’m not going to swim without a wetsuit during the winter? How can I prepare myself better for that interview?

Another highlight initially made me feel uncomfortable; I’d been struggling with a sequence of poses and had dropped down to sit on my mat, while the others continued. I heard Sarah say sharply ‘Stand up Sara!’ I looked at her and she repeated, ‘Stand up’… so I did. While still instructing the class she came over to me and showed me what she meant me to do – it was an active, but balancing pose that was comfortable for me, but meant I could stay engaged in the class rather than feeling despondent if I couldn’t do the poses. Very positive and I realised that she’d had to speak quickly, she was simultaneously instructing the flow of movements for rest of the class!

I’d forgotten just how physical yoga is and after an hour of flowing poses I was really relieved when it got to the lying down and relaxing bit at the end – I’d survived my first class back and actually even felt quite pleased with how my body had responded and stretched. Walking back home in the pouring rain I felt rejuvenated and looking forward to going to the Thursday evening Yoga for Sport – Body Aligned.  This is aimed at people who enjoy their sports, but perhaps have an injury or a particular area of inflexibility that they want to improve on; sounds like me and quite a few other people I know!