Community Member Profile: Lorraine Lordi

When people talk about how yoga has changed their lives, I can add one more to that:  yoga saved my life.  You see, ten years ago, I was diagnosed with MS.  I went from being someone who could go like the Ever-Ready bunny to a person who could barely walk down her driveway, to the mailbox.  It was all of fifty feet away. For several years after the diagnosis, I struggled with not only loss of my physical self but loss of my happy, positive self.  The person who always saw silver linings behind clouds now not only saw dark clouds, but I also saw two of everything.  OK, so a full moon is beautiful, but when you look up at the sky and see two, you want to break down and cry.  I know because I did.

And then I moved to Asheville.  I rented a little furnished apartment on Chestnut Street, right next to this little yoga studio.  “Mom, you should try some yoga,” my son, Joe, who lives here, urged.

“Yoga?”  I said.  “Not for me.  I’m not a joiner.”

He handed me a flyer to a free weekend of classes.  “It couldn’t hurt to try one or two classes,” he said.

The next day, I got up the nerve to put on some old sweatpants and a t-shirt and go to a basic class.  I struggled to reach my toes.  Down dog?  Isn’t that for dogs?  And what’s this at the end?  Lie still and pretend you’re dead.  Well, that one I could do!

And then I kept going back.  Twice a week. Then three times.  Then as many times as I could.  I couldn’t explain why, but something there at that little studio felt like a home I never knew.  It felt like family to me.  At the same time, I slowly felt connected to the self I had lost.  The self who could only tremble at the thought of the future.  Would I go downhill like most of the doctors predicted?

Outside of yoga, I battled that fear a lot.  It’s only natural with this disease.  No one can predict its course.  But in yoga, I found a refuge, a place to center me.  I also found a place of hope.  You see, five years later after starting and staying with yoga, my neurologist shook her head and said, “I wish all of my patients were like you.  You are going back up the slope because of everything you do to take care of yourself.  I think the big part of it is yoga!”

So, that’s part of the story.  The beginning to the middle.  But let’s go to now.  Now, yoga for me is not just a way to heal, but a way to be
outrageously happy.  Yoga is fun!  So what if I can’t stand on my head?  So what if I have to go to the wall to balance?  I can touch my toes. I can do a sun salutation and really send all of my gratitude up to the universe.  I not only can do most every position (OK, take out Warrior Three), but I like doing them.

And let’s not forget this other side to yoga. Positions are fun and fine, but my breathing has deepened.  It has opened my heart and calmed down my fears.  Every breath is a gift.  And for me I can say, every step is a gift.  Not too many people think about every step they take or how their feet line up in yoga the way I do.  I’m on my feet!  To me, that is a miracle in itself.

As E.M. Forster said, “Just connect.”  And so, that’s why I do yoga:  to connect to all that is greater than I am, to connect to people in class who are no longer strangers.  To connect to the gratitude and compassion that surround and live within me.  To laugh and be glad for all that I have instead of dwelling on all that I have lost.  In fact, I can say this with great certainty:  I haven’t lost anything. With yoga and all that if offers, I’ve gained more than I could have ever imagined.  Life was good before MS.   Life is better now — with yoga.

Thank you, Asheville Yoga Center and all of your amazing teachers for bringing me back and beyond who I ever thought I could be.

(Happy, kind, and grateful)