Hanoi woman has a stroke of luck with yoga

By Thuy An   March 24, 2021 | 11:30 pm PT
Hanoi woman has a stroke of luck with yoga
Vi Thi Thanh Xuan doing a yoga pose. Photo courtesy of Xuan.
She thought her life was finished after a stroke paralyzed the left side of her body and left her with a distorted mouth.

Then she was introduced to yoga.

Today, 30-year-old Vi Thi Thanh Xuan wakes up at 5 a.m. every morning to cook breakfast for her family before walking out to her front balcony to practice yoga.

Taking a deep breath, she starts doing stretches. Hands on the ground, she leans back to create a dome posture to stretch her whole body. She find it the most peaceful and pleasant time of the day.

"No one thinks now that I used to have hemiplegia. Over the past 10 years, I had thought many times that my life had ended," she admitted.

One evening in 2011, Xuan came home, had dinner, took a shower and went to bed. When she woke up, she discovered that her left face was paralyzed, her left eye could not blink and tears started flowing uncontrollably.

"The left side of my body was paralyzed. I pinched my left hand and did not feel any pain. My whole body was weak."

At that time, her father was seriously ill and her mother was as a construction worker, so she couldn't rely on them and had to pay the hospital fees by herself. Occasionally, Xuan borrowed money from friends for acupressure and acupuncture treatments. After getting treatments for more than a year, she got relief from pain, but her body couldn't regain sensation.

"There were times when I felt my life was in free fall, especially when I suffered unimaginable pain when the needle was inserted into the acupuncture points. But I grit my teeth and bore it."

In early 2013, she started to practice eating without having to tilt her neck, drinking water without getting her shirt wet, practicing gently lifting her hands and feeling a bit of sensation again. Occasionally, she had migraine headaches and had to resort to the old folk remedy technique of coin rubbing.

Constantly on medication, she was living a "restless life."

One day, a friend took Xuan to a yoga class. At first, she could not do anything because her body was as stiff as wood, her arms were weak and her breathing was short. Meanwhile, she watched others flex and bend with ease. She decided to pursue this proactively, focusing on simple yoga exercise to do at home. To motivate herself, she searched the web for beautiful pictures of people doing yoga exercises.

Since she had severe back pain, her body was stiff and she struggled for balance. So she came up with her own lesson plans instead of following sets and regimens set out by online classes or long-time practitioners.

Even though she started out with simple movements, she still felt very tired and her limbs were sore. The next thing she focused on was breathing exercises, trying to breathe in and out using her belly and exhaling with a flat stomach.

She set out a specific time of the day for practicing and training parts of the body before combining them to make more complicated moves. It took her a week to get some kind of rhythm going. Then, she began eating well, getting deep sleep and feeling less stressed out.

When she became more comfortable doing yoga, she began attending more evening classes. The more she practiced, the more she wanted to be able to do the more difficult exercises. Around this time, she began dreaming of becoming a professional yoga instructor.

Her determination came into play at this juncture. She quit her job to pursue her dream.

She opened a yoga class in 2018, teaching people of all ages who shared the same passion for this discipline. Now she spends most of her time in the studio, practicing with her students and maintaining her health.

Xuan demonstrates a yoga pose to her students at a park in Hanoi. Photo courtesy of Xuan.

Vi Thi Thanh Xuan demonstrates a yoga pose to her students at a park in Hanoi. Photo courtesy of Xuan.

While yoga has been gaining in popularity, many people still have misconceptions, Xuan said. She tells people that the world of yoga is vast and can take people a lifetime to master it.

But, she adds, anyone can practice yoga, from people with joint problems and insomnia to hot-tempered people looking for a way to relieve pressure. Even ordinary people practicing yoga find more joy in life, she stresses.

"It can take some time for one's body to adapt to doing yoga. Over time, their muscles will get less rigid and they will become more flexible."

After each session, Xuan asks students to take a photo of her doing yoga poses, so that she can motivate herself to try harder.

"It is important to turn yoga into a habit, into spiritual food for your mind and body," she says.

When Vietnam followed social distancing norms, Xuan taught her class by live-streaming or posting videos online. She insists she is not a teacher, just a companion doing things alongside others.

She welcomes the responsibility of helping her students remain active, healthy and positive. Every day, she reminds herself to never give up.

Her self-prescription is working. For quite some time now, Xuan has not had to go to the hospital or take any medication.

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