PRESCOTT When Jeanie Sayer was paralyzed after a massive stroke when she was 36, she didn't know what it would take for her to fully recover until she discovered the effects of Yoga.
"It's so powerful," she said. "With Yoga, you're able to get a hold of yourself and realize you can overcome."
After the stroke, Sayer said, "I couldn't walk or talk, and when I tried to talk, what came out was gibberish. It took about a full year before I could say a full sentence."
Her stroke was so massive, Sayer said, "Doctors told me I wouldn't make it."
Sayer, who is an M.D. and a board-certified surgeon and physician, said that, in hindsight, she can see how Yoga changed her life, and though she knew before her stroke the positive effects of Yoga, "Now I've seen first-hand what it can do."
Sayer, who now lives in Prescott, had the stroke 10 years ago while living in Palm Springs and said that, after five days in the hospital, "The paralysis completely vanished. It was a miracle. Out of nowhere, it was gone."
However, she said, "The brain injury didn't leave quickly like that."
She went through some therapy and said she spent a lot of time reading and writing to try to bring back those skills.
"It was like starting over," she said.
Sayer said that, before her stroke, going to the gym and working out was always an important part of her life, and exercising was her "life force."
After the stroke, "I wanted to get back to the gym," she said. "But when I got out of the hospital, I couldn't lift 5 pounds."
Sayer, who was "bound to recover 100 percent," said that, a few weeks later, "I walked into the gym and a Yoga class was starting. I knew nothing about Yoga, but serendipitously I joined the class."
The first pose the instructor asked the class to do was the Triangle, Sayer said, and "The instructor said, 'Place your feet apart, turn to the right and stretch into the Triangle.'"
"Again, I was completely stupefied," she added. "I literally did not know the difference between right and left. I couldn't understand anything because the instructor was talking so fast."
Sayer said that, by the time that first class was over, "My head was spinning in every direction" because "nothing made sense. Reality became vivid. I could not control my body or my mind. Fear, insecurity and self-consciousness engulfed me."
Though the entire experience was frustrating for her, Sayer said that, "For some reason, I stuck with it and went back to the class three times a week for two years. I may not have recognized it, but I knew something was helping. Your mind tells you what to do."
She said Yoga was "healing every aspect of my being. Physically, I was getting stronger. My coordination and balance improved tremendously. I was able to focus and concentrate for longer periods of time. I felt empowered, calmer and more confident all the time. Inner peace became more prevalent."
She added, "That's what Yoga is. It's focusing on the moment, or on a single breath or thought. It's being in the now. That's where the peace comes from."
After two years of Yoga and meditation, "I certainly was able to communicate with people and nobody would even know that I had a problem at all."
During that time, Sayer said she "wanted to find another avenue besides Yoga," so, in addition to Yoga and meditation, she began painting and discovered a talent she didn't know she had.
After that two years, she decided to go to Belize "to get back into medicine," and she volunteered there for two months. However, she still hadn't fully recovered because, when she was working with patients, there were things she couldn't remember that she knew she should know.
One day, "a kid with a broken leg came in and I couldn't remember any painkillers to give to him. It's like, I knew what to do but I didn't know what to do. I just couldn't put those thoughts together."
She returned to Palm Springs and decided to teach Yoga, so she went to Nevada City to attend a one-month training on how to teach it.
"I started teaching in Palm Springs and I taught there for more than five years," she said.
She also took a two-week course in meditation and then joined Toastmasters, which she said is an international organization that "helps you to become confident in your speaking."
Sayer said that, after all she had gone through and overcome, doctors diagnosed her about 1-1/2 years ago with breast cancer. She gives credit to Yoga and what she learned at Toastmasters for her response to the diagnosis.
"It helped me not to worry, and within three days, I accepted the diagnosis," she said. "Ten years ago, I would have flipped out. I was able to control my thoughts and accept life at life's terms."
Sayer had a mastectomy and is now cancer-free.
About a year ago, she moved to Prescott because "I decided it was time for a change."
She now teaches Yoga at her home and at StoneRidge in Prescott Valley and is also a professional motivational speaker.
"I think I can help a lot of people from the things I've gone through," she said.
Anyone interested in the Yoga classes Sayer teaches can contact her at 541-9778.
Contact the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org