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Back to Balance

After losing part of her foot to sepsis, Kelly Larson rediscovers balance—physically and emotionally—through the lessons of yoga.

By Kelly Larson

Kelly Larson

Four years ago my world tipped over. At the time, I was caring for my newborn daughter, searching for ways to help my son with special needs, and preparing to get back to my work as a teacher in my hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado. Exhausted and overwhelmed, I became sick. This was certainly not unusual for me. As a former college basketball player, I was used to pushing my body to the point of exhaustion. In fact, my husband had forever called me "Moose." Gangly and stubborn, I was used to barreling through problems, operating on grit when I had tapped all other reserves.

I discovered later, however, that my illness was something shockingly different. What I thought was a miserable flu was in fact sepsis, an inflammatory state of the body caused by severe infection. The disease took over my life. I spent the next two years in wheelchairs and doctors' offices. I lost time with my children, had part of my left foot amputated, and incurred significant damage to my right foot and legs.

Weak and wobbly, I needed a way to rebuild my strength and my endurance, but I was too exhausted to rely on my old method of dogged force. Now, weakened and tired, I decided to try yoga. (Prior to my sickness, I had practiced Bikram and Power yoga sporadically, but never committed fully.) I reached out to a yoga therapist and arrived at my first session feeling shaky and vulnerable. I compared my new scrawny self to the athlete I was and agonized about all I wouldn't be able to do in the future. Swamped with pain and anxiety, I came to my yoga mat. What I found there was revelatory.

There were physical benefits, of course. Yoga helped me become stronger and more flexible. After two years of consistent daily practice—sometimes vinyasa, sometimes restorative—my balance improved and I even learned how to do plank pose on my six toes!

But, the changes were more than that. I discovered a practice that placed my focus squarely in the present, an approach that fixed my attention on the things I could control and gave me permission to let go of the rest. I was amazed to discover that effort did not have to equal exhaustion, that acceptance was not akin to resignation. Yoga offered me a compassionate way to approach my new body and my new life.

Today I continue to lurch along in my recovery, to raise my young children as a stay-at-home mom, and to meet my delightful son's unique needs. My yoga practice is what continues to sustain me.

Yoga reminds me to let go of striving and experience my life and its challenges with compassion, patience, and acceptance. What I did yesterday may not always work today—just as some days I power up my yoga practice and some days—with two young children to watch—I lie on my mat in Corpse Pose and call it a win. Meeting with my yoga therapist once a month and practicing daily, yoga continues to transform my life.

Read more Tales of Transformation here.

Mom to two apple-cheeked wonder kids, Kelly Larson adores Corpse Pose, devours poetry, and believes toes are highly overrated. For more information, visit her blog and follow her on Twitter @TheLongStretch.
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