As a 19-year-old, Margaret Westley survived a traumatic accident, leaving her with the partial loss of her left leg. Her life-changing accident didn’t prevent her from practicing yoga; instead Margaret has found promise within the ancient practice.
How long have you been practicing yoga?
Please describe your first experience doing yoga.
My first experience with the yoga practice (asanas) was when I was in high school. My mother had a Kathy Smith yoga VHS tape on the shelf underneath the television in the living room of our apartment. At the time, I was trying to lose weight and decided to give yoga a try. After a couple of days, I realized I was flexible but felt the yoga practice was doing nothing for weight loss. So, I stopped. The next time I practiced yoga (asanas), so much in my life had changed. I was now nineteen years old and living in New York City. Several months prior, I had been in a traumatic accident where I was hit and then run over by a bus. As a result of the accident, I broke my right ankle and badly damaged my left leg which eventually had to be amputated six inches below the knee. I went to that first yoga class because I felt an internal need to figure out what was happening to my body after the accident on a physical, emotional, and mental level. At the end of the class when the teacher said, “Namaste,” I burst into tears. Even though I didn’t know exactly why I was crying, I knew I would practice yoga for the rest of my life.
What do you like about yoga?
How the practice allows me to; modify, breathe, be, laugh, cry, go inside, sweat, try, mess up, try again, take changes, discover possibilities, not sweat the small stuff, see a bigger picture, hang out with cool people and strangers. Yoga gives me the chance to see humanity in a much more communal way.
What is your favorite pose, and how does it make you feel?
I love child’s pose because it makes me feel safe. I love forward folding bends because they are cooling. I love a good savasana (a long one with lots of props) because my body feels held.
Washington DC can be a hectic place where people can become stressed-out and overworked. What would you say to your fellow DC residents to inspire them to practice?
Have you done yoga/meditation outside of yoga class? If so, can you describe the circumstance (what made you want to do yoga outside of class and what the effect was)?
I’ve practiced yoga/meditation/and other holistic modalities all over the place, whether I am in an airport or outside. Since yoga saves my life, I don’t not practice it–even if I can’t get to a class–which is a rare occurrence because I have made a commitment to myself to always try and find a class. If, for some reason, I cannot go to class, I carve out time, no matter where I am, and practice yoga postures.
How do you feel your practice at Yoga District has affected your stress level and the ways you deal with stress?
Yoga saves my life every single day. The practice has given me another chance to live.
How will yoga continue to be incorporated into your life in the future?
I will practice yoga every day for the rest of my life. The physicality of the practice will change as my body changes, but I will forever be a yoga student.
What do you want to share with others about how yoga has touched your life?
Yoga came into my life when I was very sick. I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after almost being killed by the bus that hit and then ran over me. Before yoga I was stressed out, anorexic, had daily panic attacks, poor communication skills, some memory loss, and felt very lost. The first class I took as a woman adapting to life with limb loss was an eye opener. I had the chance to cry. I had the chance to feel. Even though I was frightened, I knew yoga would be a part of my life for the rest of my life. Yoga is a daily reminder of how far I’ve come on this journey and how many wonderful people have been there to help me. We are not alone.