Monday, April 8, 2019

Be a Tree: Yoga For Amputees

Claude Lorrain, Landscape with Shepherds--The Pont Molle, 1645, Oil on Canvas
By Marsha T. Danzig

Marsha will be presenting a workshop on “Wholeness: A Yoga Approach to Working with Amputees” at the Accessible Yoga Conference in St. Louis, May 31-June 2, 2019.

Years ago, I planted a tree in front of my home. It grew quickly, with huge solid branches and thick leaves. One day, after a major wind storm, while I was pulling into my driveway, I suddenly stopped the car, put on the brakes and ran out of the car to my tree. A large branch had been severed from the tree, and the effect was quite tragic for the tree itself. I had this instinct to hug and comfort the tree. As soon as I did, it was as if the tree spoke. “Why are you comforting me? It is the branch who has lost its tree.”

That moment catapulted me into developing a yoga program for amputees, as well as provoking me to dive deep into my story of “losing a limb.” What if me, the tree, has always been intact, in spite of the loss of one of its major branches? What if it is the limb that needs comfort, a time to grieve the loss of its home? What if that limb has been transformed and absorbed into the divine mother to be used to benefit the world in some other way? What if that limb is now part of our collective oneness? As a 'medical kid' with many long term effects on my body, I have faced life-threatening medical situations so often that when I fill out a health form at a doctor's office, I now just write “too many to name.” 

Through all my years of both medical care and holistic practices, there has been one constant---my body. My body with one leg missing, my body on dialysis, my body with a new kidney, my body moving, my body healing, my body, my body, my body. What yoga has given me is the truth that my body IS the tree.

The comforter in me can console the missing branches, show them how to be of service to the world, and then send them on their way. Or they can be grafted back in to me in some new way, and their energy can continue to be part of me. My left leg was rattled with bone cancer. Her sacrifice, to willingly be cut off from her home, has kept me alive. And she has served medicine well by offering clues on the treatment of cancer.

A tree is medicine for the world. The private story of my limb loss is a collective story of all beings and our wholeness. We all have losses and ways of addressing those losses. Our broken wide open human journey is our oneness, our connection. Those pieces we feel are cut off from us are actually our seeds being planted. Our own self-perception, our dreamy eyed egos, our sleepy walks through magical days, our judgments of ourselves and others, all are illusions of separation. Like all good illusions, we can sometimes be easily fooled into believing that they are true. But we all know they are not. A tree is always a tree. 

Science has found that in every forest there is one mother tree. She is related to all trees, but she can be of any genus. The trees in her "treedom" receive communications from her. Trees with disabilities and trees without disabilities have equal footing in her forest. As yoga professionals and practitioners, let's see the wholeness within each one of us, and acknowledge that trees thrive best when they are connected to each other.

Be a tree.

Marsha Therese Danzig, Master of Education, Harvard, is an Advanced Yoga Therapist, Energy Healer, and Speaker. Marsha, a below knee amputee, pediatric cancer survivor, and kidney transplant recipient is the Founder of Yoga for Amputees® by Marsha T Danzig, a yoga program to help amputees move forward in their lives. She is the author of From the Roots, a candid memoir about choosing joy in the face of insurmountable obstacles. Yoga for Amputees: The Essential Guide to Finding Wholeness After Limb Loss has recently been published. Marsha has been featured in Good Housekeeping, Yoga Journal, Huffington Post, PopSugar, and Oprah Magazine. She is a lifelong flamenco dancer. Marsha’s mission is to show people how to find beauty in all circumstances. She is passionate about imparting her lived experience of bridging the chasm between suffering and joy through yoga and embodied movement. Her website is

This post was edited by Patrice Priya Wagner, co-editor of Accessible Yoga blog and member of the Board of Directors.

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