Rebecca Leigh is a fitness influencer with over 29,000 followers who is known for posting challenging yoga pictures and video tutorials on her Instagram. In her videos, she typically demonstrates how to do various yoga poses and gives health advice and fitness tips. At just 39 years old and at her peak fitness level, she didn't expect to have a stroke. Rebecca was practicing yoga when the stroke occurred.
Rebecca has the stroke while attempting a hollowback handstand. This is different from your typical handstand where you keep your whole body straight. The hollowback handstand is a type of handstand in which you arch your back and neck. It is definitely an expert level pose. Rebecca told South West News Service (SWNS) that while she was in this position, her limbs went numb and her vision went blurred. She said that after five minutes, she started to feel back to normal until her head started hurting. Rebecca didn't seem too concerned about these symptoms because she figured they were associated with her previously diagnosed herniated discs in her neck. It wasn't until two days later that she noticed one of her eyes was drooping and her pupils were different sizes. She then became very alarmed and rushed to the hospital.
“The doctor on staff came into the little room we were waiting in and said in a monotone voice: ‘Well, you my dear, had a stroke,’” Rebecca told SWNS. “Kevin and I both let out a little laugh, because we thought he had to be kidding. There was no way that someone my age, in my health, could have had a stroke. But he responded to our laughter in a solemn silence and his face said it all.” After performing a CT angiography scan, the doctors discovered the cause of her stroke. Rebecca had torn her right carotid artery which sent a blood clot to her brain. These tears are usually the result of a neck injury that resulted in extreme neck rotation or hypertension said Mersedeh Bahr Hosseini, MD, a stroke specialist and assistant professor of neurology at UCLA. The trauma from tearing the artery also caused a small brain aneurysm.
The results from research on the correlation between yoga and strokes have been mixed. A 2013 study on adverse events associated with yoga found that yoga, particularly headstand poses, led to injury. A different study focusing on a benefit of yoga conducted just one year earlier found that yoga assisted in stroke recovery.
Rebecca chose to share her story to provide support, awareness, and advice to others who may be dealing with the same health issues. She did not get the reaction that she expected. She received a lot of criticism about how she should manage her own body. Below is the Instagram photo and caption that she posted in response to all of the negative comments.
"For every one comment of support I've gotten from my story, I've had about 200 more telling me how disgusting I am, how arrogant I am, and how I should die the next time I do yoga and that I deserved to have died that day. This breaks my heart because I wanted to let anyone else who thought a stroke couldn't be happening to them, know it very well could." Rebecca wrote.
Even though the stroke happened two years ago, Rebecca is still affected by the nerve damage every day. Her passion for yoga has not diminished. She still practices yoga, however, doesn't try poses outside her comfort zone and doesn't push herself too much. "I know I will never be where I was before 100%. The fact that I can touch my toes is enough to make me smile. I wanted to share my story so that something like this doesn't happen to any other yogis," she told SWNS.
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