By Billy Sadia
Posted in Africa Yoga Project Blog, on September 10, 2013
It’s on a Thursday morning and I have invited one of my teacher friends to co-teach. After class we are seated taking 5 discussing and sharing our experiences. A student approaches us to tell us that another student was calling on me. I look up to find it’s one of my female students. With velocity I excuse myself from my friend as I seek to understand why I was being called because I missed the funny in her face when I looked at her from where we were.
So what’s up girl? “I had gone out to have a drink of water by the tap when I experienced a sharp pain in my mid back. It gripped me so tight I could hardly breathe for a moment there and could only move after it went down.” She explained. “I am not sure what that is but come with me to the mat as we try to figure it out.” One thing was obvious; this lady was in pain as she had watery eyes. I walked briskly to prepare the mat where she laid facing down as I instructed her.
I want say upfront that I didn’t know what or how I was going to help her and I am sharing this to let you know that we should seek to understand more on situations like this as yoga teachers and look out for alarm signals. Anyway that said and done, I begun feeling her back, giving her a massage in the effort of establishing where the pain was coming from. At the mid back she pointed out as being the point where she felt the sharp pain. With my limited yogi experience I get into what I thought was the problem. I did not pretend to know it all but in few words I said, “There is a chance you might have touched on your fever spot during the back bends and from what I experienced personally you can have reactions close to what I am seeing in you right now. Don’t worry; it should go away after a while.”I assured her and consequently brought her into child pose and a series of other positions including therapeutic yoga that I thought would help ease her back pain and open her chest to ease the pain in her chest.
In the meantime I continued massaging her careful to avoid placing pressure on her spine. Few seconds later, I wasn’t prepared for what I saw next. At first she just gripped so tight anything close by and shook with vigor. I didn’t know what to make of it until she told me it was the pain in her chest and had difficulty in breathing. I asked her if she had ever been diagnosed with asthma or chest problems. The last case had been years back in during high schools back in 1998 she recalled. So naturally she thought it was no longer a problem. Well guess what, “I think you are having an asthma attack.” she agreed saying that she remembers it happening in cold weather…perfect timing! My mind momentary goes blank as I try to remember what I had read long time on asthmatic patients and how to help them out. My memory is foggy right now and can only remember few steps. I am brought back to reality as she sinks into another fit and this time more serious than before. Thank goodness I was able to recollect myself and sat her up to enable her to breathe as she gasped for air. Slowly I ask her to please remember the process of assisting her during such situations. After what seemed like ages, she told me the process one after the other and I followed. This did not work automatically and so we went in and out of those fits a couple of times….coming in between the intervals not long enough to carry her more than five steps to the doors towards the clinic. Remember this is one area where emergency medics don’t report at the door way in a few minutes after call….and she insisted the clinics would not do anything different from what I was doing before prescribing or doing anything else. This gave me little assurance but somehow I remained loyal to her. Another friend joined in efforts and together we followed her instructions step by step which was not easy as she kept sliding in and out of spasms and fits of lack of breathe. After a while we decided that if the process of assist didn’t work we were to take her to the nearest clinic with or without her consent. So she told us to perform one last procedure and if it did not work then we had her permission to take her to the medics. We did it three times as she instructed and she said it had worked. After what looked like a million years into this assistance she started improving. The recovery process was slow but
finally she got well enough to take a vehicle home and of course I made sure she had friends to take her all the way. I am not sure how appropriate or relevant this story might be but I thought it important to highlight this as a challenge any one might come across at some point in our experiences as African yogis or yoga teachers. My student’s case was an exercise induced asthma: she exposed herself to direct cold air and water when she went out after the session and she was definitely dehydrated a chance somebody in her condition should not take; but as she says it happened a long time ago and she didn’t know it could happen then or any other time for that matter. There is need for us to be sufficiently equipped to be able to handle such emergency cases as and when they arise. Be prepared.
Ken Cheloti Kundu