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Headstand at Bodhi Tree

As she gazes toward a sweat-filled ceiling, contorting her limbs while holding a half backbend; breathing, one might think yoga is no place for a back to relax. Yet Sarah Garden, director at the Bodhi Tree yoga studio, proves differently through the Yoga for Backs class.


Of the 35 people who attend the class, Mike Roberts, prep supervisor at the Keg, said he has been able to rid himself of the large amounts of prescription he used to take.               


Roberts said he used medication daily, and morphine was one of them. “The problem with that medication is that after a while it doesn’t work. I would up the dose,” he said. The side effects weren’t pleasant, either.


“Sometimes you just deal with it because it’s better than the pain,” he said, referring to side effects like drowsiness, decreased reaction time and impaired judgement.


Garden, too, is no stranger to back injury. She ended up in three consecutive car accidents. The most memorable was when a car rear-ended her vehicle at 70 kilometres per hour. “It ended up being a pile up,” she said.


The result of the accidents gave Garden chronic muscle spasms, back pain and migraines. She ended up doing physiotherapy and took medication that contained codeine. However, she would only take it when she experienced physical pain or a headache.


“I was like, I don’t want to take it, but I don’t know how else to be functional,” she said.


Yoga became an answer. Her partner, Colin Hall, introduced her to a therapeutic yoga studio in Calgary, where she apprenticed under Susan Jensen. Garden then went to Pune, India to further her studies. Finally she ended up in Regina, opening Bodhi Tree, which created the Yoga for Backs class about four years ago.


And that’s when Roberts decided to become one of her students. He had just recovered from hip surgery, and his massage therapist recommended he try out one of Garden’s classes; it was the only one that was offered at the time. “She kept saying, ‘You should go to yoga!’ And (I said), ‘If I go, will you leave me alone?’” he laughed, recollecting the conversation.            


Garden’s back class has finally become what she wished it to be. Initially she wanted to “make people 100 per cent functional again, but sometimes people are under the wringer,” she said. “How can you help them function better with what they’re dealing with?” To answer her own question, she created an individualistic assessment approach that personalized programs and goals for every student.


For Roberts, Garden was able to reduce the bow in his legs by three inches. “If you stick with the small results, it just continues and continues. I have flexibility I didn’t have in my twenties,” Roberts said.


However, not all who attend the class are able to completely stop using medication. Garden said that there are three forms of pain: remembered, anticipated and present. “(To) get people to be in the present, I ask, ‘Will you regret this tomorrow?’ If yes, you are doing too much,” Garden said.


Roberts said he isn’t much of a spiritual guy, but he said there is something different about being in class. “I don’t know if it’s the people or the instructor,” he said. “We get pretty rowdy.” They both laughed.