Compassionate Movement Through Yoga

Yoga for People with Charcot-Marie-Tooth & Muscular   Dystrophies 

Chelsea was so incredibly self conscious of her feet she never wore sandals and never walked around barefoot. As a teen, she had moderate pain, but nothing unbearable. But she saw how much pain her mother was in all the time and knew she would end up like her mom if she didn’t do something. Chelsea took the year off of college when she was nineteen to have reconstructive surgery on both feet. The surgery consisted of 8 procedures including, cutting her heal cords, putting a screw in her ankle joints to keep her ankles from rolling, and correcting the bunion and hammer toes. Chelsea had the left foot done first and as far as she could see the Dr. didn’t correct her left foot at all. When she asked him about why the left foot still looked deformed, he convinced her it was swollen and would take time to look normal. So Chelsea decided to go ahead with surgery on the right foot.

The Dr. instructed Chelsea to use a cooling device for 7 days following the surgery. She was feeling fine and in no pain until her post-op. Severe pain started shooting through her leg when the Dr. began to unwrap the bandage. Chelsea looked to see her leg was black from the knee down. Chelsea's friend raced her to a hospital over two hours away while Chelsea was screaming in pain. She was rushed into emergency surgery. When she woke up from the anesthesia the Dr. told her, “If you had been a half hour later we would have had to amputate your foot.” All Chelsea could manage through tears and the drugs was, “The surgery was supposed to help me!” 

Much later, Chelsea found out the cooling device had frozen her leg and foot and caused compartment syndrome. She also found out you are not suppose to use that kind of device on someone with a neurological disability who does not have normal sensations in their legs and feet. They opened up three areas in Chelsea's foot and placed a machine in the open areas to pump back the circulation. The day after, they removed the device and closed up the areas. That night she was rushed back into emergency surgery, because they had closed the openings too soon and almost had to amputate her foot again. Two days and three emergency surgeries later, a nurse came into the room holding a little pee jar. She opened the lid and told Chelsea, “We have to put leeches on your toes.”

After being transferred to another hospital, Chelsea had a fourth surgery to close the openings. Even after the fourth surgery the Dr. was still wondering if the leeches would be able to save her toes. A lot of leeches gave their lives for the cause, but Chelsea ended up keeping all of her toes. 

The surgeries on both feet did much more harm than good. Chelsea has arthritis in her ankles from the screws being put in and severe nerve damage in her right foot. When Chelsea was 21 she went to one of the leading Dr.’s in the country for CMT and he told her she'd be in a wheelchair by the time she was in her mid-30’s. Chelsea left crying hysterically and was absolutely devastated.

Chelsea moved to Florida seven years ago for college and graduated with a degree in Human Development. Chelsea pursued careers working in the Foster Care System. She used to lie in bed at night wondering what it would be like to not have pain shooting up her legs from her feet. Wondering what it would be like to fall asleep as a “normal” person. 

Chelsea was always too worried to go into any kind of class at a gym, pilates, or yoga because of all her limitations. But one day in August 2012 she was reluctantly dragged into a yoga class and had no idea at the time it would change her life forever. She really enjoyed it and started doing yoga 2-3 times a week. Chelsea realized one day she couldn’t remember the last time she had fallen asleep focusing on physical pain. She knew there were a lot of people who were much better at yoga than her, but decided to become a nationally certified yoga instructor because she wanted to share the healing benefits of Yoga with others.

Yoga training was a major challenge for Chelsea. The first week she broke her toe and the last weekend of graduation her knee dislocated. She grew up thinking she was weak and had never been encouraged to do anything physically, but persevered and is now a Registered 200 hour Yoga Alliance certified instructor. When Chelsea set out to become a Yoga Instructor, her dream was to teach kids with disabilities yoga. She felt if she had found yoga as a child it would have helped her not only with her fexibility, but with her overall self worth and self esteem. Chelsea's Yoga dream came true in less than a year of becoming an instructor. Chelsea has taught both grown ups and kids adaptive chair yoga classes through the Muscular Dystrophy Association and Charcot-Marie-Tooth support group of Tampa/St. Petersburg. The experiences are so touching. Chelsea thinks her entire outlook about herself growing up would have been much different had she known there were other kids out there like her.

Yoga has brought Chelsea more physical, emotional, and spiritual healing than words can ever convey. The severe nerve pain she had during the colder months is nearly nonexistent and she knows a wheelchair is no longer in her future. Chelsea is no longer ashamed of her differences, but celebrates them out loud. Chelsea has a newly founded outlook on life, the world, and herself through the practice of Yoga. Chelsea has learned she's not her physical body alone, but an infinite Soul of love and light. Her teacher, Paramahansa Yogananada wrote, "Look after the body, but be above it. Know that you are separate from your mortal form. Put up a great mental barrier between your mind and body. Affirm: I am apart from the body. No heat, cold, or sickness can touch me. I am free. Your limitations will become less and less.” Yoga has taught Chelsea she is not defined by her physical pain and limitations, but that she is the Soul, no pain, heat, cold, or sickness can touch her.

Chelsea's  story has been published in the Tampa Bay Times, Pain Pathway Magazine, the CMTA Newsletter, the MDA National Magazine, The Tribe of The Thin Ankles, and 101 Tips For People with CMT. Chelsea has over 1,000 hours of teaching and is an ERYT200 hour Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Teacher. Chelsea created cmtyoga in hopes to inspire others. Chelsea teaches chair yoga, gentle, beginner's, Hatha, Vinyasa Flow, power, hot, senior's, kid's yoga, and privates. 

Chelsea was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) at the age of eleven. 

Charcot-Marie-Tooth is a degenerative neurological disorder, which affects the peripheral nervous system. Over time the nerves and muscles in the arms, hands, legs, and feet degenerate. It has affected Chelsea in different ways throughout the years, but at the time of being diagnosed she walked on her toes, her knees dislocated frequently, her feet were deformed, her hands shook, and she had lack of sensation in her hands and feet. Chelsea inherited it from her mother. The same year she was diagnosed her mom had reconstructive surgery performed on both feet and became addicted to narcotics.

Chelsea was forced to do physical therapy and work with a personal trainer. She sat on the sidelines of her friend's softball games and cried, because she couldn’t play with them. Her mom made her believe she was so fragile and because of it,  Chelsea was scared to do anything. Which did not bode well for when she moved from Michigan to Colorado. Her new high school was extremely outdoor oriented and the students had to do two school trips a year involving hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, camping, backpacking, etc. Chelsea had to go on the “handicap” trip, which was for students who were in casts. She didn’t look disabled. She didn’t have a cast or a wheelchair or a cane. Her teacher’s made her feel like she was being lazy because she was on the “disabled” trip, which was not by any means disabled friendly and the students hiked so much Chelsea was in tears nearly the entire time. 

Finding Your Path