Meet Bizhan, a 55-year-old man from the Kashmir region of Pakistan, who has recently been granted asylum in the UK. Bizhan survived unimaginable torture and was kept in a dark cell, away from sunlight, underground. Often, he was hung by his body for hours and the damage from these experiences has been both acute and long lasting. His painful journey led him to yoga and he has now been attending trauma-informed classes for seven months.
Bizhan’s left leg was amputated and he walks using a prosthetic limb. He describes his ongoing pain, as electric shocks travelling through his body. Awaiting news of his asylum application, he continued to live in cramped living conditions inducing physical pain and heightening the somatic history of his torture, driving him into a deep depression. He was told the movements of yoga may help relieve both his physical pain and distressing thoughts. As he continued the practice of yoga, he could feel his muscles stretch and his mind unwind. In his own words, he began to feel younger, “I feel myself very light and very relax…I feel fresh after yoga.”
Bizhan used to be a member of the Arsenal disabled football team and played with crutches, but his back pain overwhelmed the joy of the game forcing him to retire from football. Through yoga he has regained stamina, he now feels stronger and his physical health continues to improve. His balance has also strengthened and after four yoga classes he was able to stand on one leg, which for an amputee like himself, is a life-changing development. “It is good for your health because you’re physically strong and your breathing is controlled… you can control everything through your breathing.”
Bizhan’s story inspires us to come back to our breath, and to take a deep inhalation of gratitude with the knowledge that everyone is on their own journey. Whether it’s through the practice of breath, yoga, or football there is always an opening for healing.
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