Kripalu Guest Stories: Sandy Panzella
I’ve learned, for the first time in my life, that when you’re trying to heal, the softer and gentler you are, the faster you heal.
In 2006, I had a spinal-cord injury. When I woke up from surgery, my hands weren’t functioning. I’d suffered a lot of nerve damage and was paralyzed from the waist down. I started rehab and tried to begin walking again.
The medications the doctors gave me would have kept me in a wheelchair. I decided to stop all medications and learn how to control the pain through meditation and breathing. It was like being a baby again, re-learning every movement. I was always in pain, but doing meditation kept it down to a certain level. My friends helped me through the whole thing. That went on for about a year.
Then, still handicapped, I read about the volunteer program at Kripalu, and I decided I could do it. I flew all the way from California to Kripalu, and for four months, I worked as a greeter at the Dining Hall. Exploring my body’s abilities, I was gradually able to do more over time, including gentle yoga, meditation, and qigong. Slowly, but surely, my body recovered. My left side is still slightly paralyzed, but it’s so much better. I can’t move fast, but I can move, and faster than before.
I’ve always been interested in alternative medicine, and Kripalu helped me learn to use alternative treatments—especially Ayurveda—to heal. I applied to the Kripalu School of Ayurveda, and spent the next two years studying, while continuing to volunteer.
I don’t know if everyone realizes that the quality of the young people in the volunteer program is incredible. It was an amazing opportunity to further my practice of yoga and spirituality. We’d all come to take a respite from the world and decide how we could contribute. The sacrifices (living in a dorm, for example) are challenging, but are outweighed by the amazing care Kripalu gives to the volunteers. It was quite a bonding experience: a nurturing environment, with a lot of support—classes, lectures, and yoga classes especially for us. Everybody, whether they knew it or not, got what they came for.
Ayurveda taught me to take care of myself, how to eat for my body type and use food as medicine. I now know I can stay healthy. And I want to teach others about diet, lifestyle, and how to heal themselves, and share that there are other ways besides medication to feel better.
I’m definitely coming back for my Kripalu Yoga teacher certification!
—Sandy Panzella, adventurer and Ayurvedic consultant,Boston, Massachusetts