Team Jellie Feature: The Resilient Rennie

1.  Are you working on any particular movement goals right now?
My movement goals are always the same: I move to manage life! Yoga, in particular, has saved my life in so many ways. It has helped my Multiple Sclerosis to remain stable, even through the most stressful times of my life. That includes my battle with breast cancer, leaving a career that was my whole identity because I could no longer perform it the way I knew it deserved to be done, my husband’s diagnosis with stage IV colon cancer, and his recent passing. Movement is so important, especially at the stressful times because for all of us, especially people like me who have medical challenges, once you stop moving, you no longer have a choice. Even after I discovered that I had broken vertebra and required spinal fusion and decompression surgery, I never imagined I could feel better by moving! If you don’t move it you lose it! That being said, my movement goals are to remain stable and not progress even though MS is a progressive, debilitating, and incurable illness. For being diagnosed as long as I have been, and for being 51 years old, I am happy to be where I am, and I owe it all to never even considering to stop moving.

2. What inspires you to work on your movement practice?
I am inspired by my community, the yogis in my life (both personal or virtual friends), and I move for those who can’t. I practice yoga to show others that they can too. I practice to prove that there is no such thing as a “yoga body” and that anyone, regardless of challenges (medical, body shape/size, or otherwise) can do yoga. If you have a body and you practice yoga, you have a yoga body. People who cheer me on and support me inspire me to move even on the days I don’t want to. I used to practice movement to stay strong for my husband so that we could enjoy the future we planned together the way we always wanted, and now I do it in his memory because that’s what he would want for me: to stay strong and to keep moving forward with him in my heart but not at my side.

3. What is the greatest challenge in your movement practice?
My greatest challenge in my practice is two-fold: my medical issues and feelings of not being enough because I am a bigger gal. But what I have learned is that any movement is better than no movement, and I feel it not just physically but mentally as well. There are poses that I will never achieve, and certain other exercises I simply can’t do because my spine won’t allow it, but in yoga at least, I can accomplish the same energetic outcome in my own expression of the pose, even if I am not duplicating the exact shape that is considered the “full expression” of a pose. And having a bigger body has actually empowered me to feel comfortable “rearranging” body parts and moving them out of the way in order to go deeper into a pose. So while there will always be challenges, there are also always work-arounds, as long as you are open to learning and using them. Take it from this bigger-bodied yogi who swims in a very shallow gene pool: challenges make us stronger, both mentally and physically, and that’s the simple truth.