22 APRIL 2019
Yoga saved my life
My name is Max Munro and I’m a 22-year-old yoga teacher based from London, UK.
From a young age I wanted to be on stage, perhaps as an actor or even an acrobat. Over the years I’d found yoga to be an incredibly powerful tool to help me reach my dreams. I eventually decided to learn how to teach yoga and this was one of the best decision that I ever made!
At 17 I became the youngest certified Budokon teacher in the world. I had found my calling in yoga – I had a promising path in front of me, full of learning, discovery and challenges to be overcome.
But I never expected what happened next… I fell 14ft from a balcony, landing on my head.
The impact caused a traumatic brain injury. The fall left me with a brain injury that immediately required a life-saving operation. Doctors later told me it was in the top 20% of the most critical types of head injury.
The injuries it caused...
I had a bleed on the brain at the point of impact, which required 16 staples down the right side of my head, plus a second bleed on the opposite side of my head to the impact site. I had severed the two halves of my brain and fractured an eye socket. I also displaced vertebrae C7 and C2 and suffered ligament and tendon damage to my right hand.
I was unconscious for 11 hours and suffered post-operative amnesia for twelve days after the injury.
The long road to recovery
After a wobbly start to my first few days of physiotherapy, my arm balance and inversion training kicked in. These were my strengths before the accident and whilst challenging to regain I eventually found myself standing on one leg on a balance ball.
I still recognised that things were not as they once were – I’d need endless patience to make as full a recovery as possible. My consultant said this recovery time could take up to two years.
I realise that life is going to be different...
During my time in hospital I was over-loaded with information about things I could no longer do, some of them obvious, some not so much: no alcohol (for a year), no extreme sports, no parkour (free running), no contact sports (I loved martial arts), no getting over-tired (very dangerous after brain injury due to the susceptibility to seizures), and no driving for a year.
I have memory issues, which may remain with me indefinitely due to the severity of my injury. However, I haven’t felt depressed or suffered from mood swings, all of which are common symptoms following a brain injury. In fact, I‘m just grateful to be alive.
I can speak normally, and I have no impairment of muscle movement. But the outcome could have been very different: I saw many other patients trying to recover in my ward, and they were struggling with their recovery mentally and physically.
I found this hugely upsetting to see, especially as they were youngsters of a similar age to myself.
Did yoga help?
So, this brings me to the million dollar question: “Did yoga save my life”?
Well, it certainly helped in several ways. My Consultants described my recovery as ‘remarkable’, especially after sustaining such a traumatic injury. They’ve also been surprised at the speed of my recovery.
This may in part, be due to my high level of fitness and young age. However, according to my consultant and clinical psychologist, the part of my brain that deals with speech, logic and memory – which was damaged in the accident – is being aided by another part of my brain, which they believe is compensating for the injuries.
The doctors believe that the combined mind and body qualities of a sustained yoga practice are playing a significant role in my recovery.
Will I teach yoga again?
As I move onward with my life and my yoga journey, I feel humbled and thankful – and perhaps a better version of my former self.
After leaving hospital I attended several yoga classes and taught part of a class just two weeks after my discharge.
10 weeks after my injury, I taught my first full class and felt exhilarated. I have been given a second chance, and will tread a more thoughtful path in the future. I hope to persuade young people and men in particular that yoga can transform lives in so many ways – and could even help to save your life!
I pray for those young people in hospital with me, with similar injuries but very different outcomes, recover as fully as possible in the fullness of time. I sometimes feel guilty about how well I have recovered yet some of the friends I have made in hospital have so far to go.
I can only express my sincerest and heartfelt thanks to the surgeons who saved my life, the paramedics, consultants, doctors, therapists, nurses, cooks, cleaners, porters, family, friends and well-wishers, many of whom were unknown to me, helped me so caringly since my life-changing injury.
Certified in Power Yoga, Budokon Yoga, Broga, Tapasya Hot Yoga, Arm Balance & Inversions and Animal Locomotion. Additionally, I am a REPs 3 Personal Trainer. I achieved my first certification when I was just 17. At that time, I became the youngest certified Budokon Yoga teacher in the World and on my return to the UK from the USA, I was featured in OM Yoga magazine. I have been teaching since 2013 and re-located to London in 2017 where I’ve taught a dozen classes each week and I plan to gradually increase that number in order to further establish my career.