Yoga helped Hope Neely make sense of life through her battle with kidney disease. Now she teaches so that others can appreciate yoga’s restorative power.
Blog by Hope [Yogini, Eastsider, winning the battle]
I moved to Indianapolis in 2008 as a 23-year-old kidney transplant patient in a city where I didn’t know a soul. The stress associated with my illness exacerbated personal and professional challenges that made my first few years in the city seem like an uphill battle.
I couldn’t drink, which made it tough to go bars, and that made it tough to meet people. On the rare occasions I did go out, someone would inevitably ask why I wasn’t drinking. The real answer was enough to kill any festive mood: My kidney function was not great, and the thought of needing another transplant scared me.
This wasn’t exactly what I wanted to talk about while trying to relax and meet people after work. I started to feel isolated even when I was surrounded by people.
At the same time, I was working a high-pressure job in financial services in the midst of the global economic downturn. Our clients were worried about their retirement money, their jobs, and their children finding jobs in the tough economic environment. This nervous energy stoked my own fears about my kidney function. How could I pay for a kidney transplant on my own? What if I needed dialysis treatments? What if I got too sick to work? My mind started to associate money with survival.
The constant anxiety soon started to wear on me; I needed to do something to cope. My primary doctor suggested I take a yoga class.
Though initially hesitant, I eventually took her advice and tried a class at my gym. I liked it and went back again. Soon yoga started to grow on me, and I rarely missed the Sunday class, which left me renewed each week.
Then at 25 my big fear materialized: I needed a second kidney transplant. I undertook the procedure — not without complications — and though I handled each issue that arose, the experience left me jittery and fearful. It was as if my mind was now trained to worry about health problems that might arise in the future.
So I turned back to the thing that helped me in my pre-transplant struggle: yoga. I started taking yoga classes at Invoke Studio regularly. Week by week and class by class, my fears of health problems started to dissipate. The energy I used to spend worrying about future shifted back to action in the present moment.
Last year I participated in Invoke Studio’s 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training. We read about yogic philosophy, worked on breathing techniques that train the mind to focus on the present moment, and did lots and lots of yoga. It was a wonderful experience and truly solidified the role that yoga has played in my journey through kidney disease.
Most importantly, it helped me realize that my organ donors didn’t donate so that I could live in fear. They did it so that I could live life fully, and that can only happen if I start from a steady foundation.
Today I’m grateful to have the opportunity to share the benefits of yoga with others. Last month I began working with the National Kidney Foundation of Indiana to offer a weekly yoga class open to the public, with a special focus on those who have been affected by chronic kidney disease.
The stress of living with chronic kidney disease threw me off my foundation. I’m just grateful that yoga brought me back.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Hope’s classes are held on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. at the National Kidney Foundation of Indiana’s offices at 911 E. 86th St., Suite 100. Suggested donations are $5
Neely is a regular yogini and instructor who lives on Indianapolis’ Eastside with her boyfriend, Alex.