Paralysed below waist in an accident, Pragya Ghildial didn’t lose hope. She is a yoga instructor and counsellor for paralytic patients at Indian Spinal Injuries Centre
She is a yoga instructor and peer counsellor for paralytic patients at the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre (ISIC) in Vasant Kunj.
She also teaches yoga as well as meditation to other able-bodied people. But what sets 26-year-old Pragya Ghildial apart is that she does all of this sitting in her wheelchair. Pragya was completely paralysed, below the waist, following a near fatal road accident four years ago. It was a careless swerve by a car at Preet Vihar in May 2005 that changed Pragya's life forever. The yoga instructor, who was riding her scooter, was dragged by the car for about 10 feet before the driver realized something was under the wheels
What followed was post-traumatic shock, anxiety, flashbacks, erratic bowel movements, hypertension, and two major surgeries to repair her lower spinal cord. And eventually, Pragya was left completely paralysed below the waist - a medical condition called paraplegia. ''The wheels of the car went over my lower back. But since there was no external bleeding, I wasn't aware of the gravity of the injury. My case was referred to ISIC and after a month I learnt I was permanently disabled,'' says Pragya. After studying yoga at the Vivekananda Ashram in Bangalore in 2002, Pragya started her own yoga studio at Mayur Vihar in 2003. In fact, she was to appear for her final year examination just two days after the incident. ''I soon realized my wheelchair was actually my 'will' chair and learnt basic and advanced wheelchair skills from my mentor and physiotherapist Dr Arun Sodhi, who then became a role model. He encouraged me to take charge of my life and continue with what I was doing before the accident. I started teaching meditation and pranayama (breathing exercises) to patients. Yoga is still my passion. Earlier, I used my whole body for it, now I use half my body,'' she says. For the patients at ISIC, Pragya is an angel. Her counselling and yoga classes have helped them tremendously to overcome depression and even gather strength in their limbs. Seventeen-yearold Deepali has parapalasis and has been admitted at ISIC for the past five months. She had a tumour in the spine, which was removed recently, and is paralysed waist down. However, she thoroughly enjoys Pragya's classes. ''Didi keeps cracking jokes and makes us laugh. She pushes us to do different 'asans' which are not very easy at times. Despite being on the wheelchair she does all the exercises, so we also try harder,'' adds Deepali. Dr Asha Madan has been Pragya's student for four months. An able-bodied person, Madan regularly comes to the centre for her husband, who recently suffered a stroke leaving his right arm and leg paralysed. ''Yoga gives me strength to cope with my husband's stroke. She teaches beautifully and is very patient. She demonstrates all the leg movements with her fingers,'' said Madan. Pragya's now learning to drive from peer sports instructor Rajiv Virat, who himself on the wheelchair, suffers from multiple sclerosis. He is marathon champion, a lawn tennis player and drives to the centre every day. ''Sports is an integral part of rehabilitation for a person on the wheelchair. Learning yoga from Pragya has also helped me,'' says Virat.