Keeping calm in a crisis

  • The Ribble Valley (Image: Shutterstock)

Emma Lawrence of The Yoga Tree shares the story of how one of her students used yoga breathing to help with pain relief and stress at a challenging time

As a yoga teacher, I must teach my students tools that are useful - not just within the classroom, but also within their everyday lives. Clare had been a member of my yoga class for eighteen months before she suffered an accident. Fortunately, she had become stronger, more flexible - and able to call upon her knowledge she had learnt within the classes when she absolutely needed it.


This is the account of how yoga breathing helped me through a challenging time.

I was on a much-anticipated walking holiday in Brontë country. (I just love the Brontës’ novels, and their personal lives are just as intriguing).

On day one we set off for the Ribble Valley in all our walking gear and were about 45 mins into our walk when I had what I can best describe as a freak accident whilst walking on flat ground. For some inexplicable reason, my ankle turned, but the rest of my leg didn't follow. I heard a loud snap and then sank to the ground in some agony.

Fortunately, a tour manager and two experienced Dales’ guides were accompanying us, so Operation Rescue was swiftly activated. But while all this was going on, my mind was in overdrive. I figured I'd done a lot of damage and I thought I was probably going to need an operation - in which case I knew the guides wouldn't be able to do much for me.

So, I started doing some deep yoga breathing. Firstly, this had the effect of calming my mind - and as I continued, I noticed it was also having an effect on lessening the pain. The guide and tour manager who stayed with me kept saying they couldn't believe how calm I was, or how I wasn't crying. 

It was an hour before the emergency services could reach me, but it was very spectacular when they did. Over the brow of the hill I saw people in red making their way towards me (rather like Baywatch in mountain gear!). As they approached I heard a helicopter circling overhead. "Ooh!" I said. "What's going on there?" "That's for you," I was told.

When I was eventually transferred to the road ambulance, I was told the journey would take about an hour over some bumpy country roads and to make use of the gas and air as often as I needed. I kept on with the yoga breathing and only used the pain relief a couple of times and then only because I lost focus once or twice. When we arrived in A&E, they weren't sure when I would be taken to theatre - so I carried on with the breathing.

More than once I was asked on a scale of 1-10 how severe the pain was, with 10 being the worst and on one occasion I said: “I suppose about a 3." The nurse looked at me disbelievingly and said: "I've seen your x-rays. You've broken your leg in three places and you're telling me your pain is that low?” The only times the pain became severe was when for whatever reason I lost my concentration and focus.

I was taken into a treatment room to have the tibia manipulated. The doctor smiled and said: "Breathe...". I told him that's what I had been doing, and that I'd found it very effective.

"Ah! You're a yoga person,” he said, and went on to tell me that his wife took up yoga when she developed a very painful joint condition for which she could find no relief. She found it so effective that she went on to study - and is now a yoga teacher herself.

I haven't needed to use any pain relief since I came home and I've also been incorporating yoga breathing as I move about the house. It takes the strain out of things. And I use it as I do the exercises Cheltenham hospital gave me at my appointment a few days ago. I’m already finding that a high level of flexibility is returning to my knee.

It's going to be a bit of a long haul back to full strength, but I have some powerful yoga life tools at my disposal. I am very fortunate in that as I’ve been going to Emma's classes for some 18 months I've developed a lot more strength generally and that is definitely helping. And I am also fortunate that Emma's classes don't just focus on the movements but on other aspects like yoga breathing. It seems to me that for yoga to truly make a difference, you need to have experience of its many facets. I know I am truly grateful!

Find out more about Emmas classes at