Men’s yoga transformed my life says Sheffield brain injury survivor

A brain injury survivor from Sheffield has spoke of the life-changing impact men’s yoga has had on his movement and well-being after suffering from chronic pain the majority of his life after undergoing multiple surgeries.

Wednesday, 6th March 2019, 2:34 pm
Updated Wednesday, 6th March 2019, 2:38 pm
Duncan Strafford, pictured at Seraphins of Abbeydale his fiances shop.

Duncan Strafford, 39, of Millhouses, was diagnosed with hydrocephalus in 1987, meaning he has a build up of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) inside the skull due to a benign tumour which is preventing it from draining.

After his diagnosis he underwent surgery to fit a shunt which is usually used to drain excess CSF from the brain but, due to complications which meant the shunt stopped working properly, he faced further hospital visits.

A MOGA session

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By 1990, he was onto his fourth brain surgery, in which he was put into a medically induced coma for three months to reduce pressure on the brain. 

During this period he had a further 14 operations, including one of the back of his legs to lengthen the tendons due to the contracture of the muscles whilst in a coma. 

Once out of the coma, he faced months of rehabilitation to regain all motor skills such as walking and talking. 

One of the groups during a MOGA session

Duncan said: “I had two heavy pots on my legs as a result of the surgery on my legs, my posture was shot and my tendons were tight.

“I had three more surgeries to replacement the shunt, due to a number of complications.

“The physiotherapy which I had early doors was brilliant, but it comes to an end and you’ve just got to get on with life. I would wake up and my back would be tight. I would have pain in my upper back and shoulders and just had to take pain relief to deal with it.”

Once the physiotherapy ended, Duncan was left having to cope with his condition by himself until a friend suggested men’s yoga (MOGA).

Duncan Strafford, pictured at Seraphins of Abbeydale his fiances shop.

MOGA was set up over two years ago by Mark Davies specifically for men to give them a place to make time to put themselves first whilst also making their bodies strong and flexible and building their confidence.

There is also a talking aspect of the group sessions, aimed to give the men the space to share experiences and build self awareness.

“I thought lets give it a go,” Duncan said. “There was no way in hell I could keep up it was so fast paced and I physically couldn’t do some of the moves. I went to my first session in November last year, and just kept going and before long I could do the moves. 

“It has been fantastic, I cannot tell you how much it has changed my life. The pain relief, flexibility and spine movement it has given me through exercise has been absolutely transformational.

“At the time I had an active three-year-old who is now four, and It has helped me with him. I couldn’t pick him up without being in pain. It has had a transformational effect on the relationship I have with Sarah, my fiance, my son and the world around me.

“MOGA gives me the space to think. It has helped me lose weight, focus on my dietary requirements and also helps me sleep better. I go twice a week but would do it every day if I could.”

Mark said: “We believe men should create the time to feel better to be better. If they put themselves first, they can give more to all the relationships they are care about. MOGA gives men strength and flexibility in the body, confidence and calm in the mind.

“It’s about being part of something bigger than ourselves. I am four years clean in May and Moga works in schools, homeless charities and professional football. We take yoga to all types of men – young or old, homeless to high profile.”

There are free drop in sessions on a Wednesday, where you can learn the basics for free before moving to a group session.

To find out more about the sessions or to get involved visit the website here and fill out an application form.