A YOGA fanatic with a large social media following is warning fellow yogis after she suffered a massive stroke caused by doing a headstand.

Rebecca Leigh, 40, was performing a yogic headstand when she tore a major blood vessel in her neck.

Just two hours before the life-altering injury she had filmed an advanced sequence in a pink bikini for her 26,000 social media fans.

Today the exercise obsessive cannot speak for more than a few minutes, suffers headaches daily and has severe memory loss.

And she is now telling her story to raise awareness of yoga-induced strokes, so other people can spot the symptoms and seek medical help quickly.

Rebecca, of Gambrills, Maryland, USA, who ran a tanning company,  tore her right carotid artery in a 'hollowback' handstand on the morning of October 8, 2017.


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She said: "I was on my front porch practicing a pretty intense type of yoga handstand called a 'hollowback' handstand.

"This pose requires you to extend your neck, drop your hips back and arch your lower spine all while in a headstand.

"I felt that I had really nailed it but as I walked inside my house, my peripheral vision went out and the rest of my vision became blurry.

"It was like a curtain coming down all around me.

"I sat down and tried to put my hair into a ponytail but my left arm flopped around without any control."

Oxford Mail:

At first Rebecca attributed the symptoms to the severely herniated discs in her neck which she had been diagnosed with in her early twenties.

She said: "I knew that arm numbness could be a symptom of that.

"It only lasted for five minutes but then my head began to hurt.

"I have suffered from headaches and migraines since I was a teenager but I knew this was different."

Two days later, Rebecca was horrified to notice that her pupils were different sizes.

"My right eye drooped and my pupils were different sizes," she said.

"It was terrifying.

"It was then that I knew something was very, very wrong."

Rebecca and husband Kevin, 45, who works in federal law enforcement, immediately went to the emergency room where an MRI scan revealed Rebecca had suffered a stroke.

She said: "The doctor on staff came into the little room we were waiting in and said in a monotone voice: 'Well, you my dear, had a stroke'.

"Kevin and I both let out a little laugh, because we thought he had to be kidding.

"There was no way that someone my age, in my health, could have had a stroke.

"But he responded to our laughter in solemn silence and his face said it all."

Oxford Mail:

She spent the next five days in the neurological intensive care unit as doctors battled to understand why an active, healthy eating, non smoker aged 39 could have suffered a stroke.

"After all the blood work, ultrasounds, MRIs and CT scans, it was finally a CTA scan that explained it," she said.

While doing handstands Rebecca had torn her right carotid artery, one of the four arteries that supplies blood to the brain.

The tear sent a blood clot to her brain which caused the stroke and the trauma of the tear in the wall of the artery also caused a small aneurysm, a bulge in the vessel, to develop.

At first Rebecca felt fury and disbelief that something as healthy as yoga could have triggered a stroke.

She said: "I couldn't believe it.

"How could this happen to me?

"I was angry at my body, I felt that it had betrayed me somehow."

Rebecca said she was in terible pain for six weeks, but slowly she began to notice improvement and was able to take short walks outside by herself.

"Eventually I was able to shower with my husband nearby," she said.

"I slowly started to take two to three-minute walks outside.

"I started to make simple meals for myself and I was able to sit up in bed to watch TV.

"These small accomplishments felt huge to me.

"Each week I made it through felt like a milestone.

"Simply surviving was an achievement."

Incredibly just one month after the stroke, Rebecca was back on her yoga mat.

She said: "I simply sat on my mat in lotus pose and listened to my breath.

"I slowly led back up to simple stretches and the poses that felt most safe to me.

"I knew that if I didn't get back to my practice relatively soon after my stroke, I never would.

"I would have freaked myself out too much about it."

At Rebecca's six-month scan, doctors told her that her carotid artery had completely healed.

The aneurysm however was still there and Rebecca feels the effects daily.

She said she now wants to warn others of the possbility of a stroke brought on by the advanced yoga move.

She added: "About a year after my stroke I was about 75 per cent back to where I was before my stroke. I know I will never be where I was before 100 per cent.

"The fact that I can touch my toes is enough to make me smile.

"I wanted to share my story so that something like this doesn't happen to any other yogis.

"I had never heard of it happening before it had happened to me.

"If I had read of just one incidence of something similar, I would have known that a stroke was a very real possibility when I was experiencing my symptoms.

"That it wasn't my neck, my herniated discs or my nerves. It was my brain gasping for its life."