Born with Achondroplasia, a common form of dwarfism, Kristen DeAndrade spent her childhood waiting for a "miracle," she explains in an exchange over email. It was only when she learned about extended limb-lengthening surgeries that she saw how her life could change for the better. She knew, of course, that this major shift wouldn't come easily. The procedures took nearly four years all together, and DeAndrade went through with them in spite of their stigma within the little-person community: "There was enormous controversy surrounding them," she explains. "The Little People of America deemed the procedures cosmetic and claimed that those who chose to lengthen did it to blend in with society."
DeAndrade acknowledges this stigma, but stands by her decision to have the surgeries. "Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that modern medicine would shape my life the way it has. Yes, I'm a little bit taller, proportionate, and straighter thanks to the lengthening procedures," she says. "But more importantly," she adds, alluding to the friends and family who supported and cared for her, "the entire journey caused my faith and love to grow stronger... It's been more than 17 years since my first procedure, and I have no regrets."
By no means has DeAndrade abandoned the little-person community, either. In fact, she has become a vocal advocate for people with dwarfism, coining the term "different-ability" in place of "disability" to describe her condition. But DeAndrade's yoga practice, specific to her body and needs, is perhaps the most powerful demonstration of her true abilities. "Yoga is always changing and providing opportunities for learning. I'm thirsty for knowledge about myself and this body I have lived in for the last 30 years."
Click ahead for more from DeAndrade about her personal journey — and how yoga has played a part in it.