I believe that gratitude and Yoga are both medicines.
After I was in a traumatic auto accident in October 2019, Yoga has been my medicine.
Without Yoga, I’m not sure where I would be today. In just three months, I returned to my yoga mat despite multiple health challenges, including a ruptured stomach, a severe TBI, deflated lungs, five fractures of my pelvis, and a broken clavicle.
I spent three weeks in a trauma intensive care unit and two in inpatient rehab during my initial recovery. When I could comprehend, in my final week of rehabilitation, I received the devastating news that David, my partner, had died on impact. I still feel the waves of grief and loss for David, even though it’s been a year since the COVID-19 outbreak.
My mat is a place where I can feel safe and secure. It allows me to process my feelings by moving the grief around my body while connecting with my breathing breath.
Even when I feel calm and centered, I can find gratitude for my tragic experience. I believe that appreciation works because, at the start of my recovery, I journaled every morning about the gratitude I felt about being alive, healing, and all the support I received. It helped me see the big picture by shifting the focus from negative emotions to more positive and encouraging ones.
One thing that I wanted to happen was to be able to resume my medical practice.
After I left the acute rehab, I lay in bed, dreaming of the day when I could practice Yoga again. I was frustrated that I couldn’t move my body as I used to before the accident.
Thankfully, there wasn’t a long wait.
Two weeks after my doctor cleared me to walk, I woke one morning on January 4, 2020, with a sense of confidence that I would be able to return to Yoga.
It could have been for a variety of reasons that I healed so fast. Maybe I was motivated because of the memories of practicing with David. David was also a yogi, and I wanted us to reconnect on my mat. I felt it was right to return to Yoga and attend the same class that we had attended on our second date. As I walked into the studio, I felt a mixture of emotions, including grief. My body was stiff and sore, but I also wanted to relax .
I was both anxious and excited.
As soon as I put my mat down, I began to feel the familiar pain in my shoulders and pelvis. I sat down as comfortably as possible on my mat and began taking deep Ujjayiinhales. This brought my attention to the dull pain around my pelvis. After our centering exercise, the teacher led us to Ottawa shashishosana (extended pup pose). It used to be my favorite asana because it opened my heart and provided relief for my shoulders. During my recovery, it was no longer as comfortable or beneficial.
With time and patience, the pain in my left shoulder subsided.
In addition to physical therapy, I can now practice Yoga almost every day. I try to be as open as possible with my teachers, who are now mostly virtual. I’ve slowly learned to modify and adapt certain poses for myself.
Because of my pelvic injuries, I can’t sit on a hard surface directly without feeling pain in my tailbone. So I use a cushion or blanket to make seated poses easier.
These small changes are a reflection of a larger change, namely that my relationship with Yoga has been radically deepened since the accident.
Although I had heard of mindfulness, my experience with healing the physical and emotional trauma caused by my car accident has given me an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of my mind-body relationship. This has made me more aware of my body, and I know when something is off. I also adjust accordingly.
I am thankful for the healing power of my body and the progress I’ve made. Since the pain in my left shoulder has subsided, I can now sink into an extended dog pose. I also have enough strength to be able to do a full class, as well as flexibility and strength to balance in various asanas –and even go into a headstand.
Despite the pain that I have experienced, I am grateful to my body for its ability to heal.
Since the accident, I have learned so much from my grief. It has not only changed the way I practice but also taught me a lot about love, loss, and life. I know there are many more lessons to be learned.
One, healing does not happen in a linear fashion, and it will take me time to recover from my grief.
Each time I practice Yoga, I am grateful for the space it gives me to connect to David’s memory as well as to work through my feelings surrounding his death. The movement also helps me internalize the fact that these emotions are not permanent. Now that I understand the impermanence of all things, it helps me to cultivate more inner calm.
I still have a long way to go in healing my trauma. As my journey continues, however, I will stay grounded in healing and self-love right here on the mat, where Yoga is medicine and gratitude is magic.