Living yoga off-my-mat after a traumatic event and continuing to HEAL
with the gift of NOW
On June 25th I was excited to finally close and move into our home in Buena Vista. After living in an RV for almost a month prior to this, I was ready to have some space.
While living in the RV, I struggled to maintain any type of yoga practice and didn’t have much of a life outside of work and trying to figure out the yoga studio. The house had a room to do yoga and a huge yard for Riggins (my goldendoodle) to play so I was anxious to move in right away!
Immediately after closing on the house, I went to start unloading the two trailers (toy hauler trailers whereas the back door has a ramp that comes down from the top) that contained our house contents. I’d seen the trailer doors opened many times so felt comfortable opening and unloading it.
"What happened next took a split second..."
I remember unhitching each side and thinking for one second that the door was going to come down gently with me guiding it. And normally it would if the pulleys were working correctly. What happened next took a split second...because as the door slowly started down when it came away from the frame….it immediately slammed into the ground with me underneath.
I instinctively let go and tried to run out from under the door and my legs were caught as I tried to escape. I was slammed to the ground. Immediately I lifted the door (over 125 pounds) off my legs (adrenaline), got up and limped inside. Completely dazed and in shock, I laid by the front door, lifted up my pant leg to reveal a huge open gash and immediately knew I needed to get to the hospital. I was able to call Clay and ask him to come get me, after that my cell signal was lost.
As I waited for Clay to arrive, my neighbor saw what happened and came over. I was so happy to see her and she asked how she could help and I asked her to hold my leg together literally, and call 911. This is when I started my ujjayi breathing. It was instinctive and honestly kept me from losing my shit. It also served the purpose of keeping me warm as I was really cold that day and more so after the accident.
The ujjayi helped me to focus on my breath and not what my leg looked like, or reliving the experience over and over; which was to become one of the hardest things to overcome in the days and weeks ahead.
The ambulance arrived and I was so relieved to finally be on my way to getting my leg sewn up. I am so grateful for the care given to me by these two caring and professional souls. I was given some pain medication in the ambulance, and I remember him saying that my temperature was elevated, somewhere around 100F. When I arrived at the hospital before they started care, the same thing was observed, an elevated temperature. It wasn’t until everything was all over and days later that I thought about the connection my breathing had to the heat I generated with just my breath.
"I would move through different emotions...and yet the replay in my mind just wouldn’t stop."
The following days I was in some of the worst pain of my life. I remember the first 72-hours I literally wanted to throw up every time I had to get up out of bed. My head felt like it weighed a hundred pounds and I literally had to put my hand behind my head to lift it up for weeks. My other calf was bruised severely and my whole body felt as if I had been in a car accident. Even worse than the pain though, was the thought pattern that developed. My brain would replay the incident over and over in my head and each time would take me to sheer terror and crippling anxiety. I would move through different emotions of gratitude for being alive, for not being hurt worse, and yet the replay in my mind just wouldn’t stop. Having the trailer in front of the house was yet another reminder and trigger for the event to replay.
Out of the blue and soon after these events kept replaying, I remembered a moment from a yoga class that began to heal me. When these crippling thoughts began to arise, I would bring my attention to my body sensations and my breath. Then I brought my awareness to my surroundings...sights, sounds, smells. This exercise reassured me that I wasn’t “there” any longer, I was here in the present, and everything was OK. I did this for weeks until finally I was freed from this constant negative thought pattern. As the months passed I would occasionally have moments of where the "movie" would begin to appear, however now, the coping pattern I developed was second nature, and in a matter of 3 big breaths, I was able to bring myself to HERE not in my past.
"This exercise reassured me that I wasn't 'there' any longer..."
It didn't dawn on me until months later that what I was experiencing was PTSD. The fear that returned each time was just as real as the incident itself. I could have died, and felt the same impending sense of doom when the "flashback" or movie replay happened.
The coping exercise that I used for myself, is also known as form of meditation. Baptiste defines the goal of mediation as "...the practice of being less immersed in our thoughts and knowing the difference between thinking and being lost in thoughts. If we don’t know the difference, we live in the stories in our heads and never come out of ourselves long enough to see the world as it really is." Through my teacher training at Revolution we routinely did meditation that was focused on body awareness and sensation. This in combination with the yoga class experience, instinctively led me to my coping "practice" when the flashbacks appeared.
I had seen yoga off my mat in my life before, however, not to this extent. This experience has helped me realize just how impactful practicing yoga is and continues to be in my life. It has shown me how I might be able to share this practice and the healing gifts of "living in the present" that it offers to everyone.
I hope you were able to get something for yourself out of my story. If you feel called to, please share this with anyone who you think may benefit from this quick read. AND if you have questions or want to chat, feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Consider joining me for Power Basics Workshop, where we will dive into breathing with Ujjayi, focus (dhristi), and so much more.
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See you all soon and so much love,