Yoga has been a part of my life since high school. I remember practicing in the early morning before school. Today I practice in the early morning before work. I am the same in a lot of ways, and this makes me happy! I have been practicing at the same yoga studio since I moved to La Jolla in 2001.
This practice has saved my life so many times. It got me through a major life transition from Chicago to California. It got me through so much crazy work stress. It got me through a divorce. It got me through being single for the first time since 17 at 30 (omg). It is still getting me through surviving a life-threatening attack. I have used this yoga to heal my life; the practice of it will never end. My life has been committed to practicing this yoga. I even clean the mirrors at this studio. I love this place, the owners and everyone that steps foot into the sacred space.
I was attacked on a Sunday; there were just a handful of people that I reached out after it happened. The owner of the yoga studio I practice at was one of them. I called her told her what happened, that when I was alone, I had horrible panic attacks. She offered me her home and told me to come be with her away from where it happened so I could feel safe and relax. I told her there was nothing that I needed more than to be in that hot room surrounded by the energy only it has. It is the people; nothing is more healing than collective pure intentional human energy. We don’t even realize how we heal others just by being near them.
I ended up going to class the Thursday after I was attacked knowing that I was not going to be able to do much of the postures, but I wanted to be in the hot room to prove to myself it was going to be okay. One foot in front of the other. Reengage immediately with what fueled me before. I felt unrecognizable. I was desperate for a break of constant hormones racing through my body. The fight, flight, or freeze pathways were on high alert and stayed there for the better part of two years. No matter how hard I tried, I could not undo the feeling to protect my life. I was in no way prepared for what was about to happen.
It reminded me of childbirth. I took yoga classes while pregnant. Some of the exercises felt uncomfortable for me, making noises for some reason is really hard for me. I suppress my pain; I felt embarrassed by the groans that were required in class most of the time. But I am so grateful for the knowledge to embrace your body’s efforts to release and not judge how it happens. I made a lot of crazy noises in childbirth. My stepdaughter eventually told me she knew that it was me getting hurt that day her mom came over because she remembers what I sounded like in childbirth. I released a lot in this first yoga class after being attacked. Little did I know it was only the beginning of a long process of letting it go.
I made it to the floor series without crying somehow. Of course, I was barely able to do most of them, but I was very numb. I went weeks with feeling numb. But once the back of head hit the hard floor, I was immediately sucked into it. I was suddenly in the tunnel I saw myself walking away from this life that day. It was the first time my head was to a hard surface since she banged me to the hood of the car. It hurt so bad, I had been icing it daily, but this was an entirely new sensation. My vision starting tunneling, I felt like I was strangled right then and there. I even held my breath. I felt paralyzed. Then my hands started feeling numb, first tingly at the fingertips, and as everything started to go black. That tingling sensation moves up your arms and slowly will take over your entire body. Your entire life. Strangulation is pure evil.
I started crying and fighting my way back. I had to roll over into child’s pose I could not bear anything touching the back of my head like that anymore. It was like the PTSD switch for me. I stayed in child’s pose for the remainder of the class. The owner was teaching, and she said the most beautiful words. She reminded us that yoga is different for everyone and serves us all differently depending on what we are challenged with. That we are blessed to be in the presence of those suffering and working through it. It is with our presence and our energy that we help heal others. Being there, making noises and crying in front of people made it so real to me what had happened. I was made permanently different. It was here that mourning for my old life began.
I will never forget that day. There was this amazing person in the class. She came to me before leaving and placed her had on my shoulder. She said everything is going to be okay. I asked her name; her name was Pepper. Pepper?! What? My best friend had just given me pepper spray right before class. Her brother sent it for me; he is a Sheriff in LA County. He knows I was defenseless against this huge psychotic woman that attacked me. It always gets my attention when the universe operates like that. Coincidences draw my attention to interesting people and circumstances.
I recently reconnected with this woman and got to thank her for what she did for me that day. She has also practiced there for years. When all my instincts are screaming, people are evil and unpredictable. I am unsafe. I want to close down. She reached down, touched me, and reminded me that I need to remain open. That feeling has never left me. We impact others in ways we have no awareness too, good and bad. It is so important to act on the urges to do good for others to strengthen our collective human spirit.
I heard in yoga class today. “The safest spinal correction is the correction you do your self.” I have often said after class that this is not a yoga class; this is teaching self chiropractic care. During class, everything starts popping back into place; your awareness of your body gets very intense. My doctor prescribed my yoga for me; he told me that is what is going to heal you — doing that more, as often as I am able until I can do more than that and it is not failing me.
It took a long time for me to get the effort and timing right. It took almost three years for me to tolerate more than a class every two weeks. My neck muscles would get so sore, and I would get malaligned making for weeks of trying to get back to where I was. But over time, I learned to hold back. Holding back your energy and being planful about your personal resources is the single biggest thing I have through this trauma, and it is my yoga practice that has taught me this.
Before this happened, I said no to little. I did it all. I did not think of my brain health or that pushing myself with too little sleep affected me. Today living with traumatic brain injuries and having the highway between my brain and body severely impaired has forced me to approach life differently. One thing that has not changed is my dedication to practicing yoga. While I could not practice as often as I would like, I never gave up cleaning the mirrors. Just being in that room and contributing provides so much for me.
The rhythm of going is as critical for my well being as sleeping. I would not have reclaimed my health without this practice. Yoga has helped saved my life. I am so grateful.
#Strangulation #strangulationawareness #strangulationprevention #strangledinlajoll #tbi #ptsd #yoga #healing #thriving #metoo #domesticviolence #mentalhealthawareness #donoharm #love