Life Leads me to Become a Yoga Teacher

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It’s 1999.
I’m 38 years old.
My world as I’ve known it has just been pulverized.

My identity is that of dancer, mover, yogi, runner, hiker, biker. All of that seems like a distant past in this moment.

I’ve been hit by a car as a pedestrian. As I lie on the black asphalt in the crisp February Bay Area blue sky morning, I hear the sirens in the distance.

“Oh, they’re coming for me,” I think as I lie there unable to move. I‘m terrified that I’m paralyzed.

A golden haired, black skinned angel comes by, looks down at me and says, “You’re alive honey, just keep breathing.”

I do.
I breathe.
I wait.

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The paramedics come.

“Do you know what year it is, mam?”
“Really?” I think.
“Don’t these guys KNOW what year it is? And they’re the ones taking me to the hospital?”

“1999.” I say curtly, with a dash of disgust thrown in.
“Thank you,” They reply.

Four days later, in a morphine haze, lying on scratchy hospital sheets post-surgery, the doctor who operated on my leg tells me, “You’ll be able to walk normally in about six months.”

“Six months?” I blurt out before he finishes. “Doctor, I need to know when I can dance? I need to dance,” I demand, as though saying it forcefully will help make it happen faster.

“Well, that’s going to be a while young lady.”

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Months go by.
My boyfriend and I break up.
I convalesce at my parent’s house.

I’m left with myself for days, journaling, doing physical therapy, learning not to be afraid to cross the street.

My yoga practice, which is only a few years old, becomes a refuge. Though I have a hard time surrendering to restorative yoga where I hang out over bolsters and blocks, and wrap myself in blankets. I still identify myself as physically capable and strong.

Not long into the recovery journey, the physical therapist tells me I’m good to go, and I think to myself, “Are you kidding? Look at that poor range of motion in my ankle.” But it’s no use fighting the system, they have other people to rehab. So, I take it on.

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“I will rehab my body through yoga,” I reassure myself.

I find another yoga class in Oakland taught by Susannah Bruder. She’s awesome. She gives me alternative poses for my recovering body. It’s a whole new experience for me. I walk into class with a cane and have to use 2 bolsters for Virasana (a pose in which you sit on one block on the floor with bent knees). I’m tired and fatigued by many of the poses, and Susannah has to give me alternative options frequently.

Yoga becomes a haven, and a deep practice of acceptance. My identity has been stripped down to the essentials. My body and heart are raw and vulnerable. I have to re-learn how to walk, and how to move my ankle and knee, as well as develop a lot of patience with myself and the healing process.

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What I don’t realize at the time is that I’m being trained for my soon-to-be profession as a yoga teacher. I spend hours learning to do yoga poses with props to help me get into poses I wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.

A year later, I take Susannah’s teacher training in San Francisco. As part of the training we have to offer some public classes. It’s the year 2000. I’m TERRIFIED to stand up in front of people and speak. But I forge ahead with the assignment. I have NO intention of becoming a yoga teacher. I just want to deepen my knowledge of yoga.

Life has other plans for me.

Within six months of finishing my teacher training I’m teaching 7 classes a week in the East Bay, and that grows to 10-12 a week. When people walk in and say, “Oh, I could never do that pose,” I look at them and say, “I know exactly what you mean.”

Then I tell them my story.
I see them visibly relax.

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They settle in on their mats, with their props and my instructions to support them to get into a pose they thought they couldn’t do.

Joy bubbles out of me when I see them accomplishing something they thought they couldn’t do. It makes my healing journey worthwhile.

Over the years, I find gratitude for the man who hit me as a pedestrian. The one who fled the scene because of his own fear. I am grateful, still, for the accident that lead me to become a yoga teacher.