“True happiness means forging a strong spirit that is undefeated, no matter how trying our circumstances.” -Daisaku Ikeda
Let’s face it, whether big or small, stressful or simple, we all face challenges every day, some easier to deal with than others. Unfortunately, life doesn’t come equipped with an instruction manual to handle these challenges.
No matter how much we try to plan in advance, calculate our every move, or predict what the future will bring, we can never prepare enough for the unexpected.
The past eight months of my life have been filled with more twists and turns than the most popular roller coaster at Six Flags. As a control freak, I was suddenly forced to surrender to circumstance, forced to take a back seat and reflect on what my life was becoming.
Sometimes it takes physical pain to get to the root of a deeper wound that you are unconsciously inflicting on yourself.
Ever since the age of three, my heart and soul has thrived on dance. For me, the ability to connect emotionally with others through movement is something that is indescribably fulfilling.
In May of 2012 I graduated college with my B.F.A in Dance. It marked the closing of four of the most demanding, stimulating, and downright remarkable years of my life. I grew emotionally, physically, and spiritually, molding into my adult self through incredible and trying experiences. I was healthy, in shape, and injury free.
After graduation, I set my sights high upon New York City, anxious to jumpstart my dance career. I moved in August and set out with a willing heart, determined to make my dreams come true. My approach was frantic, maybe even fanatical.
I needed a job, I needed to succeed, and I needed to prove myself.
That’s when life threw a curve ball that stopped me dead in my tracks.
I was taking a dance class before an audition when… twist, slip, fall, crack… In a blur I was in the ER clutching a broken leg, flooded with fear, anger, and distress.
After the initial shock of what happened, it started to sink in that I would be out of dance for a while. Realizing this setback after just arriving to NYC was heartbreaking. In that moment, all I could think about was “Why me?”
I worked so hard and pushed so much to get to the top of my game, but in a way that was harming my body, physically and emotionally. I had let the competitive nature of the dance and theater scene get the better of me.
Suddenly, I found myself away from my NYC apartment and newfound life and back home with my parents, trying to heal. As a young dancer whose body is her career, having life abruptly stop was devastating.
Four months later I was able to return to the city to start again. Slowly progressing, I felt as if everything would heal. Then, another wrench in the plan: a follow up with the doctor revealing the fracture was not healing.
Just when things were looking up, they felt as if they were sinking down again. I would need surgery, screws to set the broken bone back into place, and another five months of recovery.
We all face setbacks at some point along life’s journey, and learning to bounce back is what really gives our spirit strength.
Sometimes accidents happen for very good reasons. In my case, the universe was trying to tell me to slow down, that I have my whole life ahead of me to work and dance and love. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Yoga played a huge role in my recovery process, enabling me to overcome the overwhelming sense of failure and depression that came with my injury.
Unable to do the physical asanas, I discovered the benefits of meditation, learning how to calm my frantic mind, and practicing acceptance toward the cards I had been dealt.
In college, I started practicing yoga as a way to cross train and escape my hectic class schedule. Since then, the practice has become an anchor for me, its emotional and mental benefits saving me from self-destructive thought patterns and allowing me the chance to release away from, and be at peace with, the pressures of the real world.
Before my injury, I started working a desk job at Pure Yoga in Manhattan to continue practicing yoga and to further my teaching skills. It was fate getting the job at Pure, as I landed myself right in the middle of an amazing community of loving, caring, and truly remarkable people.
Throughout my injury and recovery my friends at Pure have kept my spirits lifted, encouraging me to keep moving forward.
When I returned to work, yoga was there alongside my friends to help me build back strength. It is so important to have a support system. When things get tough, your friends and family can hold you up—and you shouldn’t be afraid to let them.
My setback produced another positive, as it led me to complete a 100-hour teaching certification in yoga therapeutics. I quickly became more involved with how important a role yoga plays in healing the body, mind, and spirit.
Still getting my strength back, I have learned:
1. Letting go brings abundance.
Sometimes letting go is the absolute hardest thing to do. But when we hold on too tight, we leave no room for the light to get through.
It’s like catching a feather: you have to hold out your hand and allow the feather to fall into your reach. You can’t catch a feather by frantically flailing and grasping for it. Once you loosen your grip on a perceived outcome, things start to unfold organically.
Learning not to force things opens up the possibility for the brilliant and the extraordinary to happen.
2. Believing in love will lift your soul.
Believe that there are people in your life who love and believe in you. Believe that you are love, and that your soul has a limitless capacity to give and receive love.
How does the simple act of believing make you feel? Worthy. Infinite. Content. Express compassion and gentility toward yourself, and to others, and you will open up to the possibilities life has to offer.
3. Gratitude will ignite a light in the darkest of places.
When I first came out of my leg cast, the simple act of being able to put weight on my own two feet made me realize how grateful I am for my health, and how much we all tend to take it for granted.
Be grateful for running to catch the subway in the pouring rain, because you can feel that rain on your skin and you can feel your feet as they pound the pavement. Experiencing gratitude in simplicity changes everything.
Each day our yoga is to embody positivity, in every situation. Let go of what does not serve you to let abundance in. Believe in your strength to overcome. Be grateful.
And don’t forget to breathe.
Photo by Zach Dischner