February 28th, 2019 4:30pm
I woke in the morning with a strange feeling in my stomach, telling me to stay at home. I ignored the signs and resisted my needs, to go on a date with someone whom I had met the previous week.
The awful sick uneasy feeling didn't leave my body... I chose to ignore it and power through the day like, most of us do.
A decision to go for one last swim at the Noosa Fairy rock pools, before heading home. I sat and watched as the surf rolled in past the rocks on where I was sitting. Confused as to why two surfers choose to sit parallel to me on the other side of the rocks as the waves were breaking 20 metres away with the crowd of over 50 surfers.
I heard a gasp from someone nearby... and a surge of doubt began filling my whole body. But it was too late. My stomach dropped simultaneously as I turned to see a roaring wave double over the rocks heading straight towards me. The wave swallowed me whole, pushing me eight metres through the air to where my body was stopped by a wall of rocks breaking the bones inside my body. I still remember the sound... I fall underneath the water and emerge with no breath... only piercing eyes glancing at a stranger basking in the sun. They screamed help!
I was left with a hole in my lung, pneumothorax, seven broken ribs, internal lacerations and fifty percent chance of survival. I was airlifted to hospital where I resided for the following eight days. Then relocating seven hours away to a small town and childhood bedroom, where I lay, heal and contemplate for the following months.
I was out of the water for what felt like a life time. Hours, days, and weeks went by. I sat by the beach dreaming of the day I would move my body properly, like I used to...
Months later, the day finally came...
I often experimented with my capabilities and studied how my body would react to different movements and breathe exercises. I used my knowledge of yoga philosophy ahimsa (non violence) with gentle movements of asana (postures) as well as, self exposure therapy, breathe work and meditation to self-rehabilitate during my recovery process as being on land is not ideally where I wanted to be. Surfing and Yoga practice were my personal measurements to see how much I had improved, and the direction of attention on recovery in which I yet needed to undertake. Yoga tested my my movement, Meditation tested my mind and Surfing tested my breath.
In the process
Breathe is life, is it not.
My recovery began with my breath - strengthening a collapsed lung with a rehabilitation breathing trainer, which kind of looks like a kids game, "blow into the tube to make the individual little balls rise to the top of each cylinder - your goal is to be able to make all three balls rise to the top of their individual cylinders in one breath, then you will be able to leave" my nurse said to me. To begin with, I couldn't even raise one ball with my breath... It took me 8 days to be able to reach achieve this goal. of breathing into this tube for an hour/ day.
It felt so strange not to be able to breathe well, or move well, or not do the things I was so driven to do.
I got to know my body quite well, how my breath was in tune with my quality of life. I began to notice how important my breath and lungs were to my energy, endurance and the ease of mind clutter. With every conscious breath I am able to relieve my body and the bodily reactions created f
rom this accident. I took the breathing instrument home with me and used it for another 3-6 months. I would also sit in nature a lot and focus on my breath and expansion of my lung using visual meditation and 5 5 5 breathing technique ~ counting as you inhale: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 whilst inhale, wait: count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, exhale count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
Self Exposure therapy ~ & PTSD
The first three months was soo intense. I remember only being able to just walk from my house and be able to sit on the bench watching the waves roll in, day after day. I would watch the surf for hours. My first goal was to be able to make it to the water... to touch it. To see it close up. Though, as I got closer to the edge of the shoreline fear rose, flash backs appeared. I had no
conception of what I was seeing was real. My eyes were open but I could see a giant wave toppling over me. I couldn't even stand in the water or watch water trickle over small rocks. Even as I write this, my body feels and remembers this constant feeling of being unsafe... All I wanted to do was be in the water and have my body functioning as normal.
I used breath work with exposure therapy to be able to breathe through challenging thoughts and feelings that would arise causing strong reactions of fight and flight in my body. I would sit via the ocean, and visual memories of the wave that took me would appear out of nowhere, this happened when not only my eyes were closed, though as well with my eyes open.
In yoga, we practice staying in poses for a longer period of time, we breathe through the difficulty of posture in know that this strong feeling too will pass and it will help us to not react so quickly to uncomfortable feelings in the real world. I applied this knowledge to fight the feelings of wanting to retreat back to the safety of my bed. By focusing on my breathe and attempt to slow it down, to inhale a little deeper and exhale a little longer... I would often return to being calm, sitting with ease and comfort. This wasn't like magic chocolate, it didn't work immediately, it took time, practice, patience and the growth mindset of never giving up. Sometimes I did run away ~ well swiftly walk away, however, overtime it became easier to be able to sit by the water and the flash backs were becoming less intrusive.
The key part is to sit a little longer, stay, feel the strong feelings to their fullest presence and release them with an exhale breath. Squeezing the fist and then relaxing and letting go of the tension held in my hand helped.
Re-introducing Yoga for personal practice
I can tell you this much stiff as a brick with all my broken bones, a growing lung and bruised muscles, my yoga practice wasn't much, I couldn't twist, bend, lift my left arm, my upper body was now on a slant, I couldn't hold onto my core... but I could smile and kind of... laugh at myself.
To begin with, I would spend about half an hour per week on my mat and explore the potentials in what my body could do. It was tough, I had so much freedom and flexibility in my old body. That in my new body, I realised that I had taken my old body for granted. I had a choice... to suffer or... to shift my mind and focus on what I could do. Whenever thoughts and feelings of self-doubt would arise I would let myself feel all the things to their fullest extent and let them
go with the exhalation of my breathe. I was really able to identify with those individuals who did have lower back pain, sore hips, shoulders, legs. Who had breathing difficulty. Who couldn't move their body how they would like to. And those who had a foggy mind. Or mind identified persona. I became empathetic to what other people might be thinking and feeling in their mind and in their bodies. It was really a beautiful and powerful process to be humbled especially when returning to teach yoga.
I started with very simple movements - with neck, shoulder and hamstring stretches & progressed to very mild twists. As my body started to gain strength and flexibility, I gentle worked into deeper postures and increasing the duration of my yoga practice. Four months went by and I was in a rhythm of yoga flow. In saying this, my body still ached and there were still things that I couldn't do.
Hell, almost three years on, there are still postures I can't do, but I vary them, I tell myself I am working with the amazing vessel that I have got.
Each day, I was gaining more insight into essential muscular systems vital for movement and what they could be relevant for. I understood how essential the breath and the lungs contribute to energy levels and
healing. Time went on... as my yoga practice was improving, I returned to the water and so did my surfing. This is how yoga for surfing came to me.
Girl Meets Ocean
My first surf back in the water was at Noosa... Of course.
I had left the town of Coffs Harbour, where I relocated to heal and drove 7 hours North. Waiting for this moment. My feet touched the water, my body held by the weight of my surf board, the water slipping through my fingers. My feet landed on the board and I flew along the wave. I Cried ~ pure happiness. Achievement ~ Fulfilment ~ nostalgia. I survived.
It was mighty painful. It was the beginning of a long journey back to full recovery. Did I care, hell fxxking no. It was the most exciting moment of my life.
Mindset of Growth
There is nothing more rewarding than achieving a goal. Something that you have worked on for what seems like forever... come to
life. I had many moments like these during my recovery. To drive. To walk. To redo everything for the first time. Never have I ever cried so much for the pure bliss and joy that came with these achievements and a there are a lot more that I haven't mentioned. I look back at my recovery and I understand that all my experiences within my accident led me to positive change ~ the one thing that stayed was my mindset. I feel lucky to have been through what I have been through and if I can say anything, I say "keep going, grow your mind, challenge yourself, and to not let go of reaching your potential in goals. You will soon uncover how strong you really are.
Unstoppable & held... by you.