“Wake up…it’s time to wake up,” a voice in the distance said.
Total immersive darkness surrounded me, cradled me in its arms, told me everything would be okay. There was a flicker of almost imperceptible thought, “I don’t want to wake up. I’m not ready.”
But despite my resistance a faint halo of light penetrated the darkness. The light grew rapidly until it shone brighter than the sun. “Argh!” I screamed. “Where am I?” The words sounded jumbled, borderline incoherent and not like my own. “My eyes are burning, and everything hurts, I need something to cover them. Please there is so much pain.”
A cool cloth was placed over my eyelids. “Everything is going to be okay,” a nurse said. “You’ve just come out of surgery…”
This was the beginning of a completely new life. In the years preceding this moment a disease called Ulcerative Colitis had burrowed its way into my daily existence. It began innocent enough as a minor discomfort but soon grew to consume my life with pain, anxiety and depression.
I constantly questioned, “Why is this happening to me? What have I done wrong? How can I fix this?”
A desperation took hold to return to who I was before the sickness. To enjoy the active lifestyle I was accustomed to: wakeboarding in the summer, snowboarding in the winter, competitive swimming all year round. Being able to savour all kinds of delicious food without it biting back. And most of all to revel in the freedom, and oftentimes rebellion, of youthful adolescence.
The search for a cure began. Copious amounts of pills consumed. Intravenous drugs injected beneath layers of skin. Vials of blood samples withdrawn and examined. But nothing seemed to work. My mood worsened to the point where I felt constant despair. A hopelessness lathered my perspective of the world, while fear and feelings of not being enough were shadows that always lingered nearby.
The last resort of Western medical aid was to have my large intestine removed. I took the plunge and awoke to a whole new life. A vigor to heal my body to be even healthier than before I was sick consumed me.
Along this journey I tried all sorts of things from the obvious to the curious. Chinese herbal concoctions to heal my intestines. Bodybuilding, CrossFit and calisthenics to work out stress. Acupuncture to align my emotional and energetic body. And much more all with differing levels of success. But while parts of me began to rehabilitate, there was still something lacking to unite everything together as one healing force.
It wasn’t until an innocuous day in my little apartment where the entire course of my life shifted. I was working through the third week of the P90X program and decided to take on the yoga video. I had skipped it until this point because of preconceived ideas of what yoga was. “This is something mostly women do,” I thought. “It’s all about stretching, I don’t care about being flexible. I just want to be strong and ripped. Plus yoga is easy.”
Despite my arrogance and naiveté I decided to do it anyways. As the video began, Tony Horton the creator of the program, said, “Expand the mind a little bit and try something new. I can do things at my age of forty-five, not because I can do a bunch of pull-ups, it’s because I do yoga.”
My curiosity was piqued. The first few minutes were manageable, mainly involving just standing, but every minute thereafter challenged me in ways I had never imagined. Physically I was targeting tension in my body that felt awkward and uncomfortable. Mentally my mind raced from what I had just eaten to the trauma I experienced as a child, doing anything to avoid being in the present moment. While emotionally it was as if I had experienced true feeling for the first time. Emotions ranging from joy to sorrow, happiness to anger, and fear to love came to the surface. I came to the end of this movement odyssey forever changed.
In the weeks, months and now years since that first yoga practice I have found so much solace in the movement medicine of yoga. Instead of taking anti-depressants, immune suppressants and other drugs – I step onto my yoga mat everyday to work with the dis-ease that is with me everyday. I am so grateful for the practice of yoga, and now as a yoga teacher, to be able to share this powerful healing modality with others.