A dislocated shoulder on New Year’s Eve 2011 and arthroscopic surgery to repair all four of my rotator cuff muscles in early February have provided ample opportunities to practice what I preach about loving and enjoying my body, just as I am!  I was practicing a yoga pose I’ve done many times, being spotted by a trusted teacher, when my shoulder gave out.  Instead of dropping back gracefully from handstand into a backbend, I collapsed onto the yoga studio floor. This was not how I planned to end the year!


Eight hole arthroscopic shoulder surgery - Ouch

Yoga is supposed to be good for me, right? Yes.  But at midlife, poses that were safe for me when I began a serious yoga practice fifteen years ago, might not be most advantageous now.  The risk of injury may outweigh the benefits.  Coincidentally, New York Times journalist William Broad’s The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards came out within weeks of my accident.  Some people dismissed his work as sensational. But my experience with yoga and life tells me otherwise.

Embodied life is inherently risky.  Challenges and changes to our physical lives are expected: natural aging and developmental processes, illnesses, accidents, injuries.  It is always something: either you’re excitedly watching your breasts emerge at adolescence or bemoaning how large and unmanageable they are; either you’re trying to lose weight after pregnancy or gain weight during chemotherapy; either you’re trying to eat more soy because some expert said it is good for you or trying to avoid it because another expert said it’s going to give you cancer.  You never know what tomorrow might bring. But you don’t stop living just because at times the risks seem to outweigh the benefits.

you never know what tomorrow may bring

No one in their right mind signs up for a class, takes a trip or goes on an adventure hoping to have an accident, catch a disease, or face danger. Yet trauma, loss, injury, trouble are unplanned realities of being alive, of being in a relatively healthy body. Dead people don’t have the privilege of injuring their rotator cuffs doing yoga!  That may sound morbid, but as a twenty year cancer survivor, it helps me keep things in perspective when I’m feeling sorry for myself.

Challenges to my physical health harden me or soften me, distance me from my body or deepen my connection. I didn’t plan to spend the first half of 2012 this way.  But each day, I choose compassion and curiosity instead of resentment and blame. I choose gratitude for the blessings that far outweigh the burdens of my recovery. I choose to be present, vulnerable, and open to what each day, each moment brings on the path of healing. I choose to receive the fullness of life that comes in ways I don’t ask for and wouldn’t expect. I choose life in my body, with my shoulder, just as I am.

My injury took me down a road I didn’t know I needed to travel in order to fulfill my commitment to teaching and mentoring others in more loving ways of being in our bodies. I wrote Dislocation: Reflections on Elliot’s Journey of the Magi, a few weeks after my injury. It offers a glimpse into what God is teaching me on this unplanned detour.  I pray that the purifying beams of love”** will open the eyes of your inner being to discover the treasures hidden in the detours of your journey as well.