Early morning on the Fourth of July, I was jolted awake with extreme abdominal pain and rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. The proverbial fireworks I experienced within my stomach came as a shock—I had no prior indication that my otherwise good health was in any danger.
Once it was determined I suffered a rare condition that twisted my intestines and needed emergency surgery to remove over 8 feet of my small bowel, I did not have time to think, react or be afraid. All I could do was just breathe through the excruciating pain and pray—up until the moment the anesthesia was administered on the operating table and my fate was placed in the hands of a skilled surgeon.
And now here on the other side, I am confident it was my dedication to yoga and meditation that saved my life.
Rather than play the victim and wonder how a healthy yoga teacher and writer in her thirties living a purpose-filled life could come so close to death, I realize it was my healthy mind and body that built the foundation for my survival. My body did not fail me—in hindsight it’s as though I’ve intuitively spent the latter portion of my life in preparation for this unprecedented event.
For over a decade, my practice has always been a place of solace and healing. I came home to myself through yoga again and again, most notably when I was diagnosed with ulcers at the age of 27. But instead of taking prescription medication for the rest of my life, I was able to heal the holes in my belly through a regular practice. It wasn’t long before I became a yoga teacher and then quit my former life in the corporate world. I discovered passion, self-love and respect. Fast-forward, and I had never been happier, healthier or stronger—up until my emergency small bowel resection.
This is not the beginning of a story of how yoga helped me heal, but the continuation of a lifelong journey inside a body that did not function “normally”—and may not ever again. But I do love and accept this body, and the big scar on my belly that now comes with it. I am recovering faster than the doctors anticipated and am expected to finally live without chronic pain in my core. Though I have a long road ahead, I must accept that there are many things I am unable to do for the time being. I cannot practice nor teach yoga for a while, but the wisdom of yoga is still there within me nonetheless.
What is left of my gut tells me that had that first battle with my body not prompted me on the path of healing, I would not still be here today. Or at the very least I’d still be laid up in the hospital and wearing a colostomy bag, as the doctor had anticipated as a potential outcome of the procedure. Or maybe I would have suffered sepsis or had an infection or a blood clot. What’s left of my gut knows it was my baseline health and wellness that was the ultimate preventative care.
I’ve been gifted another chance at life. I’ve been blessed with a supportive community and am surrounded, if not overwhelmed, by love and prayers. Though I cannot find comfort in my practice now, the memory of it all still flows through my veins. It is a reminder that every day is a gift; an opportunity to breathe, to smile and be kind. It is easy to lose sight of that gift and get caught up in achievements, ambition and status. But we were not put on this earth to forget—we are here to remember just how beautiful it is to be alive.