A Student's Story

“My Yoga Journey” by Claire Ortiz

“My Yoga Journey” by Claire Ortiz

Summer 2019 – I suffered a bad cycling accident in Cancun, Mexico. I woke up in a hospital, intubated, with cracked ribs, clavicle, and a bruised and battered body. Five days later, I left the hospital with tubes sticking out of my chest (too scared to let them operate), in pain, delirious and barely able to breath. I made it home and went to the ER two days later, with breathing and body pain. Within hours I was in emergency surgery. I’d been walking around (and on two flights) for a week with a punctured/collapse lung. I was in excruciating pain, with my black and blue torso, and traumatized. I was told to not cough, laugh or do anything that might cause my lung to collapse again. I stayed in bed for weeks, trying to heal physically and emotionally.

Side note – in 2017 I suffered a cycling injury (I fainted on my bike from heat stroke/dehydration), and woke up in an ambulance with three broken bones in my face. The entire left side of my face was crushed…the Cancun accident was the first time I’d been back on a bike since. Yes, folks… I was humpty dumpty.

Back to my story – A couple of months later I was ready to exercise again, but told not to run, jump or do anything that would jostle my lung for at least another few months. The trauma of two back-to-back cycling accidents, and near death experiences really did a number on my psyche. My body had been patched together a couple of times, but what really affected me most was my breath… it’s a devastating feeling not to be able to breath.

I decided to try yoga, just to begin to move my body mostly. It was scary and somewhat intimidating because yoga people all seemed so carefree and bendy; I could barely bend over or raise my hands above my head. I walked into YogaWorks – now Center for Yoga – timid and feeling like a broken little bird. They were so kind and recommended a few classes and I gave it a try. This down dog business hurt like the dickens, the scar tissue from the surgery still affected me. But I was learning to breathe again, thanks to yoga and amazing teachers like Nona Chiang and Dearbhla Kelly. They took me in and helped me feel alive again. I was on the mend and thought I’d found paradise. AND THEN COVID HIT!

I couldn’t believe it…the world shut down just when I was ready to be a part of it again. I was one of those people who had to self-isolate as my lung couldn’t risk more trauma. I tried online classes the first few months, but it was too difficult. I went into a deep depression, feeling alone… for two years.

When I heard about the Center For Yoga re-opening, I was elated. But I’d regressed so much I was basically back at square one – an anxious, nervous newbie. Entering the building after two years was magical. The energy of this sacred space felt like home – safe and comforting. The incredible staff made me feel like I was family, even though they didn’t know me. The teachers at CFY have helped me breathing deeply again. I feel a strong connection to my body – my lungs, muscles, bones, fascia, heart all working in sync. I don’t feel broken anymore. I feel alive.

Bonus points – I can touch my toes and am working on getting over my fear of inversions (when you’ve suffered some pretty devastating falls like me, going upside down is scary). My lung is fully healed and I’m breathing stronger than ever…woohoo! I’m humpty dancin’ now y’all! I know my story isn’t unique. Many of us have suffered some type of trauma, whether physically or emotionally. Life is hard and you never know what the person on the mat next to you has gone through – or is going through. I’m not one of those “bendy, handstand people” yet, but I’m slowly but surely working on it. I’m still trying to keep my shoulders out of my ears and relax my jaw….

I’m grateful for all the people at CFY who’ve turned my scary journey into an inspiring and reassuring one. And a big thank you to the incredible community of yogis who’ve been so kind and inspirational. Big shoutouts and thank yous to: Becky, Ashley R., Daryoush, Nancy, Lila & Clio!

I leave you with my personal mantra and wish you great peace and blessings.

You are not broken.
You are just building.
Never stop building.
Just breathe.
Just breathe.
Just breathe.

In gratitude, Claire

“My Yoga Journey” by Claire Ortiz

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