By Niccole Guarino
I was never a big yoga guru. In fact I didn’t come into yoga until much later in my life (late 20’s). My thing was running! I was born to run! I started running in high school, finding an immediate love for cross-country. I remember my coach saying to me that first year, “once a runner, always a runner”. Well she wasn’t lying. As the years passed I RAN! I ran through fat days. Through days of regret and guilt. Days of self-doubt. Days of bliss. Anything I felt I needed to work through I did it by running. Running had become an outlet; it was my form of therapy.
UNTIL MY INJURY …
I was 25 years old and was traveling home from a vacation I had just taken. On the flight back into NY I became violently ill. This is also a good time to point out that airplane bathrooms are much smaller than I had ever intended to find out.
As I got home and settled, I was still pretty ill. I figured I had food poisoning. I was just out of the country; I probably ate something that was bad. As the next day came and went I found myself once again running to the bathroom, hugging the toilet. Only this time I began to scream in pain. Not being able to pull myself up from the floor I yelled for someone to call an ambulance. Low and behold I had herniated two of my lumbar discs. The discs had fragmented and were causing pressure on my spinal cord. I needed immediate surgery. A flood of emotions came over me and as I sat there crying in disbelief I could only think of one thing … running. My conviction to run through yet another ordeal only heightened at this point.
In the end I ended up having two back surgeries. They removed the fragmented discs. Post-op, I sat there listening to the surgeon ramble off a list of things to avoid, ” don’t bend, use your walker to get around, don’t pick up anything more than five pounds., no running …”. Wait! What did he just say? “No running”. I quickly interjected and spewed out every question that came to mind. Recognizing my frustrations the surgeon began to tell me that my running career would likely have to come to an end. As he began to get into medical terms as to why, I drifted off. Wishing I could run from it all. A sense of complete emptiness came over me. Who was I if I couldn’t identify as a runner?
I began my yoga journey; randomly taking a yoga class here & there. It was this half-hearted attempt to fill a void. During this time I never really found a yoga class or studio that I was excited about. I couldn’t understand that there were people out there that swore by this stuff. So like a bad habit, I dropped it. Consuming my time with a dead end job, debating on whether or not to go back to school. Randomly moving across the country, looking for a “change”. Always coming up short; empty-handed.
LOVE & LOSS
A few more years had passed and I moved back home. Still going through the motions of what I had accepted as my now life. Until August of 2014 … when I got an unexpected and life changing knock on my door. Officers informed me my younger brother was involved in a accident. That night I lost my younger brother in an unexpected and fatal accident. He was crossing the road and was struck by a motor vehicle that was texting while driving. It took a very long time for things to settle; I don’t remember much of the days and weeks that followed. It was as if I was present physically but emotionally and mentally I was lost. I spent many days just sitting in church; looking for answers.
MY FIRST YOGA CLASS AFTER MY LOSS
At this point I had lost all sense of anything. I took a leave from work. I wasn’t active. There were days when I refused to get dressed. My husband had suggested I try to find a “hobby”. Something that I can focus on to help me let go of everything I was carrying. I attended a random yoga class; at this time it had been years since I had gone to yoga. I remember I was the only one in the class that evening and the instructor agreed to still hold class. It was a gentle class and at the end we did a short meditation session. As I lay there listening to her voice guide me through the session, I saw my brother. We were in this amazingly beautiful garden; I could feel the ocean breeze and the sun on my face. I began running towards my brother and as we embraced I began to laugh and cry. As fast as this sensation came over me, I once again heard the instructors voice guiding me out. I tried to force the image and feeling again but it was gone. I remember walking back to my car and sitting in the parking lot just sobbing. It was if that moment in time was meant for me. I needed this.
And so my yoga journey began …
I don’t believe you have to have this undeniable faith for moments to be created for you. I do believe though, if you come to your mat with an open heart and an open mind the possibilities are endless. Yoga has allowed me to explore these possibilities. It has allowed me to be at peace with what is and what is to come. It has awaken me to my truth – even though sometimes this truth isn’t always an easy thing to swallow, but we aren’t made to be perfect and I am okay with this!