I was released from the hospital at the end of July in 2003. I had been confined to a bed for nearly the entire month that I was in the hospital (50% of my body had been burned with a combination of 1st, 2nd and third degree burns. Some of which included getting skin grafts), with occasional walks around the burn center. I lost nearly 30 lbs. would tire very easily and was feeling very fragile. After a week of acclimating to home life, I realized that I needed to start moving again. My primary concern was that the contracture in the skin and deeper soft tissue would severely limit by mobility. I recognized that focusing on flexibility and range of motion was most important in my rehabilitation. So, I went to the gym where I had a membership and attended my first yoga class.
Before the class began, I told the instructor that I had recently been in an accident and that I had never been to a yoga class before. He looked at my arms and legs in compression wraps and his face froze. I asked if there was anything that I should do or know and he mumbled something about honoring my body. I had no idea what he meant by that, So I sat on my mat with 40 other people and proceeded to experience yoga for the first time.
By the time I arrived home from the hospital, I had given up on setting expectations or trying to imagine what would happen next; My time in the hospital had continually reset my expectations and turned my hopeful and speedy recovery on its ear. I had realized that when you are dealing with uncertainty, having expectations is an exercise in futility; It is better to have vague goals like, 'I will walk a bit further than yesterday,' or 'I will become as flexible as my new condition will allow.' That way, no matter what happens, you can always find success because even one more step is further than I walked the day before.
I went into the yoga class with no expectations or goals. When the instructor told us to place our shins on the ground and sit on our heels, I could not bend my
knees past 90 degrees. My hips would remain over my knees or else I would feel excruciating pain. It was an easy class and I was exhausted and sweaty by the end. I will admit that I felt slightly anxious when I left, worrying that the fatigue I was feeling would become the new normal for me. While I did not have any expectations about my recovery, I was hoping to return to some of my old activities and I had a long, long way to go.
For the first few months, my only activities were walking, biking and yoga as I worked on my stamina and mobility. I would return to the hospital weekly and they would assess my progress. If they found an area that was not moving in a positive direction, they would address it. For example, my fingers were not increasing their mobility and scarring on my palms was growing. So, I was given exercises and a special apparatus to strap my hands into when I slept. While the doctors and therapists closely monitored my progress, they never suggested any exercises other than for my hands. I have come to realize that the reason why is that I was already addressing that area with yoga.
When my stamina and mobility increased to a point that I was satisfied with, I gradually added some of my activities of my previous life such as lifting weights and rock climbing. And, I continued taking yoga classes at least 2 times per week, sometimes more. My visits with the doctors and therapists decreased to every other week. Over time, I was visiting once per month. Their instructions and prescriptions dwindled until I my visits consisted of chit chat and small talk. Yet, I continued taking yoga classes.
There was never a light bulb over my head or sudden flash of realization. The realization gradually settled on me that I was taking yoga, not for therapy but because I enjoyed it. I was retaining the calm from the classes into the day. I found that I was attempting to take the practice and apply it to other areas of my life. I have now, fully recovered from the injury. It has been downgraded to a story, it has no power over me any more. In many ways I am stronger than I was before the accident. I am also happier.
* NOTE: the additional link has the full burn story complete with photos of the process from fresh burn to fully healed. Warning the early photos are graphic so you may choose to read the story with out visiting the pics. The pics were show to help other burn survivors see hope that things can get better no matter how tough it seems in the early days.
Boundless Yoga Staff & Students
We are continuously interested on how our reactions and responses to our personal journeys, albeit travel, adventure, new job, etc. mirror and reflect our social, emotional and spiritual ups and downs. We try every day to apply what we learn about ourselves on the yoga mat to our personal lives. Thank you for tuning in as we share some of those aspects with you.