I've noticed aches and pains come and go over the past three years of my yoga practice, and I truly believe that these pains have been my best and most humbling teachers. As well as my lessons in love.
When I was 16 I was thrown off a horse and landed with my arm behind my back. I didn't cry, but looking at the deformed shape of my wrist I knew something was terribly wrong. I was rushed to the ER and had my wrist rebroken and pinned back into place. Ever since, I've had wrist pain that would travel from my weaker left wrist to my overcompensating right wrist. Years later, yoga was actually what helped me strengthen my wrist to finally be able to bear weight again.
Of course bearing weight was not enough, I wanted to handstand. All the time. But like I've said before there is a reason why handstand is not the first yoga pose we should learn, and I didn't realize it then. I never took much time for the fundamentals, they didn't excite me the way more advanced poses did.
Fast forward a little over two years into my "yoga" practice (more like contortion and hand balance practice) and I began to struggle with pain in my right wrist. At first it was easy to ignore, I could still handstand and in my mind that was all that mattered. I kept telling myself the pain would go away, so I stuck to icing it and getting chiropractic adjustments. But by the end of December I was in too much pain to handstand most days, and by February my range of motion was becoming limited and I knew I needed to check my ego and seek help. My chiropractor had helped me work through various things in my body and suggested I get an MRI immediately.
Within 24 hours I was back in his office ready for him to tell me my results. I have no idea what I had prepared myself mentally for, but I will never forget the look in his eyes when he told me "I'm so sorry Irene, your wrist is broken and the bone has died from lack of blood supply. It's called Kienbock's Disease, and it is very serious." In my mind I thought, oh wow a broken wrist, no wonder why it hurt so badly. I'll just rest it for a few months and be on my merry way… He kept apologizing, saying everything would be okay. I just thought he was over reacting.
But as I began to research Kienbock's Disease I realized that if anything he was under reacting. My wrist bone was dead, and there was very little certainty of me being able to bear weight through my wrist ever again. I went to four different hand specialists, all of which wanted to do a drastic surgery to limit my mobility but hopefully lessen the pain. Two of them wanted to remove the entire row of bones in my wrist, leaving me with no choice but to fuse my wrist later down the road. I simply couldn't accept these options. So I prayed, and meditated, and knew I needed to be patient in finding my answer.
Everything began to shift. Where I used to think my purpose was to inspire people through my crazy poses, I realized it was never the handstand I was after. I was looking for something deeper, and I was limiting myself without knowing it. I kept asking what I was missing, and listening with my whole heart for answers. I realized over time that I wanted to be connected to the divine love of the Universe, and hear the voice for God so I could help spread light and love to everyone I could. To help people become guided by love.
Now I was practicing yoga. Most days I would go to class and do what I could, unashamed to take rest or watch and soak up the energy of the room. This is the life I have chosen and a broken wrist cannot take that away from me. I focused on grounding poses and daily meditation, with some fun poses thrown in to remind myself that I am not broken. Part of the reason I could keep a positive outlook was because I never stopped practicing, even though so much had changed I refused to quit on myself.
I kept asking, praying, that I could find a doctor with faith in my healing. And even though I wanted to give up I knew I couldn't, after all I am just starting to truly find myself. And in finding myself I found my doctor. She gave me two choices for surgery, and I felt lost making such a big decision. I went with my gut, but still in doubt I asked the universe for a sign to confirm my choice. The next day a young women tagged me in a photo of her arm balancing, having undergone surgery 10 years ago for Kienbock's Disease. When I asked her which surgery she had done, it was the exact same one I had picked. I felt so at peace.
As my doctor took me in for surgery she was absolutely radiant with faith, I could have cried. Because one of my forearm bones is a bit longer than it should be, she shortened it and took some of my live bone and grafted it to the dead bone. As I woke up from surgery, she appeared like an angel in a dream, visibly pleased at how the procedure went.
While I don't know what the future holds, I know it is bright. And although I am in a lot of pain and recovery will be a long process, luckily I have learned to be patient. A lot of that patience came from learning how to handstand. As a teacher I have grown so much from this experience, and as a student, too. Now I practice yoga to heal myself, and to connect to the divine love within each of us. If I could do it all over again I wouldn't change a thing. While some days are harder than others, I've never felt more alive and at peace than I do now.
One day I hope to feel the freedom of handstanding again, but no matter what I will continue to shine the light that has been so graciously shared with me. Whatever you may be going through I pray you find the strength to keep going, to ask the questions that will lead you to yourself, and maybe even to God.