Three Things I Learned When I Almost Died

 

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Celebrating my birthday with family and friends in the spring of 1998–one of the few times I actually left my bed, while recovering from a near fatal car accident. 

Nineteen years ago today, a man named Freddy saved my life. Freddy was an EMT–the first to arrive at the scene of a devastating car crash. I was severely injured in the crash, and the doctors who cared for me after said it was a miracle that I survived. I had to be resuscitated three times, and was rushed to a nearby hospital in the minutes that followed. I was in critical care for eleven days, before being moved to regular hospital room.

The impact broke bones all over my body, including my C2, my shoulders, my collarbone, and my pelvic bone. I spent three weeks in the hospital afterwards. It took that long for me to get stabilized, learn how to walk again, and finally breathe without artificial support.

I was heavily medicated during the recovery, and because of the meds (or maybe it was the closed head injury?), my memories are blurry at best. What I do remember vividly from that time, however, is the excrutiating pain in my side from the chest tube that was inserted above my right ribs. I also recall tears streaming down my face, as the nurses forced me to stand up and walk around my hospital room. I remember doubling over every time I had to cough, or my family tried to make me laugh, because my broken ribs were stabbing my insides. The rest, however, is pretty foggy.

I do have clear memories of coming home from the hospital, though. I had limited mobility, and time dragged in the three months after my release.

The recovery process was brutal. I had a lot of support, thankfully, from my family, our church, and our friends, but it was still overwhelming.  I wondered how life could ever be the same.

I eventually made a full recovery, although I still live with some chronic pain. The thing that helped the most?  Discovering the healing discipline of yoga. I found yoga (or maybe it found me?) five months after almost losing my life, and it transformed me forever.

That first class was ridiculously difficult, but when it was over, I felt like a completely different person. I knew I was onto something, and started practicing yoga every day at home, with videos. In the next few months, yoga slowly helped me reclaim my strength and my flexibility. I suddenly had muscles where I had not had muscles before–YASS! People said I looked strong, something I had never been told before. And, I actually felt strong, physically, mentally, and spiritually–stronger than ever before. My moods improved, and I finally felt happy again. I fell in love with meditation, and learned some pretty cool new ways to breathe. The more I practiced yoga, the happier I felt, and I wondered why I hadn’t tried this before?

Looking back, I feel like I finally have perspective on the journey. I was given a second chance at life, and in the process learned three important lessons:

1. Life happens in the present moment. Prior to the crash, I spent a lot of time lamenting the past, and worrying about what might happen in the future. But, being stuck in bed, unable to move, for months on end, I could think of nothing but what was happening right then and there. It changed my brain, to be entirely focused on recovery, taking life one breath at a time. As I got into yoga, the message was the same–be here now, because the present moment is the only thing you can control. As I learned how to be more present, I felt more connected to my life and the people around me than ever before.

2. We are all connected in our struggles. Before I got into yoga, I was hyper-aware of my struggles, and how they affected me. I thought I was the only one who felt this way or that. By taking yoga classes, though, I started to see that everyone is struggling in some way–even the people doing crazy handstands were breathing and shaking! I realized that yoga is hard for everyone, and it’s pretty much a metaphor for life. Everyone struggles with something in life, and it is important to look for these similarities, more than our differences. Yoga philosophy teaches that any idea of being separate is merely illusion. We are all the same at our core.

3. We can’t get happy, we can only be happy. During my recovery, I often thought, “I will be happy when I am fully recovered”. But even after the doctors gave me a clean bill of health, I was still incredibly depressed, and focused on what I had lost. Except when I was on my yoga mat. I felt happy during yoga, because my teacher taught me to quiet my mind, and be the witness to what was really happening. To look for the beautiful more than the ugly. Both coexist always, and we can be happy simply by controlling our thoughts. We have the power to choose happiness in every moment, and push away the thoughts that don’t serve us. Connecting with the bliss within is where it’s at!

Almost two decades have passed since the crash that almost took my life, and a lot has changed. I am grateful to be alive, and inspired by the lessons I have learned. I challenge you to put them into action–foster awareness, seek connections, and choose happiness. There’s so much waiting for you on the other side, and most of it is better than you ever imagined.

~Namaste and love to all~

FullSizeRender 8.jpgOur family 19 years later, with Rev. Don Harp, one of the many angels who flew to my side, offering support and love after the crash, and beyond.

What Would You Do, If You Were Not Afraid?

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Two years ago, my friend Jennifer asked me to teach a lunchtime yoga class at her small business, Eclipse Post, Inc. It’s a small video post-production house, that does work for many of the major national networks.

Jennifer originally told everyone that lunchtime yoga was a perk for her clients, but now tells me that she secretly wanted it for herself as well. As a wife, mother of two, and small business owner, she was finding it hard to get to yoga classes after work…even though she knew she really needed it!

I jumped at the opportunity, and have been teaching at Eclipse Post, Inc. ever since. I seriously love these yogis–practicing with them is a gift for all of us! They are an inspiring group of people, always willing to try new things. I tell them every week that they are capable of more than they know, and that the secret to happiness is learning to let go of our plans, so we can have the life that is waiting for us.

Sometimes, though, I wonder if they actually believe me. Do they see themselves, the way I see them? Do they know that everything they hope for is possible, when they trust the struggle?

I got a message on Wednesday night that provided a resounding YES! They get it. Without any formal training, one of my Eclipse Post students, Nicole, made herself into a teacher. When her plans to be a student fell through, Nicole trusted herself to lead a yoga class, in the middle of Central Park at Atlantic Station, in front of a bunch of strangers.

She believed she could, and so she did! I know it was not easy–teaching yoga for the first time is terrifying for everyone–but they tell me she owned it, and empowered a lot of other people in the process.

This is what this crazy healthy life is all about! Leaning into our fears, claiming our roles as leaders, trusting our struggles, and believing that everything is possible.

So the question is, what would you do, if you weren’t afraid? Check out Nicole’s story, and let it inspire you to overcome your fears, so you might claim the bigger, brighter life that is waiting for you!

Namaste~

Amber

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100 Days of Crazy Healthy Week 1

100 Days of Crazy Healthy is a FREE health challenge that will transform your life!

This program is based on the daily habits that helped me reclaim power over my health, and how I teach my clients to get healthy without spending money unnecessarily, feeling deprived, or risking injury.

Good health is cumulative–a result of wise choices, made over time. I learned this through personal experience, and created 100 Days of Crazy Healthy as the perfect program to transform your mind, body and spirit, if you trust the struggle, and do whatever it takes to complete your weekly habits.

The work itself is simple. We will move, breathe, stretch, and nourish ourselves naturally, every single day. It’s the every single day part that is essential, and makes it feel less stressful. Small changes add up over time, and help us reveal our best selves! Our attachments to what we have always done might make it feel difficult at first. Don’t let your brain stop your body from getting healthy. Remember that the secret to success is to trust the struggle, and do whatever it takes to complete the work.

We will add a few new healthy habits each week, for the next 14 weeks. They are not meant to replace what you are already doing–this in in addition to other workouts. Over time, you may feel that you have to make some trade offs in your workouts, but you will do so with the information you need to make wise decisions. Don’t worry about it now, though.

You may start the challenge any time you like. Those who start today, will complete the challenge by mid-August, and you will feel fabulous by Labor Day. The goals are realistic, and founded in concepts that have kept people healthy for thousands of years. This week, we are focusing on movement and self care. We will get to food later, once you are in the yoga habit.

Remember, you don’t have to go it alone…I am here to help! Reach out any time. I also highly recommend inviting a friend or family member (s) to join you. It will deepen your relationships, and leave you all feeling empowered to control your weight, moods, and habits. Just share the link to  100 Days of Crazy Healthy on Facebook, Twitter, or through email.

Daily Habits For Week 1

Practice these three habits, every day for 7 days. These habits are foundational, and will be built upon in the weeks to come. Do not stop doing your other workouts or other healthy habits, just add these three habits to your routine.

1. Upon waking, scrape your tongue from front to back with a spoon, or tongue scraper. This will remove the ama (toxins) that have built up in your mouth over night. Rinse your mouth with water, being careful to not swallow any of the water, and brush your teeth afterward.

2. Drink 12 oz. of warm, filtered water, before consuming food. You may add lemon to the water if you would like.

3. Practice 5 B series Sun Salutations*, moving intentionally on each inhale and exhale, as shown in the photo. Don’t rush, and don’t think about anything besides the breath and the pose. This will feel difficult, if you are new to yoga, but reject this idea in favor of doing the work. For those who have practiced yoga before, doing 5 Sun Salutations every day may feel boring–do it anyway and trust the process. Play the music you love, or use my playlists on Spotify. Make it a moving meditation. Changes will happen on such a deep level in your body, that you won’t even be aware that you are being transformed. It’s a beautiful thing!  It is preferable to practice in the morning before showering, but this may be done at night, if necessary. Do whatever it takes, to complete this task every day! Don’t allow yourself to crawl into bed at night, until it is done. It takes me exactly one minute to complete a B Series Sun Salutation, using full inhales and exhales, and it should be the same for you, so this is a 5 minute exercise.

4. Find daily inspiration to keep fighting the fight on my Facebook page. I will share quotes, and ancient wisdom to support the habits we are creating.

You can do this! It may seem too difficult to some, and too simple to others, but just believe. These daily habits are the beginning of becoming the crazy healthy person you always hoped to be. So, grab a friend or family member, and get to work. Don’t think, just do. I’m here to help, if you need encouragement, and would love to know how it goes. Send me photos or notes about your 100 Days of Crazy Healthy, and I will share them!

Good luck and namaste’!

Amber

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*To prevent injury, follow these guidelines: 1) Keep your tailbone tucked in standing poses, to prevent compression in the lower back. 2) Roll thighs inward and back in half lift and forward fold. 3)  Press into finger pads and lift the center of the palms in Down Dog.