by Derek Robert Delahunt: Yoga came as a gift and brought with it an unexpected transformation…
It changed my body and it changed the way I breathe. It changed the way I move through the world. “You can tell the days you do yoga and the days you don’t,” a friend observed.
But this gift was not the kind I thought it was. It was like a Trojan Horse, except without deception in the giving.
You see, suddenly, injury swept my gift away when one morning gravity and slick ice conspired to sever my infraspinatus, supraspinatus, and subscapularis tendons. One doctor remarked, “That’s not a falling on the ice injury, that’s a falling out of an airplane injury.” And a few weeks later I had open rotator-cuff and bicep-tendon reattachment surgery.
The first words my surgeon said to me were, “This is going to suck.”
I think she was talking about the physical pain, the muscle atrophy, the agony of sleeping on my back, and a year’s worth of physical therapy—but I didn’t mind any of that. I didn’t even mind that my ski season was cut short and that I would miss a summer of downhill biking, my passion—these pills I could swallow.
It actually sucked because I lost my practice. I lost my moving meditation. My gift was taken away. And the surgeon was right, this sucked. It was awful.
Yoga was my daily reset. It helped me clear and calm my mind. It kept my body in shape. And when times were tough, it was a life-ring.
It was, and is, the one time of the day that I offer a prayer—the one time of the day when I feel closest to the universe. It was, and is, the one time of the day when I feel like someone is listening.
To be clear: this was not a tragic event. Shoulder surgery is nothing by comparison to what others may endure and I never, not even for a moment, felt sorry for myself. In fact, I considered the injury and my recovery a challenge—another life test.
And so I learned how to cook, eat, drive, and even write with my left hand. While friends skied the Rockies or biked Whistler without me, I made good use of the time and explored other aspects of life.
But without yoga, I also sat too often and ate too often. I drank too often and in eating and drinking too often, I got too soft.
Six months passed before my shoulder had healed enough to gently return to my practice and healthier habits. But this time yoga wasn’t the same. I found that I had different mindset—and this is why.
When I practice now, my shoulder is always near the edge of re-injury. It hurts and I’m highly aware of it in every posture, in every movement.
However, this knowing, this pain is a strange kind of blessing. It creates a newfound awareness that helps me see in every position an opportunity to find something that yesterday was out of reach—a place to explore that edge and make the shoulder stronger.
Before the injury, yoga was something to look forward to, but also something I felt I had to “get through”—with the reward coming at the end. There were postures that I hated and would suffer through to get to the ones that I loved. In this way it was like life, at least the way that most of us live it—suffering through one thing to get to something more pleasant.