There are a million things that can happen in our lives that have the potential to either increase or decrease the sense of confidence we have our bodies. Some of these things are lifestyle related: What we eat, how much and how often we move, what we do for work, etc. But some things that cause us to lose confidence are outside of our control. Things like sudden illness or injury can undermine our sense of agency and we can quickly lose confidence in a body that is not acting as we feel it should.
Tonia has had this experience. In this post she shares her story of a near death experience and the aftermath, which includes rebuilding body confidence, in part, through yoga.
We are so excited that Tonia joined our teaching staff this summer. She teaches Tuesday 6:00 PM All-Level Yoga at our Sandusky Studio location. Her years of nursing inform her yoga teaching, she is an incredibly compassionate soul with a warm heart and a lot of enthusiasm for helping people. -Shannon
My Near Death Experience (NDE) and What Yoga Means to Me
Where do I begin? I’ll start by saying that the events from 9/3/16 changed me forever. I haven’t felt like the same person since that day. In May of 2018 when I had my second surgery (to move my pacemaker to a more secure location in my chest) I finally felt comfortable enough to begin to explore my thoughts and feelings about what had occurred in 2016. Oh, and yes, I did say pacemaker, so let’s begin there.
The top and bottom chambers of my heart stopped communicating with each other (according to my cardiologist) on that Saturday morning. In my case it was called complete heart block and my heart was pausing for 6 seconds at a time. I was physically experiencing a darkness that came over my eyes and then the feeling of fainting and suddenly coming back to the present. To say it was the most terrifying experience in my life would be pretty accurate but at the same time there was an odd sense of extreme peace as well. As scared as I was, the great sense of peace each time the darkness came over me comforted me. I remember telling myself to just breathe and everything would be alright.
That Saturday will very likely be the most memorable day of my life in many ways, both good and bad. I’ve always said that I have a blessed life, starting with my soul mate Chad, my other soul mate, Nicole (my twin sister), loving and supportive parents, a circle of friends like no other and a career that I love (I am a Nurse Practitioner). Often times I would think to myself: You are so lucky, your life is so great, everything has just fallen in place for you.
That Saturday made me question everything in my life. I questioned my existence: Why was I still here? I questioned my way of life: why did this happen to me, what did I do to deserve this, had I been a bad person who was being punished, what was the universe or some higher being trying to tell me? (Slow down?- because that is exactly what my heart was doing.) I questioned my strength, both mental and physical: Can I make it through this? Above all: Why Me?
I was told that there was no medical reason. I was tested for so many illnesses that could have been the cause and was ultimately told that I have a completely healthy heart. It was summed up for me by my cardiologist when he said that things like this sometimes happen to younger people like myself (I was 39 yrs. old) for no reason. Accepting that there was no medical reason/diagnosis was extremely difficult for me. I have been a nurse since 2001 and I felt that certainly if we kept searching we would find the medical answer.
I struggled so much with not feeling like the same person. I remember telling a very dear friend of mine that “I am not the same person.” I could not then and still cannot put into words precisely what I mean when I say that, but I just feel like I am different. I felt so disconnected from my family and friends (at times I still do, like no one really understands). I felt like I was constantly living outside of my body; going through the motions of day to day activities but not really feeling anything or enjoying anything. Was I depressed? Was I suffering from PTSD? I began to do some soul searching and decided that I was going to tackle these feelings on my own and this is when I came across Happy Yoga with Sarah Starr. I started recording her daily and practicing with her. I then found apps on my phone to practice yoga. I realized that the breathing techniques were exactly what I needed to calm my mind and nerves. I finally gained the confidence to step into a yoga studio in June 2018. I never expected how life changing that experience would be for me. There was something very special about being taught in person by someone passionate about yoga and life in general. I realized then that yoga would play a huge role in my health journey and my future.
I now look at my experience as the change that I needed. It took me years to make peace with that but I wholeheartedly believe that it has “changed” me in positive ways. I connect better with my patients because I have learned what it is like to be a patient. I connect better with myself and I feel like I am more honest with myself. I realize that life is too short and I need to slow down and enjoy life (this is still a struggle for me but I work on it each day). I look at my loved ones differently and appreciate them in ways that I hadn’t before; appreciating the pure honesty in the bold, outspoken person because they are comfortable in their own skin and wondering if the meek and mild individuals are holding back so much and torturing themselves on the inside. I say this because I was and still partly am the latter person but continually move in the direction of the former person every day which I find very freeing. Rather than saying that yoga saved me, I will say that my NDE saved me because it led me to yoga. Yoga, which means Union, united the old and new me and now I am that perfectly flawed being that you know today.
Two of my favorite yoga quotes, because they sum up in a few words what I feel when I practice on the mat and off:
Yoga is the practice of tolerating the consequences of being yourself- Bhagavad Gita
Yoga is the practice of quieting the mind- Patanjali