My story begins in 1986, when I was almost killed on my 14th birthday by a speeding Suburban going over 45mph…
I was on foot, in a crosswalk..It was 3:15pm and I was half a block from my high school. This image gives you an idea of how big a Suburban is next to a person:
The Suburban was speeding at almost 50mph, a mom, late to pick her kids from high school. She didn’t notice three lanes of the crosswalk stopped. She only noticed one empty lane, and she took it, just as I stepped into it. Witnesses say I tried to run, but you can’t outrun 50mph in a miniskirt (bad joke!).
The force of the impact shattered my left kidney and spleen into unsalvageable pieces. I almost died of internal bleeding. My skeletal injuries include a clean brake in my femur (broken in half), broken patella, a cracked pelvis, broken coccyx, fractured ribs and skull.
After a week in ICU, I lived for a month in traction, followed by several months of trying to get my femur to heal properly. It wouldn’t, and every few weeks my doctor had to re-brake and re-set it. Finally, they placed me in a full body, flat-on-my-back one and a half hip spica cast. Looks something like the center image on your left. I lived in this cast for six months.
By all accounts, including the policeman who later visited me in the hospital, I should be dead. At best – severely limited and immune-compromised. Even my Orthopedic doctor warned me that I would never walk normally again.
My doctor was wrong. And this is where my story really begins.
Healing an Injury: Doctors tend to look at averages and give the worst case scenario. As my doctor told me of all my permanent limitations, I thought, “Who are YOU to tell me what is and is not possible with my body?”
Believing in myself more than a doctor’s prediction is now my life motto. Not because I don’t trust doctors or respect them, but because I’ve had plenty of doctors tell me plenty of things that I shouldn’t be able to do, and the fact is, I do a lot of them. It’s important to trust yourself more than the opinion of a professional.
I manage chronic pain by challenging myself through with a dedicated, daily movement practice, extremely healthy eating habits and a super positive outlook on life. My movement practice has changed over the years. These days, I combine Physical Therapy Theraband exercises, Qi Gong, Yoga, functional range conditioning, and basic barre exercises..
It’s a choice that means I have to get up early, before I really want to, cuz bed is always more cozy at 5:15am than the cold morning. My daily practice involves meditation and movement, no matter where I am, no matter how tired I am, no matter how much sleep I should be getting.
Oftentimes I have to work into discomfort, while moving intelligently around areas of “deadness” or pain. If I were to avoid the intensity of this due to fear, I would probably have ended up living the way my doctors predicted – disabled, walking with a walker and on daily meds for pain and on mild dose antibiotics for my compromised immune system.
In my own practice and teaching, I’ve witnessed how many people default to the easiest option. The easiest option will merely get you the predicted mean result: aches and pains. To achieve success in any area of life, we must work towards our dreams; not our predictions.
And I know that if I gave into the pain and the doctor’s predictions, I might NEVER have even tried to walk normally again.
The face of dedication changes as we age, as our injuries and our goals change. Most importantly, healing an injury requires even deeper trips inside our own psyche.
All of this is necessary to help diminish chronic pain. If you’re not willing to do the work, it won’t happen. And if you’re not willing to do the work, you’re not a good fit for me, because I require that you do something. I never push into pain. But I firmly believe in challenge, hard work, and moving through discomfort in order to achieve results.
Optimal health is a choice that requires commitment.
I like being active: I hike. I swim. I dance. Doesn’t mean I’m not pain free. I modify and support my body through my movement practices. In order to keep being active, I must move daily: that’s simply my body, my karma, my life. Sometimes, despite the daily effort, injuries reappear. When injured, given the luxury of time, I use alternative therapies first and surgical procedures second. Due to having just one kidney, I never use Western meds unless it’s anesthesia and absolutely necessary. Those are my protocols. They certainly don’t have to be yours.
My body is a unique case: I’ve been put together and taken apart many times. I’ve had surgeries and am not opposed to needing more — if and when I truly need them. In 1990, Dr. Donald Speer, a Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon at the University of Arizona not only re-broke my femur, removed the marrow and put in a steel rod, but also performed arthroscopic surgery on my knee, shaving bone from my pelvis and restructuring my broken and damaged patella. This delayed me starting college on time, but it prolonged the life of my knees and hips. Today, almost 25 years later, I am seeing that I may need more surgery to remove loose pieces of bone that have fallen off over the years: but first, I am rebuilding as much cartilage as I can with stem cell therapy.
Back to 1987…
Nearly one year after my accident and six months after being flat on my back in a full body cast...my leg deformed, bowed out severely, a large bump in the middle of my femur, almost an inch shorter than my right leg, my kneecap out of alignment and every step a misstep, I stood upright and took my “first steps” on crutches.
Summer of 1987, I slowly emerged back into life. I began physical rehab through weights and resistance machines at the gym. I found a trainer who coached and encouraging me, even pushing me to compete in the Southern AZ High School Bodybuilding Championships.
Nine months later, I competed and placed 2nd in my weight category. I placed 2nd again, the following year. My journey to recovery had begun. My body would require two more surgeries to correct my femur, but by the time I began college in 1991, I was as active as possible.
Mission: My car accident changed me from the inside out. I had been on the path to become a concert pianist. I practiced piano 4-5 hours on weekdays before and after school, and 6-7 on weekends. My piano teacher was a professor at the University of Arizona and he was prepping for Julliard entrance exams right at the time that Suburban hit me.
Instead of piano, studies and church friends, my life became hospitals, surgeries, and living in my mind.
I am so grateful for all the lessons that I learned during that time; invaluable lessons which have shifted me into becoming the multifaceted person I am today. I underwent a radical inner transformation and developed a deep inner intuitive understanding that life is a gift.
In my LA Yoga article, I wrote about my gratitude towards life, and my reunion with Dr. Richard Carmona, the ER Surgeon who saved my life and later became the Surgeon General of the United States. On my birthday every year, I say a prayer of thanks and blessing for Dr. Carmona.
Without his skill, I am certain my body would not be here today. Dr. Carmona now presides as the Vice Chairman of Canyon Ranch Resort and Spa, President of the non-profit Canyon Ranch Institute, and is a professor of the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona.
Yoga: 1998 – present
Twenty years later, I still love yoga. I teach yoga because it’s changed my life and allowed me to thrive beyond measure.
I teach yoga to all ages: hand-standing, arm-balancing, energy-abundant 20 year old’s to sleepy pregnant moms and even sleepier postnatal moms with newborns in tow.
I’ve taught everything from preschool yoga to seniors in their 80’s. I’ve shared my love of yoga with celebrities (this is LA, after all!), as well as inner-city janitors and cafeteria workers. I’m certified in several styles, all by people you probably have never heard of unless you’re super into yoga. In a nutshell – I have over 15,000 hours teaching experience and over 1200 hours of formal teacher training.
Credentials and Registrations:
Magna Cum Laude, UCLA Honors, 1995.
BA Spanish Language and Lit & BA Russian Language and Lit
UCLA Professional Program in Screenwriting, 1997.
DOULA Education: CD(DONA)
– Certified Birth Doula with Doula Organization of North America in 2011.
– BINI Birth trained – Introduction to Childbirth for Doulas.
– BINI Trained Birth Doula.
– LOOM Trained Holistic Pregnancy Loss Doula.
– Rebozo Trained with Naoli Vinaver Lopez.
– Dr. Michel Odent – Childbirth: Babies Need Love, Microbes and Stress.
YOGA Education: E-RYT500, YACEP, RPYT,
– 500hr TT – Ana Forrest
– 120hr TT – Shiva Rea
– 100hr TT – Maty Ezraty
– 300hr TT – Noah Maze