You’re Stronger Than You Think You Are

Cindy, the owner of the studio where I practice, seems to say, “You’re stronger than you think you are,” all the time during class. Ok – maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration. She does say it a bit. Maybe I just happen to hear it when she says it. I mean really, really hear it. There are all kinds of things instructors say in class that I am sure I don’t hear even though I am listening. If you practice Bikram Yoga you will understand what I just said. If you don’t, then you probably wonder how a person could listen and not hear. Trust me, it happens all the time.

This phrase, you’re stronger than you think you are, can mean so many things. It has been very meaningful to me and has inspired me in many ways. I didn’t realize how important this phrase was to me until I had my accident last May when I fell off a horse in Colorado.

You may be one of the unfortunate few who has had to endure this story more than once. Sorry. I am about to launch into it again because it is a very important part of who I am. This experience heled me understand Cindy’s phrase better, and it deepened my practice.

Mark and I were in Colorado at a dude ranch. It was a Friday, and we had already been there for five days. That morning, we went out for a ride that lasted around two hours. We were almost back at the corral when it happened. I could see the corral from my horse. I was relaxed, tired, and not paying any attention. I do not think I was even holding the reigns when it happened.

From what I was told, Mark’s horse (who was behind me) slipped back into a ditch and reared up. This may have caused some of the other horses in our group to rear up or get a little excited. Mine reared up. But guess who wasn’t prepared for that?

I remember seeing my horse rear up. I remember screaming, but it was a weird out-of-body scream. It sounded so far away. I saw my right leg up in the air going back towards my head. I knew I was falling off the horse. I told myself this was happening. I also gave myself two jobs: (a) get my feet out of the stirrups and (b) keep my head off the ground.

The next thing I remember, I was sitting on the ground with my knees bent into my chest. Wranglers were running at me screaming not to move. I had no intention of moving. I stared straight ahead, afraid to even look at myself. I was convinced bones were sticking out of me.

The wranglers circled me and checked me out. They had me count to five. They asked me how many fingers they were holding up. Then, someone asked me if I hit my head.

“No,” I replied.

No?  That didn’t make any sense.  Although I had given myself explict orders not to hit my head, achieving that seemed impossible. How did I fall off a horse and not hit my head or get hit in the head with a hoof? And then I learned even more…

I didn’t just fall off the horse. I fell to the left, landed on my butt, and my left foot remained in the stir-up. I was then dragged on my butt – sitting up the entire time – approximately 10 feet  (down a gravel road) before I got free. Seriously, how did I not hit my head?

The jeans I was wearing survived intact (Banana Republic – 50.0o!). My favorite sweatshirt – destroyed. The entire right side was shredded from top to bottom. My favorite purple shirt I was wearing beneath it? Also destroyed. A big gash went through the side.

I walked away from that fall. Literally. One of the wranglers helped me to the car and drove me back to the cabin 10-15 minutes after I had fallen. I walked myself up the steps and inside.

I was not without injuries. I had cracked ribs on my right side. My entire right side from armpit to waist was a giant bruise. It looked so ugly. My right inner thigh muscle was pulled from groin to knee. My left inner thigh muscle was pulled too, but not as bad as the right. I cried off and on for the rest of the day. I couldn’t stop shaking no matter how hard I tried. I wanted to go home so badly, and yet there was no way I was going to walk away from this just because it got unbelievably hard.

That night, I took some pain pills and passed out. Mark went to the saloon to drink. The wranglers cornered him. They all had the same question, “What does your wife do for exercise?” They were amazed at what had happened, and that I had not ended up in the hospital. They explained to Mark that I had to have an incredibly strong core in order to sit up while being dragged. Mark introduced them to Bikram Yoga as best as he could (he doesn’t practice). The next morning everyone had left for the last ride of the trip. I was sitting outside reading. One of the owners walked by and said to me, “Even with your injuries, you are in better shape than most of the people out there riding right now.” Other wranglers commented that they were amazed I had not insisted on going back to the airport and leaving immediately. They said that happens all the time. When people get injured, their first reaction is to go home, and they often do.

Believe me, I wanted to go home.

We went home on Sunday. I walked into the studio on Monday for the 4:30 class. Could I do all the postures? Heck no. I couldn’t do any of the spine strengthening series for several weeks because I couldn’t lay on my stomach. For the first week or two I didn’t even bother with savasana. By the time I was able to lay down, everyone else was getting up. By the time I could get myself up everyone else had already done the posture and were on their way back into savasana. It was easier to stay sitting up.

Here’s what amazed me about my Monday class. I walked in with my pulled leg muscles. I couldn’t get dressed or take a shower without tears running down my face. Raising my right leg – even just a bit – was painful. When I left at 6:00 pn Monday, my left leg was 100% healed. My right leg was 80% healed (my guess of course). It still hurt, but no more tears. I went back on Tuesday. When I left my right leg was 100% healed.

So what does all this have to do with the phrase, ‘You’re stronger than you think you are?” Well….

1. The fall. I was mentally and physcially stronger than I ever realized. I was aware of what was happening to me. I was able to do something that probably saved my life. I credit the yoga for this (of course I credit myself for going to class). Being in the hot room taught me how to focus in addition to giving me physical strength, When I needed it most, those attributes were there for me.

2. I stayed at the ranch after the fall for two days. I even got back up on a horse (that was painful) and rode in a ring with a wrangler. The owner encouraged me to face my fears and get back up asap. He said he’d let me do it however I wanted. So I figured out what would help me ride (slowly, in circles), and we made it happen. Yes, I was crying from pain getting on and off that horse. I don’t care. It was worth it.

3. I went back to class asap. Who wants to go to class with cracked ribs, pulled muscles, and bruises? Sounds like fun doesn’t it? Of course not. But that class made me strong inside and out bones to skin and from my toes to my brain. Class is also so much easier than falling off a horse. Perspective. 🙂

We can do more than we think we can. Normally, what we think is hard is not that hard (note to my teachers: I will do my best to remember this in triangle pose). When things get tough, we do have the physical and mental strength to pull through, and we can develop and refine those strengths too. We are stronger than we realize, and that is pretty cool!



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. LeighAHall (@LeighAHall)
    Nov 26, 2014 @ 13:20:22

    You’re Stronger Than You… #bikramyoga #yogaholicsmag


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