I kept that accident a secret, lest my family find out and panic even more about my safety half a world away. Despite the aches and gnarly cuts that required constant iodine washes to keep clean, that crash was a blessing in disguise. Up until that point I was walking multiple miles every day and cramming in every little thing I could do. I HAD TO do everything.
That crash limited how far I could walk, so I couldn't take the 5 mile hike to the waterfalls in Pai. Instead I took a 90 min motorbike ride (I wasn't driving) to a cave that I likely wouldn't have otherwise agreed to. I couldn't go dancing, so I went and listened to reggae music and actually talked to the people I was interacting with. When everything slowed down, I was able to experience it much more fully. Don't get me wrong though, all of these gifts were very hard to see in the moments when I felt restrained and frustrated by my limited mobility.
The effects of that crash are still lasting today, including the frustration of not being able-bodied enough to do everything I want to do. Since I came home from that trip, my knee has been weak. I overcompensated for it and ended up hurting my elbow. For a long while I was basically punishing my body for the injuries and causing even more damage. As someone who grew up an athlete and never felt mobility restrictions, the whole process of being injured was met with kicking and screaming. Looking back though, the new experience has been enlightening, as most struggles are.
When I practice, I need to modify - some days I can't even hold Downward Facing Dog. Fancy shapes that used to be easy for me require a lot more awareness as I determine moment by moment if my body is going to be served by them, or if it's only my ego looking for gratification. Oftentimes my body limits me to gentle yoga and yin yoga. I won't pretend that I'm okay with it all either: my mind racing throughout class with judgments toward myself and it takes a LOT to bring myself back into the present. It's an active practice to truly love my body unconditionally and experience each moment for what it IS, not what it isn't.
Beyond my own practice, these injuries have made me a more aware and sensitive teacher. Just because I see another person's body does not mean I know how it feels for him. Further, I've become more understanding of people's injuries and limitations and I practice offering even more simple variations so that yoga can feel accessible to every body. I've accepted that I can't fix everyone's pain, but that I can encourage them to love their bodies as they are.
I've witnessed the need to respect my body and practice loving it, even with limitations. It's so easy to feel anger/frustration/sadness when my muscles ache, my back is stiff, and I generally can't do the things my 20 year old self could. Every day I am faced with an opportunity to chose to Love my physical body, or to serve my ego instead - and it's no walk in the park! Through experience I now have more to offer my students who are struggling with the similar issues as I can empathize with them and their journey.
By kindly treating injuries like a wise sages, they offer wisdom only to those who slow down enough to listen.