|Madison hiking in beautiful Aspen.|
My motto is that "Pilates is not just an exercise regimen but a way of life". Nothing became more true on November 22, 2006, the day before Thanksgiving.
I was living and working in Aspen, CO. It was a beautiful morning and with the holiday had a light schedule at the studio. I was planning to go into town to teach and then come back and take my Golden Retriever, Madison, on a nice afternoon hike. Maddie tried several times to jump into the back of my Honda CRV and come to work with me. I kept rationalizing whether or not to let her come with me or leave her at home. Three separate times I pulled her out of the car, deciding (thankfully) to leave her at home. I packed up the car with laundry. Had my morning coffee in hand, NPR on the radio, and headed down the mountain around dawn.
It was a beautiful Colorado morning. And the road conditions were very clear. As I was making my way slowly down the mountain to the studio the sun was beginning to come up. I made my way down the windy roads and as I was coming down a section noticed that there was something forming a shadow ahead in my lane. As I proceeded closer I realized that someone had hit a deer in the middle of the night and left it in the road. I slowly looked into my rear and side view mirror and proceeded to veer to the right lane to avoid the carcass. I thought that I had cleared the animal, when all of a sudden I felt my car tip towards the right, lifting the driver side of my car off the pavement. Calmly I leaned my weight gently to the left, hoping to plant the car back down on the road safely. Unfortunately, what I did not realize was that the animal was a buck and it's antlers had popped my front, left tire as I was changing lanes. So, when I dropped the car down by leaning my weight there was no air in that tire. My car began to roll over and spin. It flipped three times. I know this as I counted "floor, sky" as the car flipped.
I was completely conscious and active as the car flipped and spun seemingly around me. Once I realized the car was flipping my Pilates immediately kicked in instinctively. I locked my arms out on the steering wheel with my hands at 3 and 9. Drawing my shoulder blades and pelvis into the seat. With those stabilized and the wheel locked out I drew into my center pulling my core and body into the seat and breathed. The car literally felt like it was moving around me. I was fully conscious. Thinking that "if this was my time to go I had no regrets, couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day or place to spend my last minutes, and hoping that my parents would take good care of Madison." Then the car came to a stop, upright. I took a deep breath. "Did I make it? Was I alive? Or was I having an out of body experience and was looking back on myself?" I took another deep breath, put the car in park, unbuckled my seat belt, and opened the door to step out.
Two onlookers on the other side of the road where running across the median at this point and stopped dead in their tracks when they saw me step out of the vehicle. I was shaky, but coherent enough to realize that my laundry, skivvies and all were strewn across the highway and immediately began gathering them up. The onlookers were now at my side telling me to sit down. It was at that moment that I saw my car for the first time. The front window and roof had separated, the side door was dented in, and the glass from all the back windows and hatch were completely blown out. I had not a scratch or cut on me! And miraculously NO INJURIES! And someone had to have been looking out for Madison as there is no way she would have survived that accident.
The principles of Pilates like centering, breathing, concentration, and stabilization kicked in when I needed them most. That feeling of being present and connected to my body and breath just took over immediately. It is because of these that I was able to stay calm and instinctively do what needed to happen to allow me to survive and be able to fully live my life to its best potential to do this day. Pilates is not just an exercise regimen, it was my way to life that day.
This was written as a guest blog for Pilates Body NYC.