2canez on ice

When I visit my doctor, he is often stunned yet not surprised by the kinds of physical activities I pull off with an L3 Spinal Cord Injury disability.

When I was in a wheelchair, and could hardly walk or do anything, I was relearning all the basic things we often take for granted like bathing, taking a dump and walking up and down the stairs.

Once I got to a point where I was comfortable doing all those things myself, I started practicing yoga again on my own mat at home. Still in crutches, I fell in love with Pigeon Pose and was increasingly more flexible. I wanted to face my fear and take class at Yoga to the People, where I was practicing for 9 years before my injury, but I was afraid of what the instructors and students would think of my new condition.

I asked a PT I was seeing at the time what his opinion was about me going back, but he wasn’t in favor of it. I ultimately decided not to take his advice and instead follow my intuition (I also stopped seeing him). Ever since the day I returned, I was taking class multiple times a week until I decided to do Teacher Training that summer and become a yoga instructor. I believe it’s so important that I followed my instinct instead of the reasoning of others. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I chose to ignore the little voices inside.

Since I wasn’t new to yoga, the experience of relearning it with my new body wasn’t completely foreign. I already knew the poses, I just needed to modify them. Today I make use of the wall and hold my shamanistic wooden stick under my armpit for balance in poses like Warrior I/II.

After Teacher Training, I started taking self-defence classes in Krav Maga, which utilizes martial arts techniques from the Israeli military. This was really foreign to me, since I’ve never taken any marital arts classes in my life except for a few Karate classes when I was a kid. Not only did I face the mental challenge of learning these techniques and memorising all the steps, but I had to figure out unique and clever ways to modify them for my unique body. I’m so lucky to have met the most amazing instructor, Mike who gave me very personalised attention in the beginning and helped me modify certain moves on the spot. He told me my sticks were the best weapons he has ever seen, and that I can use them to hit people in the groin. He has been one of many role models throughout this journey of recovery.

When I walk into new pilates, yoga or barre studios, I am confident I know what I’m doing after having the experience of being in several similar classes weekly with ClassPass. I no longer feel the need to prove myself to any instructor who may doubt my ability.

But ice skating was a whole other trip.

Initially, I didn’t want to do this alone. I wanted someone there for support. As badly as I wanted to do this, I wasn’t fully confident about it.

I tried finding a friend to go with, but a lot were unavailable and/or uncomfortable with the idea. I grew too impatient waiting for people to change their minds or free up their schedules, so I just did it alone, on my own time. I figure, just like going to the gym or going to work, you can’t expect people to go with you. Looking into my reflection of a train window, I told myself “If you want to go ice skating Hannah, just do it.”

Of course I chose the most crowded day of the year to experiment. I arrived in Bryant Park on a Sunday night a few days after the Christmas tree lighting ceremony on an hour-long line behind 500 ice skaters. I immediately felt that all the odds were against me. Not only was the rink extremely packed, but I wasn’t even sure how to skate with my condition or if I would find skates to fit my braces in. I also feared getting rejected by the staff.

As I waited on line, I felt all the stares of people wondering what the hell I was thinking. One girl asked what the sticks were for and I told her I use them for walking, climbing mountains and now ice skating. I showed her the metal contraptions I bought from Amazon that I screwed to the bottoms of my sticks to grip the tips into the ice. Normally people screw these contraptions to their canes to prevent slipping on the ice on the streets, but I was about to use them for ice skating. People eaves dropping on line looked very intrigued.

When my turn was up, I had already anticipated what to expect. I walked up to the window and casually requested a pair of adult skates. The girl looked at me and then looked down at my two sticks.

“Ma’am, there are no objects allowed in the rink. You will need to check those.”

Me: “I need these to skate.”

“You can’t skate without those?”

Me: “No, I use them to walk…”

“Do you have some type of medical condition?”

Me: “Yes but it hasn’t stopped me. I climb mountains, I do Krav Maga, yoga, etc…”

“Hold up– let me find the manager.”

A male worker returned to tell me that the manager declined my entrance. I told him this was discrimination and demanded to speak to her myself. He brought me to a corner to wait for her.

Twenty minutes later, she arrived. I explained to her that I use these sticks to go ice skating, and had to fake some confidence like I’ve done this several times before.

She said that she offers services for people with disabilities and insisted it was too crowded, that it would’ve been better for me to show up at an earlier time when there was less people. I told her I didn’t want her services, so she relented by offering to have someone wheel me around in a wheelchair. I politely declined her offer.

I couldn’t stand this lady and her closed-minded mentality. I finally had it.

“You know this is discrimination right? I’m prepared like everyone else. I have my sticks, ice grip tips and leg braces. I understand my body and what it needs.”

While I may have seemed really confident on the outside, I was silently shitting my pants. I had to fake it until I made it.

The manager gave in. “Okay, as long as you understand that we’re not liable for anything. Everything you’re doing is at your own risk.” I nodded my head and reassured her that just like everyone else, I was responsible for anything that could’ve happened to me.

After having that wasteful argument, the manager decided not to charge me for anything. Once she let me in, all the workers were very accommodating in helping me find the correct shoe size to fit my leg braces inside them.

After two hours of squeezing and shuffling my leg braces inside a women’s 9 (which was too small) and a women’s 10 (which was too big), I settled with a men’s 8. I finally had my skates on and was ready to slide around. I couldn’t believe how much time has passed and how exhausted I felt already, and I haven’t even approached the ice yet. It felt like the hard part was already done.

As I approached the rink, I saw so many people slipping and falling. I took a step forward and gripped onto the ice for dear life with my two hands grasping the sticks. I started dragging my feet forward without lifting them off the ground, using all the work of my upper body. It was so difficult. I couldn’t stop sweating.

Suddenly I fell on my ass and people were in shock, but I was okay. I got up and tried again. I was nervously steady and careful.

I practiced until I found a technique that worked for me. Opposite stick, opposite leg. 1, 2, 3, 4 (repeat). I became comfortable and made several slow rounds around the rink. I couldn’t believe how much of a workout I was getting in my hamstrings, hips, arms, abs and chest. I decided then and there to make “ice therapy” a new addition to my weekly workout regimen.

Today I returned to Bryant Park to practice again. I continued the same technique I picked up from last time. After making my way 3 or 4 times around, I became more comfortable with my surroundings. This was my jungle of ice. Once I gave up the fear of falling, I began gliding instead of “ice walking.” I fell on my butt a few times but got up, brushed myself off and continued what I was doing.

Falling is always deemed negatively by our society, but in order to succeed innovatively we must fall and get back up. If we don’t fall in life, we will continuously follow old habits and patterns that disable us from moving forward.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how or why I have such a high drive to push myself past my limits physically. If I was a natural couch potato who stayed home all day eating popcorn and watching Netflix, my recovery would’ve been a lot more grueling. I had to work really hard to get to where I am today, and I don’t think I would’ve had the motivation and determination if I hadn’t enjoyed the physically demanding labor this recovery requires.

This made me realize that I have other challenges in my life that I’ve been putting off. I tend to give up easily on things I don’t enjoy as much as exercising, such as reading difficult novels or keeping up with this recovery blog.

Sometimes fighting challenges includes fighting the ones that may not be the most enjoyable, but when we struggle we become better versions of ourselves.

1 year

It’s officially past my one year anniversary since I was an able-bodied, fully-functioning, fully-walking human being.

For whatever reason, the universe has chosen the oddest date of my accident. It happened on the first day of September, a month that has always prepared me for Fall and fresh beginnings. I was about to teach English in a brand new school year in Vietnam. Of all days in the calendar, it had to be 9/1, just one-less-one from 9/11.

I remembered the exact number of months that passed every 1st, like turning pages of a book. As the pages turned faster and faster, the reality of my situation further sank in and became the “new normal” to me, my family and friends.

I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about this one year that are difficult and too complex to sum up in one post. All these flash-backs of everything that happened chronologically, from falling 150 feet in the sky and being held hostage for hours by a major creep to then going into an MRI on gallons of morphine in a dream-like state before getting my entire back cut open in Thailand and then flying 24 hours home with a 3-foot tube coming my pee-hole (at least this was with Emirates), and stopping in Dubai to get my diaper changed, and being trapped in a crappy hospital for 2 months being served chicken every day when I’m vegan before finally moving back home all feels like it just happened yesterday, despite the long, jam-packed year my family and I had endured.

Throughout the year, I’ve experimented with my body in ways that would never have been recommended by anyone. I’ve driven a car with paralyzed feet instead of using handbreaks and have ridden a regular bike instead of the “special” ones they make for people with disabities. I’ve kept my physical restrictions at a low to avoid rejection from pilates classes and hiking excursions. I’ve worn leg warmers to hide my braces and have walked with sticks that look like combat weapons instead of crutches. I’ve been coddled by friends, family and aquaintances who have told me to be careful thousands of times this year (they have pretty much given up on me this point). I spent the year getting annoyed with strangers who run to hold doors for me and insist I take their seats on trains even when I feel like standing, despite them just trying to help.

I’ve learned not to blame people who don’t know my story or understand my goal, which is getting back on my feet as soon as possible with the bare minimum of help required. Most immediately assume I’m recovering from temporary leg injuries as their eyes gaze directly toward my leg braces, rather than understanding the complexities of a spinal cord injury (I previously didn’t). I’ve been told several times by cab drivers to “feel better” before leaving their vehicles. Imagine someone telling you to feel better every day of your life, as if you’re sick 24/7.

I’ve seen videos and read blogs of people who have defied the norm of what it means to be disabled, such as this girl born without legs surfing and skateboarding (Click Here to watch) and a guy swimming without arms and legs. Seeing them perform miraculous things with their bodies has inspired me to explore the magic in mine.

Yet having a spinal cord injury and not knowing if I will ever recover 100% has created a lot of uncertainty over the year. I’ve struggled deciding if I should work around the disability and cope like the other Youtube people or fight against whatever the doctors are saying or not saying, seeking to find answers to solve paralysis they’re not giving me by doing alternative therapies like acupuncture, cupping and reiki.

It’s been a whole year for me and I’ve only had two neurological breakthroughs. The first was on January 5th when I was sitting in the sauna and noticed both my ankles moving upward for the first time. Recently my right ankle regressed and stopped lifting as high, while my left one is now lifting 5x higher. “We’ll give you one ankle” my PT joked.

The second breakthrough happened on March 9th when I noticed that I was able to wiggle my left pinkie toe. This was such a big deal to me, because it took me 6 months to finally be able to move 1 out of 10 toes.

I don’t want to lose hope, but I probably caused some serious permanent damage for the rest of my life. That’s not to say that I won’t have future breakthroughs even in 10 years from now, but I can’t depend on them. I need to make the most out of what I have going on right now.

Despite the lack of nerve regeneration, I sense my body becoming stronger and more able every day that passes. My walking speed is getting more consistent with the paces of other people walking past me down the street or exiting a subway car. It used to take me over a minute to cross the street, but now I’m jaywalking again.

People ask me all the time “Do the doctors say you’re going to make a full recovery?” To answer this question, they don’t know and I don’t care. Whatever happens down the road, either way, my abilities will continue to flourish as I continue living my life to every extreme and challenge I come across.

The art of standing balance postures

Before doing teacher training at Yoga to the People, I’ve underestimated the benefits of Tadasana, or Mountain Pose. Typically after a forward-fold when the head hangs heavy and the legs are straight, you enter this pose by lifting your arms up and over your head, standing up tall, relaxing the shoulders but keeping your arms straight with your fingers spread wide apart, pinkies slightly tilted inward.

I never considered this pose to be physically rigorous or complex. I took it as means of easing students into their yoga by instructing them on doing something they are largely familiar with. We stand all the time, how hard could that be?

There is nothing strenuously difficult about standing in the work-out culture, unless you have a chronic injury or medical condition. The question is, how often do we stand with full awareness of our bodies from the inside out?

We use the same fundamental knowledge of this pose to master more complex ones. In a headstand, one must find stacking and alignment of various muscle groups to find balance in the posture. Imagine gravity pulling all of your body weight down from the very top, like a building crashing to very the bottom. You’re using your forearms, triceps, and shoulders to keep that chest lifted. Your chest is supporting your core, your core is supporting your tailbone, and everything leading up to the souls of your feet are keeping your legs straight up in the air. To sum it up, the weight is going more into your arms and less into your legs.

For me, this pose is more doable than a regular stance. Because my upper body is constantly doing a majority of the work to support my lower body when I walk daily using sticks, I am much more capable of standing up-side down than standing upright free-handedly. And when my arms and chest become even stronger, perhaps it will be easier for me to walk with my hands than with my feet.

In order to stand upright again, I must apply that same weight-bearing concept of head-standing to performing an upright stance.

In this video, I begin by finding my balance in a standing posture. Then I add the challenge of lifting my hands up and over my head. Now my lower body is bearing the weight of my upper body instead of the other way around. Since my calf muscles still lack complete mobility, I make use of my braces while standing to mimic some of the lost ankle function.

Right now, standing free-handedly with my arms up in Tadasana is like doing any difficult balancing posture I performed before my accident, like balancing on one foot.

Because my muscles aren’t all working synergistically as they used to, I have discovered harmonious alignment in the stacking of joints and muscle groups.

I feel everything sinking down towards the bottom. My hips are stacked over my knees over my ankles, and my lower and middle body is supporting my upper body up like a mountain. I cannot lift my arms up without falling until I have established a firm base of lower and middle body.

Notice how my lifted arms lose their solidity when my lower body unsettles. When I fall apart, it goes beyond the physical. It takes a very relaxed mental state for me to hold this posture.

Has anyone ever told you to stare at an object or shape that isn’t moving in a balancing posture? For me, I need to stare at a mark on the floor, or something that makes me feel really really relaxed, not a piece of mildew or green slime hanging from the wall. I cannot be distracted by loud TV or people shouting in the background. I need to fall into a daydream so that I forget I’m even standing. The fear of falling causes me to fall.

Once I’ve entered that deep state of mind and I’ve found balance in this posture, I can begin to find connection with my paralyzed body. Throughout my recovery, I’m learning that silence does not equal nonexistence. That just because your TV is on mute doesn’t mean that the show isn’t still playing. Part of my body is on mute but it’s still there. It deserves to be recognized.

As the weight of my upper body and quads sink into my ankles, I can sense the hollowness of my ankles causing my joints to wobble and shake. Yet surrounding that hollowness, there is some connection traveling down towards the bottoms of my feet. I can feel the outer ball and heal of my left foot and inner side of my right foot kissing the walls of my braces. Bearing weight onto my ankles rather than onto my sticks or a wall gives the silence of my lower body a voice. Mountain Pose, a deceivingly complex yet seemingly simple pose has allowed me to connect my mind with my silent body and unravel some of these body mysteries.

Me vs. the World

About a month after my accident, I was sitting in the gym of my in-patient rehab in Mount Sinai when an older man next to me in a wheel chair asked what happened. After I told him “I fell off a cliff,” his jaw nearly dropped to the ground.

As I began taking trips outside the hospital, the questions about my condition were becoming more and more inevitable. At the time, I didn’t mind telling people. I wanted the pity and grief of others while going through something so life-changing and traumatic.

I always got the “How” after giving that same I fell off a cliff response. I wanted to be raw and real, so I gave brutally honest answers: “A man was chasing after me” or “A man was trying to rape me…”

I started noticing all the awkwardness stirring up in conversations. People had no idea how to react, and I wasn’t getting the empathy I wanted. It felt more painful for them to process the facts than for me to tell them.

I was getting thousands of endearing messages on Facebook, meanwhile, this was a conversation nearly everyone wanted to avoid in person. While I appreciated reading all the thoughtful messages and prayers online, I personally think we are lacking in our verbal interactions due to the rise of social media and iPhone use.

So I began lying about my experience, pretending it was a car accident or that I fell while hiking. But it was uncomfortable for me to talk about scenarios that never existed.

I asked my psychologist of the hospital what she thought I should do in those situations. She said that telling people I fell off a cliff would stimulate their curiosity and increase their likelihood of asking follow-up questions, like “How? Were you hiking?” (I would always say “Umm…yeah sortof”). She said saying “I had a fall” is a lot more modest and safe.

It’s almost been a year since my accident, and I’m still being asked the same question every day as if I broke my back yesterday. A lot of people ask what happened to my legs without considering that I injured my spine. Some people assume I was born this way.

Every time someone brings it up, it’s like they’re asking me to relive the entire event all over again, while I’m making it my best interest to deviate from it. I don’t know why so many strangers and Uber drivers feel so entitled to know what happened. Sometimes I just give them all the gory details as revenge for even asking. My thoughts: *You really want to know? Well you got your answer.*

Other times, I tell people to just Google it. Or read my blog. If I feel very close and connected with someone, I’ll give them a brief summary of what happened, but it has to be the right time and place. For example, if I’m at a bar laughing with people I just met, I’m not going to tell them that I almost got murdered in Thailand.

I do think it’s important for people I see on an ongoing basis to hear my story and acknowledge what happened. Last week, I graduated from a 10-week teacher training at Yoga to the People with 33 other TT’s. I have flashbacks today of all the looks and stares back in Weekend 1 as I climbed up 4 flights of stairs. “You know there’s an elevator, right?” “Can we get you a chair to sit down?”

No one knew what to make of a physically disabled person training to become a yoga teacher. While the facade of my disability completely overshadowed my personality for the first couple of weeks, it slowly started to disintegrate as the other TT’s and teachers began getting to know my body and me as a person.

During Weekend 4, we all sat in a circle with one person at a time in the middle beginning the sentence with “One thing most people don’t know about me is…”

After hearing so many traumatic stories of others, it gave me the perspective that I’m not the only person experiencing a kind of suffering. It was the perfect opportunity for me to tell my story to the people I’m sharing my yoga journey with. I no longer had to give any explanation for the remaining 7 weeks. I felt so much more connected with those around me throughout the rest of the program.

Sometimes I tell people I fell off a cliff with a huge smile on my face and a little giggle. This always invites a little confused giggle back. Because sometimes you have to look at the shittiest situations with a little humor. How else are you going to get on with it?

I’ve come to accept that my injury has taken over my identity for a long period of time. If this is the way the world sees me, then I proudly take ownership of what happened and firmly grip my wooden sticks like a f**king survivor.

Perks of being “disabled”

I quote “disabled” because I don’t actually call myself disabled nor do I think of myself that way in any regard. I have the mind, spirit and fierceness of a runner and a fighter. I also have the fortune of doing a lot with myself despite the outcome of my prognosis. With some creativity, I do things in my own way. However, society doesn’t also see it this way, and in many ways this has served in my favor. Here is a list of reasons why the bogus label of my condition has positively impacted my life.

1. $2.75 cabs, free Ubers, and free Medicaid rides

Since last April, I’ve been using NYC’s paratransit service, Access-a-Ride. The driver picks me up and drops me off anywhere I’d like, as long as it’s in any of NYC’s five boroughs. It’s basically a cab for $2.75, the same price as a bus or subway. If I’m lucky, Access-a-Ride sometimes pays for an Uber to drive me around. This all means no more paying for expensive Ubers and taxis (for now). The feeling of being driven to Brooklyn or Manhattan from miles away in Queens for so cheap or free has never been so conveniently liberating.

Of course, there are always drawbacks. It’s always a hit or miss. There are times when Access-a-ride will pay for some fancy limo to drive me home directly to my destination. OR they will pick me up in a freezing cold van and pick up or drop off other people while I’m shivering for hours. Sometimes I sit in the van for over two hours. Also, there are times the driver comes late, putting me at risk of missing an appointment. And I’m required to schedule all my trips at least 24 hours in advance. That being said, this service only works for me when there’s a consistency in my schedule, such as going to work. When things come up last second, I take the train. Taking the train is always a good excuse to stay active and energetic.

Speaking of work, Acess-a-Ride has allowed me to work in a cool part of Brooklyn 30 hours a week for the past three months. Had I not been disabled, working there would have never been an option. Although I’m still capable of taking the train, the commute for even a non-disabled person would be well over 2 hours from where I live.

I also take a luxury taxi service to physical therapy two to three times a week. Medicaid pays for a fancy black car with cushiony seats to drive me to and from my destination. Although this service is only used for medical purposes, they have been able to drive me directly to my job in Brooklyn from therapy in Long Island.


2. Front row seats to shows

Last February, I decided to see one of my favorite comedians, Trevor Noah live. Tickets are free, but there is no guarantee of admission. My friend Racky and I arrived 3 hours prior to the show, waiting on line in the freezing cold February weather. When the guard saw me standing out there in crutches, he allowed me and Racky to cut the line and walk in with VIP. Not only that, but he led us to the first row. The stage was only an inch away from us. We saw Trevor Noah’s sweat and everything. After waving his goodbyes to the audience after the show, he locked eyes with both of us. Our hearts were exploding.

3. First Class Emirates and skipping airplane lines

Oh yes, talk about luxury in the skies. After being discharged from the hospital in Thailand, I got to skip every security line while being wheeled by the Thai police on my way to flying First Class with Emirates. What an experience. Throughout the entire 24-hour flight, I was served endless glasses of champagne, wine and Arabic coffee from a genie’s lantern. My chair reclined all the way back into a bed and I was able to close the door and raise the walls so that I had my own private room. However, I didn’t want to close myself off for too long; otherwise I would’ve misses out on all the 5 star meals and vegan deserts served throughout the whole trip. I was even given a free Bulgari bag.

I will probably never have this experience again unless I marry an old rich guy. But I still get way better service when I travel in general. When I’m boarding an airplane, the handicapped are always treated as first priority. Never in my life have I entered a completely empty plane. It’s not like I get to choose my own seat or anything, but it’s always a nice feeling to not be pushed and squeezed by other passengers when boarding a plane.


4. Blinged-out crutches and canes

When else in my life have I had a perfect excuse to walk around in LED lights? Clearly these walking devices serve more than just getting me aroud. They are part of my fashion. They bring out personality and unique characteristics.

I get to shine my lights that change colors when I head out to clubs. I’m like a human disco ball.

Lately I’ve been walking around with these two wooden engraved sticks that I got in a Walmart-type store in the Berkshires, MA for only $4 each. But people don’t need to know that. I can just pretend that they were gifts from the Shamanic Spirits.



5. Discounted train tix and disabled parking

Okay I don’t actually use this, apparently I need some type of card for it to prove that I’m disabled (because the visuals of my impairments are clearly not enough), but definitely something I want to consider.

6. Medical Marijuana

I haven’t tried this either because I’m so used to the stuff on the streets, but I do qualify for it in New York. Something to keep in mind.

Tread-mill therapy

Before my spinal cord injury, I was an avid runner. I started off as an athlete on my HS track team, and later participated in a few 10ks and a half marathon. Despite the physical damage my body has endured, I still consider myself a runner.

Among the many gratifying experiences of a runner, I sill get that “runner’s high.” When I’m moving in such a fast-paced motion, all the bullshit clears from my head. Like in meditation, my mind is stiller, less wandering.

I bring the focus to the breath while staring at an alphabet letter on the wall that doesn’t move to maintain my balance and center of gravity. Keeping that focus, I follow the rhythm of fast beats in the Spanish reggaeton music blasting through my headphones.

As a runner, I never enjoyed being on a tread-mill. I always wanted to move through an outdoor space. I despised the feeling of being locked in the same position for so many minutes.

Little did I know that I would spend so much time on this machine throughout my recovery. Maybe it hasn’t taken me on an exciting journey through the Amazon, but it’s taken me further than I ever expected in my transformation.

While serving as a great visual indicator to track my progress, it has helped me develop my locomotive abilities. When I first started using this machine in November, I needed a therapist or aide on each side of my body to manually move my legs with their hands. See the video below (excuse the mask, it was flu season).

December 1, 2016

As you can see from the video, I had very little control of the positioning of my feet. They were all over the place. If someone let go of one, it would fly off the tread-mill.

I also lacked upper body strength. Notice how my trunk is falling forward. Keep in mind that the machine can be adjusted to lift my torso higher so that I’m standing taller. However, this would require less use of muscles to keep my body upright independently.

Over several months, I’ve found more independence on this machine. First, I began moving my legs without the assistance of a therapist or aide. I only needed someone to stand behind me and clasp onto the harness from the backside to control the hips from swinging right to left.

Nowadays, I’m doing most of the work myself. Since I gained a lot more control of my quad and hip musles, my aide, Glorian no longer clasps onto the back of my harness. She stands behind to catch me in case I trip or lose my rhythm, but that’s been happening a lot more rarely. According to the video below and my current status, the only supporters keeping me lifted are me and the harness.


I still have a long long road ahead of me, but I take pride in this milestone. It’s encouraged many of the other patients at my PT and myself to just keep going. As I said earlier, the tread-mill serves as an indicator of my progress but may not necessarily be the main reason for my improvement. I believe it’s helped with a combination of all the other exercises and therapies I’ve been doing, which I’ll talk about in later posts. 🙂

Weekend highlights

Last weekend was truly epic. Since it was my only weekend off from yoga TT, I wanted to make the most of it. Here is a dose of highlights and spontaneous moments to share a few~

Friday night, I posed for Astoria Drink n’ Draw at Q.E.D. where artists come in with their sketch books, pens and colors to draw the model for 3 hours. The event began with 30 second to 5 minute poses and ended with a 30 minute pose. I wore a black one-piece, a neon green skirt and my customized black, white and metallic Nikes. I posed in the shoes, then posed taking them off and holding them up by the laces. I later did more dynamic poses, holding an ankle bind for 10 minutes and Pigeon Pose (Google it if you don’t know) for 20 minutes. You can check out the beautiful drawings of me on Instagram under #astoriadrinkndraw.

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Syed’s drawing
Lit up crutches from the 4/7 Drink n’ Draw
On Saturday afternoon, I went with five friends to Long Beach, Long Island. There was a massive art fair on the boardwalk selling all this hand-made jewelry and tie-die clothing. My friend Racky and I couldn’t control our spending. We got these matching Chakra necklaces with all 7 colors on them.

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Walking back and forth along the 2 mile boardwalk made me very fatigued. I envisioned a lazy beach day, but perhaps this was a good substitute for all the walking I would’ve done on my own time. For me, walking such a long distance is really like going for a run, except now I exert way more energy to walk than I ever did when I was able to run.


We all rented bikes to ride along the boardwalk. The last and only time I rode a bike since my accident was back in March, but I was with my parents and in a secure environment. This time, I was in a crowded place and had to rely on my friends to help me start and stop the bike. I was pretty nervous. I tried to stay as close to the railing as possible in case I needed to stop.

Racky’s brother, Jomel held onto both ends of the bike before I took off. When I was stable, he let me go. I peddled my feet, wearing my leg braces to keep them locked into position of the peddles.

I freaked out every time there was something in my way. A person, a biker, a police car, a lamppost. When bikers rode in my direction, I rang the bell several times in panic. Part of me wished I had a sign up that read “I’m disabled!” because people literally had no idea. It’s obvious when I’m walking down the street, but not when I’m on a bike. This is maybe the one time I wished I was treated like a porcelain doll. People were in my way, obliviously, and I feared that slowing down for them would bring me to the ground since I’m not yet capable of coming to a complete stop.

​I just breathed until all my anxiety flushed away. Riding under the tranquil sky and along the beach waves brought me to a state of zen. It felt so liberating to be on a bike again. Somehow, I got isolated from all my friends and went off for least 20 minutes by myself without stopping. On my first attempt to stop and call my friends, I placed my feet on the ground, but immediately lost balance and fell over to the left with my bike. About 10 people rushed over to help me in the blink of an eye. Luckily I felt fine and tried to just get up like nothing happened.​

My friends and I waited until 6pm to enter the beach because we were too frugal to pay the $15. It really was the perfect time to go. The crowds were gone and the sky breathtakingly changed from orange to pink to purple. I crawled like a dog to the shore where I found Racky standing and we slowly inched our way into the ocean. Standing and shivering together was more torturous and frightening each time we got closer to the waves. They looked so huge from a distance and the water was absolutely freezing. Once it was right below our waists, we were quivering as the break of waves kept crashing into us. I had to do my Warrior Ones to keep my body up from collapsing. Finally, we got closer, dunked our heads and rode our first wave. Right when we felt safe, a worker saw us from afar and kicked us out. “Closed!” he said. I got out of the ocean, looking all crippled, walking lopsidedly over the pebbled rocks.

We dried up and hung out in the sand as the sky grew darker. I practiced some yoga. I’ve never successfully done a handstand without the wall, even before my accident, so I gave it a shot in the sand. It was the perfect chance to practice while the ground was soft.

You learn something new every day. I can’t stand normally, but I can stand on my head.

The next day, I went hiking with my dad at the Kaaterskill Falls in Upstate New York, about a 2.5 hour drive from my house in Queens. We got there around 2pm and spent 4 hours venturing out in the wilderness.

The hike was very steep and rocky. I walked up with my wooden cane on the right side, using my dad’s forearm/hand to get up with my left side. I was sweating and breathing heavily the entire way up. At one point, we entered a never-ending staircase. My quads were on fire.


On the way up, we stopped at a waterfall that had a natural pool people were swimming in. I took off my clothes and went in with my bathing suit. The water was FREEZING. I put my ankle in, and then my butt and the lady next to me thought I was crazy. Since I barely have feeling in those areas, I was able to handle the temperature until I sunk the rest of my body in.



We hiked up to the very top of the mountain to see the viewpoint of the waterfall. Nowadays I can’t stop staring at cliffs. This one was 170 feet high. It’s hard to believe that I fell close to this distance.


Throughout the hike, I was getting many compliments from strangers, but this one resonated with me the most. A 40-year old man approached us from up the trail and shook our hands, looked at me and said “Excuse me. My name is Moose. I saw you hiking and you’re an inspiration.” And with tears actually coming out of his eyes, he said “I just sit on my lazy ass and here you are hiking here every day [it was only our first time].” My dad and I smiled and thanked him, and shook this man’s hand again who was so full of emotion.


I was so sore later that evening in my shoulders, triceps, quads, hamstrings and hips. From hiking to the point of total exhaustion, I had no desire to move any part of my body. I was pooped.

We had a nice vegan meal in Woodstock and got home from our long journey after 11pm. It was a rough PT in the AM.