Yoga: Her Lifesaving Practice of Faith

On a recent retreat at Well Being Retreat Center, I met an inspiring lady that survived an accident with an enduring, hopeful attitude that spreads healing to her yoga practice today.

I would like to introduce Debbie Phelan.

This is her story.

My deep passionate connection with yoga gave me the strength: physically, emotionally, and mindfulness, guiding me to heal.

On a nice spring day in May of 2016, Debbie Phelan, her husband and grandson were in their garage attic, exploring and cleaning, when she leaned over to grab a box of ornaments, when Debbie slid off the plywood, plunging her 10 feet onto the concrete floor, and landing sitting upright on the sheet rock. The vertebrae, L2 to T12 was crushed and breaking her foot. The amazing thing is if she had fallen on her head, Debbie could have broken her neck.

It was the best way to fall. I feel blessed I fell in such a way.

Debbie began her yoga journey in 1998. As she reflects today, this Hindu spiritual discipline prepared her for this horrific accident, helping her to survive and finding her purpose.

God led me to yoga.

Yoga was drawn to her, she never did any exercise or movement. What she realized about yoga was there was more to learn. Teaching, working on a career, YMCA part time, she loved it.

Onto the hospital, surgeons put a permanent rod in her back and had 2 surgeries on her foot.

First thing I wanted to know is, ‘when am I ready to go back to yoga?’

Doctors said ‘one year before you walk and never do yoga again’ and then something clicked inside me.

The doctor was wrong.

…“My past experience with yoga, tapped something deep inside of me. Strength to know I was going to walk again, teach yoga again. Then came deep inside of me, a peace, then arose determination that everyone will be ok.”

“8 days later, during the 3rd shift, a young nurse, sensing something was wrong, kept asking me, ‘Are you feeling ok?’, I was nauseated. She continued doing blood work. Then it became life threatening.”

“As a result of my foot injury, I developed a blood clot in my heart. Took another cat scan. At 3:00 am, I was advised to call in my family. That put me in intensive care.”

“Open heart surgery. Only a 1 in 4 chance of surviving the surgery. Zero chance without surgery.”

“Best that I can remember, people prayed for me. I have Christian faith.”

“That morning as family gathered, came this complete peacefulness. Nothing I can describe.”

“Knowing that whatever will happen, it was ok.”

“God telling me, showing me, whether or not I survived, I was going to be ok.”

“All of the family, everyone will be ok. I was. They were. Hard to put into words.”

“The healing process started in the hospital for 6 weeks then rehab center for 5 more weeks where I learned how to walk, feed myself and adjust to a wheelchair.”

“I never quit doing yoga. Before I could get out of bed, I would visualize a yoga practice in my mind and then started doing movements as my body began to move.”

“In September 2016, I experienced PTSD. It was then I decided to go back to work. The wheelchair worked sitting at my desk.”

“I soon graduated from using my wheelchair to a walker then a cane and started to move around holding on to objects.”

“I taught my first yoga class after the accident in January 2017…”

I was intrigued. I wanted to know more. What did you learn about yourself?

“I came away knowing I had a purpose in life but I had to experience it before I can really share it.”

“My purpose is to share my passion for yoga to help and heal others.”

“But until I seen it happen in my life, how it helped me to heal, not the doctors, I had to experience it before I can really share it. I was off morphine after surgery. I didn’t take anymore medication.”

When we started our conversation, Debbie Phelan exclaimed, ‘I have spent 60 years searching for what I am suppose to do with my life.’ An unfortunate accident and sincere determination helped her to find it.

I heard immense hope and faith. I was taken back how she matter-of-factly explained what happened and I wanted to know more, how and why it didn’t become a continuing life story of tragedy.

I listened to her story and understood how yoga and faith healed her. She trusted. Whatever the outcome would be, she would be ok.

God telling me, showing me whether or not I survive, I was going to be ok.

A story of how someone overcome a tragedy, turned it around with faith and trusted the process. Debbie inspired me to believe that anything is possible and determination to keep moving forward.

Debbie Phelan, a member of Yoga Alliance and certified Curvy Yoga teacher, started teaching January 1999 and continues her lifelong desire to heal people by teaching yoga at Advance Physiotherapy, teaching classes at the YMCA, Blue Ridge Yoga and classes at Focus Therapy for eating disorders. She also leads retreats for chronic pain treatment.

“We are here to experience this. Everything that life has to give. It is the whole package, we are here to experience all of this. It’s not about the past but moving forward.”