So I had this little fall, one false move, on the stubborn ice of late winter. It began a journey of injury, surgery, and rehab. A small injury by many standards, but a torn rotator cuff causes an impressive amount of trouble.

At first, I continued yoga at half mast. Three months later, post surgery, I ran around town in a massive sling. Six weeks later, off with the sling, but then my right arm didn’t work from being immobilized for so long.

Enter physical therapy, three days a week. Joe, my awesome therapist, made a little speech at our first session, assuring me he knew what he was doing. I’m glad he told me this, because there were many times I thought he was trying to break my arm.

Through this experience, I’ve learned a few things.

In yoga, your instructor reminds you to stretch to your edge but back off at the first sense of pain. I applied this practice to my home rehab work. After six weeks, my surgeon registered his disappointment in my progress by gently grabbing my arm and demonstrating how it should feel when I work. I learned quickly that therapy doesn’t involve a gentle yogic stretch. It’s not even old school “feel the burn”. It is dig in and push yourself right past the barrier you thought existed.

I’ve also learned that my sense of empathy is heightened, always a good thing. I understand that my experience, as challenging as I find it, is minor compared to what so many people face.

I’ve long had a reverential appreciation for what our bodies can do, and now that mine is floundering, I feel that I owe it everything I’ve got to recover.

My sense of self discipline is getting a nice workout in itself as I keep up the therapy routines at home.

To that end… I’m not much of a TV watcher. But suddenly, every time I walked through the living room there were zombies staggering around on the screen. Never having seen such a thing, I sat down and while I watched, I cranked my arm and hardly noticed the pain. I learned that it’s OK to binge watch episodes of The Walking Dead. It can be therapeutic to work on my routine while watching silly horror TV, summer evening after summer evening, with my teenage son.

A friend recently invited me to a Yin class, my first yoga class in months. Yin is a perfect re-entry into yoga, because it is quiet, open, focused, and can be modified for anyone. I’m thrilled that I can move into Yin and eventually back to all that yoga has to offer.

As much as I have missed restful nights, a strong right arm, and my favorite summer sports of bicycling and kayaking, I’ve re-learned an important truth… that pain and challenge opens the mind to a greater appreciation of all we have.