I have been an athlete my whole life and had been practicing yoga on Long Island for eight years.   I have two children, now 19 and 24, and yoga really helped to bring my figure back. My husband certainly appreciated how yoga made me look and feel.

At forty-six, feeling stronger than ever, I fell out of a headstand and broke the mirror in my Vinyasa yoga class.   I was in my usual class, which I have been taking for at least four years, and practicing three or four times per week.   I was in the front row where all the “experienced” yogis practiced, in a headstand when I lost my balance and fell out of the pose into the mirror.   The whole thing shattered, and glass rained down on me and my mat.   I immediately sat up, covered in glass and saw 25 pairs of eyes on me. I was helped out of the room by one of the owners.   I cleaned myself off, and thankfully had no cuts. Though I wanted to run crying from the studio, I forced myself to go back in and finish the class.

I wanted to believe that these people, many of whom I had been practicing with for years, would comfort and support me.   I approached the owner who helped me from the room after class ended. She was always very pleasant. She was tall, slender, and always had a smile and a kind word upon entering the studio.   I asked her after class, “Could I pay for the damage? ” She smiled and said, “It is not necessary, we have insurance for that. The only thing that matters is that you aren’t hurt. ” I thanked her for her kindness and apologized.   The other owner, who attended the class, gave me the cold shoulder. She was known to be a bit unfriendly and taciturn, but I tried many times to chat and make small talk since I enjoyed practicing in her studio. This incident was not going to show a softer side to her, and I began to feel like I didn’t belong there.

I continued to attend classes regularly which were now preceded by announcements that no inversions should be done near the mirror, or in the first row at all. I sure wished that was a rule in class before my incident.   Every time an instructor said this, a few people would look my way.   I kept going even when I wanted to crawl underneath my mat instead of practicing.

Many of my fellow yogis did support me and asked if I was okay for weeks after the incident, others stopped speaking to me as if I might spread some bad karma to them.   Long after the glass was cleaned up there were people who still avoided me.

Yoga teaches us to breathe through the difficult moments.   I heard this in my classes over the years, read it in yoga books, and was trying to be mindful in my daily life but I had no idea that I was practicing what I learned until this moment.   I breathed through the humiliation and fought the urge to run away from the pain I was feeling.   I was better for having gone through it.   I learned that I was a stronger yogi than I thought, I wasn’t just going through the motions but practicing true yoga.

I have had difficult moments since, including a move to Astoria, Queens, my son going off to college, and a breast cancer scare this year at age 50. Now, I face them with the knowledge that I can get through it. I now practice at two different studios in Astoria and have found some wonderful friends and yoga instructors. The atmosphere is very different, and the people more diverse, and friendly.

I no longer practice in the front row, as this experience has humbled me, and made me grateful to practice further away from the mirror. I don’t even use the mirror in the room as much as I used to and feel my practice has improved since moving back.   I can now focus more on how my body feels rather than how it looks.