by Lesley T. Hoey, D.P.T., C.Y.T.

“One day I realized it was time to give up my identity as someone “with a bad back”, and that, in fact, I had achieved a “better-than-ever” recovery from the motorcycle accident.”

“Your body is the harp of your soul. It is yours to bring forth sweet music from it or confused sounds. — Khalil Gibran

Little did I suspect a joy ride with my boyfriend on his motorcycle would teach me so much about myself and, ultimately, lead me to my life’s passion and purpose of coaching others about how they can feel better too.

On a beautiful Friday evening of Labor Day weekend in 1987 we were cruising slowly through the Old Port in Portland, Maine taking in the nightlife. As we approached an intersection, I saw the car to our right slowly creeping through the stop sign to check for oncoming traffic. The last thing I remember as I felt myself tipping backwards off the bike was thinking, “I can’t believe I’m not flying through the air.” As motorcycle accidents go, it could have been far worse.

At the time of the accident I was in my mid 20s, a dancer, healthy, fit, athletic. My body could pretty much do whatever I asked of it.

Lesley Hoey as a young dancer
Lesley Hoey as a young woman

After the accident, living with constant pain changed my personality and the way I lived. Working and accomplishing routine daily tasks was hampered by pain, weakness, and stiffness. Lying down didn’t bring relief—only a change in the way I hurt.

I felt so debilitated. It was frustrating and demoralizing. I had no idea how to find relief.

My personal injury lawyer steered me toward conventional medical treatment rather than the alternative practitioners I wanted to see. Back then complementary medicine was not as mainstream and appreciated as it is today.

I saw two doctors for quite a while without much improvement. Eventually, each told me there was nothing else they could do for me. “You can expect to have degenerative arthritis of the spine around age 40.” My immediate response inside my head was, “Bullshit!”

In that moment, hearing the conviction of my inner voice, I knew I could get better.

Eventually I heard about a manual bodyworker, Charles. He helped me begin to understand and accept the sensations I labeled as “pain” were generated by accumulated tension and congestion stored in my body.

I was also beginning to understand that how I felt emotionally played as big a part in feeling pain, perhaps even more than my injured soft tissue. I had an epiphany when I realized that rather than betraying me, my body was valiantly trying to keep up with the demands I was placing on it. I distinctly remember the physical feeling of elation accompanying that breakthrough.

Accepting that I might have to live with pain for the rest of my life, oddly enough, helped me to let go of focusing on my pain so intently.

I decided that any small bit of progress I made was cause for celebration. This proved to be an effective strategy to promote healing. I started making different choices and got different, more satisfying results. I was starting to figure out—and appreciate—that healing took courage, grit, fortitude and bold choices.

One day, while hanging out with friends one of them raved about her yoga teacher, Elaine McGillicuddy, who founded Portland Yoga Studio (PYS) in Portland, Maine along with her husband, Francis.

My first class with Elaine at PYS blew my mind. Despite my previous yoga experiences, extensive dance training, and a degree in Health Fitness, no teacher had ever asked me to notice how I used my body to accomplish any given task.