Until recently, stretching the neck and shoulders just seemed like a pleasant aspect of yoga designed to reduce stiffness and tension where it tends to collect most.  After all, 90% of the body’s ‘stress receptors’ are located in this region of the upper back and neck.  But on the night of Friday January 7, 2011, I realized that the simple neck stretches, strengtheners and rolling on Yoga Tune Up® balls that were a regular part of my practice may very well have saved me from chronic injuries in this most fragile part of the body.

That night while driving home from book club in the slow lane on the freeway the rear right side of my car was struck hard by a drunk driver who was speeding towards an off-ramp.  The impact sent my car across four lanes into a head-on collision with the guardrail where it then spun, hit the guardrail again from behind, and was propelled back across the freeway where it came to a smoking stop next to the shoulder.  The driver’s side door didn’t budge, so I scrambled over the seat and out the passenger side, where I ran to safety on the embankment next to the freeway.

Incredibly, the author walked away from this crash with only minor injuries.

My forehead immediately swelled into a bubble where my head smacked the steering wheel when I was hit from behind.  I had major bumps on both the right and left sides of my skull from hitting the window on the left, and some unknown object on the right.  My face was puffing up like a boxer in a losing match – obscuring my vision.  But aside from various other bruises on my body, I was fine.  The paramedics arrived and were shocked that I had been the driver of the totaled car that lay smoking on the freeway.  They asked me several questions to see if I had a concussion, but I was completely lucid.  Then they asked if I wanted to go to the hospital. I tested out all my limbs, rolled my neck around several times, and declined (in retrospect, I probably should have had my head checked out to be safe, but at the time it didn’t seem necessary).

That Monday, three days after the accident, I went to the doctor who examined all my bruises and confirmed that they would heal on their own within a couple of weeks.  He marveled at the fact that I had no soft-tissue damage, no whiplash – none of the common pulls, strains, or tears to ligaments, tendons, and muscles that commonly occur when the body is thrown around so severely in a violent car accident.

As my body completely healed over the next few weeks, my relationship to my yoga practice shifted dramatically.  I realized that these simple, regular techniques we use to build strength and flexibility in the body not only make it more comfortable to inhabit as we age, but could also be preventing significant trauma caused by unpredictable events such as the accident.  The morning of the accident I had performed my regular neck stretches and strengtheners, along with rolling out my upper trapezius, supraspinatus, levator scapula, and other muscles of the upper back and neck on Yoga Tune Up balls.  I am in awe of the preventative power of these exercises, and inspired to continue to teach them in order to help protect my students from such unpredictable events.

Ultimately, the hardest part of my ‘recovery’ was trying to come to peace with the fact that this happened to me, and I had no control to prevent it. Then a couple months after the accident, I had the realization that I had retroactively already taken control.  Through my regular yoga practice I had been preparing my body for whatever life throws my way.  I had already done the work that turned what could have been a tragic accident into a truly empowering experience.  So the moral of my story is: keep stretching and keep rolling!  You never know what these simple acts of self-care could be preparing you for, or preventing.

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Jackie Wolff

Ariel, I had no idea! But this kind of goes to prove that you really are a superhero. This is such a powerful reminder that learning how to use our very own body to shield us from injury–whether it be tubular core to protect the low back or self massage of the head and neck to withstand trauma… I’m so glad this is part of my practice and stories like this inspire me to share it as a preventative measure to everyone.


Amazing story. It is so easy to get hung up on the immediate and tangible benefits of a movement or exercise program — and to get discouraged if these benefits don’t accrue quickly or dramatically enough. This is such a great reminder about the importance of playing the long game and putting self-care and resilience at the centre of what we do as movers and movement educators. Thank you!

Kate Colette

I’m reading through some older posts on this site, and yours really stands out as a great example of “be the student of what you teach”. I spend so much time teaching, and studying and preparing that my own self care often is the thing that gets skipped over on the lengthy “to do” list. Thank you for the extra reminder of the importance of re-prioritizing!

Juliana Attilio

Ariel, I am so glad that you were able to walk away from such a devastating crash. After experiencing and using the YTU balls for self care I too know the importance of regular care. Many people work hard on strengthening their muscles and neglect their mobility and suppleness. Injuries often happen “just lifting my purse from the backseat” or on the “last rep.” But this article shows how it’s the preventative and regular self-care that is so important to keep us ready for anything life brings!

Erin Hoien

Ariel, I remember when you called the morning after the accident. I remember how shocked I was to see you in the studio teaching your class 2 days later and yes, I remember the many conversations about how the ‘balls’ saved you from severe injury. It’s taken me a few years to fully ‘get it’. For me, rolling out the upper back, neck, jaw has given me relief from the migraines and stress headaches I’ve been plagued with for years. Here’s to you, my dear.


Ariel I am glad you are okay first and foremost. This story gave me chills. I know that yoga gives us the ability to downregulate ourselves in high anxiety situations if take the practice off the mat. YTU is the icing on the cake. The ability to take that tension out of our bodies with the balls (if we do it frequently) will most definitely help us in a situation like this. Thank you so much for sharing your story and reinforcing it!

Elaine Cheong

This story made my jaw drop in the best of ways and goes to show that yoga can improve your way of life more than just superficially. I remember going to grocery shop last year in Toronto when we had a snowstorm. Walking in the parking lot turned out to be like skating with no ice skates on. My mantra for walking to the grocery store was ground feet evenly in all four corners and engage core. I was certain that was what saved me from wiping out in the parking lot.

Marsha Marsha Marsha L.

Thank you for sharing your experience! It makes sense to me, that a loosened body would react in a way that yours did. It’s like “trying easy.” I get really tight areas of my body probably from overuse, and when it does come to that emergent time to use them, it triggers a charlie horse or a cramp in my muscle. =( I definitely want to cultivate a better practice of rolling out more often. I commit to changing my yoga practice to add a yoga tune up practice because of the benefits that I’ve heard and seen from others,… Read more »

Lisa Hebert

It’s been 10 years since my own debilitating car accident, and I can still completely empathize with your struggle to accept what has happened. Yoga eventually became the saving grace in my life, in terms of my mobility rehabilitation. But I still had/ have pockets of tension and scar tissue that have slowly been releasing since I introduced ball work almost 2 years ago. If only I knew about it 10 years ago!
Thanks for sharing your experience- sadly it’s an all too common one

Jill D

Wow, what a scary experience with an incredible outcome. Thank you for sharing – a wonderful reminder that consistent self care is so important. Often it is not a priority and gets put to the bottom of the list when life is busy or we wait until an injury is already sustained and then focus on caring for ourselves in order to recover. A regular practice of self care really is about preparing ourselves for what happens “out there”- and sometimes we need reminders of that – and this is an eye opening one for sure!

Cindy DeCoste

Thank you for sharing your story! Sounds like a very frightening accident. I’m glad to hear that you are okay and that your efforts to take good care of yourself really helped to keep you safe and to heal quickly. A real inspiring testimony of how important self-care is on a daily basis.


I was in an accident with a massive truck that was nowhere near the awfulness of yours–drunk drivers, what a nightmare, thank goodness you are OK–and I still have a little residual anxiety from it when around huge trucks. There’s so much to your story on so many levels. First thing that comes to me is “practice, with no expectation of results.” I can’t remember what yoga sutra this is, but man does it apply here. Thank you for sharing your story!

Nadjiba Medjaoui

Thank you for sharing this amazing story….it shows the important of self care and strengthening our bodies to prevent injuries and face the challenges of our lives!

Paula B

When I first heard you tell this story I got a knot in my stomach! Reading it here again I get (the same knot paired with) this incredible sense of gratitude for my yoga practice. You are absolutely right: the healthy tissue and body movement can save us from unexpected accidents…


Your story makes me remember to appreciate how lucky we are to live in our precious body. Grateful that you were able to overcome this experience and be my inspiring teacher!


Thanks for sharing this amazing story! Your ability to have a positive outlook in the face of challenging physical and emotional situation is inspiring…

Allison Shapiro

OMG Ariel! So glad you are here to tell this story and I have had the good fortune to read it. Keep on rolling on.

Marilyn gibson

Ariel; This is true testatment to the value of self care. We as a society have become not only complacent but truly neglectful of our beauiful temple that is our body. This story brings magniitute and need for basic self care to prevent catostrofic injuries that could forever change our lives which you prevented by taking the time to tune in and tune up your body.

MaryBeth Frosco

Ariel – This so reinforces the idea that taking care of ourselves must be our highest priority and not simply when we have time. I know as I am making my way back from about a year of “not having enough time”. It has become so clear to me how much our bodies respond to being taken care of and also how much they respond to neglect. Our bodies become an expression of time and experience (sometimes something so dramatic as your accident), and taking care of our bodies to prepare ourselves for the pasage of time and experiences will… Read more »


Hi Ariel – this is so awesome! but still sounds awful! I am sorry that that happened to you but LOVE how your body took care because you took care of it. Beautiful reciprocity. I live in the Berkshires, lots of ice, snow and WIND. I cannot count the times
Ive gone down black use (while walking – not driving!) and every time (so far) it is with “grace” or my bodies own integrity. I see this in my children too. How easeful and open and SMART their bodies are. very inspiring!

Jen Sherman

This blog post brought tears to my eyes, partially because I know several people who have been killed or damaged for life from car accidents, and as an aspiring yogi, there is nothing more beautiful than hearing about how yoga can save lives. I think after what I have recently learned about the fascia and the healing power of the yoga balls, I am now more then ever a firm believer that yoga can save lives, increase health and mobility! yay yoga!

Elizabeth W.

So grateful you walked away from this with little injury. So grateful that you are bringing your insight and passion and personal experience to the YTU community.

I was in a pretty serious car accident on my way to my first Teacher training ( literally a few freeway exits away from a 16-day intensive training.) The impact left me very sore and very tender emotionally but my yoga practice and the nurturing environment of the training helped me to heal quickly and without any lasting impact.

Andrea Borrero

Amazing story, Ariel. I had a very similar accident over ten years ago – I was already practicing yoga but not with the same focus and awareness that I am now. I’m not sure if it saved me from injury (I too walked away & didn’t got the hospital, but totaled a car that looks eerily like yours) but I do know that I ‘relaxed’ into the crash. Meaning, I acknowledge what was happening to myself, I understood immediately that I had no control over the outcome, and I simply let go. Perhaps a form of yoga in the end… Read more »


Wonderful story! I had a similar experience, albeit a bit more radical, and I unfortunately did incur some soft tissue damage. In my case I was vaulted from my motorcycle when a car/driver abruptly cut me off in the middle of the freeway. After “flying” about thirty or so feet, I rolled through the impact and came up standing. Once my brain caught up to the present moment, I did a similar internal scan. I knew I had pulled my right hamstring pretty severely and that my lumbar spine and sacrum had met the pavement hard, but found no signs… Read more »


Wow! I am glad you are okay. We are fortunate to have your skilled guidance in our training. Thanks for sharing this. Really puts the YTU ball practice into another light,


Wow — what a horrible, scary experience — I’m so glad this had a happy ending! Amazing. Just as during storms, trees with stiffer branches tend to break and fall, but the more pliable branches “go with the flow” so to speak, and weather the storm.


Wow, Ariel. Thanks for sharing this harrowing story. Your composure during this traumatic event is especially impressive, and I can’t help but assume that the self-care we do as Yoga Tune Up practitioners had something to do with it. Your body was prepared muscularly for the impact of the crash, as well as mentally for the sudden shock. You reacted with such composure, avoided panic, and responded quickly and logically. YTU breath work and body work armored you with just the right amount of strength, suppleness and collected courage to get yourself out alive. Of course, the fact that you… Read more »

brooke thomas

What an amazing story! And a great reminder of how this “tuning up” of our bodies gives us more support for both the known (walking, etc), and the unknown. It reminds me of a story one of my teachers told me about his own car accident, where he was in his car trapped between two other cars and with no where to go as he watched an enormous tractor trailer truck slide sideways on ice directly into him. His last thought before the impact was to be soft in his body, so that the impact could move through him instead… Read more »


Wow, what an amazing story Ariel. I already feel the benefits of rolling on the yoga tune up balls, and now to read your experience I am even more impressed with the therapeutic benefits of using them on a regular basis. The YTU practice is amazing, and you never know what life is going to throw your way.

Kristin Marvin

I wish I had known about YTU in May 2002 when I was hit by a car. I know that I still have scar tissue from the incident. I hope one day to get all the adhesions out and gain full range of motion. It’s tough when things happen to you because it’s so easy to get in the ‘poor me’ syndrome. I hope you are all recovered and feeling good. I am doing well… now just working on another injury from a fall… 🙂

Janet Berkowitz

Amazing story! How traumatic – you were able to walk away from your car on your own.
It is important to take care of our bodies, keeping them supple and strong so that they can react to situations!

Amanda Z

Wow! I have a co-worker that also walked away from a head on collision with minimal injuries beyond some bups & bruises. She has a regular practice and takes really good care of her body. She was able to return to teaching fitness within a week. I love to hear how yoga can aid in injury prevention in all different ways.

M Empson

That is truly an amazing experience that shows how yoga can be beneficial in ways that are unknown to us at the moment we are practicing. I was in a minor accident a month ago where we were in a taxi that rear-ended another car when it came to an abrupt stop. I quickly checked my neck and everything was fine. I didn’t think of it then, but it was probably the years of yoga that kept my body relaxed and fluid enough to absorb the impact without injury!

Jessica Cetrangelo

Very important information! Almost two years ago I was in a motorcycle accident. I flew about 10 feet from the bike, rolled and landed on my knees, elbows, forearms and face. I give a lot of credit to yoga for teaching my body and mind to relax in times of uncertainty, and saving me from serious injury.

Anita Vasan

I have heard this several times before! I am so amazed at the powers of yoga!


You have an amazing outlook on something that would have crippled many of us – not just physically but mentally as well. This definitely fuels the motivation to continue practicing yoga even when we feel that we have reached a plateau. The benefits could present themselves at any time. I am especially inspired by your perspective to focus on empowerment. It would have been easy to seek out sympathy and focus on the injustice. You have healed yourself inside and out!

Sherry Matwe

Incredible perspective yoga to prevent serious injury as life and accidents happen. Even the paramedics commenting on your ability to articulate and ‘bounce back’ Yes most of our practise is to prevent ageing, or to coinside with other activities. But just to be prepared for whatever life throws you that’s where the disiplin of practise pays off – as we practise we prepare oursefs for an experience that may have us dig deep and summons somthing deep inside ourselfs to be strong, flexible, focused, intelligent. Thank you!!