If I was writing to impress about the health benefits of yoga, should I admit when I am not at my best? Should I, as a yoga teacher and therapist live a blessed life without injury or pain?
Unfortunately in some ways, and a blessing in others…we are all human. I feel we often come to yoga because we are in some way broken. These cracks can be where the light and love sneak in, but they can also make life uncomfortable at times. My broken bits include..as my first consultant put it ‘the hips of a 90 year old woman’. I have so far avoided the ‘urgent’ total hip replacements I was informed were my only option. This I did with a personal practice, which focuses on creating space and strength. In recent years I have accepted it is however a when not an if and that my personal practice is vital for pain management and symptom improvement.
The last few years I have almost forgotten what it is like to live with the chronic pain. Then a couple of days ago I was sat chatting and moved my knee to feel a twang in my hip. Whatever moved has trapped a nerve enough to remind me of the discomfort of constant pain. I am not able to sit, or sleep easily or to get comfortable in any position. Annoyingly one of the most painful activities is driving so I have had to re jig my plans for the weekend. Standing or lying face down are my least painful positions…not really conducive to living a full life and especially not to having a physical yoga practice. A reminder that yoga is so much more than pretty pretzel shapes but is a way of living that teaches us to cope with change.
My reaction has been first the thankfulness for the last few years where I have been so relatively symptom free. We often forget to be grateful for a lack of pain. It is like a lot of things in life in that we only notice them when they are a problem! As with everything though, this is a useful lesson. Learning patience when it takes me 5 minutes to put shoes on or when I am unable to touch up my own toenail polish! Learning to make the most of being stuck in the house as I am unable to drive safely with a numb foot.
Daily I work with students who suffer chronic pain and have lives limited by physical restrictions. I try to help them cope with physical therapy and/or mindfulness and relaxation techniques for pain management. We explore different physical practices to see if we can lessen the pain and/ or improve quality of life. We look at ways to keep life feeling positive rather than restricted by the pain. As teachers we often need reminding of why we do what we do..and I am experiencing my reminder!
It is not easy to smile through pain; it is easier to huddle inwards into a self-protective ball with the only external communication being negative. Lack of sleep and physical comfort are not conducive to coping with the stress of chronic pain. For me a few days pain (for I tell myself that is all this will be) may be a necessary evil to make me a better person, a kinder teacher and to make my smile strong enough to emerge through the clouds of pain. Or at least I hope so; from previous experience most negative situations may be pooh at the time but build mental muscles to help us cope in life. Pain, physical, mental and emotional are lessons in improving who we are. So heres to knowing that today may hurt but it will help improve my tomorrows! Even if my toes are slightly chipped I am trying not to let my smile be.