Suffering. I’d finally had enough. A dropped foot in tow, I was confident that undergoing a second back surgery was the only option. Living with chronic pain is like living with another person, an imposter who tears away at the fabric of your being, slowly transforming you into someone you can’t quite recognize.
After, there was fear. The fear to move. The fear of pain, of the unknown. Would I ever be enough again? My spine, the root of my physical and energetic being had been surgically altered by a cold, lifeless tool; it was going to take more than my body healing for that to be ok. It was difficult to accept the ‘new’ me, with my limitations, and yet, unbeknownst to me at the time, I had also received a precious gift.
Injuries are great teachers. They force you to cultivate patience. The patience to bear a new situation and simply be in it, and letting emotions reveal themselves.
And so I waited – confident at times, pissed off at the snail pace of it all at other times; yet always remaining disciplined about the work that had to be done in order to begin to feel better mentally and physically. One day, I just noticed my back wasn’t my master anymore – it wasn’t the first thing I thought about waking up or going to sleep.
All I wanted to do was move again. I knew my favorite activities were off limits (when I tried martial arts again years later, it turned out I was right!) I decided to give Pilates a shot. I’m not sure why Pilates; I think I was just tired of swimming laps. My Pilates teacher gave me my life back by giving me movement back. And then, Yoga. Yoga helped me realize I am enough, whatever enough may be on a given day.
Eight years down this unforeseen road, Pilates and Yoga are as essential to me as brushing my teeth. While I always enjoy a strong Vinyasa class, I have found myself also gravitating to Therapeutic Yoga classes. Part of me still steps on the mat out of the fear of what will happen if I don’t keep up my practice. But, most of all my yoga practice simply helps me get through the day with a smile on my face.
While as a teacher and student I’ve long had a kinship with other individuals with injuries, I’ve been lucky to catch glimpses, if only fleeting, of what makes magic happen in a Therapeutic Yoga class. One hour a week, in a safe space held by the human generosity of our teacher, we all come together – broken pieces and all – strangers united by an unspoken bond, to bask in the bliss that is the gift of the breath, the ability to once again move and feel something other than pain. Hope.