Thursday, March 13, 2014

On Healing and Making Peace with Pain

Recently I've experienced sciatica— deep, intense pain in my right hip, low back and glute that sometimes radiates down my leg. I believe it's the result of tweaking my back while lifting a box a while ago and not taking the time to let the injury heal.

For about a week, the pain was debilitating. I had to take time off of work. I stopped doing yoga altogether. I had trouble doing everyday tasks: getting in and out of the car, bending down to pick things up off the floor, carrying grocery bags up the stairs to my apartment.

This immediate change of pace rocked my world: all of a sudden, I wasn't able to keep the pace or do all of the activities that I generally enjoy doing. My busy schedule slowed way down.

I felt frustrated and angry. I felt resentful that I couldn't get on my mat. I felt my body get stiff, sluggish, uncomfortable.

Fortunately, I was able to lean on my family, friends and yoga community for support. I began to feel relief after seeing the chiropractor, taking rest, getting massage and reiki, moving consciously and carefully, and listening to my body. 

I'm slowly re-integrating my yoga asana practice. I'm experiencing yoga in a whole new way: instead of primarily having vigorous, sweaty vinyasa practices, I'll flow slowly through the poses. I'm on my mat at home more than at the studio. I am setting the intention to build a yin practice, to do more meditation and breathwork.

I’m grateful that I am able to teach. On some days, leading students through an asana practice is my primary way of experiencing the poses – not in my own body, but by connecting and watching how energy flows in a posture when I step back and witness it. Ironically, this injury has encouraged me to be a stronger teacher – to step off of my mat more, to really engage with students, and to give better cues and assists.

Sometimes I’ll intentionally take a day or two where I don’t practice at all, and I’m learning to be gentle with myself about how much I ‘should’ or ‘should not’ practice.

There is no such thing as a perfect yogi. I am not a better yogi because I can move in and out of challenging postures. I do not stop being a yogi simply because I’m spending less time on my mat. Asana is one limb, and I am learning to explore all eight.

I am realizing, again and again: this is my yoga. To be patient, to be gentle, to be kind to my body. To listen when the Universe is reminding me to slow down. To be grateful for my health, and for all of the days that are pain-free.

PS Have you ever dealt with sciatica? What has helped you find relief? Also, here's an old post on practicing with pain and one with the top 10 yoga postures for chronic pain

PPS There can be wisdom in suffering. It's amazing how I've grown strong through my struggles...

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