As a chronic pain warrior, Yoga has literally been my lifeboat over the last 4.5 years. People often ask me how long I have been doing Yoga. It is a common misconception that the number of years one has been practicing determines how “advanced”, or far worse, how “good” one is. And then some are pretty open; they ask me if I can do handstands. My answer is no and that is not my goal. This sort of attitude towards Yoga is very able-ist and excludes those like me who live with life-limiting conditions. To me, Yoga is as much about what happens off the mat as what happens on it. And sometimes, as in my case, the leaps one makes are more off the mat than on it.
I live with chronic pain. This means my body will not do what it is supposed to, what I want it to, what I beg it to. With pain comes great fatigue and unpredictability. I never know what kind of day I am going to have. At one point, I wanted to die even, so that the pain would end. I hated my body. It wouldn’t move. I put on weight. I had more pain. On a scale of 10, my normal was a 6 / 10 constantly. A lot of days, it would be 8 / 10. I developed anxiety and low self esteem.
However, things began shifting when I started practicing Yoga. I learned to accept each day for what it was, along with the state of my body. It helped. I learned to modify my practice to suit my mental and physical self each day. It made me more cognizant of my personal needs. For the last few months I have been an Energy Exchange volunteer at the Poweryoga Canada Etobicoke studio in the West End of Toronto. (You can read that post HERE.) Today, I was reminded of how much I have benefited from practicing in the last few years. I was at the Yoga studio and my friend said to me:
Friend: You look very fit and happy.
Me: Yes, I know! Thank you.
This brief conversation felt like a celebration to me. To mark this momentous occasion, I decided to take a picture in one of my favourite poses, Svarga Dvijasana, or Bird of Paradise. This has been a challenging pose for me for several years. Having chronic neck, back, hip and shoulder issues made it hard to bind myself from Utthita Parsvakonasana or Side Angle into Baddha Utthita Parsvakonasana or Full Bind. And then of course to stand up proud and straight and stay there is a whole other ball game. But consistent practice and meditation have helped my pain and flexibility extensively. And I am now, every once so often, able to get myself into Baddha Utthita Parsvakonasana and even Svarga Dvijasana.
So for my celebratory pose, I thought, why don’t I get into something I am working on! This was before class and I wasn’t warmed up at all and it was tricky to get my shoulders to comply. However, I did it for a split second and then I fell out. My friend did such a beautiful job of capturing the transition to standing tall to losing my balance. I know the pose isn’t perfect. And I don’t care. I would have never posted these pictures even last year because it wasn’t perfect and that you could see my tummy rolls, LOL. But I have learned so much about myself from just looking at those pictures. And I learned a lot about life just from falling out of the pose as well.
- Falling is not failure.
- Falling means I pushed myself to the limit.
- Falling taught me that there is still a lot to learn.
- Falling reminded me to not take myself so seriously.
- Falling safely is important.
- Falling can make me stronger.
- Falling is the mortal enemy of complacency.
- Falling is inevitable and part of the process.
- Falling and rising are both momentary.
- Falling has no value till I attach something to it.
I can’t stop looking at these pictures. I can’t believe I am the person in this photo. She looks so happy and strong and beautiful and free.
11. Falling is not limiting. The fear of falling is.
12. Falling set me free. I am free.
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