One of the great truths about life is: There is going to be some pain and suffering. There is going to be some joy and happiness.
Skilful living is being able to navigate between those two polarities of the human experience with ever increasing acceptance, and ever decreasing drama.
When we find ourselves in the “pain and suffering” spectrum, we long to feel joy and happiness again. Generally, we are willing to do what it takes to get back there. But when we are in the “joy and happiness” end of the spectrum, we never yearn for pain and suffering.
Let me share with you my recent journey from pain and suffering back to joy and happiness.
“The body tells the story of your life”.
My body tells the story of 20 years of professional training as a dancer and several injuries. It also tells the story of 20 years of intense yoga practice, including 18 years of teaching and demonstrating…and a couple more injuries. For the past 10 years I have travelled 50-60 times per year. My body has done a lot of movement and travel.
I am someone who enjoys amazing health. Blessed with a strong immune system, I am rarely sick, and if I am it passes in a few days. But last year my body broke down. I was in so much pain. Back pain, nerve pain, hip pain, leg pain, neck pain, shoulder pain. All the soft tissue in my body felt tight, dry and brittle. Everything ached every time I moved.
Can you imagine how absurd it feels to be a well-known yoga teacher, travelling throughout the world telling other people how great yoga is, yet hardly able to move herself?! I would have laughed if it hadn’t hurt so much. Psychologically I was at a low ebb.
I decided to completely re-evaluate my lifestyle. I chose to let go of any expectation that I had to be a perfect example of health and vitality. I reaffirmed that being an exemplary yoga practitioner was not about how fit and athletic I am, but how I handle my life when I am in emotional and physical pain.
Being a yoga practitioner means that we develop the emotional resilience and focused determination to work hard from a place of pain and suffering to get ourselves back on track.
When I consider where I was one year ago, and where I am now with my physical well-being, professional life, relationships and partnerships – I see so much learning, progress, transformation and a return to more joy.
So what did I do?
I renewed my commitment to my physical, mental and emotional well-being, and set to work. Self-Care became my new hobby. I got serious about nutritional supplements. I did several rounds of osteopathy, acupuncture, abhyanga (Ayurvedic medicinal oil treatments). I took Chinese medicinal herbs and I took a two week break from emails while spending time with family (which did wonders!). Thanks to my husband I received regular ThaiVedic bodywork at home which has a wonderfully healing effect on the nervous system. I made my own oil blends and oiled my body twice daily. I re-established my meditation practice and focused my asana practice on simple, soothing yet strength-building sequences. I added some short cardio workouts to increase the strength in my legs and core and get my heart pumping. I started rolling on a fascia roller and occasionally danced to fun music. I closed the computer more often and spent more time with people I love.
This past year I made a lot of progress. I will continue to learn and share my insights in my teaching. I planned a schedule for next year that requires half the amount of travel than I usually do. I will continue taking good care of myself as I do this great work that I love.
Let yoga be the practice of perseverance and dedication to your personal progress, well-being and joy.
May you be well, healthy and happy!