Monday, January 17, 2011

Motivation: Freedom from Pain

Six months after my bike accident I am dealing with new developments in healing.  If you are new to my blog, I was in an accident in May 2010 when trying to avoid a bus.  I don't know if the bus actually hit me, although the 911 caller said a bus hit a bicyclist.  I was knocked unconscious and suffered a concussion, neck injury and serious bruises.  I am doing well considering.  My head injury doesn't affect me much anymore, headaches are mostly gone.  My typing skills are almost back to normal, although when fatigued I type some words with vowels reversed. I also sometimes have trouble getting the words out when I talk too much - so on long teaching days that shows up too.

The healing process is slowed by my scoliosis as I am also working on improving that with my chiropractor.  As my body unwinds and my nervous system repairs I sometimes feel more crooked than I did before the accident, although it is greater nervous system feedback I am experiencing - that's a good thing.  My lower back is currently the pain giver.

On Sunday I was practicing yoga and I seem to be getting much of my strength and balance back, but I cannot practice as long and hard as I used to.  So I am heading to the gym at Snap Fitness to walk on the treadmill and use the machine that is like an elliptical machine.  I put the setting on 12 minutes to warm up on the treadmill, then switch to the elliptical for 12 more minutes.  As I watch the timer count down (I set it on the strength training setting), I am experiencing pain in moving. I take it slow so that I can keep my movements symmetrical as possible.  This is a challenge with a twisted pelvis (from scoliosis).  I think about pain and how I tell my students that they needn't experience pain to make progress in a yoga practice.

I also think about the person next to me - she seems to be working hard & strong.  It is not easy for my ego.  My ego says I am going too slowly and I don't look so good (and I'm glad they don't know who I am - a yoga teacher!).

I realize that the pain I experience in this work must be experienced because it isn't the pain of over-doing.  It is the pain of getting the muscles to obey and re-learn smooth movement.  It is also discomfort - my body isn't used to working that hard right now.  It is from being out of shape.  So I work through it.  I keep going, I begin to feel warm, as my muscles warm up I experience more freedom of movement.

I fantasize running a race again.  I used to run 5K and 10K races, years ago before I was a regular yoga practitioner.  I realize that when you reach a certain level of fitness and are working the body aerobically, the muscles and organs are pumping with oxygenated blood and the brain begins to experience endorphins.  That is the pain relief I have been seeking.  The flush of healthy muscle, oxygen flowing into the body, sweat. 

It is an experience I have when practicing a more vigorous form of yoga: Ashtanga yoga.  Yet, I cannot yet practice that form of yoga fully because of my injuries.  I want to let everyone know how great it feels to really move the body.  I want to let everyone know that there is a point beyond the initial pain of starting to move like this - that you will experience a sense of euphoria - after you have worked through the "I don't want to move" part. 

I realize that we are all seeking freedom from pain.  Exercise can go a long way toward freedom from physical and emotional pain -  and this is a real way to achieve that - with no pain killers or anti-depression drugs.  Rest doesn't work all by itself.  Yoga isn't the cure-all.  I wish it was - it would be easier for me.  But healing isn't easy.  It's simple, not easy.

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