I have a yoga teacher that often says, “your body is a reflection of your experience.”As I’ve mentioned in other posts, the last few years have been an exercise in managing stress and physical pain that has helped me focus more on my spiritual path, finding comfort and relief in yoga and meditation.
A few years ago, I set a goal for myself to a run a 10k. I was a modest runner at the time, taking up the treadmill 2-3 times per week to consistently run 5ks. The 10k felt like a stretch, but a doable one. I downloaded a training schedule from a fitness magazine’s website and got to it. I completed the race alongside two of my friends.
A few days after the race, I had a nagging pain in my hip. This wasn’t uncommon for me, I often had back and hip pain that would show themselves after a run. I figured like all the other times, it would go away on its own, yet, it kept popping back up again.
Four months later, when I started getting some other symptoms, I decided to get it checked out. Tests revealed another health issue that resulted in more tests and eventually surgery. It was a long drawn out process that lasted five months. During this time, I had to halt my workout routine and I gained five pounds. I was loathed with frustration and self-aggression. I wanted to be me again. I wanted to be able to be fit and healthy.
I had days when I realized all I wanted was to be active again, regardless of the outcome. On days that I felt good enough to workout, I stopped putting pressure on myself about how many calories I burned or whether or not I was toning up fast enough. Instead, I started to appreciate how lucky I was to be healthy enough to be there working out. This shift in focus did not come quickly, it happened in the depths of a lot of pain and suffering. Mindfulness allowed me to see where I was stuck and have gratitude for where and when I was wasn’t.
When my mindset moved to this way new way of approaching fitness, I started noticing how aggressive fitness classes can be — instructors pushing you and your body that extra mile, even when it might be too far. I found solace in my yoga and meditation routine. I stopped letting the pressure of instructors guide my intention for my workouts — I lifted the weight that felt comfortable for me, I stopped at the resistance on the stationary bike that felt challenging, but not straining.
After my surgery, I was ready to get back at it. I thought all of my problems would be magically solved. That I would feel great and like myself again. This was not the case. Recovery took at least three weeks. My hip pain was worse than before. Doctors indicated they didn’t quite know what was causing it, but that it was most likely a hip flexor strain and that I should do PT for a few weeks.
I was dejected, but hopeful. I wanted to nurse my body back to health and was glad to have access to PT that allowed me to stay active. I again battled impatience — wanting to be well before my body was ready. I asked several times when I would be better and didn’t get the responses that I wanted. Eight months into PT, I was frustrated again. It seemed odd that my recovery was taking so long and that no one was as eager to get me out of PT as I was. I decided to see my doctor again.
This brings us to the present — unfortunately, I am still waiting for answers and am going through more tests. I am downhearted and slightly anxious that this has taken so long to diagnose. I had just started working out again and was excited to get back to my routine. This has all halted. I recently found myself crying with how frustrated and anxious I am for an answer.
Then I remembered my teacher, “your body is a reflection of your experience.” I have been mad at my body for failing me, but I am starting to realize that my body is showing me how much I have failed it. I have consistently abused it with walking miles in shoes that provide no support, eating and drinking foods that cause inflammation, and not prioritizing self-care over work and other commitments. This is my body’s only way to tell me to slow down.
I recognize now the need to truly listen to the signals my body is giving me. Instead of being frustrated with my inability to run and participate in my favorite fitness classes, I have decided to give my body what it needs — low impact, restorative exercise. I have switched from fast paced Vinyasa Flow to Gentle Yoga and ordered a swim cap and googles so that I can participate in Aqua Boot Camp instead of my regular weight classes. Surprisingly, I am even more energized about my workouts now because I have infused them with exciting new experiences.
While my body continues to remind me to take better care of it, I am no longer tuning out. Instead, I am utilizing the core of mindfulness practice and taking my focus inward to hear what it has to say and adjust my lifestyle to allow it to heal and feel good again.