Almost two years ago, I was sitting in a massage therapist continuing education class, and my instructor asked, “Raise your hand if you experience pain more than 70% of the time.”  I raised my hand along with maybe only one other person out of the 25 people there.  I remember being quite perplexed.

“Wait, so there are people that walk around without wrists, shoulders, neck, back, knees, or ankles hurting them?  Not everyone feels like me?  God, they must get a ton of shit done.”

I don’t talk about being in pain too much because people tend to want to be helpful and offer suggestions that believe me…I’ve tried: “Hey, have you heard about that one diet?  Take this magic herb!  Go to the doctor.  Find a better doctor.  Lose weight.  Exercise more.  Exercise less.  Rest more, but not too much.  Stop stressing out.”  At this point, I have found certain strategies that work for me, but there are still times when the pain is still there.

Yoga has helped me tremendously with dealing with physical pain.  A major reason I pursued my teacher training because I wanted to understand my own body more.  While, regular practice has given me a better attitude and greater understanding of my own limitations, I still sometimes struggle with my abilities.  Even now, taking studio classes can bring up a lot of mental challenges for me.  Someone is perfecting their handstand, and I’m just trying to make this forward fold more comfortable.  I still have this rough inner dialogue about resting in Child’s pose while everyone else is Sun Saluting their hearts out, but the difference now is that I continue make the choice to take care of myself.  I hear that voice, and I just sit and breathe.

I’m participating in an Instagram challenge, and today’s pose was Bow pose.  At the beginning of this year, I couldn’t attempt this pose without feeling major pain in my low back (and sometimes I felt the pain and did it anyway…which I don’t recommend).

Bow - July 2014
Bow – July 2014

In July, this is where my Bow pose was. This isn’t me prepping to begin. This was my range of motion. At the time, I was happy I could do this much because in January it just wasn’t even possible.

Bow - Nov. 2014
Bow – Nov. 2014

Today, this is my Bow pose. It’s a big difference. Let me clarify by saying that I’m not just talking about the physical appearance of my body in the asana. It FEELS different. It feels good to be in Bow pose; not because I’m getting this awesome chest opening back bend, but because I feel just so damn grateful to do it without pain.

I can honestly say now that I am grateful for my physical limitations.  On some days I still see them as roadblocks to my practice. I’ve spent many years hating my body and experiencing chronic pain.  My yoga practice didn’t magically make all of those things go away.  It has just been the lantern that’s helped me traverse this tunnel I’m in.  Screw the light at the end of the tunnel.  Do yoga, and light up that shit right NOW.

Today, I am so grateful for my physical body in it’s current state.  Every injury or limitation has been just another opportunity to get more aware of my physical condition, my actions, and the consequences of those actions. Every knee, hip, or back pain is just another reminder to pay attention and to take great, great care.