Monday, June 29, 2015

From Pain To Equilibrium: Be Here Now

One of the unexpected upsides of the pain I am often managing is the new amount of body awareness with which it has provided me. I've been trying to understand my now physical landscape, well, for as long as I've observed it. At first, every time I thought about how the current Kristin struggles in yoga poses (in ways I never did before), I believed that I had likely been doing them incorrectly for many years, perhaps counter productively. (I should clarify that I have always struggled in certain poses - as do we all. Bodies are unique and yoga poses defined. It would be almost impossible not to meet roadblocks. But I'm speaking of the nuance of asana. How could things have seemed easy then and so hard now? How can things that seemed so hard then be so irrelevant now?)

Of course, with more consideration and over time, it occurs to me that my body was entirely different 25 years ago. My connective tissue, perhaps genetically destined to become over tight and brittle, was supple then. Years of dehydration - and I used to be so dehydrated given that I'm that girl who feels anxious about having to pee 3 seconds after she leaves the house and so, would opt not to drink on the go - really fucked me up. The stress of raising a child with a personality that isn't anything like mine, of working very hard, of having a life and all of the things that go with it, of plain "advancing age" (and yes, I know I'm not old) - these things have changed my body irrevocably. Maybe if you're north of 50 and you're reading this, you're somewhat amused by my realization. I know it stands to reason that life and age (and these things are one to some extent) change one's body. However, I'm just coming to this concept viscerally now. This is the first time I've been this mature.

When I say that my body has changed irrevocably, I do not mean to imply that it's on a steep trajectory in a particular direction. That may also be the case, but I don't think that life or bodies work that way when one proceeds with consciousness. One's body is a meaningful reflection of a particular stage. This is so clear when observing an adolescent who embodies the confidence of strength, borne of youth and the biological optimism it entails.

Right now my body is a certain way. It moves in a certain way. It feels a certain way. When I stand up, initially it hurts everywhere. When I propel myself into motion, that pain dissipates quickly. In the same way my internal self doesn't know why, all things being equal, my midsection had changed shape, I don't know why the pain is there. Yeah, there are lots of books to explain everything. I've read them. I've applied the principles. One outcome of that application is that my migraines are almost gone (at least I choose to ascribe this improvement to my actions), which is no small feat. Another is that, as I seem to throw up randomly after eating certain things, I've stopped eating lots of foods.*

The thing that's beginning to take shape, mentally - specifically when I do yoga - is that I am engaging with the body I have, not the one I had. Not the one I will have. This body, unlike the one of early youth, talks back. It's nervy (literally). It speaks to me in ways that require me to listen, or to suffer. But when I listen, we engage - this body and mind, and I am that much more present in the world.

Maybe the reason that I used to move so effortlessly into forward bends (not that I really did, I often felt stuck, even if no one but a good teacher could see it) is because I was pushing. Maybe the reason I felt stuck was because I was pushing. I have rather flexible muscles from a lifetime of "conscious usage". I also have fascia that sticks like a bitch. So I can take it easy and move annoyingly slowly into my flexibility, or I can push it and feel pain for days. I'm going with slow for the win, even if it's so at odds with my nature that I encounter endless dissonance.

This post was actually inspired by this photoessay which apparently chronicles the last practice of BKS Iyengar at the age of 95. As I've written about, he died in August and leaves the kind of legacy that few will ever achieve. I have no idea whether these photos really do show Mr. Iyengar's last practice (that seems macabre for no good reason), or simply one of his final physical practices (I suspect his final practice was in shedding his coporeal form), but when I look at them, I am galvanized to continue. None of us knows what's coming next. We can only be our best selves in our best bodies and play at the margins of discomfort. It's that edge which illuminates the sweet spot - even as it seems very close to the bone.

*FYI, I don't take this lightly - or any of a variety of other crazy things going on with my body. I am seeing specialists to verify what's up, if anything, other than the stupidity of perimenopause. Honestly, this phase is bananas awful. I can totally understand how people go crazy in midlife. It's taking all of my cognizance to keep it together. And FYI, I truly don't want to be that girl who puts a bad spin on a stage that we will all go through eventually - if we're lucky. I'm a problem solver! But fuck, it's really horrible for some people and I recommend that you should try to avoid it for as long as your genes will allow go into it with graceful awareness.

11 comments:

  1. Yes. Nothing so like yourself, but yes. I have been doing crossfit and was told that I should get some weightlifting shoes or lift shoeless (my regular shoes have a heel lift) and having done so, my form has improved, but there are muscles that were getting a bit of a free ride and now they have to work a bit harder.

    Yes. You must listen to the body and pay attention, or you'll mess yourself up. Yes.

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    1. So true. Here's to paying attention to what your body tells you.

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  2. "This is the first time I've been this mature." Brilliant!

    I'm turning 48 in October and empathize completely. Every day is a new discovery!

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    1. "New discovery" is such a lovely way of putting it :-)

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  3. Oh, I empathize with your food problems. Have you tried an elimination diet yet?

    After years of GI inflammation, GI blocks, emergency rooms, etc. it appears I have a carbohydrate intolerance. Ha! Like a "don't leave the house" type of intolerance.

    I discovered that after trying a 'diet' that is almost all protein. You get one "cheat" day per week to eat anything you want. Of course I wanted carbohydrates. Well, that was an eye-opener. Sick as a dog.

    I live in a very rural area where the health care seems to consist of a shrug of the shoulders accompanied by, "Gee, I don't know." Any advice/knowledge/tips passed along would be greatly appreaciated. Thanks!

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    1. Haven't tried elimination - but I have cut out gluten and it's made a difference. And carb intolerance sounds hideously broad. Egad. I will def keep you posted on what I discover over the next while. And do keep me posted on your discoveries.

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    2. I've found I can manage carbs twice a day if eaten with lots of protein. The more complex carbs are easier on my system and the fewer carbs the better.

      My diet now consists of tuna salad, eggs and chicken salads with an occasional piece of fruit. It's ok but difficult to see myself eating only these foods for the rest of my life. Still hoping that I'll figure/find out something that makes a difference.

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  4. Finding oneself in an over-40 body is a real moment unlike any other. And then, at 50, and approaching 60, there are others. I think of it as something like going doing stairs sitting down, little bump, little bump, rest period at a landing. Little bump, little bump, rest. I would love to hear how you have managed to stay with yoga all this time - perhaps you've written about it, before I became a regular reader?

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    1. I have written about it peripherally, definitely, and maybe directly (but after 2000 plus posts, I really can't remember what I've said anymore!). I will keep this in mind for an upcoming post. The short story is that I really love it and I'm a serious creature of habit. But I'll try to give it a bit more detail in a post :-)

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  5. In an over-60 body here. I'm quite limber thanks to years of ballet, but of course there have been changes in this as in everything else. For me, exercise makes all the difference. A 45-minute spin class makes a new woman of me, both mentally and physically. I need to be more regular with yoga and rolling/MELTing. Over 60 with a full-time job and a 16-year-old doesn't leave much time.

    I've found your yoga, bodywork, chronic pain posts very helpful, Kristin. It's occurred to me more than once that I would love to be able to see a video of your yoga practice and self-help techniques. A pay-per-view video website, maybe?

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    1. I didn't realize you are over 60 Marie - and with such a young kid. I'm struggling with a 15 year old at 45 - what's it like for you, I wonder? Easier maybe? Harder? I'm so glad you've found my posts helpful. I don't think a video is in the cards soon. I'm truly so busy and that's the kind of thing that takes time and production. But perhaps I can give a bit more context about the practices that I do so that others can try them out (in the event that they have prior experience of yoga).

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