Gentle Yoga is the Thread
*This is a guest blog post titled “Gentle Yoga is the Thread” at The Yoga and Body Image Coalition. Please visit http://ybicoalition.com/gentle-yoga-is-the-thread/ to support our collaborator.
Do you love yourself?
Like, really, REALLY love yourself?
No matter what you look like, what size you are, what is happening in the external environment around you, what functions your body and mind can or can’t do on any given day?
I was mindlessly going about life, defining myself by my ability to attain all the external things like house, career, family. I certainly did not respect my body and mostly lived separately from it.
It took a true catastrophe to bring me home to myself. And the journey started the moment everything changed nine years ago on July 29, 2012.
That evening, I had a fall that would change not only the entire structure of my life but everything about how I related to life and to myself.
I had a massive fall that resulted in broken bones in my face, lost teeth, moderate-severe brain injury, spinal cord injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. The reason for the fall: unexplained syncope or fainting.
And through it all, what was there? Even as doctors misdiagnosed or failed to diagnose me, as my husband decided this journey was too hard and left me, as I lost cognitive functions and my body failed me, as I was terrified to live in my body for fear of fainting and falling again, as I desperately tried to make the shattered pieces of my life make sense again, as months turned into years of trying to heal – what was there? Yoga.
At first, yoga was a thread to hold on to: a way to be with pain and loss, a movement practice I could do after losing the ability to do my beloved triathlon activities of swimming, biking, and running, a way to process grief.
And then, it became much more. The threads started weaving together, every shape and every intentional breath on the mat guiding the way to rebuilding my new identity, one based on self-kindness, grace, and complete understanding that this body is working for me every single moment.
It is not against me, it is not separate from me, and it definitely does not want to be disowned by me. It belongs to me, it IS me, we are together in this. We’re a team and we communicate back and forth. This body’s voice is saying it’s been through a lot and doesn’t need more punishment from me. It’s crying out for love, for softness, for movement that makes sense based on where it is now.
Even today, nine years later, the spinal cord injury I live with can completely alter my function on any given day. I am grateful that an upper cervical specialist can restore function for me; and as I heal I also regularly live through the experience of cervical injury symptoms of blood flow to my brain slowing down, the cerebral-spinal fluid not being able to flush and making my brain toxic and slow, and the systemic symptoms when my vertebrae put pressure on my brain stem.
Thankfully along the journey I have learned to embrace what my body is telling me so I adjust expectations, slow down, and do whatever I need to do to repair my body and brain.
And the thread of gentle yoga supports me to navigate it all with self-kindness and patience.
This thread of gentle yoga has been so powerful for me I feel compelled to share it, to support others in navigating life and loving themselves no matter what they look like, what size they are, what is happening in the external environment around them, what functions their body and mind can or can’t do on any given day.
It’s possible to love yourself through it all, I am proof.
And Gentle Yoga can be the doorway in. Through compassion and curiosity, choice and kindness, we bring the body with us. We ask how it’s doing right now, what does and doesn’t feel good and we respond to the messages we get. We don’t expect our yoga to look like anyone else’s yoga and we explore the path of finding yoga that makes sense for us individually. And as a result, we build pathways of kindness towards our bodies.
We travel with you on this path of life and empower you to understand your bodily, human experience. We help you find movement that works for you because we know without a doubt there IS movement that works for you – movement that feels good and right and safe for you, wherever you are at.
And gentleness towards yourself? A likely and beautiful side effect.