Finding My Voice Through Yoga
It was the spring of 2010. At that time I was completely unaware of the miracle that was about to unfold. My mat has become my mirror. As my yoga practice has begun to evolve, the past eleven years of my life are slowly being reflected back at me. On December 13th, 1999, working as a Radiation Therapist at the BC Cancer Agency, I suffered a shoulder injury. I was 22 years old and my career was just beginning, so I kept working and tried to cope with my injury. By June 2001, due to increasing pain and numbness, I had to stop. The next several years were a blur of WCB battles, surgery, nerve blocks, epidurals, Botox and a regime of narcotics which ended with a two-and-a-half year stint on Methadone. In a desperate effort to detach from the pain, I also detached from the world and myself. Fortunately, I was truly blessed with an amazing support system of family and friends. Their love, compassion and faith in me during my time of darkness and despair also encouraged me to battle through almost two years of Methadone withdrawal. The day I decided to begin weaning myself off the drugs was the day that I chose to reclaim my power. No longer was I going to be a passive participant in my own life.
During those bleak moments, when minutes felt like days, I would often focus on what it would be like to plant the seed of hope in someone who was on a similar journey to mine. But now, eleven years to the day that I was injured, yoga has reconnected me with my inner self. Prior to stepping onto my mat for the first time, I felt that I had truly lost myself and had doubts if I would or could ever find my way back. But I realize now that I was never lost. My inner light was always glowing and helping guide my journey even though I wasn’t aware of it. I will be forever grateful to that light for showing me the way to yoga: a refuge from self-judgment, a canvas for self-expression, and an oasis from the roller coaster of pain. I have found peace.
My choice to live free of pain medication has given me a voice. A voice to share my story. To be vulnerable and express my hopes and fears, strengths and weaknesses, challenges and triumphs. The strong feeling of community that envelopes me while practicing yoga alongside others is truly remarkable. Being in a safe place like a yoga studio and choosing to be open to the myriad of emotions and sensations that may arise before, during, and after practice allows me to explore all the little crevices of myself. By acknowledging all that arises within me, embracing both the light and dark, I am now able to face my true self. Since embarking on my yoga journey, I have not laughed so hard, cried so much or shared my authentic self with others more often.
I see my pain as a blessing. Every moment of every day I am faced with the choice of acceptance; I can fight to stay in denial and falsely believe that pain does not dictate my life or I can choose to accept the fact that my day is often geared around my pain level and surrender to it. For so long I felt that by surrendering I would be seen as weak and that I was giving in. But I now realize that by choosing to surrender and just be in the moment I am being given an amazing learning opportunity. The practice of yoga is all about surrendering. When the poses get challenging, whether it be physical, emotional, or mental I have the choice to retreat or to open myself up and just be. As I ride the wave of sensations in each pose, with every inhalation and exhalation, I find that soft place. My place of peace. When I connect to my breath, all else is momentarily forgotten.
I ask myself how it is possible to calm my mind and find that place of stillness when my body is screaming in pain. My breath is my link and lifeline to that oasis. Inhale….. Exhale…..
One definition of yoga is that it means union; union of mind, body and soul. I feel that the ‘u’ in union represents you. You are the one that chooses to try yoga or to keep returning to your mat. You are the one that feels each pose and gets to explore all the sensations that bubble to the surface. There is no need for a prescription from a doctor, a trip to the pharmacy or even to leave your house.
This article was written by guest contributor Jen Tindale, who teaches at Vancouver Detox center and also speaks at St. Paul’s Pain Clinic. Jen finds inspiration in every student that she comes into contact with. She also writes about the healing powers of yoga at www.myyogamypain.blogspot.com.