With more awareness…
It’s 4pm as I write this and I am in bed. I’ve been in bed all day, and I spent all day yesterday in bed too, and the day before that. I know what you’re thinking… ‘lazy bitch!’, and usually with the facts above I’d agree with you, only this week I’ve had no other choice. You see, this week I went into hospital for, what was originally, exploratory surgery to my lower abdomen and it ended up being rather more complicated than anticipated. Thankfully, despite the unexpected complexities, it all went really well, but what it’s made me realise is how much we take our bodies for granted. Even me, a person who uses their body consciously and energetically every single day and who didn’t consider myself to be somebody that took it for granted, not for a second. But I did.
On Wednesday morning, the day after my surgery, I went to sit up, only I couldn’t. It suddenly occurred to me that we are using our muscles every single second of every single day, even when we’re not aware of it. This might sound an obvious fact, and it absolutely is. But when is the last time you actually ‘thought’ about sitting up? For the lucky majority of us, we don’t think about it, we just do it! Yet here I was having to figure out a new way of attempting to sit up, without engaging my core muscles in the natural way I normally would. As it happens, for the first day, I couldn’t sit up at all without help but since then I’ve been working out ways of getting myself upright that don’t put too much pressure on the front of my body and it’s been a fascinating learning curve to realise just how much of my daily movement is normally autopilot; unthought and natural. I’ve been breathing differently, trying to cough differently, not laugh at things, even sit on the toilet at an angle! Anything to try and avoid the sensation of pain in my body. It was a nightmare at first, not least because the painkillers I was on turned me into a complete zombie, but also because of the impatience I felt with myself. I usually move with such ease and it was infuriating, and emotionally overwhelming, to not be able to just ‘get on with it’. After a short fight, I gave in completely and decided to just let my body rest fully, only moving as much as was absolutely necessary. The sense of surrender was almost impossible at first, but after a while I realised that the more I let go, the better I felt. The stress of trying too hard was exhausting and ultimately stress doesn’t help us heal, but I cant deny that it was hard for me to admit that the surgery had hit me not just physically, but mentally too.
I’m now slowly getting my movement back, though I’m still sore and no doubt I will be for a while yet. I’ve still got stitches in me and painkillers to take, though I’m weaning myself off them early through choice because actually, I want to experience what my body is going through, even if it means being a little uncomfortable at times. For me it’s an important learning curve and a chance to understand what my body is feeling – we numb so much out all the time and turn to painkillers before we’ve even tried taking a few deep breaths to see if it helps. I’m obviously not teaching yoga, and I’ve cancelled all the marketing work in my diary this week. I really miss it all! The good news is that I know I’ll be back on my feet in no time, though yoga-wise I can’t promise I’ll be turning myself upside down with much vigour for a few weeks, however that doesn’t mean I can’t make other people do it! I say ‘yoga-wise’ though it’s not completely unheard of for me to dive into a downward dog in a marketing meeting if that’s what I feel is needed!
What’s amazing to me however is just how little we realise our bodies do for us and how much of a privilege it is to be able to simply get up in the morning and move around. I’m as guilty of it as anyone, until now perhaps. As I heal I want to try and remember that it’s a privilege to be able to teach and do yoga, it’s a privilege to be able to go to marketing meetings, consult and meet new people, it’s a privilege to ride my bike around London, or walk around a garden or even to the shops. Sometimes I moan about having to ride my bike in the rain, but if I couldn’t do it at all I’d be heartbroken! Of those of us lucky enough to have a full range of movement, few of us realise how lucky we are to have it. How lucky we are to be able to choose to move around and do even the simplest things, like get up from bed and make a cup of tea without having to grimace and stop three times on our way to the kitchen!
It reminds me of something my Grandad told me shortly before he passed away a few years ago, he was 98 and still the coolest person I’d ever known and will ever know. He went to get up to make us both a cup of tea and as he went to push himself up from his armchair he lost his temper mildly, it was the first and last time I ever saw him get remotely cross. I asked him what was wrong and he sat back down, looked me in the eye and said ‘the trouble is, in my mind I don’t feel any different to how I felt when I was 21. I send the same messages to my body to do things, but my legs just don’t respond like they used to. I feel like every movement has to be thought about, and yet my mind is still saying ‘come on then, what are you waiting for!?’ and I wish I’d known when I was 21 that it would be this way. I think I’d have moved with more awareness‘.
And speaking of tea, I fancy one in half an hour so I’d better get started…
With more awareness,