Turning pain into strength

 
 

This morning was one of my strongest practices for this month. It appears my back is beginning to settle down which is a huge relief. Whilst I feel, in part, disappointed my back gave me so much grief this month, I’m actually really grateful for this experience. In this mornings practice, I realized I had a control over my body that I’ve not experienced before. Guruji noticed this also. I had an awareness of the subtle sensations I’m unconsciously too lazy to notice at other times. How I lower into chaturanga, how I transition between jump throughs and jump backs – it’s all changed. And this is only because the pain has been so bad that unless I consciously activated every muscle in my body, especially my pelvic floor, then I was unable to move at all.

Sitting with Guruji on the floor, he would remind me that pain and injury only come due to a weak pelvic and abdominal contraction. He assured that upon learning how to maintain the simultaneous control on these parts of my body that the entire neuromuscular system would relax. That there would be no pain. And he was right. Every day I have worked hard to develop this strength, but more so my conscious awareness of these parts of my body, and this has been an immense challenge. But the fascinating thing is, now my back is stronger and the pain is subsiding, I realize my practice has become stronger, more focused, more controlled than ever before.

It is very easy as a teacher to give advice. To assure others that they can achieve great things, or overcome difficult times. But I believe this advice is of little value or bears little weight if it comes from a person who has not faced the challenges themselves. I’ve cried many times in the past month – pain related mostly. Even the fetal position became near impossible for me to manage. This doesn’t happen often, but it does happen at times. A fluctuation as Guruji would say. And although it is not fun to feel pain, it is a lesson. A lesson I can pass onto others, where I can teach from this place of understanding. As we advance in our practice, we tend to forget what it’s like to be a beginner. To feel tightness, weakness, anguish. So I feel at ease with the month I’ve had here. I’ve not a missed a class as I needed to learn how to work with my body despite it’s temporary limitations. And I assure, all limitations we face are only temporary.

I fly home this Sunday and am so looking forward to seeing all my wonderful students. I have a Beginner Workshop commencing on the 1st of February that I cannot wait to get started with, particularly considering my very humbled way of practicing. An opportunity to meet people where they are and support them as they venture into this profound practice of yoga.

There is so much beauty in our imperfections. And whilst they can be extremely frustrating and upsetting at times, the reality is – they are what they are and we need to come to a place of acceptance. From here, life is brighter and more hopeful. If we dwell, then the opposite is true also.

So I urge you, if you are new to yoga or if you have an injury or illness you feel is holding you back, take a step forward. Don’t give up on your body and don’t allow illness to keep you from where you dream to be. How you dream to move. How you want to live.

Sending hugs to you all,

Jessica xx

P.S. See you soon!

 

Breathe in love. Breathe out peace.

 
 

Do you know what it feels like to be trapped in your own body? How toxic it can be at times? How hopeless?

This past month has been such an immense challenge for me. The bar has been set higher, mostly in my own mind, which is intense. Choosing not to be a victim to my pain can be a catch-22. Sure it means I go on and challenge self-limiting thoughts, feelings and behaviours. But it can also mean I push too hard too soon. This past month has forced me to take a BIG step back and re-evaluate my boundaries. My personal limits. And more importantly, my ego. I have days when I feel I could run a marathon and my body can fly. The difficulty lies in not taking advantage of those days. Not trying to rush to the finish line just because it is in sight. For it is when I do this that I end up right back near the beginning again.

I have great flexibility in my body but not enough strength, pelvic floor strength especially. This means I am susceptible to injury if I’m not careful. I’ve spent these past two weeks taking it very easy as my back had completely given up. Just the slightest fold forward gave the sensation of a thousand knives stabbing into my lower back and left leg. It’s been confronting, upsetting and to some degree embarrassing. Feeling so trapped in my own body. Like there is a lock that is firmly fastened and holding me back. The moment I try to fold I’m jolted back just as a car seatbelt locks if it’s pulled too quickly.

Yesterday was a wonderful day. I felt amazing. Everything had relaxed, pain still there but a 4/10 compared with the 9/10 it has been this past week. So what does Jessica do? Well, I practice without boundaries, without limitations, only to clearly cross a threshold without realizing and end up virtually crippled again today. Whilst I want to cry – and I did for a brief moment – I always look for the lessons in these experiences. The pain hurts, but it’s the restriction of movement which hurts me more and can be so frustrating. But I need to accept this. I need to accept that these are all lessons, progressions in themselves. That mentally I am becoming stronger, more aware, more accepting. I’m learning limits by pushing them a little. Clearly a little too much in this case. We train for four hours a day six days a week and I’ve not missed a single practice because I will not give up on me. The challenge is not in the hours of practice, but in knowing when to pull back.

But whilst I can lay here typing away and say it’s good to be positive about the challenges in life – whether that be pain, heartbreak, loss, anything at all – the fact of the matter is, it’s still shit. I don’t enjoy pain. I don’t want to be like this, to be limited like this. To be trapped in my body as I am. But the thing is, I don’t have a lot of choice. I need to work with my body as it is. Through this trial and error I will learn how to strengthen my back, how to maintain a normal life regardless of pain and how to help others through my personal experience. If I don’t, then life stands still and that’s not much of a life.

So to those who feel pain – any pain – play with it. Challenge it. Learn to trust it. For it is when we can accept and observe pain in this way that we can work with it, heal from it and keep moving forward.

Sending big hugs,

Jessica xx

P.S. Thank you for all the hugs and supportive messages/emails sent to me last week in response to my blog post. I felt so loved and very comforted hearing from everyone. Certainly much less lonely! I'm so grateful to have such incredible people in my life. Again, thank you.

Growth happens when you get uncomfortable

 
 

I’m aware that most of the people in my life think I’m a little crazy. I’ve always been the one who steps outside of ordinary life to experience what I believe is truly living. Unpredictable, new and exciting. More often than not this translates into “bloody uncomfortable!”.

When I reflect upon my life so far, all 30 years of it, I can’t help but look fondly upon some of the weird and wacky things I’ve done. From creating my first roadside stall selling coloured drinking straws, to taking 48 hour train rides on an Indian train - alone! - and now starting my own yoga studio in pursuit of a dream - my life is full of experiences that have always fostered learning, growth and on the odd occasion, sheer terror (and not just on my end.. “It’s ok mum. Keep breathing!”).

As a little girl I use to dream about the big things I was destined to do with my life. I’ve always been aware this life is short and with that in mind, I’ve been absolutely clear I want to make a really good go of it. What I naturally always did, and continue to do, was to place myself in different and always challenging situations. Learning to dance when I really have two left feet for one! Singing in public, signing up for presentation opportunities even though I’m absolutely shit scared terrified getting up there! Quitting a six figure income and leaving my entire life as I knew it behind to follow a dream… Intelligent? Maybe. Maybe not… Regardless, why do I do these things? Because I believe my life is meant to be lived how I choose. Not how someone else chose for me.

Do you  remember those Careers Advising Tests you did in years 10, 11 and 12 at school – you know, the ones which are meant to tell you what your ideal path in life is? Your perfect job. I remember being excited about one of the options which consistently came up for me – drama (despite my terror on stage). The rest offered very little by way of excitement for me personally. Law for one.. But having an academic family (lawyers, teachers and business owners) combined with very little self esteem, I never felt the unique path of something like acting was ever going to happen. I recall electing all the same subjects as my siblings when choosing university preferences. Law. Psychology. Criminology etc. I had no idea what I wanted to be, and couldn’t help but feel like a failure because I was now an adult (surely finishing school makes you an adult???) and had NO idea who I was, what I wanted to be, what I was capable of. As such, the easy option was to do what everyone in my family did. I had no mind of my own. I had no answers yet - and upon reflection, nor should I (and nor do I come to think of it!).

I fell into the classic path of school, university, full-time career. I’ll never forget bursting into tears on my first lunch hour of my first full time job. I called my mother crying and asked, “Is this it?!!!”. I was devastated that the rest of my life was to look like this 9-5 job. Answering to someone else and sacrificing my time, my life in exchange for money. Surely there was more to life. Wasn’t there?

It took almost 10 years for me to finally wake up and realize life didn’t need to be that way. Yes – the money was great  - but was it enough? Of course not. My life was falling apart. The work I did brought little meaning. When I eventually found the courage to let it all go and begin from scratch, I felt so liberated. So in control. And whilst times are tough at the moment (trying to get a new studio off the ground) I’m living my dream. I’m living my life, my way. I answer to myself. Every day I’m growing, evolving, becoming a more powerful human being in my own right. And whilst there are days where I worry (maybe panic is a better word here) everything is about to fall apart, I know there will always be a way to get through it. How do I know this? Because no other option exists.

So if you feel your life is disappearing down a path you’ve not chosen, ask yourself these questions to bring about some clarity. Be sure you take a good 20-30 minutes to really think through your answers. Don’t rip yourself off here. Your time, or more correctly, your life is too precious for that:

  1. “Whose path am I on? Mine or the one I feel has been expected of me by others?”

  2. “If I could do anything in the world and not fail at it, it would be ……………………?”

  3. “What’s holding me back?”

  4. “Am I making excuses to keep myself small when really I have the potential to live a fulfilling and happy life?”

  5. “What steps do I need to take next to make this happen?”

And now, hold on and enjoy the ride!

Sending huge hugs, love and congratulations your way. You can do this.

Jessica xx

Recovery phase

Today has been wonderfully relaxing. After an 11.30am philosophy class, which I think no one was listening to or had the capacity to listen to (more like it), I made my way down to my favourite Depth N’ Green restaurant where they made me dhal and rice. Kitchari would have been ideal however it’s likely to be made with ghee in the restaurants so I decided to opt for option two which was dhal and rice. I was ravenous by this point. I never ask for seconds when out for lunch but today was an exception. I think the owner was also a little shocked by this request, as he knows this of me. I also got extra in a take away pack so I could have it for dinner. The oils in the food are really important to build up the lining in our stomachs again, hence the extra effort to make sure I’m eating all the right things. I also had a coconut on my way home, slowly sipping it and then devouring the insides. I figured these natural fats would be good also. 

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The rest of the day has been spent chatting with Owen on Skype and sleeping. It’s not ideal we spend any time socialising for the next couple of days so I need to keep this to a minimum. Bharath wants us to really take time to notice what’s happening in our bodies. He virtually wants us to hibernate for today and tomorrow. I love how seriously he takes all of this. He sets a wonderful example.

So, as I’m not meant to be on the computer, I shall leave it there. I just thought an update re my recovery was a good idea.

Namaste xx

The hidden lessons in yoga

I find I lose a little bit more of me each day I walk into the building here at work. There is this aroma of ‘soul destruction’ which floats around the building and i’m at a critical point now where my shield to it is beginning to fail. I feel as though this negative energy is just permeating my entire being with every breath i take. I also cant help but notice the lack of energy everyone else around me seems to have (or not have). I see new starters come on board with this amazing energy and then within a matter of a few weeks, they too look - well - grey. There is no colour left.

(Being synesthetic, I see everything in colours. I feel in colours).

But again, I need to take some responsibility here. I am choosing to stay that little bit longer. I need to, to make sure I have enough cash to cover my trip and my properties should anything happen whilst Im a barefoot yogi in Mysore. So I need to be strategic. I could also choose to look upon my situation more favourably - which I really try to, believe me - but there are some days where enough is just enough!

I had another daunting realization today - assuming i live to be 90 - my days on Earth will be done by 2074. Pretty terrifying! Knowing this just makes me even more determined to challenge myself and chase my dreams.

This morning I only practiced for a short while - just to wake me up. Its incredible what your body tells you when you listen to it. An ache can have so many meanings if you try and tap into it. And a beautiful release can offer such a blissful feeling when in the right state of mind. I’ve injured my left foot and for a while there, when at my lowest of lows in this job - I kept trying to push the recovery and challenge it through my morning practice. My high expectations for myself meant i wasn’t going to accept the injury and expected it to recover quickly. But with the aid of physio and gentle stretches, my foot is beginning to heal beautifully. Who would have thought!!

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I guess that’s another reason why I love yoga so much. I am such an impatient person, but yoga teaches me to be still. To feel calm and to really take the time to care for my body the way it needs to be cared for. If there is a day when things are a little stiff - i have now come to accept that its is ok. If my balance is off one day - then that is ok too. I’ve become accustomed to this 'fast life’ as a result of many years of working in a frantically busy and stressful industry - so I am now working hard at doing the opposite, winding down.

I’m just glad i realised this now and not at year 2065.

One day at a time - I know i can get through this xx