Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Learn to let it bend before it breaks.

I am a yoga elf. Seriously. Walking into a class full of long beautiful stretchy bodies that can contort and flow in ways that mine cannot is intimidating. I'm short and frumpy compared to these yoga gods and goddesses.

Tonight as I reluctantly made my way into a completely packed class (I say reluctantly because I have to talk myself into going every time), my self-consciousness was on high alert.

Sara, our instructor, is amazing. She is a guru, I swear. I think she has a mood-reading gift that allows her to personally connect with everyone in the class.

She began class by talking about being uninspired. Perfect. That was the name that I gave myself as I was driving to class, parking my car, and walking up the stairs hoping that my reservation had been cancelled or that I was one minute too late to walk in.

Because there were absolutely no other spots left, I unrolled my mat front and center and kissing the mirror. My least favorite spot. I like to be in the back where I can't see my reflection. I feel like if I can't see the mirror, no one can see me.

Uninspired and self-conscious.

Sara rocked because she tackled both of these issues before we ever got started. As we were sitting on our mats and I was being aware of my bad posture and inability to relax, she closed our eyes and eased us into our practice for the day. And our focus was being comfortable with yourself--being comfortable with feeling uninspired, comfortable with struggling, comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I try to keep my eyes closed most of the time so I can focus. If I open my eyes too much, I feel like I start thinking too much and can't experience the present moment. So, closed eyes and deep breathing.

Deep breathing, if you've never tried it, gives your brain and, subsequently, your body this feeling of altitude. It is a lot like a runners high. Except you are asking your body to do something completely different.

I love to run. I love to feel powerful and fast and to have an achievable, measurable goal. Yoga is completely out of this element.

Yoga doesn't allow me to feel any of these things. I don't know when we will go through our last progression or when I can finally lay my body down in a totally relaxed job-well-done state. I am completely clueless.

So, needless to say, my fumbling body falls out of poses often. This is the point in my post-yoga mind where I can explain why yoga has become a can't-miss happiness point in my life.

Somewhere between achieving flexibility for a pose that I lacked 3 weeks ago and falling out of a basic pose, I had a realization tonight.

My expectations of my body and the reality of my body are forever in a war.

Please don't judge me, but I honestly shed a little tear tonight in class over this realization.

Physical activity--of all kinds--has been a large part of who I am since I can remember. I played every sport offered growing up--soccer, basketball, swimming, softball, track, diving, etc. I never stopped moving. The challenge of teaching your body how to react to your mind's direction and the feeling of triumph when you master a skill is, to me, one of the most rewarding sensations.

In high school, I learned how to run. Rather, I learned how to breathe, which enabled me to run. I went from the kid who couldn't finish 2 miles, to the kid that ran every day. For the sole reason that I could do it.

I was the same way with softball. I studied it like I needed to pass a midterm. And in some ways, getting a spot on the field was more rewarding than anything I ever did in a classroom. I went early to practice, stayed late, watched video, worked every possible camp I could squirm my way into. Softball nerd.

Mastering those skills, enabling my body to be successful and efficient--that is what I love about being active.

If I could have it my way, I would probably be an active-junkie. Not an exercise addict, because the way I feel about it goes far beyond exercise. The simple fact is, my body will not let me.

My yoga revelation comes in here.

I feel such resentment toward my body. My body turned on me when I was 15 years old and I have never forgiven it. I have pushed it to the breaking point over and over and over again in the 10 years since its disloyalty.

I ran a marathon for only two reasons, I think. To cross it off of some imaginary bucket list, and to spite my body. To show it who's boss.

A disloyal body. It doesn't seem right to categorize it in this way.

My body lets me do plenty of things. I can eat whatever I want to within reason. I can work 12 hour days without sitting down. I can run. I can go to sleep at night and wake up the next morning.

I'm still quite disappointed in it.

At the risk of sounding like I'm whining, a few sore points are:
--constantly malnourished regardless of a healthy diet.
--extra effort goes into maintaining hydration and weight.
--vitamin b-12 shots self inflicted every two weeks because I can't absorb it.
--Imuran by mouth daily and Remicade via IV infusion every 7 weeks (both immuno-suppresant drugs)
--immuno-suppresant drugs make me more susceptible to illness/disease
--fairly consistent fatigue
--joint pain

Those are just the sore points. There are a plethora of issues that come with being a carrier of the Crohn's burden.

I am currently experiencing a flare-up. That's what they call it when all of your symptoms are active and it can be brought on by a multitude of things--stress, lack of sleep, change in environment, change in diet, etc. Sometimes there is no clear reason behind a flare. Symptoms include (ironically): lack of sleep, lack of appetite, pain and cramping, change in bowels (constipated to runny), exhaustion, etc.

Luckily, I can have active symptoms without having active disease.

I hate it. I'm pissed at it. And I'm constantly carrying it around, coping with it. Most of the coping is pretending like it doesn't exist.

With that said, tonight my revelation involved giving up some of this resentment that I hold toward my body. Realizing that I have to live with it and I have been living with it and that it would be a much better situation if I was a little more Brady Bunch about it.

So, in Brady fashion, I've got to be honest with myself. There are just some things that I shouldn't do. Not that I can't do them. I'm capable of doing all kinds of things. But if I'm going to come to terms with the body that has defied me, I've at least got to start by being nice to it.

Brandi Carlile has a song called "Bend Before it Breaks." I love this song, but I've never figured out how it applies to me. Its about a lover and that love being over--anyway, Matt and I are great, so it doesn't fit there. It does, however, fit here. And it was the song that was in my head as I was leaving class.


Its not the old guilt that I felt after my last surgery. The feeling has manifested into a total self-loathing that I was unaware of until this evening. I feel a little like I've been punched in the stomach.

Being comfortable with yourself--being comfortable with feeling uninspired, comfortable with struggling, comfortable with being uncomfortable. Searching for comfort or at least a happy place within the body I have been blessed with.

I'm alright, don't I always seem to be?
Aren't I swinging on the stars? Don't I wear them on my sleeves?
Went looking for a crossroads, it happens every day
And which ever way you turn, I'm going to turn the other way.