I spent most of my 20’s living in Norfolk, Virginia. Just a 20-minute drive from Virginia Beach, I went to the beach often. I loved laying my blanket out on the sand and gazing at the ocean. Watching the waves was my meditation. The water cooled down my fiery, Pitta type-A nature. The rhythm of the waves helped me to sync into my own natural rhythm. While there, my gaze also undoubtedly rested on the many surfers beyond the break. I often imagined what they felt while being so far out in the deep blue sea waiting to catch their next wave. At one point, I even bought a beginner surfboard to attempt it myself! I only got as far as paddling beyond the break and bodyboarding back to shore. So, at this point, I can still only imagine the true surfing experience. I imagine an experience of oneness with the ocean. I imagine a feeling of peace and anticipation. I envision that a certain level of trust, confidence, and courage are instrumental. I suspect that being able to let go of control, surrender to the power of the Ocean, and drop into a flow state are also crucial to the surfing experience. In fact, it reminds me quite a bit of yoga.
I share this story with you because it’s the metaphor that comes to mind when I consider my life events over the past few months. You may have noticed that Shakti Vidya Yoga has been a bit quiet this year. The reason being that life challenged me to make self-care not just a priority anymore, but to make it my absolute top priority. It started last October when I quite suddenly began to experience left shoulder pain. I did what any sensible overachiever would do – ignored it and hoped it would go away! Well, what started out as a mild annoyance turned into a pain so severe that I could not even pick up a glass of water without flinching from the sharp pain. At this point, I knew I needed to seek help. I started going to physical therapy. About a month into physical therapy for my shoulder, my left knee also started acting up. So, now I couldn’t pick up a glass of water and I couldn’t sit in my favorite seated position of sukhasana (cross-legged position). I felt like I was riding a pretty horrific wave. Everyday was an experience of physical pain that significantly limited me from the active lifestyle that I have always known. Needless to say, I could no longer do my usual yoga asana practice and I had to learn how to meditate in new positions – sitting in a chair or lying down.
The wave peaked in intensity one night at the end of February when I was awake all night in pain and knew that something had to change. I had to let go, surrender, and make my self-care not only a priority, but my absolute top priority. I cancelled all my plans for the upcoming weekend and drove to Yogaville to observe silence while connecting with Nature. While there, I meditated, hiked, and indulged in a half-day Ayurvedic bodywork session at the beautiful Riverview Spa. By the time I came home, I felt more relaxed than I had in months and my pain had significantly improved.
Aha! I always sensed that the body manifests our mental and emotional states, but now I was experiencing it directly within my own body. When I allowed myself to relax, let go of expectation, to simply flow and trust, then my pain was significantly improved. Over the following few months, the pain waxed and waned. I completed 3 months of physical therapy, and although the pain had improved, I was still not completely pain-free. I continue to rehab myself today through gentle hatha, restorative, and yin yoga practices, qi gong, meditation, breathwork, visualization, and through giving myself permission to relax. I am so grateful that I am now able to comfortably pick up my glass of water, reach for dishes in the cupboard, and sit in a cross-legged position again!
The thing about pain is that it is almost always a signal that we need to pay attention to some aspect of our life. It may be that something needs to change drastically, we need to slow down, or it may simply be our body starting the process of releasing deeply stored experiences. I think it was all of these things for me. The pain forced me to slow down. It taught me the importance of releasing expectation and to focus only on the absolute “musts” in each moment. It gave me permission to relax and to receive the help of others. I took a break from teaching, blogging, and consulting to focus completely on nurturing my body, mind, and spirit. Just like those surfers, I had to trust in the experience. I had to find the confidence and courage to lean into the pain, knowing that it was there to teach me something and that “this too shall pass.” I needed to let go of my expectations, shifting my focus from all the things that my pain was limiting me from doing and onto what I could learn from it. I had to surrender to the experience and allow myself to flow.
The experience of chronic pain was a humbling one. It showed me that no matter how dedicated I am to my yoga and Ayurveda practices, that there is always more to learn. I found that I was so committed to my daily practices that I had developed rigidity about them. Through this experience, I am learning to bring greater fluidity into my personal practices so that I may ride life’s waves with greater ease.
As I continue to heal, I am excited and energized to bring more content and offerings to you, the very dear community of Shakti Vidya Yoga. Continuing to build this community and offering you inspiring content, transformative techniques, and empowering tools is my absolute passion! My intention is to continue to serve Shakti Vidya Yoga while also maintaining my balance because I know that I can only be of service if I am in optimal state. I have some beautiful offerings that I am currently working on including a Fall Kickstart Program and new Online offerings! Stay tuned by subscribing to our newsletter and following us on social media.
Until then, be well and know this:
The waves will come.
Some will be gentle,
some will be rough,
Learn to flow with each wave,
surrender and lean into it,
knowing that this too shall pass.
Observe the pause between each wave,
it is within these pauses that we find our true nature.