My first marathon was in New York City in 1999 and my last was that same race in 2012. I sustained a back injury which led to the demise of my favorite form of exercise. I was devastated. Sidelined from one of my most cherished activities and faced with (what seemed like) a never ending struggle with physical therapy.
I can’t tell you that my injury was directly due to running, although the years of pounding on my body probably didn’t help. It may have been inevitable leading up to the day I felt the “pop” or it could’ve happened the moment I heard that fateful sound.
I tried acupuncture, chiropractic, massage and even some alternative therapies I had never heard of before. I was willing to do anything for relief. The combination of these methods seemed to offer some. I persevered and even started to add running back into my routine.
As I began to get stronger, another blow came. This one was far worse. It too, may have been forthcoming for a long time, but I had no idea. My husband left me. Seemingly out of the blue, although it rarely happens that way. I’m sure his decision was made long before I got the news.
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Needless to say, I stopped running. I stopped doing everything. The stabbing in my back (literally and figuratively) plagued me once again. I retreated to the fetal position for weeks, maybe even months. This was the worst thing I could do for my physical and mental health but it was the only way I felt I could cope at the time. I was a shell of my former healthy, active self.
I knew I couldn’t go on like this forever but I didn’t know where to begin. How do you ever bounce back from this? The emotional trauma was deeply manifested in my physical body. I actually felt the direct connection between stress and illness. It’s real, folks.
After lots of therapy for my head, I decided that my body needed healing too. I seemed to be gravitating towards yoga. It wasn’t completely foreign to me but in the past, it never felt like a “workout” the way I was used to working out. However, as a health and fitness professional who understands the benefits of balance, I was open to it.
Putting my ego aside and my mat on the floor, I was transformed. A sense of calm came over me and the idea of slowing down was exactly what my body needed. Many of the poses were difficult due my limited range of motion but felt necessary in order to improve. I was learning how to create space in order to change despite my pain. I was learning to move through it with compassion and confidence and truly embrace the mind-body connection.
Yoga has taught me so many incredible things over the years. The ability to find strength through difficulty, self awareness vs. self doubt and to balance effort with ease. It is called a yoga “practice” because you are constantly growing and evolving. You don’t perfect yoga but if you practice consistently, your rewards will be far greater.
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