lego pain scale

Yesterday morning as I strolled down the galley of cubicles to get a cup of tea in the break room I had the sensation of a very uncomfortable air bubble in my left hip flexor. Strange. I didn’t notice any extraordinary pain or discomfort in Monday night’s taekwondo class. I thought I had popped all the kinks out with a 5 AM swim. For a split second I thought, “Oh great, now my left hip is acting up.”

When I was in my late twenties I had debilitating pain in my right hip stemming from an alignment problem with the sacroiliac joint and a dab of sciatica. Driving was excruciating, and I would squirm around for hours at my office job as I tried to ease the discomfort.  Thankfully I was led to a very skilled physical therapist who helped me go from doubling over in pain every time I stood up to running half marathons. Ever since then, though, my right hip has been a bit of an adversary, an enemy I keep close in case it goes rogue again.

Later that night in yoga class my teacher shared a quote from the scientist Dr. Bruce Lipton:
“The moment you change your perception is the moment you rewrite the chemistry of your body.”

About that time my hamstrings had started to protest my hanging over in forward fold for what felt like an eternity, causing a pulley of pain between my the dead weight of my upper body and my legs. Change my perception? Well, okay. I breathed into the back of my legs, stopped inwardly grumbling about the discomfort, and was getting quite comfortable when we were signaled to roll back up to standing position. Easy!

As we bent, stretched, and flowed through the yoga poses I thought about how we regard our bodies. We often either take them for granted (your body filters f*cking oxygen! How ridiculously cool is that??) or we’re scrutinizing and belittling and bemoaning all the perceived flaws and irritants in our body. It’s kind of weird and awesome to think that the human body can both cultivate the growth of a child as well as the rapid spread of a cancer or virus. Life and death all swirling around under T-shirts and sweat pants and yet we can’t help poking at cellulite or complaining about a bum knee.

As we crouched into Warrior II and sank into Half-Pigeon my teacher encouraged us to sit with the discomfort and change our perceptions. I’ve had that same advice for dealing with mental or emotional discomfort. Sit with it for a while instead of fighting it and don’t be surprised if it dissipates. Change your perception and don’t be surprised if you change your reality.

Instead of getting cranky about my aches and pains I thought about how I could appreciate my perfectly imperfect body. My left Achilles tendon aches because I am running and jumping and leaping and having tons of fun in taekwondo class. My lower back and hips get irritated from driving in a car I can easily afford that takes me to a comfortable job in an air-conditioned office. The few pounds that fluctuate up and down are thanks to the abundance of food I have easy access to. My bruises are evidence that I’m not afraid to fight. I have a lot to be thankful for, and my body is living proof.

My right hip is irritating me today. I have what I call the “ring of fire” that makes me want to snap off my leg at the hip socket like a broken Barbie doll. My sacro-iliac joint is wiggling and popping like packing bubbles. Driving home was a lot more painful than it has been in a long time. But I have the tools to cope with the physical discomfort and the emotional skills to not let the pain overwhelm me and ruin my good mood. I can change my perception. My “bum” hip helped me run on the treadmill early this morning. It helped me drive my car to work so I can continue to put food on the table and a roof over my head. I can walk, stand, jump, kick, and dance without a second thought or any extra effort.

Try not to let your aches and pains hurt your spirit as much as they hurt your body. Be kind to your body. Be thankful for what it CAN do rather than getting hung up on what it can’t do. Cut it some slack. It’s the only one you have.

3 thoughts on “Loving Your Body, Pain and All

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