Are you in any pain today?
For years I experienced pain on a daily basis that was a result of one rear-end collision in rush hour traffic, and one overzealous kick boxing cardio class at the gym. My neck and my left shoulder were constantly communicating to me that they were not happy. They were quite pissed off, actually. The communication was loud and clear, but I didn't know what to do about it. I wanted to help my neck and left shoulder feel better, and to stop screaming at me, so that I could hear other things in my life besides them!
I tried medicating my pain but this proved very temporary and I didn't like the idea of simply blocking the pain for a period of time, only to have it come rushing back again, once the medication wore off.
I tried various physical therapies; massage therapy, chiropractic and physiotherapy. They all worked to quiet my neck and shoulder, but I found that I had to keep going, which meant that I had to keep paying, and while all these therapies are wonderful, they are also all expensive.
My coworker Andrea and I were talking about our mutual shoulder pain; my left shoulder and her right shoulder. She told me that there was a new yoga studio that just opened up in Maple Ridge that taught a special kind of yoga; therapeutic yoga. She just started going and she said that it was helping her.
Yoga, huh? I was already very familiar with yoga. I started practicing it in the '80's, at a time when it was just done by people my husband used to call "granolas". My first teacher was a 60-year-old woman named Peggy, whom had studied yoga in India, and taught out of the North Vancouver recreation centre. After that I got a VHS tape made by Rachel Welch (Google her, she was a huge sex symbol in the '70's) and I used that for many years before yoga became the mainstream phenomenon that it is now.
I had tried enough yoga to know which types of yoga to avoid and which poses hurt my neck and shoulder. I also knew which poses felt really good for my neck and shoulder. I thought I knew everything there was to know about yoga.
It turns out I did not. The therapeutic yoga classes are very different than the yoga I had practiced up until that time. Although there are many of the same poses I had done in a classic hatha practice, they were done with more kindness, more gentleness, and with more compassion for the body. This compassion comes from the dialogue that is spoken throughout the class. This dialogue focuses on listening to your body and respecting its boundaries; never judging your body for what it can't do; and always showing gratitude towards your body for all the many things that it can do, and does do for you, each and every day.
I was hooked after the first class. I started going three times a week. I started healing. My neck and shoulder were becoming less loud. I found out that there were private therapeutic sessions available that would work specifically on my challenged areas. I started my private sessions and I continued going once every three weeks for a year privately, in addition to my regular group classes. I healed even more. My neck and shoulder became happy and quiet.
I now live my life differently. I think of my body in a new way, in a way that is non-judgmental. I treat my body and my Self with kindness and gratitude. Therapeutic yoga has taught me how to be happier with who I am and with what is right in front of me-my life.