When I was a kid I did gymnastics for many years. As with most of my athletic endeavors, I wasn’t very good and I never got much better. I was young enough not to care, my parents were wise enough not to care, and I really liked flopping around on the trampoline.
When I started doing yoga a few years ago I was surprised to find my body easing back into some poses that resembled the old gymnastics tricks of my youth. After about a year of strengthening my arms and loosening up my low back I shocked myself by popping into wheel pose one day.
I dropped that from my practice last summer when I was so brutally sick. Even though I was still pretty gummy I had virtually no strength. I would get lightheaded merely standing up, so making myself dizzier upside-down seemed like a bad idea.
All through that battle I was so proud of myself for still practicing, and it was devastating when, after my bowel resection, I had to take a break. In fact, I took a break from just about everything, since resting one’s abdominal muscles basically means not moving at all. (The one stretch of brutal pain, which almost made me have to cancel my bridal shower, was likely brought on by sweeping the kitchen floor.)
The first time I went back to the mat was about a week after my ostomy reversal. The teacher was such a Mean Girl about my modifications that I nearly laughed (though what I actually did was whip my shirt up above my midriff to show her my nasty bandage to get her to back off). As I got back into activity I was in crazy amounts of pain. My knees, which had started to hurt after about six weeks of inactivity, couldn’t handle child’s pose. The soles of my feet screamed.
So I went to the doctor and asked for a referral to physical therapy, and I worked all summer to get things back in order, still fretting that I had developed another chronic pain condition (because if there is anything I have learned in the last few years, it’s that you should assume the worst about every ache or pain). This damn body, I would think, that never really worked right to begin with, that couldn’t do sports or gymnastics or running or half the things I wanted it to, betraying me again.
I worked with my PT, and got back into running and lifting and yoga and simply being an active human alive in the world. There is still plenty of pain, but it has decreased, and I am able to find just a bit of ease in my activity.
So yesterday when our yoga teacher invited us into wheel pose I thought “why not try?” I placed my hands and feet in position and pushed myself up. My legs felt strong and supportive, my arms and shoulders were open and sturdy, my abs and the huge scar from my ostomy stretched long, my back was free and my heart shone out to the back of the room. I felt better in that pose than I ever had before, and I breathed in and out deeply while marveling at where I was, and who I was.
I lowered myself to the mat and barely heard the teacher suggest we go into happy baby pose. In a daze I lifted my legs and rested like a happy baby, which was appropriate because I was crying like one.